Image Map

Feminist Intersection: Contemporary feminism isn't necessarily anti-racist

Truth time for y'all about me: I'm at a point in my identity and activism where in many spaces I no longer feel comfortable just saying that I'm a feminist by itself without adding a few words before or after. I say I'm an Indigenous feminist. I say I'm a hip-hop feminist, a reproductive justice feminist. Like many folks, I feel like I've been burned out by the mainstream usage and representation of feminism and I'm not making any apologies for what I call myself and I will talk more extensively about Indigenous/Native feminisms in another few posts.

However today I came across this blog post today on Girldrive called, "What's wrong with this feminist picture?" which detailed the absence of women of color in all the attention being paid by Newsweek and some other mainstream media to feminism as of late.

No surprise there. Look who controls the media, the power, privilege, etc.

What I did find interesting was that the author stated: "What really gets me is that the majority of young feminist activists do think of feminism in an intersectional way. Just look at the blogger rosters at blogs like Feministing, Feministe, or Racialicious. Just look at the staff at organizations like WIMN or INCITE! or the ladies in Girldrive. Young feminists are trying not to make the same mistake that some Second Wave white feminists made of being blind to race issues. "

Now I've got to give it up to all the righteous feminist people out there who are representing and are vehemently trying to be intersectional - as in, this isn't only about sex or gender. But I would argue, in my life experiences thus far, that many of the same mistakes from the second wave ARE being made and that just because we've got some new and hot language like "intersectionality" to use in our talk - doesn't necessarily make things change in our walk (i.e., actually being anti-racist).

I mostly think this because my method of measuring where feminism is at isn't coming from the "oh, well it's better than it was before" place or the "oh, we need to understand that the second-wavers were women of their time" starting point. My measurement says that things have been really fucked up, are still really fucked up, but most importantly that I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding" why they remain that way in many instances.

Why should I wholly accept that feminism is still so prolifically contained within the walls of the academic industrial complex? Why, if you're not blogging or part of an organization you STILL might never get to talk about it? Why that even if you might be through and through feminist, if you do none of the above the mainstream feminist movement won't acknowledge (or even know about) you?

I mean, do you know the feedback I get at times from my own community when some people hear the word "feminist" in my introduction? They call me a white girl, a sell-out sometimes even. And given the history that we're coming from I don't blame them, because I think it's past the time to come to terms with the fact that a lot of feminism is rooted in Indigenous cultures, and in some ways has been co-opted from us.

Let me be clear: there are lots of exciting things happening today in the feminist activist world and I'm not discrediting any of the great work that's been done across the lines of difference. But as a Native woman, as a multiracial person, as a sex-worker, as a Two-Spirit bisexual being, I still don't feel represented and I don't need the hierarchical pat on the back of the mainstream to say "don't worry, we're getting there".

How about we just call things for what they are? White, western notions of polite discourse aren't the norm for all of us. Being uncomfortable with this truth about feminism helps keep my fire alive to change it, and it also helps me to not forget where we've really come from and where we're really going.

Guess what? Subscriptions to Bitch—our award-winning, 80+ page print quarterly—are 20% off to help us reach our $25,000 funding goal by September 30. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

11 comments have been made. Post a comment.

There is so much good here I don't know where to begin...

...but great read!

I think your point about "White, western notions of polite discourse" not being the norm speaks to the broader problem of privilege and perfectly explains "the hierarchical pat on the back".

What troubles me is when I hear people take the stance that feminism is whatever they want it to be because it leads to exactly the problematic dynamic you're pointing out -- it can also be whatever people don't want it to be and far often that means the absence of any structural analysis of race/privilege.

I've heard people say the word is so watered down that it no longer means anything and I think there is some truth to that as long as people continue not to interrogate the contradictions that "intersectionality" demands we all do, men and women.

Academic feminism

As I see it, feminism remains (largely) the province of the academy because many women who live "feminist" lives are seen as "extreme" by popular culture, irrespective of the reality of that assessment. For example, a young woman whom I had always regarded as a feminist recently corrected me when I associated her writing with feminism because she didn't want to be "extreme." I was floored, but I was also aware that despite being very bright and successful (and a de facto feminist, albeit an apparently self-loathing one), she simply was not educated about feminist theory or history generally. Not to say that a college education makes one more feminist or right thinking in any respect-- the academy is far too self-congratulatory about its elitist perspectives-- but not having a solid knowledge of the struggles of oppressed peoples makes it difficult to connect gender/sexual oppression to the roles played by patriarchy, hegemony, entrenched racism and xenophobia at home and abroad. A person who is very passionate about race or ethnic activism may not see how relevant it is to feminism (and vice a versa) because the information simply has not been made available to her/him. I find it very troubling that so many feminists are loathe to "educate" people, as though Black or Asian or Latina women aren't faced constantly with white ignorance of their heritage(s) that they are forced to correct. People don't understand because it's not part of public school curriculum and so it remains esoteric to them-- a paragraph about Sojourner Truth or Ida B. Wells in a middle school history text does little to promote gender or racial understanding. Thus, unless one invests in a "liberal arts" education (in college or solo, but in either case no easy feat for those of us born without means), one will be ignorant of Audre Lorde or Trinh Minh-ha's work. That's not something to scold (unless you're scolding your state board of education's curricular committee), but it is something to correct. Would we even want blind support for our cause(s) from ignorant people who have not grappled with their beliefs in light of history? Knowledge is power, no?

I am so very excited that

I am so very excited that you are guest posting here, because there's a whole lot about feminism to deconstruct and this post really gets to a lot of the problems that I see occurring in feminism right now.

This, especially: 'My measurement says that things have been really fucked up, are still really fucked up, but most importantly that I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding" why they remain that way in many instances.'

So much to this. I find it extremely frustrating that many feminists don't even recognise the fact that feminism is still fucked up and that it needs some serious fixing.

Stoked to see Bitch bringing more voices on board to talk about how to make feminism better, more inclusive, and more effective.

So with you on the not being able to say "feminist" by itself...

Great post, Jessica. I don't feel like there's much I can add discussion-wise, but I wanted to say: well done!

?

What happened to the comment that Nona of Girldrive posted responding to this entry?

Hmm...

That's a good question. We have upped our Spam-deleting efforts around the office, so it may have been flagged accidentally. I'll try to find it, but in the meantime, Nona if you are reading this please continue to comment and don't think that we meant to censor you!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

There are so, so many good

There are so, so many good things going on here, Jessica, that I am beside myself not knowing what to say!

So infrequent are Native/Indigenous voices in feminism that I think I just *squee*-ed a little.

I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding"

This is very important...that we remember that the blanket of feminism isn't always true for everyone. I have seen some horrific shit go down in the name of feminism that makes me want to distance myself from the movement altogether, but I have to remember that it means that I have to stick with it and make it what it needs to be.

I only hope that I have the energy to keep being heard.

It is so great that bitch has you on here.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

Yes. Just yes.

Great post. Keep talking - loudly!

"but things are better than they were!" is an institutional weasel-phrase, and almost always used as a silencing tactic to forestall criticism. Rooting out the endemic racism within white feminism is, I think, vital to any forward movement in feminism at all.

Alternative outlets

Why should I wholly accept that feminism is still so prolifically contained within the walls of the academic industrial complex? Why, if you're not blogging or part of an organization you STILL might never get to talk about it? Why that even if you might be through and through feminist, if you do none of the above the mainstream feminist movement won't acknowledge (or even know about) you?

I'm having trouble making sense of this. Do you mean that there are non-academic/non-literary forms of activism taking place that are being routinely ignored or suppressed? I understand that there is embedded racism (and other bigotry) in the feminist movement, but I have difficulty envisioning what alternative platforms you have in mind. How should the mainstream movement be learning about alternative voices if the latter are not speaking through the media of blogging, academic work, or participation in an organization? I know you don't expect them to read minds, so what other outlets are there? Are you thinking of things like theatre, art, music, etc?

This is a good question if

This is a good question if Contemporary feminism isn't necessarily anti-racist,some time it is...

Where to get sex toys in the Philippines

I’ve read many articles online discussing about feminism and I have not really paid attention to them. I never really had a deep understanding of it.