An incisive history of self-serving white feminists and the inspiring women who’ve continually defied them
Women including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger, and Sheryl Sandberg are commonly celebrated as leaders of feminism. Yet they have fought for the few, not the many. As award-winning scholar Kyla Schuller argues, their white feminist politics dispossess the most marginalized to liberate themselves.
In The Trouble with White Women, Schuller brings to life the two-hundred-year counter history of Black, Indigenous, Latina, poor, queer, and trans women pushing back against white feminists and uniting to dismantle systemic injustice. These feminist heroes such as Frances Harper, Harriet Jacobs, and Pauli Murray have created an anti-racist feminism for all. But we don’t speak their names and we don’t know their legacies. Unaware of these intersectional leaders, feminists have been led down the same dead-end alleys generation after generation, often working within the structures of racism, capitalism, homophobia, and transphobia rather than against them.
Building a more just feminist politics for today requires a reawakening, a return to the movement’s genuine vanguards and visionaries. Their compelling stories, campaigns, and conflicts reveal the true potential of feminist liberation. An Entropy Magazine Best Nonfiction Book of 2020-2021,The Trouble with White Women gives feminists today the tools to fight for the flourishing of all.
"Kyla Schuller turns her razor-sharp focus and intimate understanding of the intersection of race and gender to some of the giant figures of white feminism – and their contemporaries who challenged them from the get-go. From Frances Harper and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Pauli Murray and Betty Friedan, Schuller reminds us that even from its beginnings white feminism has seen significant and sustained challenges from Black, Indigenous and other women of color. With characteristic originality and insight, Schuller offers a gripping contribution to the critical literature on white feminism, and in the process delivers a masterclass not only on how the personal is indeed political but on how the specific is universal."
—Ruby Hamad, author of White Tears, Brown Scars
“An indispensable gift and a profoundly illuminating resource. Schuller is an expert at articulating the malignant disjunctions and hypocrisies of our culture with stunning craft, style, insight, and narrative suspense. One of the most essential writers and scholars of our time.”
—T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“From a brilliant human being and outstanding scholar, a great model for how to make a takedown a work of great art, how devotion to the truth can cut into a dominant narrative not just like a knife but with the hard wiring of real love.”
—Porochista Khakpour, author of Brown Album: Essays on Exile & Identity, Sick: A Memoir, and other books
“Clarifying, challenging, exquisitely researched and argued, The Trouble With White Women will give you so much to sit with and to revisit—it prepares us to do the hard, essential labor of dismantling white feminism.”
—Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even
“[T]his is a timely and essential piece that should find a wide audience in both public and academic libraries.”—Booklist
"[A] passionate and persuasive survey of fault lines within the feminist movement... Schuller’s lucid and accessible analysis of her subjects’ lives and careers reveals that long before the concept of intersectionality was formally articulated, there were feminists fighting for it. The result is an essential reckoning with the shortcomings of mainstream feminism.”—Publishers Weekly, *Starred review*
"Schuller’s highly recommended feminist counterhistory is inspiring, and her arguments persuasive. She excels in letting the voices and lived experiences of women of color, trans women, and otherwise marginalized women come to the fore."—Library Journal, *Starred review*
“The Trouble with White Women is a truly necessary book, especially in the context of conservatives’ redoubled war on history.”—The Progressive
“The most adept historian is one who can transform carefully mined nuggets of archival material into compelling, if not piquant, prose. Schuller is a gifted storyteller, her counterhistory equal parts writerly craft and scholarly diligence…The Trouble With White Women is a welcome addition to the feminist canon. Undertaking the kind of critical labor necessary for engendering a truly liberatory feminism, Kyla Schuller is doing the work.”—Joan Morgan, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] passionate and persuasive survey of fault lines within the feminist movement.”—Publishers Weekly, PW Pick of the Week
“Building a more just feminist politics for today requires a reawakening, a return to the movement’s genuine vanguards and visionaries. Their compelling stories, campaigns, and conflicts reveal the true potential of feminist liberation. The Trouble with White Women gives feminists today the tools to fight for the flourishing of all.”—Entropy, BEST OF 2020-2021: NONFICTION BOOKS
“It's a hopeful and refreshing read that invites us to dream bigger and imagination more for feminism.”—Alok Vaid-Menon, CNN Best Books of 2021
“The brilliance of Schuller’s work is that she reveals that white feminism isn’t simply a politics, rather it is a mandate of a biopolitics…Schuller offers a refreshing contrast to a particular strand of 21st-century.”—Marcie Bianco, Los Angeles Review of Books
“The Trouble with White Women disputes hegemonic depictions of American feminism and encourages readers to think critically about the types of activism, organizing, and resistance needed to challenge systems of oppression.”—RGWS: A Feminist Review
About the Author:
Kyla Schuller is Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Faculty Director of the Women's Global Health Leadership Certificate Program at Rutgers University--New Brunswick. She is the author of The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (Duke UP, 2018), and her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Post Road. She lives in Brooklyn.