Views: Feminism, Appropriation, and Racism
Posted by Jack Stephens on April 14, 2008
Some more views across the blogoshpere on the recent controversy surrounding Marcotte and BFP. However, it is not just about one incident but a whole history of appropriating ideas from people of color in order to benefit those white “intellectuals” and “activists. As “Sudy” says, the “demand for writers/bloggers to “stop stealing” far exceeds the events (disasters) of this week or just BFP herself…I’m not talking about one singular instance that set me off into a knee-jerk reactionary post, I’m speaking about a maddening phenomenon of disregarding BODIES of work.”
Anyone who reads BFP regularly knows that she has done a lot of writing on immigration and particularly the racism and sexism faced by immigrant women in the US during the current climate of hysteria.
And now, she is understandably upset that Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon has published an article that happens to make all the same points BFP has made time and again and her blog – and yet, at no point has BFP been linked.
Sylvia dissects Marcotte’s post on Alternet bit by bit, pointing out each phrase that Marcotte appropriated from women of color and men of color:
THAT’S the sinister nature of appropriation. And in this instance, by not linking to anyone that inspired her viewpoint — forget BFP, even — Amanda tapped into this narrative that has been tapped into by countless folks online and offline. And each leaking into this scheme hurts and makes the victims of invisibility less than charitable once someone white sees us and says, “Hey, what’s wrong? Please write us a book report with cross checks and proper cites, perfect spelling and grammar, and completely objective — that means don’t interpose your oversensitivity into it — yes, please write us a great screed telling us everything very clearly about what’s wrong. One ‘t’ uncrossed, and you lose your argument. And please, make sure you note everyone involved; if you fail to do so, that’s intellectually dishonest and we’ll refuse to engage with you!”
She also wrote:
I can’t keep doing this to my stomach and my health, my consciousness and my emotions, my work and life. And since the woman I did it for has asked for it to stop, I will honor that.
“Sudy” at A Womyn’s Ecdysis:
BFP was certainly part of my thought process, but this demand for writers/bloggers to “stop stealing” far exceeds the events (disasters) of this week or just BFP herself. This post vomited on the years of hearing echos in the blogosphere with no visible credit or citation to others’ contributions. My links are specific, but my point is wider. I’m not talking about one singular instance that set me off into a knee-jerk reactionary post, I’m speaking about a maddening phenomenon of disregarding BODIES of work . And I’m tired of something that is so deeply problematic being casually normalized by writers and readers of feminism.
Look. It’s not that difficult a concept. A woman who’s under the radar, relative to you, posts important news stories that are, in turn, under the radar. Both her under-the-radarness and the stories’ have to do with, surprise, marginalization in ways that go beyond simple sexism: y’know, racism AND sexism, for instance. She works hard at building community and getting the word out about important stories. You, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with self-aggrandizement.
For a year or two or more, you steadfastly ignore her, on the whole. Certainly you don’t bother to link to the stories she’s covering; that would be too much like giving someone else credit. No. You wait. Maybe you’re even at the same conference as this other woman, not so long ago, wherein she speaks on these same issues. And then, you post the stories and the POV the woman has been eloquently -trying- to get you to listen to for all this time…without a hint that you know who this person is. Kudos rain in. For you. Applause, applause, there’s nothing like applause.
But, as so often happens in the blogosphere, the voices of WOC are suppressed, silenced and downright ignored. Appropriation is the rule of the day, the law of the land, where WOC are concerned. We have been resisting oppression in this world for centuries, for generations, and no one wants to hear our voices. Very few want to give us credit for calling attention to the myriad injustices that exist in this world. As so often happens, when WOC give voice to the many isms that affect women the world over, we are simply derided, castigated, tagged-tarred-and-feathered as “angry”, “bitter”, “mean”, “bossy”, or the worse of all epithets—”hard to get along with”.
In the months that Team Rainbow has been online, I have never once felt the need to get involved in any inter-blogular conflict. However, “X”‘s co-opting of BFP’s once powerful message is a matter that goes beyond interpersonal/interblog politics. It is a powerful symbol of a larger problem, which is the silencing of WOC writers, activists, and leaders by the more privileged sectors of the feminist movement. I can’t hold a candle to BFP’s brilliance, her breadth and depth and relevance of knowledge regarding WOC issues. So today I will write about my own people, my own heritage, and where we went wrong.
I have read many blogs, but there is something about Brownfemipower. I have never met Brownfemipower personally, nor have I talked to her personally. But her words were powerful to inspire me to think in new ways, especially when it came to women issue. She has not only opened my eyes, but has challenged me.
En lucha mi amiga!
Rebbecca of Burning Words:
It’s a bit of an understatement that [X] doesn’t exactly have the best record on race issues. The sort of feminist issues that you’ll see covered at Brownfemipower’s essentially never see the light of day at Pandagon, and she’s been called out more than a few times over the years for dismissing and silencing women of colour when they’ve called her out about offensive comments that she’s made.
And what does it say for AlterNet, which has never seen fit to allow more radical activists of color to impugne their pages, but frequently allows established A-list liberal feminist bloggers like Amanda Marcotte (and antiporn “leftists” like Bob Jensen and Gail Dines, too, BTW) to claim to represent the entire “progressive” diaspora unopposed and unburdened by actual debate and discussion???
White feminists (and I am one myself), leave behind your notions of what feminism entails. We need to stop centering feminist work on such things as pop culture analysis, white women’s body images, and abortion. I’m not saying we should never talk about such things, but that feminism must work in step with so many many more movements: anti-racism, anti-classism, environmental issues, immigrant rights, anti-U.S. imperialism, LGBTQI rights, disability rights, anti-prison industrial complex, and so much more than I could quickly list here. Just as importantly, when we link with these movements, we must be careful to give credit when credit is due. We must expand our views to build coalitions, not for any less noble reason, such as to diversify our work. Please, join in this transformation; it is long overdue.
I end with Jessica Hoffmann saying:
you are bigger and more beautiful and insightful and important and revelatory and warm and liberating and transcending than i can even begin to express in words.
wish i could give you a hug and cook a hot, colorful dinner for you.
i’m cooking for some local make/shift folks tomorrow night, and you’d better know there will be many a toast in your honor.