On Madeleine Albright’s White Feminism

Scripps College recently announced that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would be the 2016 Scripps Commencement speaker, as Colin Gamm reported in this week's issue of TSL. Albright's selection has already been a subject of controversy among Scripps community members, especially since Albright recently received backlash for quipping that there's “a special place in hell for women who don't help each other” at a Hillary Clinton campaign event. This isn't the first time Albright has run into controversy. In 1996, she voiced that the deaths of half million Iraqi children as a result of U.S sanctions was a “very hard choice” but “worth it.”

Since Scripps' announcement, many students across the 5Cs have voiced their concerns over Albright’s selection. Students have cited her recent comments, along with her blemished record as the US ambassador to the United Nations and as Secretary of State, as signposts of her limiting brand of feminism, one that doesn’t embrace intersectional analysis on race, class, and sexuality. For many, Albright embodies 'white feminism,' a neoliberal view on an ideology that the mainstream desperately needs to update. We agree that, at face value, she does represent this incomplete definition of feminism, which excludes and harms women of color. But perhaps her arrival presents an opportunity, opening a line of discourse.

Albright’s selection could bring to a head Scripps' generational divide on the meaning of feminism and how to ultimately close that gap. The selection of Albright as the college's commencement speaker is an opportunity for Scripps students, faculty members, and administrators to reevaluate their institution's values and the values they aspire to. The decision to bring Albright to campus has already provoked passionate responses from students who see Albright as the archetypal white feminist, and these responses warrant further exploration. We hope that such a clash begets productive dialogue that will mold the college for years to come, challenging traditional understandings of feminism, how it's evolved to present, and what is needed now moving forward.

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