Tuesday, August 13, 2013

dusting off my soapbox: feminism, solidarity, and intersectionalism

I used to honestly not understand how women could not consider themselves to be feminists.  I used to think everyone who shunned that label did so because of how "feminist" has become a dirty word, synonymous with "angry man-hating lesbian" ("lesbian" of course being considered a horrible insult for some reason). I have since realized that feminism, at least in the US, has a very problematic history-- one that focused almost exclusively on the concerns of middle-class hetero cis white women, and excluded nearly everyone else who didn't fit those labels. Mainstream feminism has been overwhelmingly white and repeatedly asks women of color, LGBT women, etc for their support and solidarity while ignoring and even silencing their concerns, issues, critiques (one recent example- that time The Onion called Quvenzhane Wallis the c-word and many white feminists either ignored or actively defended the "joke"). As a result, there are many, many people who reject the label of "feminist" because feminism has basically shat all over them.

If you follow me on twitter, then you're already well familiar with the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag that's taken over the past couple days. It was started by Mikki Kendall (@karnythia) in response to white feminists sympathizing with Hugo Schwyzer (and ignoring his victims) after his recent public meltdown, but it quickly became much, much more than that-- a global conversation about the need for diversity in feminism, for including ALL women not just superficially but in action.

Here are several great write-ups about the hashtag and the conversation it's sparked:
Reading the tweets is not easy...they are painful truths to face.  But worse still was watching the reactions of many white feminists who took them as an attack and became defensive and combative, often using the same sort of silencing and derailing arguments that we get so aggravated at men for using when we call out sexism. Owning up to your own privilege, and realizing that however unintentionally you've been hurting whole groups of people, sucks. But what sucks even more is remaining willfully ignorant when others point out the truth. You cannot claim to want solidarity and sisterhood and for all women to unite together in this fight against sexism, while simultaneously ignoring and silencing women of color. Our feminism MUST be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

2 comments:

  1. I know it's not your intended audience, but a huge thank you from conservative housewives. Feminists shat on us first. (And bonus points for the formal past tense of a vulgar term. Heh.)

    Actually, scratch that. Feminists shat on us openly. Women of color got it first. One of my regular commenters, ari, is one of those Herminones, remembers everything she ever read and she reads a lot. Anyway, she just commented while I was reading here. Her last graph is particularly telling:
    Johnson, progressive part three, set up Great Society programs. These are the programs that got black women out of the marketplace, and black men out of the marriage market. White women could then gripe about a lack of women in the workplace, and get hired. There had been women- women who had worked their way up from the shop-floor, women who took classes at night- women who could weld, buck rivets, read blue-prints, work 12 hour shifts- and not take shit from a college-educated girl worrying about breaking her nails on a typewriter key. That's who got erased from history. Rose the Riveter, dark complected edition.

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  2. I had to look up who this Schwyzer character is just now as I'm living outside the US and seemingly out of the loop. Anyone defending the actions of this person, feminist or otherwise, is on shaky ground. I'm a bit more interested in what sort of an academic institution would install an unqualified lecturer at the helm of Feminist Studies courses. I'd like to think that he would have soon be rooted out for the fraud that he is had he been attached to my Women's Studies Dept. at San Francisco State Univ. some twenty odd years ago.

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