jlh: Chibi of me in an apron with a cocktail glass and shaker. (Feminism)
[personal profile] jlh
I've already been admonished on twitter to not make this about white upper-class cis-women (which, given that I'm neither white nor upper-class, I'm not sure how I could, but point taken, scolding accepted, I am duly chastened) so I thought I'd link you to this excellent Sojourner Truth quote I reblogged on tumblr.

As most of you who read this blog know, I've had a very rocky relationship with feminism this year, as I encountered it in its online form only recently and it really set me back on my heels. It's odd the way that online feminism does make me think a lot more about not being white--not that fandom itself doesn't, and not that, you know, the world we're living in doesn't, but feminism makes me think about it in very different ways than I usually do, like the way that being a biracial woman makes a lot of my assumptions about being a woman very very different. So here are some wishes from me about online feminism as I personally have experienced it.

I wish there was a way to talk about being a woman in the culture without replicating the fact that in this misogynist culture, women get status from how sexually desireable they are. I find a great deal of online feminism to be, to a certain extent, about a kind of performative desireability, which doesn't leave a lot of room for women that society doesn't find desireable--like many Spanish and black females, or Asian females who don't fit certain Orientalist stereotypes (or do), or women who don't have the right body type or who are no longer young--or who don't find themselves desired in their own lives. The media and just living our lives in the world can make us feel bad enough about not being desireable (or with aging, no longer being desireable); it's unfortunate that online feminism compounds this effect in such unthinking ways.

I wish that feminism didn't perpetuate the hierarchy of abuse:
sexual > physical > verbal/emotional

where the far left is what feminism is willing to step up and fight for, demand punishment for, while the far right might not even really be abuse, and we should think about the mothers being in a bad place. The middle, well, that depends on the victim all too often. It's definitely compounded my own reticence to talk about the extent of the abuse I experienced as a child; given that it's on the right side of the spectrum rather than the left, I doubt that it fits into the feminist paradigm.

I wish that the pro-choice movement hadn't allowed the anti-choice movement to make adoption into an anti-abortion issue. The extent to which I have seen pro-choice advocates put down adoption, and claim that all unwanted pregnancies should be terminated, and that any that were not were abortions that unfortunately didn't happen, was incredibly shocking to me. That people who seemed fairly mainstream were, on tumblr, reblogging an article that referred to a ten year old girl, who is living in the world, as the destruction of her mother's life--as an abortion that unfortunately didn't happen--is, to me, not just insensitive but destructive. I am not sure that noting how unwanted this girl is in a national publication is going to help abortion rights, not to mention that treating unwanted children as just so much trash is not all that kind to those of us who were the result of unwanted pregnancies--that is, all of us who were adopted. That one event has made me really question my pro-choice stance.

I wish that in the push to make the online feminist movement more diverse we didn't think in terms of numbers and quotas and along the same kinds of identity politics lines that can so often divide us. I've been in situations where someone says, "man, our group is too white!" and I always think, "okay, did they just forget I'm not white? Or am I just not non-white enough?" It's ... weirdly distancing. Diversity is about having lots of viewpoints, and absolutely having people from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of life experiences will diversify the conversation. But let's not make a fetish of it. Now, maybe that's easy for me to say, as I'm privileged in some ways but not in others, and often not in the ways that people are talking about when they talk about diversifying the online feminist conversation--hey, I grew up lower class, rural, around uneducated people, and I'm not white--but still, you know, race/class/cis/nationality/ability aren't the only axes. Even though there are lots of lesbians in the movement and always have been, I don't know that they are listened to quite enough--and certainly the push of online feminism away from the stereotype has served to mute those voices somewhat. And there's welcoming in voices of all ages, of all backgrounds--maybe even of talking to those women who see a model in Sarah Palin and trying to work out what they think is missing from feminism, what distances them from the movement, and not chalking it all up to their own internalized misogyny.

I'd say that these four issues are going to keep me pretty distant from online feminism for the forseeable future. Maybe I've just aged out of it; maybe I should have been engaged with it back in the 90s, when I was "in the demo." Maybe I'm just too moderate, too interested in shades of gray rather than dichotomies, to be able to interact with online feminism as it appears to exist now. (And that flow away from moderation is true of the internet in general, I'd argue.) Maybe if you're not Sady Doyle you really are s.o.l. I'm not sure. I don't have any answers here, unfortunately; only questions and wishes.

Date: 2011-03-09 06:39 am (UTC)
elements: Photos representing 4 elements: ice, clay, fire, sky.  (Default)
From: [personal profile] elements
I thought about your issues with online feminism when I got linked to this post on Racialicious today.

In particular a quote from another commenter of color on a mainstream feminist blog:

“The feminist blogosphere is: young, but not too young (25-35); mostly white (and of northern european extraction); middle to upper-middle class; highly educated (always degreed, usually grad school or law degree); able-bodied and healthy; non-religious (but typically with a Protestant or Jewish background); childfree by choice (also not a caretaker of an elderly or disabled adult); body size from thin to very thin; cisgender; heterosexual; conventionally feminine/pretty; fashionable; not employed in a nontraditional (>25% female participation) workforce; native English speaking (family of origin usually native English speaking also); non-indigenous and several generations removed from immigrant ancestors; raised in a nuclear family (either intact or divorced—but not “unwed” or extended family); lives in a large metropolis; favors capitalism; unmarried/unpartnered (meaning: no formal or legal ties of responsibility to a partner); never incarcerated (no family incarcerated either); and has plenty of personal contact with people in positions of actual power (gets invited to policymaking meetings/summits).”


I'm finding your term "performative desirability" particuarly resonant. I hadn't been able to articulate what was bugging me about that type of thing, and it's exactly this. It's extremely alienating to anyone who isn't, well, all of the block-quoted above.

Even in the fatosphere, where there's a radically different sense of what gets to count as desirable, and disability and age and class aren't automatic disqualifiers either, there is still not as diverse a representation of well-known voices from fatties of color. There's more than what I've seen in a lot of mainstream feminism, I think mainly because fat folks are often marginalized on more than just weight and are marginalized enough to be more open to being told about other groups' issues. But there's also a segment who think that because Sir Mixalot likes big butts, there's no fatphobia in black culture, which is a complete lie.

And the fat feminist bloggers who get noticed by the mainstream fit most of the necessary checkboxes except for being fat. I admire and am friends with several of those folks, and I do think thy "get it" in a way a lot of the mainstream of mainstream online feminism doesn't. But it's those voices that the rest of the culture picks out as worth listening to, and it's the same conundrum of what to do when the choice is to have someone be a token for the whole community and make broad swaths of that community invisible, or to have that community not at the table at all.

I'm actually more encouraged by some segments of fandom where there's at least commitment and intention towards analyzing feminism in the broader context, and conversations at, say, Laughing Medusa, have been pretty good. Even if lots of the membership is, as far as I can tell, folks who might well fit that mainstream elite of online feminism demographic - they at least want to be allies. But sometimes I just want to opt out of the whole damn everything entirely, rather than have to work so hard to push so little.

Date: 2011-03-09 05:36 pm (UTC)
verity: audrey horne from twin peaks! (audrey (twin peaks))
From: [personal profile] verity
Thank you for making this post. I don't really do online feminism for a lot of reasons, and these are among them.

While I do not want to hop up on an elitist white tower academic feminist horse, I often see online feminism reinventing the wheel in ways that are exhausting and counterproductive to actual dialogue. At the end of the day, I don't need to label my own spiritual practice/ethos (because for me, feminism is that) to do what I do. Compassion, listening, and support (not "help") should come first. What is compassionate about calling a ten year old girl the ~end~ of her mother's life? A friend of mine recently, as she says, quit feminism when a pro-choice group kicked her out because they were not interested in discussing how abortion and the eugenics movement have been intertwined. (Abortions are great, let's make sure all the poor ladies with unplanned pregnancies can have them!) I don't even have words, yo.

*hugs*

Date: 2011-03-13 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sajia_kabir
was linked to this by racilicious. I've been thinking a lot about professional feminism, and it's good to hear from someone who has a lot of frustrations that I haven't even started to voice to myself - and I thought I was supergood at voicing all my frustrations.

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jlh: Chibi of me in an apron with a cocktail glass and shaker. (Default)
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