Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Question of Feminism or a "Movement?"

Most of the following is based from a long phone call with BFP who asked the heaviest of questions, 

"Is There a Movement?"

For a long time, I have quoted warrior Helen Zia who said, "There is not a women's movement, capital W, capital M.  There are women's movements, plural."

In an interview with Ms. Magazine, she states:
Feminism is not a racist ideology. If someone claims to be a feminist but exhibits exclusionary behavior and is reluctant to change--we all have prejudices, so I'm not holding feminists to a higher level--I expect them to change. What I say to women of color and other young feminists or womanists is this: there is no Women's Movement, capital W, capital M. There are women's movements, plural. And those movements are alive and well in communities of color. Many of the strongest voices in our communities of color are women. We carry our communities on our backs. With or without the label, we're there. To say that women of color are not interested in equality for women is just not true.
But many women of color have had negative experiences with individual, white, so-called feminists or with organizations and institutions within a feminist framework. I've had negative experiences. But we accomplish much more together than separately. I don't throw out the notion of feminism because of the negatives. We all have to work on these negatives. We cannot sum up a movement based on individual experiences.

I've been thinking about feminism, its "movement," and recent events of the past several weeks. 

I believe there is feminism.  I don't believe there is a movement.  US Feminism was born out of suffragists who wanted the right to vote.  Was it an inspiring and worthy historical event?  Of course.  Was it grossly racist and ignored the needs and rights of womyn of color?  Of course.  But, nonetheless, it was deemed and documented as a movement.  It was a movement that stirred the 70s and 80s with new language and terms to describe sexual harassment, patriarchy, and equality in the workplace.  Were these important events that took place? Of course.  Was it, once again, infuriatingly ignorant of the works and voices of womyn of color? 

Did the US women's "movement" break the backs and hearts of marginalized womyn?
Yes.

Does it continue to do so?
YES.

But it is being deemed and documented as a movement.

So, here I am, a Brown womyn, born and raised in the US declaring from my seat in this arena that there is no movement for me.  If I had been born in the roaring 20s or grew into adulthood during the 2nd wave, as a Brown womyn, I would still be saying the same thing: There is no movement for me.

What is the "movement?"  Where is the movement?  Is it a constellation of values and agenda?  As inspiring as it is to think as bell hooks, "feminism is for everyone," what happens when "everyone" receives an invitation to the situation room?  What happens on a very human level of conferences, conversations, blogging, and community formation when the movement shows no clear mission, no consistency, organization, or clarity?  Such celebrated ambiguity leaves perfect target practice holes for lethal mistakes, a slip of the knife, expensive missteps.

I used to argue that feminism is the movement that embraces the human development of each individual and each person could find an empowering home in the scaffolds of feminism, but now I'm not so sure when it seems like more and more womyn of color are either being elbowed off the scaffold or willingly jumping off to walk on solid ground.  When I think of past social movements there was a distinct, tangible understanding among its walkers. There was some agreement of accountability to keep people in check.  If a non-violence group member pulled a gun, she's no longer non-violent.  However, if a feminist is racist or classist, "Oh, s/he's trying..."

There is feminism yes, but how that transpires in the action of each "feminist" ultimately defines the movement as a whole.  For US feminists, the access to feminism opens most easily for privileged womyn whose minds and lives have been formatted to privileges of comfort, entitlement, and therefore ignorance.  The "movement," of feminism is drowning in a pathology of privilege, a forgetfulness of its use and potential, a permanent amnesia of truly liberating the oppressed.  By simple biology, feminism will take a different face in womyn because of race and privilege.  It's as if our priorities are completely different.  These days, I feel like we don't even speak the same language and we are hurt by completely different things. 

The question of liberation for privileged feminists will always remain unanswered because they are not equipped, they never learned to self-analyze beyond their own profit and gains. Privileged feminists will remain, I believe, fumbling in the dark with nothing but their oversized dry hands, their desire to be a good ally but inability to acutely challenge their darkest shadows of moral responsibility and fragile egos.   In the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken.

This division in feminism breathes in my generation, my feminism.  It has filled me with an anger I cannot explain, a frustration beyond my reach.  Each day my anger is different and I can't say it in more simple terms than this: I expect more.

And so, if I am a feminist, like Zia, I will expect those who do not confront racism and issues of marginalization to change.  I expect better.  Feminism - the social, political, and economic belief that womyn are equal - still has me pinching its fanny.  Cross my name off the "movement" though.

Observing the feminist blogosphere in the aftermath of (W)AM AND A SEAL is enough evidence that history will continue to deem and document these times as a "movement,"  

even though it has...well, you know the rest.


  

38 comments:

  1. "And so, if I am a feminist, like Zia, I will expect those who do not confront racism and issues of marginalization to change."

    Good. They should.

    "I expect better."

    And you deserve better.

    I will admit, confronting a lot of this stuff that can often be easy to push down, easy to avoid, and it is often very hard work. It is uncomfortable work. It is work that for a white person can't ever be completely finished.

    But I can tell you that I have NEVER met a person who has done the work who now says they wish they hadn't. I really don't care if this sounds completely cheesy, but the things I have personally learned, experienced, and been given from doing anti racist work and from challenging my own bullshit, the known and unknown, is not even comparable.

    I really hope I expressed that as strongly as I feel it.

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  2. Sudy, you are something else. This post!

    When I think of past social movements there was a distinct, tangible understanding among its walkers. There was some agreement of accountability to keep people in check. If a non-violence group member pulled a gun, she's no longer non-violent. However, if a feminist is racist or classist, "Oh, s/he's trying..."

    "Accountability." Yeah, that's the icky-but-necessary part that's been missing for too long.

    Reading your last sentence, I find I have the same instinctive balking I see being not quite said directly, but certainly implied, by white feminists so often: "Wait, but I thought to be feminist you just had to be for women? What's this about race and class?" Duh, women come in all races and classes.

    That I still have that initial (albeit brief) "huh?" reaction tells me how much I've absorbed the U.S. white middle-class notion that feminism "transcends" race and class or is the "more important" issue or is otherwise somehow distinct and separate from class, race, disability, etc. And, NO! What part of me is "woman" and what part of me is "woman who earned $17K last year (and is really irritated by all the fretting about which save-the-poor charities "we" should support with our filthy stimulus checks, but don't get me started)?" It's so stupid!

    Yet because that disconnect is also so persistent, I am finding "feminism" a less and less useful -ism these days.

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  3. Al, I agree that the work is hard and easy to avoid, but I would throw everyone in that category - not just white folks - who have their entire lives to unlearn. WOC/POC have their own issues as well, it just takes different forms. And, it also takes a while to unlearn underlying inferiority, "No, I'm NOT your token. Or your cute side puppy. OR your bitch. I'm none of those things. I'm a PERSON."

    Right on, Al. I can feel the strength of your response. It takes more courage to face yourself than facing anyone else.

    Ikyka - mhm, thank you for your response. The dated-ness of "feminism" is on my mind, too. I feel like I spend the majority of my time convincing others that this oppression within feminism exists instead of actually educating and visioning for the future.

    I've learned this lesson over and over myself: there is nothing I can do for others until I truly listen to their perspective and study their shoes, where they're walking, where they've been.

    As simple and potentially overgeneralized as this sounds, a lot of feminists just don't listen. Period.

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  4. Sudy,

    First time commenter, and first time reader, really. Would you mind if I bookmark your blog to read it regularly? I don't really have much to say; I just want to listen. Your post is so eloquent and I am so, so disappointed in feminism. I expected more from it, too. But I think you have far more claim to the word than others who make up this "movement."

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  5. Ico,
    lol - I think you just provided a lot of evidence to the contrary of what I just wrote in my last comment that a lot of feminists don't listen - and here you are - trying listen.

    No permissions needed to bookmark. Listening is the most powerful tool for transformation.

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  6. Ah, well... Unfortunately, the conversation still going on (@Feministe) re: Marcotte is showing very clearly that you are correct, and the vast majority of us really *don't* listen.

    It has opened my eyes quite a bit. Thank you for permission. :) Bookmarked!

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  7. Oh Sudy, you are brilliant. Just brilliant.

    This really crystallized something for me. Feminism isn't a movement. Not a singular one. A belief system, perhaps, but not a movement in the way we understand the term. And that makes sense. A broad commitment to an ideal does not a movement make; a movement needs focus.

    I also love it because it gives me the opportunity to take or leave "feminist" as a label. I was having a very hard time considering whether it fit me, before. I don't fit into that big wide white movement out there... not really, anyway. But I do believe some of the things they do, and I do hold some of the same ideals. I share the belief system - that women are human beings and that we need to work to realize that in every facet of our lives - but I'm not a part of that mainstream movement, because I don't share its priorities and its goals. And what I want to call myself depends on what the question is.

    So wonderful, love. *hugs*

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  8. Hi Sudy - I've been reading your blog for a while and haven't commented before - I like to absorb before I open my big mouth. But I had to stop in and thank you for this post. I've been wrestling mightily lately with my own feminist identity for similar (though not identical) reasons. I'm white and working class, with a daughter who is black and working class, and the racism and classism I'm confronted with in mainstream feminist spaces hurts so much that I've been ready lately to just wash my hands of the whole shebang. I think first, thanks to your words, I'll undertake to examine my own feminist priorities, look a little deeper to see where I might be "showing up white" (in the words of another great piece from another great thinker a few years back), and maybe see what I can do to set things right at least in my little corner of the world.

    Anyway, thanks again. I feel pretty privileged just to be able to read this.

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  9. Anonymous7:33 PM

    Well, it's no news that some people in a social change movement are in it solely for their own interests, and some people try to consider everyone's interest.

    Case in point: the ENDA controversy last fall, on whether to support an LGB-only version or one that also includes the T (transgender / transsexual). Some in the community, particularly the white men, were claiming that they had waited long enough, wanted their ENDA, and the Ts just hadn't put in their "dues" politically, and would have to get an ENDA on their own. Other LGBs were adamant that Ts be included in any bill.

    I suppose the best thing is to keep trying to educate willing-but-clueless people, and do what you can do with your own interest group even if it is relatively small. I think that's why the great majority of LGBT organizations have come out for T inclusion in all bills - the Ts have spent countless hours teaching the LGBs about "Trans 101". Ten years ago, no LGB group would have risked a bill's passage on behalf of Ts.

    Willing-but-clueless, NancyP

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  10. Anonymous7:36 PM

    BTW, Sudy, are you a biologist? I can't think of too many people who use the word "ecdysis", other than entomologists and other biologists.

    NancyP

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  11. Hi Angela,
    What a beautiful and honest comment. The complexity you describe resonates with me. My family is all different colors, Brown, Black, White and it's never easy navigating relationships with race sometimes. Strength to you, -S

    Hi Nancy-
    I'm no biologist! I wish I were that science-y...No, I was on a long journey about 7 years ago to find the right word for how I felt in my life. I tried to find a word that explained my stages of growth, how I shed who I am with every new challenge and experience rebirth with each transition.

    One day, I was playing scrabble with friends and I was arguing about the legitimacy of a word. I grabbed a dictionary so ferociously that I dropped it! Lo and behold, at the top of the page was a funny looking word - ECDYSIS. I was intrigued by the "y'"s and saw its definition - the shedding of an outer integument; molting of exterior layer.

    I adopted it as my main descriptor of who I am.

    Thanks for asking! - S

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  12. hi sudy, i've been reading for a few months, delurking to say hi and how much i appreciate all your writing (and esp this post).

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  13. ENDA was a huge object lesson for me, and why I try (and fail more than I like) to be an ally.

    Sudy, this nails it so hard:

    The question of liberation for privileged feminists will always remain unanswered because they are not equipped, they never learned to self-analyze beyond their own profit and gains. Privileged feminists will remain, I believe, fumbling in the dark with nothing but their oversized dry hands, their desire to be a good ally but inability to acutely challenge their darkest shadows of moral responsibility and fragile egos. In the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken.

    Although I would say sometimes the desire to be a good ally just isn't there. Or perhaps an unexamined belief that they're a good ally, "so stop being so oversensitive and shut up." And so on.

    Great post, and it makes me question (again) whether "feminist" is the right label for my politics.

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  14. RyanRutley11:45 PM

    Sudy,

    Surfed over from Feministe, and would be back often if I wasn't trying to wean myself off of glowing screens.

    I think your point that you expect more than "trying" is very important, and it's a conversation long overdue in people-trying-to-make-the-world-better crowds. I think it's fair to presume that you don't expect perfection (in fact "I don't expect perfection" is a near-mantra for people who follow up with "but I expect better"), but I'm curious to hear if you can articulate what you do expect.

    I think I know what I expect. I expect learning. And not "oh I've learned so much, not that I've learned let's keep doing things the same way" learning but demonstrated growth of their understanding on issues. If someone takes the racist and silencing position on one flare-up, but takes the inclusive and voice-supporting position on the next, they have demonstrated learning. That's what I expect. And I expect it to happen again and again and again. Learning is not one a one-time thing.

    Hell, I would prefer more than learning, but I'm willing to accept it as a minimum.

    (I'm saying this as a white Canadian small-town middle-class left-liberal raised man. I have done a LOT of learning over the years.)

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  15. Nailed it again, Sudy.

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  16. love you, sudy.
    with expectation, hope, (and big belief in plurals!),
    jess

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  17. Hi Sudy, thank you so much for your words. I'm not new at blogging, but it's only been in the past few months that I've been reading outside my personal friends circle and I've found a great deal of comfort in the world of feminism. Unfortunately, I stumbled in the door when it seemed to be shutting for other people. Because of that (which I really cannot say I understand fully, but I am trying to read as much about it as I can), I'm making it a goal of my blog to try to write more about issues that affect all women, not just white women. I made it a goal that as I learn more about feminism, I learn about the contributions of WOC too. I don't want to just fumble in the dark and conveniently forget about the struggles WOC and even other minority groups face. I want to be an ally and a friend and someone who won't climb on top, but instead will help others up with me. Your post has inspired me to do more.

    Anyway, all that was just to ask, do you mind if I add you to my blog roll? I promise to listen.

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  18. Hi Sudy

    Just wanted to say, amazing post, you hit so many nails on the head.

    (I commented before by the way, I'm Zenobia but my new username is probably going to come up)

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  19. I feel like I spend the majority of my time convincing others that this oppression within feminism exists instead of actually educating and visioning for the future.

    And who wants to spend time going in circles? Sure, it's technically "movement," but it sure ain't moving forward, and it isn't desirable in a movement.

    Of the many, many, many things that infuriate me about the jealousy smear, this is a big one--the way it implies that anyone would actually enjoy spending time this way. Like people enjoy shuttering their blogs and taking breaks, like people enjoy having to explain the same basic concepts over and over. That's insane. The level of me-centeredness one would have to have even to suggest that is astounding. It's a denial of reality, because the reality is that taking time out from your work to say "Okay, everyone, let's try this one more time" only derails you from the things you actually want to create and do.

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  20. Hey folks,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting with your support and openness. THAT's inspiring to me - to have folks be open to asking important questions and struggling through difficulty.

    Ryan - great question - I think that will be the topic of my next post. Thanks for the prompt.

    Dana - no permission needed to blogroll :) G'head.

    Jess - XO..times a million...Thank you for supporting me in all the awesome ways you do.

    Ilyka - ahh, the jealousy smear. What's clever about folks who use that line is the same cleverness of annoying pundits. They take one streak of truth and utilize it to shame, silence, and squirm their way out of their own issues. I speak only for myself. Am I a jealous person? Uh, who isn't? Am I jealous of the people on Deal or No Deal (I LOVE that show)? Am I jealous of physicians who do international work? Am i jealous of actors who do indie movies at Sundance?

    YES. YES. YES.

    But - within feminism, so many of these folks claim that jealousy is the primary MOTIVATOR for criticism and uses that dismiss my folks. Am I jealous of those with published works? Of course! What writer would not embrace the opportunity to make available their work and research? But my recognizing someone else's opportunities doesn't make me narrow green envious bitches. Another distinction is that I have never had or will have personal grievances, vendettas, or agendas against individuals. I have problems - big problems - with silencing trends, racism, and any WORK that steps on the throat of the marginalized. Then that's when I have a problem. That's when jealousy is that last thing on my mind. That's when jealousy is so irrelevant, it's insulting to even mention it. Jealousy - I learned long ago (I think in junior high) that jealousy takes away from who you are, strikes out your own potential.

    I speak only for myself, but to smear jealousy as the primary vehicle for WOC and their actions, reactions, work, and energy is beyond wrong, beyond degrading, and only further mucks up the accuser's already murky pond of perspective .

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  21. Anonymous12:47 PM

    I was glad, after seeing you talk about privileged feminists as a "they" to see you say: "This division in feminism breathes in my generation, my feminism." After all, anyone who has time to write a blog has some privileges.

    Sometimes bloggers (and that often includes women of color bloggers) get too caught in writing about "they"'s and complaining about others, and don't reflect on their own privileges. It's good when we understand our role in the mix!

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  22. Sickle1:30 PM

    Awesome post, Sudy, and one that really distills some of the lessons of the past two weeks. I've been reading a lot of blogs I didn't know existed recently, and have found some great folks (like you) who are now part of my daily reading.

    You know what's striking? There have been a lot of great posts like this in the WOC blogosphere this week that are really distilling the controversy into its constituent parts with sharp analysis. But feministe and feministing are falling all over themselves trying to figure it all out, and Pandagon's commenters are clueless.

    It's saddening to me, because it's the perfect illustration of everything you and others have been writing about. Keep the faith.

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  23. “As more and more women acquired prestige, fame, or money from feminist writings or from gains from feminist movement for equality in the workforce, individual opportunism undermined appeals for collective struggle. Women who were not opposed to patriarchy, capitalism, classism, or racism labeled themselves ‘feminist.’ Their expectations were varied.” -- bell hooks, "Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory"
    (emphasis mine)

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  24. beans spilled3:12 PM

    you know, the thing I think everybody is missing in this whole thing is that a *movement*--a *real* movement requires that you be accountable to people *within* your movement.

    So let's consider accountability within the context of immigration/amanda. Amanda writes an article in which is she accountable to her editors. NOT immigrant women--but her editors.

    Several white women pick up on Amanda's article and link it. They are accountable to ....? But *definitly* not to immigrant women.

    Then all of these women start talking to each other--but they're not accountable to anybody in this discussion--not the activists who are connected to immigration, not immigrant women. ANd they have this big huge discussion in which more and more white people show up--maybe even a few people of color--and they all decide--we need to *do* something. But 1. Amanda did not write about anything feminists of color/pro-immigration folks are doing and 2. nobody in their discussion is connected to immigration in anyway.

    So they decide that they need to pressure Congress to do X--when during all this time, pro-immigration activists, bloggers and immigrants have decided that Y is what they *really* need. But the first group of well meaning women have already begun a blogging campaign in which they are pressuring Congress to do X--and because Congress is aware of the power of visibility that bloggers have--suddenly X is now on the table. And immigrants are still fighting and fighting and fighting for Y--but they know they are fighting a losing battle because they don't have legions of bloggers and they don't have the power of visibility--most immigrants can't or won't stand up and be heard because they know they risk deportation.

    Who is accountable to whom? And is it really such a crazy thing to believe that this could happen? Look at what happened with the women of RAWA. They specifically *said* they wanted X--and because western feminists were accountable to other forces rather than the women of RAWA--next thing you know you have feminist majority advocating military interventions in Afghanistan *even as RAWA denounces military interventions*.


    This happens *all* *the* *time*. Feminism is NOT a movement because if it were, there would be a protocal set in place where the *FIRST* thing any woman who is trying to act in solidarity with another woman would ask is *what is already being done*? HOw can I *help* what is already being done? How can I make sure that what I do does NOT infringe on what other people are already doing? How can I make sure that I am not "saving" people, but making it easier for this community to take care of themselves?

    To go back to amanda and her article--she is making an intervention into feminist understanding of immigration. Does she have any responsibility at all to tell readers who want to "do something" what is already being done? Does she have any responsibility at all to demonstrate to her readers *how* to approach a community and work with a community in a respectful manner that builds on their work instead of destroying it?

    If feminism were a movement, the answer would be yes. There's not one movement that has gained anything--the civil rights movement, the LGBT movement, even the women's rights movement--that has NOT been accountable to the communities that they work with. That has said--we're going to help women--but there's no need to build on what they are already doing. There's no need to listen to what they are saying--there's no need to explain to other people the lessons that have already been learned so that they aren't constantly repeated again and again.

    This is why Ghandi felt humility was important--you must have the humility to follow if you are in a position of power over those communities that are marginalized. It is helping nobody if you decide you know more and you know how to 'save' the people who are experts on their own abuse and subjugation.

    He used humility to deconstruct the caste system in india. Whether it worked or not remains to be seen--but in being humble when he was an upper caste person--he exposed the system for what it was and he deconstructed it--AND he positioned those who were on the brunt end of colonial subjugation as the leaders of the movement.

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  25. spilled beans4:29 PM

    and if ghandi can use humility to deconstruct the caste system in india--what does humility do to deconstruct the structure of white supremacy (or misogyny or any other ism) here in the u.s.?

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  26. On Privilege:
    Privilege circles my feet. Sometimes I have one foot in, sometimes both. The complexity of intersectionality shifts with circumstance, but yes, I do have privilege. Not just because I blog, but for a hundred different reasons. I'm oppressed, not just because I am Brown, not just because I am a womyn, but for a thousand different reasons.

    I don't forget that and just because I may not mention in in every. single. post. that doesn't mean I haven't understood it and accepted my privilege in the forefront of my mind; and am trying to do something effective and productive with it.

    Privilege is meant to be risked.

    Thanks for all the new folks coming in -- you're kind of catching me off guard, but Thanks!

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  27. Anonymous10:34 AM

    Thanks for addressing privilege.

    I'm not saying references to privilege need to be in "every.single.post," as you dramatically typed. I just want to draw attention to the occasionally simplistic thinking I saw.

    I believe you are drawing a subtle distinction between "women of color" and "privileged women" in this essay, which is not intersectional: "Privileged feminists will remain, I believe, fumbling in the dark...In the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken." This implies a duality.

    I think this is important to note. I've seen wide-scale bandwagonism and scapegoating amid some women of color bloggers lately, who seem to speak of easy "they"'s without enough class analysis(even if the analyses of feminism's racism have great validity). An "us vs. them" approach is hardly what is needed to create coalitions; it rarely makes people examine their privilege and leads to defensiveness, on your part and mine.

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  28. Hi Anonymous,

    I'm more than open to talk about my own privilege and on my blog I address things the. way. I. like. Call it dramatic, just don't call me dramatic on my blog. That's. how. I. write. And if you interpret it dramatic, cool To each her/his/their own, but I don't like being called dramatic or my writing dramatic if that's my own style.

    More importantly, yes, point taken, class should be analyzed more in depth and I can see your point on how that quote (privileged feminists will remain, i believe, fumbling in the dark...in the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken") calls for more specificity and frequency in the larger conversation of feminism, but in the context of the recent events on the femblogosphere, I think that quote suited my point just fine.

    And the "occassionally simplistic thinking" is quite insulting to be honest.

    I don't back down from your comments just because I perceive your points to be condescending - I see the validity in what you're saying. Coalitions are critical and you're right, an indepth vigilance of intersectionality is needed, but when I explain my style as a writer and give background, I wouldn't call that defensiveness. I'd call it courtesy.

    And this is also why I rarely comment at all, including my own blog...

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  29. Anonymous12:19 PM

    I will carefully consider your thoughts; I appreciate and have learned a lot from your blog. Thank you for considering my concerns.

    I do respect that you "don't like being called dramatic or my writing dramatic if that's my own style." But the line "just don't call me dramatic on my blog" encourages censorship. I personally think creating emphasis with punctuation can sometimes be called "dramatic." I'm not calling you a drama queen or anthing, you definitely are not (you are an intelligent and talented writer), and that's an important distinction.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Best wishes.

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  30. spilled beans12:39 PM

    I've seen wide-scale bandwagonism and scapegoating amid some women of color bloggers lately,


    just wondering where all these women of color speaking in bandwagon/scape goating terms are at? Sudy posted this, which you seem to agree with--amazon is gone, bfp is gone, sylvia is gone, holly posted something which is pretty straightforward, but not hostile--I haven't seen any of the woc on feministing even post about this, aposte has clearly and pointedly said that she supports and respects white folks, little light posted something on feministe that I thought was a beautiful outreach to jill, ABW wrote something "in solidarity"--which centered the women of color in this rather than the white folks-- I mean--where are all the scads of woc creating the duality?

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  31. Anonymous4:54 PM

    Yes, many important voices are missing.

    I'm mostly referring to the comments sections on the blogs which have talked about the "Fuck Seal Press" issue. Some comments are extremely brief and of the "yeah, fuck Seal Press" or "we love you blogger" variety. That seems too easy; sometimes that leans more toward bandwagonism than thoughtful analysis and support, in my opinion. I hope we can all start to think through ways to build useful coalitions that center women of color and talk about wider issues, such as racism--and the lack of space for radical ideas--in the publishing industry, rather than simply going after one press (and that's not to say that boycotts aren't one piece of the solution).

    I did say "some" not "scads."

    I really want to see a productive dialogue that moves beyond angry slurs, "us women of color vs. white feminists" dualities, and that includes socioeconomic class analysis, which blurs those dualities.

    Thanks for hearing me out.

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  32. Beans: I agree with this: a *real* movement requires that you be accountable to people *within* your movement. I think this gets to the heart of why many women are rejecting the label of "feminist"- because of the rampant apologism that occurs. (I know, because I think I'm guilty of being a reactionary apologist- "I'm not like those other racist white feminists!"- while not always confronting the racist white feminists.)

    Anon: It's probably not a good idea to cry censorship when you're a guest on someone else's blog. Y'know. Just sayin'.

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  33. I am a white privileged feminist. I go out of my way to teach my students to think beyond racial & cultural boundaries when they consider what is & isn't feminism. Do I make any headway? Sometimes. What I find most troubling is that - as a white fem of privilege - I perceive there to be no movement - no movement at all. White women of priv have bought into the backlash. Not only don't they want to consider crossing cultural & racial divides towards genuine change but they also no longer want to identify as fems.

    I despair some days. I really do.
    The racial divides of feminism continue as white women (those for whom I can speak by race) buy into the belief that feminism - of any color - is a done issue. This willfull blindness is especially true of my white students.

    The "F" word to so many white women - is feminism.

    I hesitate to say I share your anger - but in a way I do from my seat at the table of white feminism - there are many empty seats.

    Thanks for listening & thanks for the thought provoking post.

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  34. Anna, so when women of colour complain of a lack of solidarity from white women, the real problem is that white women buy into the 'backlash'? I'm finding it really problematic that you're centring class-privileged white women's reasons for rejecting feminism here, since that has really been critiqued in the whole 'Full Frontal Feminism' conflict. Why are these women so central to resolving the "racial divides of feminism" while woc are not? And if these women believe that feminism is no longer necessary, isn't that the fault of white feminism itself, which has consistently insisted that privilege is necessary?

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  35. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Linden Tea--

    Thanks for the thought. I am a guest. At the same time, the blog exists, by nature, to engage in ideas and hopefully stimulate dialogue. Assertive blogs encourage assertive dialogue and feedback.


    Now I'll move back to listening.

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  36. Possibly not A movement, but there is movement occurring.

    bell hooks speaks of "feminist movement"--as in, a continuous process, not a noun. Thinking of it that way, over eras: of course there is movement and of course there is progress. We are down on the ground floor, and often don't see the big picture.

    Feminism, like environmentalism, has become a Lifestyle Thing. Buy your recycled do-thangs, and you can feel all Green and better about yourselves, while still driving a SUV. (One reason I didn't blog about Earth Day, was because BMW and other local companies were having Earth Day celebrations, and I couldn't bear to participate in any further co-optation.) Same with feminism; I watch Bravo network's REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NYC and hear one woman tell her daughter about the importance of making money so you are not at the mercy of a man. Well, yeah, but... these are women who spend $2000 for one dress... so the importance of feminism is crafted and presented in the way it first makes sense to them: money. Not making the world better for women or joining together with other women, but simply, getting yours. Money.

    Lifestyle feminism is always going to be clueless. But that is the marketable feminism, so that is the feminism that will be collectively foisted on us by the media, and the feminism that certain bloggers (ahem, no names mentioned) will propagate, by default.

    Just some ideas! And wonderful, thought-provoking post.

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  37. Anonymous12:35 PM

    What Beans Spilled Said Re: Accountability to the Community.

    "Feminism" isn't a single community, a single movement. Neither was the "Civil Rights" Movement (non-violence vs Black Power split?), the "Gay Rights" movement (early 1970s Liberation vs assimilation, lesbian vs gay, street queens vs more well-off, now we have GLB vs GLBT vs T (see my post above on ENDA debacle), black vs white GLBT community needs, and so on).

    NancyP

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  38. Shit. I had a great comment typed in here, but I clicked something, and I lost it. I'll try to re-create it.

    I, like Ico, am a first-time commenter and reader here. I have considered myself to be a feminist for a few years, I suppose. I've always seen a relationship between homophobia/homosexuality/gay/lesbian/bi/etc rights/recognition/toleration/etc and feminism. They've just seemed to go hand in hand, and it isn't hard for me to find misogyny in homophobic sentiments, in one way or another. However, having never experienced being an ethnic minority, it never occurred to me to place race concerns on the same plane. That isn't to say that I wasn't concerned, or wasn't aware, but my awareness was extremely limited, and so it is with shame and ignorance that I came upon this entry. I had made connections between feminism and race concerns, of course, but never had they seemed as pressing. At seventeen, I consider myself to be pretty selfish (and, generally speaking, it's a tolerable level, I reason, because advancing myself right now is likely to lead to my greater ability to advance and improve the lives of others later on), so my concerns had only primarily arisen from those things which affect me and the people around me directly. I am surrounded by a culture completely different from my own, and it treats women completely differently than I would wish, but I had always considered that to be more of an issue of religion, than of race/ethnicity. I must say that I am working on my academics right now, so I didn't have a whole lot of time to stray and read the comments, but I hope that my own comment has offered at least one tidbit of fresh perspective.


    Now, I know better.

    ReplyDelete

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