Some feminist reflections
Louise Livesey // 30 April 2008
Not mine for a change…. Jessica Valenti, over at Feministing, has been reflecting on the recent racism issues in the blogosphere and publishing worlds. It includes this admission.
But I think that I’ve been focusing so hard on changing mainstream feminist institutions, organizations that I saw as the ones with power, I ignored how a blog (or a book, or a person) could have that same power and do the same harm that I was working so hard to stop. For that, I am truly sorry.
At first I wanted to say well done but then realised the inherently problematic dimensions of a white (albeit UK, working class, queer) feminist congratulating another white feminism over their take on racism. See challenging white supremacy is an ongoing thing. So I’ll leave it at hoping the words transform to actions too.
Meanwhile Jack at Feministe has been reflecting on what does and doesn’t constitute “feminist”. This interests me greatly because (whilst we’re on self-reflection) I had very conflicted feelings about the recent post on transmen. As a queer activist I am completely behind supporting trans-communities but I found myself thinking “well I see the point to discuss and work around inclusion of transwomen but if feminism has to be responsible/involved with transmen too, people who have eschewed their female identities then I wonder whether we’re going to end up with a notion of feminism and women’s issues which is irrationally broad and meaningless”. I’m not, by the way, saying this to be provocative, I’m merely being honest about my responses.
I’m happy and excited to be joining an explicitly feminist and feminist-centric blog. But I wouldn’t be if my participation was predicated at leaving parts of my self – my identities and my politics – at the door. I live and function in this world in large part a as a woman, but also as a person of color, a Puerto Rican, a queer person, a genderqueer butch. These identities don’t merely intersect; they overlap, and they change each other in the overlapping. As I said over in that ill-fated comments thread, my entire identity is more than the sum of its parts; the overlap creates something new, something intrinsically meshed that can’t just be spliced apart into neat, discrete categories. Likewise, my politics are interconnected. I can look at my politics and point out some different, distinct threads – “Oh, that’s a feminist politic right there; and that one, that’s anti-racist; and this one here’s trans positive.” But things aren’t always so discrete. I find few issues to be purely feminist, or purely about race or class or anything else.
I completely agree with this, absolutely and without reservation (as I do with her reminder that, after recent controversies, racism and race exclusion isn’t dead in feminism). But am still left disquieted about the transmen issue and my response to it. I don’t have any easy answers here, just questions I guess…