Monday, December 8, 2008

WOC and The Table Scraps Of Feminism

I waded into the blogosphere 8 months ago.  I didn't have to think twice about what my blog would be about for a very simple reason, the voice of WOC are quite silent online.   If we examine the major feminists blogs one thing is extremely noticeable, they are run by white women.  Isn't it funny the way the online world mirrors real life even with the anonymity of the internet?

I then took a look at some of the feminist magazines that could be found online, only to discover the same disturbing trend.  It seems that we are once again on the outside waiting for a seat.  One editor at a feminist magazine this weekend asked me what WOC stood for via twitter.  I believe that speaks volumes.

In the course of 7 months, this blog has developed a fairly decent readership.  In fact I would admit that a part of the reason are the links that it receives regularly from Shakesville, Feministing, Feministe and Pandagon.  The women who run the aforementioned blogs have been more than generous in their promotion. 

What I cannot fail to notice is that despite the fact that women of colour definitely have something to say, our blogs are not counted as major voice in feminism online.  It is like we are some sort of "special interest group" who have completely divergent needs.  That's right I'm saying it, white women are "the women" and we are just a side group looking for scraps.

I was in a discussion with some black female bloggers this weekend who clearly expressed to me their feelings of rejection by feminism.  In fact, one commentary alluded to the fact that to be successful you need to kiss ass to a white woman because that is where the power lies.

If you happen to be considered a mystical negro, white people will listen so that they can do the correct amount of flagellation to call themselves liberal, but how many of them are really listening because we are women?  The racial politics are important; however it is our womanhood that seems to get overlooked in the whole desire to prove how liberal you are. 

There are clearly some very talented WOC bloggers; Harrietsdaughter, Black Amazon, Tanglad, Monica of Transgriot, Elle, Ojibway Migisi Bineshii   etc and etc and yet each and every time I visit their blogs, I cannot help but notice the difference between their commentary section and the commentary section of the four major feminist blogs. 

Some white women lurk without commentary because they are doing their due  diligence in the STFU & L department, but many do not even bother to visit.  They stay in their comfortable little niches where they can be assured that the issues covered will largely represent them.  To read a blog written by a woman of colour is to risk coming across something that will make you uncomfortable.

Heaven forbid you might be called on any of your privilege.  Why listen to women of colour, when it is a well known fact that we have very little power online, never mind socially?  Whiteness feels comfortable in its own reflection, and why not, it is all it has ever known.  Every social institution is controlled by whiteness; and therefore it is hardly surprising that feminism has the same trend, after all it is but a microcosm of the larger world.

The rejection of WOC is a forceful thing.  I can say this from experience.  I have done more than my share of time in womens studies classes, learning about all of the great achievements of white women, waiting patiently to hear about the work done by my sisters.  Sure the professors will occasionally point to bell hooks or Vandanna Shiva to try and claim inclusivity, but before long one quickly learns that it is women like Elizabeth Cady Staton, Germain Greer, and Simone de Beauvoir, etc., that are the real heroes of feminism

In conversation with those terribly amusing and bright bloggers, the one thing that we kept coming back to is that  we have to do for ourselves.  This is not a new sentiment on the part of WOC.  I myself have expressed frustration with feminism and its desire to privilege the experience of some, thus silencing the voice of many.  There have been many occasions when I wished to completely disavow feminism because I could not see even the smallest reflection of myself.

What is most disturbing about this is for social justice movements to succeed it needs a cross section of representation.  The emancipation of WOC cannot be achieved without white women, and white women cannot achieve equality without us.  Even knowing this as truth, we sit at separate sides of a great divide staring at one another with hostility and distrust.

White women do occasionally ask how do we heal the rifts in feminism, as though the mystical people of color have the answers.  Well my crystal ball is fresh out of answers.  What I do know for a certainty is that unless this movement (read: feminism) becomes more inclusive out of more than a sense of earning and maintaining its so-called "liberal" credentials, WOC will forever be on the outside waiting for a table scrap.


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