Monday, April 28, 2008

It has begun.

Me: Do you want waffles this morning?

Bean: No!

Me: ...I thought you liked waffles?

Bean: (Getting upset) No! I don't want waffles!

Me: OK, that's all right. You don't have to have waffles. ...What's the problem?

Bean: Waffles are old school!!

A truly awesome post on hair...

with some truly insensitive comments.

Here's the post - a must-read.

So, Meowser is writing about being a woman and going bald, and it's obvious as you read her post that this is a huge, weighty, painful issue, not just for her, but for lots of women. She notes in her post that significant numbers of women question their very womanhood upon balding and consider suicide. Clearly, this is a sensitive issue and should be addressed as such in the comments, right? And people who are happy with their hair and who were nevertheless moved by the post will say so in a sensitive manner?

But, in among the comments by women who are losing their hair or whose hair has always been a source of pain for them:

My hair, I have to say, is my crowning glory. It’s naturally blonde but I have it died red with blonde highlights. My stylist is an awesome short-hair stylist and I pay her dearly. I get compliments on my hair nearly every day from women young and old, black and white. One exchange student on campus even told me in a Haitian accent that my hair looks like fire. My husband used to not believe me until we went shopping together and he saw first-hand how often I got complimented on it.


It was good for me to read about a different perspective from my own. I am a fat chick, but one aspect of my appearance I’ve always been pretty proud of is my head of smooth, thick, wavy black hair.


I have hip-length straight brown hair. It’s my only physical that I truly think is beautiful; it’s thick and gorgeous and shot through with the most ridiculous highlights ever. I don’t just have lighter patches and darker patches; there are strands of my hair that are black, and some that are flat-out platinum. It’s never been dyed or permed or treated with chemicals ever, and I love my hair to bits.

By way of contrast, here's a quote that manages to make the point that the commenter is attached to her hair, without turning her into an inconsiderate asshat:

My hair is one of the few things about my appearance that I DO like - losing it would be really hard. But I think your post illustrates very well how much we define ourselves (and are defined by others) by our looks...

And here's another:

Excellent post. I’ve always been very attached to my hair, but I never really thought about how much of a cultural component there is to that.

So, you know, it is possible.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If you want to help...

Here is a link to the Sean Bell Benefit Fund.

Contributions are appreciated and go to the children of Sean.
Sean Bell Benefit Fund
c/o Mitchell Law Office
225 Broadway, Suite 1410
New York, NY 10007
or call 1-866-695-2992.

It's 2008: How are we doing on bi and trans inclusion?

It's interesting to me that we are *still* having arguments about whether/how to include bisexual and transgendered people within the larger queer and women's communities.

Lately, there have been some pretty ignorant and bigoted comments made about trans people. It's not like this is anything new - there are several radical feminist blogs that continue the same kind of trans-trashing language and the refusal to recognize cis privilege.

But I'm struck by the fact that this kind of narrow thinking persists, even as I witness such changes in my peers' and in my own thinking around this issue, largely as a result of coming to have trans friends and acquaintances who put a personal face on all of this.

As feminists, what we share is the belief that we do live in an oppressive society. And let's be honest about it - it flat out feels good to have a common enemy, to be able to say, for example, that men, and male energy, and male thinking, and so on, are the problem. It feels *great* to be able to blame other people for the ills of the world - and there are certainly blame-worthy individuals out there. Of course, this "us-them" mentality conveniently allows us to ignore our own role in shaping the world, particularly those of us who benefit from the status quo, such as cis women, heterosexual women, white women, able-bodied women, Christian women, etc.

And for many feminist cis folk, trans is a tough issue to get their heads around. Much as the Lesbian Nation decries bisexual women as traitors who just want that conduit to patriarchal privilege, some radical feminists decry transmen as selling out (or, slightly more kindly, giving up on) women in order to buy this privilege - and transwomen as men who want so badly to own women that they are willing to recerate their own bodies just to do it.

Er...kind of a long way to go, wouldn't that be?

Anyway - so we have now seen several supposedly radical feminists react as if transpeople are oppressing them by existing; as if transwomen aren't women; as if transmen don't exist, for the most part; as if transpeople of color don't exist at all; as if cisgendered women have the right to determine who else gets to use the term "woman."

At the same time, I've been part of a dialogue around the Bi/Trans Area Interest Group at NWSA. Without going too much into the history of the group, suffice it to say that it's been a space for bi/trans people and for people doing research in these areas for nearly a decade, and now we are planning to propose the formation of a separate Trans Caucus. Caucuses in the NWSA are an important part of the governance of the organization, and they are made up of otherwise underrepresented minority groups.

When this proposal was mentioned on WMST-L, it prompted one individual to argue repeatedly that allowing such a caucus would be damaging to the organization, as it would be giving disproportionate power to the minority of bi and trans people. She argued that, given the small percentage of the population that is trans, they would be overrepresented by a Caucus, and further, that bi and trans were already overrepresented in Women's Studies (!). In her argument, she implied that "women" was a category exclusive of "bi and trans people." She pointed out that the push for bi and trans inclusion was always motivated by "pure self interest", thereby implying that this inclusion would always have a negative impact and that it was always unwanted by cisgendered and monosexual people. (Thankfully, one activist responded, saying, "it's unfortunate that the monosexual, cisgendered majority is so silent about resisting and uprooting their unearned privileges, isn't it?")

So, here we are, still, in this place we've been in for the last couple of decades, at least, in which bisexual and trans people are perceived as vampires who have nothing to contribute to the discipline, organization, or community. Any work that we have done is motivated by self-interest, and therefore bad and wrong and selfish - unlike any other social movement, I guess, because certainly the feminist movement was not motivated by self-interest, was it? Nor the labor movement? Nor civil rights? Any contributions we might make as scholars who study bi and trans politics, identities, and so forth must simply be taking the place of scholarship made more worthy by its focus on cis women, het women, white women, lesbians?

It is worth pointing out that the majority of responses argued against this lone naysayer, and that I think the Trans Caucus will fly. But I am, as always, taken aback by this entrenched thinking that precludes any real conversation or understanding of others' experiences. And as always, it is disappointing.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Now I have to go change my pants...

...because I was catching up at Bint Alshamsa's and I started to read her post,

and I got as far as this link, and I started laughing so hard, I peed.

Not really. But it could've happened. (The letters page is also hilarious.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

PFLAG New Orleans is just all right with me

Here's what I like to see. From the Phyllabuster listserv:


I was forwarded a copy of a recent conversation on the Phyllabuster list, regarding the Louisiana safe schools bill, and the work of PFLAG’s New Orleans chapter. I wanted to personally respond, and hope that you will post my message on your full list, so your readers have a complete picture of what is happening in New Orleans.

The truth is that our New Orleans chapter will not be testifying in favor of the non-inclusive bill. Our chapter leaders were originally led to believe that H.B. 674 was inclusive of transgender students. But, upon learning that was not the case, the chapter immediately withdrew its plans to address the legislature in support of the bill.

Instead, our national office is working closely with our supporters on the ground in New Orleans to educate the public – and lawmakers – about why an inclusive bill is so essential. We will be working on op-ed placements and other actions to call on Representative Leger and other leaders to make the necessary modifications so that this legislation covers every student, and leaves no child behind.

PFLAG, as always, remains committed to ensuring that students are protected from bullying and harassment regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Our commitment to that principle has never wavered, and never will.

I hope this is a helpful clarification.

Thank you,


Steve Ralls
Director of Communications
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dear Missionaries... is really rude to stand outside CVS and try to convert people on other religions' high holy days, such as Passover, which it is now.

Get a clue.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Prof Black Woman's Meme: Why Women's Studies?

If you are a person of color who teaches Women, Gender, or Women and Gender Studies please write a blog post about why you teach in that inter/discipline. Please also address how or why you stick with it when issues of racism, homophobia or heterosexism, classism, or other issues arise. You can give as many reasons as you want and be as elaborate or succinct as you want. Tag at least 5 people and make sure that they know they have been tagged so we reach as many people as possible. You may participate even if you are just considering teaching in the interdiscipline or if your classes are cross-listed. (White allies, you are welcome to participate too, as long as you center the issue of how you support women of color as a central question in your answer.)

(Note: This morphs a bit into the discussion about "feminism," spurred in part by BFP.)

I was thinking, on my drive home this afternoon, that I am really lucky to have had a Women's Studies education that prioritized anti-racist work and the centering of women of color, queer women, and working-class women. First of all, if I had had to focus on Derrida, Lacan, Butler, and others who write like that, I would never have finished grad school. Second of all, I am incredibly grateful to have been introduced early on in my graduate studies to theorists like Audre Lorde, Gloria AnzaldĂșa, Barbara Smith, bell hooks, Patricia J. Williams, Patricia Hill Collins, Dorothy Allison, and many others. These writings, to me, are what "feminist theory" means. If Women's Studies is, as many say, the teaching arm of the feminist movement, then it makes sense that the philosophies at the core of the discipline come from theory that is based on lived experience. That is what these and other theorists do: they use the experiences of their lives, and of the lives of their people (whether that be people of color, people of a particular ethnic or racial background, lgbt people, etc.), as the basis for a critical analysis of power and privilege.

Using the experiences of our lives to ground our theory has always been part of the feminist movement. Even if you locate the Second Wave as a monolithic White feminist movement (and I don't), or as the beginnings of modern feminism (and I don't), you can see that consciousness-raising and "the personal is political" is all about looking at the stuff of our lives and critically analyzing it.

So that means that issues of poverty, racism, homelessness, immigration, and colonization are every bit as central to Women's Studies as are issues of abortion rights, the glass ceiling, eating disorders, and sexual assault.

Often, though, Women's Studies practitioners get it wrong. And when this happens, I don't fault Women's Studies as a discipline. I fault the individuals, and I become more determined to make sure that at least my students will get it, that they won't be guilty of going to a conference and saying, "I don't see what race and class have to do with gender."*

I *do* wonder, from time to time, if we should come up with another name for what we do. But I'll tell you something, and this will probably not be too popular. Racism in the feminist movement, and in Women's Studies, may be deeply, deeply entrenched. But we often act as if they are the worst offenders, as if they invented racism and White privilege and all the rest of it. Whatever our faults as a movement and discipline, feminism/Women's Studies has named this problem, has acknowledged it, and has worked to fix it. Unsuccessfully in many, many cases, yes. Successfully in some cases.

Can we say the same of other movements that have so many White people in them? Can we say the same of predominantly male movements that have White people in them?

This is obviously not a very attractive notion, suggesting that, 'hey, Women's Studies/feminism isn't as racist, and there are other, more racist movements out there, so hey, it's not all bad.' I obviously don't mean this. Rather, I mean that I see the potential for Women's Studies/feminism, not just or even mostly the failures. I see people who are trying to get it. And I can think of some who have gotten it, from whom I have learned a great deal.

And it is that potential that I won't give up. I feel like I am a stakeholder in this movement, and I am not willing to give up my focus on race and class and ability and religion and sexuality in my analysis of gender, or to allow my students to think that any of these can be separated from the other.

And, as Anxious Black Woman said the other day, "I will not disavow the 'feminist' label because I didn't get it coming through the back door."

I didn't get Women's Studies from White theory - I got it from women of color, most of whom called themselves feminists and most of whom located themselves within Women's Studies.

Patricia Hill Collins argues that, to be a Black Feminist, you must be a Black woman. I'm not a Black woman, and not a Black Feminist, but my feminism is different from a feminism based on White people's gender issues. Some of us are experimenting with calling ourselves "Margins Feminists" - a term that may already be taken - to point out our focus on the issues of those groups that tend to be marginalized within mainstream feminism. So, this is the version of Women's Studies that my students get from me.

I've gotten this far, and I still haven't answered the question. Why do I teach Women's Studies? Because I really do think that it will make a difference, that it has as yet unrealized potential to change lives and realities, and that the discipline is slowly moving forward and making these changes.

*True story. This was said to me by the same (Latina?) lesbian who called me out for being bisexual and having a boyfriend.

Consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A comment to Seal Press (and other publishers who want to publish women of color).

Here's something I posted to their blog and thought was worthy to repeat here:

I think there are some concrete things you can do to ensure that you get more proposals from women of color and that you publish more works by women of color:

1) At past conferences, publishers have offered sessions for conference attendees on getting published. What about working with some of the other publishers, at conferences Seal attends, to do sessions specifically for women of color on getting published and getting their proposals accepted?

2) Host receptions specifically for women of color, or make a certain time during the book exhibits a time that you publicize as being for women of color who have book ideas or proposals.

3) Invite women of color to be on your advisory board (and if you don't have one, create one). Ask them to help you identify writers and works for consideration.

4) Read women of color blogs. There are theorists doing work that rivals any feminist writing out there.

5) Consider the impact of your cover designs. I looked at the covers of several of your recent books, and so many of them feature a white woman on the cover. This sends a clear message about the content, even if the white woman on the cover doesn't accurately represent the content of the book. There's no special reason the covers have to be white women, is there?

Many of these suggestions will both help ensure that you get more proposals from women of color, and they will also allow women of color to network with publishers.

If you're in the San Diego area, check this out.

Click for a larger image. Pat is an engaging, moving speaker, and I really encourage you to go hear what she has to say.

For women of color writers and writing women with disabilities... is a press with a commitment to publishing your work:

In 2006 ARM launched Demeter Press, the first feminist press on motherhood. We have published four books and have another ten planned or in production. A central mandate of our press is to publish volumes on under-researched motherhood topics. (for example Demeter press published the first scholarly volume on aborginal mothering and the first READER on maternal theory). To this end, we are actively seeking proposals for EDITED scholarly collections on the following three subjects: Mothering and Islam; Mothering and Disability; and Latina/Chicana mothering. If you are interested in submitting a book prospectus please contact me at the address below. Please visit our website for more information on ARM and Demeter Press.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Anyone else thinking...

...that there'd be quite a different reaction if it'd been Obama who'd tried to appeal to the voters by being filmed drinking shots and talking about how his Daddy'd taught him to shoot?

Toni Locy and the Freedom of the Press

Last week, I heard Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP) talk about, among other things, the importance of a Federal Shield Law to protect reporters from being forced to give up their sources. As you may know from watching Lou Grant or Mary Tyler Moore, giving up sources is a big deal. It places the sources in jeopardy, first of all, but it also means that the reporter may not be able to work again, if sources do not trust him or her to keep them confidential.

She mentioned one case in particular that I found distressing: that of Toni Locy.

Locy was a USA Today reporter who wrote about Dr. Steven Hatfill, suspect in the case of the anthrax attacks that took place after 9/11. Hatfill is now suing the government for, essentially, ruining his life by sharing confidential information about him with the press. As part of this process, Locy was ordered to give up her government sources. She claims that she doesn't remember exactly which of her sources she spoke with for that story, which I at first found hard to believe, until I learned that she has a number of regular sources with whom she has spoken regarding several stories; that she was working on several stories at the time that she wrote the Hatfill piece; and that she wrote the piece five years ago. The result, Dalglish says, is that the judge ordered her to turn over the names of not just the sources she had spoken with, but of twelve of her Justice Department sources. And Locy refused.

So, in television and movies, when a reporter fails to give up her sources, she goes to jail, right? Like Judy Miller? Not any more:

...U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton in Washington, D.C. issued an order holding former USA TODAY reporter Toni Locy in contempt for refusing to reveal confidential sources in the Hatfill/anthrax stories she wrote about five years ago.

Judge Walton denied Locy's request for a stay pending appeal to the DC Circuit and ordered that all fines must come out of her pocket: she will not be allowed to accept assistance in paying the fines. In a couple of weeks, the fines will accelerate to $5,000 a day and not even her own mother will be allowed to help her pay them. Her first payment is due at midnight tomorrow.

In other words, she is being threatened with complete financial ruin. Note that, as the RCFP press release explains, this is unprecedented: "No judge has ever officially ordered that a reporter held in contempt may not accept reimbursement from an employer (or anyone else.)" Further, there are broader implications here for journalists. From an RCFP white paper:
The corporate structure of the news media has created new obstacles, both financial and practical, for journalists who must keep promises of confidentiality. Information that once existed only in a reporter’s notebook can now be accessed by companies that have obligations not only to their reporters, but to their shareholders, their other employees, and the public. Additionally, in the wake of an unprecedented settlement in the Wen Ho Lee Privacy Act case, parties can target news media corporations not just for their access to a reporter’s information, but also for their deep pockets. The potential for conflicts of interest is staggering, but the primary concerns of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are that:

• because of the 21st-century newsroom’s reliance on technology, corporations now have access to notes, correspondence and work-product information that before only existed in a reporter’s notebook;

• the new federal "e-discovery" court rules allow litigants to discover vastly more information than a printed page – or even a saved e-mail – would provide during litigation;

• while reporters generally only have responsibilities to themselves, their family, and their sources, a corporation often has responsibilities to shareholders and regulators that can force compromises in the protection of newsgathering materials;

• since so many reporters have said that they would willingly go to jail to protect their sources, some plaintiffs and prosecutors are now threatening to financially ruin the journalist, often with the assumption that news media corporations will back their reporter and pay steep fines;

• the settlement in the Wen Ho Lee case has demonstrated to civil plaintiffs that a large check from news media organizations can be obtained in lieu of confidential information;

• the costs of litigation – both emotional and financial – are weighing heavily on journalists and news media corporations.

Now - a separate, but related, issue here is that I think these folks who are wrongly accused have every right to sue. But without a free press, we will be even less informed than we are now.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

So, what did we learn from all this?

1) That the definition of "plagiarism" is much broader than most people think (thanks to Stoneself, comment #310 on the Feministe thread):


Plagiarism is defined as the use of intellectual material produced by another person without acknowledging its source. This includes, but is not limited to:
(a.) Copying from the writings or works of others into one’s academic assignment without attribution, or submitting such work as if it were one’s own;
(b.) Using the views, opinions, or insights of another without acknowledgment; or
(c.) Paraphrasing the characteristic or original phraseology, metaphor, or other literary device of another without proper attribution.

from the uc berkeley library website

2) That the accusation of "plagiarism," like the accusation of "racism," will shut down any further conversation between the central parties. Thus, WOC/POC may "discretely" - as several (White?) commenters suggested at Feministe as well, I think, as at Schwyzer's - communicate, in the very gentlest terms possible, that perhaps the writer may have made a mistake for omitting a link, or perhaps the writer may have accidentally used language that might, to some, appear racist. But anything beyond that is, quite simply, rude, frightening, mean, and a threat to the accused party's career. In other words, the actual appropriation of WOC/POC's work, and the impact of this on their feelings and careers, are not of concern to White people who are being accused.

3) That when WOC/POC have their work appropriated, there is, therefore, no way to grieve this situation outside of a courtroom, which is simply not an option for most people, for a whole slew of reasons, including court costs and also the backlash of this kind of publicity.

4) That there are, in spite of the attempts of many White commenters to paint this as "Angry WOC v. White Women," many White feminist female and male allies who are, as a consequence of seeing both that BFP has silenced herself and that Amanda Marcotte and some of her allies have refused to acknowledge at all that she should have linked to BFP's work as well as to work by other WOC, rethinking our own practices as bloggers and writers as well as our own gut defensiveness. Many White feminists are thinking about what would happen if we, ourselves, were accused of appropriating someone else's ideas. Some mentioned their own processes of taking anti-racist action, which I quote not to lionize White people in this discussion, but to show that there are allies, there are examples of White people doing anti-racist thinking and acting that others of us can learn from:

As a white feminist, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about feminism being a movement for social justice for everyone, not the property or weapon of a specific group of people who identify in a specific way. I started thinking about this when I was wishing that more of the men in my life felt like they could come out and identify as feminists. But I’ve realized that the idea has a much broader application. And what the articles I read really drove home was: because I am a feminist, therefore committed to social justice wherever there’s a lack of it, the thing I need to think about FIRST isn’t necessarily that I am a woman, and therefore oppressed by the system. What I need to think about FIRST is that I am white (and affluent and able-bodied and privileged in other ways) which means that I (a) benefit significantly from the bigger system of inequality of which patriarchy is an integral part, and (b) need to listen really hard to the voices of women of color (etc.) who unquestionably can tell me things I can’t see for myself. (Susan, Comment 186)

I’m a white, low income, disabled sometime writer. I’ve lost a job, my total prospects for employment in a certain field, when I’m fearful about job market access and homelessness already, because my employer was doing racist shit and eventually I went "this is my living, but it’s their living too, and whether “they” actually staying alive or not" (Outfoxblog, Comment 189)

5) Holly rocks. Her whole Feministe post was wonderful, but I found this portion particularly helpful, as it serves as a model for dealing gracefully with realizing and being accountable for appropriating someone else's work:

I am willing to confess on this subject. On more than one occasion I have not given credit where credit’s due, I haven’t acknowledged my influences and the prior work of others. I’m not proud of that, even though it can easily happen to anyone, especially a relatively sloppy thinker like me. They were mistakes and I’ve tried to own up to them. It hasn’t always been easy.

You can see one such mistake in the Sixteen Maneuvers post that I’ve already linked twice. Like I say at the beginning of that post, I based that list on some printed materials I found from a defunct anti-racist organization. I’ve used those materials before when running anti-racism workshops, and decided to adapt it for Feministe. Then Kai showed up and pointed out a similarity to Nezua’s Wite-Magik Attax. All of a sudden I realized with horror that I HAD read Nezua’s Glosario some time ago, that I must have been influenced by it in how I adapted the “Maneuevers”–even without consciously remembering. Aghast, I posted a response to give Nezua credit and call myself out for plagiarism. That was probably overstating, and I kind of wish I had edited the original post. In any case, I felt really embarassed — I had copied an idea, even unintentionally and even though it was from more than one source, without giving credit. Happily for me, Nezua regarded it as a birthday tribute. And I retroactively declared it one.

6) That there are, indeed, ways to respond to accusations of appropriation, plagiarism, etc. Suggested by Holly, Comment 107:

"When I first wrote this piece, I did so without recognizing the work that’s been done on these particular issues, the intersection of feminism and immigration issues, by a lot of other women. Of course, we can’t always call out every single person whose writing and thoughts have filtered their way into our minds, but I do want to mention X blogger, Y author, and Z activist whose speech I heard last week. As a white woman who’s just starting to write about a crisis that has devastated the lives of so many immigrant women of color in this country, their communities and families, I want to recognize the work of these and other women of color and express hope that the progressive movement will follow their lead on in fighting racist immigration policies. I regret not including this in the first draft, since I might have come across like I was constructing this analysis myself — I’m not, and we’re fortunate to have many women of all colors thinking about this stuff."

7) The issues are not about us as individuals. As bloggers and writers, we have a larger responsibility than bolstering our own egos. We should also care about making a difference with our words. We should put the subjects of our writing first, and that means writing about them with clarity. Further, we have a responsibility to link to the bloggers and writers and artists who lay the groundwork for our own work, to the people who help us to come up with ideas. And we have a responsibility to read broadly so that we actually have a clue about what we write about.

BFP, via The SmackDog Chronicles:
There’s a lot of women of color (and men of color!) who have talked about immigration. There’s a lot of women of color and men of color who have examined how sexualized violence has been the foremost result of the “strengthening” of borders. There’s been a lot of us who have insisted for a long time now that immigration is a feminist issue, goddamn it, get your head out of your ass.

I even wrote a whole speech about it.

Which is why it was startling to read a recent article about how sexualized violence against immigrant women is directly linked to using dehumanizing terminology like “illegal alien” without one attribute to any blogger of color, male or female, in the entire essay. There is even an earnest declaration about how paperwork is the true problem of immigration (bureaucracy of paperwork anybody?) coupled with a declaration that immigration is a feminist issue.

I do not accept that the author of this article made a mistake in not publishing any links to the work already being done by pro-immigration bloggers, nor do I accept that the author came up with these ideas all on her own.


What I *DO* believe is that I made a massive and horrible mistake in emphasizing that immigration is a feminist issue. In comments, a Chicano blogger said very politely, thank you for talking about this Ms. Feminist, but this has been going on for a long time.

I don’t give a shit about being published, I don’t give a shit about the interviews or the jobs or the fame–I DO give a shit that a Chicano is reading a white feminist talking about immigration and politely distancing himself from a gendered analysis of immigration because the author exhibits no historical or contextual awareness of women of color led feminist interventions into immigration.

I give a shit about that because not only does this erase the work that women of color are doing within racist white dominant structures, but it erases the work we are doing within our own communities. It makes it ok for men of color to dismiss the need for feminist interventions into our communities–AND it makes it ok for white women to continue beating up women of color with the idea that showing any concern for what happens to men in our communities is ridiculous, because, see, they don’t approve of feminism!

Poof! Just like that, feminists of color are made invisible even as we are the ones laying our bodies down for the foundation of the communication between men of color and white women.

I had thought at one time that feminism was about justice for women. I had thought it was about centering the needs of women, and creating action in the name of, by and for women. I had thought that feminism has its problems but it’s worth fighting for, worth sacrificing and sweating and crying and breaking down for.

It was all worth it to me, because it meant that I existed and my daughter existed and the women I love existed and we had the right to demand the violence committed against us ends.

I see now that feminism is nothing more than erasure. A conversation between white women and men. A commitment to the safety and well being of people who are never women of color.

We miss you, BFP.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on female circumcision.

And yeah, I know that that very title is angering lots of Western feminists. Here's why I'm using it today.

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a Somali woman I work with. She told me that she is opposed to circumcising girls (her words) and that she gets very angry when Westerners talk about what are a number of different practices (from a token cut, in a hospital with anesthetic, that does not remove or harm the clitoris but rather a bit of skin in order to satisfy the parents, to full on excision and infibulation without anesthetic in some rural communities) as if they were all the same. She feels that the language Westerners use about this practice is very insulting to women. And she feels that these two tendencies hurt, rather than help, African women's efforts to end the practice.

Further, she told me, among Somali people, the practice has dropped from over 80% to about 30%. The reason will surprise you: it's because, she said, during the war, Somali people turned to Islam. And while some people claim that there is a verse in the Koran that prescribes this practice of cutting daughters, she tells me that when she contacted religious leaders, they said there was no such verse.

I thought this was an interesting counterpoint to much of what we in the West hear about the practice - and about Islam.

The Seal Scandal.

For those who have no idea what I was talking about when I briefly mentioned Seal in the previous post, here's the deal (see this first). And, since Seal Press has since decided to erase the whole thing from their blog, here is their post (without the comments, which I can't get to, 'cause they deleted the post) - you do not get to write this kind of stuff and then pretend it never happened!):

Thursday, April 3, 2008
Seal and women of color

I feel compelled to go public here since there has been a lot of important, though discouraging, conversation going on over at Blackamazon, and because of Angry Black Woman's comment to yesterday's post, which is off-topic there, but fits here.

Right now I am the sole acquiring editor at Seal. Krista is the publisher. The two of us are Seal editorial, and that's all we got. I wrote yesterday, in response to Anonymous's comment: "Seal's got nothing on WOC" that we want WOC. I get now that I misunderstood the comment, that I took it literally to mean we've got no books on WOC. Of course, it's not true. We have books, though mostly anthologies. Hijas Americanas, Voices of Resistance, and Shout Out are recent acquisitions that feature work for and about women of color. Seal is known for Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism. Regardless, I want to clarify and try to rectify this whole nasty thing that's happening over there because I didn't intend to offend so many people. I was writing off the cuff in response to the comment FUCK SEAL PRESS, which yes, I took personal offense to. The comments that follow the post are even harsher, and yet, what I really intended to say with my comment was this: Seal wants to publish women of color and issues that matter to women of color.

What I wrote in a later comment was that publishing is NOT AS MUCH ABOUT outreach AS IT IS about getting submissions from people who want to write for us. That doesn't mean I don't do outreach. I do and I have. But again, as the sole acquiring editor, there's only so much I can do. I have to rely on people who want to get published, and who approach me. Right now I am doing outreach in the form of specifically acquiring for the Seal Studies academic series we're launching, and I've been going about looking for women to write books on queer feminism, women of color and feminism, feminism and religion, and on and on and on. All this for books that we think matter, but which probably won't sell very many copies in the grand scope of things.

I'm writing here today because I don't want to be boycotted by people who took offense to my comments yesterday. Seal is actually barely surviving. This press, which has a thirty-year history of publishing books that no other house wanted to publish, means a lot to me and to Krista and to a lot of women. Seal has changed over the years because we've had to. We could not survive publishing only the types of books that Seal used to publish. There's been a constant push to be more commercial, and we've responded to that. When it's try or die, I opt for trying. I've been involved in the new direction the list has taken, and Seal is more mainstream than it's ever been. And for better or worse, this is what's allowed us to stay in existence. This doesn't mean that we don't care, or that we're not open to hearing where we're doing wrong, or where we could do better. And so even though I feel angry about the comments over at Blackamazon, and I admittedly posted somewhat defensively, the intention behind it was, "Hey, let's work together to get published more of what you want to see." It doesn't even mean that can or will happen. I have higher-ups to answer to, it's true. But it doesn't change the fact that Krista and I are not intentionally fostering a "wall of whiteness" here.

So the fact that my writing "We want WOC"---yes, it was crass and quick, but I meant "Seal wants to publish WOC"---resulted in such backlash says to me that yes, people were offended, and I do apologize for that. I want to open up this discussion and do so productively. I do want to cultivate WOC authors. I always have. If I haven't been successful or able it's not for a lack of trying or ignorance to the situation out there. Which is why I appreciate Angry Black Woman writing something that opens up a space to have a productive conversation.

Signing off,


posted by Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner @ 12:05 PM Permalink 41 Comments


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More on what happens when you don't cite your sources.

My comment, edited a bit, at Hugo Schwyzer's:

I just don’t get it. I am an academic, a writer, and a blogger, and in all three of those pursuits, when I write about an idea that other people have also written about, I refer back to them. In blogging, it doesn’t take nearly as much as it takes in, say, academic writing. All you have to do is say, hey, people are talking about this, so-and-so over here wrote about it, these folks here are talking about it, and I want to add this to the conversation or build on this idea. Even journalists, who frequently do not cite sources as thoroughly as academic writers, do this. As X herself says, these are issues that people are writing about. So why the refusal to refer to her sources?

I think what happened is that she felt she didn’t have to cite her sources - quite a lot of people don’t cite their sources, and she’s hardly alone. But she got called on it, and it’s embarrassing. The classy thing to do would be simply to say, “yes, quite right, I neglected to cite these sources, here they are, here are links so that you can check out their good work, sorry about that.”

On a different note is what you are doing, Hugo. You’re suggesting that when a white feminist addresses issues of women of color, then, by golly, that’s all that matters. Further, your conflation of the Seal blow-up with this issue is simply inaccurate and fairly insulting. You are defending X’s professional integrity at the cost of BFP’s. You are essentially suggesting that women of color are only upset (and, FYI, contrary to your assumption, there are plenty of us white women who are upset on their behalfs, as well) because they’re not getting published. You’re making it about personal gain. You’re worried about professional reputations, and they’re worried about the social change they’re trying to effect, the change that is being stalled by white women twisting their words and denying their realities.

But you are right that there are some of the same dynamics operating in both of these instances, as well as in this very thread, which involve white folks tuning out people of color and not taking their work seriously enough to even think that perhaps, just maybe, it deserves to be acknowledged and given proper credit. Instead, the body of BFP’s work - which was really incredible - has been winnowed down to this one speech, as if she hadn’t been writing about these issues all this time, as if she hadn’t had a tremendous influence.

Update: Still more on this.

Snow blind.

Thanks to Stuff Daddy: Blinded by the White: Slavery - The Game! An excerpt:

...sometimes the eyes of Caucasia are so blinded to there own offensive actions that I can't believe in evolution. I know I'm going to get the moaning and the groaning and the "white anger." I always get that from my peeps.

I did when in high school, Dennis M***mitt told me he thought it would be really funny if he dressed up as an SS trooper for Halloween. Of course Dennis also told me his Dad lost his job to a Jew. I was amazed his father took the time to find out the religious and cultural background of the man who was replacing him.

As it turns out though, after Dennis regaled me with a good dose of his father's world philosophy, I had a good hunch that "the Jew" could do something Dennis' dad couldn't, process thoughts in logical order, understand cause and effect or perhaps read above a fourth grade level.


Here comes another great one for the list. It's a Facebook application called "Owned."

Here's the pitch: you buy , sell and possess other people, in a fun simulation of tongue and cheek slave commerce:"Own Your Friends! Give Human Gifts! Put yourself on the market and find out how much you're worth!"


...An inoffensive game sensation.
I wonder if white folks will invite their black friends to play?

I am reminded of the time one of my Black professors told me, incredulous, that a White student had asked her, during a class on Black people's lives under slavery, "why didn't all the Black people just leave?" And of the papers that some of my students have turned in that suggest that slavery wasn't really all that bad.

What is it about the idea of being owned that you do not get?!

...What I know of my mother's side of the family begins with my great-great-grandmother. Her name was Sophie and she lived in Tennessee. In 1850, she was about twelve years old. I know that she was purchased when she was eleven by a white lawyer named Austin Miller and was immediately impregnated by him. She gave birth to my great-grandmother Mary, who was taken away from her to be raised as a house servant.'... - Patricia J. Williams

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

If you're reading Pandagon...

...maybe you should read this.

UPDATE: Here are the specifics, if you really want to be blown away.

What I wish I'd thought of to say... the bigot down the street, who asked pointedly about my (Black) downstairs neighbors, and mentioned that they were the first Black family on the street, and that they (the neighborhood, which apparently speaks through her) thought, upon learning that they now had Black neighbors, "hmmm...well, we figured we'd see how this goes":

Option 1:
"Well, I can imagine how they must have felt, moving into such a racist neighborhood."

Option 2:
"Really? So 'how does it go?' Because I've got to tell you, so far, First Black Family - 1, Asshole White Neighbor - 0."

Option 3:
"What on earth would make you think that that is an appropriate thing to even think, let alone say out loud?"

Option 4:
"Apparently you are under the mistaken impression that I am White."*

*I am White, but I'm borrowing from Noel Ignatiev's "Race Traitor" approach to resisting White privilege.

Monday, April 07, 2008

My chemical household.

When I was a kid, it was my job to help clean the house every week. As I got older, it became my job to clean the house on my own (it was a small house - not a biggie). One of the things my mother told me repeatedly was, "don't ever mix ammonia and bleach products - it will make chlorine gas, and that could kill you." So I was always really careful about the products I used, especially when cleaning the toilet, since it was in cleaning the toilet that such products could be mixed.

Until last week, when I found myself cleaning the toilet with ammonia and about to pour bleach into the bowl.


We have ants in the bathroom. They are the small, reddish-brown variety, the ones I've always known as "sweet ants." I sent Mr. Plain(s)feminist out last night to buy poison, and I set it out for them, right next to the hole they were coming in from, and I sat there and watched the little buggers for a half hour, and they completely ignored it. You know how if you drop a popsicle or something on the ground, and there are no ants anywhere in sight, and then you turn around five minutes later and it's crawling with them? Yeah, that's not what happened here. They turned up their tiny ant antennae and very pointedly crawled underneath the little plastic square, just so they could rub my nose in the fact that they were totally uninterested in what I had to offer. So then I got some black pepper and sprinkled it around and in their little holes in the caulk, and at first I thought that that had made a difference, but when I went back later, they had moved it out of their way so they could keep running around. So finally, I mixed up some Borax and sugar water, and I dripped it all around and in their holes and where they were walking. Hah! I've got them now, those little fuckers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"Feminism for Freaks" anthology seeking submissions.

Here's the call for abstracts:
At its best, feminism offers an emancipatory potential from gendered oppression, inequality, and violence. At its worst, however, feminism can work to simply affirm the rights of middle-class, heterosexual, white women, and exclude the voices of already-marginalised groups such as women of colour, trans* women, sex workers and so on. Like Derrida's democracy, a truly liberatory feminism is mostly a feminism to come.

Not un-coincidentally, those marginalised groups of women are often demonised by the dominant culture, rendered as monstrous, simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible, compelling and threatening, desirable and disgusting--and forever denied a voice of our own. The question of if and how monstrosity can be reclaimed or re-worked is a vexed one for feminists.

We therefore invite proposals that affirm the voices of socially excluded people, that seek to create new and exciting knowledge and address themselves to feminist theory and activism or the wider culture, on such topics including, but not limited to:
* Monstrous bodies and identities
* Social marginalisation and exclusions (for instance, borders, walls, and immigration laws, and the silencing of voices such as those of women of colour and transgendered people)
* Liberation/transformation/organisation
* sex work
* queer sexualities and genders
* Visible signs of difference (Muslim women wearing the veil, disabled bodies etc)
* religion and spirituality
* freaks in popular culture, body modification etc
* fat positivity

Academic, non-fiction and creative work will be considered--the call is broad, and we're willing to accommodate new and interesting work by freaks of all kinds.

Please submit abstracts of up to 250 words by May 31st to and

*Note - Given that some contributors may not feel safe or comfortable telling their stories in the public sphere, submissions under pseudonyms will be accepted.