Questioning Feminism/Feminist Blogging/Feminist Activism?
This whole burqa controversy: I've refrained from commenting ONLY because I didn't think I had anything new to say, beyond what bfp and Blackamazon and Bitch and AlBustaania and belledame have said, rather brilliantly,
but I find it's eating me up.
zp commented on my Five for Feminism post:
This list makes me hate feminism. Or makes feminism look a lot like personal privileges accrued to white women. Maybe it's the question - what feminism did for ME that structures it this way, but still. What else is new?
I am wondering more and more whether identifying with and even associating with (particular, not general) other feminists is really kosher anymore. I think my way of being "feminist" is actually, in many ways, counter to what the word even means anymore.
What I've been noticing is how few feminist bloggers of color seem to be reaping the blog rewards. Like, for example, being invited to dine with former presidents or current candidates. Like, for example, getting book deals. Like, for example, getting on the *HOT* conference calls. Like, for example, getting invited to do articles for the MSM. Some of the white feminist bloggers who do get these invitations try to speak to issues for women of color (which is, 9 times out of 10 a total disaster, but not always) but women of color never seem to get the invites. (For that matter, white women who focus on issues of race rather than going over and over whether the Mommy Wars was a myth or the inconceivably distinct-but-usable oppression of women of color abroad, don't seem to get much play either.)
A bunch of white folks were furious awhile back because Blackademic's Nubian/Kortney was getting "too much attention". I think that a lot of white bloggers linked to her as a sort of shorthand - here's the "black opinion" on that so I don't have to dig deeper, I'll just keep her on the blogroll - but it's not like you see her in the mainstream media. She hasn't been recruited outside the blogosphere. Nor have very many other women of color.
I think there are a lot of white feminists out there who see the inclusion of women of color in "their" movement as a way of backing up their own ideas and projects. I think it's easy to think that way because tokenism is alive and well and, I think, trained. That's why the big feminist organizations hire overqualified woman of color after overqualified woman of color to fill entry-level admin positions. Somehow their work is legitimized by the presence of women of color, but too many might tip the balance, and no one, NO ONE, is willing to sacrifice a shred of their own career for what they claim are their politics. (This happens in academia too.)
A lot of these white feminist bloggers who parlay their blogging into mainstream (read: paying!) careers aren't saying anything you haven't heard a million damned times in Women's Studies classes or, hell, in the rest of the world. If they were, if I felt that some of these women were saying something that only they could say, that was a new idea, I don't think it would bug me as much. But it seems like the ones who get "picked up" and "invited" are not saying anything nearly as interesting as, say, bfp. This isn't sucking up or pulling for my blog-clique: Bfp should be the one getting famous. Instead, it's a lot of the usual suspects shoring up their own importance with arguments originated by women of color or bastardized versions of those arguments.
I think you have to put your money, quite literally, where your mouth is. If you're on and on about feminists of color getting their say, then maybe you should suggest their invitation instead of your own.
And, you know, we've had Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem before. I don't understand why we would want to find young versions of them, who just happened to have been exposed to riot grrl and Chandra Mohanty.
Writing that Five for Feminism thing made me really think about how much feminism has done for me, me, ME and whether I think that really made the world a particularly better place. Certainly, specific things that are associated with feminism might have helped, but what if a single issue group had done that work with an eye toward inclusivity? What if feminist "coalitions" are, in fact, a way of silencing certain ideas in favor of tired old ones?
Seeing people defend themselves on this burqa thing doesn't seem different even though it's gross; it seems like the usual. And it makes me wonder. I mean, I understand that white folks are never going to be perfect, but how many times must we be told not to appropriate images like the burqa for our own agendas? It reminds me of last year when I read about white women protesting a women-of-color-only production of The Vagina Monologues- WTF? Why? What the hell kind of ethical platform do you think you're standing on? Who is helped by that protest? Come on!
It's sad how white feminists are always, always, always gesturing toward women of color, religious women, queer women, poor women, women of the global south, etc, and this has been true for seriously 30 years, and STILL this crap is going on. Obviously, some people don't want to learn anything. I think we all know why.