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Pre-2008 Posts

“Morphing Into the Oppressor”

Everyone should do themselves a favor and check out chasingmoksha’s recent post, Morphing Into the Oppressor and the comments.  This is an important discussion, and chasingmoksha is doing some kickass theory-making in there.  One note:  save your comments, if you comment, before you click “send.”  For some reason chasingmoksha’s blog is touchy at times and sometimes wants you to try to send more than once.  (Also, please pay no attention to the egregiously head-tilting photo of me in my comments,  I am going to change it, just keep not getting around to it.)

Heart

Discussion

60 thoughts on ““Morphing Into the Oppressor”

  1. Heart thanks for all the comments. I know I am trying to find a link to something but I am not sure of the something or the link at this point. I am thinking somehow the white woman is hated by ALL including white men. And it is expressed through black men when we decided to marry them. I say marry vs sexed because there are enough media archetypes of the sexed black man. However, it seems the married black man to white woman is only allowed to be Clarence Thomas or O.J. Simpson. And it is because he is seen as Clarence Thomas or O.J. Simpson, that the perception of that white woman is formed. She is hated because she not out of her own agency is deemed the standard of beauty, yet she is hated because she has priviledge and she is hated if she ever tries to take on the role as “savior.” Because of patriarchy’s plot to make her the standard of beauty she is hated, yet other than white woman (WOC) is objectified and raped as well. But still the mass, the objectified WOC and white men seem to be working together (consciously or not) to focus their hatred and cause of all woes on the white woman. As you can tell I am trying to work this all out. Because I do believe in theories like the white woman wanting all the attention but I also believe that is not a picture of ALL white women and should not be allowed to go unchecked.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 12:09 am
  2. And I have a headache right now because I cannot get my prescription for my stomach medicine filled because the pharmcy could not verify and in the process they shredded the bottle and I am between new doctors because the insurance changed so I don’t have a new presciption. I’m phucked.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 12:11 am
  3. And of course by telling you about my medicine woes I just made it all about me, the typical white woman creed for others to justify dismissal.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 12:14 am
  4. Sorry, chasingmoksha! About your stomach medicine. 😦

    I think you’re right on. Check out this link, excerpts below:

    In recent critiques of feminist work for failing to take account of race or class (12), it is worth noting that the fact that there is such a thing as race and class is assumed, although race and class are generally treated as abstractions to attack gender rather than as concrete realities, if indeed they are treated at all. Spelman, for example, discusses race but does virtually nothing with class. (13) In any event, race and class are regarded as unproblematically real and not in need of justification or theoretical construction. Only gender is not real and needs to be justified. Although many women have demanded that discussions of race or class take gender into account, typically these demands do not take the form that, outside explicit recognition of gender, race or class do not exist. That there is a diversity to the experience of men and women of color, and of working class women and men regardless of race, is not said to mean that race and class are not meaningful concepts. I have heard no one say that there can be no meaningful discussion of “people of color” without gender specificity. Thus, the phrase “people of color and white women” has come to replace the previous “women and minorities,” which women of color rightly perceived as not including them twice, and embodying a white standard for sex and a male standard for race. But I hear not talk of “all women and men of color,” for instance. It is worth thinking about that when women of color refer to “people who look like me,” it is understood that they mean people of color, not women, in spite of the fact that both race and sex are visual assignments, both possess clarity as well as ambiguity, and both are marks of oppression, hence community.

    In this connection, it has recently come to my attention that the white woman is the issue here, so I decided I better find out what one is. This creature is not poor, not battered, not raped (not really), not molested as a child, not pregnant as a teenager, not prostituted, not coerced into pornography, not a welfare mother, and not economically exploited. She doesn’t work. She is either the white man’s image of her–effete, pampered, privileged, protected, flighty, and self-indulgent–or the Black man’s image of her–all that, plus the “pretty white girl” (meaning ugly as sin but regarded as the ultimate in beauty because she is white). She is Miss Anne of the kitchen, she puts Frederick Douglass to the lash, she cries rape when Emmet Till looks at her sideways, she manipulates white men’s very real power with the lifting of her very well-manicured little finger. She makes an appearance in Baraka’s “rape the white girl,”(14) as Cleaver’s real thing after target practice on Black women (15), as Helmut Newton’s glossy upscale hard-edged, distanced vamp (1976), and as the Central Park Jogger, the classy white madonna who got herself raped and beaten nearly to death. She flings her hair, feels beautiful all the time, complains about the colored help, tips badly, can’t do anything, doesn’t do anything, doesn’t know anything, and alternates fantasizing about fucking Black men with accusing them of raping her. As Ntozake Shange points out, all Western civilization depends on her (1981, p. 48). On top of all this, out of impudence, imitativeness, pique, and a simple lack of anything meaningful to do, she thinks she needs to be liberated. Her feminist incarnation is all of the above, and guilty about every single bit of it, having by dint of repetition refined saying “I’m sorry” to a high form of art. She can’t even make up her own songs.

    There is, of course, much to much of this, this “woman, modified,” this woman discounted by white, meaning she would be oppressed but for her privilege. But this image seldom comes face to face with the rest of her reality: the fact that the majority of the poor are white women and their children (at least half of whom are female); that white women are systematically battered in their homes, murdered by intimates and serial killers alike, molested as children, actually raped (mostly by white men), and that even Black men, on average, make more than they do. (16) If one did not know this, one could be taken in by white men’s image of white women: that the pedestal is real, rather than a cage in which to confine and trivialize them and segregate them from the rest of life, a vehicle for sexualized infantilization, a virginal set-up for rape by men who enjoy violating the pure, and a myth with which to try to control Black women. (See, if you would lie down and be quiet and not move, we would revere you, too.) One would think that the white men’s myth that they protect white women was real, rather than a racist cover to guarantee their exclusive and unimpeded sexual access–meaning they can rape her at will, and do, a posture made good in the marital rape exclusion and the largely useless rape law generally. One would think that the only white women in brothels in the South during the Civil War were in Gone with the Wind. (17) This is not to say that there is no such thing as skin privilege, but rather that it has never insulated white women from the brutality and misogyny of men, mostly but not exclusively white men, or from its effective legalization. In other words, the “white girls” of this theory miss quite a lot of the reality of white women in the practice of male supremacy.

    Beneath the trivialization of the white woman’s subordination implicit in the dismissive sneer “straight white economically privileged women” (a phrase which has become one word, the accuracy of some of its terms being rarely documented even in law journals) lies the notion that there is no such thing as the oppression of women as such. If white women’s oppression is an illusion of privilege and a rip-off and reduction of the civil rights movement, we are being told that there is no such thing as a woman, that our practice produces no theory, and that there is no such thing as discrimination on the basis of sex. What I am saying is, to argue that oppression “as a woman” negates rather than encompasses recognition of the oppression of women on other bases, is to say that there is no such thing as the practice of sex inequality.

    Let’s take this the other way around. As I mentioned, both Mechelle Vinson and Lillian Garland [Note from Heart, these are the women who brought lwere represented by the writer of this essay in lawsuits which resulted in what we now know as “sexual harrassment law.”] are African-American women. Wasn’t Mechelle Vinson sexually harassed as a woman? Wasn’t Lillian Garland pregnant as a woman? They thought so. The whole point of their cases was to get their injuries understood as “based on sex,” that is, because they are women. The perpetrators, and the policies under which they were disadvantaged, saw them as women. What is being a woman if it does not include being oppressed as one? When the Reconstruction Amendments “gave Blacks the vote,” and Black women still could not vote, weren’t they kept from voting “as women”? When African-American women are raped two times as often as white women, aren’t they raped as women? That does not mean that their race is irrelevant and it does not mean that their injuries can be understood outside a racial context. Rather, it means that “sex” is made up of the reality of the experiences of all women, including theirs. It is a composite unit rather than a divided unitary whole, such that each woman, in her way, is all women. So, when white women are sexually harassed or lose their jobs because they are pregnant, aren’t they women too?

    The treatment of women in pornography shows this approach in graphic relief. One way or another, all women are in pornography. African-American women are featured in bondage, struggling, in cages, as animals, insatiable. As Andrea Dworkin has shown, the sexualized hostility directed against them makes their skin into a sex organ, focusing the aggression and contempt directed principally at other women’s genitals (1981, pp. 215-16). Asian women are passive, inert, as if dead, tortured unspeakably. Latinas are hot mommas. Fill in the rest from every demeaning and hostile racial stereotype you know; it is sex here. This is not done to men, not in heterosexual pornography. What is done to white women is a kind of floor; it is the best anyone is treated and it runs from Playboy through sadomasochism to snuff. What is done to white women can be done to any woman, and then some. This does not make white women the essence of womanhood. It is a reality to observe that this is what can be done and is done to the most privileged of women. This is what privilege as a woman gets you: most valued as dead meat.

    I am saying, each woman is in pornography as the embodiment of her particularities. This is not in tension with her being there “as a woman,” it is what being there as a woman means. Her specificity makes up what gender is. White, for instance, is not a residual category. It is not a standard against which the rest are “different.” There is no generic “woman” in pornography. White is not unmarked; it is a specific sexual taste. Being defined and used in this way defines what being a woman means in practice. …

    In my view, the subtext to the critique of oppression “as a woman,” the critique that holds that there is no such thing, is dis-identification with women. One of its consequences is the destruction of the basis for a jurisprudence of sex equality. An argument advanced in many critiques by women of color has been that theories of women must include all women, and when they do, theory will change. On one level, this is necessarily true. On another, it ignores the formative contributions of women of color to feminist theory since its inception. I also sense, though, that many women, not only women of color and not only academics, do not want to be “just women,” not only because something important is left out, but also because that means being in the category with “her,” the useless white woman whose first reaction when the going gets rough is to cry. I sense here that people feel more dignity in being part of a group that includes men than in being part of a group that includes that ultimate reduction of the notion of oppression, that instigator of lynch mobs, that ludicrous whiner, that equality coat-tails rider, the white woman. It seems that if your oppression is also done to a man, you are more likely to be recognized as oppressed, as opposed to inferior. Once a group is seen as putatively human, a process helped by including men in it, an oppressed man falls from a human standard.(20) A woman is just a woman–the ontological victim–so not victimized at all.

    Unlike other women, the white woman who is not poor or working class or lesbian or Jewish or disabled or old or young does not share her oppression with any man. That does not make her condition any more definitive of the meaning of “women” than the condition of any other woman is. But trivializing her oppression, because it is not even potentially racist or class-biased or heterosexist or anti-Semitic, does define the meaning of being “anti-woman” with a special clarity. How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

    If we build a theory out of women’s practice, comprised of the diversity of all women’s experiences, we do not have the problem that some feminist theory has been rightly criticized for. When we have it is when we make theory out of abstractions and accept the images forced on us by male dominance. I said all that so I could say this: the assumption that all women are the same is part of the bedrock of sexism that the Women’s Movement is predicated on challenging. That some academics find it difficult to theorize without reproducing it simply means that they continue to do to women what theory, predicated on the practice of male dominance, has always done to women. It is their notion of what theory is, and its relation to its world, that needs to change.

    If our theory of what is “based on sex” makes gender out of actual social practices distinctively directed against women as women identify them, the problem that the critique of so-called “essentialism” exists to rectify ceases to exist. And this bridge, the one made from practice to theory, is not built on anyone’s back.

    Link

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 12:38 am
  5. It seems to boil down to no one wants to be a woman because women are inferior.

    I have notice an acceptable trend in social criticism. It seems that it is okay to say, “Sure white men are oppressing people through their [fill in the blank], however we must not forget to put those white women under the microscope with a closer eye. It seems insane. How is censuring white women accomplishing more than censuring the MAIN people in power. This trend is so prevalent it is beginning to appear that people (including POC, white men and many white women) do hate white women. It is the witch trials all over.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 6:05 am
  6. How is censuring white women accomplishing more than censuring the MAIN people in power

    Exactly. It’s interesting, when you critique the workings of male power just in general, the response is often, “well, but let’s not look at what men actually do, we have to place everything in the larger context of imperialism and colonialism,” which, of course, we do have to. What gets left out is that females as females are a colonized people, subject to male imperialism, within every class of human beings. That’s important to talk about. And it also, of course, holds true for white women, but when it comes to us it’s as though we aren’t colonized. We haven’t been subject to male imperialism on top of whatever other imperialism.

    Well, this is very fraught. I always appreciate your ovaries, chasingmoksha.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 1:34 pm
  7. The other thing is, of course, that as white women it’s up to us to divest ourselves of the privilege we do have, to be traitors to whiteness, whatever it costs us. That’s the part that nobody wants to hear about, or talk about, or it’s one part.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 1:36 pm
  8. Sounds like the white woman is everyone’s perfect scapegoat.

    Posted by Branjor | March 2, 2007, 3:20 pm
  9. And it’s fun to chain white women up for their own good, too:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070301/REVIEWS/703010302

    Posted by Rich | March 2, 2007, 4:17 pm
  10. I think if you honestly follow this reasoning for a special categorization of white women as oppressed white women, then you have to almost logically admit that of all classes of women, white women are the most complicit and complacent in their own oppression.

    Posted by Q Grrl | March 2, 2007, 4:49 pm
  11. I mean, to look at the picture you’re painting here, it becomes obvious that the only woman who qualifies as a (modified) white woman is the middle to upper class heterosexual white woman. All other women have interstices of oppression that are inseparable from the oppression they share with males who are in the same class of oppression.

    The fact that you’re tying this thread in with MichFest and women-only space gives credence to the criticism that you tend to define “woman” on myopic and self-serving terms.

    Posted by Q Grrl | March 2, 2007, 4:52 pm
  12. White women as oppressed on the basis of being female does not equal “special” categorization of “white women” or anything else. White women as oppressed on the basis of being female just equals white women oppressed on the basis of being female, as all women are oppressed on the basis of being female. To be white exempts no woman from oppression on the basis of her sex.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 4:58 pm
  13. P.S. I see zero value or usefulness in attempts to hierarchicalize women on the basis of which of us might be “most complicit or complacent in her own oppression.” That particular tangent is a guaranteed heat-, not light-producer, for one thing. For another thing, most of us, as women, have a really keen, eagle eye for the “complacencies” and “complicities” of other women, whereas, our vision is often decidely poorer when it comes to the deals we, ourselves, have cut.

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 5:01 pm
  14. Exactly Heart! Thank you. I think “white woman” so often gets conflated with the media stereotype of “upper-middle-class white soccer-mom woman” and, again, leaves out the diversity of white women–white women are ALSO lesbians, lesbian separatists, working-class, old, poor, disabled, etc. etc. This is EXACTLY what MacKinnon was saying in that article–the “privileged white women” of some of the theories some people are trying to write does NOT reflect the reality of many, many, many women of Western European descent in the US. If we have privilege, it is NOT because of our sex.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 2, 2007, 5:02 pm
  15. “white women are the most complicit and complacent in their own oppression.”

    Here lies an example for the continuation to justify scapegoating white women. There are white women who are complicit and complacent in her own oppression, however, that does not equate to ALL white women. It seems that the white woman can only be the white woman collective however other women and men can be individuals and part of the collective. How would it sound if someone said _____________ [fill in the blank with anyone who has been traditionally oppressed] are complicit and complacent in their own oppression? It would be racist, homophobic, transhating, etc etc etc. But no big deal for Miss Anne because she is the standard of beauty, the standard of being set by the patriachy to pit women against each other.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 5:09 pm
  16. Q-grrl, I think Amy and I have both responded to your comment, but I think the quote I posted also addresses what you’ve said in some detail and is worth re-posting.

    Unlike other women, the white woman who is not poor or working class or lesbian or Jewish or disabled or old or young does not share her oppression with any man. That does not make her condition any more definitive of the meaning of “women” than the condition of any other woman is. But trivializing her oppression, because it is not even potentially racist or class-biased or heterosexist or anti-Semitic, does define the meaning of being “anti-woman” with a special clarity. How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 5:17 pm
  17. chasingmoksha: How would it sound if someone said _____________ [fill in the blank with anyone who has been traditionally oppressed] are complicit and complacent in their own oppression? It would be racist, homophobic, transhating, etc etc etc. But no big deal for Miss Anne because she is the standard of beauty, the standard of being set by the patriachy to pit women against each other.

    Exactly. As was said, again, in that quote up there with reference to misogynist porn and racism in porn:

    What is done to white women can be done to any woman, and then some. This does not make white women the essence of womanhood. It is a reality to observe that this is what can be done and is done to the most privileged of women. This is what privilege as a woman gets you: most valued as dead meat.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 5:30 pm
  18. And the thing is, even when we are being “revolutionary,” resisting patriarchy, working against women’s oppression, we are still sneered at as “white feminists” whose work is supposedly elitist, trivial, imperialist, self-serving, complicit and assimiliationist. We can’t f*ing win.

    The only thing to do, as far as I can see, is continue to be as out there, as loud and unwilling to back down as we’ve ever been, and be allies in the destruction of racist capitalist patriarchy to the people who want to be our allies–and let the others do their work in the way they see fit, and wish them the best.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 2, 2007, 5:31 pm
  19. That sounded condescending, which is not what I meant. I meant, we can’t work with people who don’t want to work with us, and personally I’m going to try, as I have done in the past, to keep my focus on doing the work that I see needs doing, that makes sense to me. I want to keep trying not to get too bogged down or discouraged by squabbling and differences of opinion. There will always be those, and the best I can do is try to figure out where there is truth in critiques of me and my work, and work for change in myself and what I see and what I do. But if I think a criticism is untrue or not relevant, then I can let that be about the person who is making it.

    Augh. Don’t know if I am making any sense. I just hate to see women stop writing etc. because of things like this, and I hope that doesn’t happen, on any side of this debate.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 2, 2007, 5:38 pm
  20. It might make sense to look at who benefits when what happens to white women, because they are female, is trivialized and dismissed. White men are more than happy to pile on when this happens, and more than happy to instigate it, as well, including “progressives” and supposed “allies,” maybe especially them.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 6:10 pm
  21. Well, aren’t you contradicting yourselves then? It looks to me like you are creating a hierarchy in order to firmly place white women’s oppression as white women into a meaningful context. Further, you’re the ones that are reducing the status of white women to only those that are heterosexual, middle to upper class, when you posit that white women are the only ones who don’t share an oppression with men, and whose oppression is therefore uniquely from men.

    Posted by Q Grrl | March 2, 2007, 6:36 pm
  22. See this is where I disagree:

    How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

    I would come to the opposite impression: that white women are uniquely situated, in strength, because of the lack of multiple oppression working on their lives. White women have a unique vantage point from which to work, again in strength, to overcome sexism.

    White women digging for a parallel of oppressions seems to be an act of self-despisement. Why enter into the master’s domain when you are already half-way out?

    Posted by Q Grrl | March 2, 2007, 6:39 pm
  23. Q Grrl, this thread began as a reference to chasingmoksha’s thread, in which she gives voice to her experience of being disrespected and treated as an oppressor, in particular when she makes an effort to discuss her husband’s experiences as a black man, from her perspective as his wife. That is a complicated situation, many-layered, much to discuss. One part of the discussion is the way the oppression of females as females is dismissed and trivialized when it is white women who are discussing that oppression. It looms in stark relief to people like chasingmoksha and I because of how we are treated when we discuss racism, as white women who are race traitors. This latter experience of being trivialized and insulted gives rise to a discussion of why it might be that our experiences are not valued or that we are resented for giving voice to them.

    I think you are the only one who seems interested in discussions about “hierarchies.” That’s an interesting discussion, but I don’t think it’s relevant here. White women’s oppression as white women has to be placed into context, not to hierarchicalize women or to “dig around” for anything, but because that particular oppression seems to be contested among many who identify as progressive and feminist.

    Further, you’re the ones that are reducing the status of white women to only those that are heterosexual, middle to upper class, when you posit that white women are the only ones who don’t share an oppression with men, and whose oppression is therefore uniquely from men.

    This was an allusion to Catharine Mackinnon’s essay, where she says that even if we can find white women who are not oppressed on account of class, sexual orientation, disability, size, age, etc., those theoretically “privileged” women will still be raped, battered, incested, exploited, prostituted, made into pornography, as all other women are. She is theorizing — and I agree — that this latter fact of the oppression of all women, to include white middle class women, is trivialized and minimized because white women do not share their oppression with men, and it takes having men to agitate for change within an oppressed group in order for a sexist world to take women’s claims of oppression seriously. White women don’t have that as to sexism. They don’t have it in spades. In fact, white men are determined that white women’s claims of oppression will NOT be taken seriously by them, or by anybody, because their own dominance depends on it.

    CAM: How the white woman is imagined and constructed and treated becomes a particularly sensitive indicator of the degree to which women, as such, are despised.

    Q Grrl: I would come to the opposite impression: that white women are uniquely situated, in strength, because of the lack of multiple oppression working on their lives. White women have a unique vantage point from which to work, again in strength, to overcome sexism.

    What you quote there is in reference to CAM’s point that pornography gives us a window into this issue of the trivializing of white women’s oppression. In pornography, all women are treated horribly, and in specific ways based on their race and other factors, with white women treated best of all. And treated “best” means what? That white women, of all women, are most valued as dead meat. And dead meat is, after all, dead meat. I can’t really say it any better than CAM did, so would refer you (and all reading) to CAM’s precise words.

    Second, you keep missing something important: By far most white women DO experience multiple oppressions besides the oppression of sex. They are old, disabled, poor, single mothers, lesbians, fat, etc. But even if they don’t experience these multiple intersecting oppressions, they are still raped/incested/sexually assaulted/objectified/sexually harrassed/prostituted/made into pornography/denied reproductive rights/mistreated under the law and by doctors, psychologists and so on because they are female. That’s what CAM is addressing, this very notion you’re presenting here — this idea of some fictional het, married, middle class white woman whose life is one of such relative ease and comfort that the sexist oppression she experiences is just really nothing but a thing, as you pretty much say outright:

    White women digging for a parallel of oppressions seems to be an act of self-despisement. Why enter into the master’s domain when you are already half-way out?

    That’s just the point. Who in the name of all that is holy is half way out? Especially now!

    I think you might be hierarchicalizing women here in the precise way CAM and others here are addressing and challenging. These are made-up women you are talking about, these white women so privileged that sexism barely touches them. Women untouched by the oppressions of misogyny and sexism simply do not exist.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 7:17 pm
  24. And that’s what chasingmoksha and I are trying to get at, something in there, something like that when, as white women, we talk about the way racism has touched us or touched our husbands our families, and it begins to become clear that we know whereof we speak and that our white skin has not protected us, that we are quite vulnerable, quite a few people, to include progressives and feminists, practically visibly recoil and rush to shut us up or to shun us or whatever. Again, this is complicated, and many layered. But I think that one thing that is happening is, we might be messing with a myth, a sort of sacred mythology people don’t even realize they order their thoughts and ideologies around, something like that there are some women somewhere who are not oppressed by men, that there are some women somewhere who really are “half way out,” as Q Grrl says, whose privilege insulates them from the realities of misogyny, or who have managed not to be severely damaged by it. To learn that there is no insulation from the realities of misogyny — for any female — is hugely discouraging, and the response is something like to kill the messenger who brings that very bad news. It can be very very dangerous to mess with sacred myth that way.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 7:30 pm
  25. that there are some women somewhere who really are “half way out,” as Q Grrl says, whose privilege insulates them from the realities of misogyny.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. I never said that, and I never implied that. You have heavily implied that there are certain white women whose only oppression comes in the form of sexism from men. I’m saying that in comparison to women with multiple oppressions these white women are, indeed, half-way out. Not from sexism, but from the comprehensiveness of patriarchal oppression.

    Posted by Q Grrl | March 2, 2007, 7:35 pm
  26. Q Grrl, the white women whose “only” oppression comes in the form of sexism from men was a hypothetical created to make the point that sexism is not something to minimize. It is deadly. It is not “just” sexism. I think you’re the one talking in earnest about some theoretically “half way out” women whom you actually believe exist. Let me ask you? Is any raped woman “half way out”? Is any battered woman “half way out”? Is any incested girl “half way out”? Is any prostituted woman “half way out”? Is any woman made to be pornography “half way out”? Is any woman whose life is destroyed by a man or men in any of the myriad ways that is possible “half way out”? Is a woman dead at the hands of a man “half way out”? Half way out of what? The world of the living? The world of the dead? Your framing there obscures and miniminizes the viciousness, and deadliness, of sexism and misogyny. It’s precisely the problem this thread and CAM’s excerpt is addressing.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 7:47 pm
  27. More on topic for this thread, can a white woman married to a black man ever be “half way out” of oppression, either sexist or racist — no matter who she is? Doesn’t her marriage to a black man ensure that she will never be out at all, so far as sexism is concerned (given the treatment of white women who marry black men) and that she will also be immersed in the struggle against racism, by virtue of her marriage and its proximity and intimacies? Can she remain untouched by her husband’s struggles with racism? More importantly, can she know what those struggles are about, begin to understand and even feel them? Might it even be that she enters into them willingly, to experience them herself, because of love, commitment, devotion, friendship, loyalty? If the answer is yes, then what is the tremendous resistance to such women, talking about the racism which touches their husbands and them and their families? A racism that is always informed by sexism which is always informed by racism and on and on? What’s up with such an intensely adversarial response?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 8:19 pm
  28. Just the other day a male student in class was all huffed up when we were reading Gloria Orenstein’s article, “An Ecofeminist Perspective on the Demeter-Persephone Myth.” Apparently, he did not appreciate how Orenstein makes the connection that the acceptance of raping women parallel with the acceptance of raping the earth, “the death of nature and the rape of women.”

    I started meta-ing as I often do and ended up somewhere that has nothing (seemingly) to do with the original topic, and thought about a commercial that I kept seeing, it was a female country star, I want to say Martina McBride. She was saying something like “my family comes first, and then whatever is left over gets my attention [energy].” Coincidently that very stance is what I often hear as a justification to drive big trucks and SUVs, or to not maximize other forms of transportation, and extending further away from transportation, it is used as an excuse to over consume. Family first seems to be an acceptable excuse to disengage the moral (as always, this has nothing to do with religious morality, simply right/wrong compass). However, when dealing with racism, because it is my “family first” issue I am not afforded that same leeway. I am told repeatedly, again last night by someone who says my husband should be the one talking, and I am only talking about racism because I want to get all the attention. And then there is all this proof I have to provide in order to appear worth listening too. How often have I tagged a post “racism.” One could simply google my blog with the words, race, racist, racism, oppress, oppression, etc and find out, but by GOD I had only one post tagged racism so it is proof that I only want to talk about it to make it about me.

    It is a form of silencing. I stumbled on the fact that one minorities discriminate against another minority and out of sort of code I am not to speak of. But EVERYONE has the freedom to talk about white women.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 2, 2007, 8:58 pm
  29. And then there is all this proof I have to provide in order to appear worth listening too.

    Yes, and then when you provide the proof, it is ignored as an attempt to get anti-racist “cred” (i.e., attention) or to draw attention to yourself because it’s all about you. Of course if you didn’t write about racism at all you would be a white feminist ignoring issues of race.

    It’s interesting, chasingmoksha, in another thread I read the other day, discussing why the issue is more imperialism and colonialism than male dominance, a woman of color spoke up to say that when she serves her family meals, she serves her children first, then her husband, because she enjoys this, and herself last. But when you speak about your own commitment and love for your husband as a priority in your life, you’re told you’re making everything all about you!

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 2, 2007, 10:23 pm
  30. CM, I am curious. What does your husband have to say about how you are treated when you try to talk about racism in his behalf? Does he know what this effort is costing you?

    Posted by Branjor | March 2, 2007, 10:32 pm
  31. Heart, I read this thread last night and wanted to post about how much the Catharine A. MacKinnon article meant to me when I read it here a month or so ago, and then I see you’re a step ahead of me.

    Chasingmoksha, I hear you about how you get silenced. I think there’s definitely a phenomenon going on in which white women become a symbol that is supposed to just shut up and be decorative. I tried to write about it a few years ago:

    August 2005 – Finally, the war is back in the news. For months victimized white women, from Terry Schiavo to Natalee Holloway, made the front pages while women of color in similar situations were granted no such attention and while thousands died in Iraq. Most days, the war was out of sight and out of mind. Now Cindy Sheehan, a strong, purposeful white woman, has come forward to force the human devastation of this war back into public consciousness.

    The backlash is inevitable; many will vilify her for not suffering in the decorous silence befitting a martyr to American empire. Be a maternal icon and shed your tears silently while supporting the noble cause, they say. Just as they would have applauded Jane Fonda as a mute Vietnam-era Betty Grable pinup, another version of white womanhood as war propaganda, but will never forgive her for opening her mouth and contradicting the commanders. Just as the pretty, blonde soldier Jessica Lynch was dropped by the media when she questioned their heroic spin on her rescue. Bitch, you stepped out of line.

    I hope you don’t mind the self quote, but I think it fits and I felt like nobody understood what I was talking about until I found this blog. Don’t ever shut up!!

    Posted by roamaround | March 3, 2007, 1:38 am
  32. Branjor I don’t know how to give the dynamics of our relationship justice in a comment summary. He thinks money is supposedly the great equalizer and often it is when that money is not the equalizer that he feels the discrimination the most. As in the dry cleaning incident, I talked about in another blog. He went to pick up a comforter, paid 50 dollars for the thing and it was handed to him without any wrapping at all. It was raining, we would not want to store it without a wrapping. One would think for 50 dollars we could get a wrapping. Also he did not think the comforter was stored in a clean space while it was waiting for pick up. When he asked to have the comforter re-cleaned the woman (Chinese) told him to leave or she would call the police. I went up there the following Monday and my ass was kissed. Imagine all the dynamics at play here. First, I am a woman, so the dynamics of woman getting service over a man with money we must deal with, because he is not free of sexism nor am I. Second, he is black, the woman was Chinese and I am white. Yet I am told that I cannot discuss this because it was between two people of color. Perhaps her racism is internalized and because that may be the case, my whiteness supposed to keep me from feeling the results of her internalized racism. We could say it was one incident of bad customer service, however, it is almost weekly at similar ethnic own establishments. But I am not to note the pattern. No. So he is dealing with white men at work who challenges him constantly instead of just doing what they are supposed to, his sexist thoughts, my white skin privilege then when it comes to capitalism our dollar is not equal to other people’s dollar. But here is the secret, we are not to talk about this to anyone, –that is the code I violated being Miss Anne and all, how dare I because I could snap my fingers and people would want to be like me.
    Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t know if he knows for sure what degree it is costing me. I don’t know what it is costing me. He does not coerce me into anything, but I know he knows as well as I do that we have a daughter that will have to face the world. What is the answer to avoid cost? Segregation? If so, then who should be segregated with whom? If I go white, am I to go with my income bracket, my environmental ideology, my feminism beliefs? If he goes with black where will he get sorted? Where is the Chinese woman sorted, with Chinese-Americans, not sure, she is not born American. The splinters just keep splitting.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 3, 2007, 1:54 am
  33. Thanks for posting your writing about Cindy Sheehan, roamaround, I appreciate it. And wow, is she ever vilified! Geez. :/

    Yeah, chasingmoksha re what it costs. Both of my exes’ strategy was to confront, make a big fight, get up in people’s faces, putting everybody in danger, and them especially if the police were called. Meaning I stopped telling them most of what I went through because I didn’t want to deal with all of that, not the fights, not the conflicts, and not the foul, seething rages they sometimes feel into over things; I found my own ways to deal, or not to, if I just wasn’t up to it. As a feminist, I wouldn’t want any man to defend me in any event, so it’s complicated, but we have an idea how it’s going to be going in, we know we are going to pay for it. In general, though, we have no idea how deeply and much and relentlessly we are going to pay for it and how it’s going to feel when our kids pay for it. How great would it be if feminists could provide some buffer there, could be allies, providing support and encouragement, you know?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 3, 2007, 4:57 am
  34. Heart and chasingmoksha, I am reading everything here, but I am having a hard time posting about being a race traitor even though I am a white woman who has been partnered with both Black and Hispanic men.

    I guess I’m in a phase where I am angry about the way they privileged their oppression over mine and I don’t want to let that happen anymore. Not only that, I know that in some cases I was used by them to prove something to the white man, and they sometimes tried to use the white guilt card to control me. Never again.

    CM, please don’t interpret this as an comment on your marriage! I don’t think that interracial relationships have to be flawed; I think they can potentially be the best connections of all. Plus, my conclusion of “Let them fight their own battles and I’ll fight mine” only applies to the men (black, brown and white) that I’m mad at, not to my continued anti-racist efforts and never, ever to children or feminist allies.

    Posted by roamaround | March 3, 2007, 5:41 am
  35. CM, please don’t interpret this as an comment on your marriage! I don’t think that interracial relationships have to be flawed; I think they can potentially be the best connections of all. Plus, my conclusion of “Let them fight their own battles and I’ll fight mine” only applies to the men (black, brown and white) that I’m mad at, not to my continued anti-racist efforts and never, ever to children or feminist allies.

    I do not take it as a comment on my marriage, I took as a comment about men. My husband is patient, does great by us, his duty (I think that may be the word I am looking for) however we still deal with his sexism, just like I dealt with my second husband’s who was white, sexism. Actually he was the worse because he was not patient and his entitlement to the world was out of control. So I am aware of the differences between race and sex when it comes to men, so don’t worry.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 3, 2007, 6:20 am
  36. Yeah, roamaround. That’s one reason I am no longer married to black men!

    Not all black men are the same, maybe the better wording could be that is why you are no longer married to men. Because I am here to tell you if my marriage fails, there will be no more marrying business with men of any color.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 3, 2007, 6:22 am
  37. Yeah, I deleted that comment, chasingmoksha, because I can’t say what I would like to say in a paragraph, and I’m not sure I would say what I would like to say here, right now, in however many paragraphs, and what I said comes across wrong, which is to say, your point is very well taken.

    You’re right, it’s not black men who are the issue, it’s just men.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 3, 2007, 6:50 am
  38. If you like you can delete my comment and this comment.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 3, 2007, 7:11 am
  39. I read ChasingMoksha’s article/thread, and also this one, and I do have something to say about white Women as ‘prearranged punching-bags’, but I need to collect my thoughts and I have an early-wake-up tomorrow, as the weekends are part of my work-week at the library. What I do want to say tonight, though, is this:

    Never, EVER, think that Women ‘just can’t win’. That’s simply male wishful thinking, because after having set the parameters of the ‘game’ (i.e., there must be a winner and a loser, etc.), the extremely tiny-minded portion of the sex are becoming more and more terrified when they witness the staying-power that Women have. They burn us as witches, make fun of our physicality, stone us, rape us, deny us access to spiritual tradtions that our ForeMothers created, and still we keep coming. We are able to do incredible things unaided and alone, which men as a gender don’t seem to be able to match, because everything they have ever done was built upon earlier female technical advances (the domestication of animals, fire-use, weaving and associated ‘branching’ technologies like bow-strings and fishing nets, and herbal/pharmacological knowledge, for starters), and everything they have supposedly gone on to ‘do all by themselves’ as ‘world civilizers’ would have fallen flat on its face if women were not constantly the labor force bolstering every last macho-werk. They attack us out of a very primal Fear that they have Done Wrong in committing the Archetypal Theft (and Subsequent Trashing) of Civilization from its First Mother Creators, hence the garbage about Woman/Eve being the original sinner– it’s male piss-your-pants Fear and Shame manifesting as Displacement, pure and simple, and the more they ‘try to lay it off on Women’ the deeper they make the hole they dig for themselves. And we just keep on coming, keep on refining our skills and our spirits, and we don’t let up.

    There’s a good quote from Ghandi about achieving victory: ‘First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.’ Well, we will win, but it’s like a birth– there’s a contaction, and then a lull, and then another contraction, and so-on, until the baby is born. And all the brutality is because we are now at the ‘then they fight you’ stage. This is also why all sorts of other ‘splintering oppressions’– of blacks, jews, latinos, etc., ad nauseum, keep cropping up. It’s a ‘delaying tactic’ to try and keep the women of all the ‘splinter oppression’ groups from working in concert, because THAT is what men fear– Female reassertion of cultural control. Frankly, a lot of men (especially the religiously-inclined) see Armageddon as a preferable outcome to anything even faintly hinting at Female Dominance, and those two words conjoined are the ones they want to keep Women from speaking at all costs, and Women have got to stop this whole ‘Oh no, we just want to be equal’ nonsense. It doesn’t serve us as a species at all. If working in an increasingly Female workplace over the last 30 years has taught me anything, it is that my sex is inherently better at organizing and running things, as well as in being able to harmonize divergent personalities in the work environment. We also think ahead better and plan for the future better than men do, hands down.

    Personally, as a Woman, I want to Take Over, if only to see that this whole War-As-Menstruation-Envy-thing gets consigned to the junk-heap of history once and for all. And why are Women afraid to say they want to Run Things? Because men will be hostile to us if we say this? Well, excuse me, but how much more hostile can you get than SM, infibulation, clitoridectomy, foot-binding, incest/rape, burkahs, sex-slavery, girl-baby murder and nuclear warfare? This kind of nonsense cannot be stopped by men because it is too widespread among men. We must cultivate and elect as much Female Power as we possibly can: why do you think Female suffrage was so long denied? If we want to save ouselves as Women as well as our children of both sexes, and our Planet, we have got to think really, REALLY BIG, and plan really, REALLY BIG!

    The Native Americans got it right most of the time because they had Women sitting prominently in their Councils of Elders, which is probably the main reason why there was such an out-and-out effort to kill their culture(s) via buffalo-slaughter, land-grabs and forced Xtian conversion. There is a Tribal saying–

    ‘The men cannot go to war until the women make their moccasins.’

    If We keep firmly in mind the Female paradigm of Female Unity,and foster that unity in every creative way in which we are able, We Will Win!!!

    Posted by akkarri | March 3, 2007, 9:32 am
  40. It’s hard to say the right thing when you’re angry, and from what you’ve written Heart, you have every right to be angry. In a rational mood, I personally wouldn’t even say men are the problem. I would say the system, patriarchy and white male supremacy, is the problem, and men and women indoctrinated by that system become the problem.

    But why am I as a white woman not allowed to get angry on my own behalf? White women only get praised for anger and action on behalf of others. I think CAM said it best when she pointed out that the white middle class woman does not share her oppression with any man. Therefore, she should shut up and be beautiful, as the misogynist French expression goes (“Sois belle et tais toi”), or she will be trivialized, dismissed and silenced.

    For a year now, I’ve been going through a serious stalking problem with an ex who is a Mexican man. It drives me crazy that I KNOW my white liberal friends see his behavior as cultural when I KNOW BETTER since I grew up on the run from my stalking white father who was every bit as “macho” and even more of an asshole. Their dismissal of my ex’s behavior as that of a Latino rather than that of a man does the same thing as the silencing of white women: it locates the problem safely away from male supremacy.

    So I am angry and white and not afraid to tell my story. I think I have as much right as anyone to be angry, say so, make mistakes, learn from them, change, grow and remain imperfect. That’s why I am also reclaiming some white sheroes who have been taboo for awhile: Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Addams, Margaret Sanger among others. They were all flawed, and I abhor some things they said and did, but why do they have to be perfect? No other leaders are held to the same standards. Look at MLK’s treatment of women, for example. Malcolm X said some stuff I don’t like too, but I still admire him. Why are white women leaders so particularly vilified?

    Not everybody has to agree with me or like me. People can argue, and sometimes I might be wrong and change my mind. That’s growth. But I won’t let fear shut me up.

    Thanks to CM and Heart for this difficult but important conversation. White women are a major part of the population in the U.S., and discussing how to be an active, radical, vocal white woman activist is a worthwhile effort.

    Posted by roamaround | March 3, 2007, 2:43 pm
  41. CM, thank you for trying to answer my question. I am sorry if I asked a very hard question. I began to get concerned after the protracted silence that followed its posting. It is, as you say, quite complex, with a lot of splintering of the issues surrounding it. As a matter of fact, it is so complex I don’t know what to say so am just keeping the information percolating in my mind until I can do more with it. I understand the anger it inspires in you, the way white women are totally invalidated in relation to this issue, I feel it myself, and I have not even been partnered with a POC or the mother of a child of color, though I have thought deeply about racism in my life due to having grown up in an area where many of my friends and schoolmates were of color. I wish everyone in this situation the best of luck in dealing with it and will try to support in any way I can. As roamaround said, this is a difficult but important conversation.

    Posted by Branjor | March 4, 2007, 4:12 am
  42. I am now diagnosed by Nine Pearls (http://www.ninepearls.com/) of being bi-polar. I don’t think I have ever had a conversation about bi-polar in all of my blog or comment sections. It is so typical of calling the woman who rocks the boat crazy. The lovely Miss Caroline who commented here a few times called me a “crazy bitch.” Then Donna of obsessed with Heart who rivals BD’s obsession with Heart fame implied that white women who marry black men have low self-esteem. Hence, in one post we witness disablism, sexism, and racism. Plus there is this incredible entitlement to call me MOKSHA instead of chasingmoksha. What person who understands a drop of Hinduism would call themselves moksha.

    In summary.

    I must have bi-polar disease. And it was stated in a way to suppress people who do have bipolar.

    Women who rock the boat are crazy bitches. Sexism goes unchecked.

    White women who marry black men have low self-esteem. In other words, blacks are inferior to whites. Hence the racism in the statement.

    Oh and there was a “check with my black friend” comment as well, that of course goes unchecked by the “anti-racists/sexists.”

    But these are the white anti-racists talking.

    WOW!

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 4, 2007, 5:05 am
  43. I began to get concerned after the protracted silence that followed its posting.

    My computer time is very weird. Sometimes it can go hours, sometimes it can go days. Sometimes I just need time to think. Sometimes my back and eyes hurt. Sometimes I want to chunk the computer out the window. So I’m sorry. I am not the best person to get back with someone quickly. I take the joke that I am distracted by a passing butterfly very well. LOL!

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 4, 2007, 5:08 am
  44. Yeesh. Well, like I said on your blog, chasingmoksha, we can just let them keep talking long enough that they out themselves as the racists, ableists and sexists that I know them to be. I’ll save it off and write about it where it can be widely read.

    I didn’t know anybody could be as obsessed with me as BD, though! That is downright impressive. :/

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 6:29 am
  45. I commented on your last comment over at my blog that I don’t think they are worth the time. It is big girl envy and nothing else.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 4, 2007, 6:30 am
  46. I haven’t read all the comments on other blogs, but from what I have read in the blogosphere recently and seen myself in activist and academic circles, I see a can of worms to that needs to be opened. I’m not sure what you mean by big girl envy, but I see the conflict as being over whose voice gets space, legitimacy, and power.

    The venom I see from some WOC makes me think they are defending a space that is based on shaky ground. My argument is going to be controversial, but I think the solidarity “of color” is valid in some contexts but not in every context. I don’t see a Chinese engineer and the Zambian copper miner working for him as sharing the same oppression via color, for example.

    In North America and Europe, all non-white groups share some common experiences of oppression, and European colonization has left most of the world with a legacy of white supremacy, but the commonalities have limits. It may sound obvious, but not every person of color can speak to the oppression of other people of color. It’s ridiculous, but it’s what is being done since the all encompassing term “of color” has gained unquestioned legitimacy.

    White women have had some space in academia for, what, forty years? Women of color have long been excluded and are more recently gaining positions, which is good, but now women are put in the position of fighting over scraps. Some North American WOC academics base their careers on speaking on behalf of oppressed groups, regardless of their class status or life experience or ethnicity. It’s the ugly truth that it’s in their career interest to exclude white women from that conversation. It happens in activism too, where the prize is often the approval of the male left since the issue of male supremacy gets effectively sidelined.

    It’s true that white, middle-class feminists do sometimes view race and class as secondary issues, and that’s wrong too and needs to be addressed. Maybe it will take some shouting and fighting to work it all out.

    Posted by roamaround | March 4, 2007, 4:18 pm
  47. Well, it’s a complicated discussion and fraught with potential for trainwrecks, for sure, and especially where you have people with axes to grind for other reasons (like people who oppose female-only space, like people who are not feminists, like pornhounds, like people for whom SM is of central import, who don’t like radical feminist critiques or analysis of all of the above.)

    Here are some things I’ve been thinking about, kind of random, but I am going to just list them while I’m thinking about it in the interest of process:

    * If you click on the link to that photo at the top of this post, there is some interesting writing about black man/white woman relationships. This is still, in 2007, in the U.S., in general, a taboo subject. People don’t really want to talk about it. To give perspective as to the depth of the taboo-ness, within the last few years there was a gigantic, disgusting drama over the fact that certain hardcore pornography outfits began to include black man/white woman films and scenes. Multitudes of racist-ass white men — the prime consumers of the hate speech known as porngoraphy and the primary benefitters of white male dominance — boycotted the pornographers who created this porn. Of course, white man/black woman porn continued to be just fine so far as these guys went, because white men are supposed to own all the women whom they believe exist for their benefit.

    * In the same way, and by the same sexist, misogynist, racist logic, miscegenation laws were rarely enforced against white man/black woman couples. They were primarily enforced against black man/white woman couples. The underlying theme is, again, white men own all of the women.

    * It is this underlying theme that gave rise to the lies which resulted in the lynchings in the South in the early 1900s, where black men were accused by white men of raping white women. It was always a lie, cooked up so that white men could continue to claim ownership of white women and defend the boundaries of white supremacy. (Note: At the behest of black woman leaders of the time that white women challenge their husbands’ lies, violence, murder, racism, and treachery, iow, do something about “their men,” white women began a campaign of confronting white men, staging actions every time a lynching was planned, showing up to protest, confronting pastors and sheriffs and shaming them over what they were doing, and by the early 1930s, the lynchings had ceased. They also flooded the South with pamphlets which openly called the lynchers liars.)

    * Patriarchal conservative Christianity, some expressions of it, have always forbidden interracial dating and relationships and some still do. People who dated interracially, for example, were, until very recently, and maybe still are, kicked out of Bob Jones University.

    * White male ownership rights to white women are critical to the continuance and preservation of white heterosupremacy. This is the reason white women who miscegenate are the scum of the earth to white racists, and if anybody doubts this, google “kinist,” or “Stormfront,” (Warning, contents may trigger.)

    * In other words, those born white and male grow up in a societal and cultural context of entitlement to white women. Unless and until their consciousnesses are raised, they will act out of this entitlement because their own ongoing white supremacist projects depend on it.

    I am saying that the problem here is white racist, heterosupremacist men in a white male heterosupremacist culture, which the United States is. So although this particular internet conflict, sadly, but predictably — par for the course — includes zero white men (because they benefit by the fact of it), make no mistake, white men authored the conflict, created it, and they benefit by it. Which should make them always suspect when and if they presume to, in any way, take sides. (And I don’t know if any have in this particular conflict, I’m just saying.) White men have masterfully placed the blame for their own racist projects, their own racist maneuverings, and their own racism on white women. They have projected their own bullshit onto white women over and over again. The sad thing is that what they’ve done is, in general, only actually crystal clear to those who are most victimized by what they’ve done– people like chasingmoksha. People like me. Also sad is, not too many people want to hear about it. It is easier to attack white women, always, than it is to attack white men; it’s much riskier to attack white men.

    Following is part of a poem I read decades ago, as a college student. It pained me then, and it pains me now. It was written by Toni Cade Bambera, a highly-regarded black poet whose work I also deeply respect and love, despite the way this poem pains me. No one should misunderstand: I understand the sentiments in this poem and I don’t fault the author for (so eloquently and passionately) expressing them. I blame white, male heterosupremacist, sexist, racist men for the acts, atrocities, hatreds, violations, rapes, murders, lynchings, enslavings, brutalities small and great which created the dynamics which inform this poem, which created the dynamics which have informed my life, and chasingmoksha’s life and roamingaround’s life.

    “We are the women whose bars and recreation halls are invaded by flagrantly
    disrespectful, bigoted, simpering, amoral, emotionally unstable, outcast, maladjusted,
    nyphomaniacal, condescending white women…in desperate and untiring search of the
    “frothing-at-the-mouth-for-a white-woman, strong backed, sixty-minute hot black”….
    We are the women who, upon protesting this invasion of our privacy and sanctity and
    sanity, are called “jealous”, and “evil”, and “small-minded”, and “prejudiced”…

    When a white man “likes colored girls”, his woman (the white woman) is the last one he
    wants to know about it. Yet, seemingly, when a Negro “likes white girls”, his woman (the
    Black woman) is the first he wants to know about it. White female rejects and social
    misfits are flagrantly flaunted in our faces as the ultimate in feminine pulchritude. Our
    women are encouraged by our own men to strive to look and act as much like the white
    female image as possible, and only those who approach that “goal” in physical
    appearance and social behavior are acceptable. At best, we are made to feel that we are
    poor imitations and excuses for white women.

    Evil? Evil, you say? The Black woman is hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, resentful,
    frightened, and evil! Who in this hell dares suggest that she should be otherwise? These
    attitudes only point up her perception of the situation and her healthy rejection of the
    same.”

    From “Who Will Revere The Black Woman?”, published in The Black Woman, edited by Toni Cade (1970)

    So there is a solid history of white-woman-as-the-problem, as evidenced here, as evidenced in the blogosphere. I don’t, again, lay that at the feet of any person of color, anywhere.

    I lay that solidly at the feet of white men, who are to blame.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 4:20 pm
  48. An interesting and on-topic read: Where the White Women At

    …”the “Where the White Women at” phenomenon: liberal white men are typically only interested in matters of race when it puts their conservative white peers and rivals at a disadvantage. Similarly, conservative white men were suddenly and miraculously interested in the sexism of Kanye West and his song “Gold Diggers” after his remarks about George W. Bush not caring about black people.

    Indeed, much of the “Where the White Women at” trope was not so much about genuine care over the well being of minority women, but men of all races communing together—as men—over the bloodied corpses of women…

    While all white people in the West are privileged and are likely universally racist to some degree or another, an uncontested fact among those considering themselves on the Radical Left or part of the general progressive movement, it is interesting to note that no white feminist who supports the “sex-industry” has ever had a serious accusation of racism leveled against her. On the other hand, it is those women who are least of use to men—Mary Daly and other separatists of various sorts—who become embroiled in such matters. When feminists saw the widespread publication of photographs taken at Abu Ghraib as a launch pad for discussions of how the same humiliation is often visited upon women in mainstream pornography, and how that is an equally political crisis, they were told by the male Left that such concerns were ill-timed and inappropriate, tantamount to racism given the privileged positions of the white women voicing them: indicating that they should instead concern themselves with the plight of minority men rather than their own selfish “special-interest” topic. However, self-avowed feminists who support the sex industry, such as Dr. Susan Block, were given free reign by white liberal male publications such as Counter-Punch to write on “Bush’s POW Porn” given that they did not threaten men’s general right to use women in pornography and yet were willing to be used as a weapon against their conservative peers and rivals on the Right.

    This is similar to how feminists who claim that pornography (and even drag shows) are the equivalent to blackface and minstrel shows are routinely hushed, often with patriarchal apologists making note of a feminist’s white status whenever applicable. These same liberal white men have no compunction about speaking of racial matters themselves, thinking their sensitivity and dutiful attention to the topic frees them from the straightjacket of silence they would prefer for less sympathetic and informed conservatives. Yet somehow the most radical of Left wing women are equally restricted in their discussion. Liberal white men often claim that sexism has justifiably biological components and is thus infinitely more complex than the cut and dry issue of racism—which is always wrong—making any parallels untenable.

    If all whites are racist, this discrepancy in society’s reaction to feminists of various stripes must exist because of male power. Indeed, the “Second Wave” of feminism (encompassing the era of the 1960s and 1970s) as a whole is routinely painted as racist, or at least more racist than the current era of “Third Wave” feminism, even though it is hard to find quantifiable evidence to support such a claim or even the necessity of the appellative division into waves. While there have certainly been many improvements in social justice over the course of the past three decades, both within feminism and Western culture in general, it can often be hard to discern if they are more than superficial given the heightened level of fetish accorded to minority groups by whites and the increased reliance on “Noble” caricatures.

    Again, it is interesting to note that the most frequent occasion for the citation of “Second Wavers as racists” is also in the defense of white males; those who, in this case, consider themselves to be women of a sort. The discussion of identity and authenticity surrounding the medical transsexualism industry (and the more nebulous transgendered or genderqueer designations) is often defined by the relationship of those declared male at birth and their subsequent right to enter into separatist space set aside for women, making such arenas the ultimate test of “passing” or presenting as a member of a sexed or gendered class. While such spaces were politically carved out by the “Second Wave,” charges of racism against the feminists responsible for the construction and maintenance of these spaces (who often view efforts toward trans-inclusion as a colonialist act on the part of those born male), not only tie into similar indictments of “transphobia,” they work on an ahistoric paradigm: good-feminism was literally born yesterday, conceived by careful collaboration with the white males (“…to females”) who have controlled the discourse on gender to suit their own sensibilities and requirements.

    And props to Rich, who could have linked to this himself at any point in this discussion, but who didn’t. Weird that for this, I must give him props, but that’s the way it has to work for white men who truly are allies to women (as opposed to the multitudes of white men who exploit feminist women, and conflicts between feminist women, in the interests of their own agendas and to their own benefit.) Rich wrote this back in 2005.

    Heart

    Posted by Heart | March 4, 2007, 5:13 pm
  49. My memory of the second wave, which took place when I was a K-12 student,
    is that (a) some of the analyses (e.g. of “the problem which has no name”) were of the situations of comparatively privileged women, and so were not universally applicable [although I am not sure they claimed to be], and most importantly (b) a lot of mainstream people decided to pick certain ideas and not others, as in yes, let’s get privileged women more equality with men, within the existing system. The idea that those two things *were* second wave feminism is a misconception.

    Posted by profacero | March 4, 2007, 5:41 pm
  50. P.S. very interesting points, Roamaround.

    Posted by profacero | March 4, 2007, 5:48 pm
  51. Whoof, exactly, profacero! That’s the entire motivation of my website–providing access to materials from the 60s through now that show that a large segment of the feminist movement has ALWAYS taken issues of race, class, ability, sexuality, etc. etc. extremely seriously. And frankly I get more pissed off all the time that what I would call “equality” or “reform” or even “liberal” feminism gets called “white” feminism when the majority of women promoting radical feminism were, and are, ALSO white–simply because white people are a majority in this country! The prevalence of white women within radical feminism/separatism does not deny that there are differences of opinion among women of color on feminism and separatism, since there are also strong, outspoken separatist of color. As always, our skin color, ethnicity, what have you, does NOT define our political perspective.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 4, 2007, 6:02 pm
  52. As a white woman who graduated from high school in 1966, I remember my early years of burgeoning feminist awareness. I came to radical feminism slowly. My understanding of sexism began with me, my experience, the ways in which I was oppressed. The complexity of oppression, an awareness of the narrowness of my own white middle class focus, only developed slowly over time, is in fact still developing, so when people say that second save feminsim was racist, what is meant? It sounds sometimes as if what is being criticized is the fact that second wave feminsim didn’t spring fully formed from the head of zeus. I believe that anyone criticizing second wave feminsim for its blind spots, its lack of appreciation for differing forms of oppression, needs to be aware both of the multiplicity of strands that exist within feminism and with the trajectory of theory within these strands.

    Posted by jfr | March 4, 2007, 6:22 pm
  53. Yep. Of course, when we cite to articles which evidence that a large segment of the feminist movement, including radical feminism, has ALWAYS taken issues of race, class, ability, sexuality seriously, someone will pop up and say we found our “tokens”. But if we don’t cite to those articles/feminists we’ll be told they (1) didn’t exist; (2) all we care about is white feminists/writings. All of which is to say that what appear to be the issues are not necessarily the issues. That’s true wherever people are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    roamaround: White women have had some space in academia for, what, forty years? Women of color have long been excluded and are more recently gaining positions, which is good, but now women are put in the position of fighting over scraps. Some North American WOC academics base their careers on speaking on behalf of oppressed groups, regardless of their class status or life experience or ethnicity. It’s the ugly truth that it’s in their career interest to exclude white women from that conversation. It happens in activism too, where the prize is often the approval of the male left since the issue of male supremacy gets effectively sidelined.’

    Yeah. How strange is it to have women of color who, for example, pass for white, are professionals or even grad students, and who may not even have been raised by their parents of color or around persons color, or women of color who live in Canada, Great Britain and again can pass for white, are professionals or college students, middle class, attempting to speak for “women of color” worldwide, as though somehow women of color in fact are the amalgam we as radical feminists have constantly been reminded women are not? And how odd to presume, particularly as an outsider to U.S. racism, which is unique in some ways, to chastise and condemn women who are sinking in it, whether they are white or of color?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 6:25 pm
  54. I just ran into one of those “let’s get privileged women more equality with men, within the existing system” feminists over at Twisty’s and have been arguing with her ad nauseum about the primacy of class. It’s really ironic since I recently limped back to feminism after bloody battles with socialists trying unsuccessfully to get them to understand the primacy of sex/gender. And here we are struggling over race. Was it CM who said that the hierarchies have got to go? (hey hey ho ho) It’s all important and indivisible.

    Posted by roamaround | March 4, 2007, 6:29 pm
  55. Yeah, jfr. When I hear this “Second Wave was racist” stuff, I know that it’s usually coming from people who have taken gender studies classes, or read books on “gender,” writtenor taught by people who don’t like radical feminists because of our positions on sexuality and gender, in particular. Calling us “racist” and “classist” turns wanna-be leftists/progressives against us right quick, never mind what the facts might be.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 6:31 pm
  56. By the way, the “let’s get privileged women more equality with men, within the existing system” feminist I mentioned is not Second Wave. Those kind of Second Wavers do exist though. I know because my mom is one. She’s all about women gaining power in the system and has never really gotten race or class. Liberal, not radical.

    Posted by roamaround | March 4, 2007, 6:38 pm
  57. You know, my thinking has always been, roamaround, feminism is a grass roots movement, bottom line. Yeah, yeah, some have institutionalized it, but the life has always been in the grass roots (which is not to dismiss the excellent work of feminists within institutional settings or even who created some of the institutions. For example, I am very grateful for the work of Charlotte Bunch, a lesbian and I think a separatist, or at one time she was, and a radical feminist, who started the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and who has done some amazing work on all sorts of issues, who never lost her “grass rootsness” I guess I want to say, despite her organization.) In a grass roots movement, hierarchies are irrelevant. We’re all applying ourselves to our own work, in general, as you alluded to, jfr, work which emerges out of our own, personal, lived realities as women. That’s what we know. That’s where we are most effective. Where things go sideways is where somebody comes along and says, “You can’t do that work! If you do that work you are a _____________ist.” Which then gets everybody defensive and arguing and saying, “Well, you can’t do YOUR work because if focus on yours you are a _______.” That’s where the hierarchies come from, people insisting that their work is more important or is on behalf of a more marginalized, oppressed group, or something like that. If we could view each other as allies and leave off on the accusations, we could do better work. The problem, of course, is that the patriarchs and those vested in the status quo don’t like the work some of us are doing which might directly impact their own hopes for ongoing dominance, and so they manipulate and strategize, and create divisions, and work to marginalize and weaken the work of feminists where it is threatening to them, and off we go, then, once again, everyone defending her own work, white guys sitting around eating their popcorn and talking about “catfights.”

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 6:44 pm
  58. Thanks for all the fascinating posts above, Heart. I’m sorry if sometimes I don’t refer back to things, I’m trying to get better at that, but I am reading and thinking about it all.

    The Toni Cade Bambera poem moves me too. It’s painful, but I can hear (and need to just be still and listen to) the pain it’s coming from. About grassroots activism and being allies, I think part of what’s going on in this thread is who gets to be central in a struggle and who is an ally. I feel like I am an ally in race and gay/lesbian issues, but central in my union battles, for example. I don’t feel like I have a feminist movement I’m central in because the white het feminist groups are mostly liberal, and I’m too radical for them yet not queer enough for other groups. Still searching, but the advice you’ve given before about checking out Mich fest finally sunk in and I’m hoping to find out more there.

    Posted by roamaround | March 4, 2007, 7:10 pm
  59. Yeah, roamaround, I think we kind of all feel that way about the white het feminist groups! I’ve never been a “member” of any, although I’ve been a contact/sponsor for the World March of Women since 2000, which is imo very much aligned with historic radical feminism. I think, again, consistent with grass roots kinds of politics, that radical feminists have never really had “groups” beyond local consciousness-raising/affinity groups of various kinds. I think we’ve always been fairly loosely networked, which is, in some ways, an advantage. The “group” I feel represents me is the group comprised of those who read, edit and publish Off Our Backs, Rain and Thunder, Sisyphe, the women who sponsor, speak at, and attend anti-pornography conferences, like the upcoming one with Gail Dines and Robert Jensen, land dykes and the womyn who publish Maize, who are sponsoring the upcoming Feminist Hullaballoo, all of the women who will be speaking and attending the Hullaballoo, the women in the original, grass roots, feminist domestic violence movement, to include Vancouver Rape Relief and most of the YWCA shelters, and a few others, womyn’s clinics, like Aradia (which just shut down), radical midwives, radical feminist bloggers, and SOME of the women who attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which still has its roots in Second Wave, radical feminist/lesbian separatism, meaning Michfest reflects radical feminist/lesbian separatist politics and sensibilities. Having said that, it has also not been immune from the queer backlash and only some of the women who attend likely even realize that what they are participating in is what really remains, apart from land communities, of an expression of radical feminism/lesbian separatism in community form. There are things that go on on the land now that aren’t consistent with any feminism I love and believe in and am committed to, which doesn’t, however, change my commitment to the Festival or the Festival community, which is just a life-changing, living organism, honestly. If you go to the Festival and you’re lucky, you’ll encounter Marilyn Frye, Carolyn Gage, the Vancouver Rape Relief women, the Off Our Backs women, lots of land dykes, Uppity, Amazon Night, Cinder, me😛, Alix Dobkin, maybe Amy and Kya, not sure if they’re coming back, maybe Yawning Lion, and lots of other cool radfems, but we are very much outnumbered by women who don’t share our politics. That doesn’t change the amazing experience that Michfest is, though. I totally believe every woman needs to experience it at least once. It’s a taste of the world as womyn envision and build it and live in it.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 4, 2007, 7:48 pm
  60. I don’t think I express how much I appeciate everyone’s comments. I know I don’t because I don’t respond that much. I am more of a reader than a writer and was the sole purpose I started blogging Summer 2004. But I guess old habits are hard to die, because still I read way more than I write. This is why I appreciate Heart’s committment so much, and Amy’s tireless writing, and the comments here that are just as good if not better than reading a scholarly articles. Now I cannot remember why I wanted to comment now. Oh, to say that I cannot always respond because I do do a lot away from the computer and I did not want anyone to think I did not read anything directed to me.

    Also, I am shaken once again at the latest in the news male terrorist. They found the torso of his wive’s body in the garage. But of course his lawyer is already setting the stage to make him out as the poor victim of his wife excessive traveling. Perhaps Ann Bartlow can clear this up, but the article was written as if he should be only guilty for her dismemberment, not the murder. As if dismemberment is not the murder. RMFEs.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 4, 2007, 11:32 pm

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