We have such a deeply ingrained “gotcha” culture that the natural response to an asshole move, whether intentional or not on the part of the guilty, is to condemn that person as a whole and eschew their contributions entirely. This is a grave mistake to make, as it sacrifices what that person might have accomplished, but also our own integrity. Are we without awful mistakes?
I know I am not.
Therefore when someone makes an honest mistake, I am most likely to take a step back and consider it fully. When I read this over at Our Descent Into Madness, I was shocked:
Let me just say, to the people (coughMARCOTTEcoughSEALcough) responsible for that particular bit of total bullshit: don’t you fucking dare claim ignorance of this one. This isn’t an oversight, this isn’t a failure to acknowledge someone. This is an obvious act of racism. Someone proposed this. Other considered and approved it. This is deliberate, or, if not deliberate, such a massive blunder that those responsible are as culpable as if it has been intentional. This is so blatantly racist, I cannot respect anyone involved. Ever. Again.
Thank you, though, for finally being upfront about the fact that when you say “women” you really do only mean “white women,” if not an even narrower group than that.
We also extend this apology to the author, Amanda Marcotte, who did not select these images for her book. Writing humor is very difficult. While our intention was to complement your words, we see that these images have had the opposite effect, and for that, we are sorry.
I’ll say it right now, that Amanda’s book is too important a starting point to let fail because of a slip up like this. We need to be training each other to be more effective and aggressive in hostile environments to survive and thrive as progressives, as liberals. That said, the issues raised by this fuck up are as important to deal with as they are difficult (Karnythia, emphasis mine):
I’ve made no bones in the past about my feelings that feminism by and large has very little to do with actually helping all women and is really just for white women. Oh, I know it espouses anti-racist ideology, but it has never failed to escape my attention (or the attention of other WOC) that feminism has a distressing tendency to focus on the concerns of middle class white women while ignoring the realities of racism and colonialism and anything remotely to do with intersectionality between gender and race. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen white feminists assume a very paternalistic attitude with WOC particularly when it came to discussions about issues involving MOC while ignoring their own internalized racism.
I suppose that depends on which feminists we are talking about.
So where does that leave WOC and feminism? Frankly we’re at a point where it’s time for feminism to either get it together, or for us to leave it where it is and continue on with our own progressive movements. There’s been some talk for years about how feminism is comprised of multiple movements and until now that’s been enough for me. But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist. And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.
I feel like this is the wrong approach. Feminism shouldn’t become a dirty word because the final straw to break the camel’s back was a publisher including racist images in a book, and the author failing to catch it. Rather, this should be an invitation to open up those aspects of feminism Karynthia correctly sees as underserved. Pam writes:
Well since the train has already left the station — with Amanda’s forthright, all-laid bare apology already out there, all I can say is yes, those images are inappropriate, and certainly would have been called out if, say, someone on the right used them in a tome. The difference, since Amanda obviously wasn’t attempting to promote a white supremacy theme in the book, is the blind spot of white privilege, in this case Seal Press, which has an apology on its site.
Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author’s humor. That is all. We were not thinking.As an organization, we need to look seriously at the effects of white privilege. We will be looking for anti-racist trainings offered here in the Bay Area. We want to incorporate race analysis into our work.
As folks know, I discuss race matters a lot and this deserves some attention because this kind of blind spot occurs all the time, and it’s not only in the context of race (or, as we also see in the imagery, gender). The blind spot is that some white progressives, in their zeal to believe we are a post-racial society, in this case the publisher, just assumed everyone only sees camp in the images.
Rather then condemning allies for having a blind spot, we ought to be pointing it out:
What’s most important is that people need to keep discussing race in an open and honest way, instead of sweeping it under the rug or automatically running to defensive corners.
When it comes down to it we are allies, all of us progressives. We are here to strengthen each other and aid each other in making the world a more just and compassionate place. Jill hits on the same point Pam makes (emphasis mine):
When that didn’t happen, she should have listened to the valid concerns of women of color instead of coming in with her dukes up. The initial article could have shared the wealth of such a wide audience by spreading the word about the WOC-run organizations and the WOC-penned articles and ideas that have laid the foundation for this work; after the article ran and concerns were raised, they could have been responded to with care, not anger and defensiveness.
Amanda Marcotte is a person of rare strength and good character. She is not defended lightly or reflexively. I’m standing in her corner because of that character and her work, and what it means for the progressive community. But I am also doing so to warmly invite further discussion and analysis of the problems our community as a whole has with issues outside our direct expertise or even interest. If we can figure out that balance between inclusiveness and focus, and use this as an opportunity to grow closer together as a movement, then we’ll emerge stronger and better prepared to affect change. I sincerely hope we can do that.