Jewelry & ‘Feminism, Race and a F/SF Author’

The mental fog has lifted at least enough so that I can give you a couple of links.

First of all I don’t know how many of you guys remember my mentioning the anthology Interfictionsin my recap of WisCon last year. It was the reading early in the morning that I dragged my hungover ass to and it was totally worth it. I also have my copy autographed by K. Tempest Bradford whose story Black Featheris one of my favorites in the collection. So the poibnt of this is that there is an auction happening of jewelry based on Interfictions stories. Tempest has a picture of the piece she’s working on (earrings) and links to the auction itself and other pieces that will be on the block. Since I don’t have my ears pierced and it’s so not on my list of things to do I’m actually thinking of placing a bid on the necklace based on Valente’s story A Dirge for Prester John depending on how high the bidding goes. Anyway’s head over, look at jewelry and bid!

The other thing is not a happy. Tamora Pierce who is an author I’ve read and enjoyed before weighed in on the fact that a lot of Women of Color inlight of the recent BS in the feminist blogosphere have been distancing themselves from the title feminist (which is not a new thing by any means). The way she does this is to list all the reasons she’s a feminist, which of course holds the implication that obviously these WOC just don’t get what feminism is really about. It’s just so problematic that my eyes actually crossed while I was reading it. It’s fine for her to identify how she wants, the problem comes in when the post seems to be decrying WOC or trying to pressure them into retaining that label. We all get to form our own identities, no one else gets to do that, no one. So after a bunch of folks called her on the fact that she wasn’t actually addressing any of the issues that were actually why so many had disassociated themselves from the word feminist she made an clarification, although it didn’t satisfy me mainly because I felt she was saying ‘sorry feminism did this’ without really acknowledging the tone in her previous post.

Avalon’s Willow composed a response: Open Letter, Dear Tamora Pierce (and others) which is excellent and on point. Also read the comments because people bring up some really valid issues with Pierce’s work.

If you were at WisCon last year you might remember me talking about her Tricksters’ Duology in the What these people need is a honky! panel because while I actually do really like the duology I have massive problems with it. The white person coming in saving the POC revolution, the fact that the POC are so disorganized before she shows up to whip them into shape, the fact that it’s reiterated by quite a few of the POC in the book how amazing and wonderful she is and how they couldn’t have done it without her. I felt the works could have been just as good had Aly become part of the revolution, an intricate part perhaps but without actually becoming the mythical white 14(?) year old leader who teaches them how to revolt and to not hate the white folks who’ve enslaved their people for so long (I’m not even gonna get into the colorism aspects of the novel). But you know what those are her works and her decisions and she totally has the right to write and publish what she wants but when it’s out there in the public sphere it has to be realized that POC are probably going to read the work differently than most white folks and that we have that right to critique works according to our lens of being.*

Anyway Pierce showed up in the comments of the the entry and really…I don’t know how else to describe it…stomped her feet and huffed off. Then returned to reply to a couple of folks who had criticized her works and talked about them “trashing her” but I really think that implies some sort of attack or vendetta and that’s not what it’s about at all. It also to me felt like a fall into victimhood, where it became about her hurt feelings and the mean bullies, very derailing of the conversation and not of use to anyone involved in the discussion.

I understand it’s hard not to get defensive when your work and you are being called on some unconscious stereotypes but if like she said in her clarification post she does want to be part of a movement that advances all women she has to be able to listen to WOC and their concerns, even (I should say especially) if they’re about her. Anti-oppression work is not easy at all, as anyone who has gone through it will tell you, it is a constant ongoing process and a lot of it deals with confronting ugly truths about yourself and sitting with that heavy uncomfortableness. Basically you have to get over yourself and getting huffy because you feel you’re not getting props for trying is not a show of good faith, it’s more like showing your ass.

Huh, guess I had more words in me than I thought.

*I as a POC am working from a different POV where things that might in the author’s mind (at this point I’m talking about writers in general not Pierce specifically) seem like fun character facts or a way to make a character interesting automatically register with me as something problematic, stereotypical or racist. For example, you have this hugely muscled intimidating ex-army bodyguard, okay cool. You decide he should be slightly menacing, okay. You decide he should be black because you want some diversity. Okay well why does the only black character in the book have to be a gruff ex-army guy? The scary intimidating killer black man is the stereotype you’re playing on and that will automatically pop up on my radar. So things that may seem harmless to you are actually informed by your unconscious prejudices to some degree and while you don’t pick up on that? I will.


9 responses to “Jewelry & ‘Feminism, Race and a F/SF Author’

  1. Kate Elliott

    It’s interesting because when I read her first post–while in theory I agree with much of it (although not that anyone and everyone is required to self identify as “feminist”)–even someone like me who has not read all that much feminist theory has been aware since, I dunno, college (back in the Jurassic) that there were then and still are serious problems with the narrow road “feminism” (as label and brand?) has trodden and how WoC have been marginalized and excluded.

    So I liked that Pierce made the follow-up post (that’s why I linked to it from my blog) — of course it’s easy for me, from my position, to read such a post and think about how she is reaching people who may never have considered such concepts before.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s a reply that will satisfy everyone. Your perspective is well explicated here, and as always has got me thinking. (I haven’t read any of the books you mention, so can’t comment on them.)

    Avalon’s Willow makes excellent points. I hadn’t seen her post, so thanks for linking to it.

  2. Kate Elliott

    I should add: why, oh why, do authors make the mistake of responding to criticism of their work ?**

    it’s one thing to make a very specific statement of clarification (no, Jo doesn’t die in this scene, in fact we find her drinking a beer with friends two chapters later); otherwise, it’s just a no-win situation.

    **I actually know why they do, so that was a rhetorical question

  3. Kate:
    If her first post hadn’t been in response to WOC leaving the label of feminist behind I would have really liked it. I actually agree with a lot of what she said too. It was the context and tone of the post that bothered be so much.

    I’m glad you liked Avalon’s Willow’s post I really enjoyed it and felt it captured her intersectionality and the concept in general very well.

    otherwise, it’s just a no-win situation.
    It saddens me when I see authors respond to criticism because most of the time I know it’s just gonna end up making them look bad. Though that being said I have seen some authors roll into a harsher reviews and simply comment “I’m sorry you didn’t like my work but thank you for the review” and that really puts them up in my estimation but that’s just me.

  4. which of course holds the implication that obviously these WOC just don’t get what feminism is really about.

    What? WHAT?!!!!

    If you believe that is the implication, then that is the implication that YOU bring. I was writing about what feminism is for me, including the fact that I was thrown out of my college organization, and that I still and always consider myself a feminist. The fact that I mentioned the WOC quote was only to show the latest mention of a woman disclaiming feminism and getting me thinking, but women of color just not getting it?

    With all of the work done and being done by women of color, with all of the contributions . . . I would no more say one entire group of women just didn’t get feminism than I would say Adolf Hitlet should be made a saint. I don’t know each and every woman; I wouldn’t so presume.

    Out of words now, out of breath.

  5. Tamora:
    I very specifically say that this is how I read it and considering the response from others, how others have read it as well. I don’t know if you read the rest of the post but this is exactly what I meant when I talked about being defensive. There were others way to react to this post such as asking me what made me think that, actually listening and trying to understand why it would look like that to someone even if you didn’t consciously mean it that way.

    I found the implication in the way you connected the two situations, how you stated your own history with the feminist movement and all it’s trials and tribulations and then ended by saying you don’t understand how women can not call themselves a feminist. With that statement you connected women’s rights with feminism, one can decide not to call themselves a feminist for political reasons and still do the same work and believe the same things. Not calling themselves a feminist doesn’t mean their works and beliefs have diminished in any way. I also see it as trying to connect you problems with a college org to the systematic ignoring of WOC, Queer, Lower Socio-Economic, et. al. by mainstream feminism.

    As I said in the above comment had the WOC leaving feminism not been brought into it. I would have liked the post quite a bit but that connection was made by you when you talked about it and then said Here’s how I see it: thereby explicitly stating that you were connecting the two. That colored the whole post for me.

    That may not be what you intended but that’s how it read to me and to others.

    Out of words now, out of breath.
    As you say and I don’t expect you to comment back to this (and if choose to I hope you sit with it for a bit and don’t jump to defensiveness immediately) but you put your words out there and they’re are going to get critiqued. As I said above reacting this way doesn’t make you look a) good or b) like you want to understand everyone’s point of view or opinion when it comes to critiquing the movement and those involved in it.

  6. *eyes popping*

  7. I am sorry.

    Once I’m home, I’ll look at it again, and see if I can clarify my language. That is certainly not what I wanted people to take away from it.

  8. I wouldn’t advise getting too upset about Tamora Pierce’s comments about “women of color.” I recently finished reading her series ‘the Circle Opens’ and am pretty convinced she’s racist.

  9. Natasha:
    I’m interested in what made you feel that way about the series. I read the original Circle series years and years ago but never got around to reading The Circle Opens series. Does something heinous happen to Daja, or is it just a blanket kind of thing?

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