If you are a regular reader here you probably will understand Sylvia's latest post, on the other hand, maybe you won't. I'm sending you over there to check it out and hope you'll play along there, and give an opinion or two over here too. I'm loving it in my bitterly laughing way.
Co-optation, Appropriation, and in Plain Speak, Stealing
I'm a university graduate, I have a bachelors degree in business administration. While at university I never took any courses on womens studies, race and intersectionality, or the like. What I write about here is mostly based on my experience living as a woman of color in North America. So I don't know some of the things I might have learned if I had taken those types of courses and sometimes find it confusing learning the language/jargon of academia, theories, and discussions of books/dissertations/essays and their authors with little or no context. It can be fascinating for someone like me to be introduced to these subjects by someone willing to make it accessible for everyone, like Donna Darko does when she raises the subject of third wave feminism. I was amazed to learn that third wave feminism was created by women of color, because many of the mainstream white feminists online call themselves third wave feminists and/or sex positive feminists. I assumed that the third wave was a rift between one group of white feminists and another white group of feminists calling themselves the second wave feminists/radical feminists or radfems. Please go read her entire enlightening post as well as the link to Rebecca Walker's article at Huffington Post. I have to disagree with Donna Darko here though:
I think what happened was people were so used to seeing white, middle-class women lead the first and second waves, they assumed white, middle-class women would lead the third wave.
She is too kind. They did what white people do all the time, they co-opted third wave feminism from women of color and distorted it into something unrecognizable from it's WOC centered origins into middle class white women centered Spice Girls Feminism(™ BetaCandy at The Hathor Legacy).
And yes, Schwyzer's latest unilateral recasting of this dialog as "purists vs. popularizers" is, well, fundamentally unsound, though it's clear why he's doing it. I suppose in his worldview, John Coltrane is a purist and Kenny G is a popularizer. Solomon Linda is a purist, The Tokens are popularizers. Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard are purists, while Pat Boone, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley are popularizers. And surprise, surprise, Schwyzer stands firmly on the side of the popularizers; though he sees a "healthy tension" in this dynamic. Whereas I see something else entirely, something which all cultures and communities of color around the world have experienced in our encounters with white society. And we wouldn't necessarily describe this tension as "healthy".
Now I'm not trying to silence Kenny G...well, I better not go there...so, I'm not saying that Pat Boone, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Elvis should have their albums yanked from stores or anything. I'm just saying, a deeper, honest appreciation of music, and of the world, recognizes where the music comes from and the political economy of the marketplace which clearly rewards white appropriators over brown originators. Clear-eyed people understand that this is the historical relationship between white people and people of color when it comes to the marketing of cultural content; and only whites have the luxury of pretending that it's all cool now. And pretend they do.
Yep, they did what they do all the time, co-opting something POC centered distorting it into something white centered.
Then there is a complaint I heard several times last year privately from POC bloggers who noticed that they would research and write about an issue and within 24-48 hours certain white blogs would have a very similar post at their sites. At first they were willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but when it happened time and again, they knew that these sites were stealing their content, making it appear that they cared enough about POC to research these stories themselves, when in reality they have so little respect for POC they steal from them instead of giving them credit for their hard work, and instead of linking and driving a little traffic their way. One blogger even watched her stats to be certain, and sure enough, the IP address of the woman she suspected was stealing from her was all over her site several times a day.
And last, I really don't want to be the one to create this joy-killing narrative...
In my understanding, the term “Reproductive Justice” is one that was coined to take the focus off of white middle class womens’ reproductive health issues (birth control and contraception) and to expand the focus to those issues that effect more people’s ability to control their health. To me, this includes:
forced and coerced sterilization dangerous contraceptives and experiments on such in communities of color the right to reproduce regardless of socioeconomic background the “war on drugs” and its effects on women of color the sex trade, and the rights of people who trade sex for money reproductive health issues of people in the trans community (effects of hormones, pregnancy, etc) environmental racism and its impacts on reproductive health health care access (not just to abortion) and its effects on reproductive health access to prenatal care access to reproductive health care for incarcerated people access to health care and self determination re: reproductive health for people with disabilities the impact of military occupation on reproductive health pesticides effects on farm workers
I could go on and on. I’m missing a lot here. The point is, if Reproductive Justice is going to be used, please don’t erase the communities that made the distinction in terminology as an explicit way to center the issues most important to us. Thanks.
Co-optation, appropriation, and stealing...is this another time that white people are going to take from WOC and turn the meaning of reproductive justice into the white centered "abortion, sex, abortion, abortion, birth control, abortion, abortion, sex, birth control, abortion" conversation? What reproductive justice is about is a holistic approach to reproduction and sexuality, including real family planning; as in giving birth and raising children, day care, adoption, political-social-economic implications, sexual and gender issues involving marginalized communities like lgbti and disability rights and the poor and working class beyond the lip service that mainstream feminism gives to us before getting back to the "abortion, sex, abortion, abortion, birth control, abortion, abortion, sex, birth control, abortion" conversation. I'd like to think that Jill understands this and will truly make the section about reproductive justice, but have a very hard time believing it will happen on a mainstream site catering to mostly white people.
# Thomas, TSID says: January 25th, 2008 at 12:15 pm - Edit
Aravosis has finally scuttled the last bits of credibility. He’s racist, he’s transphobic, and now he’s a classist whiner who complains that people who make less than him get his money. So … AFAICT his actual agenda is that educated, affluent masculine-acting white gay men get an equally privileged status in the injustice hierarchy to educated, affluent masculine-acting white het men.
That’s not an agenda I’m on board with.
This is it, this is what WOC bloggers have repetitiously been saying about white middle class feminists. AFAICT (as far as I can tell) their actual agenda is that educated, affluent, mostly hetero, able bodied, white women get an equally privileged status in the injustice hierarchy to educated, affluent, mostly hetero, able bodied, white men.
This is why we aren't on board with their agenda. This is why it's foolish and a slap to our faces to say, "We're all on the same side! Why are you being so harsh?" because they aren't on our side. Because their agenda isn't equality for all women, just a step up on the hierarchy for themselves, which is why they don't do any actual work with WOC, but only give lip service and use us for their own ends.
Over at the Curvature, Cara reads an idiotic jam packed full of sexist stereotypes article brought to us by the knuckleheads at Time Magazine, so we don't have to, and fisks it in a delightfully hilarious way. Cara, much thanks for saving me from *headdesking* myself into a concussion. One of the points she makes:
Non-hetero people do not exist. Except, of course in the three (not densely filled) pages containing the obligatory story about gay people that masquerades as “inclusion” so that all the uppity queers will shut up.
This is one of the major problems that WOC had with Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism. ---Women of color do not exist. Except, of course in the ten (not densely filled) pages containing the obligatory intersectionality that masquerades as "inclusion" so that all the uppity WOC will shut up.
She's a bad bad woman. I go to read over there and dropped like a bomb at the bottom of a serious post she has a link to a video at YouTube of a song stuck in her head, don't click that link! ARGH! I hate that girl! I want to slap her silly! (The girl in the video, not BFP, I want to hug BFP even if she made me look at that awful video.)
What I got stuck in my head is this one:
I can't believe that song is over 10 yrs old already. It's a good one, go ahead and click it.
Some quotes really spoke to me, because it's not just Steinem with amnesia, but entire swaths of white feminism.
But I also know very clearly a history that I believe Steinem’s piece attempted to distort, and that is that as white women moved into the workforce, much of that caretaking work did not go to white men who sort of took up and helped out, but it fell on women of color—African American women, immigrant women—who stepped in to do much of the domestic labor and childcare provision, so that white women could in fact become a part of the workforce. So to, for example, make an argument like black men had the right to vote long before white women is to ignore that black men were then lynched regularly for any attempt to actually exercise that right.
Middle class white women are always quick to say things like, "Look what feminism has done for 'us' (the universal us), we no longer have to be housewives we can have careers!" When all along women of color and poor white women have been working, and took over that housework and child care when the middle class white woman went onto her career.
What I do agree with is that we ought to be in coalition. But I think we’ve got to be in coalition on fair grounds. Part of what, again, has been sort of an anxiety for African American women feminists like myself is that we’re often asked to join up with white women’s feminism, but only on their own terms, as long as we sort of remain silent about the ways in which our gender, our class, our sexual identity doesn’t intersect, as long as we can be quiet about those things and join onto a single agenda. So, yes, I absolutely agree, we must be in coalition, but it must be a fair coalition of equals.
This is what we mean when we say that the whole 'circular firing squad' argument is bullshit. When we are the ones called divisive, but it is the white middle class women in feminism who are divisive, or the white middle class men in liberal circles, because they have decided that they are the ones who make the rules and they are the ones who tell us what is important, and somehow it never includes the things that are important to us. No, those things are "pet/special issues". So you can stuff another of your bullshit arguments up your ass too, the one that says, "He/she is on your side! Don't be so harsh!" We are the ones who decide that, we know who is on our side and who is using us for his or her own agenda.
I am actively and emphatically SUPER tired of everyone thinking this is a marketing issue.
And Hugo Schwizer brought up marketing feminism again just a couple weeks ago...
When women talk so reverentially about the women's right to vote and Seneca Falls always seem to gloss over the lack of Black Women and the classism and racism in that same conventions findings.
While in both these pieces these women make sure to list the movements they think need to own up to their debt to the feminist movement
Not a single one or even the comments mentions with any kind of detail the internal struggles they claim feminism is having with it self.
and the claim that feminism was never one thing back in the day so how can it be now.
It was/ is and that's why it's struggling.
Middle class white people just don't get why people of color and working class white people aren't all fired up for their Democratic party, or their brand of feminism. It's because we are excluded, they want us for our votes, or money, or warm bodies to fill their conventions/conferences and make things look diverse, but they don't want to give anything in return. Only their wants and needs are important and the rest of us are told to wait, although they have no problem throwing us under the bus if they think it will help them get ahead; think NAFTA and welfare reform under the Clinton administration.
Why would we come to this? Why is it okay to be so patronizing when talking to the very people your trying to help.
Because it's in the history
Feminism PREFERS dealing with the "powerful" and " influential" soundbites than it's suffering constituency.
Everything has a coolness factor, or an irony, or a mantra.
The clash over housework will always get repeat coverage while the failure of specific women to have HOUSES is a "special issue"
Feminism consistently seeks to
TELL women where they are and should be
while SHOWING them
that in the end it is more concerned by what is SAID about it.
It cracks me up how these big feminists/liberals talk about how they are the new media, but all they write about is what they find in the old media or MSM (mainstream media). POC writers were covering the Jena 6 since May but white people didn't write anything about it until it was covered by the Associate Press or CBS, and then only a small blurb, nothing in depth.
You will see many of the same themes in one of Black Amazons later posts, The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Played. If you are a regular reader you will already know that when BA writes posts pertaining to white people she says the same things over and over and over, because they won't take off the blinders. She (all of us WOC really) has to say it a million times before it sinks in for a couple of these white people. Go read both posts and come back and tell me that they aren't pretty much the same.
Well how many times you got to be told your unwanted for you take a hint?
It might be the last time she repeats, though. She is fed up, had enough of the run around from these feminists, and wasted time arguing with a brick wall.
IF it does not pertain to larger womanhood and by larger I mean the global international multiphase multilevel WORK of making women's lives better, I won't be commenting. Should you want to pay me or donate to a charity in my name, MAYBE
Alot of WOC feel this way. They don't want to waste any more time on white womens drama when there is other work to be done and the white women just hold us back.
The shirt was designed with this post in mind, Acceptably black, my ass. You gotta read it! The author (Bob Garfield) of the article she is critiquing - Why Even Hardened Racists Will Vote for Barack Obama, even shows up to argue with Shark Fu, but runs away quickly! His claim is that racists can and do have POC friends, but they must be acceptably black, which means they are non-threatening, act white. This is someone they can show off to prove that they aren't really racist. He is under the impression that white racists will vote for Barack Obama because he is acceptably black...uh...the point is to be seen with someone acceptably black to prove you aren't a racist even though you are. Think think think...in the privacy of a voting booth, as a racist, who will you vote for...how about NOT THE BLACK GUY although you might say that you did. This is why the polls showed a lead for Obama that didn't materialize against Clinton in NH. A racist does not respect someone who is acceptably black, it's all for show, and therefore does not want that person to be president. D'OH!