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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

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#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen

Yesterday on Twitter, the "Solidarity is for White Women" tag blew up big time; here's a tweet from Mikki Kendall, the tag's originator, and three other good ones:

I wish that race didn't have to serve as a shorthand for economic/social capital here, but we get the hashtags that our stratification deserves, and it's great to see stuff articulated that's usually subcutaneous. If you're interested, you can catch up with this Storify or just search through the archive.



70 Comments / Post A Comment

franceschances

THANK YOU for covering this unlike some, um, other publication which will remain nameless.

sunflowers

@franceschances Seriously. I was amazed at how little coverage the hashtag got!

j-i-a

@sunflowers The lack of coverage of the hashtag proves its point better than anything else mayhaps

stonefruit

@j-i-a amen to that. The Hairpin and Al Jazeera appear to be the sites that have actually gotten this.

TheMissus

@franceschances Another site did manage to not only ignore this entire twitter trend, but also posted an incredibly tone-deaf article discussing the stages of grief about he who must not be named. But I can call him Asshole.

franceschances

@TheMissus Yeah...I did enjoy that a commenter on that piece mentioned that they had run a sarcastic guide to the non-apology apology a little while ago.

Plant Fire

@franceschances Interestingly, Bustle has actually covered this.

Sophia Jacob

Literally the best thing I've seen in weeks. I'm... I'm crying. Let it be known that today, in recognition of his hard work and effort, OP was not a faggot. @me

supernintendochalmers

I think it's good that the hashtag brought more awareness to this discussion, which has been going on for a long time now (although not on many white feminist sites). Still, Twitter is a really frustrating vehicle for any kind of debate. Basically, I don't know how I ended up reading a Twitter fight between Martha Plimpton and Mikki Kendall.

damselfish

@supernintendochalmers It really bums me out that Twitter is where all the thinkers have gone. I started blogging back in LJ's heyday and I guess I got spoiled by the intense, nuanced, and in-depth back-and-forth possible in comment threads. I follow a lot of the same people as I did on LJ (like Mikki Kendall) but I haven't gotten down the knack for condensing my thoughts. Even spread over multiple tweets, each one has to kinda/sorta make its point.

So I'll say something sharp and pointed as that's all Twitter can do, and people ask me to elaborate and I'm like "uuuggggh. Hit me up in chat or I'll link you to the blog post."

I do appreciate that twitter puts more things in people's faces that they wouldn't see otherwise, though.

supernintendochalmers

@damselfish Yeah, I do appreciate how Twitter forces you to be succinct, but the inability to elaborate is definitely a problem. It was also frustrating to me how many white feminists immediately took a defensive position rather than seeking to understand. And that just devolved into arguing.

fondue with cheddar

@damselfish Yeah, I miss the LJ for the same reason. Tweets are good for comedian one-liners or posting links, but not much else IMO.

sunflowers

@fondue with cheddar I think Twitter discussions are good for breadth, but not depth. It's fascinating to see so many different people expressing opinions in a forum where usually their voices couldn't or wouldn't be heard because of lack of platform. But I agree that lack of elaboration can result in some immensely frustrating and pointless arguments.

sophia_h

@damselfish Yes, I hate how all internet communities have migrated to forums with much worse discussion formats. LJ was/is a media fandom place for me, but everyone's gone to Tumblr now. I tried it for six or eight months, but eventually got too fed up with the signal to noise ratio on my feed (I use an ipad, so I couldn't use TumblrSavior to filter stuff out) and the lack of a functional commenting system, because reblogging just fragmented the discussion horribly. I use Twitter to live tweet baseball games and follow baseball news, but had to mute a few friends who I love but use the platform as a running stream of consciousness on their day.

Also, it makes me sad that a concept as complex and long-established as intersectionality has to be boiled down into a catchy hashtag to get any notice (and that there are still white feminists who just do not get it).

Judith Slutler

@damselfish I can partly agree with this, but at the same time I wonder if it isn't a healthier venue for some of the voices out there. Having your own blog where all your stuff is centralized can make you more vulnerable to trolls and attackers sometimes.

stonefruit

@damselfish yeah the thing is, a lot of the folks who are doing the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend (sorry, I am no good at talking about Twitter, are those the words?) either have or had blogs and were bullied relentlessly for a long time and so have cut back on that.

And incidentally, the bullying was led by the very "male feminist" whose inclusion in Big Online Feminism the #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend was started to protest.

Statham

@supernintendochalmers I think one of twitter's main downfalls is that it is so easy to tweet something brief without giving it enough thought. It's so easy to shoot out 140 characters and not really consider the point you want to make. I guess people are sometimes "too quick to tweet" if that makes sense. Whereas if people were writing lengthier pieces of discourse, they'd have to back their statements up and explain themselves.

A bit off topic, but kind of on topic.

TheMnemosyne

@damselfish I agree. I feel like Twitter is not a place for thoughtful, reasoned discourse. I appreciate and enjoy the small thought-bites, but without the ability to speak at length on a subject (and not via multiple tweets) I feel like any "conversation" one is attempting to have falls flat, especially important, nuanced ones like this.

Big Rig and Jesse

@TheMnemosyne Is this really a "nuanced" "conversation" though? WOC are responding to repeated problems and issues in Big White Feminism, all of which have been outlined time and again on blogs that aren't in that club. At this point, it seems less than an attempt to debate, but rather a series of lessons via sock-in-the-gut truths. I don't think Mikki Kendall or any of the other women using the hashtag to such great effect really wanted to open another thoughtful, reasoned discourse on intersectionality, or create "one more point of entry to ongoing necessary feminist discussion" or whatever the hell Jill F. said; I think, if we're honest, we know how those discussions usually turn out, whether they're had in 140 characters bits or not.

kimkrypto

@TheMnemosyne yeah, i think the point is not "reasoned discourse." in fact, it feels a little like tone policing to say that the venue is inappropriate for the discussion. it's not, as you said, a discussion. besides, when WOC are attacked on their personal blogs and shut out of blogs with a wider, whiter audience, to decry using twitter seems to ignore the lived realities that make the venue useful.

Quinn A@twitter

"1 in four for white women , being more important than 2/3 for black women 3/4 for native women"

Wait, wait, wait! Seriously? Like, I knew that women of colour and Native women in particular had higher rates of sexual assault than white women, but I had no idea that the 1 in 4 statistic was not "all women, with the knowledge that it's worse for some demographics than others".

I mean, no matter what, we should definitely be talking more about the higher rates of sexual assault for women of colour. We should DEFINITELY talk about the fact that Native women are most often assaulted by non-Native men on reservations, who are then not prosecuted because of a legal loophole. That's incredibly important! But I can't find anything that indicates that the statistic cited is just for white women. Does anyone have a source for that?

stuffisthings

@Quinn A@twitter I've followed many a widely-mentioned feminist statistic down the rabbit-hole of circular citations. I understand that sexual assault -- especially unreported assault -- is a hard thing to get a handle on but am I wrong in wishing for more statistical rigor here?

(By the way, I suspect that if anything the 1/4 stat is for 'all women' and that it is actually slightly lower for white women, and much higher for black and [the very small population of] Native women, averaging out to 1/4.)

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Quinn A@twitter

I had to do the math:
((223553265*1/4) + (38929319*2/3) + (2932248*3/4)) / (223553265+38929319+2932248) = 31.6%

stuffisthings

BTW my favorite example of this is a stat we used to use all the time about how women produced X% of the world's economic output and only received Y% of the world's pay. It was cited in a bunch of UN documents and reports from women's organizations but we could never find the original source, they all just referred back to each other. Eventually my colleague tracked down the author of one of the reports who said, basically, that they just sort of made it up(!)

I'm not saying I think the sexual assault stats are made up but I feel like a lot of times people will see an alarming number and be like "oh! that's powerful let me use it!" and it becomes fact, with no further consideration. Big problem when talking about sex trafficking for example. (And this problem is not limited to feminism obviously.)

Quinn A@twitter

@stuffisthings A cursory Google search suggests that the 1/4 stat comes from a study of college women, which is definitely not the best way to get an accurate picture. But frankly, I suspect that actual numbers of sexual assault are HIGHER than reported, not lower. It's anecdotal, I know, but more of my friends and loved ones have been assaulted than haven't been, and none of us reported our assaults to police.

Anyway, I feel like I probably derailed the conversation (because as I said, we definitely should be talking more about the higher rates of assault among women of colour. I probably shouldn't have nitpicked about that. It just came as a shocking statement to me and I was interested). I don't want to take away from the wider point that mainstream feminism is not as inclusive of WOC as it needs to be.

Bookgerm

@stuffisthings I've encountered this problem in my area of social justice-type work too. It's frustrating, but empirical research is hard, and there aren't a lot of incentives to really press for more rigor.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite (by implication) when I nod along with progressives who call out shoddy data that supports conservative talking points. Other times, I think that requiring people to apply the same standards to themselves that they apply to others is an essentially superhuman expectation (paging Daniel Kahneman). That's why we have an adversarial legal system, right?

Judith Slutler

JIA it would just be the greatest if you could score an interview with Mikki Kendall or Flavia Dzodan or somebody on this subject!

stonefruit

@Judith Slutler yes yes yes this! OR ALL of them, it could be a round-table discussion!

Mae
Mae

@stonefruit Thirded!

hurts

@stonefruit yes I would also like to hear a round table with these people, fourthed

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

can i be awful and go off topic and say that i really fucking hate when liberals do the "race as a shorthand for economic/social capital" thing in all instances?

Judith Slutler

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood I don't think that is very awful to say. Race is definitely A Thing of its own

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

@Judith Slutler i guess i mean awful in that i dont wanna be derailing any conversations but ugh that annoys me so much

thebestjasmine

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood Why ask permission if you were just going to be awful and derail anyway?

j-i-a

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood i think that's a really important part of this, though, i don't think it's off topic at all

ThatWench

@j-i-a
Can I be the person who asks more about this, then? It's in the "thing I've been hoping to read some smart person's words about" category.

More specifically, I feel like I've encountered it before. And I see how this critique seems to directly apply to, say, the school closure tweet above. But does it apply to all of the tweets above, or in the hashtag? Is there more to this that I'm missing? (If there's great writing about it that someone else has posted, I'd love to read links!)

Wendy James Palacios@facebook

Race Race Race Race Race Race Race! There I said it! I hope that doesn't bother the author of this post too much.

hurts

extremely dry lol @ none of these comments being about the hashtag tho

wee_ramekin

@hurts Yes, that struck me as well.

As a white feminist, I don't really know what to say about or in response to this article other than: "Woah. I didn't know this was going on, and I'm glad that the Hairpin posted about it."

A lot of the media that I have consumed (in the last half-an-hour or so since reading the Hairpin's post) says that this is the time for white feminists to "stop talking and listen". To not try to defend themselves against these tweets, but just to listen to what women of color are saying. That makes sense to me, though it also feels really passive. I don't want to debate or interrogate or force women of color to "defend" their experiences; I do want to listen. And I also want to do something, though I'm not sure, yet, what I and other white women should do.

stonefruit

@wee_ramekin Yeah, I'm not sure I feel comfortable as a white feminist participating directly in the hashtag. (SERIOUSLY I do not know how to talk about Twitter, I lack the vocabulary or something.)

I can listen, I can support, I can signal-boost, but I haven't seen a reason to intrude with like my own thoughts about Big Online Feminism and how it excludes women of color that wouldn't just essentially be making it about me when it's not, if that makes sense. I think there are some very smart ladies writing very smart things, and I don't want to disturb that conversation.

hurts

@wee_ramekin adding at least a few of the blogs of the WOC engaging in this to the daily blog checking round, would be a great place to start, I think.

wee_ramekin

@hurts I think that's a really good idea. It's hard for me to be supportive of women of color and their perspectives if I don't even know what those are!

Just went to Mikki Kendall's page, and she's got a great interview with HuffPost Live about this whole situation.

hurts

@stonefruit I meant the subject of the hashtag - I guess I wasn't clear. Eg discussion on whether it's true in the experience of users here, how feminism could be more inclusive, discussion about subjects in the authors' blogs. It's like no one wants to talk about those things or hasn't thought to.

stonefruit

@hurts ... Or it's like people have thought about it and decided that this is a time for them to listen, not talk, to center the experiences of the women who have been the most hurt by the exclusionary nature of Big Online Feminism.

hurts

@stonefruit I was imagining something along the lines of this comments section becoming a space for those experiences (too) because some of those women are here. And some people are talking and not centering those experiences. I clicked the comments bubble expecting to see 'pinners asking if WOC here wanted to talk further about this in a personal way

wee_ramekin

@hurts Oh man, I definitely want to talk further about this with 'Pinners of color. I would be very happy if this thread, or another comment thread on this page, yielded that kind of discussion. I am raising my virtual hand to indicate interest in that kind of conversation.

To be honest, I didn't want to try to open up a discussion about it because I was afraid of being "That Person" (you know, "The One Who Needs to Take a 101-Level Class on the Subject") asking people affected by the issue to teach them (if that makes sense). I didn't want to be like the Clueless Dude on a feminist site who comes into the conversation and demands that women explain concepts like the patriarchy and the male gaze to him. I don't want women of color to feel obligated to school me on the issues, but I think my fear of coming off like that obfuscated my genuine desire to talk about this issue.

wee_ramekin

@wee_ramekin Also! This article about women of color and feminism gave me a nice, broad overview about the context of this discussion. I feel like I've leveled up to the first minute of the first day of an Intersectionality 101 class ;).

hurts

@wee_ramekin oooooh ok, I see that. I guess yeah, there are a lot of other places to read about it and it would be embarrassing to look like That Person (I had never heard of that thing, I bet I've been that person then!). To me individually coming across as that person wouldn't be a bad thing because I would think, 'oh shit someone actually wants to know about my lived experience!' but I have seen people get cussed out for asking about stuff, like you said, so I do understand where you're coming from!

I know that some people and 'pinners generally do wanna discuss these things, so I was taken aback by the comments' omission. Personally, I do want to talk about this issue, but I pretty much always think 'they don't wanna hear about my thoughts, or they'd be asking me - so I'm just going to keep schtum or I'm gonna get some eye rolls or be told that we ALL have the SAME problems and they're going to keep discussing what they were discussing before'. I realise that attitude is problematic for a few different reasons because I'm making assumptions and I'm not helping anyone, and I really want the time one day to sit down with myself and untangle those. But when I stumble across things like this hashtag, and the lack of discussion about the issue here, that is what runs through my head, and that was the motivation for my first comment.

wee_ramekin

@hurts Let's talk about it, then! Let's talk about it here, and let's talk about it now! And I will promise you right now that I will not be defensive, I will not question the validity of anyone's experience, and that I really do want to understand other women's perspectives.

I really do want to know how women of color experience feminism. For me, as a white woman, feminism feels like a really welcoming movement and community. It didn't even cross my mind to think that not all women would perceive it that way, or that women from different backgrounds, races, religions, etc would find it to be a movement that doesn't work for them.

Damn. Even as I type that out, I realize how naive a view that is.

hurts

@wee_ramekin Well the above's what I think in a nutshell. (I guess this is where I say I'm mixed race - which atm seems like a niche in a niche in feminism.) I don't feel welcomed but I'm also not too bothered about that if I'm honest, because I don't want to be part of a feminism that doesn't acknowledge me and invite me in (talking about Big, Mainstream Feminism here - if we can talk about such a thing). I just can't imagine what it must feel like to see it as a welcoming movement?! At uni, there was a feminist society and one of my really good white friends basically became head if it, but I never thought to join in because there was no one who looked like me in it. I watched from afar and thought, 'that's something other, white, women do. They're advocating for themselves only - if they wanted to help me too, they would have asked me to get involved.' That was my first experience of feminism, around 2011.
I think that there's no integration between feminists of colour and white feminists, the conversation is stuck in the 'we need to converse!' stage, at it's most progressive, which is something at least.
Am going to go to bed now because it's 2:13 am in London! And my eyes actually hurt, but I *will* read your response in the morning. Also I'm sure this will sound very embarrassingly earnest and I feel like I'm probably not supposed to do this, but I want to thank you for reaching out. Because usually people don't.

wee_ramekin

@hurts Hope you had sweet, British dreams!

First of all, please don't be embarrassed about being "overly earnest". I don't believe there is such a thing, mostly because I'm overly earnest all. the. time. :)

Secondly, thank you to you for sharing your experience. I don't know what it's like to be fearful of sharing my experience based on my race, but I do know what it's like to feel that way when it comes to sharing my perspective as a woman, or as a bisexual woman. So often, I'll read discussions surrounding issues that affect me as a woman, or as a bisexual person, and I don't even want to engage, because I see so much apathy, or worse, anger directed at my point of view. So, really, thanks for hoistin' up yer britches and putting your story out there; I know from similar experience that it can feel exhausting and vulnerable.

Your narrative highlights a big difference between my perception of feminism and your perception. I have never felt unwelcome in the movement, nor have I ever felt that it is something that I needed to be "invited" to. My feeling is that by dint of my sex and gender, I belong here, dammit! It's interesting and sad to me that you feel like you've needed to wait for some sign from Organized Feminism that it wants you to be involved. I've never felt an "othering" feeling from Feminism.

You've given me the germ of an idea of how white feminists can relate with women of color. It would seem that Mainstream Feminism needs to make it clear that they welcome women of ALL races and religions, and also that it needs to back that assertion up. At the same time, I don't want to come across as patronizing or acting as if we white ladies are the Gatekeepers of Feminism. In the experience that you shared above, what would have made you feel more welcome in that university group? What could that group have said or done to make you feel, not only welcome, but that you had a right to be a part of it?

Simtow

@wee_ramekin I'll join in. One of the central failures of mainstream feminism is that white women tend to center their oppression while ignoring their privilege. So, for example, a conversation about Oscar nominations might point out the one or two women nominated without mentioning that those women are white, and that it's not "groundbreaking" for the majority of the world's women. Similarly, lots of the work around sex, birth, and bodily autonomy fails to recognize that some of us don't even have the privilege to be recognized as good, capable mothers. And when these flaws are pointed out, instead of recognizing that one can be simultaneously oppressed and privileged, WOC and other marginalized groups are told to "not be divisive", "wait your turn", and other crap that suggests we are foot soldiers in a white womens' movement.

Several prominent womanist bloggers have suggested that the purpose of mainstream feminism is for white women to join white men at the top of the heap. More often than not, that's a fair assessment.

wee_ramekin

@Simtow "One of the central failures of mainstream feminism is that white women tend to center their oppression while ignoring their privilege."

That's a really succinct and clear way of explaining it.

I have a question for you (and anyone else interesting in joining in): Do you think that women of color and white feminists have goals in common? It seems to me like there are a lot of things white feminists and womanists/women of color would agree on (reproductive rights, for example), but that women of color need their white counterparts to realize the systemic and societal injustices they are subject to, as well as the gendered oppression they face. Like, maybe it's not so much "We want different things" all the time, but rather "When we talk about equal pay for equal work, we need to understand that women of color proportionally make a lot less on the dollar than white women do, and we need to talk about that too". Does that make sense, or do you think I am oversimplifying?

hurts

@wee_ramekin It would have been good if they had straight up said that feminism is not representational and that they wanted that to change because every woman has a right to it, if they had had open round tables about the narrowness of representation and asked what could be different so that it was more inclusive. If they had appeared interested in what women of other colours and religions had to say, if they were reading things WOC had written and namedropping feminists of colour in conversations alongside the usual stalwarts.

Also I think the fact is, white feminists ARE the Gatekeepers of Feminism at the moment. They decide what gets coverage, and their voices are more likely to be heard and taken seriously. I think this whole Twitter story points it up - it was born out of Schwyzer and his treatment of WOC, which was enabled by white feminists, who ignored the complaints from those women.

I think the problems were have are in the same areas but are slightly different. I think we have goals in common, but the reasons why will be slightly different, and we have differing amounts of power to achieve them.

Simtow

@wee_ramekin I think what you said makes a lot of sense--your "equal pay" example is a good one! At this point though, I think there needs to be a first step of even acknowledging and centering viewpoints of WOC. So often white feminist bloggers are like, "I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing." It'd be much more intersectional to say, "I don't know what to say, so I asked/read [insert WOC, trans*, disabled blogger] and learned _____."

up cubed

In college (women's school), I was part of a Latina group that held events where we'd advertise widely (bulletin boards, etc) with big text that said "Everyone welcome". When an external event led to some community dialog with WOC and white women, the white women expressed that they never came to the events because they were by/for WOC. I talked about how I couldn't figure out how to be more inclusive of white women, but I'm guessing most folks couldn't see the hegemony (non-racial/ethnic things are for everyone, WOC events are for WOC). That said, the non-WOC who did come weren't expecting and didn't need the 101-education. Of course, I also think it is important to recognize boundaries where people ask for a safe space.

up cubed

@wee_ramekin "Equal Pay for Equal Work" doesn't resonate for me on an intersectionality basis. This phrase assumes that women and men have access to equal work.
The "pink ghetto" of work is a term that most white feminists would say means that women are disproportionately shunted to low=paying service jobs. The GHETTO part of the term is hardly ever highlighted as being problematic- both because WOC are even more disproportionately shunted away from high paying jobs where there is an opportunity for career advancement, but also because it is a loaded word suggesting a place that is both economically and ethnically/racially segregated.

hurts

*this comments section (too)

Mae
Mae

This is excellent reading: http://www.redlightpolitics.info/post/58141500651/yes-this-is-about-race

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Blushingflwr

I read through the hashtag but didn't really engage in the conversation. I was very upset by the number of white women who got so defensive about it, including one who said that she was being judged for her white skin and that was racism too, and I seriously considered telling her that she was missing the whole fucking point, but I'm always wary of engaging with strangers on twitter.

alvinlim

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anny

I think it's good that the hashtag brought more awareness to this discussion, which has been going on for a long time now (although not on many white feminist sites). Still, Twitter is a really frustrating vehicle for any kind of debate. Basically, I don't know how I ended up reading a Twitter fight between Martha Plimpton and Mikki Kendall.
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