White Women's Reaction To Black Women At Risk For Sexual Assault Is Exactly Why We Need Intersectional Feminism

Share
Ad failed to load

While feminism has traditionally been defined as a movement for gender equality, it's absolutely vital that it also address racism — and a new study on how women respond to black and white women at risk for sexual assault illustrates why. The white women studied were less likely to intervene in the potential assault of a black woman than they were of a white woman, which shows that black women face even more risk for this form of gender-based violence. The findings also prove we have a long way to go before white feminists embrace intersectionality in their actions as much as they often do in their words.

For the study, published in The Psychology Of Women Quarterly, SUNY Geneseo researchers had 160 white female college students read a story about "attending a party where they saw a man lead an intoxicated woman into a private bedroom." There were two versions of the story, with one key detail varying by version: The name of the woman. Some participants read about a potential sexual assault victim named "Laura," while others read about "LaToya." Although the participants recognized that both women were at risk, those who read about "LaToya" reported less willingness to help.

"The current results suggest that white women in college may choose not to help black women at risk for sexual assault," the authors conclude. "Bystander education programs should explicitly address race as a potential barrier to helping others in need."

Ad failed to load

Underlining how significant the results of this study are is another recent study from the University of Kentucky, which found that bystander intervention works. In this research, high schools whose students were trained in bystander intervention reported 12 percent fewer sexual assaults than those that didn't after three years. But it appears that not all students benefit from such training equally.

The SUNY Geneseo study's authors, Jennifer Katz and Christine Merrilees, explained to PsyPost that their findings are especially important given that most U.S. colleges are predominantly white. If the majority of people on campus are unlikely to help someone, their chances of getting help look bleak.

Ad failed to load

But the implications of the study extend beyond this one issue. They show that even when it comes to sexual violence, one of the biggest feminist issues of our time, women aren't always willing to support other women. And the women they're not willing to support are the ones who need it most.

One Black Women’s Blueprint study found that 60 percent of black women had been sexually abused by the time they turned 18, and another study by the Black Women’s Health Imperative found that 40 percent of black women had been sexually assaulted. Black women are also less likely to report their sexual assaults, according to a Justice Department report, perhaps because the criminal justice system can be even less sympathetic toward them than it is toward white women.

Black women face both higher rates of sexual assault and less sympathy as victims — a phenomenon which may have something to do with the "jezebel" stereotype that has been so pervasive for so long — and white women's unwillingness to help them could very well reflect this phenomenon. “If a black man rapes a white woman, it’s wrong because white is pure,” Morgan State University student Imani Lewis told the City Paper. “But as a black woman, if I get raped it’s because I deserved it.”

Ad failed to load

These results also illustrate why White Feminism is such a problem. Many white feminists attended the Women's March, but have never attended a Black Lives Matter protest. White feminist artists like Lily Allen will complain about sexual objectification all while objectifying women of color. And this study suggests that many white feminists will stand up for those vulnerable to sexual assault on the condition that they're white.

Everyone is subject to implicit bias, and we don't do feminism any favors by saying "not all white people." Rather than claiming "color blindness," we need to accept that this is an issue. It's only by noticing it that we can consciously correct for our own subconscious racism.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What I Learned About Work-Life Balance After Relapsing From Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Almost two years ago, I woke up in a hotel room, groggy and dehydrated, with my clothes all over the room and my nightstand filled with mini bottles of liquor. I had spent the previous two days drinking all the alcohol in my mini bar. I'm not sure wh…
By Irina Gonzalez

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale