- Gareth K Vile
- 5 September 2018
In its failure, it succeeds
The leap from Lee Minora's 2017 Fringe show Cheeks to White Feminist is a remarkable shift from gentle analysis of stereotypes to a full-bloodied critique of contemporary liberalism. Minora plays a self-regarding talk-show host who, through a series of apologies, consumer choices, virtue signalling good works and a dramatic revelation, goes from being a mocked for her arrogance to a leader in a new wave of feminist on-line activism. But far from being either an easy celebration of the changes that have happened in the recent past, or a condemnation of liberal feminist privilege from a MRA perspective, White Feminist asks hard questions of the movement from within itself.
Minora's talk-show host's lazy activism does hide her own oppression: her reduction of feminist talking points to a series of consumer choices is a scandalous diminution of intersectionality. The segments of audience interaction – always consummately performed – expose the necessity of this exposure, since 'touching hair' was approved as acceptable, suggesting that not every issue had made it to the top of the audience's agenda. And it is in these sections that Minora works the hardest to challenge received wisdom: while Becky's wipe-clean personality manages to evoke the message of self-empowerment without any sacrifices, she is neither the villain nor the tragic heroine but rather an embodied of the confused impulses that can sublimate the collective advancement of society to their own personal success.
White Feminist takes on a tricky position, both believing in the importance of feminism but recognising the places where it has made accommodations with the colonial patriarchy. The character, ultimately, is ambiguous and Minora leaves a painful question hanging: how far can a white feminist embrace her own successes and failures without acknowledging their complicity in the ongoing oppressions of people of colour and working-class women, until their successes become an excuse for the patriarchy to maintain business as usual?