Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who You Calling Radical? Conversations Between WOC and RWOC

Are we capable of this?
********************************************************************************************
Who You Calling Radical?
Conversations and analysis of media justice,
dynamics of race and racism, activism, and difference

by womyn of color and radical womyn of color.
********************************************************************************************
Guidelines: Choose a question to engage, or draft a question and answer in the comments section. All questions and thought processes by womyn of color bloggers and writers who have previously or presently participated in the blogosphere, are welcome.

I am also proposing a continuation of this thread/conversation at the
Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan July 16 -1 19, 2009.

Let's engage.


With as much love and directness as possible, can we come to the beginning of a series of conversations that our explore our differences and widen the table at which we all sit – as readers, writers, bloggers, and activists of color?

What does the word radical mean to you, either as a self-descriptor, or as a descriptor for others with whom you do not identify? What implications does it carry? How/has it been reclaimed?

What is media justice and media reform? What are their points of tension? Points of potential collaboration?

How does engagement with feminism divide us? Help us collaborate?

What do you envision when the word “collaborate” is used in reference to White feminists? What experiences shape your perspective?

31 comments:

  1. Beautiful initiative, sis. My question...broad and urgent is What's love got to do with it? (i.e. how does love inform and complicate and heighten our definitions of radicalism and our radical engagements?)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would just like to know how we can move forward and use our agency to create change. The infighting and emotionalism has got to stop. Yes we all feel pain however sitting in our respective corners in the fetal position gets us nowhere. I want to so concrete strategies, umm linking to each other, promoting our work broadly, fierce and aggressive engagement, claiming spaces as ours because we belong.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I guess my first question would be-who self-identifies as a Rwoc and why?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good questions, Lisa.

    To answer:

    What does the word radical mean to you, either as a self-descriptor, or as a descriptor for others with whom you do not identify? What implications does it carry? How/has it been reclaimed?

    Radical can mean anything from transformative thought to possibly detrimental action, depending on the context and person who uses the term. I did not meet many self-identified radicals outside of the political protest world, until I came to the blogosphere. I do not use this term to describe myself.

    What is media justice and media reform? What are their points of tension? Points of potential collaboration?

    As was explained to me, media reform is working with a broken system; media justice is building a new system that begins with perspectives that are often left outside of the dialogue. However, most people still receive their information through mass media and believe what is stated there, due to ideas about credibility and sheer dominance of the airwaves. So, while I understand the desire to leave this system alone and create a new one, while that creation is in progress, someone still needs to be challenging these ideas being promoted and usher in new ones. We can't just abandon mass media for a few years until something new has risen in its place - it doesn't serve anyone.

    How does engagement with feminism divide us? Help us collaborate?

    Feminism is a sticky slope, it tends to unite people under a common banner but it is widely open to interpretation. And despite all of the ingrained issues with racism and classism, it is a cruel twist of irony that I meet so many progressive women of color under a feminist banner.

    What do you envision when the word “collaborate” is used in reference to White feminists? What experiences shape your perspective?

    I'll leave this one - and the questions others have posed - for a bit later in the day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can't effing believe this. I just spent 30 minutes writing and editing a comment and it's gone.

    I want to curl up into a ball and temporarily die.

    Ok,
    I'm back and over it.

    In a maddeningly small paragraph, I will highlight some thoughts that I'm thinking.

    Latoya wrote on BFP's blog: I am process oriented. So I don’t think about the work in themes of submission/nonsubmission, I think about it in terms of opportunity/lack of opportunity.

    Opportunity.

    Let's flush this out a big more.

    What does opportunity mean to us and how does that influence our writing and activism?

    Also, WHO are we writing/working for? Who do we envision when we are *doing* this? (blogging, speaking, publishing, thinking) Who are we hoping to make something better for? I think we need to be specific here because you can't make it better for everyone, not when it comes to liberation work. "Change" may benefit everyone, but who it liberates will affect people differently. Who are we trying to make things better for?

    * * *

    Something I want to say is that I am going to try and be extremely direct and precise when I write in this thread. I think it's best to try and be as specific as possible so our conversations MOVE us somewhere we haven't been before.

    * * *

    One of the things that's been out there on numerous threads is questioning why there isn't a "big blog" run by WOC. I used to think about this/obsess over this when I first came into the blogosphere and I lamented over how "big blogs" were not satisfying my need to centralize the issues of women of color.

    I had an growing epiphany called maturity.

    I processed with other rwoc who talked about the need to create MORE, write MORE, build MORE, when we haven't properly flushed out what exactly we, as woc, need. What precisely do we need that is not being met elsewhere?

    This is what I came up with:

    The "big" blogs that are the usual feminist suspects run a somewhat similar format - Feministe, Feminsting, Pandagon - of multiple posts by writers with a central editor(s) with a solid readership and community.

    There's nothing wrong with this format, but - I say this with no hostility or negativity - my writing/feminism/ambition has nothing to do with them. These sites - I'm looking at content, not authors - typically write about women of color "ISSUES." Blogs that cover everything from genocide to racy panties cannot be the mainstay of WOC. Our lives are too complicated, too deep to be satiated by a handful of shoutouts.
    For me, this is not about inclusion, it's about creating a new mode of knowledge, a fiercely vibrant school of thought that welcomes ALL but focuses on the perspectives and lives of WOC.

    Women of color ISSUES has been done to death. I want women of color LIVES.

    I'm looking into creating something that frames, centralizes, dissects, and celebrates women of color LIVES;
    all in the ways that are fresh, joyful, fun, clever, deep, and inspiring.

    It's not about uplifting WOC past White oppression or showcasing the usual "oh what a strong WOC she is because..." I feel that to create something new, something fresh that *satisfies* us, it must be written, it must be built by WOC in a spirit of creativity and knowledge, not out of feeling left out of other blogs that target somewhat mainstream audiences.

    (Again, who are we targeting?)

    Working together, collaborating, and moving forward in support of one another may be simple by linking and throwing attention to one another's work, but underneath that, in the undercurrent of our lives, how do we really view one another? Because that will come out in HOW we work together.

    If Latoya's concrete and clear lens of "opportunity vs. lack of opportunity," conflicts with Lex's abstract and philosophical question, "What's [radical] love got to do with it?" How do we express genuine support for someone else's work? Do we need to?

    * * *

    Creating something new takes time and it takes a process.

    I hope we continue to do this and take the time that we need to be specific and truthful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. so i am writing this on my blog because i just think better looking at the wordpress screen (you know you are a blogger when you have to write it out in the 'add new post' screen first)

    and frankly before i wrote this i had to lay in bed with the covers over my head a shed a couple of tears and i have no idea why...but i did...

    so here goes:

    1. where i am coming from... aka... so you think you are radical?

    when i read latoya's response to bfp's post (and yeah sorry latoya i know that this feels like lets talk about some shit that latoya week) i was really appreciative. i understood her voice. it was clear and honest. and i realized that latoya and i have alot in common. both of us are black, dc-chicks, without a college degree, identify with the hip hop generation, brought up in a black-culturalist home (tell, if i got any of that wrong latoya). in alot of ways she and i have more in common than i do with women who more strongly identify as 'radical'.

    for me 'radical' is identified with going to 'root' of the issue or situation. it is an analytical and philosophical stance toward the personal/social/cultural/political. it is for me an anti-oppressive, communitarian, anti-authoritarian, liberationist philosophy that informs how i act in the world.

    if i were to be more honest i would say that i more closely identify as 'revolutionary'. in that the term 'revolutionary' speaks to me more of praxis than theory. and that i consider myself to be in the stream of revolutionaries such as black revolutionary women (assata shakur, angela davis, kathleen cleaver, etc). as in this is the stream that as a teenager with which i identified and from there i started to learn more. and it is that stream that brings me into hip hop and informs the work that i do and how i prioritize what is important for me to focus on. furthermore i see myself in the stream of third world internationlism and pan-africanism. (ah, all those isms and schisms!)

    and frankly i have rarely identified as a 'feminist'. for most of my life i identified it with white hegemony. and so when i hear woc breaking away from feminism as a movement, i am like, ummm....welcome. recently i started calling myself a feminist, or a black feminist, (i like the term hip hop feminism) as a way of being in coalition with particular women on specific issues.

    2.so you say you want a revolution/reformation?

    i see reform/radical as a contiuum. reform to me is working in the system, to change the system. and in some ways that is what we are all doing to different degrees. like, here we are on the internet. and we talk about creating radical communities through the means of the internet. but the internet is not a blank slate on which we just create. the internet was created to serve military and nationalistic purposes and so it is a tool of colonization from the get-go. so to some extent we are all using the master's tools trying to destroy the master's house. this internet was not made by us nor was it made for us. and yet all of us have re/claimed space in it.

    and to be honest, in my experience, reform, working in the system, does not lead to creating liberatory communities. i dont think that we can 'use our privilege' to create radical communities. i think that whatever radical-ness that happens is in spite of our privilege.

    for example, lets say some shit goes down in palestine, and the big media wants to interview or hear my view of the situation in part because i am a us-national. now i may choose to be interviewed or not depending on the situation and on the communities with which i work. but in no way is my us privilege and the loudness of my us-national voice helping the palestinians. whatever good i may do is in spite of all this privilege i have.

    nor am i saying that power is always bad. there are lots of different types of power. privilege is just one of them. and privilege and hierachical power is not helpful or useful toward my goals. but community and love and art and self-confidence and food and movement and lots of other types of power are necessary.


    and i am trying to write this clearly, but i feel like i am not getting to the crux of what i want to say. and part of that is i realize, because, hell, this aint my language. i mean, english was not created by me or for me. it is literally the master's language. probably his greatest tool. and so kina of ironic that audre wrote about not using the master's tools in english...

    and so probably that is why i had to shed a couple of tears first, because this is not a language to describe its own deconstruction...

    3. the fetal position:

    actually i work very well in the fetal position. it softens my mind and helps for me to literally get a grip on myself so that i can go out into the world and work and write and love.

    4. so here is my agenda right now:

    get this collaborative blog up and running asap: raven's eye

    get the sudanese and eritrean refugee kids that i teach hip hop dance to expand their sense of hip hop as a space for empowerment and community-building through movement and dance

    learn more arabic so that i can communicate better

    connect the teenage refugee girls with whom i work to rwoc online

    stay sane.

    ReplyDelete
  7. i dont want to hog this discussion...but i did want to say:

    "For me, this is not about inclusion, it's about creating a new mode of knowledge, a fiercely vibrant school of thought that welcomes ALL but focuses on the perspectives and lives of WOC.

    Women of color ISSUES has been done to death. I want women of color LIVES.

    I'm looking into creating something that frames, centralizes, dissects, and celebrates women of color LIVES;
    all in the ways that are fresh, joyful, fun, clever, deep, and inspiring.

    It's not about uplifting WOC past White oppression or showcasing the usual "oh what a strong WOC she is because..." I feel that to create something new, something fresh that *satisfies* us, it must be written, it must be built by WOC in a spirit of creativity and knowledge, not out of feeling left out of other blogs that target somewhat mainstream audiences.

    (Again, who are we targeting?)

    Working together, collaborating, and moving forward in support of one another may be simple by linking and throwing attention to one another's work, but underneath that, in the undercurrent of our lives, how do we really view one another? Because that will come out in HOW we work together.

    If Latoya's concrete and clear lens of "opportunity vs. lack of opportunity," conflicts with Lex's abstract and philosophical question, "What's [radical] love got to do with it?" How do we express genuine support for someone else's work? Do we need to?"""

    amen. amen. you said it better than i have been able to in the past few days...in terms of 'editorial slant' or whateva...

    and i think that one of the ways that we show genuine support is by engaging in conversation with one another. with all of that entails. i dont know if we need to as much as it is inevitable that our views of each other will change as we conversate (i know...i know...conversate is not a word...) and i hope that in the conversation that we change and our views of each other change...
    and i have to say that i think that we discover ourselves in the process, we discover our voices and visions, our similarities and differences in the process. so to think of this blog as an endpoint is not accurate, but as a process in and of itself...

    ReplyDelete
  8. What do you envision when the word “collaborate” is used in reference to White feminists? What experiences shape your perspective?

    Two things. In the strictest sense of the word, "collaborate" is just joining together for an end, like a conference or a piece or an essay or a video project.

    In terms of white feminists, I feel like there is a WHITE FEMINISM which is predicated on the exclusion of voices of women like us to further their ends, and then there are white feminists who experience white privilege but are not necessarily invested in that particular hierarchy.

    Experience has strangely lead me to be more hopeful than I was when I initially entered the blogosphere (see post 4th Generation Racist). My tendancy is to always assume that one cannot count on the long term support of whites if promoting a pro-POC agenda, and yet some seem determined to hang. Perhaps they are all just early adopters.

    ---

    @Renee -

    The infighting and emotionalism has got to stop. Yes we all feel pain however sitting in our respective corners in the fetal position gets us nowhere. I want to so concrete strategies

    Agreed, on all counts. To be quite truthful, I am often confused at the continued focus on pain, wounds, and hurt. I am willing to own that my personality and my life experience never allowed me much time to reflect (or dwell) on those instances because it stopped forward movement. I acknowledge that other women may have come to a different conclusion. But like Renee notes, discussing hurt is one thing - channeling that hurt or pain into a concrete action is where I would like to focus my energy.

    @Lex -

    I feel you on your question, but the more left-brained part of me is screaming "what's love but a second-hand emotion?" I believe a lot of us are here, speaking to each other, out of some sense of love and duty. But what does that mean? Where does that go? I feel like love can't be the sole frame for making decisions because how we experience and express love are very different. To some love is uplifting and beautiful, to others, love is torment, to still others, love is a steady constant, unverablized but in existence. I feel like love is where this starts, but we need more than love to sustain us.


    @Lisa -

    What does opportunity mean to us and how does that influence our writing and activism?

    At this moment, opportunity means a new way to get my message out there to as many people as possible, using whatever platforms are available to me. The more I write/speak/publish/produce, the more avenues open, the more experience working with media I gather, the more avenues I find that are receptive to that narrative.

    Also, WHO are we writing/working for? Who do we envision when we are *doing* this? (blogging, speaking, publishing, thinking) Who are we hoping to make something better for?

    I primarily think of young women of color who are like me or the women I encountered when I was younger - smart, motivated, but lacking support, acknowledgment, or encouragement.

    "Change" may benefit everyone, but who it liberates will affect people differently.

    You know Lisa, I'm not so sure about "liberation" either. To me, it carries the same ideas as "self-actualization" - something that will be different for everyone and that we need to make it easier for that person to figure out what that is for themselves.

    One of the things that's been out there on numerous threads is questioning why there isn't a "big blog" run by WOC. I used to think about this/obsess over this when I first came into the blogosphere and I lamented over how "big blogs" were not satisfying my need to centralize the issues of women of color.

    I don't know if a blog is a solution in and of itself. But I'll hold off on that for now - I am working on ideas about communication that isn't primarily text based, so the blog format is holding less appeal for me. It has it's uses, but not for want I want to do now. I'm eyeing other forms of mass communication which are commonly accessed by teens and young adults.

    If Latoya's concrete and clear lens of "opportunity vs. lack of opportunity," conflicts with Lex's abstract and philosophical question, "What's [radical] love got to do with it?" How do we express genuine support for someone else's work? Do we need to?

    I don't think they conflict. I think they occupy different spaces. We need both concrete action and abstract philisophical musings - I just feel like we have an abundance of one to the determinent of the other.

    I also think that support for transformative thinking is difficult to quanitify - I literally had a life changing moment when I read about the concept of cathexis (sp?) in bell hooks' "All About Love." But that didn't manifest into something concrete. It was a shift within the self. I support bell hooks by my continued readership and my commitment to spread her ideas (I gave three copies out as Christmas presents, last year.) But it isn't the same as building something.

    ---

    mai'a -

    was really appreciative. i understood her voice. it was clear and honest. and i realized that latoya and i have alot in common. both of us are black, dc-chicks, without a college degree, identify with the hip hop generation, brought up in a black-culturalist home (tell, if i got any of that wrong latoya). in alot of ways she and i have more in common than i do with women who more strongly identify as 'radical'.

    Thank you. And yes, all of that is correct. When I got older, I developed a pan-POC conciousness that informs my activism as it stands today, but that's the only real change.

    recently i started calling myself a feminist, or a black feminist, (i like the term hip hop feminism) as a way of being in coalition with particular women on specific issues.

    Yes, this as well. Feminism was something I discovered later in life, but had been witnessing for my of my life. I waffled for a long time about titles as I came to feminism looking to solve a problem and for which feminism appeared to have the answers. Those problems didn't go away, and now I have some new ones! But after a lot of introspection, I found that it is more helpful to identify as a feminist. As I said before, I meet more progressive women of color under this banner than any other.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "What's love got to do with it? (i.e. how does love inform and complicate and heighten our definitions of radicalism and our radical engagements?"

    Our original intent to be part of movement, to collaborate and struggle for social justice, came from a place of love. Along the way, I feel like that love has been replaced with “I’ll engage and work with you unless you critique my work, or your community doesn’t share my same message, or you aren’t helping to further my career.” I also think the original intent of love is lost depending on who we’re dealing with, as if only certain people or communities are deserving of love. If we don’t start with love, and keep it, our movement and message loses all its inspiration, power, and potential.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "What does the word radical mean to you, either as a self-descriptor, or as a descriptor for others with whom you do not identify? What implications does it carry?"

    I wrote this yesterday, before the thread grew, although I thought it important to still post.


    I’m assuming that someone who identifies as a woman of color, but not as a radical, is either liberal, progressive, moderate, conservative and so on. By definition, they regard the system as basically sound, and seek changes within that system, working within it and becoming (or trying to become) part of the dominant culture.

    Radicals want to dismantle the system and build new institutions and a new culture based on new priorities and values. For myself, that means no one is dominant, no one is a master. For example, I don’t think the problem of FOX news will be fixed when the angry white anchor is gone and someone like me has that job instead – the problem will be fixed when FOX itself is gone.

    I know that as women of color, whether radical, liberal, progressive, etc., we have unique experiences, but on the surface I think the basic difference is the same across the board no matter what group we’re talking about.

    I still think, even with these definitions, there is still a place for engagement, especially where words limit us, and connection comes from places for which we have no words. There is an energy that exists when we are in the same room; we can sit down to a meal and it feels like home, even when we’ve never met each other. In our humanity we always have more in common than our political difference.

    ReplyDelete
  11. don't have much to say now, but i am watching this conversation with interest and definitely thinking about the questions raised. also want to say i support this conversation happening face to face at the AMC and will support you in making it happen; please submit a session proposal for it! (everyone else reading this, please visit http://www.alliedmediaconference.org and please think about being there and moving this forward together)

    what's love and listening got to do with it? the first time i met lex she relayed something a mentor of hers had said: "when people speak, listen as though what they are saying has the possibility of changing your life." [paraphrased]

    i believe this type of listening really does produce life-changing results. but it's so hard to actually do, especially when you are a woman of color online being attacked constantly from every side--after a while you begin to feel like everyone is your enemy. who can you trust? and when people criticize you or your work, sometimes it comes from a place of love and wanting to build a better more inclusive community for all of us, but how can you tell? how can we root ourselves in deep devotion to women of color and girls who came up like us while negotiating our really complex relationships to one another-individually and as groups?

    well, i didn't think i had much to say. but i want to think about this longer (yes, mai'a, i love that you cried before responding-- there is so much intensity in these questions and in building together sometimes it's almost overwhelming). xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  12. P.S. - I've posted about racy panties: http://abookwithoutacover.wordpress.com/?s=Panties (adding an air of brevity - ha!)

    ReplyDelete
  13. ditto to what nadia said, i'm not able to write right now but i am listening and so invested in this conversation happening. really want to flush out noemi's question above but am so physically exhausted right now, can't even do any writing/poetry/etc. thank you for making this happen though, lisa, and others for writing back such heartfelt responses.

    will write soon.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why does this need to move to a face-to-face meeting? How is that going to transform the limitations of blogs as a medium? To be honest, I find it unwelcoming and exclusive when these discussions are moved into offline spaces because of how (relatively) inaccessible those are compared to online spaces.

    I also think this discussion has a much bigger scope than media, and I'm reading and thinking over it in terms of how it relates to my life and work (and privileges), and while I consider how to move forward.

    ReplyDelete
  15. 1. latest ideas on blog: http://guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/ravens-eye-some-sub-heading-that-i-am-just-not-creative-enough-to-think-of-right-now/

    2. fire fly i feel you. first there is the time difference issue...on twitter and on following comments and conversations and then there is the whole lets go offline and talk about it more...which i understand on one hand, because it is easier to talk face-to-face and on the other hand i am probably not going to make it this year so...

    3. cripchick *kisses* and you have had more time to process i would love to hear what you have to share

    4. nadia i am wondering if it would be possible to video skype from the amc? maybe that would be too cumbersome...but hey they managed to do it from palestine last year...so why not?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Latoya,

    All I have to say is that you have been holding back on me. I can write a blog post about your comment.

    Lisa, thank you for writing this.
    I also request permission to blog about this topic, and to use some of the comments as a part of the post.

    ~m.dot

    ReplyDelete
  17. Fire Fly,
    I appreciate and understand what you are saying. I think part of what I was meaning was to include a face to face meeting in this discussion, not that it ends or begins there.

    While I agree that much of what has transpired is not just about US western fem blogs, I was hoping to create a space for those who can/will attend, do participate in the blogosphere, and will find a face to face safe space helpful and meaningful.

    By no means was it intended to exclude, just another opportunity to discuss the large scope of ideas and questions presented in this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Lisa, your comment has totally frustrated, enraged, and depressed me all day. Honestly, this is the kind of glib dismissal I expect from white feminists, not from self-identified radical women of colour.

    I think you just answered your own question "With as much love and directness as possible, can we come to the beginning of a series of conversations that our explore our differences and widen the table at which we all sit – as readers, writers, bloggers, and activists of color?" with a definite NO. Conversations can't take place between people when some of them aren't there.

    Last night I dreamt that there was an AMC in Australia and I got so excited that I woke myself up. Then I realised there wouldn't be, and I had to come to work, and I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

    You talk a lot about transformative media allowing women of colour to speak out, engage, organise, build, but I really don't think any of you are ready for what that would really take. It seems like international engagement is dealt with whenever it's convenient and non-demanding, and only to the extent that individual r/woc bloggers reflect on their personal experience, never at the systemic level.

    I've reached this level of frustration since I did try to get involved, make contributions, but faced a wall of silence around the issues I was prioritising. And that silencing, the selective erasure (yes, I noticed that in the conversations about Mandy Van Deven and Brittany Shoot's article that my contributions were erased from the debates about Yes Means Yes and the Seal Press/publishing imbroglio, despite the fact that I was linked quite a bit around that time), is just too taxing on my mental health.

    I'm not going to be involved in "blogging" any more (to the extent that it involves "community building" or any kind of in-group exercise). All I ever wanted from this was a space to talk about issues I think are important. To be honest, I wish I hadn't ever gotten involved in any of the US-feminist-blogosphere shit at all. At least I would've been able to read r/woc blogs without feeling this bitter disappointment with your lofty ideals.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey everyone,

    Latoya and a few other people all sent me this post, suggesting I might want to read and participate and I am very glad they did. Being able to take a second to stop and just be aware of how this stuff feels, emotionally, puzzle out what motivates me in some spaces and not in others, think about how this ties in with my feelings about race and racial justice politics... it has been very valuable, just in a few hours of reading everyone's posts. Thank you, especially to Lisa and Latoya and bfp for being so thought-provoking and heart-provoking. I was really glad to be in the room at WAM when so many WOC bloggers got together, and this conversation makes me want to be at AMC too.

    I hope maybe some of my reflections might be useful for this conversation since I'm one of the WOCs who posts at a big 2/3-white feminist blog, Feministe. I don't post that much, but I'm part of that six-woman collective, and to many readers I probably represent WOCs as well as other marginalized groups -- trans women, queer women, mutts, asians, who knows what is being pinned on me.

    "What does the word radical mean to you, either as a self-descriptor, or as a descriptor for others with whom you do not identify? What implications does it carry? How/has it been reclaimed?"

    This question made me realize that I do not consider blogging part of my radical politics. My radical politics mostly live offline. I do them with organizations that mostly operate in the real world, primarily the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which is committed to working on behalf of, and increasing the political voice of, trans people who are either people of color or who are poor. SRLP started to center racial justice early on in its history; we're a non-hierarchical collective that is run and staffed by a majority POCs and a majority of trans people. We patterned the way we run the organization after women of color collectives of past decades, and that is very important to me. It is hard work trying to build and sustain an organization like that. I also work to support other queer orgs in NYC that center POCs and poor folks -- FIERCE, the Audre Lorde Project, Queer for Economic Justice.

    To me, radical means that no matter what you do to survive and keep your people alive and able to speak out and fight, you always keep your eye on the prize. The prize is radical change, a vision of how the world could be without all the bullshit power structures that keep most of the world's people from being free, from being well, from being able to live full and happy lives. For example, I believe that the criminal justice system and the way we imprison people is inherently rotten and can't be fixed solely through step-by-step reforms that cement and reinforce existing power. I believe the situation will only truly get better when that entire structure is replaced by something fundamentally different. That is the kind of radical goal I try to keep my eye on.

    At the same time, my radical politics are heavily infested with survival strategy; only the radical politics of the very privileged or the very naive can afford not to be. My community, people like me, trans women of color, are an endangered species. Women like me, but without all the breaks and privileges of class that protect me, are hunted down and killed at a rate 30 times higher than average. You have to be alive to speak out and fight. You have to be able to eat and have a roof over your house to speak out and fight. You have to have the time and health and knowledge to express your truth, to speak out and fight.

    So, like I said, I do not blog with a radical method. That is not my animating fight. But I do blog for my radical beliefs, for the causes that do ignite me. I put my politics into my blog posts -- my attitudes about gender from the perspective of someone who's trans, my experiences and opinions about cops and courts from the perspective of a POC who believes that nothing will really change without radical solutions. My distrust of gays focusing resources overwhelmingly on marriage as a marginalized queer, my distrust of electoral politics as someone who believes in change from outside the system. But I don't practice radical blogging of the kind that some RWOCs are talking about, the visioning and building of an alternate and more just system of media that doesn't rely on the corrupt market-driven oppression-reproducing systems already out there. I blog only to achieve what I want blogging to achieve for me: spreading ideas I think are important to whoever will listen with even a partially open ear. Whatever media means necessary.

    I have also blogged about blogs sometimes. I blogged about the bullshit that went down last spring, and I kind of regret blogging about it. I wanted to call out some racist crap, but it made me realize I am not really engaged enough with the blogosphere to commit to work on changing and improving it. Also, I may not care enough about the blogosphere to try and make it better. If it can get the job done, and we can call out the bullshit when it happens, I am willing for it to stagger along in a fucked up way until it is replaced by the next iteration.

    "What is media justice and media reform? What are their points of tension? Points of potential collaboration?"

    Pretty much like I said above. I absolutely support the idea of media justice. I think there are more prospects for real change to the media there than with "media reform." As I understand it, most efforts at media reform tend to mean "using the existing media to shift the media discourse further towards justice." That doesn't really change the media, but it can help educate and channel resources more justly. It's using the media, not improving it; it's kind of like what Latoya has said here and elsewhere.

    So this is my admission: I do not really blog so that I can improve blogging or improve the media, because I don't feel passionate enough about those things. I think blogging, in particular, is pretty limited and elitist and is likely a fairly ephemeral form that will be replaced by something else soon. I mostly just care about using blogs and other media, much as I would use a hoe or a shovel, as a tool.

    As I and the organizations I help run try to do whenever it's necessary to engage with corrupt systems to get things done, I try not to make things any worse than they are. I am not as worried about that with a blog as I would be with a book deal, or anything where people are getting paid more than chump change, or can seriously screw others over legally or financially. Spaces that work mostly on social capital are hard to screw up any more than they already will get screwed up on their own.

    I feel like I gotta summarize this:
    1. Media reform seems kind of pointless to me, especially due to the nature of media;
    2. Using the media to get some shit done does have a point, as long as you don't screw less privileged people over, which is easier said than done;
    3. Media justice seems like a great idea;
    4. I am not committing my time and energy to work on media justice, however, because I am not fired up about it. Same with environmentalism and animal rights and several other things I believe are good.

    "How does engagement with feminism divide us? Help us collaborate?"

    I assume this means "white feminism," because I'm not totally willing to cede the word. I don't really identify concretely as a "feminist" anymore because whenever I used to say that, it felt like privileging "just feminism," which is something that mostly only white feminists can do. I also suspect the "white feminist blogosphere" is not any more of a monolith than the often mis-monolithed "women of color bloggers." But there is no doubt that I am engaged and wrapped up in a particular form of feminism that was devised mostly by white women and is populated mostly by white women.

    I read bfp's plea to less-radical WOCs, where she's talking about the tug of war between white feminism finding it highly "necessary" to get some WOCs involved, and how she also wants the same amazing WOCs involved in her own media justice movement. I could get involved in media justice, especially if I had time to actually blog more than once in a blue moon. I sort of wish I had the energy to. But even then, it sounds like bfp wants to undertake the admirable, amazing exercise of building an alternative space of media with women of color at the heart.

    I am not good at that. I am not good at being in the middle of anything. I am marginal by nature; this is the way the world made me. Even if I am hugged and reassured at the center of something, I gravitate to the edge. I'm contrary, I'm on both sides of the coin, because of what the world made me: not "really" one race, not "really" one gender, not really one anything. I don't get to belong and that sounds so sad, right? It's not, I am fine with it. There is a whole lot you can do from the edge.

    But it's a little harder for me to be on the edge of a group of people of color, to be an outsider there, than to be on the edge of a group of white people. I am way more used to the latter; I know what it is to be an outside to the white folks. To the white half of my family, which as with white women in feminism, is predominant in this country, the other parts of my family killed by american troops, alienated by emigration and immigration... it is easy for me to be on the edge of white space. I am better suited, more machine-carved by society for, the purpose of standing there and engaging (provoking? teaching? comforting? scolding?) the white people than I am at helping to build from the center of POC space. Better at doing what I have since I was knee-high, dealing with the psychology of the white half of my family, just like my mother had to.

    I am a mutt, a mutt of gender, a mutt of race. I remain keenly aware, like many mutts, that some people won't ever consider me a "real POC" even though the world will never consider me white either, or never consider my either. Fine -- I can live with that, and I do.

    I don't think I can say I'm a RWOC, not in the sense that it's been used in these conversations. I don't approach blogging with enough care, passion, and radical purpose. It's just a temporary tool to me. Maybe I shouldn't even say I'm a WOC anymore, and just be another woman who's not white. We see over and over how trying to draw lines and choose sides ends up failing us, no?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Firefly,
    I don't know if you're reading this anymore. From your last post, it sounds like my reply to your message ended your attention to this thread and, in general, US-led feminist conversations online.

    My first reaction to your response was ironical agreement. The reason I began this particular thread was to talk/write/flush out the inevitable limitations of online feminist discourse. The very nature of writing on a screen comes with enormous accessibility and simultaneously horrible limitations because you and I are "talking" through a screen, hearing each other through a font, not voice. I can't see you, period. And in my perspective, no matter how accessible and great online accessibility is, it's not as powerful as face to face human engagement.

    This is the part where I am clarifying that I am in agreement with you.

    Holding a meeting - for face to face engagement, for only those that can make it - is exclusion.

    Myself included. As it stands now, I can't even be there at the AMC this coming July. I opened this thread as a series of windows, not the main door, of conversations; a series of talks to work on this magnanimous issue that is so much larger and deeper than US western feminists.

    I'm not disagreeing with you about points you have written about exclusion, which you've brought up in other spaces than this thread. Trans/international understanding or efforts is, at best, hapless. Any space - online or offline - to just discuss these issues, by definition, is exclusive to most womyn. It - this dialogue - is a flawed, imperfect effort. It leaves me grappling. SO, I create a series of spaces on my blog to discuss these problems, brainstorm how we can support and improve, and suggest that one of those opportunities should occur offline for those who are not online/blogging. And one of those spaces - one of the windows to dialogue - is shut to those who cannot physically attend.
    The way I viewed it, though, most of the "windows" I'm opening right now is shut to those who cannot be online.

    In my wanting to open an opportunity for others who are not able to engage online felt exclusive to you and I regret that.

    But explaining that one portion, one aspect of this entire effort to occur offline means I am now giving "glib dismissal" and being compared to White feminists is...well, hard to respond to.

    This online conversation right now is exclusive.

    Moving it offline is exclusive.

    If we're talking about online transnational feminist discourse as a whole, yes, I agree with you. It's beyond problematic. It's maddening and laced with acidic shit and blindness. I do not disagree.

    But, if you're talking about this one specific effort, "Who You Calling Radical," in its very flawed state of opening opportunities to dialogue and it being hosted both on and offline at different times to engage different populations, then this is the part where I both agree and disagree with you.

    In my saying that the space is for "those who can" attend doesn't sound radical, does it? Radical would be creating something for "all those who want" and are able to be present.

    But that doesn't exist, does it?

    And so, what is left?

    In my perspective, I/we am/are left with broken pieces. And I hope and build and create with the expectation that somewhere, sometime, the cracks in what I/we build idea will show. And it'll be ugly.

    This is one of them. And I don't deny it or am asking you for a better idea or defending the original concept. I am simply answer you, Yes. It is exclusive by nature and the offline folks would raise hell that we're spending most of our time writing it online. And those who cannot be in face to face meetings will raise hell that its exclusive because it's offline.

    So:
    Disappointing bitterness and anger? Agree.
    Exclusive? Agree.
    "..Not ready to take on all that it would take?" Agree.
    "Glib dismissal?" Disagree.

    Being radical doesn't equate to nailing it every time or that I can see the root at every angle. In my attempt to envision communication between woc and rwoc, it very well may not be transformative enough for the whole world, and I will always respectfully reflect on anyone's - yours, especially - feedback on how an idea affects them. I hope others read our conversation and can offer how it may be improved.

    You are an important voice to me in this online discourse, Fire Fly. Your frustration and honesty has perplexed and challenged me. If you are reading this, I hope that you can accept my unresolved words as well.

    ReplyDelete
  21. "For me, this is not about inclusion, it's about creating a new mode of knowledge. . .
    Women of color ISSUES has been done to death. I want women of color LIVES."

    So much to think about in your post, but I'll add my voice to your points about a new mode of knowledge growing from women of color lives. I was initially interested in the digital colonialism post because the feminist blogosphere to me is clearly colonialist. Not because of its supposed co-optation of individual woc bloggers, but because the big, liberal feminist blogs are clearly steeped in colonialist discourse. They rely on the language of human rights, of economic development as a road to empowerment. There is hardly discussion of how this discourse itself contributes to the further marginalization of third world women. There's even been outright hostility to bringing such questions into the discussion, because you're met with accusations like, "What do you want us to do?" or "At least we're trying to do something for those poor women."

    For example, a recent Feministing post about women in Afghanistan asks whether Afghani activists would still support withdrawal of US troops, given the acid attacks on girls and the escalating violence against women. Such an ahistorical framing that totally obfuscates the role of the US militarization in this escalation of violence against women, and instead frames them as the potential savior. And in general, the big feminist sites fail to go beyond the "women deserve to be treated the same as men" idea. And the readers and commenters do not think to ask the question, "Which men?" Black men? Undocumented brown men?

    It's really tiring to keep having to engage with this limiting brand of feminism, but at the same time, I don't think we can afford not to. Because the dominant form of knowledge still continues to promote a discourse that is othering and colonialist ("We have to help these poor Other women be more like us"). I'd love that we do have a woc community going on here, where the discourse recognizes the lived realities of woc lives. It would be ideal if liberal feminists also engage with us, with open minds and hearts.

    [Lisa, I've been trying to respond but kept losing my comment. Apologies for being makulit in case I posted this 1,000 times]

    ReplyDelete
  22. i posted a comment here but i don't see it .. ? hope its not lost but if so will try to rewrite it tomorow.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Nadia,
    I didn't see it in moderation. Sorry! I hope you can rewrite it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. M.Dot -
    Feel free to write and contribute to the conversation.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous12:07 AM

    A RWOC links-love aggregator blog would be a good thing? Someplace to check in and read the "headlines" to see what's going on in a neighborhood of 20 or more blogs? I have scanned feministblogs.org for a while, and I think that the aggregator concept is sound (but could be better implemented). A wocworld.org (so, I am not original..) blog portal might also be a good way for complete newbies (let's say, non-radical WOC and MOC looking to learn something new; someone interested in a specific subtopic and looking for contacts or organizing info; average clueless white feminist like myself, who has stumbled on good sites) to get a quick sampling of who's out there. Friendly non-WOC sites might be able to post a small icon-link (like the ubiquitous blogring links) that would be more eye-catching than a text link. I am not technically sophisticated (or even blog-literate), but here goes.

    1. For each link, give the title and a one or two sentence summary (or clip from the link).
    2. All links must be classified into general categories (eg. media, immigration, health, intimate relationships, parenting, community organizing strategy, LGBTQIetc, arts, popular culture, working (or not working) with white dominated progressive groups, national political / social action alerts, poverty, disability, education, economics/jobs, violence, and so on.
    3. All links submitted will appear on the main page (title, 2 line summary, category(ies), author, blogname).
    4. All links submitted will also be entered on the category(ies) page.
    5. Main page will contain alphabetical blogroll of members/contributors, plus a listing of aggregator blog category pages.
    6. Blogger wishing to list is responsible for submitting link of interest, with description as in #3, to the aggregator blog.
    7. Frequent submitters or original constructors of the blog get "membership": permission to add on to blog without moderation. This group should be limited in size (no more than 10? 20?), just to keep things manageable, and should be put on a technical issues alert/update.
    8. Newbies submit link info with description as of #3 to a moderation pool. Moderators then have to glance at post and admit/reject - can be done by whatever moderator happens to be looking in at the time.
    9. the dread issue - who moderates? who does the blog architecture work? Moderators would be a subset of the 20 or so members - 4 to 8 (?) people willing to look at newbie link submissions (only one moderator needed for approval) and boot rudeass folks.

    I have NO idea how complicated this would be, or whether it would be worthwhile.

    Best wishes,
    NancyP

    ReplyDelete
  26. what i was trying to say before:
    there are a lot of ways to use media and technology to bring people in when there are physical obstacles. cyberquilting/beboldbered did this last year with a live webcast between detroit, nyc, durham, dc, chicago and atlanta. at the last allied media conference there was a skype video chat between youth solidarity network members from the u.s. and youth in palestine. sorry if this is off topic, i'm just saying that there are a lot of possibilities for what "face-to-face" looks like, we have tools for this already within our communities. i know we can do it but we have to plan for it and make it happen--it's not the kind of thing where we can say, "yeah we should have that." and it'll just happen organically because we need to have the technology and things figured out ahead of time.

    personally i believe that media allows us to imagine new worlds--we are having this conversation right now through our independent media production inside a media infrastructure-- media is what allows us to go to these places. media allowed me to form, test out and get comfortable with a woman of color, then a radical woman of color, identity and community--which then translated into more self confidence when doing "real-life" work and building local "in-person" communities.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Latoya,

    You got me here.

    Lisa,
    Thank you for inviting me.

    I have thought about commenting here all week.
    At first I didn't feel like I had much to say, then I realized that I wanted to choose my words carefully as what is being discussed her I hold close to my heart.

    There are four things that I want to share.

    The first is that I see radical as meaning "to the root." In life, for me, this means addressing the root causes of oppression, not simply its symptoms.

    The second is that the issues in the blogosphere, from my perspective, between Black/Asian/Latina and White feminist are directly correlated to the issues same issues that we have in the offline world.

    Who gets to speak, from whom, how long, and what do we get to say?

    In reading Paula Giddings "When and Where I Enter" I learned about the history of White and Black feminist in this country. It has helped me to better contextualize the things that I see today.

    Third, I am hesitant to over emphasize the power of meeting and doing work online. For instance, for the last 7 months I have been trying to build the infrastructure for a non profit that has an online and offline community. I have found that I need a base, a strategy, an agenda, a fundraising mechanism etc.

    Yes, being online helps, but sustainable relationships are nurtured interaction by interaction, in person.

    Lastly, I look forward to what may come of a Black, Asian and Latina Feminist news aggregator.

    ~m.dot

    ReplyDelete
  28. dear fire fly,

    i have been clueless. i fucked up.

    when you left the comment that you did at my site: guerrillamamamedicine, i had not read your comment at my ecdysis. i assumed (and said as much) that you were choosing to not be involved in raven's eye for your own reasons that since you did not mention them in the comment that you left on my site, were personal. only in the past 20 minutes did i read yours (and others) comments on my ecdysis and realized that you articulated clearly why you were not wanting to be involved in us-centered rwoc blogging any longer.
    in other words i left the conversation on my ecdysis before the conversation was over. and didnt even realize it.
    i am so sorry.
    fuck.
    and while i am a us-citizen, i have spent a good part of the past few years as a blogger, blogging from outside of the states. and i say that to say that i feel can relate to some of your frustration around exclusion and in-group-ness and where conversations happen and who gets credit for the analysis and critique that they bring to this 'community' of rwoc bloggers.
    you know the rwoc blogosphere is not easy to 'break into' in my experience. there are lots of initiatives that happen among those who at the right place and the right time. and that means amc in detroit, incite! in the US, cyberquilting (that centers the US), etc, etc,etc. and i feel that when i bring my 'lets talk deeply about what it means to make this conversation non-US centered, there is usually this grumble in the background, and a 'we are doing the best we can' and i hear that, and i know that woc stateside have alot alot on their plate and so much to do and yet. and yet. and yet. its not fair. its not fair to you. and we can do alot better. we have to. or we are lost. or we have already lost.
    like the speak! album. what a great idea! i would have loved to have been invited to join speak! i was at amc last year. in the incite! conversations. i am a mama rwoc performance poet/activist/ blogger. and no one mentioned it to me. even though i am supposedly who the fundraising is supposed to be for.
    and part of my fear is that i am going to be irrelevant to the blogging conversations among r/woc 6 months from now because i cant make it to detroit.
    trans-national solidarity among rwoc...not easy...but necessary for the survival of any 'community' that we claim to be building. seriously we can do better.
    so in all this carelessness and cluelessness and fucked up-ing, i just want to say that i love your blog. and i am glad i found it. and i hope to hear from you soon.

    dear nadia,
    lets talk technology. im not exactly sure what transnational conversations would look like at the amc considering that it seems that these conversations would take place over hours and not just a quick-in helloooooo! and then gone, but if there is a way to open the conversation and expand the scope of who participates i am all for it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. hey lisa,

    i sent a comment yesterday. but it still hasnt shown up...did it disappear?

    ReplyDelete
  30. hey lisa!

    i was wondering if you would allow to use your brilliant articulation of a w/tpoc blog for our subheading?
    it would read:
    raven's eye: Women and transfolk of color ISSUES have been done to death, we want women and transfolk of color LIVES

    we would be honored. drop a comment at guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com
    and let me know...
    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  31. it took me a while to get ready to say this without being defensive:

    why shouldn't this conversation also happen face to face at the AMC? why can't it happen here AND in detroit? why shouldn't women of color in detroit have access to these conversations? most of them won't be able to find this blog for many reasons. the AMC brings a lot of things we need in detroit. this is why i do it. if u don't know anything about detroit, look it up. we're very underresourced.

    and dear m.dot, black, latina and asian women of color erase native and arab women's existence when they identify themselves as the only "women of color."

    ReplyDelete

Hey there,
Before you leave a comment, just remember two things:
1. You are taking responsibility for a public comment
2. Anything that resembles racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, or anything based from religion, citizenship, or ethnic bias - don't bother commenting, you'll be deleted.