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Parsing shades of feminism April 18, 2008

Posted by emsgeiss in politics, writing/editing/blogging.
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I rarely get this political in here. I tend to keep it on the lighter side, but I’ve found myself grappling with trying to understand a series of events that I did not witness, but have only read about in the last week or so. It has actually taken a week to reach the point of being able to express something coherent (at least I think so) in words, as I found myself up until the wee hours reading blog posts and following the links referenced therein. And while it may seem “a day late and a dollar short,” I think that the only way to really understand it all, is to write about it.

The “event” occurred at the Women, Action and the Media (WAM) summit, held late last month in Cambridge, Mass., my old stomping grounds. Were I still living in the state, I know that I surely would have attended, which probably would have made a post such as this much more fruitful, as at this point, I’m only operating from hearsay. The “event” that occurred at WAM led to what seems to be something that can only be called a schism in the feminist movement. I suppose that as a WOC blogger, I should be poised and ready to take sides–but as I said, I wasn’t at WAM, I only know about the issue (and very little at that) from what I’ve read at Lisa Jervis’ blog, D. Ramussen’s blog, and BlackAmazon’s blog, and finally after much reading, following links and parsing at Problem Chylde.

Among the very smart things that I read, was this notion:

listening respectfully means reading deeply in a blog community before commenting

To me, this makes sense, even if the nature of blogs themselves elicits conversation. But at what point, does joining the conversation become intrusion? And that is where the above statement makes sense. Some blog communities are in fact, closed, and without understanding (reading deeply in) that community, one’s responses could be misconstrued. Blogs being public-private spaces, emotions can run high when the subject matter is particularly personal or is one that gets to the fundamentals of one’s being or philosophies. But they also serve as fertile ground for making social commentary about and bringing to light issues that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, accepted without questioning.

It seems as if I’ve digressed from my topic, but I do not.

The recent infighting (for want of a better term) in the feminist community has me puzzled about not only my own shade of feminism, but the different shades therein–from angered WOCs to privileged white feminism–and everywhere in-between. If I fail to side with my sister WOCs (at least in this given situation), does that connote a betrayal (of them and the self) and an acceptance of PWF? And simultaneously, (carefully avoiding the word “token”), is siding with my sister WOCs a jump on the bandwagon of persecution (real or imagined) without having really examined the specific situation? Again, I emphasize, that I wasn’t there to bear witness, but in reading about what happened, I have learned more about myself as a “WOC blogger” and a writer in general and what this tragedy means for both groups.

This “event” and its aftermath, leave me with a lot of disappointment about what this “event” might mean for the state of feminism. (Follow the link, so that last bit does not seem like a nonsequitur. I’ll wait.)

You’re back? Good.

Perhaps it’s just an isolated event and doesn’t have a larger implication, but my gut tells me otherwise, and the fact that it led to the silencing of a creative voice, an activist/feminist WOC blogger is unacceptable. The reasons for Brownfemipower’s self-muting are also unacceptable and speak more about the issues of shades of feminism and the ability of a PWF to easily misappropriate the intellectual property of “the other” without so much as a slap on the wrist (outside of the WOC blogging community) on the whole. At least, from my “reading deeply in the community” this is what I’ve gleaned.

I hope that she will return, for in my opinion, staying silent accepts the alleged victory by the actions of her thief-betrayer. I say this not as a WOC-blogger, not as a WOC, not as a feminist–but all of the above and as a writer.

There is no doubt that the (feminist) movement has changed since its inception, evolved in many ways and seems to have its branches and fringes. But, maybe it hasn’t, as this recent “event” reminds me of how feminism…um…”borrowed” (and claimed for its own) a lot from the Civil Rights movement.

I remain hopeful though. Hopeful that Blackfeminpower’s voice will emerge again–and loudly. Hopeful that this schism does not serve to ruin the purpose of unity and improvement in the lives of women and girls everywhere regardless of age, economics or ethnicity. Hopeful that the words of writers (whether mainstream or “radical”) are protected and respected especially by their writing colleagues.

Copyright (C) 2008, Erika-Marie S. Geiss

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