The Silence of Our Friends

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Untrustworthy and Unreliable

UPDATE: I LOVE ME SOME FEMINISTE!
From Jill
From Piny
More from Piny
From Zuzu

Back in March at Everybody Comes from Somewhere, Scribe40 was mystified about something that had gone wrong with one of her friends, she was giving a presentation which her friend attended. There was a segment for interaction with the audience and the friend raised her hand, but Scribe didn't see her, and didn't call on her for quite some time. Afterwards the friend was decidedly cool towards her, even after Scribe explained that it wasn't an intentional snub, she really didn't see her. One other thing you should know, Scribe is white, the friend is black. Scribe wanted to know what was really going on and I said:
That lady knows that sometimes people are nice to her and still hold the notion that she is inferior. She thought you were ignoring her in a room full of superior white people, and sent her to the back of the line to wait her turn until the “important” people had their say.
This kind of thing is common enough that I bet every POC has experienced it, and it's happening in the blogosphere right now. Over at Feministe Jill writes a review of Full Frontal Feminism, a book written by Jessica of Feministing. Since I've been following the reviews and criticism at blogs written by women of color and other allies, I was interested. I expected the posts at Having Read the Fine Print and Anti-Essentialist Conundrum to be included, and possibly an older one at Blac(k)ademic but when I finished reading the post, they were noticeably absent. Why? Jill says:
I found the posts criticizing Jessica through a BlogHer summary and through a Google search. I didn’t see either of their posts; I’m sure there are many, many others that I also missed. I was also focusing on the criticisms that I thought were unsubstantiated and cruel — while I don’t completely agree with Sylvia or blackamazon, I do think they make substantive points, and they didn’t engage in the kind of personal attacks that some other bloggers did.
Uh huh, she didn't see those black women with their hands up. What's odd is that both BlackAmazon and Sylvia were making similar arguments in the comments thread of the post Petitpoussin wrote, which was linked. Wonder how she missed that? But wait, she was only looking for unsubstantiated and cruel criticism...

Anyone have a problem with that? The black women have a good point, so ignore it and pretend they don't exist, because she needs to show loyalty for the "important" people, her white friend. She actually wants to hide valid criticism from view of her readers.

I have Feministe in my blogroll for a reason, they do cover racism and all the other "isms" in a serious way. While not all the blogs I link to are actively anti-racist, they are non-racist. I don't expect this kind of disappearing and dismissal of POC voices. While Scribe simply didn't see her friend in the back of the room, Jill was putting the "important" white person first and telling the black women to get to the back of the line.

It's true, middle class white Americans are untrustworthy and unreliable.

55 comment(s):

"Donna, what’s stopping them?

There’s no finite number of book deals. If Jessica gets one, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t. "

That was the comment that got me pissed off. I mean, that's 101, right?

I feel bad for jill, in that she got hemmed in by the system in some serious ways (the cover et al), but at the same time...if part of the underlying problem isn't that there are issues of racial inequality, then why do we keep hearing racist things in the disagreement?

By Blogger sly civilian, at 5/18/2007 2:33 AM  

There's really no other explanation.

The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions. And most days I question if we even have good intentions.

By Anonymous Dead Inside, at 5/18/2007 2:33 AM  

I was really surprised by that. Not by much of the defense, but that? Fuck yeah. I mean a lot of good stuff was said on my thread, but in turns of meaty substantive posts... to just ignore them? And then when people starting calling on it, it turned into the lip service pot luck. Not that it hasn't happened before with the same crowd. I don't know, maybe that's my privilege talking, that I didn't see it coming.

By Anonymous petitpoussin, at 5/18/2007 3:12 AM  

Donna, I read Jill's post before it had a single comment, and when I was done, I simply went back to my admin pages and removed Feministe from my blogroll. The way she characterized criticism of the book as being by people who hadn't read it was beyond insulting; as was the way she marginalized the voices of women of color (most prominently in my mind, Nubian, Blackamazon, Sylvia). Doesn't matter if it was intentional or not, it's a manifestation of racism.

To top it off, Jill even deployed the Fallacious Flip (TM 2006 The Unapologetic Mexican) and said (paraphrasing), Well okay she didn't talk about WOC on every page, but would you criticize a WOC if she didn't talk about white women's issues on every page?!

Like Sly said: Racism 101 anyone?

Just as embarrassingly self-absorbed and vain is the mantra that anyone who criticizes the book is just jealous. What grade are we in here?!

I agree with you, Donna, middle-class white folks are untrustworthy and unreliable "allies". What's pretty wild for me is seeing middle-class white women using all the same tricks as middle-class white men: making the rules as they go along; shifting the goalposts on a whim; deciding on the agenda and on who has the floor; arbitrarily assigning importance, value, and meaning according to the ego-centricity of the moment; rejecting genuine dialogue in favor of a coarse assertion of power.

As a final note, I can't resist having a bit of fun with this absurd detail: Jill opens her review with a large picture of herself (?!) which self-consciously ties her own visage to the midriff on the cover; the hair, makeup, and manicure carefully announce her allegiance to the cultural values espoused by the bare white midriff ("see? like this book cover, I'm fun!!"). Not that there's anything wrong with her hair, makeup, and manicure (actually they're quite nice), but visually connecting her face to the bare midriff is, well, quite the forced statement. If I were a BAGnewsNotes type, I might even point out that she chooses to cover the lower part of her face, as if to say, my naked body speaks louder than my mouth.

This whole brouhaha might have been avoided if they'd only titled the book "Full Frontal Cosmo Girl".

Peace.

By Blogger Kai, at 5/18/2007 8:30 AM  

I like both Jill's and Jessica's writing, but I have to confess I haven't read Jessica's book, not only because I don't really have time to read books any more but because it was clearly (from what the reviews say) aimed at a much younger generation than me. So I've stayed away from discussing it.

I do think that anyone who reviews something they haven't read or heard or seen is usually asking for trouble, just as I think anyone who decides to take offense on behalf of someone else (as Jill seems to in this post wherein she defends a fellow writers who's perfectly capable of defending herself) is usually asking for trouble.

So what you're saying is that Jill is incorrect in asserting that this paragraph isn't true:

"essica recognizes the racism within the feminist movement. She recognizes that white middle-class women dominate the discourse, and that women of color, queer women, and low-income women have often felt marginalized. She does more than pay them lip service — she makes an obvious effort to include a variety of issues and voices in her book. She talks about her own class background, and how that shaped the kind of feminism that she adheres to. But at the end of the day, Jessica is still going to be coming from a place of privilege as a white woman. She gets that. As far as I can tell, she made a concerted effort to offset that privilege as much as possible."

Did Jessica not do this? As I say, I probably won't read the book so I honestly don't know.

By Blogger Elayne, at 5/18/2007 9:05 AM  

Elayne, well you make a lot of sense, as usual. And if you're not in the target audience, well neither am I, that's for sure! ;-)

The thing is that Nubian, Blackamazon, and Sylvia (those are the critiques I'm familiar with) did read the book and wrote informed criticisms contending that, no, Jessica did not offset her white privilege, not even close; they all felt rather excluded and offended. Then Jill writes this review basically dismissing their perspective off-hand (with this sort of "She says she gets it so that's that!" line about white privilege) and repeatedly insisting that critics haven't read the book. Isn't that pretty, well, wrong? That's what got me riled up, not the book itself (actually I think it's great another blogger got a book deal). Nobody is calling for the book to be yanked or boycotted (well, at least among bloggers I read), there are simply serious critiques from folks who, yes, have actually read the book.

Anyway I think the kerfuffle is kinda settling down now. Magniloquence sums it up nicely.

By Blogger Kai, at 5/18/2007 9:26 AM  

Correction to my last comment: Actually Nubian's critique from a while back concerned only the cover, as I now recall...at least I think so, I should look it up...

By Blogger Kai, at 5/18/2007 9:30 AM  

Sly, They know this, most of them have discussed this kind of thing in terms of conservatives. When a conservative says "we don't need no stinkin' affirmative action, it's reverse racism", it is the same thing. They know that whites have a head start in the media/economic/political/social etc spheres in America, but forget it in defense of one of their own. That's what just kills us when dealing with liberals, racism is wrong when conservatives do it, but liberals? We got a million and one excuses why it's a-ok. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who is more likely to have the disposable income to buy books, and therefore who will get book deals and who won't regardless of the quality of writing.

That is why it is so important for those white people who do get book deals, and decide to include us to get it right. If you haven't seen BlackAmazon's powerful post, Don't Include Me, you really need to read it to find out what we think about their "inclusiveness".

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 10:09 AM  

Oops, I had meant to add after the part about it being a-ok, that they also use the exact same arguments that conservatives use against them, and in the feminist blogosphere, these are also the exact same arguments that liberal white men and MRA's use against them. You'd think they would at least feel a twinge of cognitive dissonance at the hypocrisy.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 10:14 AM  

DI, I know that it is impossible for us to see the full ramifications of every action we take, so I try not to be harsh when someone makes a mistake, but like Sly and Kai said, C'mon racism 101.

And Elayne, I don't know if you see that what you posted actually indicates Jill's disingenousness. That paragraph indicates that Jill is aware that WOC are discussing this book and have serious problems with it, why no link to where she discovered this?

BlackAmazon has read the entire book and she said the chapter that discusses race is purely from the standpoint of WOC as victim. There is no discussion of what we are doing for ourselves or how we organize.

I don't want to put words into her mouth so I want to make it clear that these are my own thoughts about what that means, it usually says to me, "Oh look at those poor WOC, it is our job to save them."

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 10:33 AM  

PP, I didn't see it coming either, because of who they are at Feministe. They don't pull this crap, or so I thought. If it was FDL or Kos, it would be business as usual and I probably wouldn't have posted this.

Kai, I was tempted to do that, and will probably do it within the next few days. But I wanted people to know that I have respected Feministe in the past and thought they were good allies. I also want those white people who do believe in us, but are hurt when we have a hard time trusting them to know where this is coming from. When it comes down to the wire and they have to make a choice between honesty and truth and their POC friends, or their white friends, we've seen them choose the white friends more often than not. That's what that whole...well, they had a good argument but I wouldn't have linked to them anyway...says to me.

I've been thinking alot about the way they like to use the same strategies used against them when they are attacking us. It goes back to my last post. Sure they are pissed that someone else climbed over them to the top, but they learned to do it to someone else. That's why in the social justice arena we really have to be careful about who we associate with, are these people really on our side, or are they simply envious of those at the table and want their own place there regardless of who is left behind.

The manicure, and some other things that Jill has talked about on Feministe, actually make me think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs which leads to why these women aren't interested in our struggles. Now a manicure isn't actually all that expensive but for many women they have so many other competing needs that it would never cross their minds to get a manicure. That's why so many of us WOC are saying, oh good lord the last thing we need is to recruit more women like this to feminism. These women have jobs, have homes, have food in their stomachs, if they have children they don't worry about those children going without anything, so their biggest concerns are far removed from so many other people. That's why BA says, their biggest concern is having guilt free sex like the men (proud playas), that's why the outraged posts about being called sluts etc. We also know we are being used for their agenda in the abortion wars. They don't really care if it is available to us, but they will talk a good game about a poor black mother who already has two children and can't afford another, etc. Well, guess what, there is no federal funding for abortions, it doesn't matter if abortion is legal to a poor black woman (or white, they use the working class too) or not because she can't afford it anyway. It's still all about the white girls making sure their options are open in case the condom breaks or they would be organizing for federal funding.

Back to recommending BA's post, Don't Include Me.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 11:17 AM  

One more thing for Elayne, the book wasn't written for you or me, sure, many of the critics are older than the intended age group or are avowed feminists already...but so are those in favor of the book, and so is Jessica. Why are they more competent to assess what someone in their teens or early twenties should read or what they would like? BlackAmazon, Sylvia, and Petitpoussin are all 21-22. They don't know what young women want or need, but Jessica who is 28 does?

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 11:30 AM  

PP, I didn't see it coming either, because of who they are at Feministe. They don't pull this crap, or so I thought. If it was FDL or Kos, it would be business as usual and I probably wouldn't have posted this.

Donna, yes I was surprised too, precisely because it was feministe. I actually went over all the links twice (in disbelief, lol) just to make sure, before leaving my initial comment. Had it been one of the other major feminist or political blogs it wouldn't have been surprising at all, and I wouldn't have bothered, because that is just par for the course.

My second comment (the one Jill responded to) was actually targeted towards Mnemosyne(sp) and others who were flopping about, moaning that they were going to have to take days off work and mount an expedition to BA's archives in order to find an essay that was 3 posts down on the page. (Okay, I may be exaggerating just a tad.)

Still, when she (Jill) replied and gave her explanation of the omission... gah.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/18/2007 12:41 PM  

"Elayne, I don't know if you see that what you posted actually indicates Jill's disingenousness. That paragraph indicates that Jill is aware that WOC are discussing this book and have serious problems with it, why no link to where she discovered this?"

I don't know, I haven't seen the specific posts by Sylvia and Blackamazon which you're discussing because you didn't link to them either. :)

"Elayne, the book wasn't written for you or me, sure, many of the critics are older than the intended age group or are avowed feminists already...but so are those in favor of the book, and so is Jessica. Why are they more competent to assess what someone in their teens or early twenties should read or what they would like? BlackAmazon, Sylvia, and Petitpoussin are all 21-22. They don't know what young women want or need, but Jessica who is 28 does?"

28? Oh honey, I haven't seen 28 since Reagan was president! :)

I don't really think there's a huge age gap between 28 and 21-22; to me that all seems like the same generation anyway/. (Mind you, at this point in my life everyone under a certain age looks like they're 12 to me. I keep waiting to hear myself yell, "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!" and I don't even have a lawn.) By and large, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of a nonfiction book being written by someone about a half dozen years older than that book's target audience. The whole idea behind young-adult fiction, as I recall, is to have the readership be about a half dozen years younger than the protagonists. The reader wants to aspire to identify with the characters (or in this case the author) as someone they would like to become when they're a little bit older and wiser. I've gone through this myself, various "writer's crushes" on brilliant women who were about 5-10 years older than me.

By Blogger Elayne, at 5/18/2007 3:51 PM  

LOL I did link to them, but I under the blog name and not the writers names. BlackAmazon is at Having Read the Fine Print and Sylvia is at Anti-Essentialist Conundrum.

It's been awhile since I saw my teen years too. What I meant is that people of all ages are arguing for this book, and no one seems to have a problem with them making their "uninformed" opinions known. But they keep coming back to the argument that we are uninformed because we aren't in the target age group which keeps shifting, by the way. It was for under 25 at first, until they found out that BA, Sylvia, and PP are all under 25. So now it's for the 15 to 20 yr old group. I'm saying that if a 28 yr old can have a clue about what 15 to 20 yr olds are interested in, then maybe those younger than that could too. They are using age to exclude criticism but not using it when it includes accolades. Then it's ok to be 100 and have an opinion as long as you love FFF.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/18/2007 4:14 PM  

Kai said:

"Donna, I read Jill's post before it had a single comment, and when I was done, I simply went back to my admin pages and removed Feministe from my blogroll."

I've had Feministe in my favourites for a while now (ever since Burqagate), and I'm tempted to delete them. I couldn't believe that thread, the ignoring of valid critiques and points, and instead the "they're hates, why don't they publish their own books." The complete ignorance of context (WOC have felt this way about feminism for years) is bewildering, tho not surprising. Some people just don't seem to understand that this goes back further than Burqagate. That was a manifestation of the rift, not the rift itself. Jeebus . . .

By Anonymous Andrew, at 5/18/2007 7:45 PM  

Don't go t o ilkya's then

You might actually w ant to do harm

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 5/18/2007 7:47 PM  

moaning that they were going to have to take days off work and mount an expedition to BA's archives in order to find an essay that was 3 posts down on the page. (Okay, I may be exaggerating just a tad.)

Not by much you aren't, Nanette. I just typed out here, and then deleted, a complaint against Sickle's "do my homework for me, Donna Darko!" comment, only to go back over there and see you'd already responded to that dumbness.

"I have no woc-on-a-platter for you"--oh, Nanette, are you sure? Really sure? Because using Google is too hard for me, and I really like platters!

It ain't what it used to be, that blog.

By Blogger ilyka, at 5/18/2007 8:43 PM  

Ilkya, I know, jeeze... I've sort of been trying to avoid these threads because I'm fixing to get a little bit crabby, but that particular poster was just too much.

I hope she follows through but I have my doubts as, of course, the easiest thing for her to have done is actually talk to the women in her "minority neighborhood" - that simple step doesn't appear to have occurred to her.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/18/2007 11:15 PM  

piny just posted a follow-up at feministe, btw.

By Blogger belledame222, at 5/19/2007 4:44 PM  

I suppose when the respective bloggers are friends irl (same city and all), it adds yet another layer. but, yeah: sometimes, it's...not enough.

By Blogger belledame222, at 5/19/2007 4:49 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Mnemosyne, at 5/19/2007 6:11 PM  

Hi mnemosyne, good to see you here at Donna's and thanks for taking note of and replying to my comment.

but what I got was, "Oh, boy, here we go again," without me understand what "here we go" actually means.

Hmmm. Well, I had a few things I was going to say... was busy thinking out my reply while doing things in the kitchen a bit ago... including asking if we were starting on the same page. I mean, is this the piece from which you only got "Oh boy, here we go again?" Even with limited reading of the actual piece and the comments, I find that difficult to understand.

Anyway, though... thing is I've decided that I, personally, do not want to discuss Blackamazon's post with you, at this time. I am not trying to be rude or dismissive, mind you - and this does not mean that I think you shouldn't discuss her post, ask any questions you want, seek clarification of any unfamiliar terms or concepts, debate any points you disagree with, or any of that... I just think that you should toodle right on over to BA's site and discuss it with her.

This is not an attempt to discourage you from anything... BA is a brilliant young woman who far too many people seem loath to engage directly, sometimes citing an inability to understand her, which is nonsense... if you don't understand the prose, seek clarification is all... and I really am not inclined to be an accomplice to that. Especially as this is something that happens often to various poc - sideways instead of direct engagement... that is if there is any engagement at all.

I'd be happy, in the future, to discuss any general topic, specific post by a particular person (poc or no) that is being widely discussed or one that relates to something I've said myself, though.

Thanks again for visiting.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/19/2007 7:09 PM  

The weirdest thing about it is that my review did get linked (I'm the one who called Jessica shrill. In my defense, I was right). My review addresses specific issues - I don't even mention the cover thing, for a start - but it's not the kind of review that's going to convince hardcore feminists. "Shrill" is somewhat of an anti-shibboleth for the entire American left; if you use it, you're automatically suspect. I wrote it to an audience consisting of a few feminists, some fellow travelers, and a lot of non-feminists; most of all, I wrote it because I had promised to before reading the book, when I thought it would be better than it turned out to be.

Now, I'm fairly certain that Jill knows that my review wasn't written for her readers. So while she didn't link to reviews she must have known could appeal to many of her readers and spawn productive discussion, she did link to a review that would enable her to say that she and Jessica and the rest of the gang are being threatened by mean outsiders. It's not about discussing anything - it's about maintaining a group boundary. Personally I'm fine with it. I think Ilyka's "Don't compare Alon to PP" comment is fair. But Ilyka wrote it to shift the discussion to something that would interest the participants; Jill linked to me instead of you or Sylvia to prevent this discussion from taking place.

By Blogger Alon Levy, at 5/19/2007 7:29 PM  

Mnemosyne,

Did you ever wonder why teachers don't just stand up in front of the class and give you the information you will need? Instead they give you books and handouts to read, class assignments, projects, homework, tests etc. It's because it makes you work to learn and you are more likely to retain the information. -Easy- makes you zone out and you may learn a small part or nothing from the class.

BlackAmazon is a teacher, I don't mean that in a figurative way, she is actually a teacher.

One day I was in chat and we were talking about how angry we were because some people say, "BA is speaking in code". As if the words on her site are unfathonable and indecipherable. I said, "To me it's more like poetry". To which Thin Black Duke replied, "That's because it is poetry".

Why doesn't she write more plainly? Did I mention that BA is a teacher?

There is a method to her madness. BA makes you work for it so that she doesn't keep repeating herself. She doesn't bother correcting typos and she chooses to write in a style she knows might be difficult for some, but really if you take the time to read what she says and understand her meaning, it's always a gem.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/19/2007 8:11 PM  

I think Jill did it out of loyalty to Jessica. I don't think she thought it through and said, screw the WOC! But that is the problem with intentions, sometimes the things you do will hurt someone even when you don't mean to. That is our biggest problem with our so called inclusiveness in feminism, it's like a man's organization that decides in a *flourish of generosity* to create a women's auxiliary instead of actually including women in their organization. We are the auxiliary to feminism and we get thrown under the bus if they have to close ranks to protect one of their own...which means we were never one of their own.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/19/2007 8:22 PM  

Nanette, I'm glad you explained it so well. What is wrong with directly talking/writing to BlackAmazon if you need clarification?

By Blogger Donna, at 5/19/2007 8:24 PM  

I, for one, was not at all surprised by this who flare up. I guess I sound arrogant, but after Nubian put up that post months ago, the writing was on the wall.

In fact, I would have been more surprised if it didn't happen. I think feministe does OK on race--they are better than many of the middle class white oriented blogs. I was annoyed a few weeks ago when Jill put up a post about abortion in Kenya that read like abortion rights would save African women, and I got in an argument about that Holla Back site about 1.5 years ago. But, if they were really bad I would even go there at all (and there is one white feminist blogger, who is so damned racist, I try my best to completely avoid reaing her site)

I'm rambling....I think this was more about personal loyalty among the high traffic feminist bloggers, and we all know that when you break it down, middle and upper income white women are right up there at the top of the feminist blogging heirarchy.

By Blogger Rachel's Tavern, at 5/20/2007 12:47 AM  

I said, "To me it's more like poetry". To which Thin Black Duke replied, "That's because it is poetry".

That's why, for me, I do NOT feel comfortable commenting to her, because what I'm saying is that I don't like her writing style, just as I don't like the work of other stream-of-consciousness writers. It's not a style of writing that speaks to me. (No, I don't read much poetry, either.)

For me to go to her blog and criticize her writing style and not her ideas would be an incredibly wrong thing for me to do and a major breach of my ethics as an artist. I'm now sorry that I even brought it up -- can you please delete my earlier comment?

By Blogger Mnemosyne, at 5/20/2007 3:02 AM  

...if part of the underlying problem isn't that there are issues of racial inequality, then why do we keep hearing racist things in the disagreement?

Good point, I was wondering this too.

I'm not really familiar with feministe, Jill or even Jessica Valenti but Jill's posting and a lot of the comments at the feministe thread really bothered me including the book publishing deals.

I did get a copy of it from someone and was working my way through it. The history portion bothered me because the assignment of the "first wave" feminism to the sufferage movement in the 1800s assumes that this is when feminism or women's liberation began in the continent, when it had been going on for hundreds of years. Only I guess, if you're part of the colonizing class, then you get to decide what the "first wave" is.

It's ironic that White women talk about liberating ourselves when we're part of the class that oppressed, annihilated and enslaved other women in part to have a "first wave". But I guess not really. It's part and parcel of colonialism to be able to decide what and when.

Not that I am against the sufferage movement(and some of my ancestors participated in it) though it only enfranchised some women, because it was extremely difficult for Black men or women or members of other racial groups to exercise that right freely for many years. But to define it as part of the "first wave" seems at the very least inaccurate.

And if this is how young women are introduced to feminism and its history, it doesn't seem like a proper introduction. Just more of the same.

By Anonymous Radfem, at 5/20/2007 4:12 AM  

I also think that the sufferage movements don't end when the Constitutional amendments are passed. I think they require a lot of vigilance even in the modern day and the two latest presidential elections as well as others are reminders why. I just remember what happened in Florida and having to read about it in the British press(including the road stops and threatened arrests) b/c the U.S. press didn't want to touch it.

By Anonymous Radfem, at 5/20/2007 4:21 AM  

Blogger ate my comment!

But yeah radfem the actuall history section BOTHERED ME . its construction BOTHERED ME!

and frankly the apologies.

call me the evil one but I'm not impressed and or feeling actually all that reached out to but if they feel better good on em.

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 5/20/2007 9:31 AM  

because what I'm saying is that I don't like her writing style

Ur, how about you cope and try to learn anyway?

This is the second time I've seen you complain about the way the message is presented and not attempt to even understand, much less engage with, the message (the first was complaining about the term Sofia Coppela feminism, ironically, which is a reference to just this sort of behavior). That's a cop out. You can cop out, if you choose, but that doesn't make the cop out any less so.

Feminism can't be for all women until all women are included. If you exclude non-white women by ignoring race or even downplaying it or addressing it in a chapter before you get on to the other stuff - which oddly has nothing to do with race and thus nothing to do with the majority of women - then feminism isn't for all women.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 5/20/2007 10:29 AM  

Mnemosyne:

For me to go to her blog and criticize her writing style and not her ideas would be an incredibly wrong thing for me to do and a major breach of my ethics as an artist.

I'm sorry, but that's just silly. If you have an interest and want to better understand her ideas (which is what I thought was your point in the first place) I cannot imagine that directly engaging the author of the ideas in conversation and seeking a better understanding of her points would be considered offensive and a breach of ethics. Artists or not.

If that is considered a criticism of the writing style then, I confess, I must be offending people right and left without knowing it. Often, when I don't understand something, I'll ask.

I've wandered over to, say, belledame's when she is talking theory or just obscurely (to me)- read, nodded my head and then (unless there is a hot and heavy conversation going on), in so many words asked "belle, can you tell me what you just said?"

I just call that wanting to join the conversation but needing a bit of a hook first.

So far I've not burst into a ball of flames or anything and I highly doubt that you speaking directly to BA about her thoughts, ideas or work would cause you to do so either.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/20/2007 11:21 AM  

Rachel, I know, but most of the time Feministe either gets it right, or at least is willing to listen and discuss our differences. So few of the liberal or feminist blogs will do that. I have problems with Jill's apology, but I love me some Feministe because it is still a step in the right direction, we will see if she starts backing down, like Amanda did after her Burqa apology. I see that already white readers are telling Jill that she shouldn't have apologized to those oversensitive WOC. We have to see if she nips that in the bud.

Mnemosyne, Nanette and I took the time to explain BA's feelings and writing style because we wanted you to know where she is coming from. She does think it is important to work at it, you will retain her ideas if you put the effort into it. She isn't trying to make people feel stupid, because in fact, she knows her writing is difficult. The part that hurts me is that I hear you saying it isn't worth the effort and I am assuring you that it is. BA loves talking about ideas, she doesn't expect everyone to agree with her, but she does want you over there asking her directly or agreeing/disagreeing directly. And you should know something else, when you read the anger and frustration in her writing, much of it is towards people who talk about her, or talk at her, or ignore her, or steal her ideas instead of linking to her blog. So this conversation really needs to move over to her blog. There really is no need to criticize her writing style since you know what that is about, but if you have questions about what she means, just ask, if you disagree with her, just tell her. It really is that easy.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/20/2007 11:48 AM  

BA, I will have to go back and reread the apology because I didn't get the impression they thought you were the mean one.

Jessica isn't doing herself any favors by pulling an "Amanda" though and being disingenous. "I don't know what you mean?" C'mon!

By Blogger Donna, at 5/20/2007 11:56 AM  

Oh no Donna I meant that

: You can call me the evil one But...

No ones called me evil but me

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 5/20/2007 1:04 PM  

Ok, because 8 on her list could be read as one of those carom shots. I thought that might be where you are coming from.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/20/2007 1:41 PM  

This is the author of the "BlogHer summary" that Jill cites.

FYI, I posted at BlogHer way back on May 7th, and since then the conversation has moved on and developed.

I plan to do a follow-up post at BlogHer.

By Blogger Melinda Casino, at 5/20/2007 2:46 PM  

(Whoops, beg your pardon, I meant to say "FWIW" - for what it's worth -- not "FYI". :))

By Blogger Melinda Casino, at 5/20/2007 2:57 PM  

Hi Melinda, I saw your round up at BlogHer, and you're right the conversation had moved on since then. That's another reason I was wondering why Jill didn't find links to BA and Sylvia. You'd think she would want to cover some of the fresher reviews too.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/20/2007 4:44 PM  

This is the second time I've seen you complain about the way the message is presented and not attempt to even understand, much less engage with, the message (the first was complaining about the term Sofia Coppela feminism, ironically, which is a reference to just this sort of behavior).

And my complaint that time was, again, that I find Blackamazon very, very hard to understand from a stylistic point of view, and every time I think I've puzzled it out, the point seems kind of ... pointless to me. But that's a conversation I need to have with her, not with you.

That's a cop out. You can cop out, if you choose, but that doesn't make the cop out any less so.

Yes, the only possible reason I could have for not liking her writing style is that I secretly don't like what she has to say. Which also means that I secretly hate what James Joyce, Jack Kerouac, Kathy Acker, and Thomas Pynchon have to say. Boy, you sure have me pegged.

By Blogger Mnemosyne, at 5/21/2007 12:30 AM  

If that is considered a criticism of the writing style then, I confess, I must be offending people right and left without knowing it. Often, when I don't understand something, I'll ask.

And then I become the stereotypical white person who's just playing dumb and trying to annoy people by asking the same questions over and over again because she just doesn't get it, and people stop talking to me. Which makes things worse, because now I'm one of Them, and Blackamazon (and you guys) get yet another story in your repertoire about how you ran into one of Them and They can't possibly be that stupid, can they?

I grew up in the same town that Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine) did and, yes, there was not one single black person who lived in my neighborhood until I was 18 years old. I had no interaction at all with real, live black people until I went to college. Everything I knew up to that time was learned solely through books, and boy did I ask some dumbass questions and say some stupid things that made people turn their backs on me. Because the only possible way someone could be that stupid about the lives of actual black people would be if she was faking it.

So, yeah. It's easier to lay low, nod along, and not ask questions.

By Blogger Mnemosyne, at 5/21/2007 12:37 AM  

As an afterthought: since I mentioned the Fallacious Flip in my earlier comment, I figure it might be good to expand on that for those who are unfamiliar with Nezua's brilliant Glosario entry for Wite-Magik Attax:

WITE-MAGIK ATTAX: A predictable series of non-arguments that attempt to denigrate, negate, or invalidate ideas, feelings, or experience as related by a brown person. These attacks take many forms, and while each person making the attack thinks their (dys)logic to be unerring, they echo timeless and faulty cognitive patterns. These Wite-Magik Attax invariably escalate in intensity, however, the longer the brown person attempts to assert their reality.

ex:

• the FALLACIOUS FLIP ("You're racist against whites!" etc)
• the OVERSENSITIVE ("You're hearing insults that aren't there.")
• the QUEEN'S CACA-PHONY ("Historicality proveth my superiority.")
• the INSATIABLE MARTYR ("You are just waiting to be oppressed!")
• the DROWNING MAESTRO ("I'd care about starving kids, but your tone is off")
• the APPEAL TO MELANIN ("My mexican wife hates illegal aliens.")
• the WITE DISDAIN ("Run along and play with your pet issue, now.")
• the SCAREM-CAROM ("Imagine a dead spic, hypothetically, of course.")


Each of the Attax in this list has its own pithy entry as well. This is great for people of color because it gives us shorthand for some of the things we experience all the time. I'd think it might also be great for white folks who want to understand what we're talking about and the dynamics people of color commonly experience in our exchanges with white folks.

Just thought I'd throw that out there. One can never plug Nezua too much.

Cheers.

By Blogger Kai, at 5/21/2007 2:22 AM  

Mnemosyne,

It's late and I have insomnia, so that is probably why all this is seeming just pretty funny to me at the moment.

As you can probably see, BlackAmazon is on this thread chatting (all the while you (and we) are talking about her in the third person), so anything you had to say about your problems reading her type of writing, and your wanting to understand the ideas more and your nervousness about this and that and the other thing... well, of course you've already told her. Sort of.

So far, she's not turned you into a toad. That I know of.

My recommendation would be to end this charade and just say hi.

Dang.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/21/2007 4:16 AM  

Yes, the only possible reason I could have for not liking her writing style is that I secretly don't like what she has to say.

You have insulted people, they have taken offense, you do not get to pretend that only you are allowed to take offense.

You claim that you are not faking the stupid so I shall treat you as such, you ask for education, so I shall give you so much, if you do not get it then you will not get, and I would ask you please to stop pissing people off, I know the internets were bought up in bulk as a safe space for asshats, but this is not one of those bits of the internet.

You have insulted people by A) tlaking about them like they're not reading this thread, B) by declaring that for some reason it is obligated upon them to understand what you mean in between your poorly expressed writings while at the same time declaring that you can't read BA because you can't be bothered to... try and grasp what she is saying (oh but the writing styles! it is Teh Diffi-cult! Oh Noes!).

This is not rocket science.

C) Some questions you can answer yourself, from observing people talk and discuss and approach things, you are showing a clear unwillingness to actually educate youself, while again complaing about how everyone has to magically learn all about your inner workings and to TEACH YOU, while you cannot be bothered to educated your own damn self with resources you have available, which you have in fact be repeated GIVEN BY the people you declare won't TEACH YOU.

D) You expect people to treat you in good faith while showing no willingness to assume good faith on other people's part.

E) You are declaring that because of your background you are unable to know when you are offending people is just plain bullshit, based on your rampant displays of intellectual laziness the reason why people turned their backs on you, and undoubtably kept their backs to you is that you denied them, as you are doing to toher people in this thread, the right to be offended by you asking dumbass questions which are not merely stupid, but are actually very offensive to the people you've offended.

F) You seem unaware of the fact taht it is not encumbent on someone you offend to not be offended on the principle that you are so almighty important that apparently they HAVE TO, drop everything they're doing and immeediately convert you to non-idiot status via pixy dust and a calming, soothing tone of voice that sings them gnetle lullabies every night and wipes your ass for you after you take a dump.

By Blogger R. Mildred, at 5/21/2007 5:59 AM  

*waves*

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 5/21/2007 7:48 AM  

Mnemosyne,

Yes, the only possible reason I could have for not liking her writing style is that I secretly don't like what she has to say.

That wasn't what I said.

What I said was stopping because you don't like someone's writing style is a cop out.

Now you have added that not only don't you like her writing style, but you think that pointing out the inherent racism in feminism that marginalizes and others women of other cultures, countries, and skin tones is "pointless". THAT says volumes.

Since you don't seem to like metaphor, the volumes say "Racist" on them.

Which makes things worse, because now I'm one of Them, and Blackamazon (and you guys) get yet another story in your repertoire about how you ran into one of Them and They can't possibly be that stupid, can they?

Um, could you please get off of your cross? We need all the wood we can get for bridges.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 5/21/2007 9:06 AM  

As you can probably see, BlackAmazon is on this thread chatting (all the while you (and we) are talking about her in the third person), so anything you had to say about your problems reading her type of writing, and your wanting to understand the ideas more and your nervousness about this and that and the other thing... well, of course you've already told her. Sort of.

Yeah, the cat's kind of out of the bag so to speak.



So, yeah. It's easier to lay low, nod along, and not ask questions.

Or complain about them in their presense as if they aren't even there. Yet, it's not okay to have a discussion directly with them on their blog?


BA, I agree with you about the construction of the history section. I'm still going through the posts over at feministe but someone(Brooklynite?) wrote a pretty interesting posting on how Sojourner Truth was treated by Valenti for example.

By Anonymous Radfem, at 5/21/2007 11:28 AM  

What Nanette said. Here, I'll demonstrate.

"Hi, BA! Sometimes I don't really understand what you're trying to say. Could you explain ____?"

or even "Hi, BA! I recognize that you are an actual other human being, even if I don't feel comfortable posting at your site or engaging you directly on anything substantive. Meanwhile, though: hi! How's the weather? I like pudding, do you?"

By Blogger belledame222, at 5/21/2007 3:45 PM  

"...Of course we were fair-minded, and would have instnatly let into the Circle (which was also Immortal, by the way) any who demonstrated Circular qualities, as long as they were just like ours.

Somehow the were not.

We did, actually, let a few in. (This made us feel generous).

Most, we did not. (This made us feel that we had high and important standards).

Some didn't even want to get in and stood about making rude remarks. (This made us feel scared).

But how on earth could we possibly let them in?

They were clumsy.

Their work was thin.

It wasn't about the right things.

It was -subsidiary-.

It had no 'universal values.' (These are shiny gold bells, worn on the head, which are indispensable to the art of frument, and which the practicing frumentor, by shaking the head back and forht, causes to go 'bing! bing!' in complicated rhythmic outburts while performing the other actions proper to this delicate and complex art).

To drop the metaphor...when white critic Elly Burkin informed a room full of us white feminists...that we were racists adn homophobes, I felt both angry and accused. After all, none of us had done anything that bad and we were hardly responsible that the Great Tradition of English literature was largely white, or that the others were subsidiary, or that so little had been done in these latter. I had certainly confronted homosexuality in women's writing, and so would I confront color--when and where it was appropriate to do so, of course.

To prove all this, I went to the library, got Black novelist Zora Neale Hursto's classic, -Their Eyes Were Watching God,- and read it.

It was episodic.

It was thin.

It was uninteresting.

The characters talked funny.

It was clearly inferior to the great central tradition of Western Literature (if you added these authors' wives', mothers', daughters', sisters', and colleagues' books). I'd been vindicated. Why go on?

But Elly must have put a virus in my tea or otherwise affected me, as shortly thereafter I returned from the library with one armful of books and from the bookstore with another, all these about women of color. There were novels, short-story collections, books containing literary criticism, literary journals, and a few slender pamphlets from small presses. Then I read John Langston's -Drylongso-, Gerda Lerner's -Black Women in White America-, Barbara Christian's pioneering study -Black Women Novelists-, -Conditions: Five, The Black Womens' Issue, Toni Cade Bambara's -The Black Woman: An Anthology-, Mary Helen Washington's -Black-Eyed Susans: Classic Stories by and about Black Women-, and Barbara Smith's -Toward a Black Feminist Criticism.-

Then I re-read -Their Eyes Were Watching God.-

It was astonishing how much the novel had improved in the interim.

Could it be that all these authors were not--as I had unthinkingly assumed--in subsidiary traditions, but -parallel ones?- At that the only thing unique, superior to all others, and especially important in my tradition-was that I was in it? Was centrality really a relative matter?..."

--Joanna Russ, "How To Suppress Women's Writing"

By Blogger belledame222, at 5/21/2007 4:02 PM  

One can never plug Nezua too much.

That is gospel.

Mnemosyne, if you feel like talking, please drop me a line. Email's on my Blogger profile page. No pressure, you understand. Just if.

By Blogger ilyka, at 5/22/2007 3:25 AM  

Anonymous sez in this thread.
No, but that label has been applied--rightly or wrongly-- to commenters in previous threads on this blog, and it makes it scary to comment with a dissenting opinion.

Um, yeah. That would be me. You can take it up with me personally, if you'd like. I tend not to throw the word around lightly, but when someone calls BA's points "pointless" and ignores that she's posting in the same thread as BA while saying she doesn't want to let BA know that she doesn't like her writing style because it's rude, well... shoe fits, and all that.

It's really not the end of the world, having one's actions called racist, especially if one makes it the beginning of a new perspective - meaning if one goes "maybe I should look at what I'm doing if I don't want people to use that word at me" instead of "OMG! INSULT! They're so mean!"

Also, the part about: "However, if you're working within a racist, sexist, homophobic, abilist, etc system, then those ideas enter discourse intentionally or not."? That's important.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 5/22/2007 8:58 AM  

Okay, I've given it a couple of days to set in, and also re-read Jill's apology thread this morning, because it was bothering me, and have come to the conclusion that no, I do not accept the apology. Mind you, I am not one of the ones she was apologizing to, lol.

Still, even in the "fair weather ally" type way, I think that it does not hold up.

First, I think it was fortuitous rather than planned that she and piny posted their pieces at almost the same time. Had I read just her post, with again no links to anything and no names named (which seems to be the ongoing policy of the Defend Jessica At All Costs faction) without reading piny's post first, I would have been in a far different frame of mind.

Because, basically, the entire apology for erasing voices (while still characterizing or mis-characterizing their arguments, but with no actual links to what they did say) was still primarily for the purpose of defending Jessica against these same nameless, voiceless arguments.

Same thing in the thread itself.. pretty much entering it not to defend her apology or engage the commenters on issues but to defend Jessica or herself (except for the last bit where she counters Donna's point about the white feminist movement and reproductive rights and such)

So, shorn of piny's corrective post, Jill's post reads (to me, in my current mood) as not so much an apology for kicking young women of color (and pallor) in the teeth - while simultaneously erasing them - in defense of Jessica as it does a re-justification for doing so.

Something BA picked up on right away, of course, but I'm a bit slow.

By Blogger Nanette, at 5/22/2007 1:27 PM  

Do you know that all the blogs in the second paragraph are gone? So sad.

By Blogger Tayari Jones, at 4/27/2008 9:55 PM  

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