This Week In The Blogosphere
You may have noticed, if you are a regular reader, that I am jealous of rich people. I am especially jealous of rich, connected people. I know some, some are very nice people, but I am so so so fucking jealous of them. I have heard so many times about how I shouldn't have some of the political stances I have or even just immediate reactions I have because of jealousy. For example, I don't fucking care about the NYU Grad Students effort. I know, ideologically, I should, but mainly I think to myself: "Suck it up, you still make more than the grad students anywhere else in NYC, and, in this academic climate, you should be fucking grateful anyone pays you a cent, you spoiled brats." There is a place where I kind of want to be in solidarity, as I know it's the right thing to do, but I simply can't. I can't get too upset about wealthy female executives not being allowed to go to the August Golf Club. Yes, it's biased and sexist. But, seriously, I can't bring up any sympathy. I remember this one woman telling me about how, at Yale, the people who helped place you in firms after law school, tried a lot harder for the men graduating than for the women. And I thought, "It's not like you're going to be unemployed and poor because of it, so wah wah wah." Now, I can say, with the strength of my intellectual convictions, "Yes, these women should be taken just as seriously as lawyers." But not with my emotional convictions.
Kevin speaks to the jealousy issue on his blog (discussing that gross NYT article on poor little Cornell University) and on Bitch|Lab:
I know of few people here at Cornell who have to have part time jobs to survive. Often, as I’m walking to class, I’ll see my 18 year old students drive by in $50,000 cars. And no, this isn’t about jealousy. This is about privileged people, people who are going to get good jobs and go on to grad school at Harvard or Yale regardless of whether or not people realize that Cornell is an Ivy League school.
And the language betrays that priviledge: marketing, branding. Nothing about education. Not to mention that Cornell is consistently ranked as a top ten institution. So what? Are they pissed because their Yale buddies might get a job making a few thousand more a year? Well, I’m pissed that my Community College of Denver friends, many who are as bright and talented as anyone here (some moreso in my opinion) will never have the opportunities that these whining fuckwits have.
And here's what I'm thinking to myself: Does envy help me to clarify my political positions or does it blur my vision? Am I right to say, "Let's put the issues of middle and low-income women, as there are more of us, first," or is that, in the end, going to defeat any effort against sexist oppression (a whole DuBoisian "Talented Tenth" - read: "Rich Tenth" - sort of thing)? In other words, is jealousy an effective political emotion, or is it the "chip on the shoulder"?
In general, I think there is a certain not-particularly-well-thought-out position that says, "White rich straight people don't really know anything except their own experience, but the farther down on the oppression ranks you are, the more you know about the world in general," amongst some Leftists. I think that I am just as blind to some things as people both "above" and "below" me in the hegemonic food chain of human life, and vice versa. I change my mind all the time. I am confused and sometimes emotional, sometimes rational, sometimes certain and righteous, sometimes shaky and mute. I don't want to tell the richest WASPy Northeastern Ivy-educated heterosexual male that I know more than he does about the world because I simply know different things. I am as likely to be biased by having experienced oppression as he is by not having experienced (much) oppression. I truly believe that. I truly believe also that people are often complicit in situating their own oppression and that people internalize the systems of oppression that oppress them, and sometimes internalize them in reverse: "I am so superior to these people because I've really BEEN POOR!" or whatever.
It reminds me of the 2004 Democratic primary. I loved John Edwards and John Kerry, but, in the end, I got behind Edwards, I think primarily because he "was the son of a mill worker". I don't like to think of myself as a person who would do this, but I did. When Kerry got the nomination, I was all-the-way for him, but I wanted "the son of a mill worker" in the White House, especially someone who didn't go to an Ivy. Anyway, I felt this way, EVEN THOUGH I'm one of those feminists who believes it's total bullshit to support a woman just because she's a woman.
As I began to think more about Senator Kerry, I began to think that there was something truly special about his life because he was born into such privilege: he served in Vietnam though he could have easily have gotten out of it, he fought for the working poor though he'd never been among them, he worked hard to contribute to a society wherein he was born privileged, and maybe that should have made him my choice to begin with? I'm still not sure. Because then my next thought is, "If only we all had the privilege to prove how great we are despite our privilege."
So, even though I had those thoughts about Kerry, it was easy enough for me to get behind him once he got the nomination (I loved him for picking Edwards as his running mate), in part because I didn't work on the campaign. In my activist work, dealing with the privileged assumptions of people (even if my assumptions were just as egregious) has made me basically want to quit.
I heard some radio program about the youth protests in France around the change in the labor law and one of the interesting things about it was that the vast majority of protestors were middle-class Parisian students, but they were joined by suburban young people, mostly immigrants, many of whom had been a part of the summer's riots. The suburban participants were found to be stealing tons of stuff from the middle-class "leaders" of the protests and, generally, causing chaos. In some ways, they were guilty of trying to sabotage the protests. Was jealousy keeping them from thinking clearly? I think so. And I realize that I have done (less criminal) similar things in activist groups of which I've been a part, despite having felt tremendous frustration when I thought it was being done to actions I was leading.
I don't know where to leave this. I'm not sure. There's this deep-seated envy in me that wants to somehow defend jealous as an important somehow revolutionary feeling- I want to write, Audre Lorde-style, "The Uses of Envy: Envy As Power," but some voice inside me says that envy has never worked for me, has never brought be to real, substantive, and effective political action, or even clear political perspective. ????
SarahS in the comments on this Feministing thread said that she feels the rise of Blac(k)ademic/Nubian/Kortney on the feminist blogosphere is a case of tokenism. She seems to be referring to her being chosen to guest blog on Alas, a Blog where Nubian got raked over the coals by a particularly frightening flag waver of White Supremacist Radical Feminism.
Now, I don't think AT ALL that Ampersand chose Nubian to guest blog out of tokenism. He is a master at choosing top-notch guest bloggers, including some of my very favorites, like Rachel Sullivan. He is also quite meticulous at maintaining the quality of Alas and I don't think he would choose anyone he felt would jeopardize the consistency of his contribution to the blogosphere.
All that said, there is most definitely racial/ethnic/class/sexuality tokenism in the feminist blogosphere. Here's what I mean: I see these blogrolls on some of the biggest blogs filled with blogs with the word "Black" in the title, "Latino/a" in the title, "Queer" in the title, and then I watch as the Big Blogs consistently link to each other or to the news, rather strictly. When asked their favorite blogs, these bloggers go "Oh, Black Negro African-American Woman" of course, and "Queer Lesbian Transgendered Person" of course and of course "Welfare Mother in Alabama". But then, their posts are all about what's happening on the other white, hetero, middle-class blogs. And you rarely see these people posting in the comments on the blogs that they supposedly love so much.
Now, I've said this before and I'll say it again: I'm skeptical of how much blogs can do to change the world. I blog because I want to and I expect other people do to (and I know some people blog because they want writing careers, etc). As such, unless you're a blog associated with a newspaper or particular organization, I don't particularly think you have a responsibility to anyone except yourself and your own interests. (Note: that doesn't mean I won't criticize the hell out of blogs when I don't like what they're doing, even if they don't have a responsibility to me.) I think that white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual women should be able to blog to their hearts' content about how marrying a multimillionaire has brought up the stay-at-home-or-not question (I kid, I kid, I know there are further issues). But, even though I think they perfectly have the right to do that, just as I love nothing more than to blog about miniscule queer happenings in the media, I wish they didn't pretend they were so "multicultural". To me, that's tokenism. Sure, it's nice that they have some people of color, some people of lesser means, some queers, some rural folks, on their blogroll, but, I often see those and think, they're just using them.
The other thing is that it seems that, when the so-called "privileged" (I have no idea how else to say this) bloggers do actually link to a post on one of their *favorite* blogs, they usually choose some short manifesto-type thing, rather than any complex, you-might-have-to-think-about-it post. Now, we all have a variety of posts on our blogs, and most of us move from style to style and form to form, at least to some extent. It's very clear to me that there is one particular "underprivileged" voice that people can stand hearing.
It is legion in academia too. A certain black gay scholar I know has been chastised up one side and down the other for his new book because it is "too complex" and therefore "more queer than black" and it talks too much about "literature" and not enough about "hip hop" and stuff, so it's not nearly as good and representative of "the folk" as it could be. This isn't a bunch of black scholars putting down his book, it's a bunch of white scholars too.
When I read the stuff about tokenism over on Feministing, I felt that this had to be said because I think that SarahS is misplacing her sentiment, but that she's reacting to something very real bubbling beneath the surface of a lot of the popular feminist blogs. (I might add that I think another element of all this is a sort of resurrection, at least in blogland, of old-school radical feminism, which tends toward these things, generally. GENERALLY.) A lot of bloggers, including the tip top, are hip to all this and aren't the perpetrators of it, so please don't take this comment as blanket-across-the-board. Just an observation.