Feminist’s Disclosure

Most of the time, when I think of white supremacy, I picture the image of ignorant and overly masculine rage. Hoods, confederate flags — you know the deal. But often times, white supremacy is just as likely to be enforced by white women, only separated by their subtlety. 

White women play a very specific role in the enforcement of white supremacy, one that is not so frequently recognized as the violent marches and cross burnings. They have an especially potent tool in their arsenal: weaponizing their vulnerability.

Birdwatcher Christian Cooper fell victim to Amy Cooper weaponizing her white female vulnerability against him. (Photo courtesy of Them.us)

White women have used their role as women to feign vulnerability and innocence — a weapon they often use to get black people killed or incarcerated. Especially in the Post-Civil War era, white supremacist propaganda spread fear around white women being raped to cultivate racial violence, according to the American Bar Association Human Rights Magazine. White women used this fear to their advantage, with many of them successfully accusing black men of raping, assulting or talking down to them.

This is a tool that is granted almost exclusively to white women, as they are more likely to be believed by authorities than people of color in general. This is by no means a new concept. White women have used the defense of vulnerability and white purity as a technique to “wrap violence in valor and carnage in chivalry,” according to the New York Times. A modern version of this takes the form of white women calling the police on black people for quite literally just existing. 

Just last year, Christian Cooper, a black man bird watching in central park, asked Amy Cooper, a white woman, to leash her dog (as was required by the policies of the park), according to NBC. Amy responded by threatening to call the police, saying that Christian was “an African American man threatening my life.” This is just one example of a white woman weaponizing society’s perception of her vulnerability, even when she is very obviously in no danger. 

White women’s weaponization of vulnerability is entirely dependent on society’s acceptance of their feigned innocence. If we continue to accept this behavior as a norm, it will diminish the respect and urgency that is given to women genuinely experiencing harassment. If we as a society allow white women to continue, we are validating a form of hatred and white supremacy — something that is completely unacceptable.