Another Lightbulb Moment on WOC & Feminism

Courtesy, as is often the case, of brownfemipower at La Chola, this time via this post + comments.

I could see immediately why certain aspects of Katha Pollitt’s petition would induce anger–such as, for example, the patronizing and self-satisfied tone inherent in talking about just how well white American feminists have advocated for Muslim women while completely neglecting to credit or even acknowledge the women who live these experiences and who speak out at much greater personal risk in order to bring them to the attention of the broader public. Or the way that WOC are right in perceiving these arguments claiming to support the struggles of the non-mainstream, non-white, non-American women as somewhat disingenuous given that somehow it’s only in Muslim countries that this dynamic needs to be criticized–skipping Africa, skipping Latin America, skipping the American border control policies, skipping the differential treatment of WOC, including First Nations women, in the US and other industrialized countries…skipping, basically, the things that are much harder to get the dominant culture to talk about.

But somehow I couldn’t quite understand the level of anger and frustration that was being expressed. That happens a lot, and I tend to feel really stupid when it does, because I know there’s something I’m missing. And in this case, it took one sentence in the comments for me to go “boom”.

In response to a commenter who noted:

I don’t see. Anyway, KP was defending “white feminism” against Anne Applebaum and her ilk, not criticisms coming out of the POC community

brownfemipower responded:

funny how that keeps happening isn’t it?

Fuck. And that’s it. There’s all this talk among mainstream feminists, both second and third-wave, of just how frustrating it is to have to hear the right-wing pundits calling them self-centred, ignoring all the words they pour out in support of liberating oppressed Muslim women and the tyranny of Islam/Sharia law, and how exhausting it is to have to point out, time and again, that of course they care about these women. But, frustrating and exhausting though it may be, time and again, they do it anyway. And they get published for it.

Translation: when criticism is brought forth by exactly the oppressors that we’re battling, it’s worth responding to, even if it’s been said before and ignored before and even if it’s probably futile to say again. Even if it feeds into the dominant political discourse and the broader Islam=bad, war-justifying narrative, and you kind of know you’re being baited to add to the voices saying exactly that. But when criticism on this or any other topic is brought forth by the oppressed on whose behalf you claim to be speaking, people with whom it’s actually still possible to have a dialogue (unlike the aforementioned pundits whose criticism is far more about political strategy than about making progress), it goes unnoticed, it goes ignored, or worse, it gets shot down with hostility and condescension and self-defense and accusation.




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