I feel like it may be too soon to survey the damage in the feminist blogosphere, but I'm ready to look [read] and the way bloggers move on [post other topics], quiet themselves [no posting], take a break, or reflect. Things are quiet after the storm. I think we just experienced our own hurricane, one where many damns that held high emotions in check broke, people vanished, blame is thrown around, and the response to rectify the situation fails miserably.
New Orleans, as I have understood the aftermath, still struggles to rebuild what was lost. The aftermath of the whirling forces of destruction revealed deeply embedded racism that was as aged as the blue jazz of Bourbon Street. It's not like racism began in the Superdome. Racism, in all of its powerful camouflage, systematically works its oppression for years without much commentary. Then, a tragedy occurs and the flimsy responses and reasoning by folks in power, the rage of those who have been wrong, the aftermath publicly displays what has always been there: racism.
The problems didn't begin with the tragedy or disaster, it was the years and years prior to the final catalyst; the last candle to be lit before everyone could see the same thing in the once dark room. It was the generations of inherited privilege and blindness, the result of prejudicial hand me downs. It was the generations of unaddressed neglect and indifference that builds the oppressed to outrage and frames the privileged for defense, confusion, and denial. This all became evident when structure and order were broken. During times of confusion and instability, responses, choices, and alliances are made. Things become clear when the dust settles.
Emergencies and crisis are excellent for pulling the blanket off other profoundly problematic issues. One thing presents itself alarmingly clear: no one knows or agrees what the hell feminism is or supposed to be anymore. I don't think this is anything new, I just think it became more pronounced in the past several weeks with high emotion, impulsive postings, and self-revealing blogging. This imploding has only brought to surface all that was rumbling underneath. Like New Orleans, these problems have always been there, long before you or I were here, long before the internet even existed. It was just timing, chemistry, and history that forced the damn to break.
The racism in the women's movements, in feminism, in feminists is an issue that needs to be actively addressed at all conferences, organizations, discussions, classrooms, kitchen tables, emails, and phone conversations. This is the only way to address it: consistently. Because until that day is reached where radical equality [not sameness] is reached, if we continue to merely pause, build a substitute damn and rebuild our houses [blogs, sites] as if there will not be another crisis in the future, then there is no point to feminism, only a cyclic waste of words.
Read me clearly: there is no point to feminism if it does not actively address its racism with its agenda. There is no point to feminism if it does not address its racist history, racist matriarchy, racist icons, racist literature, racist imagery, racist publications, racist presence. To claim we're all female and unite under one cause of gender does. not. work. History never lies. This model has left more marginalized women in the road than we can count. Why the dichotomous split between gender and race, as if we live separately from the strands of our hair to the color of skin to the anatomy of genitalia.
This is the space that I demand for my LIFE, for my voice. Let's abandon "feminist" dialogue momentarily and ask ourselves what we are saying when we request for gender-only analysis of our own lives. For a few it may be called "race neutral[ity]," but for many others, it's diluting a proud, loving, and undeniable part of their identity and livelihood. There is no separating the left and the right atrium of the heart and expect it to continue functioning. It is one organ, inseparable. That is gender/ace identity. Two connected pieces, one function. It cannot be understood in parts, people must be handled whole. That was the piece that was missing from previous women's movements and why they are criticized by modern feminists today. We know better. (Usually...sort of.)
If you prioritize gender first and/or only and have built your feminisms on that foundation, fine. I'm not going to spend my time trying to change your mind. But here's my question - how or why can/do you acknowledge the lives and voices who advocate from their personhood, not just womanhood? How can you sum up one individual's parts when lives are understood as, encompass, and are influenced by factors other than gender, and those feminisms are founded upon that complexity? How can unity via the gender lens be effective when so many are crying isolation? Contrary to the opinion that acknowledging race separates and divides, it leads to richness. While the process may be viewed as painful and slow and lead to discussions beyond gender, let's not confuse depth with irrelevance.
If feminists sit at a table we call feminism and there is only so much room for agenda items and topics to discuss, I would say that we are wasting our time in drafting a criteria of what is a feminist issue. In exploring the potentials of feminism's power, I often think we limit it and ourselves by asking the wrong questions. (What are the wrong questions, you may ask. My answer: the limiting kind.)
The question is not what makes the issue feminist, but has a feminist perspective been applied to the issue? Many perceive the Iraq war not to be a feminist issue. I don't give two shits if it's a "feminist issue," I care if feminists have applied their analytical skills, intelligence, resources, and insight to the Iraq war. The once "not feminist" issue of the war, weapons of mass destruction, torture, and sovereignty transform after a feminist's examination - seeing the affect of war on womyn and families, womyn fighting in the war, the gendered language of warring countries, rape used as a tactic of war - when we apply a feminist lens, it then BECOMES a feminist issue. How in the hell does it matter at first glance if it's a feminist issue? If it affects one womyn, anywhere, it can be examined. Who in the world has the right to dictate what is or is not a feminist issue? It might not be to YOU personally, but get off my carpet, it may be a feminist issue after I'm through with it. It's not about taking a "general" issue and twisting it all around to "make it a feminist issue." Our progression should not be measured or dictated by what issues we deem acceptable, but by how insightful and truthful our responses are in accordance to ALL womyn's experience and gender concerns. It's not about the issue, it's about the assessment of kyriarchal forces working in the situation and then dismantling it from a feminist perspective.
Further, I don't believe we need to make it our goal to "feminize" every issue and apply it to our blogs. Each issue must be turned over in our heads before we engage it or disregard it. That's not a waste of time, that's called work. Heaven forbid.
My feminism seeks to be a philosophy of life, not for an organization or a mission statement, or a cute bumper sticker. My feminism strives to exist in my breathing. Ironically, I find myself writing about racism more when I am surrounded by feminists or attending a conference or gathering. It's as if the air is so potent, nothing else can be done until feminists do their own personal anti-racism work. In that vein, yes, it is distracting. It is distracting that we spend an ungodly amount of time feeding lists of how to help (mostly) White women better address their privilege when I'd rather be addressing something else that speaks to other forms of conflict and kyriarchal oppression. But this wins over because, yes, I believe it's important, and it consumes me with anger when it is not appropriately handled or addressed. I address it because I believe that if feminists themselves do not realize their own destructive patterns of internalized superiority and inferiority, our daughters will receive our to-do list.
My feminism does not seek to prioritize race (or class, or sexuality, or religion, or citizenship, or mobility) over gender, it seeks to acknowledge the equal co/multi-existence of gende/race experiences and honors the space for womyn who have never known the two to be different. My blog, my activism is dedicated to creating a space to examine the endless negotiations of feminism for womyn of difference and to unwaveringly speak with a rigidity in my spine and a compassionate truth in my rocking soul.
My blog has a new direction and grounded purpose. If it were to pick a title for this purpose, I would choose:
What's Next After Unpacking the Kyriarchal Knapsack*