More on Full Frontal FeminismHugo Schwyzer decided to add Full Frontal Feminism to his syllabus this semester. He enjoyed the book, thought it had some value and would be relevant to his students. He strongly disagreed with the few less than laudatory reviews especially the one written by BlackAmazon.
Now that the semester is coming to an end, Hugo asked his students what their opinions were on the book, and has a post up about their responses. There are several things problematic about the post, and on going discussions regarding that are: BrownFemiPower's - Teaching Full Frontal Feminism, BlackAmazon's - I Really Tried, Crip Chick's - BA and BFP Always Get Me Going, and Sylvia/M's - Studying Women: A Mirrorless Act.
What interested and amazed me was Jessica Valenti's response to Hugo's post:
"Don't do this, Hugo. You are pitting the women of color in your classroom against women of color in the blogosphere. It's unfair on several levels. First, there is the strawman argument you are setting up, none of the women of color online who critiqued the book ever said that no women of color would ever like the book. Second you are filtering the responses of your students through your own biases in favor of my book. It would have been fairer for you to send your students directly to BlackAmazon, Sylvia/M, and Petit Poussin's blogs to have a conversation with those women about their impressions of the book. Although I couldn't say it at the time, there was a prototypical young woman I wanted to address with my books, it's the sorority girl who might eventually become the Republican voting soccer mom. That is the audience who will find the book relevant and it will have limited relevance to women of color, Christian, working class, disabled, non-American women. You should also consider a few other factors, is it possible that your students will be influenced by your enthusiasm for the book, as well as the inequality in a teacher-student relationship and vulnerability the student may feel when disagreeing? They may also be reacting to a preference to conversational tone compared to the dry reading of academic texts, and many other books contain no mention of women of color at all, they may be grateful that I included them in even the limited way that Full Frontal Feminism does."
Yeah, right. Did you really think she would ever say anything like that? I would bet that at least half the white people who read that will be more inclined to consider the points while they thought it was coming from a white person. Many others would still push back since it's favorable to women of color, I say this with Amanda's apology for the burka incident in mind, when her white fans were quick to tell her that she was wrong to apologize or show consideration for WOC. Anti-racism gets lip service only from the major white feminist bloggers and that's the way the bloggers and their white readers like it. That is why you would never see a post like that from Jessica, because she would have to actually read and listen to WOC, believe them, and incorporate their views into her feminism. That won't ever happen.
Sylvia has a wonderful post up called Stretching the Knapsack Metaphor to It's Full Bent (and Then Some). In the comments Michelle says this:
I’ve been thinking about the difference between stuff I have been/am involved with because I have a CHOICE about it, and stuff that I have no choice about. For me, the second thing, what I have no choice about, isn’t in any of the categories, even areas where I am oppressed like gender or sexual orientation. But it’s there and real and it is fucking INVOLUNTARY. I don’t get a choice about whether to be affected or not, I just AM and I can’t ever just choose to opt out and go back to being protected, because — I can’t.
On the other hand, areas that are not involuntary for me in being affected no matter what I do or want ot whatever (eg involvement in struggles against racism/white supremacy, more specifically to my life lately, migrant rights before and indigenous rights now) — these are choices of mine, and I have already stepped away from one group, chosen to be part of Y rather than X, where will I “be involved”.
IMO where people have these choices we are by definition untrustworthy. It’s great if or when we do the right thing, but it’s an action-by-action kind of situation, because at any moment we have the choice to step away, to choose to not notice because we do have a choice. Clearly we in that position are NOT the people who should be defining anything where we have this disconnect.
There are very few white allies who are trustworthy, who will do the right thing when it is at odds with their own wants, needs, goals. I am convinced that most of the major white feminists, including bloggers, have no intention of dismantling the patriarchal system, they want to join the power structure, have power over other people, and have a higher position in the hierarchy. That's why they only wink and nod when it comes to issues involving other oppressed groups then tell us to shut up while they go about their important business of getting the things that are only to their advantage, and eventually (*wink nod* never) they will get around to our "pet issues". Paying lip service to anti-racism is always to their advantage, gives them the warm fuzzies, and leads their readers to believe they are actually progressive instead of as selfish and self serving as conservatives. On the other hand squealing with glee because someone praised your book, even while that someone craps on WOC, well just ignore that crapping on WOC part, don't let that spoil your fun and white camaraderie.