I wanted to take a few days to mull over the negative aspects of WAM! before posting about it. I didn't want this post to seem too reactionary or for me to write it pissed off. That said, I'm still a tad ticked at what I thought was far too many cliques and too much separation between WOC bloggers and white bloggers.
It was awesome to see a few allies in the Radical WOC bloggers session and even more so that an A-lister like Jill was there. There has been criticism of some of the A-list feminist blogs not having enough WOC in the past, so it was nice to see her there. I won't repeat how she introduced herself, but it was very sweet and from the heart. She also wrote a great summary of what it was to be a WOC at this conference:
It was the one place in the conference where it felt like a collective blood-letting, and where most of the women really seemed comfortable and in their element. It made me think quite a bit about the value of creating those kinds of safe spaces, and the reality that while a feminist conference feels like a safe space for me, that isn’t the case for a lot of women (and for women of color in particular). The presenters were able to establish such a space, and they were generous enough to allow me — someone who has not always been the greatest ally in the past — to sit in it.
Yes, the safe space was awesome. It felt more comfortable than I had anticipated not just because of my Latinaness issue, but I'm far from a radical WOC. Even BFP remarked to me that she knows that I'm not radical, but I defend my position as a liberal feminist of color pretty darn well. haha! We totally laughed at that. She's right, I'm not a radical and I hem and haw about working for The Woman versus wanting to always take to the streets.
Now my big issue was the racial divide. This was my first WAM! and I'm usually blind to such things too. So Saturday at 7 pm was the WOC & allies reception sponsored by a queer WOC group in Boston. It was off campus, not too far, but I guess far enough for some WOC and others. I got there and quickly made friendly with some women who didn't even attend WAM! They were on the listserv for the sponsoring group. It was pretty funny. But by 7:30 many of the WOC bloggers had arrived, including I think half of the WOC blogger session attendees. So I hung with them, chatted, danced a little, and showed off my one bar trick. Yes, the cherry stem thing.
But it was clear that us WOC had only a handful of allies there.
Now I wasn't expecting all the WAMers to show up, but I was greatly disappointed at how many didn't. And I left that party a tad early (at 10 pm) to hit the after party that was supposed to be in our room. Instead it was in another WAMers room. Hey! There are the white bloggers. OK, I jest...a bit. They couldn't all fit in the one bed room.
There was also an issue of language...In the program the WOC reception was listed as 8 pm. BUT the ad with the directions said 7 pm. On the WAM! info board it was written that due to a MISPRINT, the WOC reception was at 7 pm. BUT during announcements in the rooms, we were told that the WOC reception was CHANGED to 7pm. Oh, yes...there were grumbles that the WOC reception had to be moved.
I don't think this grumbling would have big as big of a deal if there wasn't already something there. There are other stories that I won't blog about as they aren't mine to blog.
As I rode to the airport with a fellow WOC, we mused how it still shocks us when we face "racism" within the feminist community. I put racism in quotes as I'm not sure if it's all racism - Some incidents were, some weren't quite.
Should we be shocked that the feminist community still has a race issue? Especially at what seems to be a more progressive conference? Does the fact that this is a professional meeting mean that power players will hang with power players? This isn't coming from my personal feeling of being snubbed, so don't get that idea. 95% of the time, I felt quite comfortable. When I didn't, I just got up and found a new place to hang.
I know at least one blogger who has said she might not come next year because what she saw. As usual, I'll take the moderate stance. Despite the race issue, I still had a great time. Mostly because I partied with the WOC bloggers on Saturday night and had enough friends at the conference. As of now, I'll be back next year.
I'll be back because I had fun, there are some awesome women there, and this is a professional conference and I do plan on doing more writing. Hopefully for many of the women there.
Technorati tags: WAM!, WAM! 2008