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Book Club Becky: White Racial Bonding in the Living Room

Fri, April 5, 2:25 to 3:55pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 600 Level, Room 606


Purpose: Many liberal white women gather monthly for book clubs to discuss mass-produced cultural pieces that tend to bring up issues around race and gender through fiction or nonfiction. Usually white women frame these clubs as intellectual endeavors where they can talk to other “educated” white women about current events and other topics. This paper reveals the more insidious workings of these spaces, as they are places where white women bond in order to maintain their place in white patriarchy, what Christine Sleeter (1996) named white racial bonding. The conversations that take place, the women who are included as “educated,” and the spaces where they meet are laced with white supremacy and surveillance.

Perspectives: The story is told from the perspective of the race traitor (Ignatiev & Garvey, 1996) to show the inner workings of her challenges to white women and how she interprets and explains their responses. White women maintain white supremacy and uphold notions of ideal femininity by using certain semantic moves (Frankenburg, 1993), and the narrator will be able to interpret and name the dynamics and how they fit into white women’s maintenance of white supremacy and their impact of people of color. The piece will also reveal how white women who are challenging racism overcome the shaming and shunning of other whites as they attempt resistance.

Methods/Sources: The story is crafted in a narrative style from the perspective of a white woman teacher, teacher educator, and mother who has spent significant time in private spaces with white women. The characters in the story demonstrate emotional domination (Matias, 2015), hegemonic civility (Calafell, 2012), and the effects of shame and shaming in order to ensure whites maintain white supremacy (Thandeka, 1999; Zembylas, 2008).

This story draws from the tradition of counterstory-telling (Bell, 1992) although the author is white. The author uses critical theory as a methodology, including ideologycritique (Geuss, 1981), psychoanalysis (Britzman, 1998), and critical reflection (Freire, 1970, 1993). It also draws on a historical analysis of how groups of white women have formed movements influencing white women’s suffrage (Davis, 1981), prohibition (Feimster, 2009), and reproductive rights (Roberts, 1997), typically beginning in their living rooms or other private spaces.

Findings: The story demonstrates white women’s adherence to the white hegemonic alliance (Allen, 2008) in raced/gendered ways and the possibilities for resistance for white women.

This story is significant to the field of education because it reveals the inner criticality of a white woman attempting to transform the consciousness of other whites, as well as her own. It offers an opportunity to critically analyze white women’s spaces such as book clubs, as spaces that maintain white women’s position as the foot soldiers of white supremacy (Leonardo, 2013). Throughout history white women who are seen as warriors of women’s rights have leveraged their race over gender in order to maintain white supremacy (Davis, 1981; Feimster, 2009; Roberts, 1997) and critical examination of similar spaces is needed.


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