I’m probably not the first person to note this, but Spring Breakers made a lot more sense to me when I realized it was basically about white supremacy, and white women’s fight for equality at the expense of men and women of color. (Yeah I know Selena Gomez is a WOC but her character bails out early.) The partying and hedonism of the first part of the movie is almost uniformly white—the only POC I can think of is the man in the diner who the girls rob. The last part has a lot of POC but they are all criminals, adversaries, dancers, and sex workers. When the girls “go bad” they suddenly are forced to associate with POC and they are visibly uncomfortable with it. And when the girls seize power, they show they can be equally as bad and as violent as their gangster white savior by killing—I couldn’t keep count. Killing a lot of POC and riding off into the sunset giggling.
I was recently invited to hear you speak to a young professionals group of which I am a former member. Feministing was an early inroad to internet feminism for me, and I read The Purity Myth, so I was interested to see what you would have to say to this group of (mostly) women.
After listening to your Q&A session with them, I am not sure that I am comfortable calling myself (or being identified by others as) a feminist. If your answers are truly representative of what the leaders of the movement are concerned with, the movement is not mine.
I am a young white temporarily abled genderqueer queer person from a lower middle class family in Oklahoma. The concerns for the movement that you voiced to those people only spoke to one of those identities, and in my opinion, it’s the one least worth addressing: whiteness.
When a young woman asked you what the biggest concern was for the future of feminism, you did not take that time to bring awareness to the fact that racism, transphobia, heteronormativity, ableism, and classism are rampant, and that women like you (and to a certain degree, like me) are given undue respect and credibility over our often more qualified and interesting peers of color, of varied ability, gender, etc.
No, instead, you were concerned with whether or not people in the movement were getting paid for their activism. You spoke of Feministing’s writers as people “working for free,” and wished for a world where they could be compensated. While this is perhaps a worthy goal from the perspective of a career activist, it is certainly not the biggest problem with feminism today.
When you were asked to name a major piece of legislation that feminists could work towards passing or repealing, and the asker referred to VAWA and the Fair Pay Act as “symbolic” and “not a big deal,” you not only didn’t call her on the gross privilege in her question, you also summarized your answer with “no, I can’t.” Yes, the first word you said was “Hyde,” but you did not explain what that was or even bother to continue on that thread. It was effectively a stutter that began a response I honestly couldn’t believe I was hearing from someone I looked up to years ago.
Similarly, when asked if you knew of any feminist conferences or think tank style organizations, you also came up short. CLPP and Take Root are two I can name off the top of my head, and a really quick google search reveals the National Young Feminists Leadership Conference. Are those not feminist?
As for “thinktank” style orgs, I have the utmost respect for groups like SisterSong, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the people behind Make//Shift Mag, RH Reality Check, Women’s Media Center, (to some degree) the Peace Development Fund, CLPP (again!), and a host of other organizations that would turn this letter into a laundry list. Do they not qualify as think tank orgs?
Yet you still said “none,” that you were working on one with Harvard, but that nothing was done yet. (Do all think tanks have to be university affiliated?)
From the back of the room, I was devastated, disappointed, and angry.
If the kind of leadership that young women can expect from their heroes is the kind that glosses over or considers irrelevant the contributions of those who are working on causes other than the trouble women have networking in corporations (another issue you brought up at the expense of mentioning a more serious one), feminism is dead. Feminism is a purely white, staid set of principles designed not to eliminate but to cement inequality, just with more (probably white, cis, straight, and able-bodied) women at the top of the pile.
It took me a long time to fully buy into the idea that white women were killing anything meaningful in the movement. I thought that surely some concerns were overblown, that women like you were doing their best to include more voices at the table and to promote the work of marginalized people alongside your friends’ and your own. If I was not bought in before I heard you speak, I am fully bought in now.
So consider this my resignation letter. I’m no longer a feminist. I will continue to work towards goals that have tangible effects on people’s lives, like reproductive justice, queer/trans* youth homelessness, anti-racism initiatives, and all those other things that feminism is leaving behind because it’s been offered a seat at more powerful tables.
(Major acknowledgements to Flavia Dzodan and INCITE!, as well as a lot of Tumblr feminists of color who helped shape my thinking on this issue before I was even present in the room with Valenti.)
“If it was called Empowerment Walk, I wouldn’t be here.”
"Because women of colour experience racism in ways not always the same as those experienced by men of…"
- Kimberle Crenshaw in Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color (via sister-bell)
“Maybe one of the greatest damages white feminism did to women was to convince us of our own victimization without at the same time requiring us to acknowledge our complicity in oppression and the ways in which we, ourselves, oppress. What feminism did teach women, and what I find of ever-inventive relevance to women of color, is that the personal is political. I have written of this many times elsewhere, not in the effort to extol some rigid self-referential identity politics, but to acknowledge that our bodies and our experiences are that complex site of conflict through which our political work is mediated.”
Cherríe Moraga from “Weapons of the Weak: On Fear and Political Resistance”
I am honored and humbled to receive this award from NYAAF. I receive it on behalf of the Black women and girls that contact you for resources for their abortions. I am disheartened by the lack of women of color present at this event tonight.
“I am a Black woman. Tall as a cypress. Strong beyond all definition. Still defying place, time and circumstance. Assailed. Impervious. Indestructible. Look on me and be renewed.” Mari Evans
I am honored that the New York Abortion Access Fund has granted me this honor. I accept this award in firm solidarity with the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. Poor women and young women and their families are going to suffer. If this closing moves forward in 6 weeks we are going to find the women in the South facing a major crisis in access and resources to abortion services. When Black women were 13x’s more likely to die from an illegal abortion than white women pre-Roe, I am terrified. I know that women are desperate to make decisions and have the access to the resources we need to make decisions about our lives.
According to every statistic, disparity, social determinant and other quality of life measuring systems, it’s a miracle that I as a Black woman with an ancestral linkage to slavery in this country am even standing before you all holding any understanding of my dignity. The fight for abortion rights and access from my vantage point is inextricably linked to racial and economic justice both within the organizations and among the individuals who do the work and the larger systemic issues of poverty and the rights that it takes away. Like the right to our privacy, lives, ability to space our children, and the right to be free of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, I speak for the Black women and girls who want access to both our decisions and the resources to plan our family’s and to pay for our abortions.
I speak for Black women in the Reproductive Health, Rights, & Justice movements when I say equal treatment and investment of resources in our work has to change to reflect the value and quality of our work, when many of us are making and are offered little to nothing to do this work.
We sacrifice many things to fight and be present for our very ability to be relevant and exist in a way that we define as respectful. When the racist anti-choice billboards reared their ugly head it was traumatizing and heartbreaking to see black women’s decisions and access be used as a tool of propaganda to further the causes of patriarchal agendas. However ugly that campaign was and still is, it was through the strength of allyship and our collective movement that defeated the billboard campaign and shed light on how disrespectful and ridiculous it truly is.
The future of Black women’s activism on abortion is repealing HYDE at its 40th anniversary in 2016. How we build on the momentum of this moment will determine if we will allow poor women, women of color, young women, women in the military, immigrants and native women to be thrown under the bus, or if we are really the movement we say we are that is dedicated to equal access for ALL women. These next 3 years will determine if that is true.
Words that inspire my activism:
“If you are deaf, dumb and blind to what’s happening in the world, you’re under no obligation to do anything. But if you know what’s happening and you don’t do anything but sit on your ass, then you’re nothing but a punk.” Assata Shakur
I hope I’m not in the company of punks.
I am so proud and honored to have Jasmine as a friend, and these words are just one reason why. They were powerful that night—may they have more power online. xoxoxo
Seattle GRRRL ARMY stands with sex workers in the red-light district of Seattle
Are any of GRRRL ARMY actually sex workers? Or did they just want to make confrontational graffiti in sex worker’s working spaces for their own gratification (what was that about respect again?)? Did any sex workers ASK them to stand with them or did Grrrl Army just decided sex workers needed it?
I’d genuinely like to know.
You have no idea the world of issues I have with ‘human not just a ho’ coming from a non-sex worker.
Can people, oh I dunno, THINK about this shit before mindlessly reblogging it in the effort to prove what good allies they are?
Can people think about the problems with glorifying GLIB AS FUCK graffitti non-sex workers have done rather than promoting the actual words and actions of actual sex workers?
If you are a non-sex worker who has reblogged this and you know me, can you also please ACKNOWLEDGE my words to you right now?
jesus fucking christ
they did this to the outside of where they work?????
can we think of anything that would hurt business and attract cops more than this??
F*eminism: endangering sex workers via masturbatory reclamations [sic] that aren’t reclamations
When you discuss the wage gap, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Only white women make $0.77 to a man’s dollar.
- Black women make about $0.68 to a man’s dollar.
- Latina women make about $0.58 to a man’s dollar.
and many MOC make less than white women too.
How it Feels to Be Forcibly Fed, New York World Magazine, September 6, 1914, Djuna Barnes Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries. At the Elizabeth Sackler Center in the Brooklyn Museum through August 19, 2012.
There is a Djuna Barnes exhibit happening at the Brooklyn Museum, only through August and it’s amazing, and it’s called “Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913-1919.”
The show is fiction and deeply weird, sometimes flippant investigative reporting, which moves in and out of fiction. The piece that I want to mention here is ”How It Feels to Be Forcibly Fed,” in which Barnes submits herself to an artificial feeding. Doctors inserted rubber tubing down her throat and into her stomach, dripping liquid nutrients into her body, and she wrote about it. At a moment (1914) when imprisoned British suffragists on hunger strike were fed against their will, Barnes says:
I saw in my hysteria a vision of a hundred women in grim prison hospitals, bound and shrouded on tables just like this, held in the rough grip of callous warders while white-robed doctors thrust rubber tubing into the delicate interstices of their nostrils and forced into their helpless bodies the crude fuel to sustain the life they longed to sacrifice.
Science had, then, deprived us of the right to die.
Still the liquid trickled irresistibly down the tubing into my throat.
The writing charts the procedure—with the state of the suffrage movement leaning in and out of the backdrop—and Barnes’ emotional experience of it: anguished, horrified, and ironic/disassociative. The article’s intensity, I think, is owed to Barnes’ use of horror. By evoking fear, alienation, and disgust Barnes indexes the violence of the state pitting the political will against the body. In one passage, organs “lapse,” inanimate objects move, and the only parts of her body Barnes has awareness of are her extremities, and that locus of force where a doctor holds her prostrate by the hips.
The doctors, whom Barnes observes earlier walking “with that little confiding gait that horses must have returning from funerals,” approach her on the table, pre-tube:
All life’s problems had now been reduced to one simple act — to swallow or to choke. As I lay in passive revolt, a quizzical thought wandered across my beleaguered mind: This, at least, is one picture that will never go into the family album.
Because of the violent, gruesome intensity of the piece as a whole, I get really interested in these moments of ironic reflection. Barnes wades into these scenes which are completely harrowing from the inside, and then leaves for a second, measuring their inherent humor—not to mention seeing herself represented— from somewhere else. The doctors like horses; the largeness of the life in the mind brought down to the gag reflex; Barnes’ image of herself violated, strapped, and supine as a family photo, quickly rejected. These moments might function as comic relief but there’s also a surprising way the knowing, cutting wit, in its sudden absence from the scene, deepens the horror.
Jenny Hendrix, covering the exhibit for the Paris Review blog, says of the article: “A bit too cool for activism, Barnes focuses narrowly on subjective sensation.” This criticism seems like it’s missing something important (read: I think it’s obtuse and patriarchal). But it is useful to note because it sets up a key mechanism of the logic Barnes was either boring a hole through, or perhaps just bored by: the quarantining of subjective knowledge from their political implications.
In “How It Feels to Be Forcibly-Fed” I see Barnes as altering the scope of exposition to provoke an under-heard perspective of political life. She steps over pointless debates on militancy and efficacy by attending to the body. This work is weird journalism and maybe that’s because how often is performance art run in newspapers? Hers is a performance of bodily vulnerability, it is the details of power on the body’s level, and the article is the document.
IM ALL OVER THIS EXHIBEET
"Anyway I’d like us to have a night at the bar in which we get trashed, bring a sketchbook and create…"
I accept this challenge.