Amy Poehler Reminds Us Solidarity is, Apparently, Still Only for White Women

By Veronica Agard

While sifting through the latest updates on my Facebook feed earlier this week, I saw the first mention of a horrible “joke” from a show in which Amy Poehler is the executive producer. Poehler, whose rise to fame included a regular spot on the Saturday Night Live series and Parks and Recreation, has also created a feminist organization called Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. However, in her latest role as a producer of Hulu’s show Difficult People, she made a painfully careless choice.

The self-proclaimed feminist thought it was a smart idea to approve a joke about whether Blue Ivy Carter is “old enough” for R.Kelly. How is it possible for someone who co-founded an online community “dedicated” to encouraging the “intelligence, imagination, and curiosity” of young girls to turn around and keep that “joke”? Folks have been discussing this on Twitter since the story broke, and the backlash to this example of misogynoir has been loud and rightfully so. 

It should then come as no surprise that folks have called Poehler out for making the molestation of a child a punchline, particularly a Black child. Not just any Black child, but Blue Ivy Carter, the child of Beyoncé Knowles, who is without a doubt one of the greatest entertainers of our generation. And not just anyone hypothetically harming her but R.Kelly, who has a long record of sexually abusing young girls. The Black community has long suffered from sexual violence and trauma, both within and and outside of our community, so why would anyone, especially someone who supposedly does work to uplift young girls, generate this “joke” in such a public manner?

Yet, as upset I am about the “joke,” I can’t say that I’m surprised by it. Even if Poehler didn’t deliver the line herself, she ought to be ashamed, but there’s a good chance that she won’t be. Personally, it’s the combination of “joking” about the molestation of a Black child while claiming the feminist mantle that is truly upsetting. Unfortunately, this type of cognitive dissonance from white “feminists” is nothing new.

As the power – and subsequent backlash – of the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen has already proven, not everyone who claims to be a feminist is inclusive. This brand of “feminism” is devoid of entire communities, most often communities of color and gender nonconforming folks. In addition, if you let Amy Poehler and Taylor Swift (even though she apologized to Nicki Minaj) tell you, we cannot be overly critical or call them out for their problematic behavior.

White feminism and their brand of “solidarity” does not hold room for anyone that does not fall in line with their perversion of feminism, nor does it hold for accountability. Nor does it want to. This form of feminism and solidarity offers nothing more than lip service to the folks who are truly doing the liberatory feminist work across the world and is the newest incarnation of the mainstream feminism that only reinforces racial hierarchies.

History has always erased or downplayed the work of early feminists of color while lauding the work of white feminists. When suffragettes were organizing in major cities across the United States towards the end of the 19th century, there were very few Black and brown voices included in the conversations that lauded national attention. In reading standard history books, you’ll only learn about Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and never hear about Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and Gloria Anzaldúa among many feminists of color. Even when looking at feminist theory itself, the reason why we’ve had three waves thus far is because of the overt exclusion of Black, Brown and Indigenous feminisms. Black women over time have developed and curated their beliefs into womanism and intersectionality as a direct response to this type of marginalization and erasure.

At no point in time are Black women and women of color “supposed” to teach white women how to (actually) be a feminist or to help them understand how this white heteropatriarchal society serves their interests. That emotional labor and education is one that can be found online through articles and from conversations with legit white allies. As a Black woman and transnational feminist, I want no parts of your faux feminism and commercial empowerment, Amy Poehler. Black folks and people of color are too busy doing the work that you’ll end up appropriating anyways.


Veronica Agard is a regular contributor at For Harriet. Thriving in New York City, she is a Program Associate at Humanity in Action, a City College of New York graduate and a Transnational Black Feminist with the Sister Circle Collective. She tweets at @veraicon_.

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