By Andrea Plaid
Before the R got into the Tumblr game, I followed rosasparks on my personal one, just totally vibing her nuggets on living, mothering, community-loving, and wisdom-giving that she brought to my dashboard when I logged on. When she followed me back, I felt all swoony and fangirly.
Before I had my Tumblr, Ms. Owner/Editrix adored rosasparks’ commentary on Jezebel while Ms. O/E worked as a scribe over there.
So, when I suggested rosasparks to be our Crush Of The Week, Ms. O/E fangirled a bit, too. When I told rosasparks about how much we loved her here at the R, she squeed herself. We at the R had to know more about our loved-up, so here’s an interview with her, continued over at the R’s Tumblr.
I discovered you on Tumblr, and Latoya adored your whipsmart comments when she worked at Jezebel. What/who informs your politics? And what keeps you at Tumblr vs., say, maintaining a blog at WordPress or Blogspot?
My ma is a progressive and has always been very politically active. I was born in Oakland, in the early 70s, and the Bay Area was alive and bubbling with activity and my ma was inspired by and busy in all of it. My first memories, no joke, are of watching political debates and speeches on TV with her and listening to her talk about the importance of being civic-minded and paying attention to issues and what politicians are saying, and not saying, and being engaged in your community.
I was an African American studies major, in college, which included studying a ton of world politics and history. And throughout my adult life, I’ve always been working, volunteering or taking great, personal interest in government and transparency and equality and policy. Now that I have a daughter, I stay involved because I’d like for her to live and participate in a society that is inclusive and cares about all of its citizens. All of this stems from my ma and what she instilled in me. Also, I adore bell hooks. I take everything she says as gospel.
I was a commenter on Jezebel, for a long time, and when I decided I didn’t want to comment there anymore, several commenters I was close with had headed to Tumblr and said I should go there, too. I followed them, no pun intended, and I’ve never left. I love the community of Tumblr. It’s a simple format to manage and a lot of fun. It inspires me and I’ve met and encountered so many amazing people and hear so many different stories. I’ve forged true friendships, all from something as silly as cat gifs and liveblogs of TV shows, to real substantive discussions about feminism, mental illness, equality, LGBTQQ issues, parenting, the fuckery of the GOP; you name it and it’s probably been discussed–ad nauseum, in fact. Some days, you just want to post the gif of the jockey beating a dead horse.
I stay at Tumblr because I’m lazy, I guess, but really because I don’t feel like I have the ‘voice’ to have a stand-alone blog. Nor do I feel egotistical enough to say, ‘Oooh haaaay, I’m so important, go read my personal blog!’ That just sounds bizarre. I like interacting with people in the moment and I think Tumblr allows for that more than being some private island of blogitutde. Besides, I’d miss all the gifs and the ridiculous memes and everyone I follow.
Speaking of Tumblr, congrats on your post on Girls going viral! Your analysis was so fiercely spot-on. So, in your opinion, what is it with white folks needing to create the fiction of an all-white NYC again and again and again?
Oh my gawd, thank you. I was so infuriated by what the creators of that show have been quoted as saying that I spit that out fueled by rage and caffeine.I have spent a lot of time trying to understand all of this. As a city, New York is so diverse; ethnically, socially, economically, etc…to me, that’s why it’s so interesting and fun and why I always felt so comfortable when I was living there.
I mean, the other side of that is how much economics play into one’s quality of life in New York, or anywhere, obviously. If you have money and resources, you can actually pay your way through an experience that is devoid of all of that wonderful diversity, which plenty of people do. They say, I don’t want to ride the smelly subway, send my kids to public school, live in a diverse neighborhood, and you can bet they don’t. I don’t know that other side of New York, but I saw it, from the outside looking in. It was sterile and depressing. Furthermore, why would you live in a place that had so much culture and diverse people and experiences only to limit yourself to 10 square blocks? In other cities and places, you may not have the breadth of humanity, so your life experiences are limited just because, but to have access to all those things and actively shun them is mind-boggling to me.
And the ‘quirky’ or non-ritzy fantasy display of New York, via television or movies, seems to want to celebrate its diversity without it REALLY being diverse. We’re all ‘poor’ and live in funky or wacky apartments, but we don’t see one person of color or anything that resembles the life that goes along with that world.
I suppose you look at who produces such works and you wonder, well why are you there, then? Both in the medium and real life? I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of people who write shows about New York and don’t know shit about living there because they’ve never had first-hand experiences, but there’s also this weird sense I get that New York life is aspirational, in the sense that people want the Woody Allen New York, the whimsy and the breeziness, without the ‘other’. And they certainly don’t want any brown people messing up their vibes.
Girls, Friends, whatever these single-titled shows….they’re all fairly educated and seemingly open white folks who have no encounters, let alone real relationships with any people of color. To me? That only means one thing, which is their fantasy life or the aspirational life they’d like to lead in New York would be better without people of color since they don’t include them, in any substantive way. And that is extremely troubling.
One of the things I adore about you is your lovingly on-the-real view of motherhood and how it ties into feminism and social policy. (I’m still marinating on your post on SNAP–again, just utterly incredible.) In your opinion, is feminism missing an analysis around motherhood, living on limited budgets, and social policy? If so, why?
Ooooof, this is deep right here. OK.
Sometimes, I feel feminism is limited in its views. My ma is a feminist, but she does not identify as such and part of that comes from, in her world, she had nothing in common with the feminist movement of the 70’s.I also feel like many discussions in and around feminism are academic. I don’t mean that as a slight on academia, but rather, and this is an exaggeration, it feels like discussions turn toward that Damon Wayans character from In Living Color. The proclamation of the emanicipation of the overtization of the….WAT? Intellectually, that may be fulfilling, but translate that to our their daily lives! I don’t see feminism as a theory, I see it as an action plan.
Feminism has issues, I believe, in that it didn’t find its way to weave in the life experiences of women of color and now, there is a schism. I self-identify as a feminist but I find so much of the dogma and practice is deeply problematic because it doesn’t address any of the realities I face as a woman of color. Does that mean all of us can’t fight for equality? Absolutely not. But when the foundations of a doctrine are missing some key components–namely addressing poverty, race and practicality–it is, by default, exclusionary.
My identity has many facets, which includes being a mom. And while we’ve made progress with women’s reproductive rights, what we’ve sortof let fall by the wayside is that choosing to be a mother is as important as choosing not to be one. A lot of times, I feel the double-whammy of being a WoC and a mom. Add in being very low on the economic totem pole and it makes for some heavy, heavy thoughts, none of which are particularly positive.
I look at feminism, as an umbrella, and wonder if I can squeeze under to be protected from the elements. Sometimes, there’s room for me, other times, I get stuck in the rain and have to slog home.
What conversations are missing in progressive, specifically feminist, spaces? What other conversations do you think are missing on the ‘net/in media?
I’d like to see feminism address motherhood and have the discussion be positive. Most days, I feel like mothering children is a competitive, contact sport. Who’s feeding their kids the best foods? Who’s child has the best sleep schedules? Who is the most wonderful mother, etc…? It’s HORRIBLE and destructive to womanity.
One of the reasons I think women have gotten this bananas over mothering is because feminism has effectively empowered women to choose not to have all the babies and therefore, and maybe by accident, we’ve excluded women who do have babies. When you’ve, essentially, dismissed women who have kids and choose to parent, as though their choice was ‘wrong’, I think some women will try that much harder to justify their choice. If you make mothering into a ‘thing’, then maybe your attempts are to make it as legitimate as being childless? We have clearly identified and made understood that choosing to be childless can be giving the world a fuck-you for expecting me to poop out kids.
But the ‘fuck you and your expectations’ should be united. It is equally as empowering to be a mother as it is to not. The issue isn’t whether or not your uterus housed and later pushed out a baby, it’s what you do, either way. I can be a feminist mother. I can be a feminist non-mother. The issue is I refuse to adhere to or accept the staid, sexist, and misogynistic constructs of our society. I am not required to stay at home and change diapers and Swiff my floors all day, but if I want to, I will, and I will do it with the awareness and the cognizance that I will also require the world to treat me as their equal and with respect.Whether I have 20 kids or none, that is the only expectation I have as a woman. And that what I think is lacking in feminist circles, everywhere, especially in the media. We’ve established that women circumvent biology and we’re are not required to birth all the babies for the sake of society. At this point, women are the ones holding all the cards, which has everyone running scared. We can choose whether to further or species or not.
But, being childless doesn’t inherently mean you’re a feminist. Just as being a mother doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist.
Check out the rest of the R’s interview with rosasparks on our Tumblr!