Blamers may have noticed my awkward silence on the topic of Amandagate. Not that the entire bloggofemispheriat has been chewing its nails down to unsightly nubs awaiting my pronouncements on the subject, but I hope it’s not too fanciful to surmise that some of you may have wondered if and when I was gonna step up.
That day is today.
It turns out I am not an advanced patriarchy blamer. I may have to stop commenting on this blog.
If I am to be taken seriously as a spinster aunt — which may or may not be possible or even desirable, as I am a person who has taken to eating Funyuns for lunch — it is incumbent on me to stay informed on various current bloggofeminist ideologies. Which I ain’t sufficiently done.
I grasp the necessity of doing so, however, and not just in view of recent events; fluency in feminist ideology is precisely what I require of progressive dude bloggers who flit around the World Wide Web claiming to be down with women’s issues. Invariably, with these guys, a pie fight ad shows up in their sidebar, some feminist readers raise a stink, and the white dudes summarily shout’em down. Then one of their progressive buds writes a “Where are all the women bloggers?” post, and someone says, “Dude! Ana Marie Cox!” and they all go back to Hillary-bashing. If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it eight times.
It’s the same thing with the women of color feminist bloggers and the white feminist bloggers. A white feminist blogger, for example, cannot plug a book written by another white feminist blogger (who is currently under the gun for failing to cite precedent work by women of color), and simultaneously ignore the implications this has for women of color, without it appearing as an act of open hostility. Doing this more or less says, “This author has no fluency. You might as well be reading Perez Hilton.”
It seems so obvious now, so why didn’t I see it before?
That’s right! White privilege! It’s just like male privilege, except in this context it’s just for white chicks. Where dude bloggers may exercise control over women according to their status, white feminist bloggers may exercise control over women of color according to their status.
[Although if I may, in an aside, remark on how absurd it feels to claim “status” of any kind in the feminist blogosphere, which is a community in which I am generally reviled as a sex-hating lesbo nutjob outcast. But I digress.]
In the example cited above, the one where I allude to having posted a pro-Marcotte book dealio, the “control” aspect was expressed in my failure to address the current controversy. In so failing, I effectively endorsed white privilege in feminist bloggery, and closed down a potential avenue of discussion. That this was unintentional is of no consequence; it was perceived by many, and rightly so, as an example of what has been popularly referred to as “circling the wagons.”
The sad irony is that I never cut dudes the tiniest bit of slack in the male privilege department. They write in and say, “But Twisty, I never rape my girlfriend, aren’t you being just a little shrill?”
And I always reply (well, I always used to reply; I just ignore’em now, they make me so tired, especially when they go into minute, graphic detail about their sex lives. Why do they all do that?), “You might,” I used to tell them, “be the nicest male dude on 9 planets, but the fact remains that you’re a dude, so you automatically benefit from male privilege whether you actively choose to or not, and unfortunately this privilege, though it may be invisible to you, is experienced by women as misogyny, again, whether you like it or not.”
It’s the same exact thing with white privilege. So, if you’re a white feminist blogger: you may not choose it, you may hate it, you may ignore it, or you may not even see it, but you do exercise your white privilege daily, and it is absurd to expect that this exercise would be perceived by women of color as anything but racism. Because it is racism, dum-dum.
I know, I know! We don’t mean it! We’ve blogged against racism a hundred times. It is our fondest wish to support women of color. Why are these WOC harping on that one little thing we said in our last post that, OK, in retrospect, might seem a bit patronizing? Why are they being so mean? Can’t they see we’re on their side, overall? And anyway, can we help it if we blog about white feminist things? After all, that’s what we are.
Well, if you’ll permit an analogy: there’ve been pro-abortion posts aplenty at DKos, but after that pie-fight shit I wouldn’t read that blog again with a 10-foot pole. As I wrote back then, a spinster aunt comes to expect from one’s supposedly progressive bloggers a certain level of fluency in rudimentary feminist thought, so when they come out all “Yay pornography! Screw you if you can’t take a joke, you shrill harpy cunt!” you tend to view them with a jaundiced eye. Obviously they’ll throw you to the wolves the minute you start telling’em shit they don’t want to hear.
You feel that, white feminists? That’s your obstreperal lobe telling you that feminism and good intentions do not a get-out-of-racism-free card make.
For the second half of this discussion I am indebted to PhysioProf, who, like 10 days ago, wrote an excellent (and strangely light-on-the-expletives) post “Intellectual Appropriation, Attribution of Credit, and Privilege.” In his essay PP outlines the basic cornerstones of fair play in scholarship, what he considers a “really important self-regulating feature of traditional intellectual discourse in academia that [he thinks] bloggers could stand to learn a few things from.”
In praxis I am loath to adopt anything labeled “traditional in academia,” since academic tradition is one of patriarchy’s most reliable methods of self-replication. However, short of revolution and a new world order wherein intellectual property is nothing but a quaint historical footnote, I’m gonna have give this one to PhysioProf.
The crux on the gist of his nub is this: “Ignorance is not an excuse.”
Now. Some bloggers say Amanda appropriated material from Brownfemipower for a piece on women ‘n immigration that appeared at RH Reality Check and AlterNet; Amanda says no, she came up with the analysis on her own after attending an ACLU conference.
But PhysioProf intimates, and I agree, that if A and B expound similarly, and A’s work pre-dates B’s, the onus is on B to sniff A out and give the props. This no-excuse thing extends from “accidental” ignorance of pre-existing work, such as might describe the Amanda/BFP situation, to “intentional” ignorance, such as purposely avoiding exposure to certain bloggofeminist oeuvres despite, or even because of, their relevance to one’s own work.
In other words, even if Amanda had never heard of Brownfemipower in all her life, and had arrived in an intellectual vacuum at the conclusions she published at RH Reality Check/AlterNet, hard upon her subsequent discovery of Brownfemipower’s pre-existing work — the existence of which appears to be a fact — good scholarship suggests that an acknowledgment of those prior efforts should have hove into view toot sweet. Yet — and please correct me if I’m wrong — so far as I know, no such acknowledgment appears.
So where does sloppy research intersect with white privilege? In this case, right in the old book tour. Amanda’s purported appropriation, whether accidental, intentional, real or imagined, of BFP’s analysis, combined with her book’s debut and an altercation involving some women of color and the book’s publisher, is a stunning example of the exercise of white privilege resonating as racism throughout the blogular RWOC community. Because of Amanda’s A-list status — which status magnifies both her privilege and her responsibility whether she likes it or not — the event has transcended the usual fucque-up du blogue. Her continued disavowals now join with the uncomfortable silence of certain spinster aunts to grandiloquently underscore a problem endemic to feminism since its inception: the invisibility of women of color.
So not only would the aforementioned acknowledgment of Brownfemipower’s work satisfy PhysioProf’s academic protocols, it would be a great opportunity to expose to a wide audience the hideous inclination of white privilege to sabotage, bias, and encrapulate the pitiful, ineffectual, condescending efforts of white feminists to “support” women of color. As Huck Finn says, “a little thing like that don’t cost nothing, and it’s just the little things that makes a feminist blogger to be looked up to and liked.”
That’s right. Nothing new here. Just getting stuff off my hairy boobless chest.
NOTE: No endemic problem is the fault of a single person. Only a chumpass would blame Amanda personally for engendering some monumental schism in the very fabric of feminism. Therefore, anyone who cares to comment on this post should be advised that any ad feminam attacks will be deleted.
ANOTHER NOTE: I trust it will withstand denuciations of wagon-circling if I wish a fellow blogger, whose talent I admire, continued success with her book, which, I hear, is already in its 2nd printing. “Woot!”, as it were.