It's that time again! The new year is upon us, but as is tradition, I wanted to take some time to look back at some of the essays I wrote last year that I'm particularly proud of or that I thought made a significant impact, in the spirit of feigned introspection. Quite a lot happened in the feminist blogosphere last year, and while I didn't write about all of it, I'm proud of the contributions I did make. Back in November I started my Masters Program in Mass Communications, and one of the things I've learned is that media is so important to the way we perceive the world. So while some might think my focus on "pop feminism" is trivial, I know that it's one of the most important battlegrounds of diverse representation in culture. So here, in descending order are the ten essays I wrote in 2014 that I consider to be my best, even if I am a little late to publish!
The point of this post is simply to show that anti-intersectionality is a continued pattern of disregard for women of colour, and that when we bring this to your attention, we aren't making it up. White feminism loves to ask for receipts. It loves to gaslight and diminish us. It loves to pretend that our concerns are irrelevant or insignificant. Hopefully this list will serve as a reminder that black women, native women, poor women, trans women are feminists too, and we'd like to be allowed to be part of a movement that claims to advocate for our well-being.
It's lovely that Robin Thicke thinks his marriage is worth saving, but this is not the way to go about it. This entire album, the track names, the hashtag; if this is in fact a sincere effort to "get her back" it's basically a how-to on abuser dynamics. Rather than allowing Patton the time and space to decide whether or not to reconcile in private, with this album, Thicke has effectively enlisted the public to get on his side and pressure her into going back to him, and make her the villain if she refuses. "Oh, but he wrote a whole album about her! He's really sorry!"All while he rakes in the cash, and she loses her resolve to stay away from a man who cheated on her, publicly embarrassed her and ruined a decades long relationship.
Kim Kardashian might have become famous because of a sex tape, but she stayed famous because she parlayed that notoriety into "respectable" business ventures. She's a business woman; a fact that too many people seem far too reluctant to acknowledge. You don't have to like her, but you do have to respect her and her tactical acumen. Kim Kardashian is in the business of being a celebrity, and it's a game she and her family play very well. We created the demand for a celebrity just like her by continuing to consume what she creates. We don't get to then turn our noses up at her because she got good at getting us.
Personally, I think the lack of diversity in science fiction is particularly egregious because it's the one area where you can't claim "historical accuracy." Speculative fiction opens up possibilities that would never exist in the real world, allowing us to imagine scenarios that we could only dream of in real life. That so many of those imagined possibilities still include whiteness as the default, to the point of whitewashing characters originally imagined as non-white, is disheartening.
What I love about the song and video is that it isn't just Nicki being sexy. It's a flat out display of her power over men. Nicki actively disregards the male gaze in the video. Between the lyrics, the tongue in cheek mishandling of the banana and literally slapping Drake's hand away when he tries to touch her ass, it's a song and video about her enjoying her own body and sexuality, and inviting other "fat ass bitches" to do the same. The assertion that because she looks traditionally "sexy" she is "desperate for male attention" doesn't hold any water when you approach it critically. Just because something happens to be appealing to straight men doesn't mean that straight men are the intended audience. It's an incredibly heteronormative assumption. Would we assume that femme lesbians are vying for male attention because they prefer to present as traditionally feminine?
No one questions Dexter Morgan's ability to be evil. No one questions the motivations of Walter White. In fact, we actively find reasons to sympathize with them both. But Amy Elliott Dunn's psychotic rage at her husband and her resulting actions become a statement on all women everywhere, and proof of the "secret misandrist cabal" working to #killallmen. If a woman says she's afraid of Norman Bates, she's irrational, but men's fear of Amy is completely normalized, even though everything we know about the society we live in proves that those fears should be reversed.
The thing is, it completely makes sense to want to see more feminist representation in media, but not every female character needs to come complete with a bright yellow "feminist" sticker included in order to engage with, challenge or uphold feminist ideals. Not every character need espouse feminist politics to be "acceptable." The constant rush to label any specific character feminist or not, frankly misses the point, because in reality, that's not how feminist praxis works. Feminists are not perfect people who are always on the right side of the issue and never misstep. Real, full human beings err on occasion; sometimes they get it wrong. That is part of the human experience, but the inevitable ideological misstep does not negate someone's feminism.
So what's the difference between owning our sexuality and letting others exploit it? Agency. The difference is freedom from negative consequence or pushback regardless of how one chooses to express that sexuality. The difference is choice. The difference is personal motivation. The difference is the ability to control the boundaries about how your expressions of sexuality are packaged, presented and consumed.
If the mainstream white feminist movement wants to anoint Lena Dunham as the second coming of Gloria Steinem that's okay. But leave us and our feminist idols alone. You don't have to identify with Nicki or Rihanna or Beyoncé or Janelle. But what you aren't going to do is commit yourself to tearing down their praxis just because it doesn't benefit or apply to you and your white girl shit.
White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is "one size-fits all" feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit. It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.
For 2015, I'm hoping to expand my work past just this blog. Imposter syndrome is a hell of a thing, but I'm starting to feel more confident that I have something of value to add to the feminist canon online, and I want to spend 2015 getting my voice out there. Here's to more pitching, more writing and more bylines.