This week's excitement arrives via The Nation (which I have subscribed to off and on since college) and Michelle Goldberg's latest entitled, "Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars."Hmmmm...wars is a bit much, dontcha think? So before I dive into this article's arguments, let's deal with the headline.
Susan B. Anthony pleaded with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to leave the kids and hit the road with her. Surely some feminists side-eyed Amelia Bloomer and her pants. Sojourner Truth dropped the mic by stating, "Ain't I a woman?" One of the biggest riffs happened during suffrage when the young whippersnapper, Alice Paul, disagreed with Carrie Chapman Catt and took her ball home. Paul started the National Women's Party. As for disruption we go to Ida B. Wells who refused to march in a segregated suffrage parade. The first wave was full of heated debate & women of color disrupting. Let's zip up to the 1970s and we find Betty Friedan and Rita Mae Brown arguing over the Lavender Menace. And don't tell me that you haven't heard a second-wave feminist do a double take over the theory of intersectionality. Hopefully you get my point that during the act of reorganizing our society to be free of sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and other injustices that those of us working towards this shared goal will have a lot of disagreement on how to get there.
For me, that was the root of the #FemFuture critique. That a hand-picked group of feminists, living in NYC, sat around a table and plotted out the future of feminism, specifically feminism online. At the heart of their plan was how the revolution would pay its workers. For many feminists, that line of thought was offensive. And those feminists took to twitter to make themselves crystal clear that #FemFuture did not represent them.
The erasure of a larger critique by Latinas, Asian women, Native women of #Femfuture and other feminist conversations is quite honestly insulting. Our issues may not be the same and not every woman of color was critical of these conversations, but it was far more diverse than just black feminist twitter. Why are non-Black WOC being ignored? Because we are no less outraged on any given day about feminism. Native feminists are questioning "One Billion Rising." Suey Park kicked ass with #NotYourAsianSidekick. AnaYelsi Sanchez, founder of #SecretLivesofFeministas, had this to say:
It isn't just Black women pushing back. It's all women of color. The sort of gaslighting and marginalization in Michelle Goldberg's article is what sparked #SecretLivesOfFeministas and other similar movements. It's easier to ignore us and focus on vilifying the "angry black woman" than to acknowledge the legitimacy of all of our anger. We're not going away. We're not sitting down. We're not shutting upThe article spends a good deal of time discussing that many "white feminist" projects such as #femfuture, Jezebel and Feministing are not run by just white feminists. And this is true. And while I do think it is poor shorthand, for me, when I see "white feminism" in twitter critiques it means that the feminism espoused is exemplary of middle-class liberal feminism that is stereotypically seen in white feminists who fight for access to sterilization at 25, but ignore/are ignorant that WOC have been sterilized by force for decades. Perhaps we would be more pointed to say "liberal feminism," but I am really not sure of that. I would love thoughts in the comments, as this is the one part I really don't have a solution for.
It is true that due to the speed of critique on Twitter and other social media outlets, I do fear speaking out on some topics. But for me, it helps me stop and frame my argument better. I do a little more research and not just shoot off my mouth. Dr. Cooper says a lot of great things about the tension in the feminist twitter community. Most importantly that the critique and hurt feelings from WOC has valid roots. But as Prison Culture & Andrea Smith point out, the idea that online feminism was a happy happy joy joy super fun place before twitter is a myth (BTW - make sure to read that post!). And the focus on fun feminism is skewing our vision on the ultimate goal - ending patriarchy, racism, classism and all the other things that is oppressing all of us. Yes, we can have fun, but lamenting the loss of fun feminism is the least of my concerns.
Crenshaw says intersectionality hasn't "been about chastisement", " but rather a collective effort to build a feminism that does more of the work that it claims to do." For me, this is what Mikki and other WOC feminists have been doing in their critiques. When Mikki asks if WOC get to be a good mothers, she is asking for feminism to do what it claims to do. I really enjoyed the paragraph where Dr. Cooper explains the use of intersectionality as a benchmark for all feminists online. Am I the only one who chuckled at the idea that WOC feminists have finally become too academic for our own good?
As I said earlier, I do agree that some critiques fall under the category of attacks. I don't support those. I think there is plenty to critique without using personal attacks. But the land of punditry has changed with social media. While you can avoid reading the comments section of your op-ed, you can rarely avoid the @ section of your twitter feed. This means that the indie feminist blogger has equal access to "the conversation" as the feminist who is paid $10,000 to speak at a college campus, has multiple books and a contract with a TV station. It can be scary to face the critique head on.
Twitter is being archived in the Library of Congress. This means that we are writing history every single day. This means that if anyone claims to represent feminism, those of us who have a critique must express the critique, otherwise the record shows silence as agreement. Twitter is not just a frivolous play thing. It can be and we often treat it as such. But when it comes to debating feminism online, it is serious business.