Views: Feminism, Appropriation, and Racism

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.”

High on Rebellion:

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.

Fetch Me My Axe:

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.

Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of my Black Sisters:

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”.

Team Rainbow:

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.

XicanoPwr writes:

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.

The SmackDog Chronicles:

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???

Think Girl:

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.

xo

[Many o’ Hat Tips: High on Rebellion, ¡Para Justicia y Libertad!]

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6 Responses to Views: Feminism, Appropriation, and Racism

  1. 1
    littlem says:

    Well, I think the point has been made that people are noticing the phenomenon.

    So let’s make it stop.

    And that means that mainstream white feminist authors who agree that this is a problem, and who have acknowledged that (there’s that word again!), make — and continue to make until the most recent problem is rectified — public statements demanding that the prominent white feminist author who has committed the most recent instance of this repetitive and historical phenomenon acknowledge and credit her sources.

    (By the way, I’m repeating myself on this point because so far the above has not happened.

    And I don’t think I have to harp on the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from lack of activity by the so-called supporters of “Doing the Right Thing” — if they fail to challenge an author who, it has clearly been pointed out in Jack’s post above, has refused to “Do the Right Thing”. We’re all smart people here.)

    Thank you again, Jack, for taking the time to compile all that material and post something on the subject. Because clearly it needs to be reiterated.

    (And you know, I’m just musing here … as a lecturer and writer myself, if it were me (and G*d knows I know — and thank the Deity — it is not), and my article, and several outside communities accused me of cultural appropriation … and there was more than one person of some prominence — with a reputation at least arguably equal to mine (like, say, someone working for a known and visible Legal Defense Fund) — whose ideas I’d been even arguably discussing without giving them credit — even if it looked a little teeny weeny bit like that (there’s this standard in some professions that’s known as the “appearance of impropriety”, you see) — I’d certainly want to revise that article and credit them before they got wind of it and/or even thought about questioning me — or my book publisher, or my agent, or the other publications for which I write — directly.

    Because — even if the only thing I was concerned about was my own personal career and reputation, and I didn’t give a d*mn about anything else related to the matter — *cough cough* — that???

    Could be really embarrassing.)

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    LittleM, it seems to me that you’re writing as if this issue were only, or primarily, about Amanda — which is something that almost everyone, on all sides of this discussion, agrees that it should not be.

  3. 3
    Crys T says:

    To be fair, Amp, all the quotes included in the post are about this one specific incident, so it does seem as if Jack was looking for a response to it.

    I agree that it’s very, very important that we make it plain that this is only one instance in a general trend, and don’t focus too much on it alone. That would be completely defeating the purpose of talking about it anyway.

    However, I also don’t think that we should take the line that hell, lots of other people are doing it too, so let’s just make the discussion so generalised that specific people are let off the hook for specific behaviours.

  4. 4
    littlem says:

    LittleM, it seems to me that you’re writing as if this issue were only, or primarily, about Amanda — which is something that almost everyone, on all sides of this discussion, agrees that it should not be.

    No, Amp, I’m not.

    It shouldn’t be and it is not.

    Now if it comes down to “Stop picking on my friend”, just say that. But one of the reasons I go on is because it IS bigger than that, and all of us who have previously dealt with it have seen this exact same crap before.

    (Ever wonder why the people arguing it — including some “white” feminists — are so sure what it looks like???)

    If a stop isn’t put to it NOW, we’re going to see it — again, and again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum, ad nauseam — unless of course feminists of color and their allies refuse to deal with the “mainstream feminist movement”.

    At which point “white mainstream feminists” — Seal Press, anyone? — will whine and moan aloud like it’s the new Wailing Wall about “why women of color refuse to engage with the mainstream”. Sound familiar at all?

    What I’m saying is that if all the purported “allies” who are saying “Speak up about this problem, speak up, speak up!” don’t choose to put a stop to a clear and egregious example of the very phenomenon that they’re eagerly exhorting each other to speak out against,

    1) I don’t know how much worse it needs to get before someone does something;

    2) It makes “white feminists” (and again, I’m part-one of “you people”) look like a bunch of gum-flapping hypocrites who don’t really want to do anything about the problem.

    Let me ask the inverse question: Why is there so much mainstream resistance to demanding that Amanda do something as simple as acknowledge in a retraction that there are women of color that wrote on that topic before it popped into her little head — and then name them???

    (Especially when it’s clear as glass — to anyone who’s actually looking, of course — that there’s no way that level of intersectional analysis could have been done by someone without either a similar class or ethnic background without having read someone previously who’s dealt with it first-hand or in their family?? I’m not going to deal with the fact that there hasn’t even been any response re: the secondary issues I raised — other than pointing to the fact that it’s just one more example of the “erasure” phenomenon; just act like the person isn’t even talking — because I don’t generally believe in “you didn’t address my point” tit-for-tat.
    Oh, and other than respectfully suggesting that if it has entered one of your minds that one of these other women whose ideas have been appropriated, whose public profile is higher than BFP’s, might get wind of this flap, that you pull your friend aside and quietly ask her to resubmit her article with acknowledgments; because not only is she going to look awfully stupid if she’s challenged directly by someone else other than BFP whose ideas she’s utilized without crediting them — you all are too, for defending her ! I can’t believe this is so hard to understand for a bunch of intellectuals. Read Sylvia M’s article again if you think the accusations are “unfounded”; I’m not going to jump through that hoop again here, especially if the only response is going to be “LALALALALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU”.)

    Why is that such a struggle for “you people”?

    If you’re not going to do anything, can you stop gasping in astonishment when people of color are angry at you for your refusals and denial?

    When you go on, after the denials and refusals, to say “Cultural appropriation, particularly in the academic and public sphere, must stop!”, don’t you realize how much it makes you look like hypocrites?

    Or — at the end of the day — do you just not give a d*mn?

    http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/standing-is-solidarity-with-my-sisters/#comment-30135

  5. 5
    littlem says:

    My wider point — that this incident is a textbook example of the type of thing “you people” say that you want to put a stop to, but do nothing when someone actually pulls it — may have gotten lost (ironically) in my effort to be clear.

    Kim puts it much more succinctly:

    I just boggle at the Amanda Marcotte thing, especially the fact that she’s still not explaining the lack of credit for the source she ADMITS she used…

  6. 6
    littlem says:

    Here’s someone who IDs as “white” talking about the issue. If you can’t hear me — because I’ve never actually said what color(s) I am *shock! horror!* — perhaps you can hear her.

    http://dearwhitefeminists.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/an-open-letter-to-the-white-feminist-community/