Other Perspectives on Feminsm

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson


Viva La Feminista – This Latina is Still a Feminist

After college and I entered the real world and got a job (in a feminist office) and starting volunteering off-campus with feminist groups, that’s when the racism shit started to fly. So I’ve been there. Been the token who works her ass off and gets shafted in the end. Was accused to stealing a speaking engagement when the group specifically asked for me. La-de-da, Ms. JD.

So what keeps me coming back to feminism?

It’s my home. Despite its flaws, calling myself a feminist is the truth. Each movement has its own devils to wrestle with – but that is an individual thing. Feminism the philosophy, transcends the bullshit and comforts me. And I refuse to let racism define feminism for me.

I refuse to be run out of the movement.
I refuse to let racists have total access to the soapbox, even if their soapboxes are larger, cooler, and get more ears.
I refuse to be silenced.

Tanglad – Feminism and Race in the Phillipines

My feminism initially aimed to tackle issues like the gender gap in health and education. But since then, my feminism has branched out, to include concepts like colonialism and globalization. I learned much by listening to women like Zenaida Soriano and Teresita Vistro of AMIHAN (the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines), who explain here why globalization is a feminist issue:

    We comprise the majority of the landless poor, 51% of the total female population in the region are employed in agriculture and we produce 60% of the food for the Asian region, yet our right to land continue to be denied.

    As our right to land is continuously denied, so is our right to decent lives. As our rights are denied, so is our children’s right to a healthy lives and therefore of the lives of future generations.

Globalization is a social justice issue, it’s a feminist issue. To be a feminist in the Philippines means that one also has to take part in the struggle against export-oriented economic policies that deny peasant women their land.

Continue reading

Coonskin Revisited

by Guest Contributor Ali

A couple of weeks ago Latoya posted an entry titled Deconstructing Coonskin here at Racialicious. I was aware of the film prior to this although I had never seen it in its entirety. I had attempted to watch Coonskin several times, but could never seem to make it past part 3 on YouTube. Something about the film that I couldn’t quite put my finger on made me too uncomfortable to make it all the way to the end. About a week after Latoya’s post I happened upon a post on another blog informing me that Ralph Bakshi would be in the city April 18-20 for a series of events. The main component of the series was a back-to-back screening of two of his most popular films, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin (also known as Streetfight). Also, Bakshi himself was to appear at the screening for a Q+A session. Talk about impeccable timing! I passed this info along to Latoya and she asked me if I wouldn’t mind checking out the screening and reporting back to her. The following is my report.

Part my longstanding apprehension about Coonskin was that I wasn’t quite sure what Bakshi was trying to convey. The opportunity to hear him talk about the film and describe its purpose and his intent seemed like a perfect opportunity to clear up the confusion. I attended the full screening, mainly because I wanted to note the change, if any, in audience make up for each film. Surprisingly the audience remained pretty homogeneous for both features. Although there were a few more black viewers for Coonskin (the audience for Coonskin was larger in general) the audience was comprised mostly of single white men. There was a sprinkling of female viewers, most of whom were also white. (On a completely unrelated note, the couple in front of me were making out through a good portion of the film. Apparently Coonskin is a date movie, who knew?)

The most eye opening portion of the night was definitely the Q+A. Bakshi offered a great deal of insight on the art of animation and the creation process for both films. Apparently much of the crew that worked on Coonskin were former animators from MGM and Disney. He also noted that some animators were so offended/uncomfortable with the subject matter that they walked from the project. The best question of the evening came from a young black man who asked Bakshi why he felt it necessary to utilize racial stereotyping in Heavy Traffic. He was specifically referring a dream sequence in which a black man transforms into a monkey before ripping the face off of an Italian man. Bakshi seemed rather taken aback and slightly offended by the question; that’s when things got rather interesting. Continue reading

Open Thread: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Okay, y’all – who saw the movie over the weekend?

If you did not see the movie because you found the first H & K too sexist, I am here right now to tell you that you made the right choice because the second movie is even worse. (Though, you do get to see three different men breakdown over their respective lost loves and one of the biggest misogynists get their comeuppance.)

If you have not yet seen the movie, please do not read any further because here there be spoilers. Continue reading

Does Feminism Have to Address Race?

by Latoya Peterson

So I have been thinking hard lately as to why I should continue to identify as a feminist. Should I change my designation to womanist? Perhaps to I should have no designation at all.

After all, my views won’t change. I am still dedicated to highlighting issues that impact women of color and I am still going to work in my community with young women of color. I am still going to write things for them to read, to think about. I am still going to write to inform the men in our community what we are going through.

But does that require me to identify as a feminist?

I stumbled across a blog post on Astarte’s Circus with a strong declaration on why Octoglalore is a feminist. Pretty solid post. Feminists believe that women should be equal to men. Period. Full stop. I also read a post by the Apostate explaining why some things are not feminist issues, particularly in reference to Holly’s post on Feministe.

She writes:

Feminism should be about women.

Everything else has its own label.

And it’s important to keep the labels distinct because that’s why feminism was invented. “Man’s” inalienable rights did not include women. “Human” rights has not traditionally included women because women are not necessarily seen as human. Religions giving communities dignity and centering force has not included women. We needed our own club. We still need it. If you bring my race into feminism and start talking about my asshole brother’s right to stay in this country (he’s an immigrant of less certain status than I), guess what? The feminist arena, my safest safe space, my only refuge from the enemies of my very life, has been compromised.

In another post, the Apostate writes:

This is why a race-centric analysis of women’s issues bothers me. Feminism is about women, period. It’s race-neutral. Hopefully, it will remain about women, instead of turning into an ersatz black civil rights movement pre-occupied with issues of police brutality against black men. If I am interested in race issues, I know where to go to read about them. If I am interested in women’s issues, I should be able to go to feminist websites and read about them. I don’t need my feminism to become a catch-all for all social justice issues, because to be honest, the only thing that really fires me up is women’s oppression, sexism and misogyny.

A lot of feminists share the view of the Apostate. One peek into the comments section for many of the feminist blogs (large and small) will reinforce this idea that feminism is about women and that race discussions and the like are distractions from the main event.

But here’s my question: if feminism is about women and is race neutral, why do I still feel like such an outsider? Feminism is supposed to be a refuge for women, but the kind of woman I am is marginalized or not represented at all. So now what? Continue reading

The “Or” versus the “And” – Women of Color and Mainstream Feminism

by Latoya Peterson

Over at Feministing, there was a nice discussion about a click moment – the moment when you realize that you began to identify as a feminist.

It occurs to me that I have only discussed half of my own personal click moment. I mentioned that it was the Spice Girls that made me identify as a feminist, but it wasn’t their personalities or their music that pushed me toward feminism.

The catalyst for my click moment was actually a knock-off tee shirt. Riding the girl power wave of the late-nineties, a lot of the cheap teen clothing stores were filled with branded tee-shirts. I had one that read in big silver lettering “Girl Power.” I remember wearing the shirt out one day, and having a guy friend walk up to me and pause to read the shirt.

“Girl power?” he said with a smirk, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” He walked away laughing. After that day, I never wore that shirt again, but I stayed thinking about that moment for years afterward.

Why would the concept of girl power be so ridiculous that it was laughable?

That was the moment that started the shift in thinking. Why did so many men mock the idea of women having power, or get upset when women stood up for themselves? A few years later, I found feminism and thought I found my long lost community.

Little did I know that finding feminism was also the beginning of the anti-click moments, dozens of little conversations and actions that served as a constant reminder that I was different. Reading anthology after anthology on contemporary feminist work and only hearing one or two tokenized voices from women of color. Attending feminist gatherings and realizing that a lot of the situations and scenarios discussed were things I had never experienced. Trying to articulate my experiences, and being told that we need to focus on the “real” feminist issues. Things that impact “all” (read: white) women.

I possess both a gender identity and a racial identity and feminists weren’t having that, not one little bit.

At first, I thought if I could just find the right area, things would be different. Maybe it was just the feminist girls at my high school that were fucked up and racist – when I got to college, it would be different. I got to college and the triple-whammy of elitism, racism, and classism kept me out of organized feminism. Then, I decided to do my own thing and just read but a lot of the books on feminism where from one limited perspective. There was no me in this feminism.

However, there was a me in anti-racist work. So I worked on that, discussed gender outside the contexts of feminist theory, found more books on the experiences of women of color, fell in love with Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, challenged my male friends on their ideas about the place of women and did what I did best – live. Continue reading

links for 2008-04-28

TV Flashback: Living Single

by Latoya Peterson

Living Single
recently popped back into my mind after I overheard a woman on her cellphone loudly telling a friend “I’ll be right there, but first I need to go home and change my wig!”

That one little comment uttered on the metro brought back one of my favorite Regine lines of all time, after she broke up with the toy maker guy – “Of course the doll is me! It comes with five interchangeable wigs!”*

And with that, I found myself scouring the internet looking for information on Living Single. I remember watching the reruns around 1996 and 1997 – I was in middle school at the time. Wondering if my memories of the show withstood the test of time, I watched a few episodes on YouTube - and I was pleased to find out that the show has gotten better with age, now that I understand a lot more of the references. Continue reading