Friday, April 18, 2008

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves

I’ve been quietly watching
the latest meltdown in the feminist blogosphere with my mouth hanging open for the last few weeks. First there was Seal Press showing everyone how not to do PR (“Hi, WOC bloggers! Pikachu, I choose you! Now let me be as patronizing as possible…hey wait, why are you mad at us? You’re so hostile!”). Then there was Amanda Marcotte showing how not to build a movement. I mean really, how hard would it be to just say “oops, sorry, I forgot to include links, I’ll go add them now”? Not to mention, you know, actually either writing in a way that demonstrates a deep knowledge of your subject or handing the task over to someone capable of doing so.

And then there was the angry, defensive meltdown with
people coming in to defend the poor vulnerable white girl and everyone else rolling their eyes and going “you have to be kidding me”. And then there were a few people who actually tried to take this conversation in a productive direction – OK, so feminism as a movement is fucked up when it comes to race. We need to fix that. How do we do that?

But then there are some people who just have to make it all about them. Because heavens forbid anyone talk about the bigger picture when someone’s feelings are hurt. And then we have a white girl responding to criticism from women of color by comparing herself to Malcolm X. Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.

So, in order to save everyone just coming into this mess the trouble of reading through 100 identical comments from Amanda explaining why no one is allowed to talk about the big issue until she feels better let me summarize. Shorter Amanda.

My only comment is this…a clever man once said that when you find yourself in a big deep hole you don’t ask for a bigger shovel, you STOP DIGGING. I can’t find a link to the actual speech, but guess what? I can still give him credit for being the smart person who came up with that idea rather than pretending it was all my idea. It was Bill Clinton, and it was during some sort of speech while he was campaigning against Bush.

See how easy that is? Even if you can’t pinpoint exactly where or when someone said something that stuck with you, you can still give them credit for influencing your ideas. Really, it’s not that hard. If I can do it so can everyone else.

My response to this whole mess…I’m not giving up the word feminist, no matter how many assholes use it too. It’s a good word and it means something, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let a bunch of racist, classist, arrogant jackasses have the movement that so many women worked so hard to build.

So, my own response to Amanda et al and the way they’re behaving right now. Since I started with a song, I’ll give you another one and let Favorite Band speak for me. Especially appropriate since the first words of the song are “shut up”, which is exactly what certain people need to do right now.

(Affectionately known as “the fuck you song”)

One final note…as well as being pissed off I’m seriously disappointed in some people over the way they’ve behaved here. Amanda, you used to be a decent writer. I used to read Pandagon all the time. You were smart and funny and interesting once. What the hell happened? Please, for the love of all that is good, rethink the direction you’re going in before the people who used to enjoy your work lose what little remaining respect they have for you. It’s never too late to wise up. And that goes for all the white bloggers currently making asses of themselves over this - all of you are smart people and all of you are capable of being better people than this. Please, be better people than this

PS I will probably come back and edit this later when I’m less sleep deprived…anything obvious that I’ve missed, anything I forgot to link, feel free to point it out and I’ll fix it. Because that’s how it’s supposed to work, people! Blogging is about communication, isn’t it? It should be.


belledame222 said...

heh, jinx, I just posted my own ah musical tribute

littlem said...

" ...white girl responding to criticism from women of color by comparing herself to Malcolm X."

Oh, golly, I missed this.

However, in contrast to what I feel I contributed to instigating here, I probably wouldn't have much that's constructive to say, so it's probably just as well.

Thank you for this. As all effective Rethuglican strategists know, if you repeat a refrain a sufficient number of times, eventually lots of Americans start to sing along.

FoolishOwl said...

A few weeks ago, I happened to look through an issue of Utne Reader, and there was an article on feminist blogs, which particularly praised the blogs of brownfemipower and blackamazon. I hadn't really looked at blogs in months, so I tried to pull up Women of Color Blog -- and found it was gone. Having Read The Fine Print... had a post about the Seal Press debacle, not naming the author involved, and linking to several blog posts that were no longer available. Soon after, Having Read The Fine Print... became unavailable.

So, to begin with, I could see that yet more really good bloggers were being driven out by ugly power plays.

When I found out that Amanda Marcotte was at the center of this, it all made sense.

In the early days, on Mousewords, Marcotte often criticized the "A-list" bloggers, overwhelmingly white men, elitist and arrogant, connected to the Democratic Party and continually discussing DP strategy.

One issue Marcotte and other bloggers at the time kept bringing up was that the "A-list" bloggers would rarely link to blogs by women or people of color, almost only to each others' blogs. They would justify this, on the one hand, by arguing that these other blogs were irrelevant and that paying attention to "special interests" was hurting the Democratic Party; on the other hand, that there was nothing unfair in simply not mentioning other blogs, since anyone can publish a blog.

As was discussed at the time, there was a political economy of blogs. Sure, anyone with Internet access can publish a blog -- but only a few have large readerships, and they act as gateways to the other blogs. There are other issues connected to this, most especially financing. You can put up a blog for free, but if you build up more than a small readership, you'll start needing to pay for the bandwidth, somehow. That was part of the reason for the crisis for Alas, A Blog.

Beyond this, and rarely mentioned, was that Marcotte and some other bloggers were seeking political patronage from the DP. The DP was developing a stable of pet bloggers, on the model of the Republican's pet bloggers. That Marcotte was part of this became clear with Burqagate.

At this point, Marcotte has a career based on her blogging -- hence, the book. Sure, it's a small press, and so there's not much money involved. But, the way publishing works, having been published at all is an enormous advantage in future efforts to sell manuscripts -- you've escaped the slush pile.

I remember belledame222 criticizing Marcotte for asserting that all working class people aspire to become middle class. The thing that gets me here is the key to middle class status is having power over subordinates.

So, Marcotte has worked herself into a position in which other bloggers are competition, threatening her material interests.

What I find most discouraging is that this is just how every institution gets co-opted. It's like all the NGOs that are tied, directly or indirectly, to the DP or to the government. You've got people who genuinely care, who've made personal sacrifices to build an organization, who find that they have to choose between stifling their criticisms or losing their funding. And if they choose the former, before long, they find themselves tasked with stifling other critics.

Anonymous said...

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However, with the last author I agree.

Anonymous said...

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