Disclaimer: This essay includes spoilers from the film ‘Get Out’.
My freshman year of college my 5’1 blonde roommate Elizabeth busted into our suite and called me a “fucking bitch” over something I said on twitter. She was drunk and aggressive. I was sober and half-sleep. I told her to go away and she advanced into my personal space, yelling and knocking over my perfume bottles. I looked at her in disbelief. Just last week we had shared a heart to heart over Russian vodka on the floor of our closet, discussing her old heroin addiction and my traumatic early high school years. She gritted her teeth and told me she’d kick my ass, then left. In the next hour I got into a screaming match with some white guys from down the hall who came out of the room to protect her when I came looking for her; and I ended up sleeping in the basement. The next week I was served a restraining order and told I was facing expulsion from school- plus I was forced to move out immediately. To sweeten the shit stew, little Elizabeth told the school that I was a drug addict and I was subsequently forced to take drug tests and $100 drug counseling sessions for two semesters. Though Elizabeth had threatened me first, she had no issue convincing the school that the 5’7 black girl was a danger to her personal safety. It wasn’t the first or last time a white woman would use her privilege to slight me, but I thought about this particular incident recently when watching the wildly popular Jordan Peele creation “Get Out”.
While the male members of the Armitage family were aggressive and at times openly hostile before the films big climax, Rose and her mother Missy were sickeningly sweet. As I watched the plot unfold on screen, I, like Cosmo writer Kendra James, wondered if Rose was in on her parents’ nefarious plot to hypnotize Chris. As soon as Rose said “nobody messes with my man” (forgive me if this isn’t verbatim, I saw the film on a very hazy weekend in New Orleans and I consider myself fortunate to remember the basics of the plot) in the car on the way to her parents, I knew the bitch wasn’t to be trusted. The way she said my man inexplicably annoyed me and I instantly disliked her. But then my guilt kicked in. Not all white women suck, I reasoned with myself. Maybe it was my silly prejudices. Maybe she’s not a villain. Maybe she’s just some white girl who might get caught up in some shit. With those considerations in mind, I plunged my hand into my bucket of buttered popcorn and waited to find out. After Missy pulled her little teacup trick on Chris to help him kick his nicotine addiction, I tried to not let my mind go into bitter black woman mode. Not all white women suck. I decided that Rose had been hypnotized by her mother into participating in the dark Armitage family secret. My theory felt more plausible after Rose and Chris had a teary heart to heart while white people bid for the privilege of owning him. But later, as Chris flipped through the damning photos from the closet, I knew what my gut instinct had told me to be true. Rose, like a lot of white women, sucked.
Rose and Missy showed concern, had manners, and kept their tempers in check while their male counterparts reeked of irrationality, violence, and oddity. But by the end of the film their masks of delicate white femininity were peeled back to reveal hateful monsters. As a historian this spoke to me on a spiritual level. America’s past is rife with kind faced white women who exploited, abused, or accused black people for their own benefit. Because white supremacy is rooted in patriarchy, its often too easy to overlook white women under the notion that they too are oppressed. But it is prudent to remember that though oppressed, the status of white women has been and continues to be higher than both black men and women. Even if considered the white man’s inferior, they are still the white man’s counterpart. Afterall, 20th century racism was heavily fueled by the white man’s destructive desire to keep their women safe from black rapists. This has led to an odd status for white women in American society.
Because they have traditionally been symbols of femininity, they lack not only hostile reputations of hatred and violence given to white and black men, but also the angry trope bestowed upon black women. This privilege has allowed white women and their special brand of racism to exist, virtually unchecked, in a variety of forms over the centuries.
The Slave Holder’s Counterpart
Take 19th century slaveholder wife Mary Epps. As detailed by Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, Mary Epps became jealous of her husband Edwin’s frequent rapes of a slave girl named Patsey. Mary began beating Patsey, taking no womanly sympathy for her brutal sexual assaults, instead reducing her to a black jezebel interested in sleeping with her husband. Mary encouraged her husband to discipline Patsey after she had left the plantation without permission, leading him to crack his whip at her over 50 times. Slavery is checkered with untold numbers of Patsey’s, who were dual victims of both their male and female masters. “One white lady that lived near us at McBean slipped in a colored gals room and cut her baby’s head clean off cause it belonged to her husband.” recalled a former slave being interviewed in the WPA Slave Narrative Project.
White Feminists AKA Frenemies
Historically, when white feminists have cried out about the injustices of sexism, they often ignored racism- or perpetuated it. As famed suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “What will we and our daughters suffer if these degraded black men are allowed to have rights that would make them even worse than our saxon fathers?” Susan B. Anthony was in on it too. “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the negro and not the woman.” Notice how this statement effectively erased black women from the conversation. When black men were granted the right to vote in 1870, white suffragists were pissed because they believed they were better than black men. Frances E Willard said “It is not fair that a plantation Negro who can neither read or write should be entrusted with the ballot,” before going on to say black men were dangerous threats to white womanhood. By tapping into white men’s fear of nigger rape, Willard hoped to leverage white womanhood for a few male privileges. White women were women, but more importantly (as they implied), they were white.
Ida B. Wells saw through the fake ass Frances and her hateful and inciteful speech against black men, realizing that she and other white suffragists wanted to gain support from white men who were “hanging, shooting, and burning negroes alive.” Frances and other white feminists weren’t out hanging, shooting, and burning…. But they were okay with aligning themselves with the men who were. Their reputations of purity allowed them to wreak racial havoc from a dignified pedestal. To Great Britain, Frances Willard was the “uncrowned queen of American democracy”, a moral and righteous woman who would never ignore a lynching epidemic. They were quite surprised when Ida B Wells showed up for a British women’s rights convention and read some of Willard’s inflammatory speech aloud.
On the same day Donald Trump was elected with 53% of the white woman’s vote, feminists gathered at Susan B Anthony’s grave with “I Voted” stickers. A few think-pieces popped up from self identified feminists who explained why they voted for a man who emboldened white racists. It all echoed the reality of white feminism: “We are women, but we’re white first.” When forced to choose between retaining racial privilege or fighting sexist oppression, the majority of white women will choose their privilege every time. But even still, they’ll always call on black women for numbers if they need them.
Faux-Politically Empowered Girlfriends and Wives
These are the women who gained the right to vote in the 1920s and went buckwild. “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.” said Carrie Chapman Catt. As the recent election demonstrated, she was right. While the KKK became more popular in the years leading up to The Great Depression, white protestant women joined the WKKK in droves. Many of them joined when or after their husbands did. Like their male counterparts, they believed their rights were being trampled on by black people and immigrants. They were also terrified of the black rapist, a villain perpetuated by the popular 1916 film, Birth of a Nation. It shouldn’t be shocking that many of these women were former suffragettes. Even though in the present day the KKK’s once mighty power has been whittled down to hundreds of smaller hate groups, the women who aligned themselves with these male dominated arenas are still around. A contemporary version of this white woman is likely to be decked out in confederate flag belts, uses the complete term “the white race” frequently, and has a drug or alcohol problem. She votes however her father/boyfriend/brothers tell her (if she votes in those “rigged zionist abortions” at all, that is), believes white genocide is imminent, and thinks feminism is a cancer.
Polite But Still Racist Southern Belles
Ah, a true classic. As a North Carolina native, Ive come into contact with a dizzying amount of women like this here in the 21st Century. Well-off white women in costly sundresses with withered french manicured hands encrusted in diamonds; who often clutch at their pearls and say “Bless your heart.” They’re always polite, but usually haughty. Some of the ones I’ve come into contact with have praised me for being articulate or pretty, as if smart or pretty black girls are a rarity. I pity the black people who had to deal with these phony bitches during the Jim Crow era, when their negative opinion could get your house set on fire or your husband strung up from a tree. Hiding behind dainty dresses, southern manners, and the assertion that she treated her negro servants like members of the family, the racist southern belle was a fixture on the 20th century American landscape. With a sugary sweet accent, Christian rhetoric, leisurely afternoons spent gossiping and being nosy, and the power of being married to a man that mattered in the eyes of the law, the average southern white woman was an entitled monster. She was fine with negroes as long as they stayed in their place- aka staying subservient to white people. She was also fine with violence against negroes. In Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody recalled her employer, Mrs Burke, saying that Emmett Till never would have been murdered had he not ‘forgot his place’. Mrs Burke, and thousands of other women like her, blamed the violent behavior of their husbands, brothers, sons, cousins, and neighbors on black people getting out of place. What a convenient way to excuse depravity from the safehaven of white womanhood.
The “Im a Racist Because Im a Good Mother” Women
Somebody’s child is always being used to justify bullshit. When white parents found out black Ruby Bridges was going to be attending their school, they were pissed. One woman, obviously concerned about the 5 year old Bridges threatening the safety of her own child, threatened to poison Ruby on her daily walks to school. This attitude was repeated by every racist white woman during the integration years. Listen to the woman below use her kids to excuse her racism.
White women being foul racists for the alleged sake of their children was and is common, and made clear by the dozens of unnamed white women you see yelling angrily in historic integration photos. The sadder part? Many have never been identified and never will be.
The Lover of Black Men and Hater of Black Women
This is a relatively new category of white woman, as for the majority of American history miscegenation has been illegal and widely frowned upon. But in the 21st century, this woman thrives. She loves black men and black culture. She publicly applauds black rights. She doesn’t say nigga. She’s cool. She’s down. But at some point, she reveals her true colors and competitive nature. “I love black cock,” she says, signifying that her love for black men isn’t genuine or loyal but instead founded in fetishism. “Black women hate me because black men love me.” she says with total seriousness. Or, “Black girls just mad because they have to wear weave and white girls wear their real hair, THATS WHY WE STEALING YOUR MEN.” Statements like these blatantly reveal her superiority complex with the black woman; whom she hates for being the black man’s counterpart. Clearly, black men are safe from her hatred because they have something she wants- dick and/or validation. Black women though? The mothers, the sisters, the aunts, and the daughters? We’re her enemy.
The Pretty Conduit
Let us go back to Rose Armitage real quick. She seemed innocent and normal until you found out she was raised to kidnap and hypnotize black people for the wanton desires of white family members and friends. Even when Chris KNEW that she was a deranged mayonnaise demon escaped from the deepest pits of hell, he couldn’t bring himself to choke her to death. He looked down at her pretty face and decided that he couldn’t do it. This was one of the scariest parts of the movie to me because it represents America’s response to a type of woman who has grown in popularity thanks to the internet and social media. You already know I’m talking about women like Ann Coulter and Tomi Lahren. She says everything the typical white male racist says- but a sweet voice, a conventionally attractive face, and the privilege of femininity that whiteness grants her keeps the virulent racist bimbo from being labeled as one. Her appearance, gender, and feminine qualities appeal to people that white men can’t. Because of her appearance and status as a white woman, she is protected by white and black men alike. To them she is never angry or bitter, just sassy and passionate. To them she is not racist, just speaking “the truth” or her opinion. In fact, some black men shrug off her racism with a sickening resolve: “I’d still fuck.”
At the end of the film when Rose thought she saw a cop car, she knew she could snap back into victim mode. Had it been a cop instead of Chris’s friend Rod, they’d have seen a bloodied black man looking down on a broken white woman and shot him in a heartbeat. Rose knew she could weave a tale of rape and terror and go on about her life. Not every white woman sucks. But every white woman on this list, and every white woman in real life, has the fake victim card at her disposal. When my former college roommate Elizabeth experienced my reaction to her threat to do me bodily harm, she flipped a switch. She was no longer the vodka fueled instigator making threats and acting tough. She was suddenly crying in the hallway, inconsolable and weak. This is white womanhood. This is their ultimate privilege. At any moment they can go from agitator or abuser to a delicate and innocent white woman in need of protection from the big scary black. Even worse, not every black man or woman will be fortunate enough to have a friend like Rod to come save them when they’ve been accused of violence by a white woman, or when they were simply black in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many have been, and will continue to be caught in the web of faux innocence, lies, and evil spun by white women.
Perhaps this is why Get Out is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
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