Schuller...lays bare how white feminism, rooted in binary, dated understandings of womanhood...'is a political position, not an identity,' and has no interest in disrupting the status quo, or in a reallocation of power ... 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 ... Schuller’s writing is strongest when locating the precise historical moments in which these feminist figures intersected ... Schuller takes care to render these women not as heroes and villains, but as studies in complexity, contradiction and nuance. Sometimes, though, the balance between the two subjects can feel off ... However, when Schuller does strike the right balance, as she does between the anti-trans feminist Janice Raymond and the trans theorist Sandy Stone, the result is mesmerizing. 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.
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—a wielding of science and government to regulate populations—that extends into the realms of the sciences, economics, and morality that empowers 'woman' through strengthening and securing 'whiteness' ... Schuller offers a refreshing contrast to a particular strand of 21st-century white feminism that willfully divorces human responsibility—arguably, to prevent the white male discomfort and anger that would threaten these white feminists’ power and popularity—for these systems ... Considering the examples of antiracist feminists provided in the book, who were ceaseless and tireless in their resistance efforts, and who attempted to leverage capitalist institutions to the best of their ability, Schuller’s critique of self-optimization would be strengthened through further, clearer differentiation from self-determination ... That capitalism is so utterly unavoidable is perhaps why Schuller’s proposed solution to this self-optimization feels both insufficient and unpromising ... in this world run by mediocre white men and their white feminist accomplices, I cannot imagine demanding less of our leaders, or ourselves.
Schuller’s paired biographical approach and her pitting of white vs. intersectional models from the outset seems to risk entrenching a polarizing binary view which is surely not her intention ... Life was never so simple as her own data shows, even though the full range of intersectional issues...are not really addressed. And where do feminist men fit in? The data she has gathered is richer and more complex than the simple analytical model by which it is organized ... The biographical approach she uses also illustrates very clearly some of the problems of direct application of the concept of intersectionality ... It seems both simplistic and unnecessarily polarizing merely to pit 'white' against 'intersectional,' and to envision the defeat of the former by the latter as an event in the future ... Schuller has succeeded in her aim to give full recognition to many, distinguished women whose contribution has been overlooked, although her rewriting of the Sojourner Truth narrative may meet resistance ... Schuller has produced a work of impressive scholarship and research, from which many readers and students will benefit, though the rich and complex material she has assembled seems to demand a more nuanced analytical model.
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.
After a thorough discussion of the history of women of color within the LGBTQ+ movement in the 1970s on, the author concludes with a dissection of Sheryl Sandberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Readers who are not well-versed in feminist theory may find themselves stumbling throughout some parts of this text. Nonetheless, this is a timely and essential piece that should find a wide audience in both public and academic libraries.
... passionate and persuasive ... Schuller’s enlightening method is to pair highly critical presentations of influential white feminists with profiles of lesser-known Black, Indigenous, Latina, and trans activists who were addressing the same issues through a different lens ... 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.
Each woman in the book has made vital contributions, but some pairings come across as strained efforts to retrofit their subjects’ views to conform to 21st-century academic ideals ... This book may have high appeal for readers who share the author’s anti-capitalist sentiments; the unpersuaded are likely to remain so ... A hit-and-miss broadside against two centuries of missteps by mainstream feminists.