By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee
So while I was out in the real world yesterday working up north in Nunavik (which is not Nunavut – for those of you who think you’re bad ass having heard about Nunavut before – Nunavik is a completely different Inuit region) this happened in the feminist blogosphere regarding the lack of mainstream feminist coverage of Feminism FOR REAL – Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism.
Yes it’s true I edited Feminism FOR REAL and have since been sussing out various reactions and mentions of the book. I don’t consider myself a writer at all – I work 24/7 leading the Native Youth Sexual Health Network across North America (the first book I put together Sex Ed and Youth: Colonization, Sexuality, and Communities of Color was my initial attempt in entering book world) so I’m new to all this you need to do A, B, and C to get a book out there because I often struggle with what books and blogs mean when shit goes down in real life (which is also why my online writing has stopped as of late)
The publisher of the book was the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives but the book is by no means a “Canadian” book only. Several of the contributors live in both the US and Canada, I myself live in the US part-time, work in the US part-time, and being Indigenous don’t identify as either US or Canadian. But people telling me that I need to sell my soul to Amazon or a bigger name publication and not stick with an independent, small-house, union printed publisher so we can be “known” isn’t something I want to do (and is honestly counter-productive to what the book is about anyways).
However I strongly believe in the contributors and creators of Feminism FOR REAL and what we’re saying so I’m going to address some major points of clarification here about what we always wish the mainstream feminist blogosphere and world(s) in general would own up to/change/or just do but as time and actions prove yet again, rarely happens:
1) The mainstream feminist blogosphere and organizational world in the US and Canada is dominated by white girls with a long history attached to how that came to be. Let’s come to terms with that and stop derailing with “but this one guest blogger of color did this” or “but we’re looking to change one day/hopefully/soon/eventually”. How about we save some time and effort and just be honest about what’s going on in reality and that this is absolutely influencing in small or large degrees who is talking about the book and why. So when the white girls at these mainstream feminist blogs are saying they didn’t know about the book, or need to be educated about it, or can’t be expected to be bothered to know about its existence – I believe them.
2) I’m saying point number 1 because it has to do with who knows what, when, and how. Meaning that this isn’t just about “I didn’t get the e-mail about the book” or “I admit I received it but didn’t take it seriously” or “the promotion of the book in my world sucks!” Let’s go back to the why – why didn’t you hear about it? Why isn’t your world talking about it? Beyond being busy (me and my ancestors have been busy for the last 500+ years trying not to be erased – but that’s neither here nor there) it also has to do with what you yourself are or aren’t making an effort to be in the know about or do and the fact that so many people think that what’s right in front of them is everyone else’s reality as well. To clarify – I’m not beyond being accountable to the inaccessibility of information and the mediums it’s available in because we most definitely exist in ableist, classist, and hierarchal settings. If you didn’t get the e-mail about the book – no worries. I’m talking about why people aren’t more involved in supporting and promoting our work to begin with at places like Racialicious, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Muslimah Media Watch and more (all who posted more than once about the book’s existence) beyond when they want to check mark box that they had their mandatory being progressive dosage of people of color (which typically amounts to saying things like they are such huge fans of us but don’t actually read, buy, or promote without having to explicitly be told several times what we’re writing)? I believe in all of our work so damn much – so yes I do think people ought to know about us more – especially if they are going to write stuff on blogs or organizational profiles about being so “inclusive”.
Several of the books contributors are Indigenous – so are people way too busy including and actively seeking out young Indigenous people to be part of what they’re doing that they somehow missed this? Have there been countless mentions of books written by Indigenous people on feminist blogs who are actively talking about how feminism is actually an Indigenous concept that this book would have been one too many? Didn’t think so. What isn’t being said is that so many people don’t know about our work – not because they didn’t get the message – but because they aren’t really invested in knowing about us to begin with, or at least to the extent of knowing we produced this book. Which sounds eerily familiar to when people tell me it’s not their fault they don’t know about colonization because no one told them about it – while the people in my community continue to live through the highest rates of violence, suicide, and poverty in North America. At what point does it become enough that you oughta know – or oughta use the power and privilege you may have to tell other people in your own community(ies) when you find out yourself?
3) Which brings me to my biggest point of all which is that I myself am not looking for this book to be the most popular, reviewed, or mentioned in the universes of feminism and I’m ESPECIALLY not interested in taking a seat at the tiny place of the big table that’s been carved out for me. In fact the whole book questions the many fucked up areas and products of “Feminism” and asks readers to be for real about exactly what so many movements are quick not to do – appear divided, critical, or accountable to fuck ups – in this case Feminism – policed in and outside of academia – for fear of not being truly “united”. Western notions of polite discourse are apparently the tactics we should follow. I know damn well that if I had a certain well known last name in Feminism that one random post somewhere about this book would’ve been picked up by dozens and then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. And are we really prepared to say that even if we had spent thousands of dollars on PR for the book that it would be magically sold and picked up with soaringly high levels of support? Really?
Which is all sounding to me like I’m being the educator again of other people’s oppressions and in all honesty it’s way too tiring. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how we are so busy telling other people not to be oppressive to our communities that we have little energy left to deal with what’s going on inside of our own communities. I’m finished with doing the educating on how feminism needs to change – it’s been done. And it’s no longer going to come at the physical, mental, and spiritual costs of me being frustrated, exasperated, and then empty – for what? My community needs me and we’ve paid the price for other people’s comforting disillusion with reality for far too long.
Perhaps this showed us that we really shouldn’t expect the mainstream feminist blogosphere to talk about Feminism FOR REAL. I really should have believed them the first time I got shoved out.
Feminism FOR REAL contributor Shaunga Tagore on “Filling the Gap”:
Some of us live our lives in ‘the gap.’ This ‘gap’ is where we were born, how we were displaced from our homes or removed from our histories. The gap is where we were forced to forget our languages, our traditions and our cultures. In this gap we love and express ourselves in ways that don’t fit into neat categories, but instead shake the grip that rigid boundaries have upon our world and our lives. Look at this gap—acknowledge it, notice it, VALUE it— and you’ll see the complex and varied ways in which we fight, challenge, survive, celebrate and love fiercely, even while enveloped in a system that enforces our separation from our spirits and selves.
When feminists ‘call-out’ other feminists for their racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, ageism, or classism, when a solid anthology is put together making clear the ways in which Feminism (capital ‘F’) has Progressed (capital ‘P’) through maintaining the oppression it supposedly wants to dismantle (and through the unrecognized labour, effort and heart of the people it oppresses), when numerous people contribute to this anthology and read this anthology with the aim of steering feminism to a more helpful and empowering place, when someone posts a blog recognizing that the book itself has been ignored in many feminist spaces (for WHATEVER reasons it might be ignored for): these ‘call-outs’ are not just people ‘complaining without taking action.’ They are not ‘pointing to a gap and refusing to fill it.’ They are pointing to real lives, real histories and experiences, real beating hearts and REAL feminism that deserve to be acknowledged and refuse to be silenced. We ARE the gap and we’re not just an empty space waiting to be filled. We’re full to the brim, and spilling over.
The book Feminism FOR REAL actually spells out what I’m saying in much greater detail. It might be more useful for feminism to engage with it rather than thinking up all the reasons we don’t have time to read it.