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  • Writer's pictureIlsa Govan & Tilman Smith

Three Ways to Undo Sexism and White Privilege

While White women face experiences of gender oppression, we also benefit from white privilege. We are located in a societal hierarchy where white men make the rules, and white women frequently enforce them. Many of the strategies we’ve developed to navigate sexism in the workplace and our lives are maladaptive and can be oppressive to People of Color.

Control, Perfectionism, and Defensiveness are three of the patterns in white women’s behavior that cause harm to both People of Color and us. The strategies described here are an invitation, a jumping off point for white women to begin healing in order to show up better in multicultural relationships.


WAIT. Ask yourself, Why Am I Talking? Why am I taking over? What might happen if I don’t insert myself into this situation or conversation?

Am I talking/acting out of true allyship or out of my need to have some sense of control in the situation?


I am not a mistake; I made a mistake.

I made a mistake and may not be able to fix it – so what could I learn from this?

Think about this last year 2020 – changes you made that were less than perfect. You just had no more to give at some point and it was still okay. Take what you learned about things not needing to be perfect and apply those to your work life now.


STAB. When you feel like lashing out at someone instead remember to, Stop, Take a Breath.

Be present with what is happening in your body. Notice throat tightness, posture shifting, facial expressions, stomach churning, etc.

Ask yourself:

Who does my defensiveness serve?

Where is this reaction coming from?

Am I confusing discomfort with potential harm?

How is this connected to my desire for control and perfectionism?


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