I’ve been thinking about this thread over at Shakesville all evening and even woke up this morning still thinking about it, so I thought I’d mull some things over here.
I’ll just say up-front that I’m not that interested in the specific “WTF, Pandagon?” turn of the comments. I mean, I think it’s safe to say that many, many of us have had a “WTF, Pandagon?” moment and made a decision, for better or for worse about what to do with that moment.
I, for one, stopped reading Pandagon. I don’t know that that’s the right choice, but it’s the choice I made.
And I agree with the commenters who like Shakesville because it’s a smart, feminist-centric place, where racism, sexism, and other bullshit-isms aren’t tolerated. That’s why I like it. I sometimes think I should make some effort to make TCP that kind of place, but the truth is that I, myself, am full of racist, sexist, and other bullshittist nonsense and I don’t feel remotely qualified to start building walls against that here.
But the other thing that I’ve been thinking about is that there is a lot, lot, lot of intergenerational stuff going on among feminists that I feel in no way qualified to address. I’m not a second-wave feminist, though my feminist role models and the women who taught me to feminist are, for the most part. But I’m not a third-wave feminist, either. Frankly, I’m too old and though I see that they are right about the necessity of focusing on intersectionality and complimentary modes of oppression and giving proper respect to a wide range of thinkers, they do that stuff with much more deftness than I do.
I still think, though, that the most damaging thing white privilege does to the feminist movement, over and over and over again, is that it has trained us white women to see being powerful as a proper end goal, to see being a leader as a direct reflection on our worth. In other words, we still think (I think) of feminism’s goal as making us equal to men, without really asking ourselves if we really want what men have got.
I mean, yes, men have leadership and power and influence, but I think we can all look at the prices men pay for that–time away from family, alienation from their own emotions, enormous stress on material successes as a measure of a man’s worth–and wonder if that’s really all that worth aspiring to.
Wondering, fundimentally, if “aspiring to” is really the right goal to have.
And I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I just know that I’ve always felt pushed not only to do as good as I can, but to look for opportunities to take charge.
Now, as I’m older, I can see that there are three main reasons people take charge in any situation–because they believe they are a good candidate for being in charge and someone needs to; because there’s a distinct lack of leadership and someone needs to; and because they benefit from being in charge.
None of these are, in themselves, bad reasons to take charge.
But, when it comes to feminism and whiteness, it seems to me that we white women have this problem where we hardly ever sit back and ask ourselves why it is that we should lead. Instead, it’s almost as if, in any feminist movement, you can watch the white women jostle our way to the front of the parade, as if we somehow should always be the ones who decide where it’s going.
I recognize that impulse, constantly, in myself, so I’m speaking from that position, as someone who recognizes in others what she sees in herself–that desire for you to teach me all you can so that I can better serve you.
See how pretty that impulse is?
And yet, it’s hard to remember to question why you think, automatically, that you should be in charge, running things, moving things around so that everyone benefits.
I have more thoughts, but I have to get in the shower.