Friday, February 29, 2008

Listening to the Feminist Blogosphere

My last post Fertility and Invisibility seems to be right in time for the latest debacle in the feminist blogosphere. Once again, I am convinced that neither pro-choice or pro-life is where I want to set up camp.

Here's the story:

Once upon a time, BlackAmazon writes one of her brilliant pieces that centralize attention on Soutthall Black Sisters, a non-profit in peril of closing and in desperate need of help. In her powerful probing, she writes

It's not like Planned Parenthood isn't formed on the basis of one of the
most VIOLENTLY racist eugencists who literally compared Aboriginal peoples to
apes, and flaunted this fact and EVERY DAMN TIME people damn near wet themselves over her little to no mention is made of it under the apallling guise and with real straight faces under BUT LOOK AT WHAT SHE'S DONE FOR WOMEN.

For those who don't know, she is speaking of Margaret Sanger.

Then, Apostate, a self-declared important person to Planned Parenthood writes, "Inexcusable Attack on PP - Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?" and blasts BA for "stupid" comments and paints BA as "someone [who] uses her status as the Voice of Women of Color to spread a canard."

Dude, I don't even know what a CANARD is, but I do know from history that BA NEVER CLAIMS TO BE THE VOICE OF WOMYN OF COLOR.

::arms flailing::

I want everyone to form a line who think that one blogger, writer, activist speak for "all women of color..." Like one black womyn speaks for all black womyn. Like I speak for all Filipino Americans. Like how you speak for an entire community. I don't think so. I'm SO sick of hearing this line and I'm even more tired of BA being accused of things she doesn't even say or implicate.

So, for the millionth time in the feminist blogosphere, the usual equation rolls:

Step 1
A powerful womyn of color with knowledge of and experience with life history and a keyboard writes a moving post about a significant issue taking place someone in the world that is affecting poor womyn of color; in that post she references a FACT that sends a blast toward a successful organization.

Step 2
Someone from aforementioned organization or who has ties or who has worked on its behalf sees blood in the water and defends (attacks).

Step 3
People respond. With facts.

Step 4
An open thread invites womyn of color to educate on what should be done follows

:: sighs that last 4 minutes long::

Alright, look, I'm not an expert on Rep Rights. I'm not an expert on PP. I don't even engage in these attacks anymore on other's blogs because it always leads to the same place - nowhere. But I do know a few things about feminism, voice, and criticism. Here's what I know from the feminist blogosphere:

1) I know that anytime a person of unusual reflecting power is offering words of perspective, I should listen. I don't have to agree, but I take the cue that it's time to quiet myself and take in another person's life for a moment and try to understand where they are writing from (both literally and metaphorically)

2) I know that I, a womyn of color, have knowledge that is beyond quantifiable dates, stats, and publication houses. It's called life observation. I'm not trying to write a book or crack a whip with it, but I do have an opinion from it. Others are afforded the same, I'm pretty sure. And if I disagree (which, by the way, I do disagree with others about 98% of the time), I refrain from name calling, even in the name of defense. Maybe it's me, I just think it discredits an argument.

3) Planned Parenthood has done incredible work and I know several people who work there that continue its noble mission. However, just like any organization, Planned Parenthood is capable of problematic histories, dark practices, and even racism. And while the charge to move past history and focus on "now" is tempting, it's outright dangerous to discard the power of memory, lesson, and the revolving door of oppression. History is Always relevant to contemporary issues. Always.

As brilliant Sylvia writes, focusing on the "now" and excluding the power of history is dangerous tactic proven by politicians, policy makers, and writers.

What is the point of having history if we don’t try to learn from it? There is a key difference in learning from history and learning history. Learning from history requires more active engagement, more questioning of motive, and more analysis. Learning history simply leads to the passive indifference, incapacitation, and hasty retreats that pervert our current progressive discourse.

So, this has led to a place where I conteplate, for the 783028 time this month, the futility of feminist blogs. Should I bother engaging with others when I *know* I'll just get shut down because of my mouthy manners? Should I bother even trying to make my voice heard or make myself known? It's so dark out there. And then I am led to Aaminah.

A few days ago, Aaminah asked a great question of bloggers - do you think that your readers "know" you from your blog, your writer's voice?

I've been thinking about that a lot lately and I have to admit, when I read Apostate's post, I wasn't moved by her defense of PP, listing of its great works, or her interesting history as a Pakistani immigrant, I was turned off by this all too familiar feeling when someone isn't *listening* to what another person is offering.

For as little as we bloggers know one another (and I agree with Aaminah - no one *knows* me strictly from my blog), the only bloggers I trust are the ones with the most engaging questions. It's not about tone, it's not about resume, or where you've been. I don't form "enemies," or at least, I don't seek to form enemies. Nor do I view anyone as "the enemy." (That rhetoric is a bit too George W. for me) It's the deep, profound questioning blogs that I swim toward. Apostate's back to back questions were, "Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?" followed by "What Do You Want Planned Parenthood to Do?" reinstate my fear that we, as womyn, have not come very far in the simple but instrumental feat in learning how to listen. 

And so, I reply to a fellow blogger's question, "Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?"
I speak from my own voice and say, "I have a conscience, yes, but I listen first."

-En lucha.


  1. Beautiful. Brilliant. Thank you.

    PS - slightly OT, but I followed up that question with a post saying basically "no, you don't even know me". :)

  2. Carpenter2:43 AM

    It is very upsetting to me that my fellow feminists would react so poorly to just criticism of PP and reproductive issues in general. I remember a few years ago reading The War Against the Weak - a history of American eugenics. Sanger wasn't just one woman whose crazier ideas need o be forgotten, but rather one cog in a larger system of repression , whose effects carry on even now.


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