You can’t ‘feel’ race, but can you ‘feel’ female? On Rachel Dolezal, Caitlyn Jenner, and unspeakable questions

Originally published at Feminist Current

I think I can safely assume most of us have, at this point, followed the story of Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the NAACP chapter in Spokane and a white woman who claimed to be black.

The reasons behind her choice to represent herself as a black woman, as an adult, are not entirely clear — some have speculated that she suffers from mental illness, that she has some kind of addiction to victimhood, is a compulsive liar, or is suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. At Al Jazeera, Jennifer Wilson wonders if, perhaps, Dolezal felt the pull of identity politics, that is the idea that one must have personal experience with any given issue or culture in order to speak to it, have an opinion on it, or be an expert in the field

Whatever the reasons, the widespread outrage at the idea of a white woman posing as a black woman, as though race is a performance or a costume one puts on or takes off, is wholly justified. Dolezal’s deception granted her positions of power that could and should have gone to actual black women, in a community where few opportunities for women of colour are available and where a history of discrimination and segregation is ever-present.

Continue reading…

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