On cookies, motivations and why no platform is a good thing

Over the last several weeks certain discussions coming across my twitter timeline have caused me to particularly notice something, which I otherwise might not have: when a woman of colour talks about white women ‘looking for cookies’ from them, I tend to check to see if that’s what I am doing because in such a context cookie-hunting would be appropriative, and even flat out racist; it would be a way of consuming women of colour, something that we white women have been doing for far too long.

But when a white woman says it, my response is usually different: it feels manipulative, as if listening to women of colour, and accepting that when they say something is racist, well it’s racist – is a betrayal of feminism.

(If you aren’t sure what ‘looking for cookies’ means or refers to, think of it as approval and reward).

I am not here for anything that could be even a little bit racist, or appropriative or colonial: but I am white and therefore part of a political and social structure which is racist.

I don’t want cookies. But I do want to do what is right and in order to do that I have examine myself thoroughly, look at my thought processes and actions and words honestly, so as to identify where I may racist or colonial. And if a woman of colour says that something is racist – then it’s not for me to doubt that.

Perhaps not having a platform, not having an audience whose approval I seek to maintain is a good thing. Maybe it means that by being part of the crowd, hidden, un-noticed gives me a freedom to see things more clearly because of it.

Because I am picking a side: it’s the side that I cannot help but pick. And I’m not picking it for cookies.

Am I Being Naive.. Isn’t An Ism Always An Ism?

Shouldn’t be as simple as this:

  • If a Person of Colour (PoC) says that something which has been said, written or done is racist – then it’s racist.
  • If trans*/transgender person says that something which has been said, written or done is transphobic/cis-sexist – then it’s transphobic or cis-sexist.
  • If a physically or mentally differently abled person says that something which has been written, said or done is ableism – then it’s ableism.
  • If a LGBTIQ person says that something that has been written, said or done is homophobic/queerphobic – then it’s queerphobic.
  • If a woman says that something which has been said, written or done is sexist – then it’s sexist.
  • If a Woman of Colour (WoC) says that something which has been said, written or done is both racist AND sexist (intersectional) – then it is, and further more if she also says that we white women need to stop using the word we should respect that.

I will grant you that this is awfully simple stuff. Which is why some might see it as naïve, or be able to provide a whole smorgasbord of reasons why some those might not always apply.. but really – shouldn’t it actually be as simple as this?

Isn’t anything else just an excuse?

The Internal Journey Feminists Need to Take: Questions for Feminism.

Not that long ago, I would have distanced myself from the word ‘feminist’. I would have held it at arms length, and maybe even  gone so far as denying that I was one. Through my late twenties and thirties the last thing in the world I would have wanted to be known as was a feminist.

Not because I didn’t believe that women should be treated equally; not because I thought that women really should be paid less and certainly not because rape, sexual harassment and the diminishing of the reality of those things didn’t matter to me.  They all did, and do, matter very much indeed – all the more so as I learn how both my faith and feminism are intertwined with each other.

What caused me to distance myself from the fiery early feminism of my youth were those things that continue to cause such arguments, difficult conversations and schisms** within that movement now: the colonial racism, the appalling transphobia, that strange dichotomy within feminism that calls for an end to a bi-gendered approach (because that keeps women in a pre-defined box of idealised womanhood) yet struggles to accept trans*/transgender women; the obsession with wanting the same power as men (best typified by the hot mess that is the ‘Lean In’ thing), yet failing to notice how our daughters still sought to define themselves by how they looked.

(**I’m a Christian – I know a good schism when I see one.)

In fact, whilst Western Women had the vote, the right to an education, access (at least in some cases) to birth control and a degree of bodily autonomy that their Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers could only have dreamed of – it seemed to me that in some very fundamental ways, the political movement that was feminism was more interested in navel gazing and a self-obsessed approach to the world than in addressing the primal motivators that prevented it from making the kind of changes of which it was (and still is capable) of.

It is not an accusation, or criticism, to say that we white western women have internalised colonial, racist, hetro-normative societies attitudes along with the rest of western society. Despite being so angry about all of these things (but without the language to articulate them, far les address them) I had also internalised these same things and no amount of ‘liberal mind set’ was going to change that.  How could it. Growing up, the People of Colour I saw were often objects of fun, I cannot recall the media giving a platform to the work of women of colour and I would be hard pressed to think of any representation of trans*/transgender people that wasn’t sensationalist and poorly informed. (And very little changes there).

So for all the ‘wins’ that feminism had achieved – or helped to achieve – the lack of both grace and generosity in the face of such victories is either startling, or not surprising.  How far can feminism really go – how  much can it really achieve – without addressing the internalised racism (both colonial and prejudicial), the patriarchy we thing we think we are actually fighting against, the transphobia.. why, if we are truly ‘liberating’ ourselves can we be so absent of joy in that liberation that we would not want to change all these other oppressions?

Stopping the daily sexism that women still have to deal with will not liberate us; ending the violence, the rape culture and the victim blaming will not free us: not if feminism remains so white/cis centric, so bound up in patriarchal, colonial structures within which we have allowed ourselves to be defined.

That is why my feminism and Christian faith are so bound up in each other: the liberation offered by Jesus was not focussed on the external, but the internal. Each of us must engage in an internal journey to free ourselves of the chains which bind us to the slavery of power. If we struggle against the powers that bind our external lives without seeking to free ourselves of power which would still bind others, the struggle will never end.

Do we want equality – or a platform for power? Do we want liberation and equity – or rights for ourselves that maintain the status quo? Are we angry about what happens to us – or driven to change the world for the benefit of society as a whole?

I want a feminism and a faith that is gracious in it’s failures, generous in it’s victories, courageous enough to hear the hard questions – and honest enough to answer them.

 

Julian ‘I Am The Messiah’ Assange on the BBC

So Julian Assange did a thing on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day today.

That’s right. A man who is a fugitive from justice, who is avoiding facing legal allegations of rape by holing himself up in the Ecuadorian Embassy, was allowed by the BBC to broadcast his thoughts on… wait for it… “governments dare to aspire.. to a god-like knowledge of each and every one of us.”

Um.

So the man with the most blatant messiah complex, who wants us to believe that he never committed any act of rape or sexual assault – who encourages his own followers to believe in his innocence in an act of psuedo-religious faith; and who dis-fellowships those who dare to question him in a way not dissimilar to cults like the Jehovah Witness’ – accuses the governments of the West of “daring to aspire to god-like knowledge”.

I am not hugely concerned with what he said: I am hugely concerned that the BBC gave him air time.  And before some bright spark starts in with the ‘he’s-not-been-charged-or-found-guilty’ schtick, let me just nail this right now.

2 women have made a complaint that he raped and assaulted them. 2 women who Assange and his church  (sorry, groupies … I mean supporters) have publicly named, and smeared and have gone to great lengths to generally further degraded these women. (In what is possibly the oldest trope going, these women have been accused of being ‘part of a plot’ to destroy Assange/Wikileaks).

Julian Assange’s lawyers twice argued to the British Courts that the allegations would not be rape under English law, and on both occasions the courts ruled that the allegations would, indeed, be considered rape.  Let this sink in for a moment, because he is basically saying that he did it, he just doesn’t consider it to be rape.

(For more on the legal mythology surrounding Assange, I would suggest reading David Allen Green – aka ‘Jack of Kent’ – or this by Anya Palma).

What the BBC did today by giving Assange air time was legitimize this fugitive from justice. They gave a man evading rape charges a pat on the back and told everyone that this was a man being victimised by the very same patriarchal system he exploits to rape women and then evade the legal consequences.

And this is not okay.

It’s BS – high, stinking, BS.