Posts filed under ‘Feminism/Gender’
They tell me, if I work in solidarity with people of color, and try to educate myself to unlearn the racism I have been taught, that I must be motivated by white guilt.
They tell me if I criticize what other white people say, that I must hate myself- my skin, my “culture”, “heritage”, “people”. They don’t specify what they mean by those things. Apparently I share their culture, am one of their people, just based on my skin color…
They tell me that immigrants are coming to destroy “our” way of life, religion, culture, take “our” jobs. They forget all the same things were said about their ancestors.
They tell me Black, brown, Asian people are more homophobic and sexist- it’s just “their culture” what do you expect. While most of the laws made to oppress queer people and women are made by white (purportedly straight) men. Clearly we need to invade those other countries so we can civilize them and bring them feminism, or atheism, or capitalism or Christianity. Because that would be progress.
They ask why study other languages, because English is clearly the best one, immigrants all need to learn English. They forget how long their German or other ancestors kept speaking their languages. They forget some of my ancestors stopped speaking their native language, being force-taught “superior English” before even coming to this country.
They tell me that “white genocide” is apparently a problem I should be worried about, forgetting that some of my ancestors survived genocide- whether they were considered “white” or not at the time.
They worry about me riding the bus and walking in certain neighborhoods, in spite of the fact that a white cis (non-trans) woman is less likely to be attacked than a woman or man of color.
They want to keep out Syrian and other Muslim refugees to protect white women like me. That’s why the Klan was formed, why countless Black men were hung. To protect white women. I am more likely to be abused or attacked by white men- simply due to who is in my social circle, and who I tend to date. If that happens, though I suppose their concern for me will disappear, how was I dressed, did I have a proper escort.
I am also told that I need protection from the trans women who need to use the bathroom. In spite of the fact that I’ve experienced far more bullying from other white cis girls, because I wasn’t feminine enough, my teenage autistic awkwardness sticking out. I learned that there were many ways to be a woman from trans women, from women of color, from non-binary and genderqueer folks. The same people making these bathroom laws also oppose anti-bullying laws. Who are they actually protecting?
What she said (with personal life story variations)
This (long) post has been a long time coming. I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry. Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity. I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.
Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood. I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them. Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…
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Earlier, I mentioned there seems to be a growing division between Black and white feminists. As I’ve done more reading and listening to speeches, books and blogs by Black women, I’ve come to better understand and empathize with their concerns, and see the problems with mainstream liberal feminism- that it is centered around the concerns of upper-middle class, educated cisgender non-disabled white career women- or stay-at home moms who have “opted out”- the so-called “Mommy Wars” frame this as a choice for “every woman” while ignoring that is truly only a choice for some. To make clear that this “feminism” is not truly inclusive, it has come to referred to as white feminism.To be fair, I understand that the “white feminism” is distinct from “feminism(s) as theorized/practiced by feminists who are white” (The definition of white also varies by country & culture)
I’ve toyed with “Country club feminism” instead- since country clubs traditionally exclude all the groups that white feminism excludes (or make feeble but clueless attempts to include!) However, like “white feminism” I think it ends up having a rather U.S. centric cultural connotation. Clearly, this is very much a false dichotomy, to begin with it leaves out Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander and indigenous women activists (whether they identify as feminist or not) And even within the designation of Black, it is not always clear how inclusive this may be of Afro-Caribbean and African immigrants and their descendants and people who still live in Africa or other parts of the diaspora. (Sometimes Black/African Diasporan feminism/womanism is used instead)
I feel white liberal style feminism does include lesbians pretty well- at least if they are white and class privileged. There is a mixed record with bisexual women, and an even more mixed record of trans inclusion! Poor/working class and disabled women might be included if they manage to “make it” into the business, academic or political fields- so long as they keep the focus on their struggles with sexism and less about other isms.
Another tension between Black and white feminism is the use of the term intersectionality, which was coined by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw to discuss the complexities of discrimination and oppression experienced by Black women- including gender, race and class. I have embraced this concept and seen it used by many feminists of various cultural backgrounds, but then it came to my attention that intersectionality is being used more broadly than intended by Ms. Crenshaw and her colleagues. I am not sure what this means for non-Black feminists of color, but at least for white feminists, please note that I did write this post discussing various forms of oppression without using the word until this paragraph. I think we are intelligent and capable of coming up with our own words, though perhaps we can still use intersectionality when Black women are part of the conversation. White (sub)culture(s) built on stealing from others have made us lazy and uncreative, learning to create without taking from others (and not giving back) is a skill we need to develop. Even if we are intersectional, we need to show it with our actions, not by just invoking the word!
Where we last left our bumbling heroine, she was living in Dubuque, Iowa with her brother and parents. In junior high, I found my elementary school friends growing apart from me. They had discovered the fascinating trio of Clothes, Boys and Makeup, oh my! These failed to impress me (junior high boys, really?), so I focused on my studies- particularly enjoying art class and social studies and immersing myself in fantasy novels and mythology. I also had a few years earlier, failed to see how wonderful puberty was supposed to be– it mostly just seemed messy and smelly and annoying. Kinda like junior high boys. I enjoyed being a girl with free mix of tea parties with dolls and dress up as well as playing with mud and collecting bugs with my brother. Becoming a “woman” seemed like a joke when “gifted” with just with the physical features and none of the social perks. It just seemed like a longer to-do list- shave your legs and arm-pits, dealing with acne, wearing a bra, wearing make-up and “the right” clothes.
In elementary school we heard this on the playground:
I Love You, You Love Me! HO-MO-SEX-U-AL-IT-Y! People Think That We’re Just Friends, But We’re Really Lesbians! Ha-ha and that is SOOO GAY! (That’s the Barney Dinosaur theme song, in case you are from a different time or place and are blissfully unaware) Things were also “retarded” about as often as they were “gay”. That was about it, as far as my awareness of other sexualities were concerned. They were just slurs, playground taunts.
In junior high we graduated to rumor-mongering!
I bet that art teacher is gay! He wears an earring, and has long hair! Whoa…he must be a (gasp!) hippie!
At this point I realized that this was actually A Real Thing, that some people were attracted to the same sex. Cross-dressing was also A Thing that apparently some people had a big problem with, though I thought their objections were pretty silly, considering how I was coming to view gender roles and expectations!
Then after junior high we moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Instead of Central in our neighborhood, we chose Arlington Senior High School. It was brand new, with lots of computers and was organized into “houses” so you would take your basic classes together with the same group of students, and had block scheduling so there were only 4 classes a day instead of 7, which made things easier for me to handle. There’s far more I could say, but I’m focusing on identity development.
At some point I went to a movie with a friend, a re-make of The Haunting of Hill House. One of the characters in it was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and I realized while watching it that I felt about the actress the way I felt about, for example Brad Pitt. It’s possible I’d felt that before with other women, but the character she was playing in the film was a rather embarrassingly stereotypical bisexual- promiscuous, trying to seduce people of both genders and so forth. My friend was vocally grossed out by this, so I naturally did not confide my new found feelings.
There was, according to a bulletin board, a gay and lesbian (not sure if B & T were featured) student support group at our school. It wasn’t a Gay Straight Alliance, it was a Top Secret Support Group. To get into it, you need to go talk to the nurse. This was well-meaning of the Powers That Be, perhaps to protect the privacy and safety of the students. But I had already been dragged to enough doctors and therapists, I didn’t like the idea of having to go to the nurse to discuss my sexuality. That seemed to imply that I had a “problem” that I needed help with.
My parents while this was going, had switched some of their church-y social justice gears to getting Hamline United Methodist to be a Reconciling congregation, with a statement that gays and lesbians were accepted. The topic had never been broached from the pulpit, from what I was aware of as a kid, nor had anything been mentioned in the church-sponsored sex ed class I had taken in junior high. So as I realized my own sexuality, I knew my parents would be accepting. It was just a matter of accepting and understanding it myself!
This is part 2 of a series of posts on my personal identity development – previous one here.
I’ve often seen the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s held up in a sort of strange but lofty isolation from other social justice movements, to the point where people almost seem to regard it as the only real legit social movement to which all others look silly and petty in comparison and Martin Luther King Jr. is the Best Activist Leader Ever, and the whole thing including him as prophet was anointed and blessed by God. I’ve seen this portrayal by everyone from Black men and women to both white liberals and conservatives. Along with this ideology is the belief that racism is the worst form of oppression, and anyone who tries to compare it with other forms of oppression or their own movement with The Movement, is being racist and appropriating from Black people.
It’s hard to articulate exactly where I’ve seen this, though I think it was a more common tactic in the earlier 2000s and 1990s. As I’ve read and listened to more writing and speeches by women and queer people of color, in particular I have come to realize the disrespectful attitudes white feminists and white GLBTQ movement activists have had towards communities of color and their struggles. When we hear this narrative, we need to question who is promoting it and who is framing it, and what is their agenda? Who are they trying to win over or alienate? Likewise, women, queer and disabled people of color are in the strongest positions to critique these ideas- they can speak from their own experiences about how racism is similar and different from other types of oppression. The view of MLK as the Best Leader the Black Community Will Ever Have is very self-defeating and oversimplified. He was a great man surely, but like any man he was flawed. He is given way too much credit while many women such as Ella Baker, and Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was responsible for much of the organizing of the March on Washington, are all too often forgotten by historians. This is the case with *every social movement* or field of art or science for that matter. Each one has many people who played key roles, but were more introverted, too ill or disabled, or female, or queer, or radical to be in the spotlight, or did not have the means to access education or travel or media coverage. That’s why I really enjoy reaching into history and remembering those who have been forgotten as my activist ancestors.
Something I’ve noticed among progressive or leftist atheist activists is that they tend to assume that atheism is culturally neutral and furthermore becoming an atheist* is necessary to achieving full liberation as an individual or for an entire oppressed group/nation etc. (*or humanism, Atheism+ or whatever positive form of atheism that they subscribe to)
There are many problematic assumptions behind these ideas. I think many of them are a reason why atheist/humanist movements tend to be heavily white and male. Though this is changing, I believe the tensions arising from increased diversity are related. A simple lack of belief in god(s) is perhaps somewhat culturally neutral (if such a thing is possible) Assuming that all forms of religion are necessarily oppressive and must be destroyed is just as cultural imperialist as declaring one true religion for all people. Extremist atheism (or anti-theism) is just as bad as extremist monotheism- in fact it’s the flip side of it. Granted, anti-theists are typically just arguing against religion, and do not have the power (and hopefully don’t want it!) to outright suppress the practice of religion. However, we are starting to see some anti-theists argue against public religious accommodations in public schools, prisons, workplaces and other settings (adding to the arguments some Christians make against non-Christian religious) in the United States, and a ban against clothing that covers the face (targeting certain Muslims) has been made in France and upheld in E.U. human rights court.
I really think people who have de-converted from any sort of fundamentalist, extreme religion need to take some private chilling time before grabbing a banner to publicly march behind, writing books and giving speeches in the name of atheism, humanism or a new religion that they choose to adopt. Just as “rebound” romantic relationships are usually a bad idea so is choosing a “rebound” religion or secular ideology. Doing so right away is likely to result in bringing a fundamentalist attitude towards the new belief system.
However even moderate and liberal ideologies and religions can be culturally imperialist if they’re not careful. As a Euro-American feminist, I’ve learned from listening to other folks that it’s best for us to step back and support rather than lead women’s reform movements in other countries, or even in my own country, in the case of Black feminism/womanism, American Indian women, Latina mujeristas etc. What works in one cultural context, may not in another.
For a different perspective check out Siviku Hutchinson’s book- Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics & the Values War
Leslie Feinberg, transgender/butch lesbian, multi-issue activist, died a few days ago in Syracuse, NY with hir partner/spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt beside hir. (Leslie identified as non-binary and preferred the pronouns hir and ze) Ze was very much a pioneer, writing the novel Stone Butch Blues in 1993 about hir journey of gender identity exploration. This was back when gay and lesbian issues were barely on the map, politically, let alone trans/genderqueer/non-binary identities!
Leslie saw all oppressions as interconnected, and sincerely fought on many different fronts- a member of the Worker’s World Party- “remember me as a revolutionary communist” were hir last words. Disability rights, the peace movement, anti-racist action along with trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. The gay and lesbian movement all too often has forgotten its radical roots and clung to a white middle-class capitalist agenda, while neglecting to include transgender and bisexual issues. Leslie always knew that the world was far more complex than that- let’s celebrate her legacy and as Mother Jones once said “Mourn the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living!”
Transgender Warrior– Leslie’s personal website
Atlantic- Why We Still Need Leslie Feinberg
Worker’s World- Leslie Feinberg- a communist who revolutionized transgender rights by Minnie Bruce Pratt