White feminist stories: locating race in representations of feminism in The Guardian

Terese Jonsson

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Abstract

The last decade has witnessed an increased visibility of grassroots feminist activism in Britain. This article concerns the representation of such activism in the left-leaning newspaper The Guardian, and focuses on issues related to race and whiteness. Drawing on anti-racist critiques of “white feminism,” the article presents a close reading of three articles which have appeared in recent years. Combining a content and narrative analysis, the article unpicks underlying assumptions about British feminism, and identifies three specific narrative techniques which are problematic in relation to race. These construct contemporary feminist activism as: (1) a continuation of a white feminist legacy; (2) a unified movement of “like-minded” individuals; and (3) “diverse” and “happy.” Presented as common sense, these narratives erase power differences between women, as well as a multitude of feminist organising in Britain, including black British feminism. While anti-racist feminists repeatedly challenge such representations, including occasionally on The Guardian's own blog, this appears to have little effect on the dominant constructions of feminism in the more prominent news and feature articles. This resistance to change highlights the continued unequal power relations between white feminists and feminists of colour, and the persistence of whiteness in defining feminism within mainstream liberal media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-1027
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Volume14
Issue number6
Early online date30 Apr 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014

Keywords

  • British feminism
  • representation
  • race
  • whiteness
  • The Guardian

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