05 October, 2009

Confessions of a Reluctant Young White Feminist

Dear Feministing.com,

Once upon a time, I posted this on my Livejournal: "One day, I will write about my numerous issues with Feministing.com."

Guess what? Today is that day! Lucky you.

Let me introduce myself: I am a feminist, an occasional blogger, a person with disabilities (fibromyalgia, cerebral palsy), and am currently getting my Master's Degree in Women & Gender Studies. I am also white, heterosexual, cisgendered, have a college degree, and am relatively economically privileged. I, at first glance, seem to embody many (stereo)typical qualities of a young, white feminist: from the type of music I enjoy, to how I dress, to the fact that I sometimes wear makeup, and, on occasion, read BUST magazine when I need a break from "serious" literature. Because I am white, I have the choice to ignore issues surrounding race, and those surrounding white privilege. Because I am heterosexual and cisgendered, I can brush off queer and trans issues if I so choose. Because I am white, economically privileged and have a college degree, I can probably rest assured that I will have a job in the future, even with my rather esoteric choice of college major and advanced degree.

One could argue that your site is pretty much made for people like me: the "fun" feminists who can wear makeup and heels [I can't wear heels, but that's for another post], go out and party like it's 1999 [I don't, but that, too, is for another post], and still fight for [their own] rights the next morning. One could argue that your contributors do, in fact, speak for folks like me, and that since they are the face of the fourth wave, I should just be thankful that feminist issues are getting any airtime or page space in the mainstream media at all, and/or that people who look like me are getting book deals.

But here's where our feminisms differ, Feministing.com: I am saddened by your numerous issues when it comes to representing people who are not like you. You all don't have the greatest track record when it comes to race and white privilege, trans issues, disability issues, economic privilege, and a ton of other things that I am probably accidentally leaving out. If someone new to feminism were to look at your website--which, not incidentally, is one of the "top" feminist websites, at least in the U.S.--they might conclude that feminism is a movement that is exclusively for young, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, sexually active, upper-middle-class women. If you know about the history of feminism in the U.S., and I assume that you do, you will see why this is so troubling.

There is more to the feminist movement than fighting for the rights of white women. Feminism is more than allowing your or your commenters' racial, economic, heterosexual, and able-bodied privilege to go totally unchecked. If you are so committed to "intersectionality," as you have claimed several times, where is it? True efforts toward inclusivity and intersectionality constitute more than simply talking about those things, or throwing around whatever blogular buzzword is currently hot, or thinking that droppin' those terms like they are on fire will suffice. There is an enormous chasm of difference between talking about doing something and actually doing it.

There is no gentle way to say this, Feministing.com: You do not speak for me, and I'm not sure that you ever will. I want to give you a chance, but until you actually start to make changes instead of alternately talking about making them and ignoring those of us who have asked you to, it is going to be difficult for me to hold out any hope.

You've already made it clear that I am not like you; apparently, neither are the people who have asked you, time and time again, to take what they have to say seriously, and to make changes accordingly.

You have also made it clear that there is no room for people like me in your version of "fun" feminism. There is no room in your world for my brothers and sisters: feminists and womanists of color, feminists with disabilities, working class feminists, fat feminists, queer and LGBTI feminists, asexual feminists, older feminists, or trans folk.

I understand. Boy, do I understand.

I will end with the following quote from the great Barbara Smith:

"Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, Jewish women, lesbians, old women--as well as white, economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement." [From "Racism and Women's Studies," 1979]


ETA, 7:27 PM PST: There's been an important update from meloukhia on this whole situation; Anna also has a lovely link roundup.

ETA II: I will be modding the shit out of both this and related posts; leaving trollish or inflammatory comments might spell D-E-L-E-T-I-O-N for you. Don't like it? Don't comment.


amanda said...


meloukhia said...

Word to this.

Anonymous said...

Co-signed. <3

Gretchen said...

REALLY well said, word. I'll be linking this around.

Anonymous said...


annaham said...

Thanks for your comments thus far, everyone! :)

Anonymous said...

Well said. Word.

Anonymous said...


Darkrose said...

Well said! *hugs*

Nancy said...

Rock on, sister of invisible disability. Co-frickin'-signed!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm not 100% sure the way the blogger code of ethics works around linking to other people in your own posts and stuff, but I wanted to let you know that what you said about those new to feminism being influenced by Feministing's bias - that was, and to some extent still is, me, which I addressed in my own letter. I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for articulating it better than I was able to.