Silence, White Guilt and Colonization

So another white feminist writer says stuff and fails to grasp why it is a problem to women of colour – really, twitter is ripe with it and if being on that particular social network has taught me anything, it has taught me just how much I needed to re-examine myself and my newly re-claimed feminism to see just where it was failing to be supportive of WoC/trans WoC.

As a result of these car-crash articles that do so much to illustrate just how codified white supremacy is in white western feminism, I have been having serious (and possibly seriously radical) thoughts on the subject of silence, specifically in the context of the intersection of gender and race. These thoughts, however, led me to confront the notion of ‘white guilt’ and brought me to the inescapable conclusion the white guilt is in itself an extension of white colonial attitudes and is.. well, racist.

White guilt is racist because it keeps thoughts, attitudes, feelings and discussion centred on the white person/people/society. Whilst I am sure that feeling bad about the shit we white people have done (and are doing) to people of colour is all very well, the shit is not being done to us. And beating one’s chest in public about it means that attention is not being focussed where it should – i.e., on the shit being done to people of colour.

It’s logical really, and it doesn’t take an Einstein-like brain to figure it out. (Believe me, if Einstein had had my IQ, goodness knows what E would have equalled).

Adele Wilde-Blavatsk’s article was self-centred – but Eve Ensler (again) took the prize for best example of white colonial supremacy in feminism with her ‘Congo Stigmata’ thing, which is too sickening and awful to link to. So I have to wonder – at the intersection of gender and race – if white women should consider sacrificing their voices in favour of WoC.

There are several reasons for this – and the attitude and entitlement of Wilde-Blavatsk and Ensler is merely an illustration of many of them. But also, frankly, whilst there are white women on the fringes of mainstream debate who have a decent grasp of intersectional feminism, it wasn’t white women who developed either it’s theory or it’s practice and there are too many examples out there of it being hijacked and colonized by white women. This damages women of colour, whose struggles and concerns so often differentiate from ours; a typical colonial thought process in feminism is that it assumes itself the pre-eminent theory in tackling patriarchal structures and continues to fail to do so because it does not recognise – historically or currently – where it carries white patriarchy’s own attitudes to women of colour.

In that context, silence could be valuable – having the grace to stand back and be silent so that the pre-dominant voice is that of women of colour is something that white women could perhaps consider.

Perhaps instead of white guilt driving a conversation that silences women of colour, we could put away white guilt and stand back, shed the need to speak for others whose concerns we probably have not grasped anyway, and listen.

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The Lark Ascending

I am not sure it is possible to express how much I love The Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams, but every time I hear it I am.. transfixed, caught in it’s ebb and flow, rise and fall and soaring lyricism. From the moment of those first tantalising and lightly serene notes, I could no more abstain from hearing the entirety of it than I could abstain from breathing.

I am captured by it – drawn up, spun round in it’s flight. It is sweet capture indeed, and I frolic where it does, dip through the blades of the sun on it’s tails and catch my breath in the wake of it’s sharp glory.

Yet it soothes me too, hushes me and calms my soul. It caresses me and wraps me in a peace both dear to me by it’s knowing and unknowing.

If you are unacquainted with, do listen – I would wager that you would find yourself similarly transfixed.

It’s not just the boobs in the Sun which ‘aint News…

I signed the petition to get the boobs off page 3 – of course I did. It’s a stupid thing, in this day and age, to have women used in such a way and in such a context. And it’s not just because of being feminist.

War Kills People, Others Go Hungry… now look at these tits..

Yeah… wrong on so many levels.

But the insistence of the paper to hang on to the anachronistic and misogynistic practice of having naked women on page 3 speaks to something deeply problematic in how they view people generally. Ask the people of Liverpool – in the wake of the horrific tragedy at the Sheffield Wednesday Stadium on April 15th 1989,  which killed 96 Liverpool supporters – the reporting of the disaster in the Sun essentially became an exercise in trashing a whole city of people, and of engaging in the most disgusting victim blaming.

People are fodder to be used for a cheap, fast, money making headline – and yes, I recognise that of course people still buy the paper, for all sorts of reasons. Because of the cheap holidays offered every year, as well a growing roster of offers that are designed to tempt those for whom money is tight, therefore it has a consistent and steady readership.

Tuesday’s paper (3/12) was a particular low point – and no, I am not linking to it. A 6 year old trans*gendered boy, splashed across the front page, stood next to his twin sister, the headline like freak show poster. In a world that doesn’t exist unfortunately, a child acknowledging the gender they identify with would not be an excuse for exploitation. In a world that doesn’t exist, such a journey of self-discovery would be respected, honoured even, for it’s courage and beauty and purpose.

But we do not live in that world – and from those who so energetically campaign to get the boobs out of the newspaper said… well, as far as I can see, not one word. (If I missed something, then please correct me).

I understand that that it is a perfectly valid point of view to believe that each individual feminist campaign does not have to be all things to all people. But since when was the exploitation of a child, not a feminist concern?

Is it really the case that the way a cis-gendered woman’s body is treated is more important than that of trans*gendered child?

Because here’s the thing… the problematic reasoning and thinking which is behind page 3, is the same problematic reasoning and thinking behind exploiting a 6 year old trans*gendered child.

I don’t need a feminist campaign to be all things to all people – I just need a feminist campaign to acknowledge the whole of the problem.

And not just the part of the problem relevant to cis-gendered women.