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:
Well, since I’m not getting it either, I’m glad you brought it up.
As for the rhetorical strategy you describe, I didn’t learn it from feminists; I learned it from the linux community. Already being accustomed to not taking arguments personally but simply sifting them for potentially useful ideas/information made it easy to apply the same to feminist blogs. So perhaps it’s not a white feminist strategy so much as a white strategy, or a strategy common to those who live with the sorts of privilege that often go with whiteness. What do you think?
Mm. This is a long and complicated one, and I’m kind of rushing so I won’t get to most of it. I did want to address this part, though:
The problem with this is that it doesn’t work that way. This is pretty much the exact same “why don’t you just get a book deal of your own?” sentiment that we hear all the time. The issue is twofold:
First, there’s the simple systemic stuff – it’s harder than ever for blogs to ‘take off,’ at least in the sense of ‘becoming another Pandagon (or whoever),’ both because of the saturation level (who doesn’t have dozens of things clamoring for their time in their feed reader?) and because of sedimentation: the blogs that were here earlier and attracted followers got more exposure over time, and built up more followers, and those followers all have finite amounts of time and established histories with the blogging community they’re a part of. Think about this place – there are a lot of us, and we like you, and we hang around because of the history we’ve got here and the community that formed as much as for the things you say. We’re not necessaril going to go somewhere else with the same enthusiasm, even if they’re saying the same things you do, but better.
The second part is related to that first. Power, particularly on the internet, has to do with how widely your voice is heard. How many people have you in their feed readers? How many people link to you and discuss what you say? How many book deals are you offered? (Jessica is on her third, Amanda seems to be in talks for her second….) Are you the one asked to go to the big blogger conference with ex-presidents, the one interviewed to work for presidential campaigns, the one described as the “voice of ____?” Or are you the one that blogs and blogs patiently, but for whom none of that really happens?
That is why it doesn’t work out to say you’re just going to disbelieve the power structure in place. Because even if you go out and you do all the same things, there’s an existing, competing structure in place, and in that structure, you’re kind of fucked.
Added to that, of course, is the issue of universality. If feminism is for everyone, and we want to get ourselves heard… then why the hell are we always being told to ghettoize ourselves? Why should we have to create a separate space for ourselves, especially if your space is supposedly speaking for and to and about us? When exactly was the last time separate but equal worked out?
Even when they’re good, well-intentioned remarks, it comes out sounding an awful like like “if you don’t like it, just leave.” And quite frankly, that’s not good enough. If this is supposed to be for and about me, then it should represent me and take my life seriously. You always wonder why people like BA and the like refuse to identify as feminists… and this is a big part of it. Either the system is big enough and inclusive enough and important enough that I should identify with it and work toward furthering its goals, or the system isn’t really responsive and I should just go do my own thing in my own little corner.
That’s why the push. Especially in light of the power dynamics. The women you cite are getting book deals (books that are called “primers” and sold as proselytizing tools, among other things), getting calls from the highest echelons of our government to come do this thing, to come represent this thing, and they’re doing it ostensibly in my name. And if they’re going to do that, then they should damn well take seriously my actual concerns.
Thanks Mag, that helps. I still think I’m having a big ol’ does of white privilege not getting some of what B is trying to frame, but that helps.
Now I’m thinking out loud all over your blog, B, sorry about that.
Here’s a notion: Learning to dive in and pick apart anything end everything without taking it personally is hard. It takes time and effort and a lot of practice. So in a society that does a lot to tie class to race, there will be a racial element as to who has time enough to sit around contemplating their navels enough to learn such a skill. If this is the only model for discussing ideas, it does cut off people who never have that leisure.
I home someone stops by and tells me whether that makes any sense.
Hah, Helen, I’m glad I refreshed before posting. Because you have said concisely what I had spent three long paragraphs writing in circles around. I also tried to tie that in to what B said about “white feminists who have been through the university system” because I do think that some academic disciplines* do explicitly teach that mode of thought and argument. And now I can just cut most of that out.
*The hard sciences, some humanities disciplines like history, much cross-disciplinary work — not so much, in my experience, disciplines like language or the social sciences. Tell a historian she has her facts wrong, and she’ll punch you in the face; tell her she’s interpreting them wrong and she’ll sit down to have a good, fun argument with you. But tell someone in modern languages that she has her facts wrong and they just shrug; tell her she’s interpreting them wrong and she gets all horrified and all her friends come around and ask why you’re being so horrible to her. But maybe that’s just medievalists.
Hey, Helen, no problem. I’m glad to have folks to think this stuff out loud with because we are butting right up against what I feel like is a failure of imagination on my part. And I feel like that failure could lead me to inadvertently hurt people I like, so I’m trying to work my way through it as best I can.
So, with that, on the one hand, Mag, I see what you’re saying and I completely agree. Like I said, I do think the big white feminist blogs think that including women of color just means being aware of how women of color are excluded and not doing that. But clearly, that’s not good enough.
And I get that my saying “Why don’t you just do your own thing?” does at one level sound like bullshit and I hope you know I don’t mean it that way.
What I mean is that, from where I’m sitting, it seems like these WOC bloggers and their allies are saying that there’s something systemically wrong with feminism and the result of that systemic fuck-up is that WOC are hurt.
And, often when I see that point raised, in the context that it’s raised, I agree. I can see it and see that it’s wrong.
And I think that’s an important criticism and it’s one that needs to be heard.
BUT now what?
I want to exist in the world and go about my business in ways that cause everyone the least needless pain (with apologies to Ned, who I still believe needs a little discomfort). But another bullshit thing white feminists do is to acknowledge there’s a problem and then set about to fix it in a way that causes us the least amount of personal discomfort, which means, if left on our own to change how we do things, we will not change things to the extent they need to be changed.
Here’s how I see things. There’s this overarching power structure and feminism is a critique of that power structure. One kind of critique.
Feminists have alternative power structures themselves, ways of framing things that allow us to challenge what we can and accept what we can’t change.
Things that really threaten the larger power structure are ignored by that larger power structure for as long as possible or they are destroyed.
Things that the larger power structure thinks it might be able to live with in some compromised form are co-opted.
So, on the one hand, I’m delighted to hear news from the larger power structure that it’s ready to co-opt (to some extent) the kind of brash bratty white feminism represented by Valenti and Marcotte. That could make life a little easier for us all.
On the other hand, I think this means an end to other ways that they’ve been effective. The more famous they get, the less they’re just regular girls who think feminism kicks ass.
To me, this is the start of how they’re silenced. I don’t look at them and think “Oh, man, I wish I had a book deal and got to talk to Bill Clinton once or asked to work on Edwards’ campaign. I wish I had access to that kind of power.” Because I see it as the larger system handing white feminists what it’s always handed us–the illusion of a wide-reaching voice in exchange for letting them co-opt that voice.
Maybe this time will be different. I hope so, but I don’t think it will.
Shoot, I wouldn’t even want to run Pandagon if it meant that I couldn’t fuck up and be human and fail (and I think Marcotte failed spectacularly in that post in ways that made me cringe) without it being seen not as my own personal failing, but a failure of feminism.
I much prefer this, where everyone knows I’m shaped by feminist philosophies, but I don’t speak for Feminism.
But back to my point (I swear I had one). If feminism systemically is broken; if it has irreparably become just a way for white women to understand our place in the universe (or maybe critics who claim that it was built that way from the start are right) and it hurts others, then I want something different.
I don’t know what that is.
And what confuses me is seeing these women repeatedly make this brilliant point that feminism is just inherently fucked in a way that hurts them WHILE AT THE SAME TIME they keep trying to get these white feminists to include them in the very system they’ve accurately identified as being harmful to them.
Let’s not do that any more. Let’s do something else.
The ways I know hurt people so let’s work out new ways.
No, maybe we’re never going to be as popular or as powerful as other bloggers, but we’ll just get started without them.
I’m not sure. But it should feel good for everyone working at it, I think.
Hm… that’s a good point, nm. I think that’s where I wind up intersecting with this whole thing – I’m a sociologist by training, and we spend an awful lot of time talking about things like systems and institutions. So I’m perfectly fine with the “let’s pick it apart and not take it personally” thing… but I’m also incredibly aware of the fact that ‘picking it apart’ isn’t something that can be done completely objectively; all of what we do is part of a system, and that system frames the things we think are good and right and obvious.
Which… drives me a little nuts sometimes, because a lot of people like to say “this is scientific” or “this is logical” or “this is rational,” and think they’re being purely descriptive, but what I hear and see is a prescriptive statement, within a framework that makes certain kinds of statements and actions easier/more likely/better rewarded than other.
A pretty obvious case would be the reproductive rights issue – a lot of mainstream white feminism focuses on abortion and the right to be able to choose when not to have a baby. This makes sense because of the social positioning of the people in the forefront; their experiences (and the experiences of the people that came before them) are such that forced pregnancy is one of the major wrongs to occur. It can derail a life, postpone college, mess up marriages, ruin health and so on. However, as WoC feminists (and others) point out, that’s not the only system at work. There’s a long history of forced and coerced sterilization (even at the hands of admittedly well-intentioned feminists) of women of color and other undesirables, and reproductive justice work that ignores that is not just incomplete, it is actively doing harm by facilitating those kinds of abuses.
Moving to a broader outloook, that’s part of what’s being brought up here. When white feminists are the ‘face’ of feminism (again, with book deals and being taught in classrooms and offered political jobs and being explicitly drawn in by politicians), and WoC are not, and their ideas aren’t even brought up except in passing, important things are being missed out on. Gender is not the root oppression. There is no root oppression, and any framework that starts there necessarily misses out on a lot. Moreover, by ghettoizing the WoC perspective (particularly in light of the very real power issues involved), one runs the risk of actively perpetuating the very harms that we keep talking about.
I had a thought I think I thunk but I may have just sprained my brain.
It’s a key life skill to understand when something is Not About You and to refrain from behaving as though it is. Any blog that deals with feminism winds up having to confront that concept ceaselessly due the dudely idiots who show up spouting male privilege. The communities at said blogs see this so often they have shorthand for dealing with it, that often translates to “Go away until you pull your head out of your ass”, and for good reason.
So there are two concepts/abilities that get conflated in people’s minds, including mine, and I’m not sure how to separate them; academic-style arguing and an aspect of emotional maturity. Since they’re conflated, people often aren’t respectful of those who aren’t managing to pull the combination off, assuming it’s immaturity that’s the problem and not a lack of time. This includes me, since my first thought on seeing someone insisting against all evidence on believing a discussion is About Them is, “Grow the fsck up.”
Here’s where it gets reeeeeeeally ugly: “It’s not about you,” and all kinds of related pseudo-logical sounding arguments are routinely used by privileged jerks to stomp all over others when in fact it IS all about the people they are stomping. It takes time and patience to learn the skills to fight back against this sort of thing, and again we’re back to a class-and-therefore-racial element as to who has had the leisure to do so.
It all seems to go in an ugly circle. We’ve got some who are sick and tired of it’s-all-about-me-ism, and others who are sick and tired of lying-asshole-it’s-not-about-you-even-though-it-really-is-ism, and they seem to be bashing heads in the confusion left by the dorks of the world.
OK, so a lot of this comes down to figuring out what the framing system is, figuring out when we are accepting the framing system, figuring out when we are not accepting the framing system but using its language for the sake of argument (or for the sake of having an agreed-on language to argue in), and figuring out when we are talking about the framing system in order to figure out how to change it.
Piece of cake — I think we are all in agreement that all we need is a new language. And a mere way to get the most widely-read bloggers to adopt it.
Ugh, Mag is sooo right about “logical’ being used prescriptively rather than descriptively.
Too often it means the speaker is going to reduce a problem to the point of absurdity so that the “logical” solution that follows happens to be the one they want. My niece learned to do this when she was four; “S learned a new skill today,” her mother reported on the phone, “self-serving rationalization!” I laughed pretty hard, but it’s not so funny in the hands of manipulative adults.
And again, it takes time to learn the skills to deal with people who use such tactics. Whee.
Well that about sums it up, nm. I vote we all go for cookies and have a go at making the new language up.
Or booze. Or cookies with booze. How about ice cream with cookies and booze poured over the top?
I’ve got a bottle of creme de menthe that I inherited from an uncle who inherited it from my grandparents. (We’re not really a liqueur family.) It’s surely got to be pretty, um, minty by now.
Other than that I don’t have any solution. Just the same frustration as everyone else.
I think there’s a whole lot of overestimating how much power we have. But I will never completely understand the resenting of feminists who publish or get attention, when it’s good for the cause. I’m reading Susan Brownmiller’s memoirs right now and it’s both causing me flashbacks and making me chuckle in amusement—under the sway of Chinese Marxism in the 70s, feminists who were discomforted by the fact that some feminists had more fame than others outright said, “Step down, give up your career, your success is making everyone else resent you.” And often, they did in solidarity. That’s obviously an unacceptable thing to say nowadays—we’re all aware how women are conditioned to believe that ambition is wrong and we don’t want to feed that—but what we have now is far more convulted and complex to sort out.
I’m comforted by this—when it was all over, and the books were published and the egos bruised, the books and not the egos were what remained. And girls like me who might have never had a chance to rebel were able to pick up those books and read them. I like to listen and take people’s concerns seriously, but I have no idea what I’m expected to do outside of step down. And I think about the books that wouldn’t have been written and I think that’s a bad idea. Short of stepping down, muzzling myself, refusing to speak with my own voice, what exactly am I supposed to do?
Well, yes, exactly. That’s another question.
And one I don’t have a good answer to, either.
See, here’s the thing, and it’s not me kissing your ass or anything, but to me, what’s important for me as a woman are the posts where you seem to fuck up royally and yet, you come back and make other posts and comments and continue to have a public persona.
I was raised to believe that girls don’t really do anything in public, except be supportive of their men. But, even then, if you are too public in your support–I’m thinking of the cheerleaders in my high school for instance, which was all about being supportive of the boys–you might be a slut.
Anyway, my point is that feeling like I have a right to be a public person is something I’ve had to learn in my adult life. And I’m all for the pats on the back and the accolades and the cool things that come with that. I like razzing the people I razz and calling out bullshit when I see it. What a treat!
But I am terrified of fucking up in public and I am almost paralyzed by fear of being called on it.
That’s one of the things that’s making it very hard for me to have this conversation. I’m terrified I’m making an ass out of myself in front of women I respect a great deal, and every ounce of me is just wanting to be all “Oh, wait, it’s fine. Everything is fine. I understand perfectly well what’s going on. I was totally just having you on.”
So, for me, to see your willingness to make missteps in public and get short with people and being open to saying “Well, then, what the fuck?” That’s important to me. And to me, it feels very brave of you to be willing to do that.
And so I’m uncomfortable with how often people lay into you like your flounderings and weaknesses indicate something fundamental about something wrong with feminism.
And there’s work to be done, right now. Even if the circumstances aren’t perfect; even if the results aren’t exactly what we hoped for; and even if the people who have the opportunities aren’t saints. It still needs to be done.
So I guess I feel like you’re supposed to do exactly what you want to do.
And I think at the same time we white women have to learn to hear what our critics are saying.
Or, I guess, we could hope that the folks who say that we can’t know another woman’s mind are right. If that’s true, we’ve got a great excuse for not doing more to try and hear how what we’re doing affects people.
I don’t know. I’m tired. This is disjointed. I may try again in the morning.
Okay, and here’s another thing (ha, this is the most floundering nonsense ever, sorry).
In my mind, how it works is that, when we do feminist criticism, even if we use individual women’s experiences as a jumping off point, we critique systemic issues and not the individual woman. To me, those are the obvious rules (though, clearly, no one has stated that; that’s just my understanding.)
At the same time, it pisses me off when I see people almost gleefully attacking Marcotte as if her personal missteps “prove” that feminism sucks.
And I think my desire to both reserve the right to use individual women’s experiences as a jumping off point that they then are supposed to understand as being not about them in particular but about some broader issue and my anger at seeing individual women singled out for discussion as if what they’re doing stands for something larger about feminism to be a blind spot on my part.
Maybe worse than a blind spot.
On top of that, not all criticism is going to be right. For instance, I take the criticism that there’s just something that feels very exclusive about how we white feminists do feminism and that just making efforts to include non-white voices is actually not enough to be very valid and though I flounder with what it means for me as a writer, I know it’s something I need to take to heart and really, really open myself up to being changed by.
On the other hand, I find this criticism that we can’t know what motivates other women and thus aren’t free to speculate about what’s going on in their heads to be bullshit. Sure, we can and often do guess wrong and there’s a lot of bullshit caught up in that (our inability to fairly speculate what’s going on with others), but come on! We can too imagine what it’s like to be other people, otherwise we couldn’t tell stories.
So, there’s that–trying to figure out which criticisms are legit and which are bullshit and why, which is also difficult. And, even if criticisms are legitimate, sometimes there’s nothing to be done.
No, it’s not fair that Marcotte gets a book deal and someone else just as deserving doesn’t, but in my experience, publishers aren’t sitting around saying “Oh, you know what would make our list so great? If we had a good book on feminism from the perfect feminist.” and then going out and scowering the internet for that voice. Instead, someone at a meeting somewhere said, “Hey, this woman came to my attention and I think she might have an interesting book in her.” There’s not an open space Marcotte filled that prevented someone else from filling it. They opened that space FOR MARCOTTE. If she turned it down, they wouldn’t have said, “But we really need a feminist book! Let’s look for another author!” They would have said, “Okay, well, I have a proposal here for a book on the Yankees, what do we all thing of that?”
Oy, so, Aunt B., when I read this post my first reaction was –
1. Women of color bloggers are and have been doing the thing you’re asking “why don’t they just…”, with the banding together and the quoting and the supporting. I’m confused as to where the perception comes from that this *isn’t* happening.
2. What you say here:
“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. ”
– My reading and commenting experience has been actually that much if not most of the tension between women of color bloggers who even engage with Feministing or Pandagon in the first place has happened from women of color making pointed, scrutinous critiques and being chastised for doing it…”not always very nicely,” and from white feminist bloggers *taking things as personal attacks when they are not.*
Meaning, I see women of color writers doing the very thing you actually describe white women feminist bloggers as doing, on the style-of-rhetoric front, and I see over and over again white women feminist bloggers having the response that I read you here as attributing to women of color bloggers. The sort of, “I can’t believe you’re being so mean to me” as a derailing of political discussion.
I do appreciate you bringing this up and talking about it from a standpoint of “what am I missing…” and I get that it’s uncomfortable to hang your ass out like that. I just, well, have seen apparently really different things than you have, and felt like this was a safe space to say so.
Amanda, I’ve got a bunch of thoughts, but not much time, and B, sorry for splattering your blog again. Hi, btw, my name’s Helen, and and I’m away from TN right now in the frozen north.
The not-publish-or-step-down concept reminds me of waaaay back when I was a teenager and a boy told me he didn’t like Amy Grant anymore because she’d “gone non-Christian.” “No she didn’t,” I said in confusion — “Lead Me On” was currently all over the radio. “She did that song with Peter Cetera,” he countered. “So what?” I said.
Confused, I repeated this to someone else, who said, “A lot of people feel she betrayed her ministry.” Um, what? Somehow people had decided they owned some singer enough to dictate what she sang. I thought this pretty bizarre. I don’t think telling you whether you can blog or publish makes any sense either.
However, as far as feedback and pushback goes, I tend to think like the engineer I am. I know I WILL get shit wrong, it’s part of the human condition, and I sure as hell hope someone will get in my face about it. If I don’t listen and/or figure it out, that makes me a bad engineer. There will always be idiots who get in my face for stupid reasons who need to be ignored, but it’s part of my job to find the signal in the noise. I can choose my sources of feedback/pushback, but it’s part of my job to make damn sure I listen to ones with enough signal to wake me up when I need it, even if they have a whole lot of noise as part of the package.
I quit reading Kos because he decided he didn’t need to listen to a well-deserved bitch-slapping on a key issue, went right on spouting privilege, and it wasn’t the first time he’d chosen to throw out valuable signal as noise. He’d degenerated himself to too low a signal-to-noise ratio to bother with.
I’ve seen you do a little of the same. Your SNR is still high enough I’m still reading. But as B said, acceptance by the power structure can be silencing because it’s good at enabling ignoring people calling you on mistakes.
I don’t know what you “should” do, because it’s up to you. I do know what would keep me reading and what would not. I hope you do the book deal, keep writing the thought-provoking stuff, and listen carefully when you screw up.
I wasn’t really sure I was going to come back to this conversation, and I still don’t know if I can sit here for this…. but this bugged me. Where does this perception come from? No one is asking anyone to not publish things they were sought out for, or to marginalize themselves in any way. People are, as Joan pointed out, making criticisms about the actual things that have been published/blogged/said… not saying that the people publishing/blogging/saying them are awfulhorrible people and that they should step down.
This, to me, is the exact same dynamic we’re being accused of. “I’m in the target demographic and it didn’t resonate with me” isn’t “you’re an awful writer.” “When people call bloggers X, Y, and Z the ‘faces of feminism’ and they don’t represent these issues that are important to me” isn’t “these people aren’t feminists and should shut down.” “We’ve explained why this is privileged over and over again, and it seems like you should have gotten it by now” isn’t “you suck as a blogger, now only write about the things we want you to write about.”
So why do people think that’s what’s happening?
“I like to listen and take people’s concerns seriously, but I have no idea what I’m expected to do outside of step down. … Short of stepping down, muzzling myself, refusing to speak with my own voice, what exactly am I supposed to do?”
I believe you. You can think of only one way to “improve” the situation and that one way is unacceptable. That is a wonderful method we white women use for ignoring women of color. It’s worked for years and it will keep working as long as we keep making these same old tired arguments.
However, for those who do want to change things up and have a more productive interaction, there are lots of resources out there to help us learn more. One of my favorites is “Detour Spotting for White Anti-racists” by jona olsson available here: http://www.cwsworkshop.org/pdfs/WIWP2/9Detour_Spotting.PDF.
It’s very easy to educate ourselves once we decide to make the effort. We really don’t have to believe we have only two possible choices: continue as we are or become something worse. We can also choose to become better sisters to women who are not exactly like us.
A few posts that might help explain what’s going on:
Bitter Laughter at The Silence of our Friends.
Stretching the Knapsack Metaphor to its Full Bent at Problem Chylde.
De-Centering Whiteness as a Proposed Solution to Stagnant Feminism at My Private Casbah.
These are by far not the only or most detailed discussions on the topic, but they’re the three I just happen to have in browser windows right this moment.
Also, what Magniloquence said.
Hello, I’m usually a lurker, but this post sorta pissed me off, so I’m delurking for a moment.
First, like Joan said, I appreciate that the intention of this post is to work things out–I’ve got a lot of posts like that myself, I know it’s difficult, I know it’s hard. I appreciate the risk you are taking here.
But I have to say, there are a lot of assumptions in your post that are really really problematic. First, the idea that white women have been to the university and women of color bloggers haven’t. As far as I know, within the context of regular bloggers who I have interacted with offline and organized with, every single one of us has gone to college. I personally know of two women of color bloggers (who I haven’t organized with offline) who haven’t. So I’m not sure where you got the idea that white women are at some level of arguing that women of color aren’t, except that you are reading woc bloggers in a way that you are not reading white women. Maybe you identify with their arguments more, maybe you are used to the way they speak–who knows. But I think it’s important for you to interrogate yourself as to why you have assumed that most woc bloggers are not academically trained.
Second, women of color bloggers have organized together. We have raised funds and came together as a functioning organization this past summer at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit Michigan. From that meeting, we have continued to build and organize off line as this video demonstrates:http://myecdysis.blogspot.com/2007/11/women-of-color-feminism_05.html
Third, having a critique of the reason why we are not included, why we are not linked, why our issues are never raised or discussed does not mean that we want to be ‘included’. We actually are doing exactly what you say we’re not–we’re critiquing and discussing something–but our critiques are being written as “complaining” “jealousy” “bitterness” etc. I think it’s important to question why the calls of bitterness, complaining, jealousy, have been made by an almost exclusively white crowd. I thin k it’s important to question why a critique=amanda and jessica should never ever be published ever because we hate them. Many white feminists have critiqued Yearly Kos, but many of those same white feminists continue to go to yearly Kos and even have civil and polite interactions with Kos himself. Why are critiques made by white women nothing more than critiques, but critiques made by women of color “jealousy” and “bitterness” and a round about way of saying amanda and jessica need to “muzzle” themselves?
Another thing– As mags pointed out–we are not being asked to supper with former heads of state, our writing is not being used to teach classes. These are *structural* sites of feminist production. What the government says and does affects us, most of us are U.S. citizens, and those who aren’t are affected by the policies that white u.s. feminists get to talk to official government representatives about. And no, I do not trust white feminists to consider us when they are talking with heads of state about our fate. And no, I do not trust that the white feminism that is being preached in the university is ‘good enough’ for all of us. I do not think there is “time enough” to discuss us after we make it through another white feminist text.
Also, most critiques I have seen of white feminist bloggers have NOT been a call to be linked more. In fact, they have been completly opposite–they have stood as reasons to walk away from feminism, to write off feminism, to wipe their hands clean of the whole mess of it. While there are many woc bloggers who call themselves feminists, as far as I can think of at this moment, there is not ONE, including myself, who accept white centered feminist ‘inclusion’ as an end goal of our movement. Most woc bloggers have either explicitly rejected feminism (and all that goes with it, including white feminist bloggers attention), or have re-written the idea of what feminism is through their offline activism or through the way they blog or identify themselves. To assume that the goal of our critique is to attain ‘inclusion’ is evidence of the profound level of self-centeredness that white feminists action exists as.
And finally, do you see where it’s a problem that even as you say that you have no clue what’s going on with women of color, you have not included us in this discussion except as a nameless faceless glob of voices that you can’t quite figure out? Why is it that you have a problem with *us* and you are trying to figure out *us*–and yet amanda is the one who is linked and named? Do you see where it might have made a big difference in how you understand these issues if you had taken a specific post that you are having problems figuring out and reflected on the words of that post in a meaningful way? Do you think that if a woman of color blogger saw that you linked her and that you were giving her words the respect of actual thought and consideration and reflection, she would more than likely return the favor?
It’s too convenient, it’s too *easy* to write off everything that women of color bloggers have said in the past year as nothing more than a jealous desire to be published or to “get” Amanda and Jessica. And because I respect you, I sincerely hope that you don’t let yourself off that easy. I hope that you give yourself enough credit to dig in deeper and really get dirty as you challenge yourself. And I think a very productive place to start would be to question why this conversation is always framed as why woc don’t want to join you, rather than why you don’t want to join women of color and their movement making.
All right, upon re-reading my post, I’ve decided that it’s cringe inducing and I wish I had given the ending part some more thought before trying to wrap it up in some feel-good rah-rah let’s change the world crap.
In retrospect, it is disrespectful of people already changing the world. And sounds stupid anyway.
Lisa, sorry about WordPress moderating you. I think I’ve fixed the setting that dumped you in there, so it shouldn’t happen again.
Also, in retrospect and reading through these comments and the comments over at Pandagon, I think it was expeditious but ultimately confusing to conflate WOC and their allies in one group having one discussion, because clearly there are a few discussions happening, sometimes related and sometimes not.
Also, in looking through the links y’all have here, I realize that there seems to be, for lack of a better word, a canon of feminist blogs that, like them or not, the people already having these discussions read regularly and follow along in the comments.
I don’t regularly read some of these blogs unless someone I read has linked to them. For instance–and I guess this will get me tossed out of online feminism (ha ha)–I don’t read Feministing.
So, I’m an ass for not realizing the extent to which these conversations have already circled round a few times.
But I think I’ve got a feel for the shape of things now.
And, Mag, if you’re still reading, and I hope you are, your questions (“Where does this perception come from? No one is asking anyone to not publish things they were sought out for, or to marginalize themselves in any way. People are, as Joan pointed out, making criticisms about the actual things that have been published/blogged/said… not saying that the people publishing/blogging/saying them are awfulhorrible people and that they should step down.”) make me wonder if we aren’t back to the whole change v. exchange of Angelou’s, but coming at it from another angle.
(For those of you who don’t read me regularly or watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, when I was in undergrad, Maya Angelou was on that show and they showed a clip of her giving a lecture to a class in which she said something like, “Most people don’t want change; they want exchange. They don’t actually want to dismantle systems of oppression, they just want to be the ones on top for a while.”)
What if it’s not just that most people don’t want change; they want exchange? What if it’s that most people can’t actually imagine change; we can only imagine exchange?
So, when faced with “Hey, this situation is a problem and it simply can’t go on this way,” our first instinct is to figure out what bargain the person leveling the crticism wants to strike. What are we being asked to give up so that the other person is satisfied?
I mean, look at me pulling that same shit earlier in this thread–bargain, bargain, bargain–just tell me what to do, what you want from me, make my way clear and, in exchange, I will do it. How big a sacrifice do I have to make in order to make things right?
So, on the one hand, it’s a failure of imagination on our parts, to not realize that we’re acting as if the option on the table is exchange and not change.
And, on the second hand, it’s a deliberate, if not always conscious, method of shifting the conversation away from shit that hurts our feelings. Once you’ve asked, “Well, what do you want me to do? Give up x?” or “Why are you always saying that I’m a shitty blogger?” it puts it on the other person to reconcile the situation, so now we’re not talking about whether the person has a point. We’re talking about whether they’re mean or asking too much.
Maybe those two things go together, too, though. Maybe we feel as if we’re being asked to strike a bargain too costly for us and, in order to keep from making the bargain, we turn to whether the other person is even being fair asking that of us.
I don’t know. That’s my working theory at the moment.
Brownfemipower, no. I wasn’t saying that black feminists don’t go to college; I wasn’t saying anything about the academic training of black feminists.
What I was trying to get at is that, by and large, we white women who were trained by other white feminists in college were/probably are still being indoctrinated into feminism in certain ways that allow white feminist racial bullshit to perpetuate itself. I went to a university where there was, as far as I know, one black woman on faculty. If not for my favorite professor, I would have gotten through college reading one piece of black feminist thought–the “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. And it would have never occured to me that I was missing out on a world of theory and experience if not for that one professor.
I assume that women of color who get university training in feminist theory, even if they have training as limited as mine was at that stage, have a sense that the world is bigger than that.
I also assume that this is one of the first sites, though, for young white feminists where we get this idea reinforced that our concerns and experiences as women are fundimental feminist concerns and that our way of talking about those things is how those things should be talked about.
I think either you and I share the same opinion on what WOC want from the big feminist blogs or I’m completely misunderstanding you. As I said in my post, my understanding has been that, for you guys, it’s not a matter of the big feminist blogs just talking more about “your issues,” but for those big feminist blogs to have a deep change of heart and really get that the issues they often dismiss as being “your issues” are issues that are important, period, and deserve real consideration.
I think it’s the white women bloggers who keep trying to reframe your critiques as being “Oh, they just want us to link to them more.”
As for “we are not being asked to supper with former heads of state, our writing is not being used to teach classes,” I hear you. But I think that this is a place in which my rural poor upbringing again colors my understanding. Because, to me, it seems completely obvious that such things are happening to them as a way to neutralize and co-opt them.
It occurs to me that I’m completely misreading the situation based on my own biases, but, where I come from, that’s how powerful people shut you up; they give you some things and let you do some shit you otherwise wouldn’t get to do and then you feel a little bad for talking shit about them, so your criticisms become a little less pointed, and so they give you a little more (but not too much because they mostly want to keep their shit for themselves, of course) and pretty soon you think you’re a big player and you think you’re someone important and then they stop calling.
But clearly, this must not be how the world works in general, so that’s my own shit. Maybe that’s how we deal with class envy–just figuring it only looks like real power; it must not really be.
As for your last criticism, yeah, fair enough. But I knew Mag would be here and I trust her as my friend to tell me to get my head out of my ass. I didn’t perceive of being able to even post this post without hearing from Mag either in the thread or via email, or, if I didn’t hear from her, I would have taken that as a message that I’ve got some shit to work out before she’d feel like coming back here.
I don’t feel like I think the problem can be summed up just as women of color bloggers are jealous of Amanda and Jessica. I feel like I think y’all are mad that women who have a platform to speak for all women seem to be speaking only for white middle class women, or at least primarily.
My problem is still, after all this, that it seems clear to me that, while we can and should push for that problem to resolve itself in the best way, we have to be coming up with other ways.
Y’all are clearly coming up with other ways.
I have to come up with some other ways, too. Which was another point I was wrestling with. If I can look at the white women bloggers and feel that their rhetorical strategies are similar to mine and see that their strategies are fucked, then I have to admit that my strategies are fucked, too.
I don’t know. And I don’t expect anyone else to know for me either.
thank you for your response Aunt B.
I get more clearly now what you were saying about white women in academia.
In regards to your point about the the “power” that white women have (or don’t) in regards to feminism–on the one hand, you are right, white women will *never* have the complete and total power in the existing power structure that a george bush or bill clinton does. At the same time, however, I disagree completly that because they will never have the *same* power that that necessarily means that they have a ‘false’ power or even a ‘weakened’ power.
Just a small example–The Feminist Majority has been one of the major players in laying the foundation of Arab male=hyper violent killers sentiment that the U.S. currently accepts as The Truth. Even today, after all this time, the Bush administration continues to use the “we must save the women” as justification for both the Iraqi and Afghan war. And the Feminist Majority continues to support military intervention in Afghanistan–http://www.helpafghanwomen.com/–even after the major feminist organization in Afghanistan expressly and completly condemned the intervention.
On a different note, I recently posted an article about Eve Ensler’s recent visit to Africa (specifically the Congo).http://brownfemipower.com/?p=1985. Again, this is another case of white centered feminism contributing to the justification of military (and/or economic) interventions by the U.S. that harm the women they claim to be helping.
So I guess I see my personal critique of white feminist bloggers not so much as a “please let us in” “give us more space to speak” sort of thing, but as a “what you are doing has caused some very real problems for women of color, could you please knock it off” sort of thing.
And even more pointedly, “if you refuse to be “muzzled” by women of color, could you at least stop insisting that we’re all ‘sisters’ and we have to work together or eventually, we’ll lose all our rights just like “them” (usually Arab women–although now it’s becoming increasingly popular to include latin america in the “them” category because of the recent various crack downs on abortion rights)—because I can no longer figure out how to be a “them” and a “sister” at the same time.
In regards to you and mags–I know you are friends and so I don’t want to comment on that–what I *would* like to say is that is that Mags is not the only woman of color that reads your site–I’ve been reading you since way back (I found the original post! https://tinycatpants.wordpress.com/2006/10/07/when-the-women-you-think-youre-helping-say-no-thanks/)
and it was disappointing to read this post because the whole reason I started reading you to begin with is because how thoughtfully you interacted with my post. You’ve done that a few times–you may not agree with me, you may resist what I say, you may openly say, I can’t get on board with this at all–but you interact with what I am saying.
This whole thing about the stupid books has consistently been cast as woc bloggers being bitter and hateful while at the same time, most bloggers refuse to interact with anything we are actually saying. This post, esp part in comments where you say:
No, it’s not fair that Marcotte gets a book deal and someone else just as deserving doesn’t, but in my experience, publishers aren’t sitting around saying “Oh, you know what would make our list so great? If we had a good book on feminism from the perfect feminist.” and then going out and scowering the internet for that voice. Instead, someone at a meeting somewhere said, “Hey, this woman came to my attention and I think she might have an interesting book in her.”
Sounds almost word for word (right along with the not actually interacting with anything woc bloggers have said), like the rest of the junk being said about us–that this is not about any of the critiques woc bloggers have stated over and over–this is *really* about our fragile and slightly egotistical misunderstanding of how the publishing world works. that if we’d just stop complaining and *do* something, like approach all those publishers with our own ideas, our books would magically be published and everything would be ok. But first we have to get off our lazy complaining butts and get proactive. (and most bloggers who say this say it without even beginning to comprehend how closely their words mimic conservatives and outright racists alike–lazy brown people think jobs are just going to fall right into their laps!!!)
anyway. Again–thanks for the response.
p.s.–I accidently posted under the wrong account!! I would be most grateful if you could possibly change instructura to bfp!!!! thank you SO much!!!
great posts, mag.
“Here’s where it gets reeeeeeeally ugly: “It’s not about you,” and all kinds of related pseudo-logical sounding arguments are routinely used by privileged jerks to stomp all over others when in fact it IS all about the people they are stomping. It takes time and patience to learn the skills to fight back against this sort of thing, and again we’re back to a class-and-therefore-racial element as to who has had the leisure to do so.
It all seems to go in an ugly circle. We’ve got some who are sick and tired of it’s-all-about-me-ism, and others who are sick and tired of lying-asshole-it’s-not-about-you-even-though-it-really-is-ism, and they seem to be bashing heads in the confusion left by the dorks of the world.”
*nodnod* there’s something to that. although in a way i think those are two sides of the same coin, you know. In that at its root any sort of bigotry really -isn’t- about the discriminated class/persons, precisely because the very process of oppression requires unseeing the oppressed as a whole, three-dimensional person. Therefore the oppressed person/class is not being singled out so much because of any inherent qualities, but because they are handily serving as projection screens/dumping grounds/useful tools for the oppressors.
Where it gets even more complicated and frustrating though, is that there are layers and layers of obfuscation heaped onto the original “othering” impulse/action–
but no, it’s actually simpler, I see what you’re saying:
on the other hand it IS about the oppressed person/class in that oppressed persons are saying HI THERE! OVER HERE! YOUR FOOT IS ON MY NECK! MY NECK HURTS!!
so, there it is. it may in fact be that the stepper is more concerned with hir foot than with what sie is or isn’t doing to the other’s neck in the process; in fact that’s exactly the problem. But then they’re -so- up their own asses that they explain to the person whose neck is being stepped on that really, they shouldn’t be so selfish: after all the steppers have pain, too, which is why they’re resting their feet there, and why can’t the steppees have some sensitivity for the steppers’ feelings, hm? Yer so SELFISH…
and so on.
…and ultimately what is really boils down to is,
“look, I don’t CARE whether you’re a ‘good person’ in your own mind or not; just MOVE YOUR FUCKING FOOT!”
Right, but clearly both work must be done. We’ve got to move our feet and then we’ve got to look at ourselves and say, “Why do I keep stepping there?”
Amanda: I like to listen and take people’s concerns seriously, but I have no idea what I’m expected to do outside of step down.
How about looking at the critiques, trying to understand them, then incorperating them into your worldview – up to and including joining WoC movements? Persoanally, I ended up finding the Reproductive rights movement highly superior to the pro-choice movement in terms of representing and supporting women, and so switched. It means I spend a lot more time listening, but I think that’s good for me.
Or, Hel, suggesting to your publisher that your next book have multiple voices because you feel you don’t cover enough ground.
Forwarding some WoC feminist and womanist blogs to your agent and publisher, vouching for their expertise and value.
Have your next book be based on interviews of young women with the majority of them being WoC.
Read some of the WoC blogs, identify several WoC centered issues, and write a book about exploring those as an outsider wanting to support people who are different than you whom you value highly.
Write a book about racism from a while feminist’s point of view who wants to incorporate other voices but finds her own acceptance of systemic racism gets in the way.
And that’s just off the top of my head.
Deoridhe, you bring up an excellent point, so I just want to second it. Once you’re a published author, you have a certain amount of clout and so you can indeed recommend other potential authors to editors and propose books that might not get thought of otherwise. And, don’t just think of yourself as having clout at that one press (or even only at trade presses). No matter how small you feel your established name is, some editor somewhere will look twice at a letter that starts, “I’m the author of such-and-such a book and I’m now shopping around a book about whatever.”
“some women of color bloggers” I appreciate the work your wrestling with here b but at this point every time this comes up and i see this as if we are the same thing as a handful of peanuts I really just cry
I understand that, and I’m not going to try to excuse it, but I think there are two reasons you see it happening repeatedly.
One is that you have folks like me who don’t get something, but assume the problem is with us, and we have been culturally trained not to bother people if the problem is with us. We’re supposed to somehow figure out what’s going on ourselves. Clearly, this is stupid and could save a lot of hurt feelings if we just said, “Hey, blackamazon or brownfemipower or Mag, I saw this and I think I get this part but I just don’t get this part and I feel like it’s making me an asshole” and then you guys would say, “Yeah, it does make you an asshole because even though you’re so sure what’s going in in your is unique to you, we’ve discussed this one million times.”
And I cringe and you roll your eyes and we move on. Which, clearly, is how I wish it would have went.
And, two, which may be the same thing as one now that I think about it, but just from a different direction, is that I and I’m sure other folks who do this want to believe that we’re unique, and especially insightful, snowflakes and I don’t think it occurs to us at first that the thing we just thought of might be something a lot of people have already thought of.
Which is kind of vile in its own way, too.
Magniloquence asks: Where does this perception come from?
It comes from racism. Academic theorizing hurts my miseducated head (or is it the repeated banging against the wall?), so I’m keeping it simple. The blindspots, assumptions, and dynamics between the various voices in this whole “meta” discussion demonstrate the effects of racist socialization. They replicate social relationships and worldviews which white people are conditioned since birth to replicate.
Because come on, white people are not equally nice or un-nice to people of color as they are to white people. That idea is, well, kind of a joke, as is the notion that this is about niceness or book deals or blogs and not the shattering of lives and bodies and communities happening right now under white supremacism.
What Kai said!!
What Kai said!!!
(Kai, my sense is, just IMO but — my sense is it’s probably the repeated head banging against the wall causing the pain for you)
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I rarely comment on posts like this, but I just wanted to put my hand in here too considering I do appreciate the space to try and work through some of this, but damn it always ends up with WOC being grouped together, bitter, and reactionary.
Why don’t we link to each other? Why don’t we work together?
Grrl, we’ve BEEN doing this. WE DO THIS. And just because you or others don’t know that we do doesn’t mean it ain’t happening.
With all due respect, this post and Hugo whatshisname and such, are precisely why I DON’T comment on Amanda, Jessica, or whoever else thinks or assumes that Radical Womyn of Color are bopping around waiting for some approval, power, inclusion from white or mainstream feminism.
I’ve got issues with mainstream feminist authors online, but I sure don’t waste my time reading them or commenting on them so I can be marked as an angry bitter where’s my book deal WOC feminist. Or better yet, have a barrage of feministing/feministe/pandagon commenters come after me with their machetes for not liking whatever the latest book is.
The work that I do does not stand on hopes to be recognized by mainstream white fems. I do the work that I do for a change that most white feminists are not capable of. So why should I care if they “step down?” Step down, step up, step aside. Who the hell cares?
History has taught me enough. I will focus on anything and anyone BUT white mainstream feminism.
Thanks for the space and your work on this.
What Sudy said.
And while I am guilty of running my mouth at any given moment and don’t want to really be accused of trying to “muzzle” anyone, it would be nice if some of the above-mentioned white feminist bloggers would listen, comprehend, and change. (For the record, it sounds to me as if you are trying to do this, Aunt B, and I recognize that posting this was/is difficult and cringe-y). I know people *can* do these things, address their own racism, their own white privilege, address their own biases. But it takes work. You don’t just get to wake up one morning and presto bingo you Get.It. Frankly, if anyone were asking people to step down, that would be a lot easier to do. And it is much much easier to dismiss WOC bloggers (some, all or many) as being bitter or hateful or jealous than to look at yourself and say, oh holy crap, there’s something wrong with ME, with how I frame things, with how I interact with WOC. And then being quiet for a moment and maybe learning a few million things. I do, every freakin’ day, and I am a woman of color.
Well, yeah, and it sucks. Not just because I don’t want to be the kind of person who runs around the world hurting people, which, of course, I don’t want to do, but also because it means looking square at the ways that I’m being played for a fool and that I about can’t stand.
I see myself as a pretty astute person who gets most things either by figuring it out myself or by having it explained to me. But this whole thing has been tough–both seeing that I’m being a jackass AND that my jackassery (if that’s a word) serves to keep me from seeing how I’m being played.
As I said (I think more articulately in the other post), I’ve been trained my whole life to believe that I am like middle-class women and that I should aspire to be middle-class and that I should help promote the agendas of middle-class white women so that they will see that I’m like them and so that they might spread their concern back to my community.
I have for sure had training in analyzing and critiquing what white middle class women want and how they act as women and how I have internalized harmful things about what it means to be a woman, but I’m just waking up to the fact that I’ve never, ever even once I don’t think stood back and thought about the class aspect of it. Until now.
I have just swapped my framework from “view yourself as like white middle class women and learn to be like them so that you can eventually be them” to “view yourself as like white middle class feminists and learn to be like them so that you can eventually be them.”
I mean, this whole discussion started–and really, I appreciate you guys coming in here and being civil about stuff that’s really hurtful–because I, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, feel compelled to jump to the defense of white middle class feminist bloggers, as if I am one of them.
I don’t know about others, but I can tell you for myself that the reason I find your critiques of those white middle class feminist bloggers so threatening and annoying is that it directly challenges my belief that, if we just get along, eventually the white middle class feminist bloggers will see all our problems and help us address them.
Clearly, this belief–that good things are coming, if I’m just good enough–is fucked up. But it’s very fundamental to how I see the world.
And it scares the shit out of me to have to acknowledge to myself what you’re saying–that they’re doing a shitty job and probably will always do a shitty job of acknowledging any viewpoint other than their own–because I have a lot invested in believing that they will.
And it embarrasses me to admit that, because it seems to be that that’s how white hegemony works–to promise the poor white people social mobility in exchange for us coming to the defense of the people above us, even though that social mobility is not really coming. And if I already knew how it worked, why do I still do it?
That’s also what embarrasses me about this whole thing–that I’ve got no answer to that. I should know better. But I am often blind to it anyway.
Short of stepping down, muzzling myself, refusing to speak with my own voice, what exactly am I supposed to do?
Start taking responsibility for your statements. You have a right to make them, and you have the responsibility to be aware of the effect they have. If your statements are so important to you, do them the courtesy of standing behind them. Don’t try halfway down a thread to claim that you never called a thoughtful and respectful observation about subtext a “joy-killing narrative,” especially when you’re repeating the “joy-killing” line in private conversation. You do a disservice to yourself and you insult your readers’ intelligence: we can, after all, scroll up and see what you actually said. Hell, even G*ldst*in has the smarts to go back and selectively edit what he wrote in order to make it consistent with his changing claims.
Seriously. What’s with the constant assumption that women of color, or in fact any person or group of people who fall outside the gated community of privilege, define themselves by their relationship to the elect? Living to get attention from mainstream white bloggers? Maybe there are some bloggers of color who do so. I suspect they wear themselves out of it in short order. Hell, I’m a B-list white blogger with good traffic who actually tries to be as good an ally, and friend, as I can, and bloggers of color aren’t trying to get my attention. Why would they? Why would they define themselves in relationship to me?
And if that doesn’t happen with a blog like Creek Running North, where no one’s ever gonna get told that they have a pet issue and racist troll comments are deleted without notice, then why would anyone try it with the big blogs, where thoughtful comments prefaced with adulative praise are condemned as “joy-killing”? What good would come of it? Links from the big political blogs bring a surge in traffic, most of the visitors one-time, one-page drivebys, with a sprinkling of clueless “pet-issue” concern trolls among them.
And even if that weren’t true, what good would the regular readership of those blogs do bloggers of color? I posted something at Pandagon on Haiti, including the revelation that there were perhaps 30,000 political-terrorism-motivated gang rapes in the two years after Aristide’s ouster in Port-au-Prince alone. The next post, on pole-dancing, got about five times as many comments. About half the comments on the Haiti thread were variations on “yeah, but what can the US do about it? Haiti’s so fucked up.”
Why would any sane blogger, of color or no, want more readers like that?
And if a privileged middle-aged straight white guy like me gets enough abuse from bringing up intersectionality to rethink the value of blogging about politics, finally giving it up after four years, what effect will that have on those who the privileged bonehead commentariat have even less reflexive respect for? Maybe we could ask Nubian.
Seriously. The bloggers of color I read are working on real-world politics. The “mainstream” “political” blogs I’ve given up reading generally spend their time, as one CRN reader put it, chewing up other polibloggers’ vomited-up scraps. Every once in awhile one of them will take a break from being boring, repetitive, limited and irrelevant to kick bloggers of color in the teeth. But when those kicked work up the energy and the good faith, AGAIN, to try and explain to the blogger what she did, AGAIN, the explainers are not looking to define themselves in relation to the person with the steel-toed boots.
What Chris said, and one more thing.
The two fun feminist blogs you referenced are hyper sensitive to criticism of any kind in comment threads, so your characterization of that aspect of the situation seems backwards to me.
In the interest of full disclosure I am an old white radfem who no longer bothers with either of those bloggers anymore.
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