Feminist activism: White, western notions of polite discourse?

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Truth time for y'all about me: I'm at a point in my identity and activism where in many spaces I no longer feel comfortable just saying that I'm a feminist by itself without adding a few words before or after. I say I'm an Indigenous feminist. I say I'm a hip-hop feminist, a reproductive justice feminist. Like many folks, I feel like I've been burned out by the mainstream usage and representation of feminism and I'm not making any apologies for what I call myself and I will talk more extensively about Indigenous/Native feminisms in another few posts.

However today I came across this blog post today on Girldrive called, "What's wrong with this feminist picture?" which detailed the absence of women of color in all the attention being paid by Newsweek and some other mainstream media to feminism as of late.

No surprise there. Look who controls the media, the power, privilege, etc.

What I did find interesting was that the author stated: "What really gets me is that the majority of young feminist activists do think of feminism in an intersectional way. Just look at the blogger rosters at blogs like Feministing, Feministe, or Racialicious. Just look at the staff at organizations like WIMN or INCITE! or the ladies in Girldrive. Young feminists are trying not to make the same mistake that some Second Wave white feminists made of being blind to race issues. "

Now I've got to give it up to all the righteous feminist people out there who are representing and are vehemently trying to be intersectional -- as in, this isn't only about sex or gender. But I would argue, in my life experiences thus far, that many of the same mistakes from the second wave ARE being made and that just because we've got some new and hot language like "intersectionality" to use in our talk -- doesn't necessarily make things change in our walk (i.e., actually being anti-racist).

I mostly think this because my method of measuring where feminism is at isn't coming from the "oh, well it's better than it was before" place or the "oh, we need to understand that the second-wavers were women of their time" starting point. My measurement says that things have been really fucked up, are still really fucked up, but most importantly that I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding" why they remain that way in many instances.

Why should I wholly accept that feminism is still so prolifically contained within the walls of the academic industrial complex? Why, if you're not blogging or part of an organization you STILL might never get to talk about it? Why that even if you might be through and through feminist, if you do none of the above the mainstream feminist movement won't acknowledge (or even know about) you?

I mean, do you know the feedback I get at times from my own community when some people hear the word "feminist" in my introduction? They call me a white girl, a sell-out sometimes even. And given the history that we're coming from I don't blame them, because I think it's past the time to come to terms with the fact that a lot of feminism is rooted in Indigenous cultures, and in some ways has been co-opted from us.

Let me be clear: there are lots of exciting things happening today in the feminist activist world and I'm not discrediting any of the great work that's been done across the lines of difference. But as a Native woman, as a multiracial person, as a sex-worker, as a Two-Spirit bisexual being, I still don't feel represented and I don't need the hierarchical pat on the back of the mainstream to say "don't worry, we're getting there".

How about we just call things for what they are? White, western notions of polite discourse aren't the norm for all of us. Being uncomfortable with this truth about feminism helps keep my fire alive to change it, and it also helps me to not forget where we've really come from and where we're really going.

This article was originally published at bitchmagazine.org.


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