This is a post that’s probably of no interest to anyone, but I need to work some stuff out for myself and, I think, just try to figure out what even my questions are.
It’s more of a floundering than a post. For some background, see here.
Here are the questions that I have.
1. Has Amanda Marcotte ever posited herself as a feminist leader? I don’t think so, but I may have missed it. She does have a popular feminist blog and seems to be regarded by some as being not just a voice of feminism, but A Feminist Voice. In other words, I’ve read Marcotte as someone who, metaphorically, just yells loudly interesting things. And yet I read comments by other people and it seems like they think Marcotte is a voice that must be listened to.
In other words, because of her perceived popularity, Marcotte seems to have been annointed a Spokesperson for White Feminism.
Same thing with Jessica Valenti.
2. I remain confused by what some WOC bloggers and their allies are upset about. I feel like I’m missing a crucial point and it’s just a blind spot for me. I cannot see what I’m missing. A while ago some WOC and their allies complained that the big feminist blogs don’t treat the WOC perspective with enough respect (when it is that such perspective is even acknowledged). This, it seems to me, was and remains a legitimate criticism.
And so, it seemed, there was a push by some WOC bloggers and their allies to have their blogs linked to and their perspectives highlighted by these big feminist blogs. And, it seems to me, that happened.
But, again, it seems to me that those WOC bloggers and their allies made two crucial mistakes. One was to assume that, if the big blogs started paying attention to them, those white feminist bloggers would really start to get something deep about what it means to be a WOC in our society. And I mean deeper than “it sucks that when a woman of color disappears it doesn’t dominate the 24 hour news cycle.” That, it seems, didn’t happen.
The second crucial mistake they made was to not recognize how female white blogging rhetoric works. And, if you demand to be included without also demanding a paradigm shift in white people’s thinking, you are going to be treated by white people how we treat other white people.
Which is… not always very nicely.
The way it works, at least for me and I assume for most other white feminists who’ve been through the university system, is to assume that everything is fair game for scrutiny and that everything is up for discussion and that, if those discussions are pointed and hit too close to home, you don’t take it personally. We’re not talking about you specifically; we’re speaking in generalities.
This is a rhetorical strategy that works for us on one level, because it allows us to see how sexist bullshit permiates our lives and helps us figure out how to counter it without feeling like we’re at fault for succumbing to it in the first place.
But I think it fails for us when we’re trying to talk to women who haven’t had the same cultural upbringing we have or the same training in how we talk about these issues. Because we forget that we’ve been trained to think about how we talk about these issues in a certain way that sheilds us from the full blast of how we talk about these issues.
For women who’ve not been taught, over and over, to understand that we are both talking specifically about you and not about you at all, our rhetorical strategy sucks balls.
It hurts women because they feel, and rightly so, that they are being singled out for scrutiny and their specific choices called into question.
So, I use the term “mistake” loosely in this context only to mean… Well, hell, let’s be honest–to do what I as a white feminist have been trained to do–to talk about a choice those WOC made while at the same time trying to insist that I’m not actually scrutinizing that choice as if the people who made it are at fault for anything.
It’s kind of insidious.
But, my point remains that I think these WOC and their allies thought that, if they were included and understood, that white feminist would realize how damaging our rhetorical strategy is and try another one. They were wrong, at least in the short term, I think.
3. But here’s the other thing I don’t undertand. Since so many white feminist bloggers aren’t quite getting the job done, why continue to ascribe to them any power? Those WOC and their allies are, again, my opinion, interesting voices with important things to say. Why not band together and quote each other and other voices sympathetic to yours and make for yourselves a power base? Why give two shits about what’s going on at Pandagon or Feministing or wherever if it doesn’t meet your needs?
This is where I feel like I’m missing something crucial and that, probably, it makes me an asshole for missing it.
But Marcotte and Co. are only important feminist voices because people perceive them as important feminist voices. But they’re just people.
Can’t anyone be an important feminist voice on the internet? Isn’t that one of the things that makes it so awesome?
Edited to Add: Here are links to a couple posts about this post that WordPress didn’t do whatever WordPress does to make them show up in the comments. If I’ve missed you, let me know: