Reflections On Going Viral // Miley-Gate Post-Mortem

It's been two weeks now since I wrote that article, and I couldn't be more glad that it's over. Going viral isn't fun. Even when you have the most innocuous  content people will find a reason to be negative and hateful online. But throw race into it? Nope.

Do. Not. Want.

So I tried to keep this blog largely quiet in that time. But in the last two weeks I've done a lot of reading. I've done a lot of listening and a lot of paying attention, and I think that this experience was for the better. I definitely learned a lot about my own personal resilience, and about how little the world cares about you when they don't like what you have to say.

But that's okay. Because in the last two weeks I've learned more about feminism and intersectionality that I ever thought I could know, and I'm grateful. So many discussions were borne out of this article (that I never thought would be seen outside the virtual gates of GT) and many of them taught me things. Most of them taught me things. So for that alone, I'm glad this happened. For the education I received by way of internet, I'm grateful.

And as for the people who objected with cries of "but what about when black men do?!" I don't care. I don't care because I'm not talking about the oppression that black women face at the hands of black men right now. That is a different conversation that has been addressed before and frequently. Don't presume to tell me which of my own problems I should be focusing on.

For the white women who responded with "not all white women do that!", I still  don't care. Because I am not going to make your personal feelings a priority in this discussion. The "some" is implied in "white women", and if you can't see past that one omitted word, you're not quite the ally you think you are.

But when it comes down to it, processing this event isn't that hard. Many people objected to my "hands off" comment at the end of the article, and I wasn't as clear as I should have been, so I understand why. I didn't mean that no one is allowed to enjoy or participate in any aspect of black culture ever, be it jazz or twerking. I meant, that until those things can be accepted as innovative and masterful on their own steam, it will never be okay for a white person to co-opt them or exploit them for money. (I'm looking at you Mackelmore)

As The Coquette, masterfully says:

Is there a difference between Miley twerking and Eric Clapton playing delta blues music?
Yes. Even within the context of cultural appropriation, there is a difference between crass exploitation and masterful homage.

Being in a position of privilege means that "appreciating" art or music or dance from a community culture involves elevating the originators of those art forms, not creating a badly synthesized version and marketing it to the masses. At the VERY least, it involves doing the work to immerse oneself in the communities that created those cultures, and learn about them first hand. It's why Eminem and Teena Marie "get a pass" but Miley does not.

You want to call out homophobia in hip-hop? Maybe help promote some of the queer men and women who've been doing that for ages. You really think twerking is cool? Perhaps you should showcase some of the people who've made a career out of popularizing bounce music, rather than making yourself the face of the "Twerk Team."


What it comes down to is this: "Nothing about us without us" You really want to explore a minority culture? Try to find information someone on the inside with first hand experience who can clarify what is or isn't okay for you to have access to. Don't just inauthentically pick and choose the parts you like, and discard the ones you don't, as though someone's culture is a costume for you to discard when you tire of it.

So the lesson is this: DO THE WORK. Whether it's as an access point to a minority culture you admire, or an effort to increase your allyship, DO THE WORK. Don't ask to be spoonfed. No one handed me reading materials for feminism or intersectionality. I sought that information out because I decided that doing so was a priority for me. Make intersectional thinking a priority for yourself.

Here are a few great links to start you off:

When Your Brown Body Is A White Wonderland
Your Guide To Defensive Feminism
After Solidarity Is For White Women: So You Want To Be An Ally. Now What?
How To Deal With Being Called Out
Black Women And Twerking: Why Its Creators Face Bigotry That Miley Cyrus Never Will
Why Whites Call People of Colour "Racist"
How To Appropriately Engage With Blogs That Have Anti-Oppression Related Content
Allies Are Still Privileged. Don't Forget It

These are great sources that can help jumpstart a intersectional self-education. Do the work. And if you prefer to learn by osmosis, you can follow this twitter list I made of insightful men and woman of colour who deal with intersectional issues.