Blogging is not always easy. Your growth (and mistakes) as a writer and activist are documented for the world to see. You become public in a way that often feels dehumanizing. But with these things comes incredible privilege and opportunity.
I feel so lucky that I get to do the work that I do – that I was able to write two books, that I can go to conferences where I meet amazing feminists, that I can travel to colleges and speak about a subject I love, and that Iâ€™m able to make connections and work with activists and organizers whose work I respect so much. Not many feminists get these opportunities, and Iâ€™m grateful for them daily.
The recent happenings in the feminist blogosphere concerning racism have had me up nights. For the last few months – whether it was the issue of appropriation, feminist presses, or racist imagery – my stance for Feministing has been one of â€œlet our work speak for itself.â€? Letâ€™s make sure we pledge to do better, to do the work instead of just spouting the rhetoric. And I continue to think that this is important, and that Feministingâ€™s body of work does walk the walk. But Iâ€™ve been remiss in not writing something more personal and more complex sooner – because as much as Feministing is a group project, I recognize that my profile is a bit more out there these days. (Of course, I want to echo a sentiment Samhita posted about long ago, which is why my name has been the one most associated with Feministing and the importance of looking at that in a critical way.)
But I’ve also been thinking a lot about my own role in all of this, which has brought up a ton of personal issues for me – specifically regrets I have. And this is something I’ve been mulling on for a long time, but felt scared to write about. But after all of this, the silence is just weighing on me, and I feel like I have to say something.
When Feministing began, I not only wanted it to be a site that debunked popular myths about feminism and made the movement more accessible to young people – I also wanted it to be a site that embodied the intersectional analysis that was so important to my real-life academic and activist work. How we do this – and how we can do it better – has been the center of many conversations with Feministing bloggers, and our off-line allies.
I also wanted this to be a site that held the mainstream feminist movement – whose history of privileging the voices of white, middle and upper class straight women is still very much alive – accountable. But I think that Iâ€™ve been focusing so hard on changing mainstream feminist institutions, organizations that I saw as the ones with power, I ignored how a blog (or a book, or a person) could have that same power and do the same harm that I was working so hard to stop. For that, I am truly sorry.
I know thereâ€™s damage thatâ€™s been done that wonâ€™t be undone. Not a day goes by, for example, that I donâ€™t wish I would have handled the criticism of my book cover differently. That I would have listened rather than just reacted. (Seriously, re-reading that old thread just makes me plain ashamed.) I was super excited to have a book coming out, and I let that trump the very reasonable criticisms of the cover. I was quick to dismiss and ignore, which was beyond shitty – it was silencing.
And while I think some of the criticisms of my work – be it Full Frontal Feminism or Feministing – have been right on, Iâ€™ve felt others have been off, or unfair. But either way, I should have listened more closely to them all. And I didnâ€™t.
It pains me when I read posts that say Iâ€™ve â€œruinedâ€? feminism or marginalized the voices of women of color. And, to be frank, I donâ€™t think that I have. But I also recognize that itâ€™s not really about what I think or feel. The fact that others have felt it is proof enough for me – and enough to make think about the kind of feminism I want to be part of and the kind of feminism I want to put out into the world. And, of course, I want to do better – and I will.
I have no illusions as to why my work has gotten the press that it has. The media likes nothing more than a young sassy white feminist who is mainstream-friendly. I know that there is work out there being done that is more nuanced and cutting edge – because I see it all around me. Thatâ€™s not to say Iâ€™m not incredibly proud of the work Iâ€™ve done. I am proud. I know that Feministing and FFF have made changes in peopleâ€™s lives, and that warms my heart every day. I believe, whole-heartedly, in the work that we are doing and the women who Iâ€™m fortunate enough to blog with. But I also believe in our ability – and my own – to do better.
And hereâ€™s how I plan to. I promise to listen to critics of my work – even when itâ€™s painful, even when I donâ€™t agree, even when I want to tear my fucking hair out. Iâ€™ll listen more than I talk. (Which, for those of you who know me, is not always easy!)
Seal Press, who has supported me in amazing ways – not many other presses are keen on publishing curse-laden feminist books for young women – fucked up. I am horrified that racist images were allowed to go to print, and that it went unnoticed for as long as it did. In my continuing work with Seal (the purity book Iâ€™m working on is with them) I promise to hold my editor and publisher accountable to their apology and promises of action. I only want to work with a press who understands that anti-racism is a central part of feminism, and I truly believe that Seal can become that press.
I promise to be personally proactive about the pledges Feministing made as a group: when linking, to privilege blogs with smaller audiences and those with greater expertise than my own; to make alliances with grassroots and other organizations who are doing antiracist, and community-building work; to use our new community site to create a safer space for readers; and to hold Feministing and the other work I do to the same – if not higher – standard that Iâ€™ve held mainstream feminist organizations and activists.
I promise to think of more ways that I can be a better advocate for women, even when that means shutting the fuck up every once in a while to let someone else talk. (I realize not all of these things are as tangible as I’d like them to be…so I also promise to think more about what I can do that’s actually measurable.)
Itâ€™s time that I stepped up. After a certain point – a certain amount of readers, a book deal, whatever – I should have realized that Iâ€™m no longer the feminist I was a couple of years ago. I have a bigger responsibility than I expected, and maybe was even prepared for. But I believe in this work – in blogging, in feminism, and in the power of online activism and media to change the mainstream paradigm. And I hope that you believe me when I say that Iâ€™m listening, that I know that Iâ€™m accountable to my readers and feminist allies, and that making feminism better is the most important work of my life.
Note: I’m aware that this post is very personal, and very much about me. I’m not trying to center the conversation – which is so huge – on myself. I just wanted to be open about how I’m feeling.