I’ve had a hilariously ridiculous time with Internet connectivity over the last six weeks or so. I’m waiting on my third Internet company to connect me up (in my brand new house, I just moved!) in a couple of days. That’s why I haven’t been around very much. And I hadn’t been planning to do this for a few more days, but, well, I guess the universe is telling me something what with this luckless Internet run. My plan, I’m sorry to say, readers, is to leave Feministe.
I love this space to bits, and I know it’s been as transformative, educational, and brilliant for many of you as it has been for me. I myself need to pursue other writing projects, other parts of my life. I think I’ve contributed my piece here, and, after eighteen months, it’s time to move on and let other voices, well, transform this ever-transforming space!
That’s the primary thing going on for me personally. But, hey. I’m not going to lie to you: a good part of why I’m leaving is also that I have found working here damaging. As much as we have amazing conversations so much of the time, dealing with commenters here has taken over a lot of my life and commanded too much of my effort and spirit. It took me almost a year to be accepted as someone whose moderation directions should be listened to, and whose post topics were worth the space. I’m under no illusions; a lot of that pushback has been because a lot of people could not accept a young, disabled, non-white person, or her issues as central feminist issues. It took time and a very sore heart, but I like to think that I’ve earned the respect of the readership here.
But, the thing is, what I stand for still isn’t a standard. I mean that for the feminist movement in general, not just here. I don’t want a feminism which defines us all monolithically, with all the bits that make up (to use the gender relevant to me) womanhood for so many of us – class and race and sexuality and so forth as well as gender – falling down the sides, grabbing on where they can.
When feminists talk about reproductive rights, it’s always the right to have an abortion, rarely the rights of women like me – disabled and non-white – who have had to fight for the right to reproduce. We talk about “women” and “trans women,” as though trans women are a subset of womanhood, and cis women the default, so never mind centring trans rights. We talk about being a proper feminist as though it’s something that can be bought with the right products, as though most of us can afford to. We talk about feminism as though its history is that of the United States, and maybe a bit of Europe – and when we talk about the rest of the world, it’s to speak over and appropriate the cultures and experience of those others.
That’s it, really: we talk about us and those others. Except, I am one of those others. And I want people like me to be part of core feminism, too. When we talk about sex, when we talk about rape, when we talk about abortion, I don’t want to be an example shoved in at the end. I want the deaths of people like me to be more important than whatever piece of popular culture is fascinating white middle class feminists today. I want a feminism with integrity, a feminism about all of us. I want a kind of feminism that doesn’t scapegoat people outside the mainstream, or disown forever individual activists who didn’t do it just right. I want a feminism that is about all of us, with systemic analyses and work, not just that which helps the most privileged of women.
As for Feministe, I’ve tried my best to direct readers to, and conversations along, those lines: I’ve wanted conversations that go towards all of us. I have spent long, frustrating, pre-dawn moments working at this, until every last one of my friends spent a solid year asking me when I was going to quit, telling me no one would blame me for a second if I did, because no one should have to put up with the kind of thing I was getting from readers simply because of who I was. I have received violent threats, I have received remarks about my family and my racial background. I have received the more mundane forces of attempts to hijack almost every single conversation and make it about something closer to feminist and social norms, which seem curiously aligned at times. I have taken every kind of pressure you can imagine. And I wasn’t going to quit until I had said every last thing I wanted to say, until I made it quite clear that women like me are in fact here, feminist, and important. I did my very best, but it’s not good enough; it’s never going to be enough until everyone cares about everyone else, not just the kinds of feminism such as work for the dominant set. I’ve done my best, and I have given everything I have to give.
The thing that gets me the most isn’t that people don’t know how to relate to circumstances outside of the prescribed norm. I get that; I get that we all have to learn about experiences outside of our personal worlds, especially the marginal ones which have been sublimnated in general and even, particularly, in social justice discourses. What gets me is the profound lack of lovingkindness displayed towards fellow people. My way of thinking is that true justice goes towards us all, all at once. You don’t have to understand, you just have to reach out to someone different until you can communicate. And that’s not something I’ve been seeing a lot of in the feminist communities in which I have engaged in my time as a feminist.
I’m not asking for your thanks or your apologies or anything like that. I’m just telling you how, as much as feminism claims to be about supporting, helping, and nurturing women, feminism makes those gains off of some of our backs. Don’t forget that, ever. Make feminism different.
The most heartfelt of thanks to my fellow staff members, past and present, who made me the kind offer to come on board. I’m still not really sure why you picked me, but I am more grateful than I can say. Cara, thanks for all the laughs, deft conversational sympathies, and teaching me my own city from far away. Sally, I am awfully glad indeed we’re friends – and we’ve got to get that bookclub going again! Jill, your supportiveness has astounded me every time, but your integrity was never in question. Lauren, thank you for making this space and for your… well, quintessential Laurenness. Just, thanks, everyone.
Thank you to everyone who has read my work, who has made me laugh, who has offered support and critiques, whom I have befriended, who have made my time here inspiring and absolutely worth every second of pain.
I’m not going to be entirely gone. I’m on Twitter, and I can always be found at my solo blog, Zero at the Bone. I’m going to be working on feminism from other directions, more sustaining than trying to work myself around white, able-bodied women’s concerns. I’m going to be freelancing my little heart out. And I really couldn’t bear to leave Feministe entirely, so I’ll still be kicking around here. I’ll be back to guest blog, but not for a while yet.
Well, I’d best sign off. Goodbye.