Expecting More

Sudy writes:

There is feminism yes, but how that transpires in the action of each “feminist” ultimately defines the movement as a whole. For US feminists, the access to feminism opens most easily for privileged womyn whose minds and lives have been formatted to privileges of comfort, entitlement, and therefore ignorance. The “movement,” of feminism is drowning in a pathology of privilege, a forgetfulness of its use and potential, a permanent amnesia of truly liberating the oppressed. By simple biology, feminism will take a different face in womyn because of race and privilege. It’s as if our priorities are completely different. These days, I feel like we don’t even speak the same language and we are hurt by completely different things.

The question of liberation for privileged feminists will always remain unanswered because they are not equipped, they never learned to self-analyze beyond their own profit and gains. Privileged feminists will remain, I believe, fumbling in the dark with nothing but their oversized dry hands, their desire to be a good ally but inability to acutely challenge their darkest shadows of moral responsibility and fragile egos. In the meantime, the backs of womyn of color have been broken.

This division in feminism breathes in my generation, my feminism. It has filled me with an anger I cannot explain, a frustration beyond my reach. Each day my anger is different and I can’t say it in more simple terms than this: I expect more.

Read her whole post.

Feminists like Sudy, and all the other women who have been hurt and ignored and stomped on over the past few weeks (and years and years) deserve more. And I know there’s only so many times that we can trip up and try to recover and then trip again before people finally start to think we’re unforgivably clumsy. So I’m trying to keep in mind what Holly wrote:

The question for all of us is, what do you do when you’re unvaoidably embedded in a system like this? Where disproportions and inequities are become evident — getting called out, even? If you get handed the mike, who are you going to stand in solidarity with, and how?

When any of us have a soapbox, an opportunity to get up and talk, we must continue to stand by those who aren’t called on. If you want to consider yourself an anti-racist or a white ally to people of color — if you want anyone else to consider you those things — then it behooves you to swim against the current.

Author: has written 5280 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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31 Responses

  1. Dani
    Dani April 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm |

    While I think that Sudy’s overall point is excellent about WOC, I feel like I need to say that I had a hard time reading her piece since “womyn” is a term that has been used by cisgendered feminists to shove transwomen and other genderqueers off that very same scaffolding.

  2. puggins
    puggins April 23, 2008 at 4:29 pm |

    As a newcomer to feminism, I have to say that I’m confused by her post- possibly because of my lack of exposure to feminism in general.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a woman of color that writes for any of the three feminist blogs that I read (Feministe, Pandagon, Feministing)- but then again, I haven’t seen the pictures of at least half of the writers for these blogs, so you guys might have more than ample representation. Regardless, the three blogs I’ve mentioned have all been extremely race-conscious, and my very limited exposure to the feminist community has left me with the impression that it is one of the most progressive facets of the modern liberal movement in regards to race and sexual orientation. This is the first place I’ve ever seen discuss Sex Workers’ rights, for example.

    So, with no disrespect intended, I would like someone to help clarify why Sudy seems so frustrated and disenchanted with modern feminism.

  3. Holly
    Holly April 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a woman of color that writes for any of the three feminist blogs that I read (Feministe, Pandagon, Feministing)

    Me, Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, and I believe there’s at least one WOC who writes for Feministing.
    Of course I think things are a little more complicated than just numbers-representation.

  4. Holly
    Holly April 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm |

    As for the rest of it, you’ll have to go back through the history of how relatively-privileged feminists in this particular “feminist movement,” and in others that it echoes, have marginalized and contributed to the marginalization of feminists of color. The post of mine that Jill links to and all the posts linked from that one are just the most recent in a long series of incidents.

    Sudy is right, some of the commenters on the KGB Bar thread are right too — a feminist movement that does not include a real, committed anti-racist analysis and practice cannot really claim to be feminist. Not in the true sense of the word, not if it’s only “feminism for all… as long as you don’t have other shit like race to worry about.” That simply ends up being feminism for the most privileged women. And this is precisely the problem with single-issue politics that ignore the broader spectrum of oppression and injustice in our society. Note that I said “ignore” and not “fail to focus on” — two very different things.

  5. Roy
    Roy April 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm |

    Me, Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, and I believe there’s at least one WOC who writes for Feministing.

    Samhita and Jen.

    Of course I think things are a little more complicated than just numbers-representation.

    Indeed.
    And, no snark intended, but coming here and asking “why is Sudy upset” is sort of an example. If one wants to know why Sudy is upset… she’s got a blog, and it’s linked right in the OP. It’s probably better to go to the source and find out first hand what her comments and criticisms are, than to come here and ask. Which is to say, Sudy is a person, and if you have questions about her feelings and thoughts, it’s probably a good idea to address them to her, and to read her blog and see what she has to say first-hand.

  6. Charity
    Charity April 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm |

    puggins, I would recommend reading more of Sudy’s posts at her blog, as well as recent posts by BlackAmazon, Adele at A Book Without a Cover, WOC Ph.D., No Snow Here, WriteousSisterSpeaks, and the Angry Black Woman (there are many others I am leaving out but if you explore the blogrolls of the above, it will lead to additional posts that offer more in-depth perspective on issues of racism within white feminism / the dominant (most visible, profitable, privileged) “feminist” movement, with historical analysis as well as present-day concrete examples of why people are expressing, as you say, disenchantment. Brownfemipower’s last post (which i think is still up?) and pieces of her archives that are posted at various blogs, are also a wonderful place to start / follow. Holly’s post here at this site – “this has not been a good week for WOC blogging”, from a couple of weeks ago- can also provide some context about recent events that are relevant to Sudy’s piece. Sorry I’m not providing all the links, but you can google any one of them or follow Sudy’s blogroll since she is already linked.

    As someone else who started at (and still visits, obviously) the big-name blogs you mentioned, I can really identify with initially *feeling like* they are very “race-conscious” (to use your term), which is an assessment I made (here’s a key piece) from my decidedly white POV. The more I’ve hung around and the more exposure to WOC bloggers and activist communities I have had, the less satisfactory things look and feel for me vis-a-vis race and anti-racism at the so-called “big blogs” (not to detract from the other things going on here that are important – and I would hazard a guess that most if not all Feministing and Feministe bloggers would agree there is significant room for improvement and a need for dialogue around this). How we get there, in a genuine and not tokenized or reactive or superficial sense, is another story, and how suggestions / feedback / critique are received by big-blog folks matters – that’s part of the current situation you will read more about here and elsewhere.

  7. puggins
    puggins April 23, 2008 at 5:30 pm |

    And, no snark intended, but coming here and asking “why is Sudy upset” is sort of an example. If one wants to know why Sudy is upset… she’s got a blog, and it’s linked right in the OP

    Non-snarkiness understood. I actually did go to the site and read the whole article- as an indivdual article, it didn’t mention the BFP incident, so the context sailed way over my already-too-small head.

    I’ve just started to delve backwards, as per Holly’s suggestion, and… ouch, okay, now things start making sense, unfortunately.

  8. Jessica
    Jessica April 23, 2008 at 5:58 pm |

    Actually, there are four woc bloggers at Feministing – Jen, Samhita, Celina and Miriam.

  9. Jessica
    Jessica April 23, 2008 at 6:17 pm |

    Of course I think things are a little more complicated than just numbers-representation.

    And of course agreed, just wanted to make sure our fab bloggers weren’t being forgotten about. ;)

  10. Sickle
    Sickle April 23, 2008 at 6:19 pm |

    There’s that old saying about how the measure of a person can be taken easily by observing how that person treats the least fortunate and least powerful.

    The “movement,” of feminism is drowning in a pathology of privilege, a forgetfulness of its use and potential, a permanent amnesia of truly liberating the oppressed.

    That kind of distills the whole thing, right there. It’s not really about making sure you link to WOC blogs. It’s more that the work being done by WOC bloggers is still engaged with the cause, and battling it out pretty much alone while white feminists clamor for newsprint and blogspace and publish observations about the lingering patriarchy. Meanwhile, the actual battle against that same patriarchy takes place invisibly in the trenches.

    The “mainstream” movement, I believe, needs to re-energize its activist side and recognize that there are battles right now that are being fought with WOC on the front lines. They could use some help. But it’s gotta be more than idle pontificating and link love. Someone’s gonna hafta get their hands dirty (perhaps quite awkwardly, too) first.

    Actually, there are four woc bloggers at Feministing – Jen, Samhita, Celina and Miriam.

    I’m not trying to troll you here, Jess, but of those how many have had a book published or been on television? If I went only by the mainstream media, I’d think Feministing was little more than you and Ann, even though half of your bloggers are WOC. I’d also point out that there are forty-five posts on your main page right now. Nine are by your WOC bloggers, meaning they’re posting far less frequently than you, Ann, and Vanessa.

    I know you have WoC representation and pay attention to International issues very well, and I’m certainly not accusing you of tokenism. But I’m sure you can see how these things might relate to the present discussion, even if I’m making what feels like an unfair critique.

  11. Jessica
    Jessica April 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm |

    I’d also point out that there are forty-five posts on your main page right now. Nine are by your WOC bloggers, meaning they’re posting far less frequently than you, Ann, and Vanessa.

    Sickle, I think if you go into archives you’ll see that’s not necessarily the case – Samhita for example, is probably one of our most prolific writers – but I hear what you’re saying. And as far as the book publishing thing – only me so far, but other writers at Fem (don’t want to blow up spots so am not going to mention names) are in talks for books. And I don’t think the critique is unfair at all, it’s well-taken.

    The “mainstream” movement, I believe, needs to re-energize its activist side and recognize that there are battles right now that are being fought with WOC on the front lines.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    (FYI: I’m out the door for dinner and drinks, so don’t think me rude if I don’t respond again on this thread till late tonight.)

  12. Anna
    Anna April 23, 2008 at 6:40 pm |

    Puggins, I’m not intending to pick on you. :)

    But, you say this:

    but then again, I haven’t seen the pictures of at least half of the writers for these blogs, so you guys might have more than ample representation.

    Which sounds like your default assumption is that if you don’t know any better, then the person writing is white.

    Which is part of the problem.

  13. Puggins
    Puggins April 23, 2008 at 7:54 pm |

    Puggins, I’m not intending to pick on you. :)

    Bah! Pick away… only ego and ignorance get hurt, and mine definitely deserve it.

    Which sounds like your default assumption is that if you don’t know any better, then the person writing is white.

    You’re correct. White (male) privilege/prejudice rears its putrid head.

    Which is part of the problem.

    Absolutely. Unfortunately, realizing the problem doesn’t correct it, at least not immediately in my case, and I haven’t exactly led a sheltered life when it comes to exposure to people of color.

    … Also, Charity, thanks for all the suggestions. Good God, Seal Press’ treatment of BlackAmazon on BlackAmazon’s own blog practically made my eyes bleed.

  14. Renee
    Renee April 23, 2008 at 9:46 pm |

    I can so completely relate after reading the commentary. Every time I think that feminism has transcended racism, an incident happens that proves the movement has not grown. It seems to me that black women are only heard and recognized when it is convenient to do so. Just watching the interchanges in the feminist community regarding Obama and Hilliary is proof that black women are not understood. Sisterhood only seems to count when it benefits white feminists who promtly turn their backs to those that must deal with race and class. If you want solidarity you need to do more than pay lip service to it. My reality is every bit as political as yours.

  15. Sickle
    Sickle April 23, 2008 at 9:52 pm |

    Sickle, I think if you go into archives you’ll see that’s not necessarily the case – Samhita for example, is probably one of our most prolific writers

    Yeah, I know. (I comment at your place as “Furious|T|”. Woulda kept that name everywhere, too, but for some reason a lot of places won’t let me use the pipes in my username. alas. slowly transitioning to sickle everywhere.) I know her work well and she’s probably my favorite over there at feministing. Which is why I thought my critique was probably a little unfair, at least on that score.

    But I’m glad you saw my point. This shit ain’t easy. But few worthwhile things are.

  16. donna darko
    donna darko April 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm |

    Feminism as the idea women and women should be equal economically, politically and socially does diverge from the movement which is inhospitable to many woc and poor women. I will always be anti-racist and feel passionately about anti-racism ideas but find non-women-lead anti-racist movements impossibly sexist and homophobic at the moment. I will also never vote third party of leave the Democratic Party even though it’s extremely inhospitable to feminists right now.

  17. donna darko
    donna darko April 23, 2008 at 11:14 pm |

    Expecting More

    I simultaneously expect more of all three “movements.”

  18. littlem
    littlem April 23, 2008 at 11:37 pm |

    *sigh*

    Jill, I’m really impressed with your eloquence and even-handedness.

    I am less impressed with your passivity and static self-flagellation.

    As a part-white ID’d WoC, I want to know what you’re going to do NOW.

    (And since you seem to be engaging directly with Ilyka, and Ico, and not with me — which is a related issue that’s been raised in the general flap but I won’t dwell on it — I don’t think I’m the only one who wants to know.)

    I read this post of yours

    co, a quick explainer on why the post is still there: I’m going to leave it up because I think the post and the comment thread deserve to be preserved, if only as evidence of how well-meaning white feminists can do idiotic things that cause a lot of damage. Taking the post down, or replacing it with something else, would certainly be less embarrassing for me, and maybe I could re-position myself as the Good White Person. But then that erases the history of what happened. I think promoting Amanda’s book and her event without any recognition that doing so was pouring salt in the wounds of a lot of readers is something I deserve to be called out on. Leaving the post up is me saying that I’m remembering this, and that I’m not going to quietly wipe away my fuck-up.

    over on Ilyka‘s blog. And it all sounds very noble and nice.

    If you were reading/moderating yesterday’s thread (or reading anywhere else in the blogosphere on the issue) you know my position(s) on this issue, and the supporting critical rationale(s) therefor. I won’t beat them to death again here.

    I’ve answered the MFGC (Mainstream Feminist Greek Chorus) question, “What Do You Want Us to Dooooo?”

    1) I want you, as a widely-read mainstream feminist, to firmly suggest to your friend that she should amend her AlterNet article and credit her sources.

    I won’t bore you with the reasons why. You are brilliant and you can read.

    I don’t believe it has to be a public flogging. You can quietly pull a colleague aside, and make a recommendation, and point to the raft of reasons (both career-oriented *eyeroll* and principled/community-based) as to why such a course of action would be advisable.

    As a friend and supporter, you (and anyone else who chooses the course) are in a unique position to do so.


    2)
    In the wake of the related kerfuffle re: the book’s images, I would prefer NOT to see yet another announcement on Feministe that Amanda is going to be doing another reading downtown tomorrow. (What? You think that just blended into the BG?)

    So are you going to back up the guilt and pontificating with some action??

    (‘Cause I know we’re all a bunch of academics and professionals, but Jeebus it seems like there’s been an awful lot of verbal *flap flap flap flap* on this, even in the face of multiple suggestions re: specific concrete responses)

    Or is tomorrow going to be another round of
    – Feministe is supporting Amanda by announcing a reading for her book! Even though it has purportedly racist images and we’ve said we don’t support that!
    AND
    – article amendment/retraction – 0?

    I’ve answered your questions. So here’s the call and response (and feel free to pass it on to any of your colleagues/allies, and/or discuss it with them — Prof Hugo and I had a brief discussion on glacial movement, and how one’s position can in fact be influenced by a principal player’s response to crisis):

    “What Are YOU Going to Do???”

  19. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses April 23, 2008 at 11:57 pm |

    I think the hardest thing a person has to do is recognize their own privileges. It’s very easy to be a brown person and point out the race privilege in others. I know, because I do it all the time. I am confused as to whether or not I benefit from White privilege. I’m half White and half Hispanic, and people are often confused about my ethnicity. When I tell them that I’m Puerto Rican, Irish, and Polish, I often get, “Oh, that’s interesting” like it’s never happened before. I think I benefit from skin color privilege, since I’m light skinned, but when people find out I’m Hispanic, I notice I get treated differently. It’s like I’m assumed White until I say otherwise.

    But there are privileges that most people have that rarely gets addressed. Heterosexuals are privileged over the GLBT community. The educated are privileged over those who are not formally educated (this is a big one, in my opinion, since I believe feminism should be for every woman, not just the ones with Women’s Studies degrees or any formal education). And ableism is rarely addressed. I didn’t realize that feminist women with physical disabilities may feel differently about abortion and IVF. I never saw it from that perspective until I read this essay (I don’t feel like looking for it now) by a woman with a physical disability.

    So, I think it’s important that we examine ourselves and realize our privileges and how we’re oppressive. Only then can we talk about how others oppress us.

  20. Samhita
    Samhita April 24, 2008 at 12:20 am |

    Sickle–your comment just made my night! I have been so busy these last few weeks, so I haven’t been blogging as much as I usually do. Gotta get on that!

  21. littlem
    littlem April 24, 2008 at 12:47 am |

    Or, what Lisa Harney said in the other thread at her comments #195 and #200.

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  23. lethal
    lethal April 24, 2008 at 4:15 am |

    When any of us have a soapbox, an opportunity to get up and talk, we must continue to stand by those who aren’t called on.

    Amen.

  24. Alicia
    Alicia April 24, 2008 at 9:25 am |

    To ThickRedGlasses:

    When I tell them that I’m Puerto Rican, Irish, and Polish, I often get, “Oh, that’s interesting” like it’s never happened before. I think I benefit from skin color privilege, since I’m light skinned, but when people find out I’m Hispanic, I notice I get treated differently. It’s like I’m assumed White until I say otherwise.

    Just want to say, Hi, I’m Puerto Rican, Irish, and (other stuff), and I’m in the same boat. It’s always nice to find out there’s more of us out there who get the “What are you?” and then the subsequent decline in respect…

  25. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses April 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm |

    To Alicia:

    Just want to say, Hi, I’m Puerto Rican, Irish, and (other stuff), and I’m in the same boat. It’s always nice to find out there’s more of us out there who get the “What are you?” and then the subsequent decline in respect…

    Two of my best friends are, shall we say, “ethnically ambiguous.” Whenever the three of us go out together, at least one of us is asked “what are you.” And I know that some people are genuinely interested, but they always sound a little confused when they ask. What’s worse is that we often witness extremely racist comments. The people who say these things think they’re in a safe place, because they don’t realize that one of the people that they’re disrespecting is standing right next to them. That’s difficult to deal with.

  26. littlem
    littlem April 24, 2008 at 12:59 pm |

    ust want to say, Hi, I’m Puerto Rican, Irish, and (other stuff), and I’m in the same boat. It’s always nice to find out there’s more of us out there who get the “What are you?” and then the subsequent decline in respect…

    Personally I enjoy offering the response “human”.

    If the busybody or marketing-genius-in-their-own-mind is savvy enough to pick up the metamessage “And it’s really none of your business”, so much the better.

    If you just can’t tolerate “not knowing what I am” from looking at me without your head going ‘splodey, then you’ll just have to tote a lot of tissues to clean up the mess, because I’ve consulted my calendar and I’m afraid we just don’t have time to accommodate your xenophobia today. Or this week. And probably not this year.

    *Option to insert mournful concerned front-office face here*

    So if you feel you just must, check in with us again next millennium, mmmkay?

  27. Alicia
    Alicia April 24, 2008 at 1:47 pm |

    “Ethnically ambiguous” is how I enjoy putting it. And, lord, am I exposed to racist remarks! I had a boss tell me once to remove a “fat Puerto Rican chick” from an image we were working with. But when people actually do know, it’s far more hurtful and complex to deal with. There’s the people I’ve been friends with who think the fact that I’m not completely Puerto Rican makes it cool to call me “spic” because obviously they’ve just been dying to use a racial slur with impunity, and the boyfriend’s drunk mother who has told people, “Don’t let her last name fool you, she’s Mexican!”

    Littlem: I am laughing so hard. You put it beautifully.

  28. Thomas, TSID
    Thomas, TSID April 24, 2008 at 4:09 pm |

    While it’s not the topic of the post, I want to second, third and fourth the kudos to Samhita, who lays down solid post after solid post and whose contributions should not be overlooked just because the founder is high-profile.

  29. Ico
    Ico April 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm |

    You know Littlem, at some point I’m just going to start copying and pasting what you are saying. It’s amazing how you are so consistently ignored.

    Ditto Littlem’s comments. Also, while it’s nice that Sudy is linked to, I notice that there is no retraction of support for Marcotte’s book.

    The controversy about Amanda’s article was about something much bigger than Amanda

    Right now, the controversy is about you promoting Amanda and her book on Feministe, in spite of the tremendous silencing/hurt/appropriation/etc that occurred not more than two weeks ago. And while you’ve qualified that promotion with, “Yeah I know this hurt some people — sorry” — you haven’t actually retracted it DESPITE the fact that the very promotion is a slap in the face of many of the WoC bloggers who left (and you know this; yet you’re sticking to your guns and supporting the book anyway?) and DESPITE the racist imagery.

    “Sorry” doesn’t cut it. An apology is MEANINGLESS if there’s no sincere action to accompany it.

    Why have you not demanded some kind of apology/citation/action from Marcotte?
    Why are you promoting her after all that happened these past weeks?
    Why are you promoting a racist book?
    Where is your support for women of color?
    Where?
    Where?

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