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Crunk Feminist Collective Posts Open Letter to ABG Writers

The Crunk Feminist Collective, an amazing community and blog "where crunk meets conscious and feminism meets cool" (who should promptly be added to your blogroll, RSS reader, Twitter/Tumblr dash, what have you, if they're not already there), recently posted an open letter on their Tumblr page from some of its contributors to the writers of the web series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl asking for accountability regarding transmisogyny, ableism, and homophobia that have popped up in recent episodes. (I interviewed the show's creator, Issa Rae, in the latest issue of Bitch).

Here's an excerpt:

We have seen your responsiveness to the fans of ABG and we hope that by raising this concern you will respond accordingly by not using such language in future episodes. There are so many awkward queer, trans, and disabled folks who love the show and it hurts to see and hear our lives used as punchlines. For those of us, the awkward black, queer folks who have lived at the intersections of our awkwardness, our blackness, and our transness, words like "tra**y" erase our lives, and our humanity. Phrases like "No lesbo" and the use of affected speech to imitate hard of hearing people detract from the vision of creating representations for the rest of us who are all too often maligned in mainstream media.

We look forward to many more episodes of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl that are hilarious without the use of marginalized groups as a punchline. We have confidence that you have the creativity to continue to push comedic boundaries in new ways and educate your audience in the process.

Both online and off, I hear various versions of the question, "How do I deal with liking problematic popular culture?" By thoughtfully engaging with the content's creators, and holding them respectfully accountable without full-blown disengagement, hashtag hating, or feminist pearl-clutching, alicia sanchez gill, Claire Nemorin, Moya Bailey, Kimberley Shults, and the other letter contributors have a pretty good answer—and a model more of us should follow for turning pop culture criticism into action and accountability.

Read the open letter here.

Edit: This post has been edited to reflect that certain CFC contributors, not the Collective as a whole, penned the open letter.

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Seriously?

Your website is called "bitchmagazine.com." I REALLY don't care why, the fact that you've chosen this name says you should check your hypocrisy at the door. So much for feminism and holding others "respectfully accountable."

Here's the thing. Bitch can

Here's the thing.

Bitch can call itself bitch because it's written by women. As you know, bitch is a derogatory term--but any group can choose to reclaim a term that has been used against it. Therefore, Bitch Media stands for the reclamation of what it means to be strong, outspoken, feisty--in other words, what it means to be a bitch.

The difference between this and what the CFC is writing about is that Awkward Black Girl is using tr***y and "no lesbo" in a derogatory manner. These expressions are not the show's to reclaim. Several trans*people have reclaimed the t-word, but it is not ABG's right--as a cissexual woman--to use that word.

In other words, Bitch isn't being hypocritical at all.

Reclaiming a derogatory word

Reclaiming a derogatory word as my own because I am the subject of the word is foolishness. How can I as a Black man RE claim a word that was never mine to begin with. The "no lesbo" line is more about the male version "no homo" than it is about being disrespectful to lesbians.

Seriously?

I'm sorry, but one cannot "claim a word and make it their own" because the initial meaning of the word is still intact. For example, the "N" word will always have strongly racist connotations and be extremely offensive because of the legacy of racism in this country. Don't think so? Be a Caucasian and try saying it to conscious African Americans. Likewise, when the term "bitch" is used by a man towards a woman, it is always negative, and that does not go away just because women use it to describe themselves. That is the weirdest form of coercive persuasion ever created.

Reclaiming language

Actually, there is a long history of marginalized groups (people of color, queer people, women, people with disabilities, etc.) reclaiming language used to hurt them by people in positions of power. However, that is not what Awkward Black Girl is doing with their use of the word tra**y, nor is it what they claim to be doing.

The CFC is responding, in a respectful way, to ABG's use of slurs that are (likely unintentionally) harmful to some of their viewers. Please keep the comments thread focused on the topic of the post. Thanks!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I find it IRONIC, that a site

I find it IRONIC, that a site called "Bitchmedia" gets offended by some of the things said on ABG. Like someone previously posted, check your hypocrisy at the door. Is this a desperate ploy to get more traffic to your site? How disingenuous!

Still not sure...

I'm still undecided where I sit with this. When J said, "no lesbo" in the show, I read that (at the time) as a way of poking fun at the "no homo" saying. Basically, the idea that when a man is proclaiming his strong feelings for a male friend, that disclaimer of "no homo" needs to be thrown in. Women, in general, do not need that disclaimer, as women are expected to both have and express feelings about how much they love their friends. So adding in that "no lesbo" (which I don't think is even a thing) was a way of pointing out how truly silly "no homo" is.

Even the "tranny" comment, and the part where one of the characters used "affected speech" (thanks for writing that out, Crunk, I wouldn't know how to actually articulate that) seemed appropriate within the given context. CeCe was doing what a lot of friends do - making her friend feel better by denigrating the ex-girlfriend. It's not what she should have done, but it is realistic. And the affected speech incident - I believe that was Nina who did that, and Nina has been the "villain" for the entire series. It only makes sense for her to use offensive speech, what with being a huge asshole and all.

I don't know. I'm still very undecided. But I think that context is important here, and I'm not sure if that is being taken into consideration.

Oh dear

This has to be the most fair well thought out response to come out of this 'article'. The statement about 're-claiming' a term is a contradiction of many things that feminism stands for. A weak and misguided argument and a huge reason why the lines of what is acceptable to use in the English language as slang, to offend etc is blurred.

The point is, not once have I heard anyone refer to the context in which the words were used (which if you think about it Bitchmag, is what you're doing with the title of your mag). Unintentionally offensive, doesn't exist - it is offensive or it isn't - depending on the person watching it and how they choose to interpret it is the beauty of a democracy. That is media.

Was ABG wrong? no. Go back through the series and there are a lot more other terms used that could offend a whole barrel of people. Did CFC have a right to pen an open letter - hell yes. They were formal, respectful and appreciative in their statement.

But this online magazine's responses are weak, contradictory, and for what you claim to stand for overall, its a big disappointment. What is even worse is that the web editor chooses to send out a clearly heated blast and then silence the opposer's to 'keep at the matter in hand' or something to that effect. Oh dear.

hmm..

All I have to say is.....'BITCH' PLEASE :( ...Reclaiming language...smh Go to Bed!