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July 13, 2009 § 6 Comments

I’m interested in language, as you might have noticed from my last post on pro-life/anti-choice semantics. You may remember that I have a little series called Language Matters, where I discuss the significance of language in culture, politics, and progress. (Keep in mind that the word “series” is used loosely here, since I’ve only written two posts.) Anyway, this here post can be filed under that category: I want to talk about womanism and feminism.

When I first discovered feminism and came out of the feminist closet, I was amazed and excited by what I naively thought was a perfect, completely inclusive movement. This is probably because I’m very privileged, as women go — cis, currently able, thin, middle-class, white — and my first introductions to contemporary feminism were authored by women within similar demographics. I thought, “Wow! A place where I can totally be myself, and be accepted and respected for my identity!” — and took for granted that all people would feel as comfortable as I did.

So yeah, I’m a bit older and wiser now, have read a bit (though not as much as I need to) about trans people and people with disabilities and people of color’s views on today’s feminism: that it is actually pretty darn exclusive a lot of the time.

I want your insight on how we can acknowledge the ways The Feminist Movement has and continues to fuck up, while still identifying with its goals. Specifically, I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.

From a Womanist Musings interview with Loryn of Black Girl Blogging:

What is your definition of womanism and do you feel that this applies to all across the board?

To me, womanism brings together the importance of men and family to the struggle for gender equality and the experience of women of color that cuts across class, race and gender lines. While I believe that womanism speaks particularly to the black female experience, it is important for men and women of all races to embrace the principles of womanism.

How would you say that womanism differs from feminism and why is it important to you to identify as a womanist rather than a feminist?

Womanism differs from feminism in that it takes account for the experience of women of color. Feminism has been painted as the movement of white middle class women and has excluded women of color and poor women for a long time. It is important to me to identify as a womanist because it means a greater devotion to causes that effect women of color like myself.

In my bio, I identify as a pro-womanist feminist, but I’m shaky on this. I think that it would be inappropriate, as a white woman, to call myself a womanist as one step towards acknowledging the experiences of WOC, and towards acknowledging feminism’s wrongdoings, as such identification infringes upon the right of WOC to have your own label (Melissa McEwan brings this up in the interview comment thread, followed by insight from Renee and Loryn — not sure how to link directly to the comment, but it’s about the fifth one down).

One question, for commenters of all demographics, with particular emphasis on WOC/self-identified womanists: is it fair to call myself a pro-womanist feminist, as a move towards accomplishing these goals? If not, how else can I humbly and respectfully identify myself?

(Sorry if this post is winding and seems to lack purpose. This is a tricky issue, one that’s been marinating in my mind for a while, but I really think dialogue is needed.)

Cross-posted at Feministe.

Quotes That Are Deeply Disturbing: Nixon on Abortion

June 24, 2009 § 1 Comment

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.

– President Richard M. Nixon on January 23, 1973

Facebook Racism

June 3, 2009 § 4 Comments

This just popped up on my Facebook news feed:

Your friend —– took the What kind of ethnicity should you be dating? quiz and the result is Asian. Chicken Chow Yummy, you just can’t resist those cute little eyes and adorable personalities, can you? =)

Yikes. Chicken chow yummy, for real? Serious racial insensitivity, playing on the stereotype that all Asians have small eyes and are shy and submissive. But there’s also the larger problem of perpetuating the idea that taking a five-question multiple choice online quiz will tell you anything of substance about your sexual, romantic, and interpersonal attractions — and that all people of a certain race are essentially the same.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, unfortunately. Facebook has a lot of jackass gaffes — the “breastfeeding is obscene” trash comes to mind, as well as obnoxious ads.

My new favorite thing

April 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Is the hilarious (and heartbreakingly realistic) Derailing For Dummies website.

Just follow this step-by-step guide to Conversing with Marginalised People™ and in no time at all you will have a fool-proof method of derailing every challenging conversation you may get into, thus reaping the full benefits of every privilege that you have.

JUST what I’ve been looking for. Amen. My personal favorite piece of advice is You’re Being Overemotional, a derailing method that’s been used on me just seven trillion too many times. Angry about that rape joke I just made? You must be on your period, Miranda. Lighten up.

The author touches on a particular point that’s been dominating my thoughts recently…

The best part is, you don’t even have to be a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, cissexual, upper-class male to enjoy the full benefits of derailing conversation! Nope, you can utilise the lesser-recognised tactic of Horizontal Hostility to make sure that, despite being a member of a Marginalised Group™ yourself, you can exercise a privilege another Marginalised Group™ doesn’t have in order not to heed their experience!

We’ve been talking about this issue in my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance for a few weeks; big post on that in the works. I’m continually fascinated by the shortcomings of progressive movements – like the historical failure of the mainstream feminist movement to include anyone but elite white women and what the queer justice crowd is willing to get loud about (hint: yes to Prop 8, no to the horrifyingly commonplace murders of trans women of color).  It is profoundly disappointing when marginalized groups act oppressively towards other groups. Call me idealistic – I am idealistic.

Dressed in White: The Media’s Assault on Black Women’s Humanity

March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments

I wrote this thesis paper on the media’s sexist and racist objectification of Black women for my Junior Inquiry research class last semester. It’s 12 pages of what I hope is feminist and anti-racist empowerment so please continue reading below the fold if you’re interested. Enjoy!

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Vogue’s Fashion For Every Figure Issue

March 21, 2009 § 7 Comments

vogue-shape-issue-coverI seem to be an ad/product lady (and I’m not alone). I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

This week, Vogue‘s Shape issue, which touts “fashion for every figure,” has me pissed.

First off, there’s no way in hell that this magazine represents women of all shapes. The evidence is right there on the cover: above the Shape Issue: Fashion for Every Figure, from size 0 to 20 copy, I see NIP/TUCK: Designing a Perfect Body. And towards the bottom of the cover: Work It! Longer Legs, Leaner Lines, Sexier Silhouette. Because apparently only long legs and lean lines are sexy. Fuck that.

But the real misogynistic fodder is on the inside, in the Laid Bare spread (again with the long legs obsession: sky-high heels in leg-lengthening flesh tones are a revelation - really? A revelation? Because I think we’ve been seeing long, thin limbs in magazines for quite some time, and they’re certainly not missing from this issue). Pics from the spread after the jump.

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Search terms and stereotypes

March 4, 2009 § 3 Comments

In the month or so since Silvia’s post on being a Latina feminist, we’ve had a steady stream of questionable search terms – that is, words or phrases that, when entered into a search engine, eventually lead people to our blog. This week alone, we’ve gotten hits from terms like “naked Latinas,” “Latina sex,” “hot naked Latinas,” “Latina women legs,” “Latina photo,” and “tied up Latina.”

Most just have two or three readers attached to them, but still. What do you all think this says about Latina women in our culture? And how do you think these people react when they find Silvia’s post – which is still our most-read piece?

Feminist and Latina? No Way.

February 9, 2009 § 11 Comments

There have been so many times when I have told someone that I am a Latina and I have received the response, “Wow, but you don’t look it at all,” or even, “You don’t act it.” I have often been confused as to what these responses could mean. At first, I believed that it is based on ignorance. Many people do not realize that Latin America is an extremely diverse place in terms of culture, religion, and race. When I tell someone that I am a Latina, I often get confused looks because of my fair skin, sometimes I even get responses that doubt my Latin American heritage. I really don’t think that these comments are coming from a place of malice. I think that these responses are a result of the pre-conceived notions that many people have of what Latin Americans look and act like, which does not take into account the extreme diversity of a large region in the world.

This may seem a little off-topic, being that this is a blog that is primarily about feminism. There’s a connection, I swear. The confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone of the fact that I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, that Spanish is my first language and that I am the first person in my family to be born in the U.S., is very similar to the confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone that I am a feminist. When many people hear the word “feminist,” their minds immediately jump to the pre-conceived notions of what a feminist looks and acts like. For example, I recently had a conversation with a peer who checked my legs for stubble immediately after I told him that I am a feminist. Hmm…This got me thinking about where these confused, surprised and doubtful reactions come from. Is it really just ignorance?

Perhaps we should examine the way that the media portray both Latinas and feminists. When a classmate tells me I don’t look or act like a Latina, what exactly does he or she have in mind? This is the second image that comes up on Google image search when you type in “Latina.” This is the third.

Clearly, it is not just Latinas and feminists that are portrayed in stereotypical and unfair ways. These are just the stereotypes that I have experienced personally. The media play a significant role in creating the preconceived notions that lead to the responses of confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive. We should be fighting these stereotypical and unfair representations in the media, as well as meeting misled preconceived notions on an individual basis with information and challenges to those notions. Not to mention the fact that the way women are portrayed, especially women of color, is a hot button feminist issue.

Amy Sedaris…

February 7, 2009 § 4 Comments

…please don’t break my heart.

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