Really valuable read for thinking about structural issues around power and labor between different groups of feminists in general, not just re: femfuture alone.
[NOTE: Some edits were made just after publishing. For the final draft, please visit diasporahypertext.com. Please take quotes from there.]
The “#FemFuture: Online Revolution” report was released this week. Organized by Courtney Martin and Vanessa Valenti, and funded in part by Barnard College, the report builds
“….on a 2012 convening where 21 writers, activists, and educators who work in the online feminist landscape came together to discuss their needs, desires, and hopes for the online feminist future. Here they provide a cogent explanation of the power of online organizing, the risks and challenges of the current state of the field, and some possible solutions for creating a more sustainable system.”
Critique of the report was immediate. Following the #FemFuture hashtag, bloggers, activists, educators, and organizers have taken the participants and the report to task for what appears to be U.S.-centric, mainstream, feminist elitism and historical erasure.
I have huge respect and love for a number of the #FemFuture participants. I’ve followed several of them–Brittney Cooper, Ileana Jiménez, Shelby Knox, Andrea Plaid, and Miriam Pérez–for some time and find their intervention online to be unique, refreshing, and necessary. I also find it fascinating that a group with so many perspectives on feminism and different levels of investment in what that word even means was able to gather for the purpose of crafting the report. I applaud Barnard College for supporting it; academic institutions need to take a larger role in supporting, dare I say, sustaining the work that is happening on the ground and online. Educators have a significant part to play in encouraging and supporting feminist thought so I’m not surprised to see so many involved.
I read the report and I appreciate the work that went into it but I wonder about mistakes that may have been made and ways we can move the conversation into a real #FemFuture. I find myself facing the report with, as Charlene Carruthers tweeted, “mixed feelings and mixed loyalties.”
My thoughts are varied but I’ll share a few here. I hope you’ll read it in full but if you need to jump around (or jump ahead and come back), you can follow the anchors: History and the Newness of Things, Uncompensated Labor x Unrequited Love, We Are All in This…Together?, Who Pays for (Online) Feminisms, and Dear Academic Feminists: A Coda on Privilege.
In case it isn’t clear, when I speak of “black feminists” I am using the term in its broadest, gender-neutral, inclusive of all sexualities, diasporic conception. For me, it is a term that describes more than individuals; it describes a set of practices and living in the world.
I also use the term “radical woman of color” as defined in This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherrie Moragá and Gloria Anzaldua,to include non-white radical thinkers and activists in the United States and globally (some prefer the term “Global South” others “Third World”). “Radical woman of color” has been critiqued for the limits it places on gender expression and ways it may elide differences of nation, ethnicity, and race. I, too, am uncomfortable with the way the term circumscribes gender, but find the term useful as a coalition-builder. I also recognize many of the individuals I discuss (myself included) see themselves as radical wom-n of color. There is a longer discussion to be had here (terminology, movements, gender, new generations of rwoc) but for the purpose of this post, I use the acronym (rwoc) as a gender neutral alternative.
History and the Newness of Things
There is a dangerous ignorance in assuming #FemFuture is a first, a start, or new.
There is something called the Bechdel Test. It’s a scale you run movies through to basically see how conscious of female characters they are.
The test is as follows: 1. It must have at least two named female characters. 2. They must speak to each other. 3. They must converse about something other than a man. Anything with a score lower than 3 fails.
I’ve run all of the episodes of NewWho through this test and here are my results:
Percent of failed episodes written by RTD: 9.7%
By Moffat: 55.6%
Percent of episodes in which there were two named female characters, but they didn’t speak to one another by RTD: 9.7%
By Moffat: 16.7%
Percent of episodes without two named female characters by RTD: 0%
By Moffat: 5.6%
Percent of failed episodes with RTD as showrunner (including those written by other writers): 20%
With Moffat: 67.8%
Percent of episodes in which there were two named female characters, but they didn’t speak to one another with RTD as showrunner: 10%
With Moffat: 25%
Percent of episodes without two named female characters with RTD as showrunner: 0%
With Moffat: 25%
Total percent of failed episodes: 35.2%
Total percent of episodes in which there were two named female characters, but they didn’t speak to one another: 14.8%
Total percent of episodes without two named female characters: 8%
RTD did a lot better than Moffat. This is not a go at him, just facts.
Over half of SM’s episodes failed. RTD neither wrote or was showrunner to an episode with less than two named female characters. Moffat wrote one episode with less than two named female characters, and a staggering 25% (1/4!) of episodes with him as showrunner did not include more than one named female character.
My data is here. You can check it if you like, and please tell me if you find any errors. Thanks!
This is fucking brilliant. Also, this is my shocked face :-|
Now someone do one on race! XD
1. Mainstream feminism hasn’t even accepted race as a factor for analysis yet.
We are still having race problems; the Slutwalk sign fiasco is notable. Mainstream feminists like Naomi Wolf and Jessica Valenti getting away with barely mentioning intersectionality (or non-white authors) in their work is another. Or, you can just open up the pages of Ms. Magazine and see how very white it is. When Women of Color are mentioned, we are tokenized or have colonial and racist ideas projected onto us. Two decades ago, Elizabeth Spelman’s Inessential Woman critiqued mainstream feminism for hoisting sexism over all other oppressions, and even suggesting that it was the “root” or precursor to all other oppression. That was in 1988, and people still think this is the truth.
If feminism can’t even handle racism against Black people— a racism that has been consistently studied and tracked, and which has an overarching narrative in the West, then it’s no surprise that it can’t handle disability, which has no overarching narrative and which has only come to public awareness and study in recent decades. Feminism can barely handle a rigorous analysis of oppression against Latin@, Asian, and Middle Eastern peoples as they intersect with sexism. Even fewer people have questioned colonialism or even know what it is; one example of this is how there are still white feminists out there who see the hijab as something “oppressive” and Muslim women as people in need of their “rescue”.
2. Mainstream feminism has not accepted class as a factor either.
In fact, it has an investment in ignoring class analysis.
The commodification of feminism has turned it into middle class, white women’s activism. This is why talks about contraception and abortion focus exclusively on “rights”, without much discussion on being able to actually afford those rights (for more on this, see Andrea Smith’s Conquest). This is why there is almost no push for food stamps and other welfare programs in mainstream feminism, despite study after study showing how poverty has disproportionately affected Women of Color and their children. If mainstream feminism was concerned about class, it would be pushing to free the disproportionate number of imprisoned Women of Color, or finding ways to fund and support survivors of domestic abuse and sexual abuse, with specific emphasis on more marginalized groups. Instead, these fronts are conspicuously silent.
With the commodification of feminism, white feminists have written about the dangers of sexism without ever having to question their own privilege and how that protects them from many of the things WoC have to deal with. Some of them have even gone as far as to piggyback on the work of other Women of Color, using their ideas verbatim without credit, and profiting hugely from it. Mainstream media publications like Jezebel will question sexism while simultaneously refusing to “believe in” trigger warnings. Others like Shakesville talk about how women are not “crazy” without ever questioning why “crazy” is a bad thing to be called in the first place.
she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face?
What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious
and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous,
away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny? … We welcome all
women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification
and beyond guilt.
I’m making this tumblr so that everyone can share their own feelings and thoughts about being excluded from the feminist movement. While my original intentions were to use this as a personal interview site for my research paper, I think it’s a good idea to let this be free for everyone to tell their own story. I’ll be able to write up my own story soon (it’s midterm season) but in the mean time I have submissions set up and open.
You don’t have to contribute to my research, but it would be awesome if you’d like to. I have all of my literary information ready for this paper, what I need now are other voices to add to my own.
They might not want to hear our voices, but we can make sure that we’re heard.
A tumblr dedicated to listening to the voices of feminsts who are fighting desperately trying to be heard within the feminist movement.
Share your stories!
Was written in May - but this is just as relevant right now
When we embrace our curvy bodies, we’re told we’re fat. When we accept our thin frames, we’re accused of lazy or bad cooks. We’ve been charged with nursing and caring for the children of our white employers from Antebellum times through today, but we’re constantly being portrayed as bad mothers. We put a weave in our hair trying conform to a beauty standard that has nothing to do with us and we’re still called “nappy-headed hoes”. When we go to school, get degrees and a career, we’re “un-marry-able”. If we work and have kids early instead of going to school, same thing happens. When we or others decide to celebrate us, white women scream out “REVERSE RACISM” but we have to comb through 50-11 magazines with white women on every page to find ONE with a Black woman on the cover. We bare it all in a video or keep condoms in our nightstands and we’re called sluts. We dedicate ourselves to The Church or are decidedly single and we’re prudes or “bitter”. All too often, we are forced to choose our race over our gender or risk feeling the wrath of our Brothers, despite having to live with the realities of both. From Saartjie Baartman aka “Venus Hottentot” to Satoshi Kanazawa’s “scientific” study claiming Black women being less physically attractive than EVERYBODY else, we’ve been studied like freaks of nature instead of just regarded as human beings with the same value as all others.
We’re pretty much damned if we do, damned if we don’t. So, the stereotype of “The Angry Black Woman” is rooted in a very visceral truth. We’re tired of this shyt. Stop telling us to stop getting upset. Stop telling us to not be mad despite having to deal with this crap ALL THE TIME. Why are we supposed to put up with this reckless disregard for our humanity with a smile on our face? Because we’re women? Because we’re Black? Please, miss me with that bull. We are HUMAN first. This anger is righteous and all ignoring it and the causes of it will do is create a dyspeptic breeding ground for spiritual, psychological, social and physical dis-ease.
Ran across these links at http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/
Indigenous Feminism Without Apology, by Andrea Smith
Anti-Colonial Responses to Gender Violence, by Andrea Smith
Not an Indian Tradition: The Sexual Colonization of Indian Peoples, by Andrea Smith
Better Dead Than Pregnant: The Colonization of Native Women’s Health, by Andrea Smith
Women and the Indian Act, by Deborah Simmons
Nuu-Chah-Nulth Struggles Against Sexual Violence, an Interview with Na’cha’uaht & Chiinuuks
An Indigenous Perspective on Feminism, Militarism, and the Environment, by Winona LaDuke
Zapatismo and the Emergence of Indigenous Feminism, by Aida Hernandez Castillo
Conquest: Sexual Violence and the American Indian Genocide, by Andrea Smith
Other Important Resources
Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, by J. SakaiCredit: While I found this on POCO, it came along with the following credit to Jessica Yee for originally coming up with the list. derived from a list put created by Jessica Yee for BITCH Magazine, for others to take a look a lot, critique and/or otherwise contribute their thoughts. It’s made up of a mix of books and articles, both academic and non-academic, which are available on line.
Awesome! Thanks for sharing.
“For Black women do have agency. Our voices do matter, and our interventions will contour this mo(ve)ment, though we are unsure yet, just what those contours will look like. But our commitment to discursive acts must be measured, by our histories, by our material realities, by the psychic and social costs and the attendant benefits of such acts for improving the quality of our (sex) lives. We are long past the point of putting our own bodies on the line for political acts that improve white women’s lives while leaving the rest of us in the dust.
So when I look at Black women, like the Black female organizer of Slutwalk NYC who was asked to ask Erin Clark to take down her sign, I see us doing what we’ve always done—taking a broad view of movements that have clear red flags when it comes to inclusion in order to serve the greater good of women. While white women often want to deploy “woman” as a universal category and have the nerve to get angry and defensive when Black women like myself point out differences in our experiences, it is Black women themselves who have demonstrated what it really means to care about women as a group. For we put our bodies and our psyches on the line to show up at events called “Slutwalks” knowing that we are both more vulnerable to the same violence that brought other women there and yet that we have little social privilege and power to reclaim the terms in the ways that many of the others marchers do. But we show up anyway, and in showing up, white women feel like they are being inclusive, when in fact, I would argue that most Black women, are showing up in spite of, not because of, Slutwalk’s inclusivity.”