Somewhere on Twitter, someone linked an article from Bitch. It was described as something about the feminism of privilege, which seemed interesting to me and I clicked it.
The article was “Why I Didn’t Run the Caitlin Moran Interview” and because I did not know who that is, (and still don’t–although she’s identified in the first lines of in the article, I still have no point of reference for her) I just left the tab open and went on to other things of more immediate interest.
When I came back and read the (really brief) note, this part stood out to me:
Moran’s tweets topped off some uncomfortable asides I found in How to Be a Woman—jokes about devastating wars in non-Western countries, flippant use of the word “tranny,” burlesque is cool/burqas are bad—and confirmed a nonintersectional feminism I don’t want to support. Moran’s lack of public accountability didn’t help either.
Moran, of course, isn’t the only person—nor the only feminist—who has this problem. Lack of self-awareness, privilege-denial, and “literally not giving a shit” about the representation of women of color are symptomatic of the mainstream feminism movement right now. Bitch doesn’t always get it right either.
I’ve neither heard of Moran nor her book and I was completely unaware of this particular “controversy” over her, her tweeting and her book. I was particularly not familiar with Moran’s specific complete lack of both self-awareness and other-awareness, although I’m generally familiar with the phenomenon. I’m not particularly familiar with the editor of Bitch Magazine either, frankly. However, I agree with the editor completely when she writes: While not all of Moran’s defenders twist the discourse this badly, this is still basically what you sound like: me first, other people later. Feminism should be the other way around, it needs to start from a place of intersectionality, not run away from it or come up with bullshit excuses.
A friend–well, more than one, really–is losing sleep over this election. But this one in particular was joking about how he was going to explain to his daughters that there was no money for Christmas because he had given it all to prevent the election of Romney and Ryan because he had donated it to important groups doing important things. I told him to tell his girls that he had to give away the Christmas money because women like me had taken their economic, reproductive and social autonomy for granted and allowed the world to become hostile toward them while we were looking out for our own lives.
This is the point.
Examine your own experience. Be grateful for advances society has made that benefit you. Bemoan the obstacles you still face because society does not yet value you as fully and as effortlessly as a White Man from a Good Family with Money in his Bank Account. Do all these things. Do all these things freely. Share your wisdom, your struggles, your triumphs.
Yet, you must do this without belittling or dismissing the struggles of people who remain oppressed or merely behind you. More importantly, you must do this without discounting questions that emphasize problems outside your immediate concern. Acknowledging that “feminism” as a discipline has different issues to address for women of color than white women or different issues for professional women than working class women is not intended to belittle the insights of white, professionally successful women. It emphatically does not mean they don’t face unconscious and conscious sexism, paternalism, discrimination and actual danger from the men they encounter every day.
Your understanding of the world is expanded every time you consider who your solutions will not work for.
Moran purportedly said that “asking why there are no women of color on a contemporary television show about hip young people in New York City is like asking why there are no black people in Abba”. It baffles me that she thinks this is appropriate or meaningful. How can she not see that this comment comes from the same place as the command to “Smile!” from random men that women get every day as they walk down the street?