My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be Bullshit!

945824_592478660770212_1776958502_nFlavia Dzodan writes at Tiger Beatdown:

This past week I’ve been screaming this a lot. Because I like to play “connecting the dots” (s.e. smith ipse dixit) as a matter of political practice. I play “connecting the dots” even though sometimes I might not get a properly outlined landscape but the equivalent of what my 1 year old niece playing with a bunch of sharpies on the coffee table would produce. Which is to say, sometimes, the pictures I draw when I connect dots might not make sense or might be inaccurate or might have missed a few dots to be totally accurate. But I am willing to pay the price of not making sense sometimes if I do eventually get it right. I would rather sometimes come across as far fetched than miss the landscape that the shit puff pastry provides. And these past few days I’ve been playing connect the dots more often than usual. Hence my anger. Hence my disappointment with feminism. FEMINISM! I AM DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. To the point that I even considered ditching the label altogether. And if that happened, I would use a new label that pretty much sums up my politics: Flame-throwerism. Wherein I set feminism on fire and with its ashes I fill my cats’ kitty litter box and let them pee on it. That’s how angry I’ve been at feminism this week. Kitty litter levels of outrage.

Layer one of this week’s shit puff pastry

My anger was inaugurated with a simple photograph. Just a yellow sign, written with what pretty much looks like a sharpie. And this sign states that “woman is the N* of the world”. Held by a White Slut Walk participant in New York. I am sure by now you know the story. And I became a bit angry. Angry that someone would not realize what a hurtful, shitty thing that was. Angry that someone would not even know the history behind that word. That a woman, a fellow self identified young feminist would not have done some pretty basic homework. I was sad and angry. And then sad again and angry. Basic homework does not entail having read academic works dissecting the history of slavery, it’s legacy, colonialism and the idea that for centuries (and pretty much to this day) Black women have been considered unrapeable, that those N* bodies were (and sometimes, painfully very often still are) considered non-human. No, I did not expect a nuanced knowledge of all this. Just basic human compassion skills. A minimum understanding of the meaning behind a word. Wikipedia levels of knowledge, which is, like the ABC of feminist activism. And when I saw that sign, I screamed “MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT” for the first time this week. I screamed at all of you, at everybody and nobody. (Incidentally, at this point, my youngest cat got a little bit scared with my screams but let out a meow of pleasure at the prospect of feminism making its way to her kitty litter box). And I can hear you now say “But Flavia! Why do you care?! This one sign was in Slut Walk New York! In another continent altogether! What is that to you?!”. It is that my politics are all about anti racism. Moreover, racism is probably the one thing I struggle with the most. In my feminism, in my political activism, in my writing, IN MY FUCKING DAILY LIFE. When I am met with snide remarks because of my accent, when people openly dismiss my political ideas in a debate because I mispronounced a Dutch word, when I am told about “those people” (my fellow Non Western immigrants), WHEN I AM PUNCHED IN THE FACE as I was once, while the drunk asshole throwing the punch called me “cunt alien”. My feminism HAS to be about racism by virtue of being a significant layer in my very own shit puff pastry.

Layer two of this week’s shit puff pastry

After this photo made the rounds in some online blogs and magazines, it ended up posted in Slut Walk New York’s very own Facebook page. And commentary ensued. And oh yes WHAT A COMMENTARY THAT WAS! WHAT A SIGHT TO BEHOLD! This commentary, which Latoya Peterson has documented extensively (bless her, the degree of patience and nuance she attempted to provide, along with several other WoC who tried to have their voices heard in that discussion made my heart sink). This commentary ranged from the usual “But it’s just a word!” to “We live in different times now!” and then the EPIC FAIL, the shameful, disgraceful remark: “you are all jumping to side and rally against the black version of “n*”; we are simply rallying against the human version of “n*””, which, as Eli_Betta pointed out, bears the painful question: “Is the black “version” separate from the human “version”?”. And I sat there reading this discussion. I refreshed it for hours. These people were supposed to be my fellow feminists. This, I’ve often been told, IS MY SISTERHOOD! These are my people! BECAUSE I AM A FEMINIST! And of course, I screamed again, so many times that, at this point, my throat started to hurt. I was unsure if it was hurting because of my screaming or because of the tears I was holding up. MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT! I screamed it every time I hit refresh and a new, unknown up to that point level of fail showed up on my screen. I was not just disappointed that my supposedly fellow feminists were capable of such vile. I was disappointed that the very same organizers would allow this commentary to go unchecked. That, in the name of some misguided version of the old “freedom of speech” trope, they would not intervene and end the carnage. That the people behind Slut Walk New York’s Facebook page would not jump in and delete those comments. BECAUSE YOU CANNOT CLAIM TO WANT TO PROVIDE SAFETY FOR WOMEN WHILE YOU ARE LETTING *SOME* WOMEN BE RACIALLY ATTACKED. BECAUSE IF YOU DO THAT, YOU ARE A FUCKING HYPOCRITE AND YOU SHOULD JUST GO AHEAD AND SAY IT “WE WANT TO PROVIDE SAFETY JUST FOR *SOME OF US* WHILE THE REST, THE BROWN, BATTERED BODIES OF BLACK WOMEN ARE CALLED NAMES”. Because that’s a more accurate description of what transpired. Can you tell that I am still screaming as I type this? Can you tell I am angry? And if you are not angry with me right now, then I do not want to be part of your feminism. Then I do not want any fucking sisterhood with you or whatever nonsense we can come up to excuse our movement’s failures. If you are not angry at this, like I am, then I know we are not part of the same team.

And then something else happened: the whole thread was deleted. Just like that. Because, well, PEOPLE WERE SAYING RACIST THINGS. What.The.Fuck. People had been saying racist things for hours, without one single page moderator intervening by curating the ensuing discussion. Without a single deletion and a warning for those commenters who had suggested that Black women were “non human”. Instead, they deleted the whole thing (at Racialicious there is a good summary of significant portions of what is now gone, plus, for those who are on Tumblr, many people have made screen captures of some salient commentary). However, that deletion is unforgivable. Because the mere action also erased the commentary from Black (and non Black, in fairness) people who vehemently opposed the apologists. The act of erasure also did away with the opposition. Now we are left with third party accounts and commentary but we can no longer gauge the full extent of the offense. And I am sorry, but that is fucking lazy and irresponsible. If you cannot keep a thread in check, if you cannot provide a safe space, then perhaps you have no right organizing supposedly safe spaces for others; spaces like, oh, I don’t know, a massive march over New York City. If, instead of owning up for what happened under your watch, you delete the whole thing, I want no part in your feminism. I am going to say this now, loud: I AM NOT PART OF YOUR FEMINISM. I hope I am clear on that.

Read more here.

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  • http://2012diaries.blogspot.com/ tristan eldritch

    I think some of these cats actually set an alarm for the middle of the night so they can get up and be angry and ideologically pure for an extra hour every day.

  • echar

    How about add another ism to Feminism to denote a shift in ismness. Call it Feminismism!

    • Matt Staggs

      If you really want to tumble down the rabbit hole of largely white, upper class, irony and humor-free female indignation on behalf of people who never asked them to defend them in the first place go Google “Tumblr” + “Social Justice Warrior”. It’s like this tight little collection of blogs that play some kind of Magic: The Gathering of “Who can be more offended on behalf of people somewhere who might be offended maybe”.

      • echar

        I am scared to, it may be upsetting. Oh heck, here I go. *straps on waders and snorkel just in case*

      • echar

        I’m back, I made it out with the sanity in which I entered.

        I come bearing treasures from my mining expedition.

        BEHOLD

      • charlotte9

        There was a time a while back when that…posse…came with torches a-burnin’ over Amanda Palmer’s side-project about carnies, or some-such-thing (I wouldn’t really know; I haven’t listened to her for a decade because I hate ironic/not-ironic ukeleles).

        They were offended on behalf of handicapped people and it became increasingly clear that it was impossible for Amanda to sufficiently explain to them that using the aesthetics of a time period in which carnies were perhaps exploited, yet willing subjects in their own subjugation did not necessarily in any way mean that Amanda was suggesting that handicapped people be put on display and gawked at…all of the imagery was in black in white… -_-

        • Matt Staggs

          I’ve seen that group mob several writers and artists over the most asinine stuff, I remember one time a guy wrote about his family and mentioned that he lived with his wife and two “Canine-Americans”. They crucified him about setting back racial relations for decades, and his need to check his privilege, etc. etc.etc. The guy eventually gave up. I don’t really care one way or the other, personally. I’m convinced that for the most part this particularly virulent brand of pseudo-feminism only exists online. Most activist types I know in meatspace are pretty reasonable, and I know plenty of very independent, smart women who say that these people don’t represent them in any way, shape or form.

          • charlotte9

            Very much agreed. I was making that point a few posts back when I realized the stereotype someone was painting had very little relation to anyone I know in real life who would call herself a feminist…as with most groups, the loudest are not actually representative of the majority; they’re just the loudest.

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  • charlotte9

    *FOREHEAD SLAP*

    “would not have done some pretty basic homework” Indeed!

    That quote: “woman is the N- of the world”…THAT WAS SAID BY FUCKING JOHN LENNON. It was a song.

    You can take it up with his corpse.

    (Just realized that she probably won’t read that, so I’m off to re-post that shit…yeah, that’ll teach some pop culture history…fuck, I need some sleep…)

  • David Duke-Astin

    total self-involvement mixes poorly with social theory. irrationality is not helpful in a situation that demands rationality.

  • Matt Staggs

    Hey, can anyone direct me to a good example of “Poe’s Law”?

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