... we see that [Zakaria] is not on some earnest mission to educate the misinformed or enlighten the uninformed. This, as Tressie McMillan Cottom would say, ain't her row to hoe. Instead, Zakaria presents, calmly and methodically, plenty of well-researched evidence for why white feminism is messed up and why it must be dismantled ... Although such personal anecdotes are included throughout, Zakaria's aim is not to explore her own pain but to retrace the history of how white feminism has caused unending trauma through the centuries to many like her. What she wants is nothing less than transformational change that blows past tokenistic affirmative actions. The last chapter outlines four ways that white feminists need to change their mindset for this transformation to occur. These are not new suggestions but, given the state of things, they bear repeating ... White feminism isn't confined to the Western world; it has been exported and embedded all over the world. If the ongoing effects and implications of that haven't made you want to bare your fangs yet, this steely, incisive critique deserves your attention.
A passionate and provocative new book ... Unhelpfully, in what looks like a bid for seriousness, Zakaria sometimes resorts to overly academic language ... The essential tension Zakaria identifies between well-meaning if at times opportunistic career feminists and those with ordinary 'lived experience' is an interesting one ... [The] feeling of exclusion and dissonance is the powerful narrative driver of this book. And particularly instructive are the moments when Zakaria explores her profound discomfort in feminist settings ... Against White Feminism at times feels too sweeping in its critique to be constructive, but the heart of what this book demands — a feminism that is less self-satisfied and secure in its power, more curious about the differences in women’s experiences, and more generous and expansive in its reach — is worth fighting for.
It is odd that, while the kernel of content in this book is formed around a structural critique—one that would appear to demand a very specific political response—it comes to us cushioned in an equal bulk of light, fleecy padding that draws the attention pleasantly away from such partisan concerns. 'I want to be able to meet at a wine bar,' Zakaria writes, 'and have an honest conversation about change.' It is surely a reasonable wish, but a minimal demand. Zakaria’s central, well-researched chapters are framed on one side by a series of encounters with obnoxious white women; and on the other by a call to action that reads as an incitement to better etiquette. Despite brief gestures at white supremacy’s deep 'political' roots, these chapters call for us simply to 'excise' unpalatable behaviors ... it allows the reader to fantasize the curative effect of expelling bad white women ... Occasionally the project of rhetorical excision gets out of hand, the iconoclastic urge appearing to overwhelm critical honesty ... a more interesting question than why white women can be so defensive is the question of why, until directly challenged, they see no wrongdoing to defend ... The reference, moreover to 'political reality' as a matter of pure 'experience' is more than just an oversimplification. It is a framing determined to avoid demanding that the reader hold certain commitments ... We sense that Zakaria is writing not only of what she perceives as the 'tiny attention spans of white women,' but also, and unfortunately, for them.