More on the problems around Seal Press as we get a fuller account of what they did at WAM! from the friend that Black Amazon was defending. She discusses her interactions with them and how the whole thing went down and the non-surprise at the way they reacted to Black Amazon’s post.
I’m not gonna lie I’ve always had deep issues around the absence of the voices of Women of Color in the discourse of more mainstream feminism. Especially since the two issues that have come up, the one around Marcotte and BfP and the one around Seal Press are linked by the fact that Marcotte’s book is out of Seal Press. Now when you see the two things individually you might (if you don’t know the history) be able to convince yourself that they are just two instances of people using their privilege. But when you see them linked like that you realize this is systematic of the way feminism can operate. For a long time feminism has been seen as the province of the white and middle-class by people not in those two communities and that’s not a judgment without evidence and history to back it up.
The Feminist Movement of the 60′s & 70′s mostly known as the Second Wave had a habit of ignoring the concerns of those that were of a lower socio-economic level, Of Color, queer, differently-abled, they brushed their concerns away with a shrug on how it wasn’t feminism*. When they weren’t excluding those groups and devaluing their experiences they were stealing the pain and words of those groups for their own uses and being proclaimed as so forward thinking and progressive when it was things that the other communities had been discussing and writing about for years. You see modern examples all the time, the white commentator who’s lauded for bringing up misogyny in Rap all while the media ignores the fact that People of Color have been discussing that aspect and trying to change it for years. Our words/theories/thoughts were/are stolen with nary a thought for how that makes us feel.
When those of us who were around then (not me!, not claiming that) and/or know the history behind this kind of appropriation see this kind of shit happening again, we’re not surprised in the least but I’ll tell you what I am, angry. I’m so angry that this kind of bullshit, that we should have worked through years ago (and many did, but then they aren’t the ones the mainstream wants to focus on), still impedes us from forming the coalitions we need to change the way things operate. It’s the reason Alice Walker started using the term womanist, because the term feminist and those who called themselves feminists were not at all interested in the total of things that affected her life.
True coalition cannot be achieved while a part of the group steals the ideas and denigrates the experiences of others. All of those groups of white feminists and Seal Press who wail at the fact that Women of Color don’t join or submit stuff need to have a hard look at what they are putting out there and why Women of Color might be wary of being connected to such people.
It’s really simple, there are plenty of feminists I know who are truly inclusive and aware of issues that affect the groups traditionally ignored by mainstream feminism. They carry on a tradition of feminist groups that have never gotten much attention but have been around since the 60′s, so I know it can be done and done well. They don’t get defensive when race is brought up, they don’t steal our ideas, they reference us when they riff off of something we said, they treat us like we matter and are important parts of the feminist movement. Take a good hard look at yourselves, Seal Press et. al. you may talk a good game but it’s been said time and time again, actions speak louder than words.
*Note: This is not to say that there weren’t fabulous feminists that came out of this era and wrote about intersections of identity such as, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Akasha (Gloria) Hull just to name a few. But often these people weren’t a part of the mainstream feminist organizations that got a lion share of media/popular attention. Their works and achievements have been largely ignored by the current crop of feminists who tend to write off the whole of the 2nd wave (hat tip to Ladyjax for bringing this up and for writing the post that planted the seed for this post).