Erasing Women of Color From Mainstream Feminism

Are we silencing our own voices? Do we really want to be heard? Do we really want to hear each other?

Here’s how I learned about #solidarityisforwhitewomen: an email from Jill apologizing for the role she’s played in the Hugo debacle. She, who has already been shamed, apologizing for a situation in which she is one of many victims. And this isn’t a contest: I’m not here to talk about who is more of a victim and who played more of a role in making this happen. Shit is fucked up and bullshit; fuck Hugo, I don’t care about him.

Nobody has called me out on anything and I haven’t engaged in the conversation, but it’s brought up a lot of the anger I’ve felt in this space over the years, an anger that comes from presenting sites like Feministing, Feministe, Jezebel and others as mainstream, white feminism.

Because, as so often happens, in the discussions after #solidarityisforwhitewomen hit the “mainstream” (that is, left the confines of feminist blogs and twitter accounts and entered sites like Salon and Global Comment), I’ve read again and again the worry/sentiment that mainstream online feminism is white.

I do not want to declare war on other women of color. I know these women, their existence is not news to me. Some of these women are ones I looked up to when I started blogging, freaked out about if they commented on a blog post of mine, and were thrilled to be on blogtalkradio with. Furthermore, women of color aren’t the only ones who do this, white allies do as well. We need allies and women of color need to keep speaking up, but at what cost?

I’m tired of these sites being white-washed. At Feministe, we women of color constantly defended ourselves and reminded others that we are not, in fact, white. It is exhausting, at best, and violating, at worst, to constantly have your identity completely ignored or erased by readers, critics, commenters, other bloggers, whoever.

How can we expect others to elevate our voices and experiences, to let us be seen and heard, when we can’t even acknowledge and support other women of color trying to do just that?

It should never be the case that a woman of color writing for a mainstream feminist site should 1) be presumed to be white or 2) become so frustrated by the regularity of this presumption that it is one reason for her leaving the site. Here is a platform so many people believe is responsible for making some voices louder than others and then we silence other women of color to the point that they leave the site.

I remember the day I was invited to join Feministe and how excited I was to be joining a “big feminist blog.” My tiny blog was an incredible community, and one I continued to write at, but I was happy to have a wider reach. I longed for more conversations, deeper connections with writers I admired, new relationships, and a chance to promote and support other people I admired who were just starting out and also wanted the bigger platform.

I did get all of those things. But I also got a rude awakening: I would forever be one of “those” writers.

You know the image well, I’m sure: white, middle-class, straight, single, no children, women’s studies major who obnoxiously wears her feminism on her sleeve. I was only some of those things and even so, why were those things bad? My parents brought me to this country specifically so I could go to college; I never considered any alternative an option.

It’s absurd to consider starting every piece of writing listing every privilege I have, and equally absurd to list all the ways in which I’m a minority. “Single, 25-35, Latina, immigrant, cis, formerly-engaged, BA in psychology & women’s studies, preference for non-monogamy, depression, ambiguous sexuality…” A bit long for a byline. The more I felt I had to justify my identity in posts and in comments, the less I engaged.

We’re not helping anyone by continuing this practice — you think I’m white and some form of the enemy, I feel ignored and defeated until I’m totally over it and stop engaging altogether, then there are only white women left.

The only thing worse than white commenters invalidating my experience because I’m Latina? Women of color invalidating my identity as Latina by assuming I’m white.

And I get that this is partially my fault. Surely, if I had the guts to write more, then Jill wouldn’t be The Face of Feministe. Then again, Samhita has been editor of Feministing for how many years now? Jezebel founder, Anna Holmes, is also a woman of color. Yet Feministing and Jezebel are still included in discussions of online feminism as white.

And I also get that including writers/editors of color in these spaces doesn’t change the demographic of the commenters or the culture they create but, damn, it makes it hard to change that culture when the writers themselves feel shut down by people who look like them.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Feministe openly accepts guest posts and we invite people to write but obviously, we can’t force people to use this platform. And while I don’t write here regularly anymore, I’m not down with the idea of shutting the whole thing down (as incredibly frustrating as the space can be at times).

Maybe it starts with more lovingkindness, to echo Chally’s final post as a regular writer at Feministe.

Now, I have fucked up on multiple occasions just like everyone else in this space. There is no prize for Perfect Ally because nobody would apply for it and nobody would win.

We ALL need to do a better job of not assuming, not blaming, not hating, not accusing, not hiding. It might help us get from where we’ve been and where we are to where we keep saying we want to be.

Maybe it’s not possible to get there, I don’t know. But in the meantime, can we please stop invalidating the very voices we say we want to elevate?

So I’ll end with the questions I started with, which are very real questions for me because I no longer have the answers to them:
Are we silencing our own voices? Do we really want to be heard? Do we really want to hear each other?


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153 Responses to Erasing Women of Color From Mainstream Feminism

  1. Echo Zen says:

    Wow… I totally hear you. I’ve always wondered why Feministing, despite its solid stable of WOC editors and contributors, still gets generalised as a white space. Is it because the contributors don’t highlight their backgrounds every time they post? Personally I rarely reference my identity when posting, to avoid being pigeonholed as “establishment”, “marginalised” or whatever. By and large my time at Feministe has been a blessing and nothing else, but in the more radical communities I pass through, I get an attitude that being a blogger for Jezebel or even here makes you a sellout or something. If I let such things get to me more, I’d be as frustrated as you…

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      Agreed. I was just wondering about that re: Feministing earlier today.

      I mean, I’m sure a lot of it still comes from the fact that Jessica Valenti is still kind of the face of Feministing even though she left it years ago…and that fact that the association still exists so strongly is probably in no small part because she is white, while lot of the current editors and writers (many of whom are honestly a lot better than Valenti in their writing and analysis) are not. Oh, hai racism.

    • Alita says:

      no, its because a few of the articles (and more likely many of the comments) very much have a touch of ignorant xenophobia to them especially when discussing women from non-christian religions or women from “minority” cultural backgrounds.

      so please dont play ignorant “is it because they dont cite their background?”-no, if you sound like you opinion is coming from a white westernised lens, you cant blame people for assuming you are a white westerner.

  2. Nicole says:

    I’m sorry if some people have assumed you must be white, upper-class, etc. However, you can be a person of color and still perpetuate what we refer to as “white feminism”; namely, one need not be white to consistently maintain a space’s “whiteness”. Feministe, like other feminist sites, display a consistent preoccupation with issues that impact white, privileged women or even spin issues that might affect non-white women in a way that reveals either incredible privilege or incredible ignorance.

    • ohio_biz says:

      Agreed. My perspective is somewhat atypical (25, business man, non-feminist, but i do this and 2-3 other feminist blogs for perspective and often good insight). The thing that SCREAMED to me during the whole article is all the main stream feminist sites I have read focus on issues that I can’t imagine resonnate with people of limited means (to be 100% clear, there are more “white people” who are poor, but the % of minorities who are in poverty as a % of their race is 2-3x. And that is crap, is unfair and can be fought). however, feminist blogs, this one included, rarely talk about the family, economic, entrepreneurial and business / political constructs / programs that could help disadvantaged women (and families and kids). Not saying whether that is right or wrong (you can use your platform for what you want), but these sites do NOT serve many messages that are helpful to people trying to make a bettter life for themselves. If you are struggling day to day, you think someone gives two shits about Hugo? Come on..

  3. You’re definitely right. I’m going to have to think about this post. Thanks for writing.

  4. pheenobarbidoll says:

    If I walked into a bar where white people vastly outnumbered poc, it wouldn’t really matter if a poc co owned that bar. I’d consider it a white bar. Especially if all those white patrons engaged in racist discussions and smeared their WP all over the poc. Fucking constantly.

    • trees says:

      Yeah, I agree. The author acknowledges that issue here:

      And I also get that including writers/editors of color in these spaces doesn’t change the demographic of the commenters or the culture they create …

      I’m hoping that she elaborates on this point a bit more:

      …but, damn, it makes it hard to change that culture when the writers themselves feel shut down by people who look like them.

      I’m trying to think of ways in which I as a reader/commenter can be more supportive.

    • Donna L says:

      Of course, none of that should matter at Feministing, where they basically have no commenters anymore, and haven’t for a long time now. Back when there were commenters at Feministing, and I started reading there, the place turned out to be pretty much a horrible transphobic cesspool, and the people who ran the place did little or nothing about it. Hence the famous boycott, and I’ve hardly been back since. The fact that nobody comments there (because everything is on full moderation) hardly inspires me to return, and neither does the fact that there’s one trans woman who does blog there regularly now. The place was spoiled for me, permanently.

      Some people, including some self-identified feminists, don’t deserve lovingkindness, and I have no problem blaming them — and even hating some of them — for what they do. Goodwill doesn’t solve everything.

    • Echo Zen says:

      Yeah, I noticed most commenters mysteriously vanished around the time of Feministing’s site revamp. Did it to overlap with the boycott or something? I just assumed they botched their comment system so badly that nobody could be bothered to comment anymore. Too bad, because a community with no comments defeats the whole purpose of a community. At this point it functions more like a news portal — does anyone know if their readership has plummeted as well?

      • Donna L says:

        You’re right. Without comments, it’s not a community at all. I don’t really know whether it happened because of that boycott, but it certainly happened afterwards, and it’s been that way for a very long time now. I don’t think anyone even bothers trying to comment anymore.

      • Medusa says:

        I’m assuming it has plummeted. It used to be my homepage, and now I only look at it every once in a while to mock it with my friend.

        Not the content, but the way it used to be such a huge community and now it has declined and they don’t seem to want to let it go.

      • EG says:

        I used to be a regular commenter there. I stopped around late 2007, I think. I didn’t like the revamp, and there were one or two conversations where I had just had enough (I remember one in particular with a commenter asking me how, without the guidance of Christ, Jews had come to the conclusion that slavery was wrong, and comparing owning slaves to keeping kosher), but mostly it was just a time in my life where I was overwhelmed with stressful demands and needed to walk away from the internet. When things had changed well enough for me to come back, there was nothing to come back to, comment-wise. So I came here.

      • Tony says:

        It was at around the time of the site revamp. And no, the readership hasn’t plummeted; at least according to Alexa, it’s more popular than this site and it’s become more popular over the past year. They also have 93,000 twitter followers vs. 18,000 for Feministe- not that it’s a competition for anything.

        They just either didn’t want to deal with moderating the comments (which is kind of understandable, frankly – the audience over there is likely to be even broader than the one here, which means they’d pretty much have to have someone watching the threads 24/7) or they didn’t have the money to re-program the site to make commenting easier. I’m leaning towards deliberate, because comments were closed on the #sifww post.

        It’s sad– it’s by far the most racially diverse “mainstream” feminist site. They have WOC posting regularly, but there’s no “community”, so the site is associated with Jessica Valenti forever (or not even mentioned as a part of “mainstream feminism” anymore).

      • Athenia says:

        It sounds like they are doing pretty well–I read somewhere that they have 500,000 unique visitors per month or something like that. Having feministing turn into a news portal is probably for the best though since commenters could not behave themselves and being so popular is just going to bring more n00bs.

    • BHuesca says:

      Phernobarbidoll, are you criticizing the number of white readers or the number of white writers? because it seems to me it would be easier to have/recruit/attract more poc writers than to wish for more (random?) Poc commenters.

      • trees says:

        I think pheeno’s sentiment is echoed in the discussion below, and it seems more statement of fact than criticism.
        Nanette says:

        Naming this and other sites as “mainstream white feminism” does not (or should not) necessarily mean that non-white posters are erased or excluded. It’s just that they are posting on a mainstream white feminist site.

        Changing the culture of the site, making it less hostile to woc, trans*, disabled and others will not change that, I don’t think. In fact, I’m not sure why it should?

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Whyever would I subject either to this? More Poc writers won’t fix the existing racism. . Neither would more poc readers. The racism has to be fixed for either to be heard or cared about. We can’t even get past ” but that’s not racist” derails, or brining classism in to derail.

  5. trees says:

    It sounds like you’re being put in a difficult position, and I’m sorry that you haven’t been getting the support that you need. Thank you for writing this, and also for linking to Chally’s final post. I especially appreciate the emphasis on lovingkindness. I hope to see more of your writing here in future.

  6. Jenna says:

    I have followed links from here into a wonderful array of varied voices. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to people who didn’t grow up in the same circumstances I have. I want to see the other viewpoints and understand.
    On smaller more personal blogs you can usually learn a lot about that blogger and tell which angle they are viewing things, but, commenters on THIS blog often forget how anonymous commenting can be. I don’t expect people to remember things about me that I may have posted before, because my memory for that about others is faulty, usually. There are a few regular posters that I can pick out, but otherwise what I see is the chosen name, and the current post unless I go digging.
    If someone is speaking about lived experience, I’m sure not going to disagree, and I try to listen more than I post.

  7. Nanette says:

    This sort of reminds me of when Samhita wrote a similar post at feministing, flinging herself between Jessica and those nameless, yet notorious, “other woc” who had very real, specific critiques of specific people. She, too, complained of being ignored as a woc when commenters labeled feministing a “white” site, without referencing the woc who posted there.

    My first reaction to this post was about the same as it was to hers.

    Somewhat angry at the conflating of issues and the attempt to stand between Jill and those who have substantive critiques–in effect, dismissing the critiques without actually addressing them, while assigning a type of blame to those other woc and absolving Jill at the same time.

    And, sorrowful that talented, vibrant, brave woc…that *you* should be made to feel erased, unwelcome and unsupported, and unheard on this or any other site.

    Anna Holmes, though, may have been a woc (still is, but is no longer editor at Jezebel) but Jezebel was not started to be a woc site, even at the beginning. And, even so, the primary problem with that site (in this incidence) was the current white editor privileging the words and actions of an abusive white man over the woc (and white women) he abused.

    I really don’t see how you can argue that Jezebel does not belong in the mainstream white feminism category (though some could argue on the “feminist” part of it.)

    Anyway, I don’t know the answer to a lot of things. Sigh.

    • trees says:

      Somewhat angry at the conflating of issues and the attempt to stand between Jill and those who have substantive critiques–in effect, dismissing the critiques without actually addressing them, while assigning a type of blame to those other woc and absolving Jill at the same time.

      I hope the author will address this point.

      I’m not getting why it’s thought that past POC contributors and the occasional guest blogger should have a substantive impact on the perception that this is a site for “mainstream, white feminism”.

    • This post isn’t about Jill. She’s lovely and all, but this post is about women like me feeling erased. In order to give context to why this issue was suddenly on my mind, I brought up the fact that this stems from discussions around the hashtag and that my learning about the hashtag came from Jill.

      The issue of WOC being silenced in feminism is not new and it will certainly not end with this hashtag or any discussions since then. I’m not saying that isn’t a valid discussion to have; what I am saying is that in having those discussions, when WOC are or have been a part of the space that’s being deemed white, then that makes some of us feel invisible.

      I spent barely 2 paragraphs referring to the hashtag and that discussion and the rest of the post is about WOC, me specifically, being ignored when talking about blogs like Feministe as white.

    • Jasmin says:

      Thanks for this, Nanette. Something about this post was invalidating about the legitimate grievances brought up by WOC in a very “those angry black women”* way. I think the title is also off-putting. In what world do WOC have the power to erase themselves from mainstream feminism? Sorry, not feeling it.

      *The ABW would be the stereotype of WOC commenters, not the author.

    • Athenia says:

      Actually, I’d argue Jezebel started out to be a very WOC site, although it needed to appeal to white ladies too. I mean, I think you have the contradiction right there with the name and logo–Jezebel (a hypersexual black woman) and the logo, which is the face of a (presumedly) white woman.

      Either way though, I can see why people identify Jezebel and feministing as “white feminist” sites due to content, audience or writers. I mean, even though Samhita is the executive editor, it’s not like she posts regularly. Anyway, nobody thinks Crunk Feminist Collective is a white feminist site, for example.

  8. Nanette says:

    Yes, I hope she does, too.

    And to answer your question–I don’t know! It’s odd, to me. Especially considering that, for example, at one time there were at least a couple of transwomen posting here regularly (may still be–sorry, if I’ve missed someone,) yet no one that I know of would even think of saying this was not a mainstream cis/het site.

    Non white/cis/het feminist/other-identifying sites are centered differently, as most within non-primary groups know. So it’s a completely different thing.

    Naming this and other sites as “mainstream white feminism” does not (or should not) necessarily mean that non-white posters are erased or excluded. It’s just that they are posting on a mainstream white feminist site.

    Changing the culture of the site, making it less hostile to woc, trans*, disabled and others will not change that, I don’t think. In fact, I’m not sure why it should?

    • Nanette says:

      Sigh. This commenting system defeats me. “Reply” seems make its own decisions on where to land. :)

    • Donna L says:

      at one time there were at least a couple of transwomen posting here regularly

      There were, but then as of two years ago they had all gone away and there were zero for a while I think, and then one started commenting, and now there are several again. And even some L & G & Q people! But you’re right that no one would ever dream of saying that this isn’t a mainstream cis/het site. It just doesn’t have the reputation anymore of having a group of commenters who aren’t very receptive to trans people. The presence of a few people from a marginalized group who regularly comment or blog at a place might make a difference in how “friendly” that place is thought of being by other people belonging to that group, but it’s not going to change the general character of the place.

      • trees says:

        There was at least one trans* regular blogger here as well. Holly immediately comes to mind, but I feel like there may have been other guest bloggers that I can’t remember.

      • Donna L says:

        If anyone wants to understand the difference between Feministe 5 1/2 years ago (when Holly did blog regularly here) and Feministe now with respect to trans issues, look at this thread:

        http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/11/26/transgender-privilege/

        Yes, there were plenty of commenters defending trans women on that thread, and pushing back against the nonsense. But vile, disgusting, bigots like Bliss (whoever she may be) and others, were allowed to go on. and on. and on. and on, endlessly, about how people like me are “epistemologically male,” and “functionally not women at all,” without a damn thing being done, and other people were permitted to interrogate and speculate and theorize about trans women’s lives in that particularly lovely, pseudo-academic way that people love to do, again without anything being done.

        It made me feel physically ill to read that thread. Among other things, because it reminded me that not so much has changed in the world since 2007, because the same or similar people still say the same things all the time. Except now they can do it on Twitter!

        But at least I don’t think for a second that any of that would be allowed to happen here anymore. (Because now we silence the brave truth-tellers, of course!)

        To me, having one regular trans blogger — or one WOC blogging regularly — doesn’t necessarily mean everything is wonderful. There’s a lot more that’s necessary.

      • trees says:

        I’ll check out that link.

        To me, having one regular trans blogger — or one WOC blogging regularly — doesn’t necessarily mean everything is wonderful.

        Sweet baby dinosaurs! I pray I didn’t say anything to imply otherwise!

        There’s a lot more that’s necessary.

        Absolutely! I thought that was understood.

      • Donna L says:

        Goodness, Trees, of course not! Just the opposite! I was trying to agree with you and Nanette and others, and explain, in an oblique kind of way, why I also found the OP slightly confusing, using as an example the fact that Holly’s presence as a blogger here once upon a time clearly didn’t have a transformative effect on the fundamental nature of the place. If it’s changed for the better here with respect to trans issues over the last 5+ years — not that this will ever be anything other than a basically cis/het place — there are other reasons.

      • Ally S says:

        Wow, it literally was painful for me to read Bliss’ first comment.

      • trees says:

        I’d rather have a root canal than read that thread again.

      • Nanette says:

        I don’t know who Bliss is, but gah! Heart. Disgusting person. I’m so happy that things have changed here (and hopefully elsewhere) and those sort of bigoted comments that you point out are no longer tolerated.

        “To me, having one regular trans
        blogger — or one WOC blogging
        regularly — doesn’t necessarily
        mean everything is wonderful.
        There’s a lot more that’s necessary.”

        Absolutely. A full, diverse roster of regular and bloggers would be good–but, also important are moderators and core groups who are part of the site’s center. That’s part of what has been missing over the years, sadly.

        A mainstream white feminist site doesn’t have to be a bad, clueless thing. Unless it wants to be, of course.

    • trees says:

      My initial reaction to the post was irritation, but I thought I was just being defensive. Since others seem to have had a similar reaction, I’m thinking maybe there’s some merit to it.

      • Nanette says:

        Well, I think the reaction is natural–to me, it’s an irritating post, that sort of came out of left field. And perhaps she didn’t mean it to be so, but it also has a feel of woc-blaming for situations we (or, especially, current regular woc commenters on this blog) did not create.

        As well as being dismissive of various concerns, considering that the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag was a global thing, with thousands of people around the world expressing their frustrations and issues with mainstream white feminism.

        Hopefully frau sally will join in the conversation and clarify a few things this weekend.

      • trees says:

        Hopefully frau sally will join in the conversation and clarify a few things this weekend.

        Yeah, I would definitely appreciate that.
        Also, thanks for pointing out the scale of the conversation:

        As well as being dismissive of various concerns, considering that the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag was a global thing, with thousands of people around the world expressing their frustrations and issues with mainstream white feminism.

      • miga says:

        I felt that way too, Trees and Nanette. It’s why I haven’t really commented on this post. It hit a nerve and I’m still trying to parse out what opinions of mine are knee-jerk and what are legit.

      • I’m not saying that women of color created this situation, in this space or outside of it. But it does bother me, personally, when it comes from other women of color.

        I guess it comes down to what I said in my main comment: at what point is something not white, mainstream feminism?

        If writing here or commenting here will never make this a space for WOC, then why are we even discussing any of this? I always thought that criticism had a solution, which is the only reason I even bothered engaging with it for as long as I did. But if the solution isn’t more content from WOC or more posts reflecting something other than a straight, single, white woman narrative or more WOC commenters — if there is, in fact, no solution, then there is nothing left to engage with or for. (Which isn’t what I’m saying you’re saying, but it’s where my train of thought goes when discussing this aspect.)

        As for the global discussion around the hashtag, this piece isn’t about that. It’s about the space we’ve created as a feminist blogging community where WOC’s voices are asked to be elevated but get ignored. This was merely the latest thing that brought that issue to light.

      • But if the solution isn’t more content from WOC or more posts reflecting something other than a straight, single, white woman narrative or more WOC commenters — if there is, in fact, no solution, then there is nothing left to engage with or for.

        …yeah, except WOC here have explicitly asked for all of that on the #sifww secondary and tertiary threads. Knock off being disingenuous.

      • trees says:

        …yeah, except WOC here have explicitly asked for all of that on the #sifww secondary and tertiary threads. Knock off being disingenuous.

        I’m wondering if she read those threads.

      • If she didn’t read the threads, then why the hell is she assuming no one here thought of or discussed these things? o_O

  9. First of all, thanks to everyone who’s engaging in this, even in cases where we don’t agree.

    As a general response to a lot of you: at what point does a space become something other than white, mainstream feminism? If it’s not the writers, and it’s not the commenters, then what could it possibly be? I didn’t join this space because I identified as white and I haven’t only written things reflecting “whiteness” (here or elsewhere).

    And for those who are irritated or whatever, I mean, there isn’t much to say to that. I’ve been incredibly bothered by the things I said in this post for a long time but have chosen to remain silent because this commenting community can often be too much for me to deal with. But with each passing day that I saw a new post or roundtable or whatever about this that kept referring to sites like Feministe as the ultimate problem, and called out their whiteness as part of that problem, the more upset I became. So maybe it’s out of left field for you because you’re over this conversation, but I’m not. It is affecting me even when I’m not seeking it out. And part of me still wants this community to change and grow, even if I’ve chosen to not engage for so long. That’s more than enough reason to write about it.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      The point something stops being a white feminist site is the point it stops being a complete fucking nightmare for everyone else not white. While you were reading the solidarityisforwhitewomen thread, the woc here were doing some heavy lifting. Alone. Again. So maybe it’s not us doing the erasing, maybe you disappeared on us.

      • Donna L says:

        Pheeno, I’m so sorry that you and other WOC felt (and were) so alone in that thread in fighting back against racism, and so alone here in that respect in general. I know that others who consider themselves allies tried to lend support (particularly with respect to that Kristin Rawls fiasco), but also know that it wasn’t enough.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        But you don’t have the power to shut down racist commenters. The owners/writers/ mods do. And I didn’t see the author of this piece join, or back us in the face of it. If the readers here aren’t supporting her, the same point can be made right back. I don’t see her or other woc writers doing a whole hell of a lot in regards to changing the perception that this is a white feminist focused site. Just existing doesn’t cut it. Comes off as tokenism. Writing about a previous threads shitstorm of racism would help that out. But that doesn’t happen, or if it does, it sure hasn’t happened recently. So what are the woc here supposed to do? We are neck deep in it, but supposed to pretend the ceaseless racism doesn’t happen and we haven’t been battling it, which does lead to the conclusion this is a white feminist site because it makes a woc occasional writer feel erased? Really?? I can’t pretend my experience here as a woc hasn’t happened and my experiences here are what forms my opinions on the whiteness of this site. And if other woc have come to the same conclusion, then it’s not us at the source and its not us erasing anyone. What are we supposed to think when the handful of woc writers either leave or fail to speak? All I can think is that her experience as a writer vastly differs from mine as a reader.

      • Everything pheeno said. I have a long comment in mod about this below, too.

      • Denise Winters says:

        Also supporting everything pheenobarbidoll has said.

      • It’s both, actually. As I’ve now mentioned throughout the comments and implied in the post, part of the reason I stopped writing and moderating is precisely because I felt erased. It doesn’t make either problem go away (as I said in my post) and I am sorry that my absence means that things are still so hard for WOC in this space. I wanted to be able to help and perhaps it’s possible to start again and succeed this time in shifting the tone and culture of the comments. But part of what I’ve been asking really comes down to, what does success even look like.

        In any event, I think that having this discussion and beginning to engage again helps me feel like I could come back. Hopefully that makes commenters get a bit more support and we can all work together.

    • miga says:

      I think it’s a two pronged problem. One is that:

      1)it’s really hard to get context clues on the internet. Add to that the fact that whiteness, straightness, cis-ness, etc. is and has long been considered the default, and you’ve got even commenters who are normally careful about these things mislabeling others in hurtful ways. I agree with you that friendly fire hurts worse.

      2)Having a large/majority X population doesn’t mean that majority X’s voice is heard or their feelings respected. It happens all the time, especially in environments typically controlled by Whiteness.

      The answer, I think, lies in the quality of our discussions. Not the quantity. I’m not saying that WoC writers/commenters suck around here (not at all!), or that we should only write about WoC issues. I just think that a major identity shift would have to occur from Feministe, Jez, Feministing, etc. in order for people to think of the “mainstream feminist blogosphere” as a more inclusive place. Jez and Feministing? I have little hope for (though some great discussions have come out of Groupthink). Feministe I’m still holding out on.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Dipping in a tentative toe here.

      I’m, rather obviously, not a POC. But when I started reading Feministe maybe six or seven years ago, I noticed that the overall voice of the site was geared towards white, more well to do and well educated women. I read along and waited until maybe two or three years ago to actually start commenting, and the reason I actually started commenting was because I was often uncomfortable and even irritated by how some of the writers as well as the commentariat seemed to miss the boat when it came to how issues discussed in posts affected POC, or poorer folks, or less educated folks, and even people who were not opposite coast, big city residents.

      I’m having a difficult time articulating this well, but I don’t think the issue at play is about POC trying to silence or erase other POC. I simply get the sense that the the Voice of Feministe is not one that addresses the issues of POC, or respects their voices and their unique issues sufficiently.

      Let’s be honest here, Jill writes over 50% of the content on Feministe. It’s hardly a scientific analysis, I admit, but in simply scrolling through the last five or six pages of the blog Jill’s byline appeared on at least 50% of the entries on the site. So it’s little mystery as to why a lot of people identify this site as Jill’s. Add in the fact that she is the most well known and widely published writer at Feministe and it’s even more understandable why the site is associated with Jill first and foremost.

      Going back to the issue of race. I have often gotten the impression that Jill’s pov and sometimes that of other writers here at Feministe are not well informed by how they affect WOC. Because how things like education, and economics, and employment as well as others affect white women is often quite different from how they affect WOC. So when Jill or others are all, Rah! Lean In Ladies! Or even Eschew marriage! or having kids, and Don’t Take Your Husband’s Last Name! and so on, not only are they often missing how those issues impact WOC differently, worse yet those differences are never even acknowledged.

      So it isn’t as simple as having more WOC voices. Although that would be a huge move in the direction of better. It’s about acknowledging how issues impact WOC differently, and not taking stances that may support and lift up the interests of white women to the detriment of the interests of WOC. It’s about always keeping in mind how issues of race intersect with issues of economics as well as social issues. Also, I don’t think there are any ill motives on Jill’s part at play here, nor of the other writers who are “published” on Feministe. Some of the commenters, I’m not so sure about.

      • Lolagirl says:

        And to elaborate a bit more on the way issues discussed at Feministe ignore how they affect WOC, one more thought. If the underlying assumption on any given topic is that whatever benefits white women will also benefit WOC, that assumption is most certainly wrong. And if one refuses to think through why that is, and how benefits (socially, economically, education, etc) to white women can and often do, in fact, negatively impact WOC, one may just be wandering into racist territory.

        I really hate to throw around the r word, because I honestly do believe that Jill and the rest of Feministe have good intentions and don’t see this flip side of their own realities. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have this issue brought up, and discussed, and unpacked for all it is. It’s a crucially important discussion that must be had, and personal feelings must be set aside to face it head on. Because otherwise, no real progress can ever be had to move forward towards a more intersectional approach to Feminism.

      • I was often uncomfortable and even irritated by how some of the writers as well as the commentariat seemed to miss the boat when it came to how issues discussed in posts affected POC, or poorer folks, or less educated folks, and even people who were not opposite coast, big city residents.

        Or not USian at all.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Yep, that too, Kitteh.

    • trees says:

      As a general response to a lot of you: at what point does a space become something other than white, mainstream feminism? If it’s not the writers, and it’s not the commenters, then what could it possibly be? I didn’t join this space because I identified as white and I haven’t only written things reflecting “whiteness” (here or elsewhere).

      Why is it so important to define these parameters? Why not just get on with the work? Throughout my professional life I have had associations with elite institutions. I take all of me to work each day and I push my communities perspectives into the story. I make an impact in the small ways I shift the cultural narrative. If someone were to speak of my place of employment as white, mainstream and elitist, they would be absolutely correct. That doesn’t diminish the work that I do.

      • Donna L says:

        Thank you.

      • It’s less that it’s important to define the parameters just to do the work. It’s that it becomes hard to do the work when you constantly feel ignored. While I didn’t agree to become a blogger to suddenly change everything, I also very much felt that the issues I had with women of color not being heard could be helped in a space like this.

        At the end of the day, you are happy with what you do in part because of the small shifts you make and I was feeling that way too but it felt like one step forward and two back when I would read posts, comments or emails assuming I was white. Perhaps it’s because I expected the “why are you writing about this on a feminist blog” pushback but not the “what makes you qualified to write about this” or “I’m tired of white feminists writing about my issues.”

  10. Miss S says:

    Yet Feministing and Jezebel are still included in discussions of online feminism as white

    If they aren’t white, what are they? Diverse? Or even open to diversity?

    Have you ever seen a race discussion on jezebel? it’s a complete disaster and has been for years. Did you see the most recent discussion on race here? Fail, every time.

    <Are we silencing our own voices? Do we really want to be heard? Do we really want to hear each other?

    Ask Pheeno if she wants to be heard. Ask all of the woc who have put up with racists commenters, and outright racism in comments directed at them. The fact that they are still here suggests they want to be heard. The woc on here aren’t the problem, the racism is.

  11. In all fairness, one doesn’t just see whitewashing in Feminist groups. It’s just a microcosm for the way the rest of the world defines itself.

    I’ve long been rubbed the wrong by the inequality and favoritism within women’s studies programs. If you’re wealthy enough, privileged enough, or lucky enough to go to an elite college like Barnard, you will receive excellent instruction. We have an elitist, supposedly merit-based system within a generally exclusionary, Patriarchal institution of higher education.

    I respect Courtney Martin for owning up to the fact that her career as a published author is due, in no small part, to attending Barnard and having a roommate whose mother had serious connections to a publisher.

    Most of the women who have had the opportunity to raise their consciousness to an appropriate level, of course, are white. Denoting a few token women of color is no tenable solution. If we want to change things, we need to peer beyond the same established channels, the same Seven Sisters approach.

    Those who write for mainstream feminist publications are, very often, alumni of these gold standard colleges and universities. To have an audience, one must first start with the advantages granted without even having to lift a finger or to prove oneself. If it were up to me, I’d look beyond the familiar and find feminist thought in other places.

  12. Samquilla says:

    In my opinion, it starts with more moderating. I have basically taken Feministe out of my “daily reads” because of the lack of moderation and acceptability of mean comments making fun of other women without actually making a feminist critique. For me it’s the response to posts on mothering and homebirth/attachment parenting/eating placenta, that made me feel like I did not want to be a part of this community, but it happens with respect to race and other identities/experiences that are outside the “norm” for the majority of the commentariat. The comments are not respectful constructive feminist critique. They are just mean and finger pointing and “ha ha, look at those weirdos.” I had a back and forth regarding this on placenta eating and was told by regular, established commenters that they valued their right to be sarcastic and flip more than they cared about making this community welcoming to women who engage in/sympathize with these practices. That’s when I decided this was not a community I wanted to participate in any more.

    • EG says:

      As one of those commenters, I stand by that. Sarcasm is the mainstay of almost all my communication, and I think that equating the privileged crunchy urban white women whose placenta-eating was being mocked in that thread with actual disenfranchised, marginalized groups is both disingenuous and absurd. And I’m completely serious about that.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I also took part in that discussion.

        The problem with the mocking of UMC, white, NYers eating their placenta is that it never left any wiggle room for cultural/racial variations where there were arguably valid reasons for the practice.

        Which just circles back to the point I made upthread about how criticiquing stuff white women do often misses out completely on how that issue may differently impact other people who are not white women. And that the reality of how other races and cultures do stuff differently may make plenty of the critique of what white women are doing look like shitting on POC. Even if it is inadvertent, and unintented, it’s still a big problem.

      • EG says:

        I’m not buying that. That article was specifically about that specific class of women, privileged if ever there were privileged women. Mocking those specific upper-class women for their specific practice and the woo that inspires it is nothing like indicting the practices of marginalized people. I’m not going to go around not making fun of the privileged ruling class for their ridiculous peccadilloes. (Further, I just did some quick searches on that thread, and nowhere is there a mention of the practice being ganked from a marginalized culture. It all seems to be based on what “other mammals” do.)

      • Librarygoose says:

        Further, I just did some quick searches on that thread, and nowhere is there a mention of the practice being ganked from a marginalized culture. It all seems to be based on what “other mammals” do.)

        Yup, it’s one of those “Well, the monkeys do it so it must have some value!!” things. The only people I ever learned about eating their placenta was crunchy-hippie types. Rituals involving disposal of the placenta? Many and varied. Eating it is really not one of them.

      • Donna L says:

        crunchy . . . placenta-eating

        Are they? I’ve never tried one.

      • Placenta or urban women?

      • Donna L says:

        I’m not even going to touch that one!

    • I’ll do my very best to make afterbirth-eaters feel as welcome as WOC on this blog, I promise!

  13. at what point is something not white, mainstream feminism

    I gave this a bit of thought, last night, and I suppose it’s important to make a distinction between mainstream feminism engaged in by white feminists, and white!mainstream!feminism. The former seems to be more of a “who’s doing what” and the latter an exclusionary, implicitly or explicitly white-centric (if not white-supremacist, hello Amanda Marcotte and Hugo Schwyzer) feminism that at best ignores, and at its worst actively seeks to undermine WOCs’ selves, interests and contributions to feminism.

    Thus, I would point out that it is possible for a site to be run mostly by feminists who are white and still not be a part of white!feminism.

    On the flip side, it also means that it is entirely possible for a site to NOT consist of white feminists, in whole or in part, and still be part of white!feminism.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter if there are WOC on Jezebel, if Jezebel is willing to show video of black girls being gang-raped for clicks, and refuse to apologise for actively promoting, paying and defending a racist domestic abuser and rapist who targeted WOC by his own admission. I don’t care what colour the owner of a site (or founder, or contributor) is, if the site as a whole is an unfriendly or outright dangerous space for WOC. I really don’t give a flying fuck.

    I’m sorry you feel erased, and I apologise for participating in that erasure.

    But seriously?

    Seven posts in four years, and you’re pissed off that no one took you into account when discussing the site as a whole? Your blog post contributions in the last four years has a lower word count than my comments on the #sifww thread alone, and you expect your presence to be acknowledged every single time someone discusses the racial dynamics of Feministe? That’s as ridiculous as my expecting everyone on the site to acknowledge me every time they talk about the lack or presence of non-western commenters on the site. And I know there are other WOC bloggers and guest bloggers on this site, but tbh, here’s the breakdown: Jill and Caperton write a goodly 75% of the content on the site between them. Maybe closer to 80%. They’re both white. And I enjoy their writings on the whole, which is why I hang around. But they’re both white.

    If Feministe isn’t a white mainstream site (that veers fairly close to white!feminism sometimes), where’s the protection for WOC commenters? Where’s the crackdowns on people being shitty to POC? The shit that people here have gotten away with saying in the past is pretty fucking impressive.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m a little pissed off that the responses to the dozens of excellent suggestions to make this a WOC-friendly space that were raised in the #sifww threads on here has been:
    1) Pop culture post
    and
    2) Post shaming WOC for refusing to acknowledge how there’s WOC in white feminist sites, rly!

    Yeah. I’m a little pissed. I don’t think you should have shut up, I just expected something a bit more proactive and less, frankly, victim-blaming to be the first direct response. Because honestly, if mainstream feminism is as full of influential and powerful WOC as you seem to be claiming it is, why is that not what I see? Why is it that I can’t read comments threads on these supposedly inclusive sites without a countdown to racist crap being slung about?

    I don’t know. I still feel like you were erased and that’s not okay, but otoh what the hell, it’s not like you were a significant presence here. You were certainly content to sit by while WOC were being shat all over on this site, and the second all that blows over, you come back here to waggle a finger at us for forgetting your almightiness?

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      And this.

    • Donna L says:

      I feel a little embarrassed to admit it, but until the OP said that she’s one of the bloggers here, I had no idea that that was the case. Her name isn’t even familiar to me, and I’ve read almost every post and comment here for nearly two years now. And I would guess that I’m not the only commenter here for whom that’s true. So I’m not sure how she can reasonably expect that people will take her presence into account in thinking about what “kind” of a place this is.

      • Yep. My intial reaction was to feel bad for her personally, and I still do, but otoh I’m really uncomfortable with the direction, timing and implications of this post.

        And really, I just… it’s not even that I feel that Feministe has such bad issues compared to most non-explicitly-poc-focused places on the ‘net. Even the racefails that occur in most posts are pretty minor IMO; to take the example of the name-taking thread that Lola brought up, it was a question of a lack of nuance, not ill-intent. #sifww was pretty notably horrible IMO. I was pretty hurt and disgusted by the #sifww thread because of a bunch of new faces (or old faces wev) who turned up and made it unpleasant, but still, I really like most of the regulars, and I just… gah.

    • Miranda says:

      I suppose it’s important to make a distinction between mainstream feminism engaged in by white feminists, and white!mainstream!feminism.

      This distinction is very helpful. Cosigning.

      • Yeah. It’s a question of willingness to be thoughtful and clear when writing on issues that don’t directly affect the blogger(s), and being protective of marginalised groups in the extended region of comments etc. It’s not about being part of (marginalised group) oneself at all.

    • Fat Steve says:

      I don’t know. I still feel like you were erased and that’s not okay, but otoh what the hell, it’s not like you were a significant presence here. You were certainly content to sit by while WOC were being shat all over on this site, and the second all that blows over, you come back here to waggle a finger at us for forgetting your almightiness?

      Of course you will sympathize with her being erased, because I’ve seen it happen to you multiple times on here. The very thread in contention required you and pheeno to assert your WoC status on numerous occasions to people who assumed you must be white if you said something vaguely sympathetic towards Jill. Frau Sally doesn’t seem to get that you who are commenting get BOTH the erasure AND the bullshit.

    • Aydan says:

      Seven posts in four years, and you’re pissed off that no one took you into account when discussing the site as a whole? Your blog post contributions in the last four years has a lower word count than my comments on the #sifww thread alone, and you expect your presence to be acknowledged every single time someone discusses the racial dynamics of Feministe? That’s as ridiculous as my expecting everyone on the site to acknowledge me every time they talk about the lack or presence of non-western commenters on the site.

      Perhaps I am missing something, but when I click on Sally’s name, I see eight pages of posts– about 100 total– all of which have happened in the last four years. During 2010, she was apparently posting two or three times a week.

      • That’s weird; her Feministe tag only shows seven posts in that time. o_O Well, that’s confusing…

      • Donna L says:

        But the fact remains that this is only her third post in the last two years, and her seventh since the beginning of 2011. The fact that mac didn’t notice her 2010 posts isn’t all that relevant to mac’s point, which was really about what’s reasonably current.

      • Aydan says:

        But the fact remains that this is only her third post in the last two years, and her seventh since the beginning of 2011. The fact that mac didn’t notice her 2010 posts isn’t all that relevant to mac’s point, which was really about what’s reasonably current.

        But it is surely relevant to Sally’s point, about how her contributions to the site and the community have not, in her opinion, been recognized. She acknowledges herself that she is not a regular poster any more– I don’t think anyone’s disputing that– but there is a big difference between writing seven posts in four years, and writing 89 (as I see now it says directly under her post).

    • One of the biggest reasons I stopped blogging regularly is precisely because I was feeling erased. I felt ignored in any discussion about Feministe being a space for white women. I felt exhausted justifying to people in posts, comments, and emails that my thoughts and feelings are valid in a discussion about WOC.

      It isn’t like I woke up the other day and felt shut out because of this latest discussion, it was simply the reminder of something I take huge issue with. I know I’m not the first person to feel the frustration that comes from being ignored.

      Because honestly, if mainstream feminism is as full of influential and powerful WOC as you seem to be claiming it is, why is that not what I see? Why is it that I can’t read comments threads on these supposedly inclusive sites without a countdown to racist crap being slung about?

      This is as frustrating for me, a WOC writer & moderator, as it is for commenters. It isn’t something that goes away as easily as we’d like it to. The writers in this space (can’t speak for any others) used to have lengthy discussions about ways to change this and any time we tried something it didn’t work. One thing I noticed, though, was that by feeling so drained dealing with the “what makes you qualified to write about this” responses from other WOC, it made it that much harder to deal with the “why are you writing about this on a feministe site, stfu” responses. Perhaps it’s as simple as, if you feel like even WOC don’t have your back, you feel even more alone and angered when people are attacking you for writing something that isn’t feminism 101. It was a gradual shift, not one that happened overnight, but I felt myself feeling less invested in this space and more harmed than heard.

      In terms of the distinction between white, mainstream feminism and white!feminism, it’s an interesting one and one that I definitely want to keep thinking about.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        We all have to do that though. Having to pull out our woc credentials is not exclusive to writers. I have more tolerance for other woc who ask because I know it’s a survival mechanism prompting them. White feminists assume you are white because hey, isn’t everyone and woc need confirmation you’re not white because white feminists feel the need to speak for us without consent. Feministe IS a white feminist space. Your being here doesn’t change that just like my being here doesn’t make it a NA space.

      • I’m trying to figure out why I felt a difference going from a commenter to a writer because of course I was used to having to describe who I am in comments. Maybe it’s that in other settings where the community was small enough to know who I am, even if I didn’t write all the time, I never had to explain that I’m writing about something on Latinos as a Latina. I got used to that, bad move. I viewed Feministe as my home and I didn’t realize how much I would have to still defend who I am in my own home. I’m not sure if that makes sense…

        Perhaps it was stupid of me to think there’d be a difference and to think that because I openly stated I was Latina, or an immigrant, or non-monogamous, or whatever in multiple instances that others would catch on and stop questioning it.

        But I think that’s the main issue here and the thing I have trouble with and it has nothing to do with me specifically: By continuing to define a space as white, the default assumption will be that the writer must be white or that the content isn’t considering how [insert issue here] affects WOC. That assumption is harmful not only because it changes the conversation but because it does erase the identity of the WOC writers.

        I understand and know full well that this space has often been unwelcoming or unsafe for WOC but I just don’t know that assuming everyone to be white is the appropriate response.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Most of the woc readers here don’t assume a writer is white, unless their post reflects it. Saying feministe is a white feminist site doesn’t mean we assume all the writers are white. It means the majority of the content is white focused, white perspective. You write for a white feminist site. That’s not a criticism, it’s a statement of fact. I post on a white feminist site. That doesn’t mean anything negative. Making sure you’re not a white feminist speaking for woc is also not assuming you’re white, either. It’s an attempt to confirm that woc reading aren’t about to get sucker punched by a random erasing or racist comment from some white feminist that knows the jargon so assumes she can define the experience.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Feministe IS a white feminist space. Your being here doesn’t change that just like my being here doesn’t make it a NA space.

        I may be incredibly naive, pheeno, but I do believe that, to some extent, your being here does make it, well, if not a (an?) NA space, at least a less NA-unfriendly space due, at a minimum, to the presence of someone knowledgable/aware/sensitive to/of NA issues. When I read the WoC-only thread, the names there were ones I see on most of the threads I comment on. The diversity of the commentariat (or at least, the diversity of the most vocal commenters,) is for me, why I regularly comment here.

        This is not a disagreement with your argument that WoC need to be represented better among the writers and that it’s atrocious that you are constantly put on the defensive. I totally agree with you on that. I just wanted to say that at least one person (myself) would literally not be here if not for the most active commenters being a diverse bunch.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        There are 2-3 NA commenters here. And no, it’s not really a NA friendly space. All my fellow NA feminists that I know won’t step a toe here. Compare that number to the number of white feminists here. We don’t even make up a percent. It takes more than a couple of people knowledgeable on our issues to make it a friendly space. It gets unfriendly real quick when we mention colonizers or illegal elections.

      • Ledasmom says:

        From my (relatively uninformed) perspective, it seems like it’s only NA-friendly to the extent that pheenobarbidoll and others are willing and able to do the work of calling people on their crap. That’s not very friendly. It’s putting all the work on the shoulders of the people it’s supposed to be friendly towards. Friendly would be if people didn’t come up with crap or if only a few people did and everybody called them on it.
        I mean, it’s like inviting people over and expecting them to entertain you, cook you dinner and clean up afterwards as the price of your friendship. Not terribly friendly.

      • trees says:

        You’ve set the bar wretchedly low. The mere mention of the term “settler” or “settler culture” has non-NDN North Americans of all ethnic backgrounds preparing for a duel.

  14. Denise Winters says:

    I find it disgusting when people assume someone is white, and such assumptions are often rooted in racism and sexism with regards to what WOC should think or feel about a given issue. It has happened to me here and I will absolutely not engage with the person who did so. However, I don’t see identifying sites like Jezebel and Ferministe as white-focused/white sites is erasing the voices of WOC who contribute. It isn’t making an assumption about the race of every commenter or blogger, but rather identifying sites like Jezebel and Feministe as white/WOC hostile by pointing out that based on the overall site as a whole and the majority of posts (and lack of posts) and comments that:
    – They regularly fail to identify and acknowledge issues that predominately and/or disproportionately affect WOC
    – Ignore the voices of WOC when they say someone is an abuser and call it “being behind the learning curve” (as oppose to you know, deliberately disregarding the voices of WOC)
    – Routinely allow racist/xenophobic comments to pass without remark
    – Do almost everything in a way that centers white women and their experiences ( even when supposedly apologizing for their failure to defend black women)
    – Meet criticism with defensiveness (Yep, I’m still upset about Black History Month and Jill’s comments in the threads that brought it up)
    – Constantly come to the defense of white women who are criticized, often by WOC, but do not seem to make defending WOC as high a priority ( Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike being derisively called a “liquid diet” comes to mind, as does writing a post defending Sheryl Sandburg’s book and posting it on March 1st, you know, the day after the unremarkable BHM ended)
    – Make it so that WOC constantly feel these spaces are hostile
    – Failing to seek and post a variety of opinions and angles from WOC

    Jezebel, Feministe, and Feministing (a site I no longer even really bother to visit regularly) have involvement from WOC, but that doesn’t mean that the hostility many WOC feel in those spaces should matter less. The racism within them are systematic to the sites. And ways to make it better have been posted, again, and again, and again on Feministe and Jezebel especially. And still, these conversations come up again and again. It isn’t a matter of a magic ratio of WOC to white women, but of a constant tone of vitriol toward WOC, an erasure of diversity and differing opinions, ignoring our voices, accusing us of “piling on” or being overly obsessed with “call-out culture”, turning to WOC to offer solutions only after the problems have been pointed out as oppose to being more pro-active, and then failing to make changes again and again and again.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      This.

    • I love everything about your comment.

      – They regularly fail to identify and acknowledge issues that predominately and/or disproportionately affect WOC

      This is the issue I had with these blogs and one that I thought/still think is helped by including those voices as regular writers and guest bloggers. We can’t expect a white writer to explore something affecting WOC when more than half the time, they don’t even know what that experience is (for obvious reasons).

      I think one big issue in Feministe is that we want to provide a platform for these writers and these issues but people are wary of contributing because every time you hit “publish” it’s basically you holding your breath until the terrible comments start. Which is to be expected, of course, and change can’t happen without that initial discomfort. But to me, changing that culture all starts with featuring more voices and yet we can’t force people to share their stories in this space knowing full well that their fear of being attacked is totally justified.

  15. SamBarge says:

    I am a white, cis, hetero woman so I admit that I may not be aware of the attitudes on Feministe that make WOC feel unwelcome. I can see it on Jezebel of course; I’m not that obtuse. I rarely visit Feministing anymore, so I can’t comment on it. There are commenters here – commenters whose opinions I read and respect, even if I don’t comment often – saying that Feministe isn’t always a safe site for WOC and that bothers me.

    Is there a feminist site(s)/blog(s) that is(are) fostering a safe environment for WOC? I want to frequent those blogs. I want to have my white (and cis and hetero) privilege challenged, not upheld, by the discussions I read/engage in online.

    Any suggestions would be very welcome.

    • IrishUp says:

      May I suggest taking this to an open or spill-over thread. Asking to be educated on a thread that is (or SHOULD be) centering questions regarding how NOT to erase POC and particularly WOC, is really, really really insensitive. There are plenty of 101 blogs. Coming in waving your ignorance of the matter is just not cool. The women here discussing being erased, neglected, and undervalued do not need you rubbing that in their face (And to paraphrase Sharkfu – catch that knee! I’m not saying you MEANT to, I’m pointing out that was the effect of your comment.) If you value them, take this discussion elsewhere, please.

      • SamBarge says:

        Sorry. That was not my intention and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended by my insensitivity.

  16. trees says:

    On rereading, this seems to be the meat of the issue:

    We’re not helping anyone by continuing this practice — you think I’m white and some form of the enemy, I feel ignored and defeated until I’m totally over it and stop engaging altogether, then there are only white women left.

    Besides accepting that you are also a WOC, are there other ways in which I as a reader could be more supportive? What might support look like?

    • Thank you for asking this.

      It’s a bit sad to say this, but the main thing is really not assuming I’m white in a discussion that isn’t explicitly about Latinos or WOC. At this point, I surely expect that when I write something, people will automatically think I’m Caperton or Jill, but at the time, I couldn’t understand why it kept happening.

      Besides that, it’s about helping in the comments, as people have already done in this thread, thanks! There’s an incorrect assumption that as moderators, we have 100% control over comments but the truth is that we don’t. For one, we have lives outside of writing at Feministe and often by the time we realize a thread has gone astray, it’s way too late. Secondly, there’s a constant struggle in wanting to create a space where people are open to ask questions and learn and debate without actively abusing or hurting 1) the writer and 2) the commenters. I think that for most of us, that gray area ends up being pretty big. So a little patience and support from commenters helps immensely.

      I’d need to think of more beyond that but honestly even having this conversation helps me feel like I can start writing here again with a new energy.

      • trees says:

        This seems fair, and doable.

        Besides that, it’s about helping in the comments, as people have already done in this thread, thanks!

        I don’t always say something. I read some comments and just roll my eyes, not wanting to come off as contrarian and pugilistic. Other times I’m in a defeatist place and just think “why bother”.

        Your points are well taken, but support must go both ways. These two comments sum up the salty reception to your post:

        pheeno:

        While you were reading the solidarityisforwhitewomen thread, the woc here were doing some heavy lifting. Alone. Again. So maybe it’s not us doing the erasing, maybe you disappeared on us.

        mac:

        I’m really uncomfortable with the direction, timing and implications of this post.

        I’m heartened by your response:

        In any event, I think that having this discussion and beginning to engage again helps me feel like I could come back. Hopefully that makes commenters get a bit more support and we can all work together.

        May we do better.

  17. Colin Day says:

    Perhaps people look at your nym and decide that you are German? Why not Señora Sally Benz?

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      No. Woc shouldn’t have to pick “ethnic” names to avoid being defaulted to white. Also- are all Germans white? Since when?

      • Colin Day says:

        the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sideways[deleted for tedious doubling down on refusing to buy a clue. It is arrogant in the extreme to assume that someone is white unless they make a point of telling you otherwise, and future arguments from anybody along these lines should have the giraffe called to offer guidance immediately. ~ mod team]


      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Don’t even fucking try to say there’s a difference between name and title given the damn point was to insert some signifier of her race in her goddamn posting name. Doesn’t matter if you said title, it means the same thing. It means she has to advertise in order to not be defaulted to white. Mods we need a giraffe here.

        [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mod team]

      • tigtog says:

        I’ve only just woken up and seen the giraffe alert, pheeno. Apologies for the delay in responding to it.

    • Aydan says:

      As I am neither a woman of color nor German nor Sally, perhaps I should not be responding, but there are certainly women of color who are also German. There are also Hispanic women who are white.

      Additionally, my understanding is that “frau” is not the equivalent of “señora,” as the latter denotes something about the marital status of the woman using it (which would be incorrect in this case, as Sally noted she is single) that the former, in current usage, does not.

    • Donna L says:

      I hate to think what you believe pheeno and mac should use as their names so you can easily identify their ethnicity. I guess you think mac is from Scotland?

    • Fat Steve says:

      My wife is Argentinian/Puerto RIcan and she has a Jewish last name. Her maiden name was actually quite German sounding, though it is a fairly popular Argentinian name.

    • Annaleigh says:

      It really, really, really shouldn’t have to said, but there are many Latin@s with German ancestry and German surnames (Kat von D, anyone?), with some countries having bigger German populations than others. Good grief.

      I for have a very Anglo name (this is my actual name) and an equally English surname, but I am mixed and mostly of Mexican ancestry. Think please, next time, before you post shit like this.

      • Donna L says:

        I have cousins in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia with German-Jewish surnames, and cousins in Cuba with a Polish-Jewish surname that most people would think sounded German. I’m pretty sure that there are more people of Italian descent in both Brazil and Argentina than there are in the USA. And plenty of German descent. Where does Colin Day think Gisele Bündchen is from?

      • Annaleigh says:

        Yep. You’re absolutely right Donna, not only about the people with German ancestry but also in general other Latin@s with European ancestry that isn’t necessarily Spanish or Portuguese. That’s a pretty large part of the population when you get down to it. Where does he indeed think Gisele Bündchen is from?

      • Colin Day says:

        Brazil.

        Now, as I asked Annaleigh, do people believe that Frau Sally Benz is white because she writes on Feministe, or because of her nym?

      • Chally says:

        The former, Colin. This problem is not just about Sally.

  18. Colin Day says:

    Responding to Annaleigh:

    I know she’s from South America; does the average American? As for there being German WOC, sure, just like there are WOC who write for Feministe. Do people believe that she is white because she is on Feministe, or do they believe she is white because of her nym?

    • Annaleigh says:

      The average American can use Google and learn a few things about Latin America, things like, oh, German people immigrated to many of the countries. If they are making assumptions purely on a surname, they are missing information, and no one is obligated to sit down and explain to you the intricacies of their ethnic and racial background or the makeup of their country of origin.

      • Colin Day says:

        And why would they have believed that she was from Latin America in the first place?

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Because this is supposed to be a blog where people KNOW BETTER THAN TO ASSUME RACE. Is that simple enough for you?

      • miga says:

        Well, I didn’t know who Frau Sally Benz was…so you know what I did? I Googled her.

        Peoples’ nyms don’t and don’t have to correspond to their actual ethnicities. Kitsune is a Japanese word but I’m pretty damn sure Mac isn’t Japanese. And that’s ok.

      • Ledasmom says:

        For that matter, I haven’t noticed anyone assuming I’m Greek based on my ‘nym, despite the myth of Leda hailing from that area.
        I mean, part of the whole point of a ‘nym is that you get to have whatever one you want. You’re not actually required to leave little clues in it so people can play Ethnicity Treasure Hunt.

  19. Annaleigh says:

    There’s been a march for immigration reform over the past few days, and Friday afternoon the marchers arrived here in town to a warm reception at the church my Catholic relatives in town attend (the church is also very important to the history of the United Farm Workers movement). They are moving along and continuing the final stretch to Bakersfield. I hope their feet and their resolve hold up!

  20. Annaleigh says:

    Uh oh, the link didn’t make it! Let me try again. Walking for immigration reform

  21. Colin Day says:

    Response to Chally

    OK, thanks.

  22. Nanette says:

    “*I suppose it’s important to make a
    distinction between mainstream
    feminism engaged in by white feminists,
    and white!mainstream!feminism. The
    former seems to be more of a “who’s
    doing what” and the latter an
    exclusionary, implicitly or explicitly
    white-centric (if not white-supremacist,
    hello Amanda Marcotte and Hugo
    Schwyzer) feminism that at best ignores,
    and at its worst actively seeks to
    undermine WOCs’ selves, interests and
    contributions to feminism.*”

    What an excellent way to put it, mac. The distinction is there and something I’ve often noticed, but didn’t really know how to articulate, lol, especially in a non-flubbery, confusing way. I’ll be using this example from now on.

  23. Colin Day says:

    Reply to pheenobarbidoll

    Sorry, I hadn’t noticed, though I might not lurk enough to catch it all.

    • tigtog says:

      Moderator tip: when the comment nesting won’t let you nest your reply, it’s useful to quote the relevant sentence/paragraph of the comment you’re responding to, so that it’s clear which one of several possibilities amongst the earlier comments it is that you are replying to.

  24. Nanette says:

    I need to apologize for this comment, and other things. I offended one of my personal heroes and she wrote about it. And, of course, I’m sure I offended others and they just have not (that I’ve seen) said so. If I get permission to link or name the person, I will–she said a bunch of brilliant stuff. But, until then, my apology on its own.

    Here is the offensive language:

    “I don’t know who Bliss is, but gah! Heart.
    Disgusting person. I’m so happy *that
    things have changed* here (and hopefully elsewhere) and *those sort of bigoted comments that you point out are no longer tolerated*.”

    As she pointed out, the use of passive language in that comment makes it sound like things…just happened. That feminists one day decided that transphobia was wrong and that bigoted comments were not points of discussion–they were hate and should not be allowed.

    That’s not the case though, as I was reminded…as I *knew*. But I was tired, my memory wouldn’t engage and I wanted to get on to the next point.

    In other words, I disappeared and erased the work of countless trans*folk who were in the trenches of feminist blogs, and elsewhere, day after day, fighting the bigotry, the dehumanizing talk, the “let’s have a discussion on whether you should be allowed to exist” talk and much more.

    I even erased the trans*folk who posted comments and blogs on this site, including transwomen of color– I may have mentioned Holly in a comment, but not Rose (little light) whose exquisite “the seam of skin and scales” (http://takingsteps.blogspot.com/2007/01/seam-of-skin-and-scales.html?m=1) had such an impact on me. And, in fact, I am yet not mentioning many others, of color and white.

    My comment, though, erased all of them and their hard work. It was they who turned things around. Who refused to be discounted, who blogged and commented, who educated, shamed and fought for every bit of respect and love they deserved. It didn’t l;ust happen.”

    Some of my other comments, on rereading, may have seemed dismissive or unfocused in regards to trans* issues, commenters or bloggers, too. My intent, whatever it was, doesn’t matter. My offense does.

    And for that I am sorry.

    • Nanette says:

      This should be replying to my above comment (but I’m not counting on it.)

      Anyway, I got permission to quote and link piny, so I will, since she says all this so much better.

      Yesterday, Frau Sally Benz posted on Feministe about whitewashing, that is, assuming Feministe is predominantly white. There’s been some conflict throughout this larger discussion – solidarityisforwhitewomen, wtfhugoschwyzer – about the way that past bloggers and blog history are being categorized. So Nanette said this in comments, and it crystallized things for me, that is, made me angry:

      (My comment, excerpted above)

      No, look, things did not change. A small group of people changed them. This is what happened: once upon a time, the feminist blogosphere had carved out a niche in the political blogosphere. The feminist blogosphere was really transphobic. A lot of the time, bloggers were well-intentioned, but they had no idea how to identify transphobia or talk about it. They wound up repeating – and ignoring – a whole lot of transphobic commentary.

      Then a bunch of trans bloggers and commenters started complaining about it. They made it their business explain, in painstaking detail, over and over and over again, why their humanity was important and why transphobia needed to be a feminist priority.

      Mainstream feminism is capable of articulating the concept transphobia because of that work.

      Mainstream feminism has managed to become less transphobic only to the extent that it has internalized the critiques of trans people.
      Trans bloggers.
      Holly wasn’t the only one. A partial list: Queen Emily, gudbuytjane, Rose, Lisa Harney, and, yes, voz. Some of these women guest-blogged at feministe. All of them did trenchwork in the comments section for years on end.

      There is much more here, http://workingweight.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/this-is-what-i-used-to-call-a-rant/ about the history, the work that was done and the heroic, persistent efforts of those who did it.

    • LotusBecca says:

      I’m glad for the trans women who struggled to make this place less triggering by reducing the number of extremely bigoted statements cis people here utter. I often feel disquieted, however, by the attempts of cis allies to center their perceptions of trans experience in discussions about trans women. To be blunt, why does it even matter whether you (you’re cis, right?) acknowledge that there are trans women who fought to make this space less transmisogynistic? Why is your opinion relevant on that? To give us feel-good vibes? You are cis; it is to be assumed that you will say transmisognistic things–intentionally or unintentionally. Trans women do not need cis people who will say the politically correct thing on trans stuff time every time and never slip up–if more cis people did this, all it would be to fool us thinking y’all were less prejudiced than you actually were. I’m sure the reality is you personally are somewhat prejudiced against trans women and that you will always be, just like 99% of cis people are and will be for the foreseeable future.

      The thing that will make trans women safer is if you–despite whatever prejudice you may have–make it a major life commitment to fight for trans women’s liberation. To materially and emotionally support trans women who are in prison. To provide a trans woman with a place to live or a job. To personally pay for a trans woman’s transition-related medical care. To buy an HIV test and administer it–in a safe environment–to a trans woman who is afraid to go into a clinic because of the transmisogyny she will face there.To refuse to assume a gender for any person when you first meet them, regardless of whether their appearance looks ambiguous or not. To refuse to apply a gender to infants and small children until they’ve had a chance to actually articulate what their gender is.

      Now these very well may the sorts of things you are already doing–I’m making no assumptions one way or another on that. I am aware, however, that most cis people think that the farthest they need to go is saying the right politically correct phrases when talking about trans women so that we won’t be offended. Frankly, I see this as practically worthless, and it honestly seems that cis people who feel this way are more concerned about their image than about our liberation. As a cis person, it’s a given that you will seem “dismissive or unfocused in regards to trans* issues” much of the time. It is understandable for trans women to skeptical of you when they first meet you or read what you write. If you want to gain the trust of some of us, prove that you understand what we are going through by the way you live your life, day in and day out–not by never saying a fucked up thing on a blog in a moment of tiredness.

      To me, the thing that really erases the experiences of trans women is when cis people frame issues as if the most important thing we need is for people to just be more sensitive and open-minded about us (not that you were really doing this hardcore, but there were echoes of that in what you wrote). No. We need jobs; we need medical care; we need to not be raped or murdered; we need to be happy enough that we don’t commit suicide; we need liberation. We need to have never been constructed as males in the first place so there is nothing to “transition away” from–we need the freedom to just be viewed from day one as little girls with specific types of medical needs that need addressing (and actually are addressed in a timely manner). That’s what we need.

  25. Donna L says:

    [Breaking up a long comment to try to avoid moderation; if it works, the original comment can just stay in moderation where it is.]

    Thanks, Nanette.

    I agree with Piny; this place becoming less transphobic wasn’t something that just happened, but required a great deal of effort by a lot people. Effort that is so inherently stressful and exhausting that it’s almost impossible to do it for very long. I know that if I had been around and participating at the time of that 2007 thread, and had tried to participate in threads like that to push back, I wouldn’t have lasted very long at all.

    As I said, the problem was not that there was a shortage here of allies willing to speak up, even in 2007.

    It was the fact that for anyone, particularly anyone trans, to do so, meant a constant battle against the relentless aggression of everything from sheer ignorance to open transphobia, and everything in between, with little or no active moderation preventing people like Bliss saying the same awful things over and over without being cut off.

    And it certainly has changed for the better here, and I don’t think a thread like that could happen here again. The far stricter moderation now shuts people like Bliss down very quickly. And I think there’s a decreased willingness of even the non-trans commenters to put up with having to deal with that kind of thing at all; better to shut the conversation down right away.

  26. Donna L says:

    I’m not suggesting for a moment that it’s been a case of unbroken progress, or that this is anything close to a safe space for trans women even now. I don’t really know much about the situation for trans people here between 2007 and the fall of 2011, when I began to participate regularly; I’m sure a lot of it was the “trench work” that Piny mentions, which did result in a lot of mainstream feminists internalizing the trans critique of their viewpoints, and being far less likely to come up with the “well, why can’t you just live as a feminine man?” kinds of question.

    But I have a feeling that a lot of people must have burned out at some point, because as of the fall of 2011 there wasn’t one single trans woman commenting regularly, never mind a trans blogger or moderator.

    And the very first couple of occasions when I remember speaking up here around that time were to disagree with people who were insisting that although trans women may be women, they are still “biologically male,” and also to argue that it wasn’t “derailing” or silly to ask people to use inclusive language and avoid the “all women do X” kind of formulation, no matter how tiny the demographic of trans women may be.

  27. Donna L says:

    And it’s not as if people (usually not regular commenters, anymore, at least) don’t still make ignorant and/or hostile comments on trans issues on a fairly regular basis. Or that I and the small group of other trans women who comment regularly here don’t still feel pressure to speak up and explain things, even on a 101-type level, perhaps because we’re afraid that if we don’t nobody will. (After all, even when supportive cis feminist women are willing to speak up, they don’t always know what to say.) And that sometimes I, at least, feel that I do have an obligation to try to be patient, and try to explain things to cis people, because there are, after all, so few of us and we can’t survive or make any progress at all without cis allies.

    Not that patience doesn’t run short sometimes, like with that guy who argued with me for an entire thread that a transphobic article was not in fact transphobic. And there was my special misfortune of engaging with the Mr. Radical White Guy who insisted that the Cause of Revolution must always come first, that issues of misogny and LGBT rights had to take a back seat, and ended up making the Extremely Clever remark to me, when I disagree with him, that “just because you cut off your dick doesn’t mean you aren’t one.”

    But that’s still better than what it was like in 2007.

  28. Donna L says:

    And if it has been possible, by doing the things mentioned above, to make things more tolerable here for commenters who are trans women, and make them feel less often that they have to be constantly on the defensive, or that participating in a trans-related thread makes them feel like they’re running a gauntlet and being beaten with sticks, then might it not be possible to make things more tolerable here for WOC commenters?

    I’m not remotely suggesting that the analogies are perfect or even very close, or that taking similar steps to change the climate for WOC here would be effective. But something has to be done.

    • Nanette says:

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks so much for sharing your perspective (though I would have loved to see that as one long comment, lol.)

      This past week or so is probably the most I’ve been on this site in years–and I’m trying not to bigfoot conversations, so that the perspective of .. well, everyone here, especially woc and trans woc is heard the loudest.

      That said… (lol)

      then might it not be possible to make things more tolerable here for WOC commenters?

      well, I have some thoughts on this, but no time to really get them out right now (and I don’t want to just thoughtlessly blab again, though I was getting ready to), and they might not be needed anyway.

      Plus, your comment (s) give me a lot of other things to think about.

    • Kathy says:

      Echoing Nanette, thank you. I don’t know if I should take this to spillover or not, but I feel bad about linking to Feministing last week without knowing their history. (The ban was way before my time, but nothing I couldn’t have found with a little googling.)

      • Kathy says:

        Sorry. I meant to say boycott, not ban. Here’s the post if it hasn’t been linked before:

        http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/04/14/on-cis-supremacy-feminism-and-feministe/

      • Donna L says:

        Wow, that brought back some bad memories. The feministing post that’s mentioned (and the comments) were probably one of the main things that made me give up entirely there, and never return.

        It doesn’t seem like a whole lot changed between 2007 and 2009 here, does it?

      • Donna L says:

        Galling Galla, if you read this, I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I noticed that you were commenting here back in 2009, and you’re the only trans woman I know of who was commenting back then who comments regularly now. If you agree with me that there’s been an improvement, what do you think accounts for that — is it just that the moderators respond to complaints about transphobia (or cisscentric derailing) more quickly than they used to, especially since the “giraffe” system started? Is it that when people come here and start making transphobic comments or asking excruciatingly ignorant questions, they no longer seem able to find anyone to support them among the other commenters, and people are no longer willing to indulge them by engaging in lengthy arguments on trans “theory”? Any or all of the above?

  29. Donna L says:

    Thank you, Nanette. If and when you do feel like sharing your thoughts on that subject, I’d love to hear them. As well as the thoughts of other WOC here.

    And just to clear up any possible misunderstanding, I am not a trans WOC myself — just your garden-variety New York Jewish atheistic left-handed bisexual second-generation* trans woman with an invisible disability and a (definitely not invisible!) gay son.

    But I do try to be as good an ally as I can.

    * = the child of a Holocaust survivor

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