Is White Really the Combination of All Colors?

This “family feud” has been mentioned in blog post after blog post, so I’ll keep the history short. Big “feminist” site Jezebel posts about female comedy writers not being represented in the staffing of The Daily Show. Big “feminist” site XX Factor posts about how hypocritical it is for Jezebel to post something controversial to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue, as XX Factor uses their controversial article to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue. Other less commercial blogs such as this one write about the feud. Then! The female employees of The Daily Show put out an open letter insisting that Jon Stewart isn’t sexist. Cue the (admittedly hilarious) response to that letter and the background chatter regarding new TDS female correspondent Olivia Munn and how she gets half naked sometimes, hates fat people (she does come off as pretty fatphobic) and isn’t funny. Ad infinitum.

I’m not going to critique any of the above-referenced articles, nor am I going to offer an opinion of whether or not Olivia Munn is qualified to be on The Daily Show. What I am going to talk about is the fact that I’m tired of middle to upper class white cissexual Internet feminist all-stars dominating the debate over what is acceptable in feminism and what isn’t. I’m not saying these women aren’t talented writers; they are. But I want to see myself (not literally, although of course that would be nice — a chick’s gotta eat) and other marginalized feminists represented in the feminist all-star constellation. I want to read articles in WaPo and Slate and Salon and the NY Times by marginalized women dealing with issues that actually affect us, and don’t involve pot meeting kettle. I want to see articles on the big woman-oriented blogs that deal with intersectionality, that talk about deeper issues, and that inspire me to think and take action other than reaching for the Tylenol.

Tangentially, but also related in a way, I want to raise a concern I’ve had for a while about the name of the Slate woman-oriented blog “XX Factor”. Titling your blog after a set of chromosomes that not every woman has and not every man does not have is, to me, extremely transphobic and also ignores intersex folks with varying sets of chromosomes (because it ain’t just XX or XY). It completely erases trans women as women, and it is really appalling to me. Why should I take a woman-oriented blog seriously that clearly doesn’t understand or apparently doesn’t care about intersectionality or exclusion of certain women? Cutesy names don’t make up for erasure of identities.

Examples like the one given in the above paragraph are what I mean when I say we need representation of marginalized women on the big, ostensibly feminist, woman-oriented blogs like Jezebel, Salon’s Broadsheet, and Slate’s XX Factor (well with them, we need a name change as well). The discourse is controlled by women for whom sexism against white cis women seems to be their main focus. We need to stop looking to these white middle/upper class cissexual feminist role models for instructions on how to interpret feminism or on how to apply feminist principles to media critique. We need prominent marginalized women who have more than paid their feminist/womanist dues to offer a fresh and very much needed perspective.

What’s interesting to me about these large woman-oriented sites is that when you look closely, they’re actually not explicitly feminist. That’s why I keep referring to them as “woman-oriented” or “ostensibly feminist”. Writing articles that appeal to women does not mean that they’re feminist articles. For example, Jezebel’s tagline is “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” XX Factor’s tagline is simply “What Women Really Think.” Salon’s Broadsheet just doesn’t say anything, as far as I can tell. Basically, these sites can simply fall back on the fact that they never said they were feminist. So maybe we shouldn’t be expecting representative feminist content from these blogs. When questionable content pops up on these sites, like Hanna Rosin’s critique of Al Gore’s accuser (which, to be fair, she did later follow up with a sort-of “I was wrong” post) on XX Factor, or the Emily Gould anti-Jezebel article, also on XX Factor, what standard can you hold them to? Emily Gould is a woman, and she wrote what she “Really Thinks”. I guess that’s all you can ask for when they’re not specifically identifying themselves as a feminist site. These sites are simply woman-oriented. Not all women are feminists.

Marginalized feminists/womanists need to have the door unlocked so we can finally kick it down and get some actual representation alongside the current white cis feminist all-stars. Unfortunately, those same white cis feminists are holding the keys to the door. The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard. We need to make it their problem. We need to “show our color”.

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47 comments for “Is White Really the Combination of All Colors?

  1. H. Saad
    July 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Great post Tasha. People really need to learn to be more critical of “progressive” blogs and websites like Jezebel and XX Factor. Although I do follow Jezebel, I realize that they aren’t covering the stories that are affecting the most oppressed groups in our society (trans people for instance), and when people don’t realize that, they forget those groups actually exist. I think most of the really popular blogs, like the aforementioned, are there, first and foremost, to make a buck, the same way “news” channels like CNN, FOX & MSNBC are only there to make a buck.

  2. July 13, 2010 at 8:44 am

    You bring up great points about who dominates the “woman oriented,” “feminist,” whatever you want to call it blogsophere.

    Where I would disagree is this:

    “The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard. We need to make it their problem. We need to “show our color”.

    As far as I’m concerned, people of color, queer people or other marginalized groups need to stop working to get into the mainstream club and instead start building up our own sites/spaces that tell the story the way we see fit. We have the numbers to create meaningful spaces if we so choose. Rather than trying to insert ourselves in spaces that have shown over and over again that they dont want us, let’s make our own.

    BTW – love your blog and glad you’re writing for feministe!

  3. July 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been slowly pulling away from the big “ostensibly feminist” sites for those same reasons. There’s a lot of silencing going on within the comments, as well, and that needs to be addressed. (At Jezebel in particular, though I don’t want to make them the scapegoat for everything that’s wrong with the feminist blogosphere.)

  4. July 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I am a white, cis woman, but I can still relate to what you’re saying. I came to feminism via intersectionality, namely with disability. I also take an active interest in LGBT issues because of an atypical sexual orientation. I admittedly am rather ignorant on race issues, probably my white privilege acting up. I never found the big sites quite appealing; they highlighted issues that I just ain’t interested in.

  5. gretel
    July 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Thank you for this! I’m glad that you call out “all-star” feminists. It seems as though people in the blogosphere criticize the all-star feminists of the second wave and try to pretend as though something has changed. It hasn’t, no matter what people’s intentions are. It seems like a lot of the woman-oriented blogosphere has become an echo-chamber for many “all-star” feminists, e.g., “Read this book by blogger/fellow all-star feminist ____.” (It’s good to support your friends, but you have to examine the privilege inherent in constantly plugging a book on your all-star woman-oriented blog.)

    I know that many people try to fight this by blaming the media and its penchant for creating figureheads for a movement, but people must admit that there is some collaboration on the part of the all-stars. I mean, as you say, people need to eat, and a Seal Press book deal can help one eat, but I think we need to shake up the all-star team a little. I definitely think some of the most popular blogs are making an attempt to do so (e.g., I think Feministing has been much more interesting/intersectional since Samhita Mukhopadhyay became editor), but there is a lot of room for improvement.

  6. FashionablyEvil
    July 13, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I want to see articles on the big woman-oriented blogs that deal with intersectionality, that talk about deeper issues, and that inspire me to think and take action other than reaching for the Tylenol.

    You mean your Excedrin for Racial Tension Headaches?

  7. Kaz
    July 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Seconding Astrid here. I’m also a white cis woman but I found myself feeling really alienated by first Feministing and then the other mainstream ostensibly-feminist blogs because of their lack of disabled perspectives or specifically asexual or just generally queer perspectives. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen some truly awful stuff on almost all of these sites when it comes to various marginalisations (both ones affecting me and ones that don’t), but the biggest issue is just that what they talk most about doesn’t really affect me and what affects me they don’t really talk about (and not usually, I should add, because they were talking from a marginalised point of view where I was privileged, which would be something different altogether). Feministe is just about the only “big” feminist blog I still read and even that doesn’t speak to me nearly as much as various intersectional blogs. So I can really relate to what you’re saying.

  8. maggie
    July 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

    This made me realize that I don’t really read those not-specifically-feminist sites, because of this lack. I hadn’t really thought about it before, just recognized that they don’t have what I’m interested in hearing about and being challenged by.

    I do need more with non-white-authored reading though. I will go work on that.

  9. July 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm


    As far as I’m concerned, people of color, queer people or other marginalized groups need to stop working to get into the mainstream club and instead start building up our own sites/spaces that tell the story the way we see fit. We have the numbers to create meaningful spaces if we so choose. Rather than trying to insert ourselves in spaces that have shown over and over again that they dont want us, let’s make our own.

    I totally agree that we need to create meaningful spaces of ourselves, but the sad truth is that sites like WaPo and NY Times, etc. offer the widest audience and the most exposure and I don’t think the only feminists doing the talking on those sites should be white cis women. XX Factor, Jezebel, etc. aren’t necessarily sites we need to focus all our time on breaking into, so creating alternatives to those sites would be a great place to focus our energies.

  10. July 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    @FashionablyEvil OMG, I just saw that SNL bit for the first time the other day. I LOVED IT. I really need to get my hands on some.

  11. July 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    @ H. Saad
    Although I do follow Jezebel, I realize that they aren’t covering the stories that are affecting the most oppressed groups in our society (trans people for instance), and when people don’t realize that, they forget those groups actually exist.

    I just can’t even read it regularly any more. Their commenting moderation policy is abhorrent and my last republished article with them was not handled well, so I don’t have an interest in continuing to give them free content when they let comments through that involve threats of violence against me.

  12. July 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    The large, popular feminist sites have become like a “big girls club.” I’ll get flak for saying this, I know. I stopped reading Jezebel altogether–I thought it was a feminist site, and I kept reading, and finding less and less feminist content, and the comments were like reading comments on CNN. I visit Feministing a lot less than I used to. I read Shakesville, Womanist Musings, Feministe, and Pandagon (about as often as I go to Feministing).

    My favorite part of these Big Blogs are the blogaround posts, but usually not for the links the blog provides, rather, for the links the commenters leave to their own blogs. These smaller blogs feature content that is more substantive, more focused, and you get new perspectives that may or may not be allowed free expression in the larger blogs. The links the Big Blogs provide in these blogaround posts, I’ve noticed, largely tend to be from a small group of bloggers. I don’t know why these same bloggers are chosen, nor am I going to surmise.

    I also don’t know why any of this is, the interfighting, the seemingly monopoly of a few large feminist websites, the lack of action, the nonexistent get-togethers/conferences/meet-ups save for NYC, Chicago, SF, the constant degeneration of the American South, and the blindness to international issues/feminism, intersectionality with the disabled, GLBTQIA, and POC. I just know we need to keep writing about it, to find our own way to network (BlogHer maybe?), to meet-up, and to get active.

  13. July 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    @ Astrid
    I admittedly am rather ignorant on race issues, probably my white privilege acting up.

    I could recommend some books that may help enlighten you a bit, if you’re interested.

  14. July 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve never had anybody who I started to like so much only after reading 2 blogposts. I want Mooooreee…

  15. July 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    There’s a lot of silencing going on within the comments, as well, and that needs to be addressed.

    Especially with Feministing, unless they’ve shaped up in the last few months and I don’t know about it. I do know that Samhita has been doing some rehabilitation, as gretel said, but I think she’s got a big job ahead of her.

    @gretel Well, I’m trying to put together an anthology on women of color and self image so a Seal Press deal would be great, but I’m not going to step on necks to get it. I’m hoping to get as many voices of women of color as I can, because Seal Press desperately needs more voices from WOC. And if they don’t want it, someone else will. Ah! Sorry for the tangent.

    @Kaz I do like Feministe, which is why I’m happy to blog here, because I think they do a good job of not just sticking to white cis women’s issues.

    @maggie Like I told Astrid, I can recommend some books and sites to check out if you would like. E-mail me (you too, Astrid) at redvinylshoes at gmail dot com and I will eventually get back to you (Ha). I get a lot of e-mail, but this is important.

  16. July 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    The links the Big Blogs provide in these blogaround posts, I’ve noticed, largely tend to be from a small group of bloggers. I don’t know why these same bloggers are chosen, nor am I going to surmise.

    I’d like to think it’s because they’ve been around for years, but what do I know. I have wondered myself. But I have to be grateful because I’ve only been doing this newfangled blog thang for a few months, although I’ve been doing other types of online writing before that.

  17. July 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    @Daniella Oh, you flatter me, seriously. I’ll try not to let you down!

  18. July 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Wrt the Daily Show thing: I couldn’t help noticing that, as bad as it is that they’ve had so few women on the show, they’ve had no women of color (unless I’m mistaken). And this is just completely passed over.

  19. Athenia
    July 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    With all due respect, how do you know that these women come from middle to upper middle class backgrounds?

    Also, from what I understand, quite a few Jezebel editors come from minority backgrounds.

    I get what you’re saying, but I feel like you’re erasing certain people to prove your point—unless you mean those people with minority backgrounds are not marginalized backgrounds.

  20. July 13, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Oh man, THANK you. I was stopping reading and feeling annoyed (especially at XX Factor… what a gong show, seriously) but couldn’t articulate why… this is why.

  21. July 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Jezebel’s a feminist site? I’ve never found any feminist content to speak of on it. Feministing is for young feminists who largely think talking about how to make their boyfriends feminists is cutting edge. It is actually painful to me to read the confessional-style posts on Feministing that seem to keep reinventing the wheel on feminism and so inner directed. I like an inclusive, outreaching feminism, but that’s just me.

    I really loved this post. It’s so clear about what is wrong and what you need and want to see. It shouldn’t be that hard for women to respond to each other, no matter where or who they are. If anyone can get through to them, you can. Thanks!

  22. July 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I’m not saying every Jezebel writer is a middle class white cissexual woman, I know they have minority contributors sometimes and that there’s at least one of them on the masthead. I’m talking about how they represent themselves through the stories they choose to run, how the most prominent editors present themselves, and what I glean from their posts. To me it seems they’re mainly talking to a middle/upper middle class white cis woman audience, and I can only view them as what they present. They don’t have profiles on the writers, so I have to go by their work.

    As far as the women on the other sites I mentioned, I can still only interpret where they’re coming from with what they write about and how they direct their writing. Maybe I’m wrong and they’re all working class. But from the viewpoint it appears they’re writing from, I highly doubt it.

  23. July 13, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    @Rebecca I know, right. Apparently they’re now trotting Olivia Munn out as “Senior Asian Correspondent”.

  24. July 13, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    @Yonah You’re very welcome!
    @Marilyn I have never read Feministing on a regular basis because I get annoyed every time I go there. Maybe it’s because I feel old, or maybe it’s because I feel unwelcome. They did post a link to the WOC anthology, so I have to give them props for that. But I think they have a poor moderation policy.

  25. IrishUp
    July 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    (In my best Madeline Kahn) I’m tired, tired of playing the game. Aint it a crying shame?

    But seriously, what grates my gorganzola about Femisting, Broadstreet, and XX Factor is that they BORE ME TO TEARS. I am tired of the theme-and-variation content, followed by a predictable commentary allowed to yadayadayada past inane right into hurtful and harming. I’m not interested in a “XX” version of DudeBro Culture. Shit makes me want to take tiny plungers to my face and suck my own eyeballs right out!

    The best, most interesting work I’m coming across is coming from writers and creators who are marginalized, like Tasha Fierce. And I am finding more and more great art, music and writing by (virtually) hanging out where these people are creating. I’m coming across work that is really new for me, and it’s fun and exciting as well as, yanno, enlightening and educating and all that stuff.

    “Marginalized feminists/womanists need to have the door unlocked so we can finally kick it down and get some actual representation alongside the current white cis feminist all-stars. Unfortunately, those same white cis feminists are holding the keys to the door.”

    This is actually a HUGE part of why I’ve stopped going to the BIG (white/het/cis/able) SITES. I am not saying that the all-stars are bad people, but I don’t trust them to be for-squares willing to share those keys. I think pressure has got to be brought to bear. The part I can bring, is to stop generating google hits for work that pisses me off, and harms artists who I admire. I want to support your work, and their work, so I shamelesly plug Red Vinyl Shoes, I Fry Mine In Butter, Angry Black Bitch, this ain’t livin’, & etc (to name a few off the top of my head) whenever I get a chance. If I DO click “over there”, it’s going to be coming from a link embedded in work written outside the mainstream.
    And BTW, I’m being really selfish here. I’m doing this because, as much fun as I think a Saint Lucy* costume might be, I actually would prefer to keep my eyeballs in my head and perusing good art.

  26. July 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    @IrishUp I’m just commenting to say, I love you. In my best Stevie Wonder e-voice.

  27. July 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I began taking a more active role in Feminist internet circles because I saw few male voices. And a saw a disturbing amount of privilege which at times bordered on elitism, both of which really made me uncomfortable. It has gotten better, as a previous commenter to this thread noted, but when the culture itself has been geared to suit a very specific sort of perspective, therein lies the challenge.

  28. July 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Great post. I think you highlight the reasons why it took me a few years to even bother checking out feministing more than once every month or so, and why, no matter how hard I try, I can’t read more than a few sentences of Jezebel. And I’m a young, white/cis/het/able/etcetcetc. I tend to stick around Feministe, and some random, smallish others that I found through Feministe in some way or another.

  29. eilish
    July 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    What are the issues you want to see discussed? What are the problems you see white middle-class feminists not perceiving?

  30. Lara Emily Foley
    July 14, 2010 at 2:31 am

    @Comrade Kevin

    Just for curiousty what kind of privilege are you referring to?

  31. July 14, 2010 at 3:19 am

    The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard.

    When it comes down to it, the owners of most sites care more about pageviews than anything else. And there is a prevailing mindset that suggests that a feminist writer from a marginalized background, discussing issues that are relevant to her, is not going to generate those pageviews.

    Considering my experience as an editor, I believe the opposite – I don’t just believe it because I want to, I draw conclusions from the evidence in front of me. A new viewpoint is always interesting; a new viewpoint from a talented writer is especially interesting. Also, it often has the side-effect of geting the trolls and haters riled up – and trolls and haters, sadly, drive up pageviews even more (that’s why most commercial sites are never going to be particularly safe spaces, imho – I don’t have any safe space rules on GlobalComment, though we draw the line at threats, etc.).

    I think that pointing out the lack of meaningful diversity is half a solution. I think the other half of the solution is pointing out that hey, our content is good, it will get read, especially if editors do their jobs and make sure that it gets read.

    Here’s just one anecdote: Renee Martin is a regular contributor to GlobalComment, and she is also one of our most popular writers, if not THE most popular writer, on most days of the week. I’m sure there’s a lesson there for people that would insist that anyone from a marginalized background simply won’t attract an audience.

  32. July 14, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Thank you, Tasha. I wholeheartedly cosign (and especially to IrishUp!).

    What are the issues you want to see discussed? What are the problems you see white middle-class feminists not perceiving?

    I can’t speak for Tasha or anyone else here, but the narrow perspective offered at the larger, ostensibly “feminist” sites leaves out a hell of a lot. Who we are, where we come from, informs our perspective—I want to be clear: it’s not the superficial identity markers and near-cookie-cutter resemblance of the “big girls” that is the problem. It’s how those identities limit perspective and discussion.

    The trend for middle-class white feminists is to posit individual solutions to institutionalized problems, and to leave too many internalized sexist tropes unchallenged because they are either irrelevant to the middle-class white feminist life, or because those tropes actually benefit middle-class white feminists (at the expense of folks who don’t fit that template).

    I never see discussions on the role labor unions can play in the fight for equal pay and opportunity on the jobsite. I never see discussions on workplace safety. I don’t see any discussion on the importance of increasing women’s presence in nontraditional jobs, and how for that to happen, institutional structures and barriers need to fall. I don’t see discussion on the impact of aging on the human body, and how that impacts employability. Middle-class white feminists assume a plush office environment and nonphysical labor, so the idea that the age of retirement needs to be raised goes unquestioned.

    I don’t see discussion of the needs of children, or any discussion on children’s education (other than sex ed). Why don’t school hours match average work hours? No discussion on how school district cutbacks affect the quality of children’s education. No discussion of the re-segregation of the schools or strategies to reverse white flight. No discussion of the push to reinstitute single-gender education in the public schools, and how that reinforces gender roles (and frankly, where that push is coming from—single gender education is huge with conservative religious groups). No discussion on the budget cutbacks for early childhood education, so it goes without saying that middle-class white feminists are not willing to fight for universal childcare (that struggle is left to individual women).

    No discussion on gentrification, and the need for affordable housing for the average paycheck. No discussion on the impact of deindustrialization on job security and communities. No discussion on the decimation of the middle income paycheck and benefits. Precious little on the Grand Canyon sized gulf between the rich and poor. Quite little on how the stepping-stone to middleclassdom—college—is increasingly out of reach with the reduction in grants.

    I don’t see anything in the big blogs on the struggles of women to integrate into religious leadership positions, or much on the visibility of women in any spiritual movement or community. The only time I have seen writing from women on spiritual practices that affirm them—it’s been on this blog. And unfortunately, many readers resented that (rather than just moving along).

    Middle-class white feminists seem to assume that “family” means nuclear. Either intact or divorced, but definitely nuclear (as opposed to “unwed” single-parent or extended family). I don’t see much discussion on the struggle to juggle the multiple and conflicting obligations that come with work and caretaking. I don’t see anything on the impact of incarceration on families, or the impact of addiction. I don’t see strategies posited for alternatives to the prison industrial complex offered on mainstream feminist blogs. Middle-class white feminists recognize the ways family, religion, and community can be sites of oppression, but do not seem to recognize the ways in which they can be and are sites of liberation for many of us.

    And by the way—the pop culture written about on mainstream feminist blogs? Very middle-class white oriented. Sorry folks, but your music sucks. And I’m sick and tired of “irony” and snark—the passive-aggressive way to present an argument (that is wholly in keeping with middle-class white norms of social conduct for “good” women, might I add).

    My apologies to Tasha for the lengthy comment. I don’t have computer access at work, and I wanted to get this out ‘cuz I won’t be online during the day.

  33. mh
    July 14, 2010 at 10:06 am

    That is one great comment! Thank you.

  34. July 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    @La Lubu
    That was FANTASTIC. Thank you.

  35. July 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    @La Lubu I totally agree. You answered the question for me.

  36. Tahi
    July 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Calling the Tiger Beatdown blog funny when it basically makes fun of women who were trying to defend legitimacy of their jobs just smacks of what the Jezebel article reeked of: marginalizing women who have made strides in their professions for the sake of presenting very recycled arguments.

    I’m certainly not suggesting sexism is a thing of the past. But what the Tiger Beat blog does is belittle women’s contributions (No, they’re not all assistants, read the letter again, Tiger Beat). And that their defense of Jon Stewart makes him “their boyfriend” is absolutely infuriating.

  37. Deltabob
    July 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I hate when an article makes me feel a need to apologise for who I am. I’m one of those people who immediately says “I’m sorry,” to make other people feel at ease (rather than when I have done something wrong, and I’m admitting guilt).

    When did we decide that every site with a feminist theme has to be about all types of feminists – did I miss the memo? Are we really at a point where we believe a conspiracy is hiding around every keyboard? Does not being absolutely all-inclusive equal erasism?

    • July 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm

      No one is saying that there is a conspiracy behind every keyboard, or that every site has to represent every viewpoint ever — that would be impossible. Rather, I think Tasha (and I am not Tasha, so she can speak for herself) is critiquing the dynamic that too often happens on feminist blogs, where certain voices, perspectives and experiences are privileged over others. So upper-middle-class white women in urban areas are the focus, and that ignores the lived experiences of a LOT of women. That doesn’t mean that women who are upper-middle-class and white (and I am one of them!) need to apologize or shut up; it does mean, though, that we need to recognize that a lot of us put blood, sweat and tears into this blogging thing, and who succeeds — and whose issues are at the forefront — is not a meritocracy and it’s not a matter of importance. There are a lot of issues that are not covered by “mainstream” feminist sites because the feminists who have the power to break into the mainstream are not typically from marginalized groups. That isn’t saying that there’s a conspiracy or that all “mainstream” feminists should go home and cry; it’s a valid and important critique of power dynamics and accessibility.

  38. eilish
    July 16, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Black women have a lot of reasons to be angry and frustrated. I understand minority women feel let down by and dissatisfied with white feminists, and why it feels to good to tell it the way you see it. Many of the statements La Luba made (which others said spoke for them) don’t sit square with my knowledge and experience. That could be because anger has affected their perceptions, or because my defensiveness has affected mine.

    Here in Australia feminists care very much about those issues, even the white middle class ones. I had a quick look at the NOW website and from what I saw, these issues are of major concern in America, too.

    The young women at Jezebel and feministing talk about the issues they see affecting young women. As they get older, and their life experience widens, I imagine so will the range of subjects they discuss. “Who we are, where we come from, informs our perspective”. I see a real effort being made by those young women to give a podium to different voices. I have perceived they have a concern to be as inclusive as they can, and an openness to different viewpoints. I learned the word ‘inter-sectionality’ there. (We didn’t talk about inter-sectionality in the olden days, when I was a mere slip of a feminist. See how much progress us white middle-class feminists have made?)

    Proposing individual solutions to institutional problems is limited: but until the revolution is achieved by all the individual women making a great big hole in the patriarchal institutions, it’s often all we’ve got. It is imperative that women who belong to the majority privileged class are aware they need to press for solutions that will include the women who don’t.

    What factors affecting minority women are majority group women unaware of?
    What are some organised/group challenges and responses which would be more effective?
    Is the tendency to propose individual solutions limited to white middle class women/ middle class/ white people?
    What are some of the sexist tropes that are perceived as being ignored?

    La Luba said she was sick of snark and irony, but used a lot in her post. I acknowledge her right to be angry, and use whatever tone she chooses. But I found it hard to choose the words in this response because of that. (Also, my grammar is shot to hell. How embarrassment!) I want to engage respectfully in discussing our different views. This is an important subject.

  39. Kaz
    July 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    @eilish –

    I wasn’t sure whether to try to answer this (it’s difficult and exhausting to try to put into words), but you do seem to be trying to engage respectfully, so.

    I think the issue is that, well – when you’re privileged (and believe me I am including the instances where I am privileged, because all marginalisations aside I am still an upper-middle class thin white cis young woman…), it can be very easy to not realise that certain issues you are talking about thinking they affect All Women or must be the most important issues for All Women actually affect marginalised women a lot differently, maybe a lot less in the ways you are talking about but a lot worse in the ways that you aren’t. As a result, when you write or read a post about something that seems like a general issue, you may not realise that various marginalised people will skip by it going “oh, another one for the privileged people.”

    Example. Abortion. Abortion is a really huge topic in feminist circles. And I understand that! And I realise it is a very big issue for many women! However, what usually doesn’t get discussed is that for marginalised women, reproductive choice can often be the struggle *to* have kids faced with a society that doesn’t want you to, rather than the struggle *not to* have kids – because, frankly, if you’re poor, or a WoC, or disabled, oftentimes society will tell you flat-out that you’re not meant to have kids. Or go further. Take the long history of forced sterilisations of marginalised women, a history that is still going on to this day. Take the horrible, horrible stories I have heard from so many disabled women about the things that were said to them, assumed of them, done to them in the assumption that they should never be parents. I am lucky in that I have not been personally affected by this, but I am bitterly aware that if I were ever pregnant and needed an abortion, telling people that I was autistic and my child was very likely to be so as well, might in fact be nonverbal, would probably do a lot to make people in favour of the idea. (Or, a related topic, disability screening and the routine abortion of disabled babies and its problems from a disability rights standpoint. I can’t say I’m sad that nobody’s yet come up with screening for autistic spectrum disorders because let me tell you, “if we had this child it might grow up to be like you so it’s better off never existing” is not a pleasant thing to hear. And yet, “but what if the child is disabled?” is often used by pro-choice activists in arguments… but this is drifting off into more general ableism in the feminist movement.)

    And that’s not even going into reproductive choice for queer women. Ex: I think for me personally the biggest reproductive issue is how the hell a single and probably going to stay that way repulsed asexual aromantic-tending-homoromantic woman is supposed to have kids. So far, the answer I’ve come up with is “she doesn’t.”

    So although reproductive choice is a very general issue, I hope you can see why e.g. a disabled woman whose doctor is trying to push her into a hysterectomy might not feel that abortion rights are really the most important issue to talk about for her. And yet, we usually talk about abortion rights, and we only rarely talk about pressure to abort or to become sterilised, and these are usually presented as sort of special interest, affecting only certain women, and abortion as a general issue affecting ALL women.

    Or, another topic – something I personally really run into this with on mainstream feminist blogs is sex and sexuality, for the simple reason that I’m asexual and, oh my god, nobody seems to realise women like me actually exist! So this can run the gamut from really poisonous stuff like saying that sex is awesome, everyone must like sex, clearly I’m deluded, religious and perpetuating abstinence-only, buying into my own oppression, repressed, actually a lesbian but unable to face it, have a hormone imbalance, have a brain tumour, etc. etc. etc. (I have actually run into all of these before, and a shocking amount on feminist blogs. Sex-positive environments are actually some of the most dangerous there are for asexual people, in my experience) – or simply talking about sex and sexuality and consent and all of that under the assumption that everyone is a sexual person. I often end up wondering whether to comment on threads like that because my experiences are so completely orthogonal to everyone else’s by dint of my sexuality that it almost seems derailing (“hi, I’d like to talk about how I worry about how some common interpretations of ‘enthusiastic consent’ might make it impossible for asexual people to meaningfully consent to sex and about how you are ignoring the role of compromise and negotiation regarding sex in relationships for asexual people.” “hi, I’d like to talk about the way comprehensive sex ed as I experienced it is harmful for and marginalises asexual people.” After a while on Feministe I feel as if I’m some kind of robot who keeps repeating “hi I’m asexual and *insert something wildly different from what everyone else is talking about here*”.) And have I ever seen a post on a not-specifically-asexual blog talking about issues regarding sex and relationships that affect asexual people? E.g. the numbers problem that means asexual-asexual relationships are vanishingly unlikely and what that means for asexual people and romantic relationships? Once, I think, and I wrote that one myself.

    I have no doubt that the people who write posts about sexuality think that they are being very inclusive. But they’re not including me.

    There’s also US-centricism which I wouldn’t really bring up but it does have a lot of these issues – talking about US-specific laws and US-specific cultural issues and so on in the assumption it affects everyone. Embarrassingly enough, because I got into feminism via mainly-US definitely-English-speaking sites like Feministe or Feministing and live abroad I don’t even know what the top feminist issues in my home country (Germany) are. I’m just pretty sure they’re not the US ones.

    Oh yeah, and as a side effect of my disability I essentially can’t watch any sort of video – TV, movies, cartoons, YouTube clips, you name it. Let’s just say, I can’t bring myself to gather up all that much interest for feminist critiques of most pop culture. (I’m not totally uninterested because of cultural osmosis, but it tends to feel pretty remote and removed from my life.)

    And, you know, this comment is really really long but I am honestly just SCRATCHING THE SURFACE here, and that’s just for disability and asexuality/queerness. There is so much… I suggest if you really genuinely want to know these things, you read some intersectional blogs because they tend to deal with these issues. For instance, I recommend FWD/Forward for issues affecting predominantly disabled women (there’s other posts as well, of course – this is where I guest-posted on asexuality – but that’s their main focus).

    Also, you know, what La Lubu said. Seriously.

  40. eilish
    July 16, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Kaz, I appreciate the time and effort you put into responding to my question. Thank you.

  41. eilish
    July 17, 2010 at 2:45 am

    I spent most of today researching black feminism, and have a clearer understanding of why black American women feel animosity towards white feminists, and why statements such as “white feminists don’t care about childcare” etc have been expressed.

    White American feminists have failed to give access to black American feminists, and have been unaware of their own racism. Many white American feminists today are aware of that, and are committed to ensuring a fairer future. I understand that black women do not feel they need to form a cheer squad for white feminists because of this.

    “White feminists have failed to give access to black women” and “White feminists have not addressed the difficulties racism cause black women” are, as Jill says, valid and important critiques of power dynamics and accessibility.
    “White feminists don’t care about childcare” and “white feminists don’t care about black women” are true expressions of rage and frustration, but not an accurate criticism of feminism and white feminists everywhere.

  42. July 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    La Luba said she was sick of snark and irony, but used a lot in her post.

    Other than “your music sucks”….where? (I’m a frequent commenter here, and I’ve never critiqued a pop culture post here or anywhere else with such a dismissive attitude. I just…move along. Tastes are tastes, and mine are different. But considering the topic, it seemed appropriate to reflect that there is more to music than indie pop. For what it’s worth, USian middle-class white folks aren’t used to being told that their music sucks, because it’s what’s on the radio.)

    Other than that, I pointedly didn’t use any snark. Everything else in there, all those other paragraphs, are what I notice isn’t being discussed on the big feminist blogs. I also wonder why you think I was angry. I did not curse or make accusations. I was matter-of-fact while I typed it, and just wrote down the things that I think about on a daily or near-daily basis; the things that most impact, and most frequently impact, my life. Quite honestly, I did not have an angry tone when typing it, and am bothered by the fact that anger is attributed to me when it wasn’t felt.

    I know from experience that anger is a barrier for many (not all) middle class white women. That my words will be bypassed, ignored, if delivered in anger. Reading this, it seems as if I can’t win for losing—that my words will always be interpreted as “angry”….simply because they’re coming from me.

    And sometimes I am angry. And sometimes I do show it (take a look at those shopping threads!). But mostly….I don’t. Mostly….and I’m talking real-life here, not blogs….I let things pass. I have to. I don’t have the luxury of being able to burn bridges. I’m vulnerable, and a certain anger comes from that vulnerability itself. I have to swallow pride. Let it go. It leaves a lump in my throat. Pressure in my veins.

    It’s not a surprise to me that what passes for the feminist movement in the US shows the same race, class and other stratifications that US society at large displays. But it is a disappointment, because there is so much potential that is being wasted.

  43. eilish
    July 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I read all the statements of all the things middle class women assume as ironic/snarky. I realise now you were speaking of America specifically.

    Your post was indeed measured and matter-of-fact. The fact that you wrote so calmly about personally experienced injustice was deeply moving and troubling. The frustration of keeping it all in is communicated clearly in your post. I heard the vein throbbing in your skull.

  44. July 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I think I have fallen in hearts with La Lubu.

    Tashie, my sister, this was glorious. You nailed it. I am so grateful that Miss Fierce is out there laying the smack down, because there are many women of color who are just freaking weary. We’ve been having these damn conversations forever! We’ve been making spaces for ourselves (and nobody shows up). I run a pop culture website with the mission of making pop culture consumption/desconstruction both interesting and devoid of -ism fail. Each day the diverse staff of writers – not bullshit diversity, a variety of lived experiences – dissect the spectacular and the silly and all of it with the goal of making spaces that feel safe for people who wish to consume pop culture analysis but are freaked out by all the -ism dramedy. I also wanted a space for marginalized folks to get a reprieve from constantly having to frame themselves as marginalized first before actually be human who like stuff and like gushing about it.

    Anyway, marginalized folks aren’t really allowed to be folks. We have to be angry, educational opportunities and always smacking some shit down. We don’t get to be trite like some of the blogs mentioned here, and still be considered feminists or cool – oh no, we have to be perfect little angry clones of each other, parroting back every tedious race fail 101 lesson out there, as though that was all we have to offer the world.

    Seriously, at some point white feminists will either get it or not.

  45. Em
    July 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    this is exactly how i’ve felt for a while.
    i used to read jezebel (and the frisky, another so-called ‘feminist’ blog), but i got so sick of their pieces that, for me at least, were too fashion/ other unimportant stuff related. and, as you said, they’re not very feminist. at all. there are a few occasions when a writer will point out a sexist act, but that’s far and few between. and as you pointed out too, trans issues really aren’t talked about either.
    and i totally agree that smaller blogs like this (which are awesome) should be more on the frontlines, because they dedicate themselves to the news that i (and i’m assuming others) want to read about and know. while it can be fun to read about some new fashion every once in a while, that’s not really important. great post.

  46. PrettyAmiable
    July 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    “I don’t see discussion on the impact of aging on the human body, and how that impacts employability.”

    And with this, ageism in the workplace? I silenced my mother when she was talking about this the other day, and I have some apologizing I need to do. Thanks La Lubu, and Tasha for this post.

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