A word on intersectionality, comment moderation and our love for Jessica.

I write this entry with a broken heart. The cumulative effect of hatred spewed via the internet inevitably bogs you down. In light of the conversations surrounding Jessica’s book, I just wanted to touch on some of the issues that have come up. I am going to admit first and foremost, I haven’t read all of them and I am not going to cite any people, just some themes that are coming up and the feelings they are bringing up for me.
Specifically, why is Jessica the face of Feministing? I have been writing for Feministing for 2 years. I am a woman of color and have consistently written about intersectionality in rigorous and radical ways. It seems to me, the only people that have noticed are my enemies, who have grilled me alive when they can. Some blogs calling out Feministing for a lack of intersectional analysis makes me feel like my voice has been erased and silenced. As have the voices of the women of color that write for Feministing and are written about at Feministing. This critique on the “whiteness” of Feministing is doing that which it seeks to ameliorate–erase the voices and contributions of women of color.
That said, I am not a token. I am not here to talk about all WOC voices. My being here doesn’t inherently fix or solve the white-centered nature of the political blogosphere (please believe). And my brown-ness doesn’t make me the spokesperson for all things brown, and similarly Jessica or the other white ladies, spokespeople for whites only. To discount the contributions of all the women that write for Feministing, while upholding Jessica as the embodiment of all that is wrong with Feministing and feminism, erases our contributions and ignores the fact that we are all working TOGETHER. What does it mean when Jessica is singled out for blame for posts or threads that we ALL take responsibility for?
All of the women that write for Feministing, from DAY ONE, have incorporated an intersectional analysis (please go back to archives and read). All of the writers at Feministing believe that a race, class and sexuality lens is necessary to inform our feminist action and writing. It’s an integral part of our work, evidenced not only by what we write and how we write it, but also by who we bring in to work with us and the connections and collaborations we seek on the ground. To argue otherwise not only feels dismissive to us, it feels intensely hurtful and wrong.
The thing with blogs is that you pick who is most heard. We just do our thing and other people link to our work. What does it mean if Jessica is not the only reason Feministing is popular? That perhaps, Vanessa, Ann, Celina, Jen and myself, have had a hand in the popularization and circulation of some of our most controversial posts. It means that Feministing isn’t just one perspective. It means that we have all said things that matter in a variety of arenas and in a variety of ways.
We are one blog, one group blog, we are NOT the holy grail of feminism. All the writers here draw from a variety of authors, feminists, writers and experiences. There is no central conversation, everything is a tangent to something else that someone else wrote and our reflections to it. My voice as a women of color is integrated to the greatest extent that ANY voice can be integrated into a blog. Everything is a tangent, an intervention, an analysis, a (dare I say) BLOG POST.
It seems that some of the frustration is with the way our comments threads go, sometimes unmoderated and frequently offensive. It is important to note that we do not reflect the opinions of people in comments. That is the point of comments, that they are a diverse array of opinions. This is something we have been talking about and dealing with for a long time at Feministing and have yet to come to a solid understanding of what to do. We do not want to silence diverse opinions, but it is hard to find a balance between a dialectical dialog versus things we happen to disagree with (that make us and many of our supportive readers, upset). If one thing can be said about the ladies here at Feminsting, we very passionately believe in the things we write about. So it makes moderating comments very, very challenging.
We have hit a space where it feels like, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. For some people, Jessica has come to embody (similar to Amanda, Jill and myself in the neocon blogosphere) all that is wrong with feminism and Feministing, when she is just ONE PERSON, who also worked her ass off and was in the right place at the right time, and yes, wrote a book. She is one voice and one perspective. As my friend just mentioned to me, “she’s become iconic. She’s no longer a real person. Despite the intimacy of blogging, who she really is is no longer relevant to the discussion.” She has become a convenient target.
Critique of white feminism is necessary to keep movement alive. It is true that certain voices get to the top, but there are a variety of factors for that–and white-ness is one of them. But what if we stop to think about what some of the other ones might be? Why is it that I might get a book deal? What are all the rest of us are doing over here? THEN WHAT? DO WE WIN THEN?
No, we don’t. Clearly this is difficult terrain to navigate as it is fueled with not just our politics but our intimate and dearly held feelings. There is no winner, just the vain hope of getting somewhere with what we are doing. If we fail to look at greater systemic issues (like why white women are positioned where they are verses women of color, or WHO decides the marketing of images, products and books) as opposed to hating on someone, who you don’t know, then we all lose.
All of that said, I also want to say, “JESSICA I LOVE YOU and I APPRECIATE ALL OF THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE.”

Join the Conversation

  • http://www.justdreadful.com Jenny Dreadful

    “*Snort* Don’t you sycophants have anything better to do with your time than parrot each other ad nauseum. The least you can do is be original in your vapid comments.”

    OR you can, you know, parrot YOURSELF. Parrot your OWN VAPID COMMENT THREE TIMES. The irony! It burns.

  • http://Grace Grace

    Zoe Ann Nicholson—You speak for me. Thankfully you are all here pushing against the status quo. A life of activism inevitably brings slings and arrows, sometimes from unexpected quarters.
    p.s. wouldn’t it be nice if the trolls were at least smart enough to figure out how to work the post button!

  • Samhita

    Sorry, about that. Got it.

  • http://www.crablaw.com Bruce/Crablaw

    I gather that there are two categories thus far: those who love Jessica and the book, and those who savage Jessica and the book.
    Guess I will be one of those who a) respects Jessica; and b) will read and review the book. Cause I am such a wild and woolly rebel.
    I would say more, but I won’t, until I actually read the book. There is no substitute for actually reading the book, no matter how much pain that may inflict on our poor President.

  • http://fetchmemyaxe.blogspot.com belledame222

    You know what? I feel for you, Samhita;
    but this really breaks my heart.

  • http://civilliberty.about.com Tom Head

    I went to the site. I almost felt bad for her.
    Then I went three entries down, and saw this:
    Tom Head. He’s a friend of the blog or whatever.
    Please come get this motherfucker before I do. I do not care how much he’s upported you at this point. He has sprayed his male white privilege bullshit all over Nubians thread as if agreeing with her should have earned him a cookie. He equates antiracism with antifeminism?!?! He insinuates people run around everyone racist and then calls it cheap. HE questions our integrity generally and his whiny bullshit sending people to Donna’s to basically whine and shame her. IT’s OKAY HOW?!?

    Seems to me that’s much worse than anything I’ve said about Nubian or Donna. But I’m supposed to sit back and take it. Why? Because I’m a white male, and if I don’t, it’s whiny white male privilege to not sit here and take it. I’m supposed to be so damn strong, because I’m a white male, that this stuff won’t get to me. And Blackamazon is supposed to be so damn weak, as a black woman, that I’m supposed to take these sorts of nasty shots in stride.
    Well, I’ve wasted too much of my life enabling abusers–and defending people who, when the going gets tough, don’t even want their names associated with mine.
    I’m done with the comments field here. I have invested too much of my life in people who don’t give a damn about me as a human being.
    There are people here in Jackson, Mississippi who are doing real feminist work. I don’t deserve to tie their bootstraps, but they let me in and they let me work and they have NEVER tried to distance themselves from me. And that’s where I should be spending this time–not on a bunch of damn blogs.
    Good night.

  • Samhita

    belledame222: I do as well. But I have gone to every conversation about this post, commented on it extensively and still none of us can really see eye to eye.
    So it has been a wasted effort. Hopefully better luck next time.
    Tom: I don’t even know what to say. But I think we are very clearly seeing some of the limits of online dialog. If you don’t have a real world activist lifestyle, you have nothing to draw from. I know the work you do and I commend you. It is easy to sit behind a computer and hack away and never know what people are actually doing.