"She is difficult:" Whiteness and norms of civility

A normative response that often seems to circulate within our discipline when referring to brown critical feminist scholars is: "She is difficult."

The "She is difficult" trope works to signal the potential trouble a department might be inviting when it hires a brown critical feminist scholar.

The trope works as heuristic universal, as a signifier to mark the body of the "unruly brown woman."

It does so by circulating norms of civility constituted in White privilege. Communicative processes and forms that thus challenge this white privilege fall outside of the norm, as the abnormal.

Incivility, as a tool of the oppressor, works fundamentally to shut out interrogation of the Whiteness of the structures we inhabit.

Rather than interrogating the structures of White privilege that reproduce this privilege, norms of incivility often work unequally on the bodies of brown women. More so, these norms work on bodies of brown women who question the oppressive logics of a White patriarchal structure.

The label "She is difficult" thus often works to shut out the interrogation of the Whiteness and patriarchy that is integral to our disciplinary formation.

As a trope, "She is difficult" shuts out difference.

Paradoxically, it does so under the guise of multiculturalism and inclusive climate. 


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