Tag Archives: womanism

“Leaning Out” Proves Feminism is in the Eye of the Beholder

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Politico’s magazine has a cover piece on Michelle Obama called “>”Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare.” Or, it could have been titled “random feminists are disappointed.” As per usual, the piece is long on other people’s opinions about how Michelle Obama is single handedly failing the cause and short on actual analysis and historical context.

The piece opens by sharing a story about a new political initiative that Michelle Obama is involved with, with writer Michelle Cottle implying that Obama’s focus on people and not policy is not enough:

Speaking last week at Bell Multicultural High School, a couple of miles north of the White House, the first lady touted the importance of a college degree, citing her own journey from a one-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s South Side to Princeton as evidence of how far hard work and good schooling can take you. “I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story,” she told the predominantly low-income, heavily minority student body.

Cottle goes on to explain that Obama’s visit to Bell Multicultural is part of a push for a campaign to encourage college completion. Cottle then complains that Obamas efforts with youth outreach are distressingly focused on actually talking to the youth, instead of digging deep and hitting hard at policy from the White House Garden.

This example is an interesting one to criticize, to say the least. Nothing is mentioned about DC’s unique space in public education debates, now forgotten after the heyday of high profile reformers. Not much is said about why there may be a focus on minority graduation rates from college, or why Bell Multicultural might be the perfect kind of place to launch an initiative focusing on low income students and college enrollment. No, no, Cottle would like us to understand that Michelle Obama is failing feminism because she insists on being motherly.

In Cottle’s own words:

Turns out, she was serious about that whole “mom-in-chief” business—it wasn’t merely a political strategy but also a personal choice.

Oh, the horror. Continue reading

On Being Feminism’s “Ms. Nigga”

Like, late night I’m on a first class flight
The only brother in sight the flight attendant catch fright
I sit down in my seat, 2C
She approach officially talkin about, “Excuse me”
Her lips curl up into a tight space
Cause she don’t believe that I’m in the right place
Showed her my boarding pass, and then she sort of gasped
All embarrassed put an extra lime on my water glass
An hour later here she comes by walkin past
“I hate to be a pest but my son would love your autograph”
(Wowwww.. Mr. Nigga I love you, I have all your albums!..) [...]

For us especially, us most especially
A Mr Nigga VIP jail cell just for me
“If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake”
Just got some shoe-polish, painted my face
They say they want you successful, but then they make it stressful
You start keepin pace, they start changin up the tempo

—”Mr. Nigga,” Mos Def featuring Q-Tip

 

Recently, I was invited to speak at a major feminist event.

It was for a cause I cared deeply about, and I would share the stage with some of the best recognized figures in feminism.

And yet…I hesitated.

Less than three years ago, I would have jumped at this opportunity, delighted to be invited, honored to be included, proud to make my contribution. But that was then.

Now, I read the email with a healthy dose of suspicion.  Why did they want to invite me? They mentioned receiving my name on referral from another marquee named feminist, which made me wonder why the referral was needed.  Did they really need more speakers at this late date? Or did they need to add some color to yet another stage that was sure to be full of white women?

I also instantly felt guilty.  Was I projecting? Over reacting? After all, this was a short notice event. Isn’t the cause more important than my waffling feelings about mainstream, movement oriented feminism? Why was I instantly suspicious of their intent? Can’t I give people the benefit of the doubt for once?

The emotional see-saw over my decisions to participate in feminist focused events has been my constant companion for close to a year or so now, but it took on a new dimension when Jessica Valenti decided to leave Feministing.  That night, I was at a cocktail meetup, when one of my friends grabbed my hand and asked if I heard the news.  I’m a lot more removed from the blogosphere at large these days (our transformation is all consuming at the moment) so I hadn’t seen or heard about the post.  My friend, who is another African American woman, told me to take a look as soon as I got home.  “Basically,” she said, “it was all about her this whole time -she got hers so fuck us!”

So Jessica Valenti’s official departure from Feministing (and Renee’s subsequent response) is why I was actually spurred to write this post, but the problem goes back far longer than just that.

Continue reading

Femme-fights: ‘Feminists, Womanists’ Battle Across Racial Lines

by Guest Contributor Ope Bukola, originally published at Zora & Alice

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that discussed the problem I feel feminism poses for a lot of women, among them black women.

An argument that played out this past weekend  in the “lady blogosphere”  offered a good example of the problem. It started last week when,  in  The Guardian, Womanist Musings‘ Renee Martin wrote a piece titled “I’m not a feminist (and there is no but).” Renee was responding to an article by Chloe Angyal, a writer for Feministing, in which Chloe argued that young women should boldly proclaim themselves as feminist. Renee’s post rejected what she describes as a “white feminist movement”, represented by  college “women’s studies” curricula and by blogs like Feministing, which do a poor job of representing women of color.

So far, so good – a friendly, if somewhat esoteric, disagreement between two women who both clearly care about the status of women. Things got really interesting when the mega-blog Jezebel picked up Renee’s article and criticized her for ignoring the women of color write for the publications she disparages.  The comment threads quickly devolved into an “us vs. them” with readers mostly divided along black and white racial lines. One commenter wrote what I felt before I even clicked the link to the Jezebel post: “My urge to comment swelled when I first read the post, and then I thought to myself, “Self, take cover and just wait for the shitstorm.” Continue reading