Monday, January 10, 2011

Can People of Colour Expect Inclusion in Feminist Spaces?

So I am just going to keep it real and then y'all can twist and turn and poke at me.  Chally has been writing at Feministe for awhile now, and she recently wrote a post about not being understood as a person of colour in that space.
At Feministe, it’s been a real struggle to get my identity as non-white recognised because readers will insist on speaking of Feministe as “one of the big white blogs”. If you’re more invested in a big monolith to shake your head at than anything else, that’s fine, but don’t go erasing and marginalising non-white people because you can’t be bothered to acknowledge our existence or ridiculously hard work. There is a real difference between pointing out the site as one that has a lot of white perspectives, or has reached a level of prominence in part because of its racial make-up in a way other blogs have not, and calling it plain old white.
Who is she fucking kidding?  Look, I have read Feministe on and off for awhile now and no matter how many POC become regular contributors, the point of fact is that Feminist is a White feminist blog.  A few people of colour added to the mix afterwords, does not dilute the Whiteness of that space. People don't enter into a multicultural nirvana simply because after years of criticism, Feministe has decided that a little integration might be a good thing.

Then there is also a little matter of the racism that White feminists have a history in engaging in.  Third wave brought us the catch phrase intersectionality, but seldom is it truly practiced.  I will grant that Feministe is better than many of the other so-called inclusive feminist spaces, but it still suffers from a failure to move away from the monolithic woman.  If you doubt me, have a look at the comments that pop up when they open up spaces for guest bloggers every summer. Do you know why they lose their shit?  Well do you?  It's cause their nice safe little White space is being invaded by the "others".

It may well be a function of Whiteness that people of colour writing in that space are silenced and ignored, but can anyone really expect something different when trying to get their point across in a space created to serve the needs of White women?  It's really no surprise that when writing in her own space, her race is not ignored or that when I wrote a post on Womanist Musings that there is no doubt that a person of colour is speaking her truth. 

The internet is far too valuable for people of colour to simply hand over to Whiteness, but our best interests are not necessarily served by trying to integrate into their spaces and then wondering why we are again being silenced.  It is true that writing in a space that is truly dedicated to intersectionality or led by marginalized bodies will not lead to as much recognition of our work; however, the trade off is that it creates a venue that ensures our concerns will be prevalent, rather than a mission to prove how inclusive one can be.

I sympathize with Chally, I really do, but this is the role that she signed up to play.  When I write at The Guardian, I don't suddenly wonder why it is I am attacked by trolls, when they have long set up nests there. No amount of saying I exist outside of a perceived framework, is going to make you visible in a place that is dedicated to maintaining and normalizing a specific discourse of othering.  We are better served by working in our spaces and promoting other marginalized bodies, rather than forcing people to tolerate us and acknowledge us, when they would much rather smile and continue the status quo.