Is White Really the Combination of All Colors?

This “family feud” has been mentioned in blog post after blog post, so I’ll keep the history short. Big “feminist” site Jezebel posts about female comedy writers not being represented in the staffing of The Daily Show. Big “feminist” site XX Factor posts about how hypocritical it is for Jezebel to post something controversial to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue, as XX Factor uses their controversial article to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue. Other less commercial blogs such as this one write about the feud. Then! The female employees of The Daily Show put out an open letter insisting that Jon Stewart isn’t sexist. Cue the (admittedly hilarious) response to that letter and the background chatter regarding new TDS female correspondent Olivia Munn and how she gets half naked sometimes, hates fat people (she does come off as pretty fatphobic) and isn’t funny. Ad infinitum.

I’m not going to critique any of the above-referenced articles, nor am I going to offer an opinion of whether or not Olivia Munn is qualified to be on The Daily Show. What I am going to talk about is the fact that I’m tired of middle to upper class white cissexual Internet feminist all-stars dominating the debate over what is acceptable in feminism and what isn’t. I’m not saying these women aren’t talented writers; they are. But I want to see myself (not literally, although of course that would be nice — a chick’s gotta eat) and other marginalized feminists represented in the feminist all-star constellation. I want to read articles in WaPo and Slate and Salon and the NY Times by marginalized women dealing with issues that actually affect us, and don’t involve pot meeting kettle. I want to see articles on the big woman-oriented blogs that deal with intersectionality, that talk about deeper issues, and that inspire me to think and take action other than reaching for the Tylenol.

Tangentially, but also related in a way, I want to raise a concern I’ve had for a while about the name of the Slate woman-oriented blog “XX Factor”. Titling your blog after a set of chromosomes that not every woman has and not every man does not have is, to me, extremely transphobic and also ignores intersex folks with varying sets of chromosomes (because it ain’t just XX or XY). It completely erases trans women as women, and it is really appalling to me. Why should I take a woman-oriented blog seriously that clearly doesn’t understand or apparently doesn’t care about intersectionality or exclusion of certain women? Cutesy names don’t make up for erasure of identities.

Examples like the one given in the above paragraph are what I mean when I say we need representation of marginalized women on the big, ostensibly feminist, woman-oriented blogs like Jezebel, Salon’s Broadsheet, and Slate’s XX Factor (well with them, we need a name change as well). The discourse is controlled by women for whom sexism against white cis women seems to be their main focus. We need to stop looking to these white middle/upper class cissexual feminist role models for instructions on how to interpret feminism or on how to apply feminist principles to media critique. We need prominent marginalized women who have more than paid their feminist/womanist dues to offer a fresh and very much needed perspective.

What’s interesting to me about these large woman-oriented sites is that when you look closely, they’re actually not explicitly feminist. That’s why I keep referring to them as “woman-oriented” or “ostensibly feminist”. Writing articles that appeal to women does not mean that they’re feminist articles. For example, Jezebel’s tagline is “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” XX Factor’s tagline is simply “What Women Really Think.” Salon’s Broadsheet just doesn’t say anything, as far as I can tell. Basically, these sites can simply fall back on the fact that they never said they were feminist. So maybe we shouldn’t be expecting representative feminist content from these blogs. When questionable content pops up on these sites, like Hanna Rosin’s critique of Al Gore’s accuser (which, to be fair, she did later follow up with a sort-of “I was wrong” post) on XX Factor, or the Emily Gould anti-Jezebel article, also on XX Factor, what standard can you hold them to? Emily Gould is a woman, and she wrote what she “Really Thinks”. I guess that’s all you can ask for when they’re not specifically identifying themselves as a feminist site. These sites are simply woman-oriented. Not all women are feminists.

Marginalized feminists/womanists need to have the door unlocked so we can finally kick it down and get some actual representation alongside the current white cis feminist all-stars. Unfortunately, those same white cis feminists are holding the keys to the door. The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard. We need to make it their problem. We need to “show our color”.

[This piece originally appeared on Feministe.]

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  • http://ensmartened.blogspot.com/ Godless Heathen

    I have an issue with XX Factor’s tagline ‘What Women Really Think’. Honestly, no, don’t presume to speak for me just because I share a gender with you. How about this instead: ‘What a Select Group of Mostly Middle Class White Women Really Think ‘.

    Just as you’re frustrated that it’s mostly white voices dominating the narrative, I’m frustrated that it’s mostly middle class voices. Especially when it’s topics like food or poverty being covered by bloggers who don’t suffer from real economic hardship. Every time Pandagon starts a thread on poverty, the bloggers and the commenters turn it into a new episode of Epic Classfail. Heaven forbid a poor person try to join in their “rational discourse” circle jerk with actual lived experience, she gets shouted down for either having the audacity to be on the internet in the first place or for not simply locating her bootstraps and following their “advice”. They were broke grad students once upon a time, they totally know what it takes to get out of poverty, it’s all just so easy!

    Right, I didn’t mean to dominate your space. I don’t do Feministe’s comments section or I’d have sent this there.

    • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

      Every time Pandagon starts a thread on poverty, the bloggers and the commenters turn it into a new episode of Epic Classfail. Heaven forbid a poor person try to join in their “rational discourse” circle jerk with actual lived experience, she gets shouted down for either having the audacity to be on the internet in the first place or for not simply locating her bootstraps and following their “advice”. They were broke grad students once upon a time, they totally know what it takes to get out of poverty, it’s all just so easy!

      OMG I totally know the type, like they think broke = poor. And then they think they know how it is to be poor. I was an admin on a feminist/queer/trans/etc board called strap-on.org and there were tons of "starving students" who thought they really GOT how it was to be poor because their parents didn't pay all their bills.

      I hear you. And you're not dominating my space, dear! This is where we talk about stuff like this. I feel I can be a lot more open here.

  • Jerome

    I'd also noticed the XX thing and thought that it was totally wack and exclusionary of trans and genderqueer women. I think that it goes back to the "real women" issue (as in, real women have curves, etc.) without taking into account that all women (including those without XX chromosomes) are real women. FAIL. They need to change that shit.

    My thought in the past has been that there are a lack of queer WOC in online feminist spaces (especially the Fat 'O Sphere, with a few exceptions including yourself), as well as a lack of WOC with disabilities although I've found a few more sites over the last few weeks that deal with disability feminism (again, including this one) so that isn't a total wash.

    (P.S. I started reading through the comments on your actual post but, like Godless Heathen, I generally don't do comments on Feministe so I sort of gave up and came back here…).