As I continue to survey the damage, I find an growing awkwardness inside me. There’s almost a puddle of disgust next to my computer from writing – again – about the latest feminist bombs. (I’m soooo sick of this.) On the stronger hand, I don’t feel quite right to blog “as usual” yet either. One thing I do know is that the more I reflect on the damage, the more I learn about what kind of activist I want to be. I want to be a person that does not carry on business as usual when “as usual” is not the reality.
And the reality for others is that “feminism” remains an unwelcome place, an impossible dialogue. Whether that is online, in a classroom, conference, community group, or any place that requires a public audience – the function of feminism as public activism is disjointed.
My blog is dedicated to creating a space for anyone battling the front lines of gender equality, liberation, and the truest sense of the word: resistance. This space is built especially for womyn of color and difference who seek a safe space to ponder and wander aloud. In my own wandering aloud, I came up with two pieces of damage control: 1. Language and 2. Goliath
Clean Up Your Language: Grab Your Arrow and Be Specific
Let me cut to the chase. If you blog or write about something that refers to online communities, be specific. BFP, BA, and a lot of other womyn bloggers referenced in the (W)AM and a Seal bombs belong to the Radical Women of Color blogger ring. That is quite different than just saying “women of color.” There’s a lot of WOC bloggers out there who would most definitely NOT agree with what we individually and collectively advocate. Also, PLEASE never write, “Sudy and other women of color say…” Of WHOM are you speaking? Be specific. I do not speak for all women of color. (And contrary to popular opinion, neither does Blackamazon.) I speak for one lone iSelf and, while I most certainly identify as and am a womyn of color, I do, can, will not approve of general labels in references.
Specificity also cuts out a lot of the garbage that takes up thread time. Specificity enables familiar and non-familiar readers to quickly and (more) accurately identify who is involved and being referenced. It’s not about being all PC, it’s about accuracy. When appropriate individuals and communities are correctly identified, it also minimizes identity drama.
Speaking of identity drama, one of my pet peeves is the dismissal of anti-racism arguments and bodies of work because a few comment something like, “You know, I’m a woman of color and I don’t think racism exists.” Careless use of identity as assumed credence neutralizes the reasoning and work done by those who have thoughtfully engaged their own lives and personal experiences that give backbone to their assertions.
Challenge bloggers who either generalize communities (“…those White women….” or “women of color….”) or those who use their “identity” to neutralize the work of others. Ask for specificity in the presence of ambiguity. Do your part and work to clean up the language. We spend more time refuting circular points than we do engaging our actual thoughts.
At the same time, get over yourself. If you know what the writer means, go with it and don’t lose the lesson over a beef tip.
2) The Fight Within Feminism: David (Indie) and Goliath (Mainfemistream)
To not acknowledge the difference between individuals of fem bloggers would be ludicrous. So, who would we not acknowledge the difference in their feminisms? The largest solvent in the feminist cocktail mix is mainstream feminism – the feminism that speaks to the majority of those in the middle – those who have access to feminism due to formal instruction, Barnes and Nobles, blogging, and 3 day women conferences in a secluded resort. This is the feminism that is largely pitched to White college educated heterosexually identified woman who love drinking, hetero sex, and cry in their sociology classes when their profs make them sit in a circle and prompt the students of color to talk about their childhood. This is the feminism that both Fox and CNN feature. This is the feminism that sells books. This is the feminism that enjoys the mic. This is the feminism that raises eyebrows, not consciences.
Is there a space for these women and their feminism? Sure.
But, why has this become of the face of public feminism?
Why is this feminism most staunchly defended?
Because a feminism pitched to a buying audience is a feminism sold.
Here’s another catch. Mainfemistream blogs, sites, and publishers take it upon themselves to feature marginalized issues and voices. While I have no problem with that, I don’t believe that sideshow warrants applause or a label of intersectionality. Dude, if you’re appealing to mainstream, you will never fly with intersectionality. The sacred space of difference is an experience of intense joy and immeasureable pain. That grey is too in-depth for cool, “normalcy,” or a dollar. Mainstream feminism is the attempt to, once again, prioritize the needs and concerns of the few, and claim it universal for all. It attempts to water down the rocks so that most people can wash it down. Mainfemistream vocalizes the same objective of candied individualism that refuses to heed caution for others’ well-being. To sell feminism, someone, somewhere usually has to be forfeited in the process.
(That “someone” is usually young(er) woman of color; 13-20 year olds, in my opinion.)
As I take my privilege out for a stroll this week and peruse the public face of feminism on the news, magazines, blogs, and bookstores, I am nauseous with symptoms of a flu-like bug. Steinem, Femwhatever-dotcom, Ground-breaking Press with apologies – I want to vomit over the repetition of themes – love, relationships, jealousy, career, success, motivation, sexual freedom, and equal pay day. Am I anti-mainfemistream? No. Am I angry? No. Do I want to stay far, far away from it? YES. The dearth of radical and indie voice is present, but distant. It needs to be louder. It needs YOU.
Stop expecting mainfemistream voices to be the David (practices of equality) against Goliath (kyriarchal practices). When you’re asking why mainfemistream isn’t what you want it to be – lame accountability, tripping over s-s-s-orrrries, lackluster vision – remember that they themselves don’t even know they, in fact, ARE Goliath.