Category Archives: intersectionality/multiple marginalization

They’re Going to Laugh at You: White Women, Betrayal, and the N-Word

By Sofia Quintero, cross-posted from Black Artemis

Who spiked the Evian? Lately, there’s been a rash of White women using the n-word – including self-professed liberals and progressives. As if that were not bad enough, they act shocked, defensive and even downright nasty when told by women of all races that they should cut that shit out.

First example: a few White women made and carried signs that stated Woman Is the N***** of the World for Slut Walk in New York City on October 1st. (We found out it was two women carrying the same sign.–Ed.)

While some White women including those among Slut Walk NYC’s organizers and participants have stepped up to condemn these actions, there are too many who have come to their defense, ranging from the naively privileged to the unapologetically hostile. I’m talking Facebook posts such as, “It is NOT racist, and anybody who thinks so is a fucking idiot” to a White woman telling an African American woman to go fuck herself. (I’d post links, but in no surprise to me, the posts have conveniently disappeared.)
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It’s Not Just About The Word

355 Woman is the Nigger of the World

The Slutwalk controversy keeps rolling. As a moderator, it’s always a bit disheartening when you get the same level of denials and racist comments due to high activity from feminists that you do when you are linked to from a racist hate site. It’s not quite as bad as when we linked to the picture of Giselle being carried around by black men, but it’s close.

In my first piece on the controversy, I made this statement:

But can you appropriate a term like nigger if your body is not defined/terrorized/policed/brutalized/diminished by the word? Can we use it in a context that is supposed to belie gender solidarity, without explicitly being in racial solidarity?

In my second piece, I made this statement:

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting. You want it that bad? Really?

Which one do you think more people responded to? Apparently, it’s easier to be mad that some people aren’t entitled to some words, than to engage with a heavy discussion of the requirements of solidarity.

So, for people who are still confused, let’s do a breakdown.

Reclaiming Words (Slurs) That Aren’t Yours

As a commenter pointed out, the tension between words used is a hallmark of Slutwalk itself – the reclamation of a formerly damaging term by the women who hear it. People marched for other reasons, not just word politics, but a key part of the framework was proud pronouncements of self.

The trouble is, all women have not been denigrated using the term slut, as Black Women’s Blueprint and the Crunk Feminist Collective have pointed out. Depending on your experience as a woman, you may have heard slut in regards to your sexuality – or you may have heard other things. This probably cuts to my ambivalence about Slutwalk from the beginning. It was never a word placed on my person. And, upon further reflection, slut did seem like the domain of white women – if it wasn’t Kathleen Hanna walking around with slut on her stomach in the Riot Grrl days or countless white women writing about the need to shed their virginity (read: innocence) by claiming a slutty identity, it was used as a pejorative specifically used to describe white girls people knew. This doesn’t mean that no woman of color has ever been called a slut, or had that term used to police their identity, or that a woman of color wouldn’t identity with the term – it just means that the aims of the march didn’t resonate with me on a “hey, I have to be a part of this” level.

But more to the point, the sign in question was about claiming identities. Slut isn’t an identity I would claim – I have no personal experience with it. But the application of the idea that woman is the nigger of the world to people who nigger has never applied is puzzling, to say the least. First, it would assume that all women are in the same boat. And as the statistics show when you start breaking down issues of wealth, representation, health, maternal wellness, and just about any other measure, that would be a lie. It’s also trying to pull the experiences and pain of a term on to one’s body without ever shouldering the burden that goes with that term. To me, that’s as asinine as me trying to adopt an anti-Asian slur or an anti-gay slur. Those kind of words would never be leveled at me. I never have to labor underneath their weight. I am not a part of intra-community discussions around those terms. No one has ever tried to make me fear them with those words. I don’t face that set of issues. I don’t carry those burdens. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep ham-fistedly applying terms that don’t fit. Continue reading

Open Thread: What To Do Next

staring at the computer in anger sucks. what are we going to do about this?
- Joel Reinstein, from Wednesday night’s open thread

By Arturo R. García

If there was one positive to come out of Wednesday night, it was the sight of all the people rallying on behalf of Troy Davis – not just in Georgia, but at the White House and the Supreme Court; in Europe; and online, where it became just a bit suspicious to some that Twitter seemingly did not recognize the #TroyDavis and #occupywallstreet hashtags. (One explanation I read Wednesday evening was, because there actually is a Troy Davis username on the service, it could not be a trending topic. No word yet on #occupywallstreet.)

But, as Joel mentioned above, the question for many going forward is, what now?
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Quoted: History Proves Why Katt Williams is Wrong

Now, I don’t mean to fuel any animosity between African Americans and Mexicans, whites and anyone else. God knows there are enough attacks against one another for superficial and ridiculous reasons (and attacking anyone for their so-called race or ethnicity is silly). What we often forget is that idiots come in all colors–if I have any prejudice it’s against people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who don’t know their own history, let alone that of others.

So instead of going off myself, I’m going to make this a “teaching moment” (I know, this is dumb cliché, but you get the point). Why react in kind to Mr. Williams in an already negative environment; this issue is bigger than one bad night at the comedy club (a small message to Mr. Williams: There is always going to be bad nights at the club, get over it).

Mexicans did fight for California. In fact, the one major battle they had with Anglo forces invading California they won, with horses and lances, just outside of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the decision to turn the state over to the United States was made in Washington D.C. without the input of the people involved.

In fact, there was a whole war that Mexicans fought to stop the illegal invasion, which, lest Mr. Williams forget, was being pushed by the slave-owning interests in the United States. It was Southern slaveholders who ignited the war to rip Texas away from Mexico when Anglos refused to accept Mexico’s laws against slavery.

Mexico had abolished slavery in the early 1800s, way before the Emancipation Proclamation; Mexico even had at least two African-Mexicans as presidents some two hundreds years before Barack Obama was elected president in this country.

The main catalyst for the Mexican war was the refusal of Mexico to return black slaves–believed to be more than 10,000–who had taken the southern-route of the “underground railroad,” crossing the border to a free Mexico. In Mexico’s governing assembly heavy debates on the issue ended up with the majority supporting these slaves, allowing them to own land, to farm, to become part of the Mexican social fabric.

Mexicans were willing to die so blacks could be free.

–Luis J. Rodriguez, “Why We Need a Deeper Dialogue on Black-and-Brown Relations

Image credit: VOYAJ

Elements of Diversity: How Change Agents, Activists, Advocates, and Other Do-Gooders Seem to Not Get It Right After 40 Years of Trying

by Guest Contributor Hugo Najera, originally published at AmericanPupusa


I am disappointed in the still inconsistent and unfinished definition of the “D” word applied by mainstream spaces and do-gooder change agents. The word is a bad choice to describe the ideal we seek, and the most incomplete to describe the cure my social anger. “Diversity” has been tainted before I got a chance to play for the team, it’s the jersey we wear on the court, and few in the team know this.

This problem came to light when I attended “New Models in Media and Activism” sponsored by Campus Progress. The event was a panel discussion with Amanda Terkel – Senior politics reporter for The Huffington Post, Amy Austin – Publisher for Washington City Paper, Latoya Peterson – Editor of Racialicious.com, and Melinda Wittstock – Founder, CEO, and Bureau Chief of Capitol News Connection about the intersection of women, activism, and social media. The 80+ attendees comprised of about 90% 20-something white females, a sprinkle of Black females, drips of white males, and one Latino Albino (guess). The panel provided good insight, suggestions, and anecdotes on their experiences and contexts, showing a spectrum of voices from Print, Web 1.0, 1.5 to 2.0 media. The event also provided examples of the ineptitude of many change agents to grasp what diversity means in real-world situations. One panelist painfully tried to keep up with the others by saying things like “Well, that’s why women are better at getting along because we communicate better than men, which is why diversity is important” and other lovely words of wisdom. Throughout the event, audience members and moderators mostly framed issues of diversity in simple terms like getting more African Americans and women in the media. A white male student from American University correlated diversity troubles at his school with what was happening in the media, as Black candidates who run for student government president never win, asking “how can we combat that so we can be more diverse?”

Such comments assume that diversity is measured only by the number of Blacks, women, and Latinos in the room, without considering the structural reframing, process, and competencies that can make the term usable. “Diversity” as shorthand for a tally of physical bodies and archetypes is one of the major issues this term faces for validity and understanding. This incomplete definition makes whites feel apart and not responsible, targeted groups into tokens who feel responsible for carrying the burden in get-togethers, and ultimately diminishing collective knowledge. And for those who accompany the word with action, process, and competency, it annoys us when others in the choir don’t sing with the entire range of notes true diversity asks for. Continue reading

Quoted: Houria Bouteldja on “White Women and the Privilege of Solidarity”

In 2007, women from the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic took part in the annual 8th of March demonstration in support of women’s struggles. At that time, the American campaign against Iran had begun. We decided to march behind a banner that’s message was “No feminism without anti-imperialism”. We were all wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs and handing out flyers in support of three resistant Iraqi women taken prisoner by the Americans. When we arrived, the organizers of the official procession started chanting slogans in support of Iranian women. We found these slogans extremely shocking given the ideological offensive against Iran at that time. Why the Iranians, the Algerians and not the Palestinians and the Iraqis? Why such selective choices? To thwart these slogans, we decided to express our solidarity not with Third World women but rather with Western women. And so we chanted:

Solidarity with Swedish women!

Solidarity with Italian women!

Solidarity with German women!

Solidarity with English women!

Solidarity with French women!

Solidarity with American women!

Which meant: why should you, white women, have the privilege of solidarity? You are also battered, raped, you are also subject to men’s violence, you are also underpaid, despised, your bodies are also instrumentalized…

I can tell you that they looked at us as if we were from outer space. What we were saying seemed surreal, inconceivable. It was like the 4th dimension.  It wasn’t so much the fact that we reminded them of their situation as Western women that shocked them. It was more the fact that African and Arabo-Muslim women had dared symbolically subvert a relationship of domination and had established themselves as patrons. In other words, with this skillful rhetorical turn, we showed them that they de facto had a superior status to our own. We found their looks of disbelief quite entertaining.

Another example: After a solidarity trip to Palestine, a friend was telling me how the French women had asked the Palestinian women if they used birth control. According to my friend, the Palestinian women couldn’t understand such a question given how important the demographic issue is in Palestine. They were coming from a completely different perspective. For many Palestinian women, having children is an act of resistance against the ethnic cleansing policies of the Israeli state.

There you have two examples that illustrate our situation as racialized women, that help understand what is at stake and envisage a way to fight colonialist and Eurocentric feminism.

— Houria Bouteldja, spokeswoman for the PIR (La Indigènes de la République) speaking at the 4th International Congress of Islamic Feminism, in Madrid, 22 October 2010

(Hat Tip to Huimin)

How to Ensure a Diverse Tech Event

by Guest Contributor Erica Mauter, originally published at SwirlSpice

This is the companion post to the presentation I gave at SXSW Interactive on March 12, 2011.

The hashtag is #diverseevents. Search for tweets. Tweets on the whole series can also be found at #F15Diversity. Tag your posts. My slides are embedded below.

Also, Invisible Knapsack LOLcats.

It’s an honor and a privilege to present this topic at SXSW Interactive of all places. Not only is it highly relevant, SXSW is an example of an event that is doing a lot of things right.

That said, I noted a strange irony in the seriously broad range of panel topics alongside the heavy big-brand marketing presence.

Let’s also remind ourselves that most events are not only not nearly as big as SXSW, they are way smaller. A lot of the concepts still apply, but things involving costs may work very differently.

I spent less of my time on actual how-to and more on the concepts of representation and building awareness. The key words and phrases are inclusion, representation, and structural barriers to participation. It’s really hard to distill the concept of privilege and oppression down to a 12-minute presentation, much less further apply it to why various groups are or aren’t represented at tech conferences of all sizes. But it’s critical to the conversation, so I did my best.

I can give you pages of ideas for outreach, but if you aren’t aware of the social forces behind all of it and aren’t willing to truly re-think how you go about things then no progress can be made. A conference is a manufactured environment; it necessarily reflects the ideology of the creator. Understand that some may reject that framework in favor of their own or none at all.

As promised here are some further resources specifically addressing how to increase representation of marginalized groups at your tech event.

Representation

The following posts address the topic of representation at conferences. Each one of them has a bulleted list of tips and hints.

Carmen (Van Kerckhove) Sognonvi – Top 4 Mistakes Meeting Planners Avoid If They Want Diversity and Inclusion at Their Next Conference

Savvy meeting planners carefully sculpt both their advertising and their agendas to appeal to a culturally diverse population. But far too many planners still don’t understand the fundamentals of culturally-sensitive hosting.

Here, then, are the four biggest mistakes meeting planners should avoid, followed by their more appealing and appropriate counterparts. Continue reading

For Your Women’s History Month: Loretta Ross on the Origin of “Women of Color”

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Full disclosure: I met Loretta Ross at a Women’s Media Center’s media workshop for progressive women last summer, and we’re connected through the New York City chapter of SisterSong, which reshaped the reproductive-rights fight to reproductive justice. And I just think she is an incredible activist and living historian.

I saw this clip of her explaining to another generation of feminists where the term “women of color” came from and wanted to share.

Transcript after the jump.

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