A Tale of Two Throwdowns
If you were hanging out in the feminist blogosphere this weekend, you probably caught wind of an epic throwdown at Sady Doyle’s mostly hilarious Tiger Beatdown. Some guy named Freddie popped in to remind Sady that feminism is Serious Business and she should probably keep her infantile humor to herself rather than “pawing at discourse” (actual quote) in a “constant recursion of LOLspeak/serious speak/LOLspeak, this Russian dolls style thing [she’s] so enamored with” (actual quote).
Sady, rightfully, took him down, because, what the fuck, dude? Here’s her point:
You want to be a feminist, Freddie? Listen closely, because I’m about to tell you how:
SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.
I mean it. SHUT THE FUCK UP, Freddie. Shut the fuck up and let the big girls talk. Because we know way more about this than you. And every time you want to pitch in with an observation? Shut the fuck up a little bit harder. And maybe, after a few years or decades or whatever, you might have absorbed enough from listening to people with actual feminist insight (possibly related to their actually being women) to contribute productively to the conversation. But, in the meantime, actual feminists are going to get a lot more done, simply by virtue of not having to listen to the ungodly noise that comes out of your mouth.
Which is it exactly, right? Even for those commenters who dislike the pile-on (which has now spread to four posts on Tiger Beatdown and the comments section on Freddie’s blog), this is it. It’s about shutting the fuck up and letting women be the experts on their own experiences of womanhood–including how they talk about it. Tough shit if you don’t like immature jokes. Either put up with it, or find a new corner of the internet to inhabit. Don’t tell other people how to talk about their lives.
This is a feminist point, isn’t it? This is part of the feminist story, a feminist ethics, a feminist activism. This is what we spend our lives trying to get other people to understand: Do not tell me who I am. Do not tell me what I need to do or say or be for you. This is what we hold ourselves to. Or should.
End scene. Open on a piece in the Guardian by Renee at Womanist Musings. She says:
I’m not a feminist (and there is no but), because my life experiences lead me to believe that feminism was not created for women like me.
She describes the persistent failure of mainstream feminist blogs to address racism, to take seriously as pro-woman pursuits issues that affect women of color, and to recognize and give space to the voices of marginalized women. She points out that the voice of feminism remains largely White. And the serious question we keep asking ourselves, “Why do women say, ‘I’m not a feminist (but)…?” ignores the ways in which mainstream feminism has repeatedly marginalized women it claims to speak for.
So, Megan Carpentier decided to helpfully point out that, hey, there are women of color who contribute to major feminist blogs! And hey, the (White) Jezebel commentariat responded, no matter what penetrating analysis I offer about race, women of color never even appreciate it a little! What can be done?!
How do we do this? How do we so totally obviously see the problem with Freddie, and not with these comments? How do we rally around Sady Doyle and contribute two thousand dollars and hundreds of comments–not that she doesn’t deserve it, mind–and brush off Renee when she says,
My experiences and the experiences of WOC are not whining, reverse racism, or some new fangled form of oppression and framing them as such is just a determined effort not to listen to our concerns and our experiences.
with, at best, a one-off link of approval?
Yes, there are women of color representing at the big feminist blogs. Yes, that is good. Yes, there are White bloggers who take the voices of women of color seriously. But it is not enough until women of color say it is enough. We know better than this because acknowledging that people are experts on their own lives is part of what we’re supposed to do. It doesn’t stop at gender, and it doesn’t stop at topics that we might fuck up and get called out on if we talk about them.
I know that I have learned a lot from Renee, and appreciate that, day after day, iteration after iteration of this same exact battle, she perseveres at describing her own experiences and discussing the issues that get ignored elsewhere. So, consider this a thank you to Renee. And consider this a challenge to us to do better.