The toxicity in the feminist movement and new media

https://thisismoscatolife.com/2017/01/24/why-the-historic-womens-march-was-controversial-for-most-black-women/

The Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017 aimed to unite women for “the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country” (Mission & Vision, 2017). In the blogpost “I’ll pass on “Unity” and the Women’s March” , Barbara Sostaita is taking distance from the event on the grounds that white women first need to demonstrate a promise. A promise, for which she even requires a contract, that white women will (in summary) put their bodies in the line for WOC and “commit to the lifelong struggle against hatred and oppression in all its forms” (2017).

The Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017 aimed to unite women for “the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country” (Mission & Vision, 2017). In the blogpost “I’ll pass on “Unity” and the Women’s March” , Barbara Sostaita is taking distance from the event on the grounds that white women first need to demonstrate a promise. A promise, for which she even requires a contract, that white women will (in summary) put their bodies in the line for WOC and “commit to the lifelong struggle against hatred and oppression in all its forms” (2017).

Sostaita’s criticism of the march and the feminist movement is not an uncommon input in the feminist debate. According to Sandoval, US feminists of color have long understood that race, culture, sex or class can deny one “comfortable or easy access to any legitimized gender category, that the interactions between such social classification produce other, unnamed gender forms within the social hierarchy” (2000, p. 44). As a result of new media activism, especially on Twitter has changed the discussion about feminism. This is an example of how media technologies, social media and the internet do not exist as a space beyond and independently of the situated practices of feminist activities, they inform and shape each other (Fotopoulou, 2017). In february 2017, Huffington Post listed “21 hashtags that changed the way we talk about feminism” including #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #NotYourAsianSidekick, #SolidarityIsForBlackMen,  #SolidariyIsForWhiteLGBTQ. Many of these hashtags listed by The Huffington Post shows the failure in mainstream feminism with racial and sexual stereotypes, cultural invisibility and the exclusion of trans women. These hashtags also made it possible for women to speak to each other across borders and boundaries. An article in the Guardian highlighted the importance of digital feminism and digital media technologies to build a strong and reactive movement that they signify a “fourth wave” in the feminist movement (Cochrane, 2013). The hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen was according to Kendall based partly on putting down women of color and defending white feminism and as a striking rebuke to American feminism’s brand of solidarity, one which “centers on the safety and comfort of white women” at the expense of women of color. It aimed to an impassioned debate about the continued exclusion of nonwhite women from mainstream feminism. According to Kendall, white feminism has argued that gender should trump race, a rhetoric that both erases the experiences of women of color and also alienates many from a movement that claims to want equality for all (Kendall 2013b).

Unfortunately, this hashtag activism has also created a somewhat toxic debate within the feminist movement, where the focus has moved away from a problematic patriarchy and instead women are turning on each other, with a debate about who owns feminism with hashtags like #StopBlamingWhiteWomenWeNeedUnity. Maybe a result of what Parmelee and Bichard talked about in their book (2013) about the tweets and its political effects, citing Sunstein (2001, p. 49) that “a worry with new media is that it hears echoes of their own voices… to wall themselves off from others”.

The failure in the feminist movement of  putting the gender question above other aspects in feminism results in a neglecting of the voices and experiences of for example WOC. If the solution is to recenter the focus within feminism away from unity and to equality for all, how can we correctly talk about fighting patriarchy? In the Women’s March’s “Mission & Vision” on their website, the march aimed to “create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women, are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however there are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments” (Mission & Vision, 2017). I do find it notable that in this strive to be inclusive and  to create “unity”, white and/or rich women will fall in under just being “women” which may yet again contribute to white supremacy. In 1990, Smith wrote that feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women – as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement” (p. 25). To create a less toxic feminism is to “actually end white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy” (Loza, 2014). Susana Loza’s article from 2014 gives a very informative insight to the development of this debate, that has expanded through hashtags on Twitter. She further argues, by citing Daniela Ramirez that the lumping together of women of color creates a myth of representation. “If the only thing that unites us is our exclusion from the mainstream movement (and our justified opposition to that exclusion) we do not have solidarity either. When we don’t recognize that even our own practices can be essentialist and exclusionary, we cannot claim that we are doing solidarity, intersectionality or even feminism better” (Ramirez, 2013). Question is how we are going to find the balance in the debate against patriarchy and at the same time keep on challenging the failure in that racism never really was successfully integrated into feminist theory and practice. Like Murphy argues, feminism is a political movement to end patriarchy, not a popularity contest (2013).

https://thisismoscatolife.com/2017/01/24/why-the-historic-womens-march-was-controversial-for-most-black-women/

References

Blay, Z. (2016). 21 Hashtags That Changes The Way We Talk About Feminism. [Article]. Retrieved from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/21-hashtags-that-changed-the-way-we-talk-about-feminism_us_56ec0978e4b084c6722000d1

Cochrane, K. (2013). The fourth wave of feminism: Meet the rebel women. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/fourth-wave-feminism-rebel-women

Fotopoulou, A. (2017). Feminist Activism and Digital Networks. Between Empowerment and Volunerability. University of Brighton, United Kingdom.

Kendall, M. (2013). #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen: women of color’s issue with digital feminism. The Guardian. [Online] Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/14/solidarityisforwhitewomen-hashtag-feminism

Loza, S. (2014). Hashtag Feminism #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and the Other #FemFuture. (Article Retrieved from http://adanewmedia.org/2014/07/issue5-loza/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign =issue5-loza)

Mission & Vision. (n.d.) Retrieved from: https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/

Murphy, M. (2013). The trouble with twitter feminism. Feminist Current. [Weblog]. Retrived from: http://www.feministcurrent.com/2013/12/18/the-trouble-with-twitter-feminism/

Parmelee, J.H; Bichard, S.L 2013: Politics and the Twitter Revolution. How Tweets Influence the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public. Plymouth: Lexington Books.

Ramirez, D. (2013). Has #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen created solidarity for women of color? PolicyMic. [Weblog]. Retrieved from: http://www.policymic.com/articles/61111/has-solidarityisforwhitewomen-created-solidarity-for-women-of-color [Accessed 27 October 2013]

Sandoval, C. (2000). Methodology of the oppressed, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Smith, B. (1990). Racism and Women’s Studies. In Making face, making soul/haciendo caras: creative and critical perspectives by women of color, ed. G. Anzaldúa, Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco, pp. 25-28.

Van Deven, M. (2013). The discomfort of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. In The Fray. [Weblog]. Retrieved from: http://inthefray.org/2013/08/the-discomfort-of-solidarity/

.

This entry was posted in Feminism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *