Something bad is going down in the blogosphere. It (sort of) has to do with all three of the things in this post title.
I make no secret that I am an old-school feminist. I went to rallies in the 70s, and I was excited to be one of the first women attending Texas A&M. Feminism meant an equal chance, and an opportunity to be judged on my merits, not my rack. My congresswoman was Barbara Jordan, one of many awesome ladies that spoke truth from that period.
I was going to change the world.
Later, I learned a lot of other meanings for feminism. In grad school I encountered the PoMo interpretations of the word; I got called a feminazi; I got a lot more annoyed about how I was constantly sexually harassed or sexualized as a woman scientist. But I still felt that feminism was fundamentally a good thing.
As I moved into my academic career, I saw more and more of my female students denying–vehemently–that they were feminists. Given how much BS was slung about and stuck to the word, that isn’t surprising.
But I hung in there as a feminist–until maybe now. A whole bunch of people have written some great things about this topic, and I encourage you to click on the links below and read. I haven’t seen this much passion in a long time. Unfortunately, it’s mostly outraged passion.
What’s happened to change things is that some of the (even older than me) old-school feminists–and their younger sidekicks–have behaved in ways that are incredibly elitist and racist. It’s bad enough that someone has started a blog at WordPress called “Dear White feminists, quit fucking up.”
For starters, Gloria Steinem and a variety of other vintage feminists have said some jaw-dropingly stupid things about the Clinton-Obama race, implying that voting the non-vagina party is to be a gender traitor.
This was a symptom of a larger problem–the idea that feminism trumps all other types of oppression. And if you aren’t with us, you’re against us.
I feel a bit like Holly at Feministe:
“Like a lot of bloggers these days, Iâ€™m no longer even sure if I feel comfortable calling myself a feminist, since it seems like the popular definition of that word in so many circles has come to mean â€œfeminism first, every other issue second.â€ And thatâ€™s a formula that inevitably leads to a feminism for the few. A feminism for the small numbers of women who donâ€™t deal with intersections of one, two or ten other kinds of shit getting heaped on us every day, too many to calculate â€œwhich is most important.â€ Itâ€™s not a kind of feminism that works for most of the women on this planet.”
Next, Seal Press made some statements that they’d like more Women of Color (WOC) authors. But, they didn’t sell. And WOC never called them. And, like, Seal Press didn’t know any potential WOC authors, anyway. This very specious reasoning is dissected by WOC PhD in the link I’ve cited, and also here.
Then, an A-list (white, feminist) blogger was busted for appropriating, without citation, the ideas of several WOC bloggers. You can find a very good summary of the problem here.
This so angered a WOC blogger, she deleted her entire blog, rather than have her words appropriated–a tragic loss of a powerful voice. You can find excerpts from her good-bye here. From that post:
“I have made peace with the fact that I will never be mainstream-y publishableâ€“but I have NOT made peace with the fact that the words and theories of women of color are stolen and not attributed or cited. I will never make a living off of blogging, I will never get a book deal off of blogging, I will never be on CNN or invited to be a part of a political campaign or have articles written calling me the new leader of the feminist movementâ€“and I am ok with that. I am NOT ok with people who ARE posting on big blogs, getting book deals, doing interviews on CNN, being invited to work political campaigns, being called new leaders of the feminist movement etcâ€“taking my ideas and using my ideas to continue the unexamined and unchallenged goal of getting book deals, doing interviewsâ€¦. Brownfemipower
Some further discussion:
“It points to a common practice whereby white people render women of colour, especially radical woc activists, invisible. Where white women take credit for the innovations of woc. This is harmful to women of colour. It reduces the visibility of the resources which are out there, and it limits the growth of woc-initiated initiatives….For radical women of colour, blogging in itself is a tool for change, used in different ways than it is used by white liberal feminists.” She Who Stumbles
Then the same (white, female) blogger publishes a book (By Seal Press!) called Itâ€™s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments. And the photos feature a white woman…swinging through a jungle menaced by black men. Literally, spear-chuckers. Worse, of the many (white) feminists that reviewed and provided jacket blurbs, none of them seems to have noticed the ooga-booga factor.
And another WOC blogger commits blogocide in disgust.
I’ll throw in another couple of really nice posts about women struggling to deal with this false dichotomy of race vs. gender:
Also, an extremely thoughtful post about why leaving a blog can be a good thing.
So where does this leave me? And WTF does this have to do with Skepticism?
This schism is occurring because a group of people can’t change the way they think about the world. One factor is more important than any other. They also have trouble admitting when they are wrong.
As a white broad, I try. Hard. But I still screw up.
I’m a product of my culture, which is racist, and homophobic, and xenophobic. And when I’m wrong, I admit it, and learn from it, and CHANGE. I don’t accuse everyone else of being wrong and out to get me, I acknowledge the fault in myself.
This whole issue was awesomely summed up by Holly of Feministe. I call on each of you to reflect upon this as you go through the week:
â€œWhen any of us have a soapbox, an opportunity to get up and talk, we must continue to stand by those who arenâ€™t called on.â€¦.When you find yourself in the inevitable currents of our society that always flow towards greater privilege, away from the marginalized, the oppressed, be prepared to swim against that tide. Donâ€™t just stand there and let sand pool around your ankles.â€ (emphasis mine)
At a recent diversity conference, I explained why the assumption that “atheism = no morals” is so repugnant to me.Â My atheism means that I have a greater responsibility to work for social justice. No magic uber-being will fix things for us.Â We are the only ones who can make things change.
Are you the solution or the problem?