Full Frontal Feminism Update

I just noticed that Piny has posted a follow-up as well. Read hers, because it’s good, and it points to the very important and substantial criticism that I did not address in my initial post.

I’m still in DC and internet access is still limited because I’m running around doing family stuff, but apparently there’s been a wee explosion about my Full Frontal Feminism post (which I posted and promptly ran away from). I’ve pissed a lot of people off — and justifiably. I’m glad that so many people have shown up in the comments and on their own blogs and called me out. Various aspects of my first post were unfair and fucked up. I was trying to only focus on the nasty criticisms, but I ended up conflating the more substantive criticisms with the personal ones as I read and wrote. I unintentionally lumped a lot of the critics together — someone who calls Jessica a feminist Ann Coulter is not the same as someone who says that yet again, issues of women of color are being ignored. So I guess I just want to point out that I’m hearing your criticisms, and I’m grateful that you’re generous enough to take the time to write them all out. I’m genuinely sorry that my post has started a huge mess, and I’ll shoulder the blame for that, because I should have been much more careful with my words, my issues and my structure. The “see if you can write a better book than Jessica” thing was shitty, and I wish I could take it back. This post will probably not rectify all of those issues. I still do stand by much of what I wrote in the initial post. But hopefully this will allow me to flush out my thoughts a little bit more.

I have made some very public fuck-ups on this blog. I don’t think defending Jessica was a fuck-up, but I think my tone and some of my arguments were problematic. I’m not asking for anyone who is legitimately pissed off at me to just forgive and forget. I can understand that when you spend your whole life marginalized it’s especially frustrating and hurtful to be fucked over by someone who you thought was an ally. I understand that those wounds do not heal easily. I understand if there are many people who will use this incident to write me off entirely. That’s fair. I don’t deserve support or the benefit of the doubt simply for existing. I guess all I can say is that I’m trying — and I know that isn’t good enough, so I’m trying harder. I can guarantee that I will fuck up in the future. I may fuck up in this very post. I apologize for the things I got wrong this time around. I am trying to be a better ally, and to be more cognizant of my own privilege. I am very far from where I want to be in that respect, and I’m working on that. I’m a very bull-headed person and a very loyal person, and my first response when I feel attacked — or when I feel someone I care about is being attacked — is to come out with guns blazing. This is certainly not the first time I’ve regretted the harshness of my tone or the thoughtlessness of something I wrote. Apologizing is not particularly easy, and I think most people hate admitting that they messed up, but I can stand to do that here, because I’m realizing that as I’m digging my heels in to defend myself, I don’t even agree with what I’m saying. I want to be the kind of person who can admit when I’m wrong — and while I don’t think I was wrong on everything in that initial post, and while I still very much support Jessica and like her book and think that some of the criticisms are insubstantial and cruel, there were many things that I was wrong on. The primary thing I did wrong was to marginalize the voices of women of color and women who were making very fair criticisms of FFF. I contributed to a conversation dominated by white feminists and the interests of feminists like myself at the expense of women who are routinely pushed aside. I’m embarrassed by that. That is not the kind of feminist movement that I want to be a part of, let alone promote. So for that, I am genuinely sorry.

I do not expect to be treated with kid gloves when I screw up. As I wrote earlier, I am incredibly grateful that other people have responded to what I wrote, and have responded strongly — it’s not your job to teach me or to correct me, but I am learning from you. I need to do a lot more work on my own. But thank you for your generosity, and for engaging instead of giving up or writing women like me off as hopeless causes — and if you have written me off as a hopeless cause, then that’s my problem, and I’m sorry for the frustration, anger, and general irritation I’ve caused.

So I should clarify a few things. There are almost 200 comments so I’m not going to get to all of them, but I’ll try and hit the big ones, and clarify the issues that my initial post was weak on:

1. I am not saying that every criticism of Jessica’s book is invalid. I am saying that I take serious issue with the ones that attack her personally or that are unnecessarily nasty — like the ones that call her a feminist Ann Coulter. Those are the criticisms that I was primarily addressing in my post. I was not doing a full review of every criticism leveled at her. What inspired me to post was the nastiness of some of the criticisms, so that’s what the post was on. The argument that I should have covered every single criticism is fine, but that wasn’t the point of why I was writing — I wasn’t doing a round-up of critiques. Perhaps that’s what I should have done in the first place.

2. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean that I think your argument is invalid. From my privileged position as a middle-class educated heterosexual white girl, I think Jessica did a very good job of addressing issues of heteronormativity and racism within the feminist movement. Before reading her book, I knew that would be a criticism, so I read it and paid specific attention to how she took on those issues — and I was really impressed. However, I am a middle-class heterosexual white girl. I do trust women of color, queer women, low-income women, and women whose voices are otherwise marginalized to judge for themselves whether the issues that greatly affect them were properly covered. You all would know better than I would. So I’m not trying to tell other women that their issues were adequately covered and they should shut up. I’m not trying to say that Jessica tried and that’s good enough. I am saying that I read the whole book with these issues in mind, and I’m genuinely confused at the claims that she ignores issues that non-white non-hetero women face. But my questioning does not mean that I think other people are wrong. How can I? I think I know better than most white dudes when women are being excluded. I have no doubt that women of color or queer women know better than I do when they are being excluded.

3. That said, I feel like Jessica and Full Frontal Feminism have become lightning rods for much deeper feminist divides and issues. I’m not sure the problem is FFF — I think the problem is more a long history of exclusion, racism, heteronormativity, etc within the feminist movement and within society as a whole, and those issues are being hashed out on a smaller scale here. I think, unfortunately, that FFF is being used as a proxy for a slew of things that Jessica didn’t actually do, but which she appears to look like or represent.

4. So that’s why a lot of this strikes me as unfair. I think Jessica walked a very fine line between being inclusive and not co-opting the experiences of others. I do think that Maia made a good point about universalizing — writing about “younger women” as if they’re a monolith, and assuming her experience to be representative. I’m not even sure Jessica did that, but I can see the argument, and I can definitely see how lumping “young women’s issues” together can be problematic. I do think that Jessica made a big effort to be inclusive, though. I do also hear the arguments that it wasn’t enough, or that it wasn’t done properly — and I wonder if there’s any way to actually do it fully and properly. I get the feeling that the problem isn’t Jessica or FFF — it’s a long history of women of color and other traditionally marginalized groups of women being ignored and pushed aside, and FFF was expected to play into that narrative. I’m not sure, though, that FFF actually does (or at least to the extent that it’s being characterized as), and I find it troubling that the book is being used to lay out all these other issues which are incredibly complex, and which I’m not sure Jessica could have handled very much better than she did, given the book’s style, its target audience, and the identity of its author. Let me be clear that I think it’s great if the book is used as a jumping-off point for these wider and bigger issues — I just think it’s problematic when the book is assumed to be an illustration or microcosm of those issues.

5. There are serious race, class, sexuality, ability and other problems within the feminist movement. There are those problems within the supposed meritocracy of the blogosphere, and within the publishing industry. When I wrote about jealousy in the last post, I meant it — but not necessarily in the petty, undeserving sense. I’m jealous of Jessica. Shit, I wouldn’t mind a book deal! I can think of two dozen feminist bloggers who are great writers and whose books I’d buy in a heartbeat, but they aren’t talking to publishers. Now, I also haven’t pitched a proposal around to publishing companies, nor have I come up with some brilliant idea that I could turn into a book. But, if I did, I would have greater access to a publishing house and to a wide audience that women who are generally more socially marginalized than I am. That sucks. It’s shitty that the publishing world falls into these racial hierarchies. It’s not good enough to say, “It’s shitty, so deal with it.” But I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Jessica, who took an opportunity that she earned, for the systemic faults of our culture, of capitalism, and of the various industries and communities that we work in. And while it’s unfair to blame her, I can understand being jealous or even pretty irritated. I feel that way whenever another white boy liberal blogger gets a book deal or sits on a blogging panel, even though I know it’s not that he’s undeserving — it’s that there should be more people in general, including more women and more people of color, up there with him. And, again, lots of people weren’t blaming Jessica.

6. As for the substantive critiques of Jessica’s book, I’ll let her address those — because I’m not Jessica. By not linking to certain posts, I’m not trying to erase particular voices. I’m not trying to say that those voices are irrelevant. I said this in a comment on the other FFF post, but I found the sites I linked to through a BlogHer post and a google search. It was not an exhaustive search. Several of the posts I’ve been told I should have linked to didn’t come up in my very cursory, very limited perusal of the internets. Some that did come up I read, perhaps disagreed with (or not), and moved on. I linked to the ones that got under my skin — something I thought I made clear in the post. As I was writing, I was aware that Jessica was planning on responding to the more substantive critiques on Feministing. Given that I am not Jessica, and I don’t actually know the answers to many of the critiques, I didn’t have much to say about them. In hindsight, that was a mistake, and I’m sorry for not including other voices. Thankfully, piny is more sensitive and and intelligent than I am, and she has kindly cleaned up my mess a little bit by linking to the numerous people who are saying very important things about this book.

7. I remain bothered by the tone of some of the comments. The “empowerful” accusations — that Jessica is trying to tell us that high heels and lipstick are the keys to liberation — are complete crap. She flat-out does the opposite. She does not try and draw lines between those old dowdy feminists and the shiny new hot girls. I brought up the grim issue in my post because that was a criticism of Jessica — that she wasn’t taking feminism seriously enough, that feminism is a very serious social movement that isn’t about making your day-t0-day life better. I take issue with that characterization of feminism. If that’s your feminism, fine, no skin off my nose. Different strokes, etc. But I believe in a feminism which should make women’s lives better in the day-to-day. I don’t think it has to tell you that lipgloss is the key to female empowerment, but I think it can recognize that lipgloss is something you do for a variety of reasons, and that wearing it doesn’t have to be a feminist act for you to be a feminist — and that the woman who doesn’t wear it isn’t necessarily any more or less empowerful than you are. Jessica didn’t draw these lines in her book. She didn’t say that feminism is for the cute girls, or that the hairy-legged ugly chicks need to take a hike. I don’t have the book with me here, but she says something along the lines of, “If you’re a feminist, you’re going to be called ugly, fat and hairy. There’s nothing wrong with being ugly, fat or hairy. But ugly is powerful.” She recognizes the reality that being branded certain things — particularly, for many women, ugly — resonates. It matters. It can really shift behaviors, and it can scare younger women away from feminism. Is that dumb? Sure. But ignoring it isn’t helpful. Neither is saying that you aren’t like those ugly hairy feminists. Jessica does neither — she recognizes the reality without buying into the shitty belief system it perpetuates. So the whole “Jessica is a shallow hot feminist who is drawing lines between young hot chicks and old ugly feminist” definitely didn’t come from Jessica.

Which is why I’m getting the feeling that this is much more about who Jessica is (or who she’s perceived to be) than what she actually wrote. She’s young, heterosexual, pretty, educated, white, middle-class, fashionable, and engaged with popular culture — that means something in the wide world of feminism, and it’s assumed that she’s going to be approaching issues in a particular way because of that background. Which, to a point, is fair — she is coming in with a particular bias, as we all are. But I think the perceptions of that identity have overshadowed a lot of what she actually wrote. And those perceptions obviously come from somewhere, and the frustrations that stem from them are very real and very valid. We should be talking about that. But we should be doing it in a way that doesn’t personally attack Jessica. We should be talking about the fact that these issues are much, much bigger than her and than FFF. Thankfully, many people are talking about that. That should have been included in the initial post.

8. My central point in the previous post — and that one that I stand by — is that almost wherever you fall in the feminist world, Jessica Valenti is not your enemy. You may not agree with her. You may point out that she comes from a place of privilege. You may recognize that white heterosexual American middle and upper-class feminists continue to dominate feminist discourse, and continue to be offered more privileged spaces. White heterosexual middle and upper-class American feminists aren’t blameless for that, and they can certainly be criticized. But I really don’t think that Jessica was attempting to harm or marginalize anyone. I think she was conscious of these issues. She did not brush off the concerns of any feminists as irrelevant or silly. She may not have addressed every issue perfectly (or even adequately, as some have argued), but she did not only focus on her own tiny section of feminist theory. She did not write off the perspectives of all other feminists. She tried to avoid a lot of the traps that more privileged feminist women fall into. That’s why the personal attacks bother me so much — because, as much as you might not have written the same book that Jessica did, she was never cruel in writing it. She never tried to do any other feminist harm, and she made an effort (even if it was an imperfect one) to affirm a wide variety of perspectives. How she could have done that better is, of course, up for discussion. That discussion doesn’t have to be nicey-nicey, and we don’t have to make sure that no one’s feelings get hurt. Calls for “civility” are too often used to dilute perfectly justified anger and frustration, so I’m not calling for that. I’m not calling for an end to the criticism. To be clear, the majority of the discussion has been constructive — I’m certainly not arguing that everyone has been mean to Jessica and that she’s being totally oppressed. I was just astonished by the ones who were, and so that’s what I posted on, because I found it really depressing. Again, that was the point of my original post — to call out what I saw as unnecessary nastiness, not to do a full over-view of everything being written about Full Frontal Feminism.

That’s it. I’m looking forward to reading what Jessica has to say about the various critiques of her book. And I hope everyone will check out the links in piny’s post below, and read about the substantive issues being raised.


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155 comments for “Full Frontal Feminism Update

  1. May 19, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    I think it shows strength to write what you’ve written Jill. I can’t really say anything more, because I am distanced (metaphorically and literally) from a lot of this sort of debate.

  2. May 19, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Jill, I haven’t been following the full explosion, but I knew it was going to happen when I read your post last week and saw that not all your examples were just unnecessary nastiness (as you acknowledge above).

    I’m very impressed with your response to your critics here. We don’t see public voices own up to fuckups and apologise nearly often enough. Well done from me, but I’m similiarly limited to a middleclass educated heterosexual white woman outlook. I’ll be interested in the responses from those whose outlooks come from different places.

  3. May 19, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    You’ve bought a whole lot of the benefit of the doubt with me, over the past couple of years, Jill. I think my loyalty to Feministe has always been pretty well-founded, and this is a good start toward maybe bridging some of those gaps.

    We can, as the poet Wonder said, work it out.

  4. May 19, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    you might not have written the same book

    I haven’t (yet) read the book in question, but I’ve been following the posts here and elsewhere, and this line really struck me.

    I read a lot of fiction. I write some myself. (I rather hope I’m good at it.) For a while, as I was starting to work out my own stories and my own style and my own issues, I went through what I call my “angry reader” phase.

    No book was good enough. This one was okay except God, did this author have to write such a crappy main character? That book was fine character-wise, but man, the plot sucked. And on and on I went.

    And then someone I look up to said (to someone else, incidentally) that just because you wouldn’t have written that book that way, and just because you wanted certain things out of that book that it didn’t give you, doesn’t mean that book was bad or wrong, or even badly written. There’s a difference between criticism and bitching, she said.

    It’s a really fine line, though, especially for people like me who are used to playing the opposition. I’m used to picking apart stories and finding faults with arguments. It’s what I’m good at, and it’s why I’d make a hellish editor.

    But there’s a difference between “I didn’t like/agree with this” and “this book is badly-written/wrong”. I think there are still some people who need to learn that, just as there are still some people who need to remember that authors are people, too.

    …Sorry, something of a tangent, there.

  5. May 19, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Jill,

    First, thanks for stepping up with this post.

    I am sort of at the periphery of all this, not having read the book or done a review or anything like that, but as one of the ones who was shocked to see the erasure or ignoring of the voices of women of color (intentional or no) on feministe, of all places, I do appreciate your (and piny’s and zuzu’s) efforts to rectify that. And the willingness to do the sort of self-examination that caused many to conclude feministe were allies in the first place. In time, that trust may return.

    I cannot, of course, speak for anyone else on the apology part of your post, but I do want to go over a few things in the second part and express some thoughts.

    So I’m not trying to tell other women that their issues were adequately covered and they should shut up. I’m not trying to say that Jessica tried and that’s good enough. I am saying that I read the whole book with these issues in mind, and I’m genuinely confused at the claims that she ignores issues that non-white non-hetero women face.

    As mentioned, I haven’t read the book and probably won’t but from what I’ve read of the reactions, there is a definite um… difference of opinion here, as you’ve stated. I think this could be a good topic of discussion somewhere or other.

    Here is what I’ve gathered so far, from reading other people. (My impression of) the impression of woc is that the book is basically talking to young white women (or at least the sorority girl segment of) in that bubblegum popping way throughout. When it gets to the part about woc and feminism and intersectionality and so on, the tone is more serious and theory-like (I do not know if the bubblegum is still popping at this point), apparently to make sure the young readers realize that this is a Serious Subject.

    So, to some white readers that proves that, yes, it IS inclusive, there is talk about the issues that affect primarily woc. To some woc readers, few things could be more exclusive – it leaves off talking to and briefly talks about… and not primarily in a way that presents woc as changemakers, movers and shakers and agents of their own salvation but more presenting the myriad problems that affect many colorful (and poor white) communities that We Must Care About And Help. Seriously.

    Again, just what I’ve gathered from reading reactions – I may have misunderstood some stuff tho, which would not be a first.

    I think, unfortunately, that FFF is being used as a proxy for a slew of things that Jessica didn’t actually do, but which she appears to look like or represent.
    […]
    I get the feeling that the problem isn’t Jessica or FFF — it’s a long history of women of color and other traditionally marginalized groups of women being ignored and pushed aside, and FFF was expected to play into that narrative.

    Actually, I think it’s all of the above. I believe there may be some truth to the idea that some of this is the result of many decades of marginalization by feminists and so on, but I do think there is also a lack of understanding (or maybe just a lack of knowledge) that many woc have very real and long-standing issues with Jessica, which she has so far not addressed in any real way, or even acknowledged.

    I is not the fault of, as some have said some of the things are, the patriarchy, the media, Jessica’s friends, structual racism, everyone being racist, jealousy, book deals,

  6. May 19, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    To continue: (My cat figured I should be done and so pressed ‘enter’ for me)

    In this instance it is not the fault of, as some have said some of the things are, the patriarchy, the media, Jessica’s friends, structual racism, everyone being racist, or any of those other things – it deals directly with Jessica. What she does or does not do about it is up to her.

    I don’t expect you to answer anything about this, but I did want to make that clear.

    Could that have played into the reaction to the book? Possibly… there is little benefit of the doubt there. But I don’t think it takes away from the very substantive and specific criticisms… also I think it’s interesting that it’s that the same lack of talking to or with that seems to be part of the problem in the book.

    Okay, now Cat is correct… but is no longer here to press the key.

  7. May 19, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Yeah, what you said. It’s hard when it’s your friend being criticized not to focus on the unnecessary and nasty criticisms at the expense of substantive ones.

  8. Layla
    May 20, 2007 at 1:09 am

    Jill, you apologize for yourself and your views way too much. You most certainly did not ‘fuck up’ — and I’m saying this as a past critic of Jessica and as a ‘woman of color.’ Which is a stupid term — my color is only skin deep and I don’t define myself by it.

    Jessica is anything but a ‘marginalizer’ — and as a feminist, let me tell you, white women are no more privileged than any others. As far as our biology, our sex, goes, we are all equally oppressed or liberated. If ‘women of color’ are more oppressed, it’s more because of class and culture reasons than by reason of their sex. Feminism is the great equalizer, and frankly, these self-absorbed women of color (and admittedly, I am self-absorbed too, but at least I don’t expect everyone else to be absorbed in my issues as well) need to get a fucking grip and lay off Jessica. One would think Jessica had just single-handedly managed to fuck things up for ‘women of color.’

  9. May 20, 2007 at 1:17 am

    I do think there is also a lack of understanding (or maybe just a lack of knowledge) that many woc have very real and long-standing issues with Jessica, which she has so far not addressed in any real way, or even acknowledged.

    I’m not trying to be glib here…but how am I supposed to awknowledge “issues” that people have with me that I’m unaware of? The only long-standing issue that I’ve heard come up before was the insanity that happened in the comment thread for Nubian’s post a while back–and that was something that all of us at Feministing dealt with the best way we possibly could.

  10. May 20, 2007 at 2:34 am

    Also, I kind of take offense at you using broad language like “many woc.”

  11. May 20, 2007 at 2:41 am

    Layla, I agree — I don’t think Jessica is a marginalizer, and as I read her book, I didn’t see the marginalization. I think that we do need to lay off of her — hopefully that was still clear in this follow-up post. I guess what I’m trying to say is that women of all different stripes have long-standing issues and frustrations that, for whatever reason, have come out in response to this book. I think it’s unfair to pin the blame on Jessica. I do think it’s fair to discuss those issues, though. So my fuck-up wasn’t defending Jessica — I stand by everything I said in defense of her book. I think she’s a brilliant, fantastic feminist (and person). My fuck-up was writing off the broader concerns, and conflating those broader concerns with the unfair attacks on Jessica. Hopefully that’s a little more clear now. I definitely am not trying to say that I think Jessica is to blame for these issues.

  12. Radfem
    May 20, 2007 at 3:01 am

    As far as our biology, our sex, goes, we are all equally oppressed or liberated. If ‘women of color’ are more oppressed, it’s more because of class and culture reasons than by reason of their sex.

    Some might add “race” to “class” and “culture reasons” and they may not be able to separate one of them from the other as easily or with surgical precision like Valenti did in her book. I know many women who fit this category who have difficulty calling themselves feminist, not because it’s like, not cool or because feminism rocks and all that, but because it asks them to in a sense take a loyalty oath that they will put gender and only gender first and everything else second or lower to that. Or that they will choose gender over race when in actuality, they couldn’t separate the two even if they wanted to. Or if they are concerned about the liberation of men in their ethnic or racial groups because their lives and oppressions often overlap with men in ways that White women’s generally don’t with White men, then they are not seen as being committed feminists.

    Feminism is the great equalizer? Maybe some day, but we haven’t seen it yet. Right now, it’s prone to the same inequalities, racism, sexism, classism that’s part of the same system it’s allegedly fighting to dismantle.

  13. May 20, 2007 at 4:19 am

    how am I supposed to awknowledge “issues” that people have with me that I’m unaware of? The only long-standing issue that I’ve heard come up before was the insanity that happened in the comment thread for Nubian’s post a while back–and that was something that all of us at Feministing dealt with the best way we possibly could.

    I don’t want to speak for anyone; on the other hand, I don’t want to keep mum about what I’ve read or what people have said directly to me, either.

    First, I think the most common wish I’ve read from some of your critics is: Engage. Talk to us. Bother to find out what we think. Address us directly instead of sideways, through an intermediary. And so I think when you say “unaware of,” it’s precisely because that hasn’t been happening. It isn’t happening now, even. You’re not over at Sylvia’s or Petitpoussin’s or Blackamazon’s; you’re here, going, “What do I do, what do I do?” And the people who could answer that aren’t here, so you’re left wondering, and they’re left going “Aaaaarrrgh!” with frustration, because again, no direct engagement–you know?

    Second, a big tip of the iceberg here is when you describe the discussion at Nubian’s as “the insanity that happened in the comment thread for Nubian’s post.” I get that “insanity” is what it was for you, that it occurred while you had a ton of other obligations, that it sandbagged you out of the blue, that you felt it was undeserved, and that some of the participants over there weren’t always nice about what they had to say–and that in any case, as you said over at Feministing, it’s your work and you have to stand by it. That’s understandable and most authors would feel similarly.

    But what was “insanity” for you wasn’t insanity for Nubian or her commenters. They were venting some frustrations that mattered to them, and just as I don’t think all of the book talk has been entirely about the book, so too do I not think all of the cover talk was entirely about the cover; more that the cover was emblematic of what they felt were some longstanding problems with feminism in general.

    But to get that, it has to quit being “that insanity” and instead start being a conversation.

  14. Blackamazon
    May 20, 2007 at 7:41 am

    I am honestly not at the point where I feel comfortable discussing this here at all but , your consideration is welcome , it is noted and appreciated.

    However Jessica , If you are unaware of this issues that have occurred in places where we have seen you comment to write one line defenses of yourselves , forgive us ( Amp,Bint’s) forgive us if we’re skeptical at your claim of not knowing. This is not an attack just an honest feeling.

    And Nanette’s phrasing with the use of many , among those I have discussed it with maybe offensive to you but it is not inaccurate. Not “personal ” issues but procedural, activist , ones, that have been discussed away for your space in ours, whether you know about them or not

  15. May 20, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Ilyka, I have a feeling we’re talking about different threads. I was referring to the interview that Celina posted with Nubian a while back where the commenters on Feministing were basically disgusting. Long story, but because I was hundreds of miles away from a computer it took way too long to get those comments moderated. So that’s what I meant by “insanity.”

    If I’m correct, you’re talking about the thread at Nubian’s blog that discussed the book cover which *of course* I would never characterize as insanity! But you’re right, I didn’t go over there and engage with commenters. And I think I made the right decision given what was going on. I completely understood Nubian’s feelings about the horrible comments that appeared on Feministing and I would never expect her to stick around engage with shit like that. Similarly, why should I go and have a discussion on a thread where I’m being called a whore, have people telling me “you’re not half as cute as you think you are” and other such personal attacks–which still remain on that thread to date.

    So I hear you, but I think my decision was understandable.

    Blackamazon, that’s fine if you’re skeptical, but I am being honest. Of course I’ve commented in certain spaces where I was criticized, and of course I understand that some bloggers haven’t liked certain things about my writing, or the way I handle feministing, etc. But I’m being genuine when I say that I would never extrapolate from that there is some larger problem of “many” people having “issues” with me. But that’s neither here nor there, if you feel that way than I’m obviously not going to make light of it. And I appreciate you making the distinction between personal issues and activist ones. (On a related note, I also appreciated that in your post on the book you pointed out the content that your found problematic instead of making general statements; I found it really useful.)

  16. Sylvia
    May 20, 2007 at 9:38 am

    how am I supposed to awknowledge “issues” that people have with me that I’m unaware of?

    Good question! I think it is an issue of what people choose to see. I’ll repost this snippet here as a specific example.

    On the day when women of color decided to engage in a conversation about the book cover on Nubian’s site (because Feministing commenters were too busy calling her a racist and a traitor to whatever and evil because it was so soon after Burqagate that Jessica only required blank praise and adoration [for her new book and cover]), many commenters [on Femisting] asked Jessica to take the time to read Nubian’s criticism and reply. And the only thing she gathered from the whole discussion is “patriarchal whore.” The only thing.

    She used that silly trope to dismiss any chance for discussion then, and everyone’s using similar tropes to dismiss chances for discussion now.

    Now, the parenthetical stemmed from a bout of honesty and that special candor only inspired by frustration, and I’m not in the mood to have this whole comment dismissed because I said that Jessica/you required only praise for your cover. But I sat utterly surprised when in the other comment thread here at Feministe about FFF, you suggested no one in this thread was ripping Nubian a new one. I remember sitting through that particular debacle at the time it happened (my username at the time was “skyanide” and you can see my comments there), and I really don’t understand how you can characterize most of the discussion on that thread as merely “some disagreement.” At all. Unless people are supposed to read–

    There’s some disagreement on the thread, clearly, but most of it is critical of the book cover

    — as “since people who were critical of the book cover were involved in the ‘disagreement’ and withstanding personal attacks, I was unaware about/didn’t much care about what people were saying to them.” Because I’m not seeing how someone cannot read some of those comments as bashing Nubian herself or deliberately twisting around what she said. In fact, I’m still surprised you brought up the link without a problem referring to it.

  17. May 20, 2007 at 9:46 am

    Sylvia, I’m sorry–but I do not see any personal attacks on this thread. I see Nubian debating with Tom (who was a long-time commenter). But by disagreeing with the snappy mackerel’s characterization of the thread, saying that I “was silent while bloggers of color were getting ripped new ones,” it doesn’t mean that I didn’t take what Nubian or others were saying to heart.

    And the only thing she gathered from the whole discussion is “patriarchal whore.” The only thing.

    Naturally that’s not the only thing I gathered from the discussion–but as I said in an earlier comment here, it’s certainly a big reason why I wouldn’t engage on that thread.

  18. Blackamazon
    May 20, 2007 at 10:00 am

    We can’t read minds. If the only thing that comes up is patriarchial whore when you speak of it. That’s what we think you got from it.

    You chose not to engage and are mentioning it’s till on her comments thread , but she’s left her blog

    and still in her interview thread on Feministing are out right blatant attacks on her intelligence , identity, and integrity . Also mine

    and I agree with Sylvia :

    nubian: i’m sorry. the naked torso of a woman is offensive

    The sight of a woman’s body offends you. Now there’s a Taliban sentiment. Do you bathe in the pitch dark?

    AND the naked WHITE torso of the young woman pisses me off.

    I’m so God damn sorry to have offended you with my involuntary white-itude.

    How is that not an attack of Nubian . Which is still up on your thread.

    Why should we assume benvolence here? Especially when the treatment you’re saying turned you off is happening repeatedly to us at your site?

    Not to mention Tom’s talk of betrayal goes unanswered, his characteristics of Nubian as full of hate , and characterizes her as Althouse.

    also let slide

    So whya gian should we feel charitable or give the benefit of the doubt when certain things magically keep getting sent past.

  19. Sylvia
    May 20, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Tom Head:
    Nubian has been so consistently nasty to Jessica in recent weeks that I can’t really blame her for saying “I’m done.” It’s a waste of time to argue with people who are full of hate and uninterested in a two-way discussion.

    And the patriarchal whore/sellout/submissive comments start and end at comment #4. I take it that you took Tom Head’s word for what was going on at Nubian’s:

    Tom Head:

    jpjesus, the ones I saw earlier today were vicious and hateful, concluding with a comment by Nubian to the effect that she would never visit Feministing again anyway (which kind of undercuts the whole “she just wants a dialogue” argument–she doesn’t, she wants to make one-way smears).

    And you looked for the few statements corroborating his sentiment about the discussion and its tone. ‘Cause, of course, he was being very “fair and balanced” about the discussion at the time.

  20. Layla
    May 20, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Jessica, since you’re participating to some degree in this thread, I want to drop a mild suggestion here:

    I know you at Feministing take a very hands-off attitude towards reader comments and I think that’s great. But I also think it should be either completely hands-off or it should be carefully moderated — can’t be both, and therefore indefensible when issues like this come up.

    An alternative would be to shut comments off on the posts themselves, but introduce a discussion board where people can discuss posts.

    You are quite clearly not to blame that things got out of hand with Nubian in that thread about the book cover. I frankly think Nubian was as much out of line as anyone else and she shouldn’t get a free pass just because she’s an outraged black woman instead of a ‘privileged’ white woman. And if she stopped writing? Typical ‘Trembling Sister’ behavior (Joanna Russ’ term). I don’t know why this is being discussed in relation to someone who threw a gigantic self-involved tantrum — my skin color is important! Mine! Mine! — and then trudged off in a huff.

    ‘Women of color’ — and I’m using this insofar as it applies to me as a brown woman from a third world country — have nothing, but nothing to complain of in Jessica’s work. She goes out of her way to be inclusive and sensitive, as much as she can without changing her skin color.

    This criticism of Jessica’s book will stick ONLY because playing he race card always works. Yes, other issues of race and class are there, and feminism doesn’t deal with them properly — but then, why should it? Feminism deals with only one aspect of our lives, that which is determined by our gender. It is not a catch-all, nor a panacea. Why make such demands on it?

    Me, a non-native English speaker, a non-American, a thirdworldian, a brown woman, found the writings of white American feminists inspiring from the first moment I found them, because what they said was universal, because our biology is universal, our problems have been closely similar down the ages. Yes, feminism is the great equalizer — but not in every sense of the word. I’m still not the social equal of rich white folk — but so what? What does that have to do with feminism?

  21. May 20, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Blackamazon, that commenter was banned. And as far as Tom H., I hear what you (and Sylvia) are saying, but if you check out Tom’s past comments on feministing and history on other sites, he really is a feminist ally. So I was hesitant to moderate him–maybe wrongly so.

    I have to run to a wedding shower, so I won’t be back for a while, but feel free to email if you want to continue the conversation offline. The magic of Blackberries and all.

  22. May 20, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Blackamazon, that commenter was banned.

    My bad–not banned, emailed with a warning. Just looked back on it.

  23. Layla
    May 20, 2007 at 10:45 am

    And nobody has to put gender first if they don’t want to. I was raised a Muslim, so my gender came first whether I liked it or not. If you don’t put gender first, or if you think your energies need to be concentrated on class issues, go ahead and do that — why expect Jessica, a feminist, to write about you?

    Jessica discusses reproductive freedoms not because white girls have the leisure and privilege to think about ‘frivolous’ issues like sex, but because our reproductive systems have been hijacked by society as the *primary* means of controlling our very souls. This is important. It’s more important than your skin color. And it applies to ALL women. Wouldn’t black women be better off if they weren’t almost fated to be single impoverished mothers? But can a white woman even talk about this issue without being slapped down with “What about white people sterilizing black people!” Can a white woman even mention the problematic Christian faith of black people, never mind that Christianity oppresses women?

    As for all the people saying “Write your own book” — I see how this can seem dismissive. On the other hand, BlackAmazon and others ARE publishing. They have a bigger audience than many books get. So what’s with this obsession with the book form of publishing? Books are SO last century. So if BlackAmazon and Sylvia and other Women of Color bent out of shape by Jessica’s whiteness have blogs and a readership, why focus on Jessica’s *book* as if that’s the only voice being heard?

    It is just so intellectually bankrupt to play the race card, but of course, white people can’t say so without seeming racist.

  24. May 20, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Also, I kind of take offense at you using broad language like “many woc.”

    I don’t want to derail the conversation that is finally happening a bit, but while I could have added all sorts of qualifiers to “many” – that I know of, online, who are familiar with feministing, so on – I think probably you really are unaware of how far reaching the ripples were from the nubian interview thread, and the later book cover thread.

    I like to wander around online sometimes, just following random links, and I’ve been surprised myself to come across mention of feministing and the nubian thread(s) (not in a good way) on woc and other sites that are far outside my usual reading pattern. And whose own blogrolls sometimes have a link to nubian but not to any other site that is familiar to me.

    I don’t know at which number one can inoffensively call it “many” but me, considering the power of word of mouth (or word of mouse, online, I guess), I would be equally concerned about “some” and “a few”.

  25. Layla
    May 20, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I was reminded (in relation to my comments above at 23 and 20) to substantiate what I’m saying with quotations).

    I’m assuming everyone here is reading a lot of the same material I’m reading, but one thing I reacted to (about black people getting sterilized) is taken from BlackAmazon’s post here

    And here’s the quote in question:

    Empowerment for a rich white woman does not mean the same thing it means for a poor white woman, or a middle class black woman, or a disabled woman of any race. What looks like meanest oppression to a smart, college educated young woman with everything else going for her might look like heaven to a woman who had to drop out of high school to feed herself. What sounds like freedom to an atheist woman who hates being told what to wear can be insulting and oppressive to a woman who just wants to be able to bathe modestly. And for damn sure, “choice” does not mean the same thing for a white woman who can’t get sterilized when she wants to as it does for a woman of color who was sterilized without her consent or knowledge, or a “bad” woman who desperately wants to have a baby.

    I have to ask, does the above make any sense in terms of feminism’s basic concerns? Are we saying women should be sterilized or should not have as many babies as they want, operative word being ‘want’? Reproductive freedom covers all of it and I fail to see how BlackAmazon’s criticism of ‘white feminism’ is legitimate. When we speak of abortion, birth control and the right to make decisions about our bodies, are we excluding people who get these decisions made for them, whether that means making them have babies against their will, or stopping them from having babies? Usually, of course, we’re forced to breed, so we concentrate our discourse on that. It’s much harder and much rarer to prevent people from having children, but we are prima facie against any control of a woman’s body.

    How are we not on the same side here?

    My comment on Christianity was more generic and not in reaction to anyone’s words.

  26. May 20, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Layla:

    “and as a feminist, let me tell you, white women are no more privileged than any others.”

    “I don’t know why this is being discussed in relation to someone who threw a gigantic self-involved tantrum — my skin color is important! Mine! Mine! — and then trudged off in a huff.”

    “This criticism of Jessica’s book will stick ONLY because playing he race card always works.”

    “Wouldn’t black women be better off if they weren’t almost fated to be single impoverished mothers?”

    “Can a white woman even mention the problematic Christian faith of black people, never mind that Christianity oppresses women?”

    You seem to be harboring a few “issues” with American Black women, woc feminism or maybe just Black people in general – which is okay, I don’t mind if people have issues with me and I’d be happy to discuss them, (though probably not here on this thread). I do, however, mind if people – regardless of their color or place of origin – are expressing those issues using familiar, mostly right wing, racist tropes.

    It is just so intellectually bankrupt to play the race card, but of course, white people can’t say so without seeming racist.

    Yeah, well…

  27. May 20, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Layla, I don’t want to derail Jill’s thread, here, so I’ve responded to your early comment back at my place with a fresh post.
    I can only say: I cannot believe you just said that, and I cannot believe it took this long for anyone to call you on it.

    “Playing the race card”? Seriously?

  28. Holly
    May 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Yeah, way to silence everyone else, Layla. It’s so nice to see someone using their stamp of approval as a WOC (just as problematic as what you’re calling “playing the race card,” if not more so) to completely immunize someone from any kind of criticism and shut every other woman of color down. In one fell swoop, nobody can have anything bad to say about a particular work on grounds of race, huh? I’m sorry, I don’t think ANY book deserves that kind of shielding, and I don’t think intellectually honest authors would want it. (I’m not talking about Jessica here, since she can speak for herself on whether she does welcome criticism and problematization of her own words.) I feel nauseous.

  29. Mandolin
    May 20, 2007 at 11:45 am

    “Jessica discusses reproductive freedoms not because white girls have the leisure and privilege to think about ‘frivolous’ issues like sex, but because our reproductive systems have been hijacked by society as the *primary* means of controlling our very souls. This is important. It’s more important than your skin color.”

    I just need to be on the record as saying this is an unacceptable statement. People of color are able to decide what’s important for themselves.

    “Race card” indeed.

  30. piny
    May 20, 2007 at 11:48 am

    It is just so intellectually bankrupt to play the race card, but of course, white people can’t say so without seeming racist.

    You mean it’s racist to categorically dismiss claims of racism as whining from a bunch of lazy little babies who don’t know how to do anything but blame white people for their problems?

  31. Mandolin
    May 20, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Also, perhaps white people can’t complain about the “race card” without seeming racist for the same reason that men can’t complain about “how much women whine about oppression” without seeming misogynistic.

    That sound there would be the noise of a foot sliding snugly into a shoe that fits.

    I respect Little Light for not wanting this to be a derail, but I don’t think it can be a derail for this topic. One of the topics of discussion is how the rifts between mainstream white feminism and the feminism of people of color comes into play. And while I respect Jill saying that the whole divide shouldn’t be lowered onto Jessica’s shoulders, the fact that the defense from other people for her book is stated in such starkly racist terms does indicate (to me, at least) that Jessica’s book is tapping into the feelings on both sides of the gulf.

  32. Layla
    May 20, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Little Light and Nanette,

    I have issues with using one’s race as a basis for indefensible arguments. Why should anyone find it insulting to them, for instance, if I object to being told what to wear? Wouldn’t they object to the same thing done to them, even if they have bigger issues?

    Of course I will now be labeled a racist — never mind that I am a ‘woman of color’ myself — because lambasting white people for discussing ‘white’ issues is acceptable, but calling people of color on anything is always racist.

    There is no getting around this. Even if the said people of color’s strange argument re sterilizing women (or men) makes no sense in the context of feminism — sterilizing people against their will or without their knowledge is illegal, whereas forcing women to have babies is increasingly legal — how dare I even do anything except bow down in reverent awe.

    But feminists are too ‘white’ if they talk about how difficult it is so get an abortion.

    Black people in this country are not so powerless that they can’t speak for themselves on any issues they deem important — exclusively important — for their community. And they ARE speaking. Why must Jessica speak for them, especially in a book specifically written for a different purpose? That does not still mean that the issues she is talking about are not relevant to women of color. This woman of color finds them perfectly relevant, even though I’m in a completely disenfranchised community that is arguably far more oppressed than black people are (immigrants), but I understand why this is and don’t feel feminism must therefore turn all its attention to the problems of immigrant women.

    The only reason the baseless race criticisms are working is because when race becomes an issue, either you agree or you are a racist.

    Fuck that.

    Go ahead and ban me, Jill. This is going to become a flame war about me being a right-wing fascist racist, so I’m going to take myself off. And it didn’t take long at all to call me a racist. Maybe half an hour, tops.

  33. May 20, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Layla, I was raised Jewish for a while, so I think that if anyone’s qualified to build you a cross to climb up on, it’s me.

    You know, if you so readily expect to be called racist and you hear it so much, you might consider that it’s not everybody else in the world with the problem.

  34. May 20, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    layla, i think perhaps that you do not fully understand the issues of race in our society, and possibly bought into the “land of the free” propaganda too much.

    America has a unique and long history of institutionalized forms of racism. Our history of slavery was only the beginning, and that only died out just 200 years ago.

    Some of the women that you are telling to “get over it”, it is likely that they are only 4 generations from being owned by white people. Abolition was only on paper, and there is still much work to do to make that policy a practice.

  35. May 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    That and, well, I would love to know where you’re from, that people aren’t treated differently on the basis of race, and the only problem is whiners crying “racism!” I’m gonna have to raise my kids somewhere, someday, and that sounds pretty swell.

  36. May 20, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Tom Head is a good example of a white person who plays the entire deck of white privilege cards. That’s why he should have been stomped on hard at Feministing. This is what we mean by loyalty towards whites trumps actually doing the right thing towards your WOC “sisters”. That’s why MANY of us do think that Feministing is suspect. Jessica would have never let some man throw the entire deck of male privilege cards at a woman on her site even if the man was a friend and the woman one she disagreed with. That’s because letting some man get away with male privilege might eventually come back to bite her in the ass, but she doesn’t have to worry about white privilege since she’s got it too. So excuse us if we are leary of commenting on her site because we know she allows that and probably agrees with it. We’re all equal, some of us more equal than others over there.

    Layla is racist against blacks and is therefore also playing the white privilege card, regardless of her self identification as WOC. White POC fit in perfectly with most of the white feminist sites to insulate them from consideration of criticism, “See my brown friend says it’s ok, even though the thirty other WOC says it isn’t!”

  37. Mandolin
    May 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    “Layla is racist against blacks and is therefore also playing the white privilege card”

    And was using language to distance herself from WOC, too, even though she later claimed the identification when it suited her. It wasn’t skin color, it was “your skin color.” It wasn’t “no one can claim the race card without seeming racist,” it was “whites can’t…” and yet, later, she expected to be called racist for her discussion of the race card.

  38. piny
    May 20, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Layla, I was raised Jewish for a while, so I think that if anyone’s qualified to build you a cross to climb up on, it’s me.

    *Snort*

  39. May 20, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Yeah and we’re all equally oppressed around here. I guess that Sojourner Truth woman was just nuts or a reverse racist or something.

  40. Mostly Normal
    May 20, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    ‘woman of color.’ Which is a stupid term — my color is only skin deep and I don’t define myself by it.

    Layla, if this is your experience, fine– but clearly not everyone else feels that color is only skin deep or that is has nothing to do with who they are. When you dismiss people who feel differently from you by using words like “stupid,” you’re doing what so many people are complaining about… ignoring and invalidating the experiences of other people.

    You’re not being racist in criticizing people of a certain race; you’re being racist in making so many generalizations about them and denying the validity of their needs from the feminist movement. You can argue with people without making assumptions about the group they’re from, and you can disagree without declaring that the way someone identifies herself is “stupid.”

  41. Kali
    May 20, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I have issues with using one’s race as a basis for indefensible arguments. Why should anyone find it insulting to them, for instance, if I object to being told what to wear? Wouldn’t they object to the same thing done to them, even if they have bigger issues?

    Hey, Layla. I think I see where you’re coming from. I think you’ve actually fallen for a right-wing rhetorical trick which tries to pit feminist goals against anti-racist goals by saying “haha, oppressing women is these people’s culture! It’s racist to interfere with other cultures, so you can’t object to FGM/it’s antifeminist not to interfere with other cultures (by, eg bombing them back into the Stone Age) Take that, lefties!”

    Anyway. That particular conflict between feminism and anti-racism is just bogus. It works by pitting feminists (perceived to be white) against people of colour (perceived to be men) and completely ignoring the agency and existence of women of colour, who are the ones holding the key to this apparently unresolvable dilemma (and it only seems to be a dilemma to the extent to which women of colour are invisible.)

    I suspect that in the WOC blogosphere is where you will actually find the commentary on this kind of issue (being told what to wear) that resonates with you most deeply. None of the people complaining about Jessica’s book are people who will defend the practices that oppress women in your community.

    And playing the “race card” card is just fucking rude, you know. It’s unfair to assume people aren’t criticising in good faith. What could anyone have to gain here by doing otherwise?

    (Also,I’m not a USian, but it is a matter of historical record that black women in the US were forcibly sterilised, legal or not.)

  42. May 20, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Jessica:

    But you’re right, I didn’t go over there and engage with commenters. And I think I made the right decision given what was going on. I completely understood Nubian’s feelings about the horrible comments that appeared on Feministing and I would never expect her to stick around engage with shit like that. Similarly, why should I go and have a discussion on a thread where I’m being called a whore, have people telling me “you’re not half as cute as you think you are” and other such personal attacks–which still remain on that thread to date.

    So I hear you, but I think my decision was understandable.

    No. Sorry. It’s not understandable to me. I just went and read that thread again… well, part of it, not the entire 175 comments… the vast majority of which were substantive criticism as well as disagreement on the issue of the cover, feminism, etc. among the commenters. The first comment you speak of (patriarchal whore, etc) comes in at #4, a comment from a black feminist objecting to the language expressed by the white feminist in that comment comes in at #30 and the second comment you mention (not as cute, so on) comes in at #43. In between those and throughout the comments is discussion about feminism, the feeling of disconnection from white feminism, problems with feministing, problems with nubian, problems with her complaints about the cover art, expressions of support for you and feministing, exhortations to just wait and see, and on and on and on and back and forth.

    So… say you were too tired, not interested in participating, didn’t feel a need to elaborate on your original comments, didn’t feel like wading through the comments (to pick up anything but a couple of insults), thought the conversation was fine without you, were more comfortable on your own site, or anything else… but please drop this “I didn’t go there because they were being mean to me!” stuff which, to anyone who has read that thread, is patently inane.

    I understand that you are busy today but hopefully, at some point in the near future, when you are ready to discuss all this honestly and openly with people there can be further conversation. Or not.

  43. May 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I forgot to put a link to the thread at nubian’s that was the subject of my comment.

  44. Kristen
    May 20, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I haven’t read the above comments yet, because I don’t want them to shape what I write here. I discovered this blog about two weeks ago, and I was so excited about it. I’ve been reading it every day, going through the archives and all the comments with each post. I was involved with a feminist group in undergrad, but when I got to law school I drifted away. This has been something of a re-introduction to the world — and a welcome one.

    This entire debacle, however, reminded me why I had originally been reluctant to embrace the feminist cause (or more accurately, to embrace it by that name — the political underpinnings were something I always pursued). Jill, you did not fuck up, and while I appreciate you clarifying your position, it really upsets me to think you are in any way retreating from it.

    The kind of in-fighting I see here was part of what put me off from feminist groups in the first place. I saw that some of our meetings seemed to devolve into a “who is the most oppressed and marginalized” competition. And I saw that the white upper class girls were expected to acknowledge their “privilige,” just as is occurring here. Which is fine — except to the extent they were also made to feel guilty for it.

    This kind of divisiveness hurts us. And it drives away young women of all races and classes who feel that such discussions, with nothing more, serve little useful purpose. I actually have a rather extensive background in feminist philosophy and politics (political philosophy major with a gender studies focus, plus my own reading) but I remember what it was like to think “feminist” was a label I wanted to avoid. I had no problem with the criticisms of Jessica’s book, nor did I have any problem with Jill addressing them and putting forth her own view. This is the kind of healthy debate that both people new to *and* seasoned in feminist thought can appreciate. What disappoints me now, and what would’ve driven me away 6 or 8 years ago when I was first really exposed to feminist theory, is everyone getting on Jill’s case and then Jill backing down. It only serves to reinforce the notion that there is only room for one type of feminist, and that’s the radical, man-hating, beauty-forsaking stereotype.

    Jill, I thought your first post was amazing. We do, in fact, NEED that stereotype. Women who are radical often are the ones who drive the cause forward. And I thought your first post respected that fact, while also noting that if we want to get all women in board, we need to be sensitive to the ones who are less radical, who don’t understand what feminism is all about yet. That’s what Jessica’s book is trying to do. And that’s what your post seemed to acknowledge. At least, that was the message I got from it. Without all women — and men too, for that matter — becoming more comfortable with the feminist label, it becomes a fringe cause, something to just be brushed aside. And people like the me of 8 years ago will never realize how feminism, and gender and culture and race and class and all these things that feminist thought entails, affect their lives.

    My basic point: Thank you, to the women the remind us that beauty is still a social construct and that women who are not white and upper class face a whole host of other issues that white upper class women should not forget about. People new to feminism can hear and understand these critiques and accept them as part of the intricacies of feminist thought which they can further explore. But know that, as someone who adopted a post-feminist attitude and who is now looking to reassimilate with the feminist cause/label, this entire incident just reminds me why I left. It gives off the appearance of people wallowing in their own oppression, or spending more time naming it than changing it, and condemning those people who don’t face the same struggles (and then having them apologize for it). I am *not* putting the blame on any particular person or group of persons… I watched the same thing happen in live action with my old group before, and I still can’t pinpoint the cause. But it divides us without empowering anyone, and for that reason I felt compelled to post.

    Thanks for listening if you made it that far. And know that, from what I’ve read, I am in the company of some brilliant people and I do intend to stick around for longer.

  45. piny
    May 20, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Which is fine — except to the extent they were also made to feel guilty for it.

    No, they were made to feel guilty for ignoring it and for insisting that it doesn’t actually exist as such–“Get your own book deal!” It’s like the difference between having a home and wondering what’s wrong with people who are homeless.

  46. May 20, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I understand a lot of what you’re saying, Kristen, but it seems to me that the only reason certain people seem “divisive” is because their voices and concerns have been ignored or concerned so thoroughly in the history of the feminist “movement” (let’s abstract for a minute from the controversy over the book). What you call being divisive they probably consider trying to find out if there’s any place at all in the movement for them, or if anyone’s going to listen when they say, “But those aren’t our problems. These are our problems, not just as POC in a racist society, but as WOC in a racist, misogynist society.”

    It’s true that that dynamic of being more radical or outraged than thou does often develop in activist circles (pretty much any interesting idea or set of ideas will be abused in this way). But that doesn’t mean that the very real concerns of women trying to deal with an entirely different, and in many ways much more difficult and unjust, set of problems from white middle class women are somehow just part of that game.

    I didn’t really have a problem with Jill’s original post, either: I understood that she was looking to respond to some of the more petty and mean-spirited attacks on Jessica and FFF, and didn’t think she was purposely trying to ignore or bury more serious criticisms. But a lot of people saw it as just another white woman subordinating the voices and concerns of WOC in order to affirm her loyalty to her white friend. Jill’s decided to take responsibility for that, and I admire her greatly for it.

  47. May 20, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Nanette:

    please drop this “I didn’t go there because they were being mean to me!” stuff which, to anyone who has read that thread, is patently inane…I understand that you are busy today but hopefully, at some point in the near future, when you are ready to discuss all this honestly and openly with people there can be further conversation. Or not.

    So when Nubian has a very understandable desire not to participate on a thread where she is being personally attacked it’s valid, but when I have that same desire I’m being inane and dishonest? Good to know.

    Oh, and since when does the number of comments on a thread that are substantive take away from the damage of the few that are personal attacks? If I let a comment stay on Feministing that called someone a whore and mocked them, and tried to argue that it was just a blip in the larger conversation and not a big deal–how do you think that would go over?

    You know, this topic is obviously a loaded one, and there are clearly hurt feelings and upset on all sides. I do want there to be an open conversation, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let people call me a liar. So if anyone is interested in continuing the conversation, my email is public…I’d love to talk.

    And just an FYI, all of us at Feministing are using this conversation to talk about our commenting policy and how to change it for the better. (Should have a post on it tomorrow) Because no matter how we may disgree about specific instances and threads, it’s incredibly important to us that the site is seen as a safe space for feminist discourse–and it’s clear from this thread and others that some folks don’t feel that it is. So hopefully, with some input from our readers, that will change.

  48. Kristen
    May 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    First, to clarify — I had not read through the comments when I wrote my original post, so I did not realize that the discussion had shifted predominantly toward issues of race. My original comments did incorporate the race issue, but also how class, beauty, sexuality, etc. differences can and do divide feminists.

    However, I find it unsurprising that race has become the focus, given that it is “visible” in the same way biological sex is visible, and the fact that it permeates society and the way people are treated much in the same way gender does.

    The two issues are inextricably intertwined, so Piny and Jeff, I definitely take your point that it is extremely problematic to focus on one at the expense of the other. I think the difficult thing for white women sometimes is to address the race issue without coming across as condescending. Surely the ideology of people of color is not homogenous, any more than that of white people is. So when a white person tries to address the issues facing the black or immigrant or hispanic etc. community, they run the risk not only of misconstruing the “majority” perspective within that group but also of leaving out equally valid “minority” positions within that group.

    And “racist” is a powerful, hurtful word — something that most feminists would be particularly sensitive to and wanting to avoid. Sometimes the only thing to do is to acknowledge that these additional issues exist, and to recognize one’s personal limits on one’s ability to reflect on them. But then, as perhaps as has happened here, that person runs the risk of seemingly shortchanging the issue.

    I don’t know the solution to this. And Jeff, your construction of what happened as articulated in the last paragraph really opens my eyes to my own “biases” in observing this situation: the racial underpinnings of the original post did not occur to me. I simply saw it as a defense of an introductory book on feminism geared toward young people, rather than the potential marginalization of race issues in feminist thought (both within the book and within the subsequent criticism).

    I guess that’s why I’m glad these posts allow for replies and follow-up commentary.

  49. May 20, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Sometimes the only thing to do is to acknowledge that these additional issues exist, and to recognize one’s personal limits on one’s ability to reflect on them.

    This is the thing that Jessica did NOT do. One of BlackAmazons complaints is if you aren’t going to take us seriously, then for God’s sake stop including us. When we are included on alot of these feminist sites it is in that tsk tsk pity those WOC way, those other people not like us, who need us to save them. That’s one of those racist memes out there that say since I can’t see them doing anything they are too stupid to help themselves. More often we are doing things to help ourselves but we aren’t rich girls with the resources and connections to do them fast enough for their liking. We need to work together, we need help to get the resources, or to get those connections, but we don’t need white people coming in and telling us they know what’s good for us or feeling sorry for us. By the way, that rant is about liberalism and feminism in general and not the book in particular. But I hear from WOC who have read the book that the complaint is similar. That the way it is handled isn’t actually inclusive, like Jessica is speaking to young black, latina, asian, native american etc girls. She is talking about them. There’s a difference.

  50. May 20, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    So when Nubian has a very understandable desire not to participate on a thread where she is being personally attacked it’s valid, but when I have that same desire I’m being inane and dishonest? Good to know.

    This would be a valid complaint if you and Nubian were operating from equal positions of power, and if Nubian didn’t already have good reason to be wary of your comments section (btw, sorry for the earlier confusion on my part about that–you were referencing what happened on her interview post and I was thinking you meant the cover thing). But neither of these things is so; Feministing is the big feminist blog and Blac(k)ademic was the smaller one, strictly in terms of traffic/reach/numbers. In that situation, the onus is unfortunately on you to suck it up and make the overture.

    Oh, and since when does the number of comments on a thread that are substantive take away from the damage of the few that are personal attacks? If I let a comment stay on Feministing that called someone a whore and mocked them, and tried to argue that it was just a blip in the larger conversation and not a big deal–how do you think that would go over?

    Well, I didn’t see anyone challenge “theory whores” in Jill’s last post on this, so it looks like it goes over just fine in some cases. Not saying you’d have left that on Feministing necessarily, but then again what I’m getting from others here is that the whole problem is that in the past, you have left comments like that on Feministing.

    I’m glad you’re all working on fixing that because I know how fed up I am with Hugo letting MRAs have too much free reign at his place, and it sounds as if this issue is similar in nature, at least.

  51. May 20, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Sorry for the double post, but I think this is relevant here. I’ve also added to what I wrote before.

    Kristen wrote: This kind of divisiveness hurts us. And it drives away young women of all races and classes who feel that such discussions, with nothing more, serve little useful purpose.

    I think it’s abundantly clear from these threads that “feminist,” like “woman,” is not a homogenous category. And although there is a lot of time and energy spent giving lip service to the desire for “sisterhood” and how “in fighting” is “divisive” and a cause of the stunted growth of the women’s movement, it is just this kind of necessary criticism and demands to seen and represented that allow for voices of marginalized groups to be heard. Newsflash: we’re already “divided” and these kinds of comments only threaten to keep dissenting opnions quiet. It demands that we choose to be loyal to only one part of our self (the part that we call “woman”) and to keep the other parts of our self (queer, working class, person of color, etc) invisible. So keep it up, y’all, because nobody’s gonna hear you if you’re silent.

  52. Sylvia
    May 20, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    So when Nubian has a very understandable desire not to participate on a thread where she is being personally attacked it’s valid, but when I have that same desire I’m being inane and dishonest? Good to know.

    WHOA WHOA WHOA.

    Did you try to engage? At all? There’s a difference. Nubian at least TRIED to engage. And the people who SPOKE TO HER mainly started the bullshit. You didn’t even wade in, and if you did, you would have seen some of the substantive comments.

  53. JPlum
    May 20, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Donna:

    That the way it is handled isn’t actually inclusive, like Jessica is speaking to young black, latina, asian, native american etc girls. She is talking about them. There’s a difference.

    Okay, finally this is making sense to me. We were working from different definitions of inclusive, which is why I kept thinking “hey, it is inclusive” and others criticised it for not being inclusive. I kept asking myself “okay, how often do issues of women of colour and non-heteros have to been addressed for it to be sufficiently inclusive?” but the issue wasn’t really ‘how often’ as simply ‘how’. As as a straight, white, middle class woman, I wasn’t seeing the ‘not talking to me’ because, of course, it WAS talking to me. So, my apologies for being insensitive on another thread.

    On the other hand:

    When we are included on alot of these feminist sites it is in that tsk tsk pity those WOC way, those other people not like us, who need us to save them. That’s one of those racist memes out there that say since I can’t see them doing anything they are too stupid to help themselves. More often we are doing things to help ourselves but we aren’t rich girls with the resources and connections to do them fast enough for their liking.

    There’s an awfully fine line, for a privileged white woman, between being inclusive, and falling into the trap of ‘saviour’. Or, at least, being accused of falling into that trap, and of trying to speak for someone else. And I haven’t seen any really good solutions to this problem.

  54. Blackamazon
    May 20, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    So showing examples of what we mean is calling you a liar?

  55. May 20, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    So when Nubian has a very understandable desire not to participate on a thread where she is being personally attacked it’s valid, but when I have that same desire I’m being inane and dishonest? Good to know.

    Um, who hasn’t been called outlandish names by ChasingMoksha? I mean, really, it’s almost a rite of passage for anyone worth their salt at this point.

    A new comments policy is probably an excellent idea. Best of luck to you and Samhita and the rest in coming up with something reasonable that might actually enable genuine work to happen over there. Because, this sort of conflict is going to keep showing up, and you are going to have to keep backpedalling and wandering off (which is what you’re doing right? Insisting on email?), unless some sort of change is made. Feministing is not a safe space for women of color. It’s not a safe space for feminists to talk in a way that’s constructive. It is, however, a safe space for anti-feminists, and as Samhita was complaining in another thread, NeoCons, to show up and hash out the same-old boring BS that happens on any other liberal blog.

    But, seriously? This whole mess has been really lame. No one is obligated to like the book. And, not liking it doesn’t mean that the critic has necessarily projected some sort of meta narrative onto your life. It may just mean that, hey, you missed some stuff. Which would be No-harm, No-foul, if you had just said, “Hey, I overlooked this, or maybe just skimmed that when I could have been more in-depth.” But… that’s not what happened. What happened was a lot of “Yer just jealous.” And, “It’s not fair.” And, “Yer imposing a persona on me!” Why the insistence that there was not room for improvement? That’s just… lame. It’s your first book. Of course, there’s room for improvement.

    And, honestly, I’m sure that your next book will be better. People grow. We’re the same age, btw.

    Be proud of yourself, for sure. It’s a lot to write a book–a mountain to climb. But, people aren’t stupid. Stop acting like they are.

  56. May 20, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Jessica:

    Yes, I think it is dishonest. Sorry that I am the one being mean now and causing people to run off, but I am really tired of all this dancing around the issues, which just onkeep getting deeper and deeper with bunches of other junk piled up on top of them. Not only concerning you, of course.

    Whether that makes you a liar or not, I couldn’t say… an entire situation and a person’s views of it or view’s of their actions in it can be dishonest, even to themselves, without them being liars.

    Mind you if you are indeed being honest within yourself about your reasonings, then what you’ve done is decided that the words uttered by one white woman on a thread chock full of commentary by people of color — and only those words – were the ones worth paying attention to, basing your actions on, the deciding factor of whether or not to engage with woc who felt decidedly unsafe engaging at your site, worth repeating in interviews, on blogs, maybe even in the book, who knows – and whatever else.

    And, incidentally, words which serve to mis-characterize the main conversation on this same woc site.

    I’d almost rather you were lying.

  57. May 20, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Um, who hasn’t been called outlandish names by ChasingMoksha? I mean, really, it’s almost a rite of passage for anyone worth their salt at this point.

    No kidding. Maybe if we emphasized the achievement by awarding merit badges when it happens?

  58. May 20, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Well, I didn’t see anyone challenge “theory whores” in Jill’s last post on this, so it looks like it goes over just fine in some cases. Not saying you’d have left that on Feministing necessarily, but then again what I’m getting from others here is that the whole problem is that in the past, you have left comments like that on Feministing.

    I think there’s a big difference between accusing someone of being a “whore to the patriarchy” and making a reference to “theory whores” — feminist women like myself who are very into feminist theory and engaged in academia. Context matters.

  59. May 20, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Um, who hasn’t been called outlandish names by ChasingMoksha?

    Sadly, true. Not to mention she thinks “women of color are morphing into the oppressors” of white women.

    A sentiment that may or may not cross the minds of others from time to time ;)

  60. May 20, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Mind you if you are indeed being honest within yourself about your reasonings, then what you’ve done is decided that the words uttered by one white woman on a thread chock full of commentary by people of color — and only those words – were the ones worth paying attention to, basing your actions on, the deciding factor of whether or not to engage with woc who felt decidedly unsafe engaging at your site, worth repeating in interviews, on blogs, maybe even in the book, who knows – and whatever else.

    And, incidentally, words which serve to mis-characterize the main conversation on this same woc site.

    I’d almost rather you were lying.

    I’m still a little confused as to what exactly Jessica is lying about — her reasons for not commenting on Nubian’s thread?

    Yes, Jessica was the more powerful blogger in that particular situation. But that doesn’t make the hateful comments any less jarring. Like Samhita just wrote over at Feministing, there seems to be a sense of Jessica as this blog-celebrity and not as a real person. She’s expected to work incredibly hard at something, put it out there, love it, and then fully and openly engage when it’s ripped apart. Which, again, isn’t to say that it shouldn’t be criticized, but Jessica isn’t super-human, and she’s allowed to be injured by comments, and to opt out of conversations which are detrimental to her. I’m sure even the constructive criticisms stung, and when there are a few personal insults thrown in there, it can be pretty hurtful. There have been a great many threads across the blogosphere that I simply stopped following because it was bad for my mental health. It doesn’t mean that the criticisms were invalid or that I was a big victim, just that we all make choices about where and how we engage. I don’t think Jessica was cutting off conversation as much as she was trying to balance that engagement with her own sanity. I know how it feels to have a stupid blog post get torn apart by people I can’t stand and don’t respect (i.e., anti-feminist wingnut bloggers), and how overwhelming and frustrating that can feel; I’m sure that those feelings are magnified when the criticisms are coming from people you like and respect.

    Which, again, is not to say that Jessica should just never respond, or that critics have to go out of their way to be nice. It’s just to point out that she isn’t a machine, and she isn’t someone who’s been doing professional feminism for decades and is used to all of this. She, too, is allowed to opt out of participating in certain spaces that feel hostile or hurtful to her, even if she is the more powerful blogger in the situation. She is allowed to be hurt and frustrated too, and to try and mitigate that hurt and frustration. That doesn’t make her disingenuous or a liar; it makes her human.

    I’m imagining how I would feel if something I dedicated a lot of time, energy and love to was being criticized the way that Jessica’s book is — it would be heartbreaking. I’ll reiterate once again that I’m not using that as an argument against criticism; I am, however, using it to say that I understand why Jessica didn’t go into the thread at Nubian’s, and didn’t engage in some of the other critical threads. A lot of it is also contextual — the book just came out, and so this is all very fresh. As someone who does get defensive and does run my mouth off, I can see why Jessica would want to hold off on responding to criticism until a little more time has passed, when she feels like she can comment as fairly as possible. I can also see how she would feel like she has addressed many of the criticisms, and perhaps reiterating the same things in a huge comment thread where there are simply huge ideological gaps isn’t going to be particularly productive, especially in a 175-comment thread.

    Ideally, Jessica would have been able to go into every critical comment thread and engage fully and calmly. But given the circumstances, I’m not sure I would have done any better (perhaps that isn’t saying much, but you know what I mean). We do get attached to our work and we do take things personally (especially personal attacks, even if they’re a vast minority of comments in a single thread), and while that isn’t an argument against criticism or the expectation to engage, I don’t think it’s dishonest to point to that as a reason why one would choose to opt out of having a particular discussion in a particular space.

  61. May 20, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    The problem I have with that is that Jessica is the one who made the choice, she could have made it a safe space to discuss with Nubian at Feministing, then there would be no need to go over to Blac(k)ademic. Moderating doesn’t have to be deleting posts, steering the conversation is another way. For one thing she could have just said, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you Tom, but cut the crap.”. It’s one thing I like about Feministe, usually one of you will jump in and put a stop to it when something like that happens here.

  62. May 21, 2007 at 12:11 am

    I don’t want to suggest in any way that the emotional responses of Jessica and Samhita, the sense that they’re being dealt with too harshly, are illegitimate or don’t deserve to be heard. But I think any conversation that focuses on those emotions to the exclusion of all the women who have felt hurt, attacked, and humiliated by the way they were treated in comment threads at Feministing is going to be very unhelpful. I understand that it seems unfair that people are focusing so much on only one or two comment threads from months ago–but the fact is that those threads are obviously important to the people who keep mentioning them. None of this is going to be resolved if people don’t listen to why these women are still angry and embittered about these things (I hope no one objects to any of the language I’m using to describe people’s emotions here; none of it is meant to be insulting at all). Some of this is about larger issues with feminism and racism generally, but some of it is very particular to things that have happened at Feministing. And I think Sylvia is right in what she said in a comment at her place, that just suppressing all of these emotions now only insures that they’ll erupt again in another unproductive episode.

  63. May 21, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Hi Jill

    I’m still a little confused as to what exactly Jessica is lying about — her reasons for not commenting on Nubian’s thread?

    Sadly, I don’t think she is lying.

    She’s expected to work incredibly hard at something, put it out there, love it, and then fully and openly engage when it’s ripped apart. Which, again, isn’t to say that it shouldn’t be criticized, but Jessica isn’t super-human, and she’s allowed to be injured by comments, and to opt out of conversations which are detrimental to her.

    Sure. Anyone is.

    Actually, I’m too tired to go through this point by point, so I’ll just mention a few things.

    First, I don’t care about the book. It wasn’t written for me, wasn’t written for my daughter and that’s okay. I wish it great success, may it spawn msn interviews and more book deals and movie deals and whatever else there can be.

    Also, I recognize that Jessica works hard, has many irons in the fire, does offline work, is a great feminist, runs one of the major if not the major mainstream feminist sites online, is capable of being hurt, like anyone does not like to read bad things about themselves, is a really nice person, does not kick puppies and… like some of the other major feminist bloggers…

    Does not directly engage with women of color who have concerns or issues. If this is because she is “opt[ing] out of participating in certain spaces that feel hostile or hurtful to her” I would be questioning why many (some, a few, a lot, a little, more than one, caveat, caveat) women of color held hostility towards me. Wouldn’t you?

    Do you know how rare the conversation has been on this thread, with Jessica actually typing more than one line to women (of color) who are not full of praise? As far as I know she’s still not engaged at any of the personal blog sites, but it’s a start. (Possibly an ending too, but still.)

    And, while hurtful to her in ways, no doubt, I’m pretty sure it was beneficial too. After all, almost a year after many (a few, some, some more, more than one) women of color decided they wouldn’t touch feministing or the comment threads there with a ten foot (but ever growing) pole, and discussed on their sites (big and small, linked to each other and never heard of each other, black, latin@, asian and native american) how they would never participate there and why…. Jessica is realizing today that “oh hey, there might be a problem there.”

    I am sorry she is hurt. Really. I am not known for my bluntness (except with right wingers) but you know… I know some very hurt people too. Young, old, in between. Hurt, rejected, made to look like they crazy angry unreasonable women because it takes so much to just get heard. Who actually have now even stopped shouting and are working on their own stuff, quite happily.

    So yeah, sorry Jessica is hurting, but the ONLY reason Jessica was in this thread today directly engaging women of color who are not fans in conversation, however briefly, is because I stepped on her. In a (fairly large), widely read, public, white space.

    Thank you for your use of it.

  64. May 21, 2007 at 1:02 am

    You think we are not listening? We are listening. We have gotten better at moderating, we have apologized, we have said what we feel and we continue to write what we believe, informed both by what has happened and what we continue to learn and observe.

    I just commented on Sylvia’s blog and I was told that I am slow, blind to my complicity to racism in white feminism, cursed at and basically told that I am not welcome. And I am a radical feminist of color, so I have the supposed “authority” to speak. But I dared defend myself and Feministing, which is now, “white, not-exclusive, racist, etc” because of a comments thread that we didn’t moderate before we really even knew how to.

    Like donna darko said in the other thread, I was savagely destroyed in several comments threads, and please believe, we have learned from our mistakes.

    This has nothing to do with actual justice.

  65. May 21, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Jessica is anything but a ‘marginalizer’ — and as a feminist, let me tell you, white women are no more privileged than any others.

    White women aren’t more privileged? Hmm…maybe, not all white women. But, the white middle-class feminists sure get a bigger share in the racist, imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy, don’t they?

    I don’t want to take shot at Jessica as a person…I don’t know her…I am sure she is smart and kind and dedicated. My criticism is not specific to Jessica or a book, but extends to liberal feminism itself.

    Some of us do believe a “radical” anti-capitalist critique is necessary. I have not read the book and am going by the “six point manifesto” laid out in the Guardian. I am confused as to how feminism has been reduced to body politics and sex. What about issues of labour (paid and unpaid), national and global economics, immigration, imperialism, war…Are these not feminist issues? Or, are they simply not issues that we think are relevant to young middle-class white girls? If these are included in the book, I offer my apologies in advance.

    Remember that phrase so many of us have thrown around in term papers or webzines? Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Feminism that does not tackle the system itself – is not prepared to be uncomfortably radical – is essentially contenting itself with some women accessing a powerful place, shoulder to shoulder with the masters.

  66. Blackamazon
    May 21, 2007 at 1:49 am

    Jessica isn’t superhuman but also at this point niether are we.And if you want to actually engage us then you re gonna have to talk about some things we want to talk about.Period . All of it not possibly but some of it and in ways that prioritize OUR comfort.

  67. May 21, 2007 at 3:41 am

    The bottom line (IMHO) is that Jessica wrote a book she thought would help the women’s movement. If peope want to fault her for that, then they need to do some serious soul searching to figure out what’s really bothering them, because it sounds to me like this book really isn’t the core of any issue. This business about Feministing.com misses the point, because this book is not the same thing as the blog. So if you have a beef with the blog, deal with it there, instead of conflating the issue with her book. And as near as I can tell, nothing on Jessica’s blog – content wise – is considered the problem, it’s all style issues, and questions about whether she’s onboard with women of color (which is absurd, of course she is, but she can’t be everywhere for everyone at once). And if I recall, Betty Friedan got that exact same critique, and last I checked the Feminine Mystique was still one of the most important works of the 20th century in the area of women’s rights.

    As for the blog, admittedly, I haven’t read it all that long but here’s a factoid: the women’s movement is in a war right now with people who want to deprive you of your right to reproductive choice, curtailing access to emergency contraception, and making it harder for college students to even get birth control. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Complaining about all these other issues are important, and I understand the passion, but the Jerry Falwell’s of the world are not nearly as divided as some of you appear to be on this issue. The far-right of this country doesn’t divide this much on their issues – it’s bomb this country, screw that group, and eat a sandwich for lunch for them. Only the left has brains to get into this kind of a debate, but too bad for them, because ignorance is bliss.

    Of all the people to complain about in the world today, Jessica is no where near the top of any sane list. So to make a blogwar over a feminist book getting published is the very reason why feminists have struggled politically. Third wave, second wave, just get on a damn wave, and be happy that a publisher put another feminist book on the bookshelves, and that another female voice is out there making a difference, even if its not your difference, or your ideal whatever.

    PS On a lighter note, I heard a cool joke.

    Q. If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the rest of the year?

    A. Discrimination.

  68. pip
    May 21, 2007 at 4:02 am

    sounds like jessica is suffering from Prom Queen Syndrome. Read about this not so new epidemic here.

  69. May 21, 2007 at 7:21 am

    Steve, all your comment does is reinforce that the visible history of feminism and the women’s movement has largely been by and for white, middle class, straight, etc women, and that you think POC, queers, etc should stop criticizing those who claim to be inclusive of their issues but actually aren’t in practice and focus on criticizing the right wing fundamentalists, who cop to not giving a damn about POC, queers, etc. But the problem, for POC, queers, etc, is that it doesn’t matter if the person discriminating against us is a fundamentalist or a feminist. It’s still discrimination. And it stings more when it comes from someone who claims to be an ally.

  70. May 21, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Steve, what if the problem isn’t with the people complaining, it’s with the people who are tired of hearing the complaining? Isn’t that just as likely? If the feminist movement was actually more inclusive, you might not have seen this debate. That would be the other way to solve the problem, rather than shutting people up.

    The far-right of this country doesn’t divide this much on their issues

    You’re really buying into their election-time image if you believe that. You have heard that the “God Hates…” crew planned to be at Falwell’s funeral, right?

  71. May 21, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Steve, let’s say I’m a working class woman working a crap McJob and turn up pregnant unexpectedly. I already have a kid or two I can barely support. I have no insurance, there is no federal funding for abortions through medicaid. There is no clinic or hospital within a 100 miles of where I live that does abortions, I have no car. There is a law on the books that states I need a 24 hr waiting period between counselling at that clinic and when I can have an abortion, which means two 100 mile round trips (400 miles total) and two days off of work. Effectively, I have no reproductive rights, but I am supposed to care about middle class white women and Roe v Wade? The same women who watched these rights erode for me with a little grumbling but it wasn’t so bad, because they have the money if they need an abortion, they have a car to get to the clinic, they have a better job with sick leave so that they could take a couple days off if they have to. Sorry if I don’t have any sympathy.

    The same thing is happening with universal health care. No one gave a damn when they had jobs with benefits, it’s only the poor working class, or disabled who can’t get a job, etc. Not them, now suddenly all these middle class white people are watching their unionized manufacturing jobs go poof and their high tech dot com jobs go poof, now it’s a problem for them, now they are stuck with huge medical bills that they can’t pay.

    It has been WOC, POC, and the working class poor who have been talking about these things for years. The canary in the coal mine that liberals and feminists ignore. But you’re right, in solidarity let’s talk about Bill O’Reilly or sex toys instead.

    You want us to support you? Well God damn it, it’s high time you showed some support for us first. That’s for the Democrats, liberals and progressives, and feminists. Only your interests matter? Well then, we will remain divided and fighting amongst ourselves.

  72. May 21, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Donna, super awesome! Samihita, rude shannon wants to know your radical woman of color feminist bonafides, but if you don’t want to show them, that’s fine!

  73. Radfem
    May 21, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Yeah, Donna great post. There’s quite a few good ones here in the midst of the apologetic rhetoric, which brings some hope to this thread I guess.

    Steve, all your comment does is reinforce that the visible history of feminism and the women’s movement has largely been by and for white, middle class, straight, etc women, and that you think POC, queers, etc should stop criticizing those who claim to be inclusive of their issues but actually aren’t in practice and focus on criticizing the right wing fundamentalists, who cop to not giving a damn about POC, queers, etc. But the problem, for POC, queers, etc, is that it doesn’t matter if the person discriminating against us is a fundamentalist or a feminist. It’s still discrimination. And it stings more when it comes from someone who claims to be an ally.

    Yes.

    Jessica is anything but a ‘marginalizer’ — and as a feminist, let me tell you, white women are no more privileged than any others.

    The fact that you can make this statement “as a feminist” just further illustrates the problem with feminism in my opinion.

  74. Blackamazon
    May 21, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    I jsut… okay fine

  75. May 21, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Donna, Feminist Review et all – Listen, I’m not nearly as kind or apologetic as Jill, so you’ll get no sympathy from me attacking me for things I did not say. I know it is easier to create straw man logical fallacies to make your point, but it doesn’t make you right. Most of what you said, are what you’re projecting onto this conversation. Who is discriminating against POC, queers, etc? And how do you define discrimination?

    In terms of claiming to be an ally, it seems to me that you’re the one dissing allies and not the other way around. If someone says they support you, then take the support, because the other 90% of society claps at Ann Coulter when she drops the other F bomb on a Presidential candidate and giggles a little inside. It shocks me that so much energy is being wasted on someone who WANTS to be your ally, but just because they aren’t your ideal, is therefore not only inadequate, but discriminatory.

    But in response to the critiques on feminism as a movement.

    First of all, feminism is a “movement” but it’s not a coherent, single-minded one. So this business about how feminism didn’t care about women of color until last tuesday in part assumes there’s someone to blame. There is no conscious, individual feminist to blame for that. There’s no real hierarchy to feminism, just individuals contributing their intellectual and personal creativity and gifts, and groups like NARAL, NOW, etc. So when you project all the inadequecies of feminism as a movement onto Jessica, you’re doing her a real disservice because it’s totally unfair. It’s also equally unfair to silence here because her voice is not the voice of everyone. If you think you can write a better book, do it (and no I will not be apologizing for that comment). Clearly, you see that your voice is not being reflected out there, well, carpe diem my friend. You can’t expect other people to be a better you than you.

    Secondly, obviously most of the early feminist writers would be people who had the time to write, and education and articulation to do it, which would be white upper-middle class females and they would carry their class and status with them. It’s hard when you’re working 10 jobs and the night shift and you didn’t get past 9th grade, to write the Feminine Mystique – it doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice, but it means you can’t use it. And when you’re a slave, it’s hard to ask for the right to vote because you first have to be recognized as a person first. So let me really clear about why white middle class women wrote the first feminist discourses – it was so IMPOSSIBLE for women of color to be heard by society as a whole that it was simply too difficult. And no, Betty Friedan does not know what it’s like to be a person of color, or a homosexual, or whatever, because she hasn’t lived in those shoes. That’s how it went down.

    Asking why there were not more narratives that contributing to the early women’s movement for WOC and queers in 1910 is like asking why the Union didn’t build more tanks during the civil war. There were so many technological, or in this case cultural and social, hurdles to get through to get to that point, that it simply could not have happened with any reasonable probability. At least not in the way you would have recognized as equality. The degree to which women of color have been marginalized effectively made it impossible for women of color to be heard nearly at all. A black mother of three who worked the night shift at McDs would never make the cover of Time magainze once upon a time. And that is a reflection of society more than it is a reflection of feminism, which is, as they so, somewhat of a post-modern movement, a critique of modern society. Its limitations are quite understandable since it spoke with the voice of the people who could speak.

    And lastly, a comment to Donna –

    “Well God damn it, it’s high time you showed some support for us first. Only your interests matter? Well then, we will remain divided and fighting amongst ourselves. ”

    That is so absurd it’s not even funny. Ok, maybe a little funny. NOBODY said “only your interests matter” you’re boxing shadows with that one buddy. And if you’d rather fight fellow feminists, than fight Jerry Falwell, then you have your head stuck in the sand. That would be like a Jewish German in World War II attacking the British, because there’s still some anti-semitism in London. If feminists lose there battle with the far right, you’re not going to have to worry about being divided.

    Anyways, I’m done with this debate, because I’d rather focus on the REAL oppressors than battle people whom I’d LIKE to consider “allies.”

    LOL… this is exactly the problem with Progressives. We can’t stay united for more than a minute to even tell the world what it is we want.

  76. May 21, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Steve, I bet you’re a regular commenter at Feministing, eh? You are right up their alley anyway.

  77. bluestockingsrs
    May 21, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Yeah, that post was not only not helpful (and ceaselessly privileged, Steve) but it was also inaccurate.

    Please go read some more books about women’s history and specifically, women of color’s history and then come back and post.

    Because, that post up there, that is embarrassing. But then only men are allowed to spout off about things they know nothing about, oh could I forget.

    Read these comments over at Shakes and then start deconstructing, let us know when you are reprogrammed, mkay?

  78. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    To Jessica’s critics, I ask: What exactly are you fighting over? What resources is she taking away from you? Is there something she could give you that she’s not? Does she have some sort of power over you?

    To me, this all looks like an attempt to hammer a political figurehead into some vision of ideological purity, else she’ll be purged from the party. It’s a little scary; a little Stalinistic.

    Do we not, as feminists, have common enemies? If not, then why bother?

    There’s only so much self-excoriating we can do as as movement. We can self-excoriate ourselves into the ground for lacking “intersectionality.” Meanwhile, women won’t be any better off for it.

  79. May 21, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Anyways, I’m done with this debate, because I’d rather focus on the REAL oppressors than battle people whom I’d LIKE to consider “allies.”

    So wait. It’s not progressive for people to criticize Jessica’s book. That’s divisive. It is progressive, though, to criticize the people who criticize Jessica’s book, because they’re “dissing allies.” But when people criticize you for criticizing people who criticize Jessica’s book, that’s divisive again, and it’s detracting from the real focus, and you’re not going to participate in it.

    Have I got that right?

    If the folks who are criticizing the book are people you’d like to consider allies, then either do them the courtesy of engaging with their criticisms with some openness and respect, or do them the courtesy of shutting the fuck up.

  80. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    If the folks who are criticizing the book are people you’d like to consider allies, then either do them the courtesy of engaging with their criticisms with some openness and respect, or do them the courtesy of shutting the fuck up.

    The problem is that this so-called criticism doesn’t really seem to be useful criticism. Instead, it seems to be headed towards some sort of witch hunt. Eventually, pragmatists like me and Steve want to get down to the hard work it takes to actually make change, rather than fighting over the precise wording of our manifestos.

  81. May 21, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    To Jessica’s critics, I ask: What exactly are you fighting over?

    And to you I ask Have you read anything “Jessica’s critics” have to say about any of this?

    I think there’s a big difference between accusing someone of being a “whore to the patriarchy” and making a reference to “theory whores” — feminist women like myself who are very into feminist theory and engaged in academia. Context matters.

    Indeed it does, but the only context you’re providing here is that you yourself would not object to being called a theory whore. You left out a key portion of the context: That remark was made to lump women of color who criticized the book in with a white woman Amanda disagreed with during the burqa discussions. I personally think that’s a real problem, and with all the talk of silencing and erasure going on today, pretending that “theory whores” wasn’t a perfect example of both is disingenuous. We don’t have to take these women seriously, because they’re just a bunch of theory whores.

    If context matters, ask the women dismissed this way what they think of that context.

    And that’s all before we get to the traditional context enveloping use of the word “whore.”

  82. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    And to you I ask Have you read anything “Jessica’s critics” have to say about any of this?

    Bring it on – I mean really, bring it on. What concessions, precisely worded and bullet-pointed, do you demand from Jessica in order to win this battle? What exactly do you want her to do? Because if you can’t articulate that, then I don’t know what you’re fighting about.

  83. May 21, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    The problem is that this so-called criticism doesn’t really seem to be useful criticism. Instead, it seems to be headed towards some sort of witch hunt. Eventually, pragmatists like me and Steve want to get down to the hard work it takes to actually make change, rather than fighting over the precise wording of our manifestos.

    In your last post, you asked Jessica’s critics, “Does she have some sort of power over you?” It’s a fair enough question, but can’t it be flipped back around? Do the folks who are raising these issues have some sort of power over you? Are they doing something tangible to prevent you from getting down to the hard work it takes to actually make change? Because back in the day, Stalinists had, you know, Stalin behind them. When they purged you from the party, it wasn’t just a matter of updating their blogrolls.

    You want to do the hard tangible work of making change? Go right ahead. By all means. Good for you. But if you want to do that work in coalition, you’ve gotta respect the concerns of the people you’re trying to convince to work in coalition with you.

    Have there been some wrongheaded criticisms of the book, and of Jessica? Of course. This is the internets, how could it be otherwise? But has all the criticism been unproductive? Not remotely. Not remotely. There’s been a tremendous amount of important stuff said, and if you’re not taking notes, you’re missing a great opportunity to grow as an activist.

  84. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Do the folks who are raising these issues have some sort of power over you? Are they doing something tangible to prevent you from getting down to the hard work it takes to actually make change?

    Can you say Ralph Nader? Fomenting divisiveness internally guarantees that we’ll lose the bigger battles. There’s working in coalitions, and then there’s internal power struggles and back-biting that makes moving forward impossible. At some point, the people who really want to make change look outward rather than inward.

  85. May 21, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    It’s a little scary; a little Stalinistic.

    Rhetoric like that is certainly going to help resolve this tension. Thanks! You’re a real conflict resolution expert.

    The problem is that this so-called criticism doesn’t really seem to be useful criticism.

    This is your opinion. Your opinion. You may not agree with the criticism, but that does not make the criticism unhelpful or groundless.

    Eventually, pragmatists like me and Steve want to get down to the hard work it takes to actually make change

    Oh for God’s sake. This is the hard work. Shutting dissenters up within a movement–what you’re proposing to do–is not the hard work. Hard work involves listening to everyone within a movement and trying to see their point of view and help bring a consensus, even if you have real problems with what the opposite side is saying.

  86. May 21, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Indeed it does, but the only context you’re providing here is that you yourself would not object to being called a theory whore. You left out a key portion of the context: That remark was made to lump women of color who criticized the book in with a white woman Amanda disagreed with during the burqa discussions. I personally think that’s a real problem, and with all the talk of silencing and erasure going on today, pretending that “theory whores” wasn’t a perfect example of both is disingenuous. We don’t have to take these women seriously, because they’re just a bunch of theory whores.

    Wait what? Seriously? Wow, if it came across that way, it’s not what I intended. And a quick clarifying point: Are you saying that the context of my use of “theory whores” has something to do with Amanda and the burqa picture? Because if that’s the case, I’m not seeing the connection, but maybe I’m misreading or just missing something huge.

    Regarding the FFF discussion: Did any of the women who are criticizing Jessica trot out tons of theory for support? If they did, I didn’t see it. I was using “theory whore” to refer to myself and to women like me who have academic backgrounds, who love feminist theory and whose feminisms have been shaped by theory. It was not, at all, intended to target the WOC who have responded to FFF, any more than the “25-year-old grad student” (also self-referential) was intended to. I recognize that some of the women who are writing about FFF are into theory, and some are grad students, but damn, it was definitely not intended as a reference to them, and I’m kind of shocked that it’s being construed that way.

  87. May 21, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Fomenting divisiveness internally guarantees that we’ll lose the bigger battles.

    So glad we have you and Steve to define what those battles should be.

  88. bluestockingsrs
    May 21, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Oh for God’s sake. This is the hard work. Shutting dissenters up within a movement–what you’re proposing to do–is not the hard work. Hard work involves listening to everyone within a movement and trying to see their point of view and help bring a consensus, even if you have real problems with what the opposite side is saying.

    Yes, yes, yes!

    It is only divisive because we frame it that way. Criticism is just that, a place from which to launch discussion, to perhaps come up with a better or effective approach where everyone’s needs are addressed. Moving on with the “hard work” make invisible the fact that many of us struggle with the “hard work” every damn day of our lives in the middle of these intersections being ignored by “progressive” movements.

  89. May 21, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Poor little shark, getting jumped so many times by this thread in the last few hours. “All I wanted to do was swim along, breathe in some fresh (salt) water, and maybe eat a seal or two. Instead I have to hear about how people are Stalinists for not uncritically embracing a book and deal with this all-caps bullshit.”

  90. May 21, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Yeah, Jill just said that Jessica didn’t write the book to impress or convert that theory whores or 25 year-old grad students. Here are the lines:

    That was Jessica’s point — not to impress the theory-whores out there. Not to convert the 25-year-old grad student. Not to open the eyes of the 60-year-old veteran feminist who spent her whole life on the front lines. But to reach out to the younger women who have been scared away from feminism by the conservative backlash and an unsympathetic media.

    This is in the middle of a paragraph explaining how she (Jill) would have responed to FFF as a teenager but not academic theoretical feminism (which she had just said she loves).

    Also, I think the only problem with Jill’s original post was that she didn’t acknowledge WOC criticisms at all. I think it’s a pretty ungenerous reading to suggest that she’s trying to dismiss all criticisms of the book with her response to particular criticisms, especially since she explicitly says she’s not doing that.

  91. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    So glad we have you and Steve to define what those battles should be.

    Hey, if you don’t want to work on the important stuff (like, you know, changing laws and electing good politicians) then you can go ahead and post away on blogs until eternity.

  92. May 21, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Oh for God’s sake. This is the hard work.

    Um, yeah. That. That thing Callie said.

  93. nausicaa
    May 21, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Oh for God’s sake. This is the hard work.

    Ok, I see the narcissism inherent in your version of feminism. I’ll stick with my own, thanks.

  94. bluestockingsrs
    May 21, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Um, it is narcissism personified when one cannot step out of one’s own experience and listen with compassion to the experiences of another, truly listen and appreciate that another’s experience is as valid as your own.

  95. May 21, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Jill, I’m sorry–I’m an idiot. You’re right; I was mixing up your post with something said at my place which, on review, didn’t even use that phrase in the first place.

    Basically what Heraclitus said about the shark at this point. If I’m mixing up posts and threads this badly, it’s clearly past time for me to quit.

  96. May 21, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Hey, if you don’t want to work on the important stuff (like, you know, changing laws and electing good politicians)

    Gosh, I didn’t even think about that stuff! If only angry woc and their allies thought about laws and politicians… but their brains are rotten from staring at computer screens! Bless you for being here to guide us all, oh wise one.

    Could you provide a more complete list as to what goals all feminists should be pursuing? In case we feel tempted to think on our own again? Also could you enlist Steve to help write the list?

  97. May 21, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Ok, I see the narcissism inherent in your version of feminism. I’ll stick with my own, thanks.

    Does that make you Ross Perot?

  98. May 21, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Ok I know I wanted to get out of this, but I can’t help but eat the bait. I am a big believer in not coddling people who are screaming for attention they really dont deserve.

    bluestocking stars – you have internet access, you’re priveledged. you’re American, you’re priveledged. You have an education, probably a college education, you’re priveledged. What have I disproven? Nothing. Calling something priveledged without proving something is priveldged and showing how that impacts their argument does nothing, it is spitting in the wind and saying its raining. Plus, you know nothing about me but my name, so that’s a lot of generalizing about my identity, wouldn’t you say? To say that something is ceaselessly priveledged, is a rope-a-dope way to make an argument. Actually, it’s not an argument at all.

    And I could call you’re post embarassing, but what would that prove? If you’ve got something to say, say it, don’t pretend like you made an argument by throwing confetti in the air. And believe me, if I came off as priveledged, you’d love to hear how condescending it sounds to be told to go back and read some books. I’ve heard some pretty arrogant things in my life, but you’re pretty close to the top. I assume your arrogance is a defense mechanism, but it certainly doesn’t mean a damn thing to me.

    Brooklyn – profanity is not going to make your argument seem any better, and if I shut the fuck up, who will give you a chance to make pointless arguments that further alienate people? I would gladly engage in a criticism, if you would stick to an argument, but you keep shifting to whatever suits you. What you’re doing is attacking a Progressive, not constructively, but meanly and it has the effect of taking her down before she even takes off.

    And what does the fact that I’m a man have anything to do with this debate? Would you really prefer that as a man I give a rats ass about feminism? You’re lucky I read your stuff much later in life, after I got to know many feminists, or you would have turned me off to the whole movement alltogether. I mean, would that make you happier? Sometimes its reasonable to point out a person’s biases, but other times its called an ad-hominem, particularly when you don’t prove how my gender affects my argument.

    So wait. It’s not progressive for people to criticize Jessica’s book. That’s divisive. It is progressive, though, to criticize the people who criticize Jessica’s book, because they’re “dissing allies.” But when people criticize you for criticizing people who criticize Jessica’s book, that’s divisive again, and it’s detracting from the real focus, and you’re not going to participate in it.

    Have I got that right?

    Did you seriously just say “But when people criticize you for criticizing people who criticize Jessica’s book, that’s devisive” as some kind of argument? But what about the people who critisize the people who critsize the carpeteners of the people who critisize the desks of the people who critisize the… please. What a load of bs. I never said it was not progressive to attack Jessica, I suggested its not productive. Again, that’s a straw man logical fallacy, which you seem to revel in.

    This whole debate leaves people wondering what the fuck you’re angry at. Luckily for me, I have no real “internet persona” to give a shit about, so you will hear no apologies from me. I think you’re full of crap and you’re answer is just to up the ante every post to try and make it seem like if you’re REALLY angry that must mean there’s a really good reason why. Bullshit.

    Bottom Line, IMPO – the p is for priveledged – it is far FAR easier to attack someone who sticks their neck out than it is to throw internet bombs from the comfort of your computer. Jessica has name, her picture, her LIFE on the internet. What do you have? Very little on the line. Nobody is going to write about you blog after blog, attacking your writings or your books. This debate is the end of the line for you. So you never have to get a taste of your own medicine, and that’s unfortunate.

  99. Blackamazon
    May 21, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    first of STeve no one is going to attack people.

    Are you serious ARE YOU SERIOUS

    Cause BFP didn;t jsut go in hiding or I dont get called stupoid or told im an ugly bitch or called the JErry Falwaell of race.

  100. bluestockingsrs
    May 21, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    I will break McKean’s Law and point out the following: Yes, but I can spell privileged.

    Which apparently is a privilege in and of itself.

    And before you label me as arrogant, I think you should check to see what your house is made of.

    I know full well I am arrogant, but so are both of these posts by you on this subject.

    You don’t get to be an expert here, you get to have an opinion, that’s it.

    My opinion, as I stated previously, is that you don’t know what you are talking about, so perhaps it is a good idea to figure that out before you argue a position that isn’t even an accurate representation of the criticisms of the book, feminism in general or the history of the women’s movement for the last 250 years. I am not criticizing Jessica herself (at least for my part), but the reaction to WOC and others criticism as somehow divisive or not helpful or whatever.

    Or is this the knight in shining armor schtick?

  101. May 21, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    It’s a good thing we have objective, kindly men like Steve around to tell us how feminism ought to work. Otherwise, well, gosh, we might never figure it out!

    P.S. Steve, if you’re such a stalwart feminist and anti-racist ally, how on earth can you suggest that you might be driven away from an entire social justice movement because a couple of people in it aren’t nice to you? With those kind of allies, we could use a few more enemies.

    P.S. #2. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant here, middle-class background in which it was always assumed that of COURSE I’d go to university after high school. Yeah, I have privilege. Is it fun to admit that there are things which make my life easier which I didn’t earn, and which are routinely denied to other women? No, of course not. But going “La la la la, I can’t HEAR you” at women of colour who speak truths that makes me feel uncomfortable is not going to fix anything. In fact, it’s actively unhelpful, not only to women of colour, but to me.

  102. Chan Usuye
    May 21, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Steve – People are angry because we cannot stop for a second and read and think and give ourselves a few minutes to process their experience – and acknowledge that their experience is different from our own but that doesn’t mean that the difference makes it hurt any less. The divisiveness of our movement is not the so-called “complaining” that happens, it’s the fact that we can’t take a few lines, a few minutes to metaphorically look the other person in the eyes and say “I know, you’re hurt, we’re all hurt and I’m going to listen and change.” If we can’t listen to each other, then we have no movement – THAT is the diviseness.

    Take a minute and think about it.

  103. Mandolin
    May 21, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    I am amused picturing Steve going back to Daily Kos or some other place where the “women’s studies” set is ignored, and trying to explain how important solidarity among feminists is, while they smack him down saying, “Fuck the feminists; they’re just divisive between liberals.”

    Maybe politics shouldn’t be about each group telling the group with slightly less power to shut up and sit down, because they’re being divisive and their needs aren’t as important. If he’s made it out of the “liberals first” to the “maybe what women need matters’ group, one could hope he could make the leap from “some women matter” to “all women matter, regardless of color.”

  104. May 21, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Ok so after my posts. I’ve been attacked for my perceived lack of knowledge of feminism, the “knight in shining armor” attacking my motives, doubting my commitment to feminism and social justice with “if you’re such a stalwart feminist” argument, and the suggesting that with allies like me, you might as well have me as an enemy. How pleasant. I am so very glad to be of service to you.

    Newsflash, you know nothing about me, so don’t throw around attacks like you know my life. It’s sad I even have to say those kinds of things. What do I have to do? Do I have to sit here and say that my girlfriend is a person of color, why do you force me to say that? It sounds so shallow and disgusting to use her as a defense even as I write it. And what on earth am I defending anymore? I don’t even know. You keep hinting that it’s “so typical” because I’m a man that my ceaseless priveledge prevents me from caring. You demand personal details about people’s lives just to give them credibility on the issues. Do you understand that everything you’ve said is so hurtful to people who feel that they care about social justice too?

    Nothing I’ve written suggests I oppose feminism, or what you ladies are doing for social justice. I don’t doubt your beliefs, I am upset at all the friendly fire you’ve started.

    PS Mandalyn – Take your DailyKos imagination, and shove it. These were written long before you and this thread came to town lady.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/3/27/32257/9434
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/3/8/211617/7370

    You want to read my priveledged thoughts on feminism. Go head. Attack me.

    http://www.washingtoncritic.com/?page_id=65

    Like I said, the straw men you’ve created to attack me, are sad. People who read what I write know that I rarely get this angry at fellow Progressives – but in this case, you completely pushed every button I have. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll take a couple hours off to have some dinner before I come back and see more arguments attacking who I am rather than what I write. And it’s sad, this isn’t about me, it shouldn’t even be about Jessica. It all began with one woman telling HER story, and HER opinion, and trying to make a difference.

    What a sinner.

  105. Kali
    May 21, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Gah.
    Steve, women HATE men who are patronising. Feminists especially. Well, me, especially especially. So I might be exaggerating when I say that all the women you ever speak to that way secretly want to kill you for it, no matter how polite they’re acting. But I bet I’m not exaggerating much.

  106. Mandolin
    May 21, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    No, you have to be respectful and not say priveleged, stupid things.

    However, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was saying that you understand Kos is screwed up, because “shut up, you’re hurting the cause” is a bad argument. So why are you turning around and making it within the feminist movement? Women of color are just as deserving of a voice within feminism as feminists are of a voice within liberalism.

    “before you came to town lady” means what, exactly? Are you referring to when I started posting on Alas? Because I’ve been hanging around these boards for about a year and a half, and the dates on your links appear to be in March of this year.

    Anyway, other people have debunked your arguments well enough that I don’t feel I have much more to add. I just thought it was interesting that you were striving to get over male privelege, but got stuck on the offensiveness of some WOC expressing thoughts, criticisms and frustrations that don’t go with the flow of what white people have defined as the most important goals of feminism.

  107. May 21, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Let me ask you a serious question, Steve. What response were you hoping your first post would receive?

    Dozens of people have posted a wide variety of different critiques of FFF and Feministing in recent days, coming from all sorts of different perspectives and all sorts of different agendas. And you swooped in and told them all — us all — that we’re full of it. You didn’t identify a single valid argument in all of the hundreds of comments that have been made here. You dismissed it all wholesale.

    Seriously, what did you think was going to happen when you did that?

  108. Sylvia
    May 21, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Wait what? Seriously? Wow, if it came across that way, it’s not what I intended. And a quick clarifying point: Are you saying that the context of my use of “theory whores” has something to do with Amanda and the burqa picture? Because if that’s the case, I’m not seeing the connection, but maybe I’m misreading or just missing something huge.

    Jill, Amanda brought up the connection on Ilyka’s blog, and that’s when she started branding me and others as “theory whores” for criticisms of the book.

  109. Sylvia
    May 21, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    And don’t feel confused, by the way: the connection didn’t make a damned bit of sense then, and it doesn’t make any sense now. It was just a way to discredit what people were saying. Again.

  110. May 21, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Steve, Steve, victimized Steve.

    Let me lay it out for you: What Went Wrong for Steve.

    Exhibit A:

    The bottom line (IMHO) is that Jessica wrote a book she thought would help the women’s movement. If peope want to fault her for that, then they need to do some serious soul searching to figure out what’s really bothering them,

    So what’s really bothering women of color, Steve? How come you know and they don’t? Post after post has been about people (poc and not) expressing “what’s really bothering them,” and people talking about it. Have you even read them? Or did you just read and disregard?

    Exhibit B:

    here’s a factoid: the women’s movement is in a war right now with people who want to deprive you of your right to reproductive choice, curtailing access to emergency contraception, and making it harder for college students to even get birth control. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    This would be where you (1) clearly identified yourself as a man, as opposed to us; (2) gave us women folk the biggest newsflash (factoid?) of our lives–that people want to deprive us of rights! and (3) told us what issues feminists should care about most. Oh Steve.

    Exhibit C:

    So to make a blogwar over a feminist book getting published is the very reason why feminists have struggled politically.

    Unbelievable. That’s where you blame women, or woc perhaps, for feminists struggling politically. Applause, hugs, and kisses for that one!

    Exhibit D:

    The far-right of this country doesn’t divide this much on their issues

    This is where you encourage us to be more like the far-right. Super.

    Third wave, second wave, just get on a damn wave, and be happy that a publisher put another feminist book on the bookshelves,

    This is where you remind us, one more time, to shut up and stop complaining.

    Steve, no one is judging you because of your name, or because you didn’t spill personal details, or whatever you’re whining about now. We’re judging you on your dumbass post.

  111. May 21, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Do I have to sit here and say that my girlfriend is a person of color, why do you force me to say that? It sounds so shallow and disgusting to use her as a defense even as I write it.

    So don’t. I’m guessing she didn’t write your original post. You did, and that post is what people are pissed off about, I believe.

    Steve, I for one don’t care about what you look like, who you date, what you’ve written on other websites… I care that you stomped in insulted people’s competence, then acted horrified and persecuted when some of them told you to fuck off.

    Simple way to clean up the mess: “Sorry I wrote that obnoxious post.” As opposed to “WHY do you all HATE me?? THIS is why your movement is FAILING!!”

  112. May 21, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Effectively, I have no reproductive rights, but I am supposed to care about middle class white women and Roe v Wade? The same women who watched these rights erode for me with a little grumbling but it wasn’t so bad, because they have the money if they need an abortion, they have a car to get to the clinic, they have a better job with sick leave so that they could take a couple days off if they have to. Sorry if I don’t have any sympathy.

    It has been WOC, POC, and the working class poor who have been talking about these things for years. The canary in the coal mine that liberals and feminists ignore. But you’re right, in solidarity let’s talk about Bill O’Reilly or sex toys instead.

    Donna, I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. If we’re talking about middle class white women as a general group, then they’re still watching abortion rights be eroded away — but I agree, there’s much more self-interest involved. But if we’re talking about mainstream feminists, they weren’t just grumbling when repro rights were being stripped away from low-income women — they took it to the Supreme Court. And they lost (a couple of times). Of course, the media didn’t cover those cases too much (the Hyde Amendment case in particular), and most people (even progressives) don’t know a whole bunch about them. But for active pro-choice feminists, the Hyde case was one of many devastating decisions and political tactics. They didn’t ignore the canary in the coal mine. Unsurprisingly, the attacks focused on the group with the least power, and is extending outward. But just because the attacks started there doesn’t mean that other feminists ignored it until it touched them personally.

  113. May 22, 2007 at 12:00 am

    Regarding the FFF discussion: Did any of the women who are criticizing Jessica trot out tons of theory for support? If they did, I didn’t see it. I was using “theory whore” to refer to myself and to women like me who have academic backgrounds, who love feminist theory and whose feminisms have been shaped by theory. It was not, at all, intended to target the WOC who have responded to FFF, any more than the “25-year-old grad student” (also self-referential) was intended to. I recognize that some of the women who are writing about FFF are into theory, and some are grad students, but damn, it was definitely not intended as a reference to them, and I’m kind of shocked that it’s being construed that way.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I think perhaps you were there being conflated with Amanda, who has made repeated and even recent comments (see Ilyka’s) to the effect of “multi-degreed asswipes” and the “grad student set” (by which she now apparently means Sylvia, among others) whose critiques she won’t take seriously on account of someone (i.e. me) said some nasty shit about her like nine months ago.

  114. May 22, 2007 at 12:08 am

    as a feminist, let me tell you, white women are no more privileged than any others.

    *thud*

    Um, oookay. But, uh, speaking as a white woman who’s as self-absorbed as anyone else but has tried to be a -little- observant of How Things Work over the past while:

    Speak for yourself.

  115. May 22, 2007 at 2:05 am

    callie – please. I am not victimized, and I’ve never said as much. But most of the attacks against me were just plain wrong. You attacked who I’m not, instead of who I am, because that’s the best you can do.

  116. May 22, 2007 at 2:11 am

    also I NEVER lumped every attack against Jessica together, I said that arguments, as best I can tell, against her, are less motivated about her book but about other things. Go re-read my post #68 and check it.

    ‘We’re judging you on your dumbass post. ”

    Please. Why should I even take you seriously when you call my post “dumbass”? Half of the stuff argued against me has been BS calling my history of feminism “embarassing” (without backing it up), saying that I’m a knight in shining armor (without backing it up), saying my post is ceaslessly priveledged (without backing it up), saying that I blame women for the failures of feminism (without backing it up.. i said THIS blogwar, not WOMEN).

    My original post, was far kinder to you than it should have been, because you’ve lied and manipulated so many times in this blogwar, that you have very little credibility, in my opinion. Nearly every argument, with only a few exceptions, has been a straw man.

  117. May 22, 2007 at 5:13 am

    Steve, you get better and better.

    I am not victimized, and I’ve never said as much.

    “I’ve been attacked”
    “attacking my motives”
    “you know nothing about me”
    “don’t throw around attacks”
    “why do you force me to say that?”
    “Go head. Attack me.”
    “more arguments attacking who I am”

    Right, you weren’t implying you were being victimized at all. Again, I’ll give it one more shot: these ceaseless blood-thirsty attacks had nothing to do with who you are (I have no idea, I’m not terribly interested) but, again, with one post in which you made a total ass of yourself. See the exhibits.

    also I NEVER lumped every attack against Jessica together,

    I love that this is immediately followed by:
    “you’ve lied and manipulated so many times in this blogwar, that you have very little credibility”

    That “you” would be referring to… me (seems unlikely, since I just joined the discussion)? WOC? Everyone who disagrees with you? Feminists in general?

    Why should I even take you seriously when you call my post “dumbass”?

    See Exhibits A-E, Steve. It was, indeed, one big dumbass post.

  118. May 22, 2007 at 5:27 am

    Shorter Steve: Dear God! What about the white men?

  119. May 22, 2007 at 5:46 am

    when you call someone victimized, it suggests that I suffer discrimination as a white male, which I have never suggested. But absolutely, I’ve been attacked unfairly for a lot of things I’ve never said, and for things that I do not represent.

    The “lies and manipulations” are not in short supply.

    A) “So what’s really bothering women of color, Steve? How come you know and they don’t?”

    I never claimed to speak for women of color. But apparently you claim to. Moreover, had I suggested that I am a woman of color, that would disqualify this entire exhibit. This was always about unfairly attacking jessica, but for you its about projecting the injustices of society and feminism as a whole onto her, and anyone else you can get ahold of.

    B) “This would be where you (1) clearly identified yourself as a man, as opposed to us; (2) gave us women folk the biggest newsflash (factoid?) of our lives–that people want to deprive us of rights! and (3) told us what issues feminists should care about most. Oh Steve.”

    How did I identify myself as a man? And if I had, who the fuck cares? And two, the term “newsflash” is supposed to be sarcastic. I would have thought that was obvious. Saying that as some kind of point is well… pointless.

    C) “Unbelievable. That’s where you blame women, or woc perhaps, for feminists struggling politically. Applause, hugs, and kisses for that one!”

    It should be unbelievable because I never said it. I never blamed women OR women of color once. Complete fabrication

    D) “This is where you encourage us to be more like the far-right. Super.”

    All social movements are built on unity, whether its for evil or good.

    E) “This is where you remind us, one more time, to shut up and stop complaining.”

    No, you have very little basis to attack Jessica as being discriminatory for her book. I never told you to shut up about injustices committed against women of color, or against women. Another fabrication.

    “That “you” would be referring to… me (seems unlikely, since I just joined the discussion)? WOC? Everyone who disagrees with you? Feminists in general?”

    If you read what I’ve said, I’ve never attacked “feminists in general” or women of color.

  120. May 22, 2007 at 5:58 am

    PS – i think you’re posts are pretty stupid and embarassing too. guess that’s not the equality we were all looking for though, huh?

  121. May 22, 2007 at 6:13 am

    Steve, you’re hopeless. My last suggestion: read more, write less.

    Ilyka, I love that post of yours about the conversation with your man. I read it a few days ago for the first time. It’s helpful in a lot of ways, especially in the context of The Great Book Debate.

  122. May 22, 2007 at 6:25 am

    If what you wrote were suggestions, I’d hate to hear what your demands are.

  123. Manar
    May 22, 2007 at 6:38 am

    I really don’t see where Steve’s arguments have been “debunked” here. Most attacks against him and Jessica have been unsubstantial and unfair. It seems like the theme here is to blame Jessica for all that is wrong with feminism. It is clear that this is Steve’s main objection to the criticisms. Jessica can only speak of HER experiences, or what inspired her. Her book was not meant to tell women of color what it’s like to be a woman of color. And it was not intended to make a ground-breaking discovery. It was aimed to introduce the notion of feminism to young….Jessicas. So if you have an issue with her style, tone, book cover, or content, that’s fine. Let’s discuss it. But if your sole intention is to put her up on a pedestal and demean her for larger issues in society, then you are being dishonest if not destructive in your criticisms.

    Some commenters seek not only to dehumanize Jessica, but also everyone who supports her. The worst one being a blatant attack on Steve for simply being a man. It is easy to debase someone into a category of the “other.” When in doubt – attack their gender, right? Where have I seen that before? Oh right, on the chauvinistic Men’s News Daily type sites. Some readers either don’t understand what Steve’s saying, or they just want to talk about their thesis in college. Calling his posts “dumbass” and “embarrassing.” Wow! Deep. You attack him for what he did not say – labeling him as dismissive of WOC when the only thing he’s dismissive of is the WWIII declared on Jessica and the malicious defamation of her character for simply dedicating her life towards feminism and writing a book about it. The marginalization of women of color is a real issue, but the disingenuous and non-contributive manner in which some have chosen to talk about it is far more harmful to the issue and to feminists. If Jessica’s book or blog has made a woman of color personally feel excluded, then let’s talk about it or how it could have been better – solutions etc. But please, this crusade to make her out to be David Duke’s long lost grand-daughter and for Steve to be some stereotype of a ‘knight in shining armor” for calling people out on it is not exactly a good or constructive way to communicate a point across.

  124. Mandolin
    May 22, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Can we stop with the WWIII bullshit?

    http://hugoboy.typepad.com/hugo_schwyzer/2006/05/ive_been_thinki.html

    When men find themselves in feminist settings (like a women’s studies class) they are almost always in the minority. When I was taking women’s studies classes at Berkeley in the 1980s, I was usually one of only two or three men in the room. In my women’s history classes over the past decade, men average 10-20% of the students, never more. Even when they make up as much as a fifth of the class, they generally do less than a tenth of the talking. That isn’t surprising, given the subject matter — I was often fairly quiet in my own undergraduate days.

    But one thing I remember from my own college days that I see played out over and over again is this male habit of making nervous jokes about being attacked by feminists. In my undergrad days, I often prefaced a comment by saying “I know I’ll catch hell for this”. I’ve seen male students do as they did today and pretend to run; I’ve seen them deliberately sit near the door, and I once had one young man make an elaborate show (I kid you not) of putting on a football helmet before speaking up!

    All of this behavior reflects two things: men’s genuine fear of being challenged and confronted, and the persistence of the stereotype of feminists as being aggressive “man-bashers.” The painful thing about all this, of course, is that no man is in any real physical danger in the classroom — or even outside of it — from feminists. Name one incident where an irate women’s studies major physically assaulted a male classmate for something he said? Women are regularly beaten and raped — even on college campuses — but I know of no instance where a man found himself a victim of violence for making a sexist remark in a college feminist setting! “Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen, in other words, at least not on campus. But that doesn’t stop men from using (usually half in jest) their own exaggerated fear of physical violence to make a subtle point about feminists.

    There’s a conscious purpose to this sort of behavior. Joking about getting beaten up (or putting on the football helmet) sends a message to young women in the classroom: “Tone it down. Take care of the men and their feelings. Don’t scare them off, because too much impassioned feminism is scary for guys.” And you know, as silly as it is, the joking about man-bashing almost always works! Time and again, I’ve seen it work to silence women in the classroom, or at least cause them to worry about how to phrase things “just right” so as to protect the guys and their feelings. It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the young man doing it — it forces women students to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger. It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away.

    Steve, also, wandered in with his “go ahead and attack me” and other claims of hyperbolic impending doom (see the comment that listed them), and so did Layla upthread. The exaggerated conflation of criticism with attack is probably partly because the linguistic metaphors in English sure are violence-heavy, but there’s a lot of defensiveness there, too.

  125. May 22, 2007 at 8:11 am

    It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away.

    Yup. He actually did it explicitly here, though I’m not the first to point it out:

    You’re lucky I read your stuff much later in life, after I got to know many feminists, or you would have turned me off to the whole movement alltogether.

    Also, I find it funny that Manar, Steve, and Nausicaa have decided my opinion of Jessica/FFF for me (as well as deciding, in Steve’s case, that I’m a woc…?) while I have yet to state my opinion on the whole thing. The key reason being that I’m trying to listen to everyone involved instead of marching in and declaring what is and is not true, since I’m fairly new to the issue.

  126. May 22, 2007 at 8:31 am

    The marginalization of women of color is a real issue, but the disingenuous and non-contributive manner in which some have chosen to talk about it is far more harmful to the issue and to feminists.

    So the way in which some people have tried to combat the problem of the marginalization of women of color is “far more harmful” than the marginalization of women of color itself?

    Are you really sure that that’s how you want to frame the issue?

    Most attacks against him and Jessica have been unsubstantial and unfair. It seems like the theme here is to blame Jessica for all that is wrong with feminism.

    So the criticisms of Jessica have been insubstantial and unfair, while your characterization of those criticisms as blaming her “for all that is wrong with feminism,” in contrast, is a substantive, fair, constructive contribution to mutual understanding. Am I getting this right?

    So if you have an issue with her style, tone, book cover, or content, that’s fine. Let’s discuss it.

    We have been discussing it, in detail and at great length. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen you or Steve participating in those specific, focussed discussions. Why not?

    I’ll ask you the question I asked Steve — a question he never answered, by the way. What are you hoping to accomplish by this intervention? What’s your goal?

  127. Manar
    May 22, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Mandolin – If you read comment #79:

    “Because, that post up there, that is embarrassing. But then only men are allowed to spout off about things they know nothing about, oh could I forget.”

    I don’t know think the hostility against Steve was a figment of his imagination.

    Callie- I don’t recall mentioning your name in my post. But if you felt like I was talking about you, perhaps it’s slightly maybe not entirely apparent where you stand on the issue.

    Brooklynite-

    “So the way in which some people have tried to combat the problem of the marginalization of women of color is “far more harmful” than the marginalization of women of color itself?”

    No I didn’t say more harmful THAN the issue. I said more harmful TO the issue – meaning not being to resolve it.

    “So the criticisms of Jessica have been insubstantial and unfair, while your characterization of those criticisms as blaming her “for all that is wrong with feminism,” in contrast, is a substantive, fair, constructive contribution to mutual understanding. Am I getting this right?”

    If you feel like my portrayal of the criticisms as insubstantial and unfair or as an exaggeration then I’ll take your criticism of my criticism into consideration. My view is that Jessica has put herself out there (not easy to do even if privileged) and has subsequently taken the brunt of certain problems within feminism which I think surpass the premise of her book. At the same time, some critics fail to recognize Jessica’s own limitations (she’s not a woman of color). My question is: What do you want from Jessica or that she would do differently? How would you offer a solution to what you see as the issues in her blog and book? If we want to constructive…

    In response to your question, what I hope to accomplish is to distinguish valid criticisms of Jessica’s book and blog from unfair (and quite frankly mean) ones. I don’t think Jessica is racist or has racist intentions. I think she is a feminist that realizes her limitations and privileges. I’ve seen personal attacks made at Steve and others who have dared to disagree. Only to have his post called “dumbass,” a man who “spouts off” about things he knows nothing about, “defensive” and probably thinks of feminists as “men-bashers.” Telling him to go read a book. I mean, the personal attacks just don’t stop. It’s one ad hominem after another. Putting words in people’s mouths.

    Albeit probably unintentionally, you just tried to make me out to be a woman of color who thinks there’s something “more harmful THAN” the marginalization of women of color. Also, Callie has decided that I know what her opinion is, when I didn’t even mention her. I’m just giving you examples of how one minute we’re saying one thing, the next minute commenters have put 50 words (this may not be an accurate number) in our mouths. You may accuse me or others of doing the same thing – putting words in people’s mouths – but I’d like to think I didn’t mention anyone in name (besides Jessica and Steve) in my original post – only made observations and overall criticisms.

  128. May 22, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Also, Callie has decided that I know what her opinion is, when I didn’t even mention her.

    Can you not read your own posts?

    You quoted my words and then spoke in the second person for the rest of the paragraph. This is what we typically call mentioning or talking to someone. Watch and learn:

    Calling his posts “dumbass” and “embarrassing.” Wow! Deep. You attack him for what he did not say …

    … and so on and so forth.

    So either you were mentioning me (the only person who said “dumbass”) or you were lumping everyone who was critical of Steve together, which of course you’d never do, but if you did (which you wouldn’t, of course) you’d still be mentioning me.

    I don’t think Jessica is racist or has racist intentions.

    For the 10,000th time, who said Jessica was racist? Have you followed this discussion on Feministe at all? Apparently not. If you want to join the discussion, do, but that’s quite a different thing from coming in here and telling the girls to stop “hating Jessica for devoting her life to feminism.” What a crock.

  129. Mandolin
    May 22, 2007 at 11:54 am

    I didn’t say there was no hostility toward Steve. I was criticizing the hyperbolic language that is used to frame hostility when it comes from people who aren’t generally considered to have the right to be hostile (women to men, woc to white people), and which you yourself brought to a ridiculous level with WWWIII.

    Anyway, I’m out of here now, since it seems like the conversation is definitely at the meta point.

  130. May 22, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Meta indeed; I head out as well.

  131. Roy
    May 22, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Hard work involves listening to everyone within a movement and trying to see their point of view and help bring a consensus, even if you have real problems with what the opposite side is saying.

    Yes! That’s the damn truth. I almost cheered when I read that.

    There are lots times when I’ve been confronted with examples of the privilege I benefit from, and sometimes, my first, gut reaction is to get defensive or take it personally. Especially if it’s criticism of something that I feel strongly about, or that I’ve put a lot of work into.

    It’s fucking hard for me to step back sometimes… but it’s been important, too. Even if I don’t end up nodding my head and saying “you’re absolutely right!” I think it’s important. Sometimes the issue is about me, sometimes it’s about bigger issues and I just take the heat. In either case, it can help me grow and learn, and work towards some kind of understanding.

    I’ve been feeling really frustrated this week, but that comment really hit home for me. That’s what’s been frustrating me. Thanks for giving it voice.

  132. May 22, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks :)

  133. May 22, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Callie (and others) – once again you’re distorted the issue. Read closely what you yourself wrote. Words like CONSENSUS. “TRYING TO SEE THEIR POINT OF VIEW.” Sounds to me like dialogue! You really think you’ve been apart of that process?

    Dialogue involves both being heard AND listening. And while I can’t speak for anyone but myself, as far as I can tell you haven’t heard a single thing that’s been said by me or others. I have said OVER and OVER and OVER that I concede and agree that women of color are oppressed, and if you really read my posts, I also said that feminism has not been inclusive of WOC and all sexual orientations.

    I’m sitting next to my undergrad Women’s Studies textbook (Feminist Frontiers 5th edition), and nearly half the book is devoted to women of color. The first chapter is entitled “Diversity and difference.” I’m sitting close to a paper I wrote on dissecting “Distinctions in Western Women’s Experience: Ethnicity, Class, and Social Change” by Rosalinda Méndez González. Discussing women of color issues in feminism is STANDARD practice in most women’s studies classrooms. I’m not saying the movement is peachy, but really, you act like feminism 2007 is the same as when Betty Friedan wrote her book, it’s simply not. I’m looking right now at Rutgers University’s Women’s Studies pages, and it reads under a description, “Connected to this is the study of how other social categories–especially race and social class–affect our reality. In other words, women’s studies is not only for and about women. Though it often concentrates on women’s lives and contributions, it also examines and analyzes how we all exist within a complex web of social inequalities and privileges.”

    http://catalogs.rutgers.edu/generated/cam-ug_0608/pg22335.html

    Jill has stated she never meant to attack woc or your legimate concerns. Jessica has said as much. Manar has said so, and so on and so forth. And you, along with several others have viciously attacked for things that were never said. You almost lead people into racist comments like when I said “you” then you say “whose you, steven, is it women? feminists, women of color”. That’s fucking dishonest and you know it.

    I’m more than willing to listen to you if you would stop shouting that I’m a sexist or that I’m a bigot (which have been clearly implied about 20 times over), and if people would stop trying to crucify Jessica, then back up and claim its got nothing to do with her, then go back and say she’s representative of larger problems. yeah, I got pissed in my responses, because you told me to shut the fuck up or “engage in discussion” that’s really the tone of a dialogue right there.

    I’m reading posts by people like Kali saying “women HATE men who are patronising. Feminists especially” really? what feminist class did you learn what women find patronizing? So much for monolithic groups. How should I listen to that?

    You have not listened to a single thing I’ve stated, all you do is go on about things most people all agree with you on, including myself. Find a single instance where I have said WOC or women in general are oppressed. You won’t find it. And yet its constantly left in implication. The ONLY thing I have ever disagreed with you on has related to Jessica (that is specifically what I referred to in post 68 about unnecessary attacks, divisions, etc), same thing with Manar, etc.

    If you REALLY just wanted people to “take time to listen” you would have been constructive and said things in the spirit of improving the book like “this is a chapter that needs to be added….” instead, you just rip rip rip, along with so many other people. Your tone is always, this is whats WRONG with you, never “here’s what I suggest” or anything else. And you don’t treat this like a dialogue at all, so don’t pretend like you do.

    And i for one resent how I’ve been characterized, because I know what I said, and I can’t imagine how anyone else feels, but I bet others don’t agree with some of the things you’ve said.

  134. Manar
    May 22, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Callie- Just to clarify: When I said, “You attack him for what he did not say…” It was about those who assumed that he was dismissive of women of color (which he wasn’t ) when his whole objection was to the type of attacks people were laying on Jessica (please read the ENTIRE sentence). This was a response to a sentiment or criticism out there. Whether you espoused it or not, it’s up to you. My only response to you calling his posts “dumbass” or “embarrassing” was: Wow how deep! Not putting any words in your mouth or formulating an opinion on your behalf. Please don’t take my words out of context.

    Mandolin- If you don’t like my writing style, that’s fine. Whether you sense I’m exacerbating the hostilities or not, I am not making up the personal attacks. I am not the one who called Steve’s posts (or anyone’s post) names. I am not the one who called him “knight in shining armor,” insulted his intelligence, or told him to “go read a book” (which is patronizing btw). Others have though. My question is: Why is it so difficult to communicate without making ad hominem and personal attacks? And what if I call people out on it? I’m not victimizing anyone – just pointing out bad arguments. There’s a difference between being cogent and outright insulting.

  135. Coldorderful
    May 22, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    In terms of claiming to be an ally, it seems to me that you’re the one dissing allies and not the other way around. If someone says they support you, then take the support, because the other 90% of society claps at Ann Coulter when she drops the other F bomb on a Presidential candidate and giggles a little inside. It shocks me that so much energy is being wasted on someone who WANTS to be your ally, but just because they aren’t your ideal, is therefore not only inadequate, but discriminatory.

    Steve, are you joking? Guess what, even Bush says he supports women and POC. Does that make it true? No, I’m not comparing Jessica to Bush. It does however, take more than lip service to be a true ally. This reminds me of people excusing Biden’s statements about Obama on the grounds that “he supports civil rights.” Well, good for him. He’s a US Senator, that’s kind of his job. That doesn’t mean that I have to give him a cookie and bite me lip every time he does something unacceptable, since, hey, he actually thinks I’m a human being, even though not everyone does (gosh thanks, Senator, you’re a definite imporvemnt on Ann Coulter, and that’s just good enough). Those are some pretty low standards for being an ally you got going on there, but I guess that’s only to be expected when you think it’s “discriminatory” to not want to be someone’s ally on the basis of me always having to STFU and they never having to consider the consequences of their words or actions on our partnership. There are allies, and there are *valuable* allies. Some dude who’s like, woo, you’re so lucky you haven’t turned me off yet, you better watch how you express yourself if you want my support, let me tell what you what’s important and what you should be thinking and saying, stupid dumbass? Yeah, well, not seeming so gosh darn valuable or worth the trouble, even.

    Can you say Ralph Nader? Fomenting divisiveness internally guarantees that we’ll lose the bigger battles. There’s working in coalitions, and then there’s internal power struggles and back-biting that makes moving forward impossible. At some point, the people who really want to make change look outward rather than inward

    Okay, but here’s the thing. How is acknowledging being offended ‘fomenting divisiveness”? Again, this goes back to telling people who are offended to STFU because they don’t matter. Divisiveness has already been fomented by the original offense, but the solution is just to forget about it, because if the unimportant people have a voice, then maybe the important people will hear it and THEN we’ll have a problem. Only their feelings count, only their voices matter, only doing something that’s potentially upsetting to them is divisive. That’s how to form coalitions? “We’ll let you be here, you can vote for what we we say to and stuff, but you say one word, you’re out.”

  136. Coldorderful
    May 22, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Sorry about sorry about messing that up, I needed to open the tags before pasting in the text.

  137. May 22, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Coldorderful – THIS is why I don’t consider what’s been said “dialogue” you begin your “dialogue” by issuing charges of not really being a good feminist, or a good Progressive, at people who have devoted YEARS to the cause. To say that Jessica has only paid “lip service” to important issues like this, is totally unfair. Discussions immediately begin on the defensive, rather than at a point of constructive dialogue. You don’t begin dialogue with “you’re an idiot and a bigot” and then say “now, lets get down to business.”

    And talk about hyperbole! One minute the attacks go from “you pay lip service to people of color and women” to saying that you are merely “aknowledging being offended” and suggesting that any disagreement with your critique amounts to “say one word and you’re out.” You characterize your attacks as being just a small, tiny little way of being heard, and then you characterize everyone else as big bad monsters who can’t stand it when you speak out. That’s how you see it, but that’s not what’s going on.

    You say she’s not a “valuable ally” well whatever, that’s your opinion. But don’t expect your opinions to not hurt other people’s feelings.

  138. May 22, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Callie – your attacks on Manar are immediately personal. Saying things like “can you not read your own posts?” You’re accusing her of being illiterate. Do you understand now why this debate is so personal? Because a lot of personal attacks are being thrown out.

    And you completely manipulated what she said. Manar said that Jessica is NOT racist, she did not accuse you of calling her racist (although a lot of mean things have been said, including that her blog isn’t a welcome place for some POC), what she MEANT was, she’s not racist, so stop treating her like she’s Satan’s spawn (that’s hyperbole, which by definition is not mean to be taken seriously but is a literary device to make you see that there’s a limit to how far your demonization can go, comprende?)

  139. Manar
    May 22, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Colderderful-

    No, I’m not comparing Jessica to Bush. It does however, take more than lip service to be a true ally.

    Yes you kind of are! When we notice a reflection of the dichotomy between women of color and white privileged women within feminism in Jessica’s book or blog, then let’s constructively talk about it without comparing her to slimy politicians as “paying lip service.” I don’t think anyone here thinks Jessica is a racist. Not shutting anyone up or down, only asking you to be fair and constructive in your criticisms. Jessica is not inerrant, and if we have concerns we can articulate them without calling her an ally not worth having. The commentary never implied that women of color don’t have legitimate concerns or that they should take a back seat or “shut the fuck up.” In fact, Steve was the one that was to told to “shut the fuck up.” No one has called you or implied that you were a “stupid dumbass.” Again with putting words in people’s mouths. Some of us are only arguing that we ought to be fair to Jessica’s own limitations. She’s a hard working feminist, and I don’t think anyone is disputing that. But when you say that it’s low standard to consider Jessica an ally, it seems counterproductive and mean.

    It is not the acknowledgment of being offended that forments divisiveness. And no one is saying forget about it. Divisiveness can forment from failing to communicate (either side) and failing to break down the racial and class dichotomies to make the movement more cohesive and inclusive (that includes failure of white privileged women to acknowledge the problem and resolve the marginalization of women of color). However, we shouldn’t be breaking down earnest feminists (comparing them to Bush – I mean, ouch!!) in an effort to resolve the issue.

  140. Coldorderful
    May 22, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Steve, that doesn’t matter. If someone has a problem with your words or actions, whatever they are, they’re upset. Getting all defensive about how you devoted YEARS to the cause isn’t going to accomplish any kind of dialogue. Bona fides don’t really impress anyone who has a problem with us, Yes, you or I devoted years to the cause, so what? That doesn’t give anyone a free pass. That is exactly what was said abut Biden, that he devoted years to voting for Civil Rights Bills, and what exactly have you done? You’ve never done anything that compares to him, have you? That’s just avoidance and distraction. We all do some screwed up things or things that we realize later we could have done better and if someone’s upset then talking about how righteous we are in general does nothing to iron out the problem or create dialogue. I was not referring to Jessica in saying that she paid lip service to the cause, I don’t know Jessica. That’s the thing, most of this appears to be not about Jessica but about the larger dialogue and the way it’s carried out. And frankly, the bit about not being a valuable ally was referring to you, not her, you can tell that because you’re a dude and you made the arguments I was referring to. I was speaking generally about why your argument is ridiculous, that just because someone in on the right side, he or she gets a free pass and anyone who has a criticism should suck it up or move on to what you consider important. And no, I also was not comparing Biden to Ann Coulter or Bush or David Duke or Satan.

    And talk about hyperbole! One minute the attacks go from “you pay lip service to people of color and women” to saying that you are merely “aknowledging being offended” and suggesting that any disagreement with your critique amounts to “say one word and you’re out.” You characterize your attacks as being just a small, tiny little way of being heard, and then you characterize everyone else as big bad monsters who can’t stand it when you speak out. That’s how you see it, but that’s not what’s going on.

    Uh huh. Your reading comprehension skills are not like our Earth reading comprehension skills. Again, what you are saying is that Jessica is a good person, or you are a good person, or whoever else is a good person, and therefore any disagreement with her ideas or your ideas or someone else’s ideas is “an attack.” Or personal, or jealous, or whatever, any issue anyone has is based on bad motivations. That’s nonsense. And I was not replying to you, but to the person who described people who disagreed with her as “Stalinist” when I characterized her attitude as say one word and you’re out. You’re the person who refers to everything that’s said as demonization, speaking of big bad monsters. Yes, I’m sure people’s feelings are hurt when their ideas are critiqued, regardless of the larger context, or how powerful they are and how powerful their critics are not. But again, part of being a valuable ally is being able to put things in perspective and put one’s own feelings or personal feelings of loyalty and friendship aside to examine whether the larger points being raised are important.

    Yes you kind of are!

    Except wow, no I’m not! I’m sorry if it was not clear by the part of Steve’s argument I quoted that made no reference to Jessica, but I was replying to his general argument (“if *someone* says they support you, take their support, because 90% of the country claps for Ann Coulter,” uncritically accept everyone who wants to be your ally and consider yourself lucky you’ve got anyone at all), which seems to be that anyone who supports or says they support good causes is above any form of critique, and is flawed in my opinion. Because by that uncritical standard, we’d have to accept Bush as well, I’ve never seen him go before a group of women and declare his hatred. By Steve’s standard, just about everybody short of Ted Bundy is an ally and nobody can say anything if they screw up, which tells us his standard needs a bit of adjusting to make it workable. Nothing I said was intended to have anything to do with Jessica, it was only meant as a general response to a generally bizarre argument. The only reason I mentioned Jessica even once was because I wanted to make it clear I’m not referring to her, but to the types of arguments that are always made to preempt the dialogue whenever anyone voices criticisms of any statements or ideas coming from “our side.” If Jessica believes I was referring to her or comparing her to Bush, then I’m sorry Jessica, that was not my intention.

    Jessica is not inerrant, and if we have concerns we can articulate them without calling her an ally not worth having

    Thanks ever so, I did not do that, I was referring to Steve, not to Jessica. I also never said Jessica is a racist. I appreciate the lecture on what I’m saying and what was never implied when it was, but honestly, if Steve and what was it, WWIII on anyone who supports Jessica, is your model for fair dialogue that doesn’t put word’s in people’s mouths, I wish you good luck with all your endeavors.

  141. May 23, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Correction, it doesn’t matter TO YOU how the attacks on Jessica were expressed. It doesn’t matter TO YOU that people were upset about things that were never said. It doesn’t matter TO YOU that a lot of people’s integrity was questioned. But I can assure you, to some people it does matter. And as far as I’m concerned, dialogue begins in the spirit of reconciliation, not in the spirit of settling a score. So for you, the method (putting words in peoples mouths, etc), is irrelevant. And thereinlies at least part of the problem.

    As for the valuable ally bit, sorry for misreading what you wrote, I read it a second time and you’re right it is clear you are referring to me and not Jessica. I do appreciate not being considered a valuable ally though. For what it’s worth, I don’t want to be allies with anyone who thinks that of me either, or be allies with people who mislead and distort even if its to make a valid point. I bet buried deep within a lot of what has been said lies a valid point screaming to get out, but is crushed between layers of ad-hominems, straw man fallacies, and projecting whats wrong with all of society onto the shoulders of just one person.

    But so you don’t misunderstand me as well, logically, I was NOT saying that because Jessica is a good person (or anyone else) that therefore any attack on someone is unjustified or that they get a “free pass.” But I was saying that if someone’s not a racist (as you agree), and they have good intentions (as you agree), claims to want to be your ally (as you agree), it counts for something so that you don’t jump to the worst possible conclusion about what they’ve written or what they mean to say.

    I would have been happy to engage in dialogue, but after my original post (#68) I was told to shut the fuck up, said it was embarassing, etc, without justifying it whatsoever. So then yeah, it went personal and I called bullshit, and then all these gender-based attacks came at me, about me trying to be a knight and shining armor for Jessica, which had nothing to do with what I said, which is stupid shit really. About how I’m like the DailyKos type, blah blah blah. Then when I point out that many of these critiques of me personally are unjustified, I’m told “we don’t care about your personal life.” Well either don’t make it personal, or make it personal, but don’t try it both ways. Is that YOUR model for constructive dialogue?

    There’s a difference between how people in a family (allies), who fundamentally agree with each other on a certain level, constructively critisize each other, and people who are enemies attack each other. It seemed to me that the attacks going on here are what you see from right-to-left, and not inter-family dialogue.

    See, from my perspective, it sounds like people can dish it, but when people dish it back, its called silencing opposition and not fair play. Dialogue involves TWO parties, each listening and speaking to each other. You get to speak, but you also have to listen to what others say. That’s how CONSENSUS is built.

    Part of that difference between critisizing an “ally” and an “enemy” is that people are not SO harsh that they burn bridges, even when they are passionate, but so much of what has been said here has been just that harsh, and therefore not constructive. It would be hard for some people to work with others who immediately assumed they were a bigot, just because they want to see another feminist succeed, which you know is the real basis of these discussions. As near as I can tell, many of the attacks were as if people like Jessica represent what’s wrong with Feminism, which made it sound like they were enemies. And that’s just silly.

    That’s the general thrust of my point. Obviously, I became the issue, I believe because people weren’t willing to actually read what I wrote, and instead projected onto my writing comments and thoughts that were not there. And just as you say others are upset, what they said upsets me too, you just don’t think that’s justified – only YOUR outrage is justified. That’s a double standard for your “model of dialogue.” Anyone who cares about social justice, takes offense to being called a racist or sexist or anything else.

    And I also think that if you want to have a dialogue with someone, listening requires not putting words in other people’s mouths.

  142. May 23, 2007 at 2:54 am

    BTW – I never threatened to change my beliefs, but I did say that if I had met some of the people on this blog who viciously attacked me for every little word constantly trying to add the “…” to my comments, filling in empty bubbles over my head with words I didn’t say, before I’d learned anything on my own that I may have taken a different path. But instead I developed a good working relationship with a feminist Professor, who developed an atmosphere in her class of nobody being a “dumbass” (as I was called here) no question or belief regarded as “embarassing” (as I was called here) and no motives were called into question. You don’t educate people by belittling them, talking to them condescendingly, or being arrogant about your alleged superiority on the subject. I became defensive when all those things happened in response to my VALID OPINION on the subject.

    Yeah, in my life I’ve had a lot of wrong assumptions about feminists, and if they had chewed me out like some of the people here for any mis-step or mis-statement i made, I would have given them the finger and walked out the door. Because I’m not interesting in a feminism that is about hanging my head in shame, or about taking verbal abuse to make up for what other men have done, but a feminism that wants to create a better more equal society for the betterment of human kind. That, I thought, was a shared principle among all feminists. But I can see that many people could give a shit about that common principle, at least with me, because its more important for some to stand on your soap box than discuss issues calmly and fairly. People understood that Patriarchy is a system, and that no individual is the problem and that feminism isn’t about “man hating” or whatever. But what’s the first thing that happens as a male who supports feminism? My commitment is questioned. Well fuck that. And fuck people who question my motives. And fuck people who think that my objective here was to silence women of color, my objective was to defend someone I thought of as a fellow feminist.

    The things I’ve said were turned into daggers into my heart, always assuming that what I’ve said is some way of questioning my commitment to feminism, questioning my beliefs, questioning blah blah blah.

    PS – I do apologize to Jill, Jessica, and others, for doing a poor job of defending Jessica, and cluttering your blog with ceaseless posts that are less and less about the issues at hand and me causing more problems than I solved. Things got out of hand, and my quick blog temper did make me utilize more cuss words than my posts normally have. You can rest assured, that I will not be posting on Feministe, or Feministing.com anytime in the near future, and I’ll keep my opinions to my own blogs for a while, and whatever I want to do to support feminism and leave the movement to far better qualified, and thicker skinned, people. And Manar, thank you for your kind comments, and reading what I stated

    To those mercilessly attacked me, part of me just wants to stick my tongue out at you and then split, but I find myself saying sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings personally. I also am sorry if I marginalized anyone who is already marginalized. At the very least, believe me when I say that my heart is with anyone who tries to confront a system which is biased against you, even if we personally don’t get along. And up until a day or two ago, I could never imagine attacking feminists, who understand better than anyone else the need to show the world that you’re not crazy, that the truth is obvious if you’re willing to see it, and most people deep down would agree with you if they stood in your shoes.

    PPS I started with a joke so I’ll end with a joke

    Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A: That’s not funny!

  143. Manar
    May 23, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Coldorderful- Let’s clarify a few things. When we talked about allies, I understood that to be about Jessica. So when you’re classifying “true” allies, allies who only “pay lip service,” I assumed we were talking about Jessica when I guess you were talking about Steve.

    When you accused…someone…of paying “lip service” similar to politicians tactics, I didn’t think you were talking about Steve. Mainly beacuse he’s not trying to earn your vote, win a popularity contest, or sell books. I assumed you were talking about someone who stood to lose or gain something from support – isn’t that the whole point of paying lip service? That’s also why I thought you were talking about Jessica – a feminist with a blog reputation and book to sell. If I misread you, then I apologize. My bad.

    Also, I NEVER said you thought Jessica was a racist. I was trying to point out something we AGREE on. I said, “I don’t think anyone here thinks Jessica is a racist.” So…what made you think I said you thought she was racist??

    I appreciate the lecture on what I’m saying and what was never implied when it was, but honestly, if Steve and what was it, WWIII on anyone who supports Jessica, is your model for fair dialogue that doesn’t put word’s in people’s mouths, I wish you good luck with all your endeavors.

    I’m not giving you a lecture on what you’re saying. Just responding to how I understood it. Sorry I dared to question a few things. Oh but now you’re lecturing me on what was implied? You said, “I appreciate the lecture on….what was never implied when it was.” I can only offer clarification on what was implied. You can take it or leave it – it’s up to you!

    Yes, criticizing people for declaring WWIII on anyone is my model for fair dialogue. I used a hyperbole to say, hey let’s back up from the personal attacks. But please, don’t accuse me of putting words in people’s mouths when I haven’t. It’s a writing style. “Declaring WWIII” meant let’s not let the attacks become destructive but rather keep it constructive.

    I’ve stated my issue several times with some of the criticisms: Some people have lambasted Jessica and Steve in what I thought to be an unfair and insulting manner (insulting ones were directed towards Steve mainly).

  144. May 23, 2007 at 4:00 am

    You don’t educate people by belittling them, talking to them condescendingly, or being arrogant about your alleged superiority on the subject.

    You’re right, Steve. Let me try again:

    The bottom line, Steve, IMHO, is that you need to do some serious soul searching, and figure out what’s really bothering you, because this debate really isn’t the core of any issue. You’re missing the point. It’s all style issues, which is absurd. The critics of the book are where near the top of any sane list of problems for feminism. You’re the very reason why feminists have struggled politically. Just be happy that people are debating feminism, even if its not the way you’d do it, or your ideal whatever.

    Is that better, Steve? Is that less arrogant? Less condescending?

  145. May 23, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Because I’m not interesting in a feminism that is about hanging my head in shame, or about taking verbal abuse to make up for what other men have done, but a feminism that wants to create a better more equal society for the betterment of human kind. That, I thought, was a shared principle among all feminists.

    Steve, you don’t get a cookie for behaving like a decent human being should – that’s a baseline position. Supporting equal rights for women is a baseline position for being a decent human being. Same with racial justice. Saying you’re “not interested” in any kind of feminism that makes you feel a little bit bad about how you might benefit from male privilege, which is how I read your comment above, is saying that your commitment isn’t deep enough to survive the uncomfortable, slightly sick feeling you get when you realise you’re benefitting from a privilege you didn’t ask for or want, but which you still have.

    I’d like you to stick around as an ally, but you have to learn not to take everything personally. Read Ilyka’s great piece (someone’s already probably linked to it above). You could also read this piece by Chris Clark.

    But I can see that many people could give a shit about that common principle, at least with me, because its more important for some to stand on your soap box than discuss issues calmly and fairly. People understood that Patriarchy is a system, and that no individual is the problem and that feminism isn’t about “man hating” or whatever. But what’s the first thing that happens as a male who supports feminism? My commitment is questioned. Well fuck that. And fuck people who question my motives. And fuck people who think that my objective here was to silence women of color, my objective was to defend someone I thought of as a fellow feminist.

    I don’t think people are saying you intentionally set out to silence women of colour, but you’re missing the point. You don’t get to decide whether you are an ally or not – the people you want to ally with get to decide that. And telling any woman who disagrees with what you said, “fuck people who question my motives” doesn’t make you sound much like an ally.

    I’m sure your heart is in the right place, but you need to be on the side of feminism because it’s the right thing to do – not threaten to take your ball away every time anyone makes you feel the least bit uncomfortable.

  146. May 23, 2007 at 4:25 am

    And now a less disingenuous apology. I hadn’t read to the end of your post when I wrote that last comment, and I wouldn’t have mocked you the way I did if I’d seen how you finished things.

    But of course my mockery — which I now feel bad about, seriously — consisted of quotes from your first post to the thread, which you think people should have responded better to. And my point in turning those quotes back around on you was that you yourself have been arrogant and condescending without realizing it.

    You write that “Dialogue involves TWO parties, each listening and speaking to each other. You get to speak, but you also have to listen to what others say. That’s how CONSENSUS is built,” and that’s absolutely right. But you’ve accused me of telling you to shut the fuck up, and if you look at that sentence again, I hope you’ll realize that I never told you to shut up at all:

    If the folks who are criticizing the book are people you’d like to consider allies, then either do them the courtesy of engaging with their criticisms with some openness and respect, or do them the courtesy of shutting the fuck up.

    Do you see the irony here? What some folks have been saying since your first post is that we don’t think you’ve been listening, and that we don’t think you’ve been engaging with what folks have been saying. You want us to listen to what you have to say, buy you’re not listening to what we have to say. You want us to engage with you with courtesy and respect, but when someone tells you that you’re not engaging us with courtesy and respect, you don’t take your own advice and “do some serious soul searching,” you lash out and claim you’re being unfairly dismissed.

    I’ve taken up enough public space with this. If you want to talk more about it, Steve, you can find my email address on the “Info” page at my blog.

  147. Coldorderful
    May 23, 2007 at 5:17 am

    No Steve, it doesn’t just matter to me, it doesn’t matter. (And I don’t necessarily agree that Jessica was so fiercely attacked or that the so-called attacks were expressed the way you say they were. Jill herself admits here that she unfairly conflated a lot of arguments being made when she wrote the other thread about it. And frankly, you seem to be the one intent on settling scores, since you’re making this all about some sort of relentless crusade against Jessica, and now about you a bit). That’s what we’re talking about here. (And just to reiterate again, I have no familiarity with Jessica or her work, this isn’t about Jessica, I know you hate to hear that but it’s true. Remember how the pie ad wasn’t about the pie ad but about the dismissive attitude towards anyone who didn’t like the pie ad? It’s not about Jessica, it’s about the arguments that get trotted out every single time there’s any type of conflict among people on the same side). Intentions don’t count for anything when people are upset and hurt. Sometimes privileged people have to check their privilege and realize there are more important things to the coalition than their own feelings. If you compare people not loving someone’s book to a crusifiction, if you think there’s nothing worse in the world than being called sexist, then maybe you need to step back and get a little bit of perspective.

    And btw, I’ve seen nothing but the motives of anyone who has a critique of Jessica’s book questioned. Well, they’re good people, aren’t they? They’re not haters, are they? They’re allies, right? So why do we then have to jump to the worse possible conclusions about “what they’ve written or what they mean to say?” Why do you assume that anyone considers Jessica an enemy, thinks she personifies what’s wrong with Feminism, is out to get her, demonize her, crucify her, just because they have some problems with her book?

    It shouldn’t be a matter of burning bridges. Sorry. Privileged people in coalitions need to be able to hear with others are saying without threatening to take their marbles and go home. If you’re a guy in a feminist space who pulls out the “you are lucky to have me” card, then yes, chances are you’re going to get called on it, by women and men (because believe it or not, its not about you being a guy, it’s about you being a guy who expresses himself in a certain all too familiar way, and there are plenty of feminist guys who would not like it either). What seems inexplicable to you seems like a “duh” moment to many others who can see exactly why those things were said. (Let’s just say you’re not saying anything that hasn’t been heard a million times before.) It’s really unlikely that’s going to result in begging and cookies. Other people don’t exist to educate anyone else, people have their own shit to deal with. Likewise, if WOC are told they’re burning their bridges by daring to oppose their allies when there’s a conflict, yeah it seems unlikely that that’s going to make anyone raring to suit up for Team Feminism. You know how you feel when you think you’re being dismissed or belittled by your allies? Yeah. Hey, you’re not the only one who reacts like that. And yes, total “double standard,” (at least you didn’t say reverse racism or reverse sexism), except, um, no. (And yeah, I was in that class with kali where we found out what women find patronizing, go figure).

    Look, I don’t want to be mean. Yeah, maybe too late. I’ll say, Unecessarily mean. :) But maybe you should go around to bits of the WOC blogosphere (maybe just to read and observe, not comment) and you will see many women saying some of the exact same things you are saying. About being so hurt, and how the things they’re saying have been turned into daggers in their heart and how their beliefs and their intentions have been questioned and misinterpreted and dismissed. You feel like you’ve been mercilessly attacked and belittled by people who are supposed to be your allies, and that’s really hurtful and shocking to you. But for many women, being dismissed and belittled by people who are ostensibly their allies is no less hurtful, but it’s well, maybe not so shocking. Not so unusual. And that’s maybe something you might want to consider a little bit, like how it would feel to be on the side of the divide where you feel like this basically all the time.

    Peace.

  148. JennaJ
    May 23, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Manar, it’s super, super awesome that you want to distinguish between valid and unfair criticisms (of Jessica), not making personal attacks (of Steve), and not making unfair and unconstructive criticism.

    You know, though, when someone starts making completely wack, unfair, unhelpful, unnecessary, unconstructive and completely unsubstantiated comments like “the theme here is to blame Jessica for all that is wrong with feminism,” “your sole intention is to put her up on a pedestal and demean her for larger issues in society, then you are being dishonest if not destructive,” “Some commenters seek not only to dehumanize Jessica, but also everyone who supports her,” “I seen that before? Oh right, on the chauvinistic Men’s News Daily type sites. Some readers either don’t understand what Steve’s saying” “labeling him as dismissive of WOC when the only thing he’s dismissive of is the WWIII declared on Jessica,” “disingenuous and non-contributive manner in which some have chosen to talk about it is far more harmful to the issue and to feminists,” “this crusade to make her out to be David Duke’s long lost grand-daughter and for Steve to be some stereotype of a ‘knight in shining armor” for calling people out on it is not exactly a good or constructive way to communicate a point across,”

    well sorry Manar, but you’re the last person anyone’s going to go to to learn how to be constructive and non-attacky. You need to master that skill yourself first and stop doing everything you say you’re against.

    I’ll try out that bit about, you got a problem with me? Then that means you’re saying I’m David Duke grandaughter, and all the rest of it but it’s weird, I just don’t think it”s going to come across as constructive or helpful or fair or superduper communication or like I’m adding anything except hypocrisy and passive aggression.

    Which is fine, if your intention is not to be constructive, then good job. But you keep talking about it, so it seems to be important to you.

    And I know, while you were wack, unfair, unhelpful, unecessary, unconstructive and completely unsubstantiated, you weren’t wack, unfair, unhelpful, unnecessary, unconstructive or completely unsubstantiated TO JESSICA. Or to Steve.

    And to you, that’s apparently the only thing that matters.

    Almost no one else, though, lives on Planet Caprica where there are only two Cylon models. Other models actually exist in our world, and weirdly, they matter. Just as much as Jessica and Steve, even.

    Our entire worlds do not revolve around Jessica and Steve, as hard as it is to believe, but do include all the others. Now, you already have all these ideas about what’s fair to Jessica and what’s right for Steve, so all you have to do is think what would be okay for Jessica, or what would be acceptable for Steve, and apply those standards to even non-Jessicas and non-Steves, and soon you’ll be as constructive as you erroneously believe you are already.

  149. May 24, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Hi, I posted an apology on my blog with regards to this issue, after sleeping on this issue and talking privately with several people. I know what I meant to say and how I felt in my heart, as did Manar, but what came out and the insensitivity I had to others, was wrong.

    http://www.digitallyarranged.com/wordpress/?p=389

    I apologize for offending, hurting, or marginalizing anyone with my clumbsy and aggressive comment #68. And I’m sorry I got so defensive about what I wrote that I didn’t see the validity in what many were saying.

  150. Lanoire
    May 24, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I just love how everyone’s ignoring Samhita. And how the thread over at Sylvia’s is basically calling her an Oreo.

    An actual woman of color who’s blogging under her real name, and who everyone *knows* is a woman of color, dares to complain about her treatment by the supposed (and predominantly white) defenders of women of color. She gets thoroughly ignored because her complaints don’t fit into the narrative of “hardcore women of color take down snippy white empowerful prom-queen feminist.”

    And yes, Samhita’s blogging under her real name matters, as does the anonymity of her attackers. I comment anonymously for a reason and I sympathize with everyone who does. But if you comment or blog anonymously you can’t expect anyone to take your appeals to authenticity and experience as a woman/person of color/member of X class seriously, or at least not as seriously as you would someone who posts their real name and their picture. People have made appeals to authenticity in the course of their arguments, and yes, these rhetorical appeals have played a strong part in this debate. So it’s valid to question their factual basis. Why should I give credence to someone who claims to be a woman of color, and who claims special authority to attack Samhita (and Jessica) because of this, when I don’t know that they are and when they’re using their (supposed) experience to attack Samhita’s actual experience? If you’re making an appeal to identity and to lived experience then it’s perfectly valid to bring up the point of anonymity and the role it can play in this type of debate. This is the Internet. No one has to be who they say they are and people don’t necessarily have the experiences they claim to have. So I’m unimpressed by those who will attack (and then ignore) a woman of color blogging under her real name and then use people who may or may not be women of color as cover for doing so.

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