{my letter to the girlsgetbusy zine, sent in the form of a submission. text below}

hi there. i’m writing to you regarding a recent submission to your blog made by gunmolly depicting a female bodied person of color wearing a slut pride t-shirt. i am imploring you to prevent this image from appearing in the next issue of your zine, retract it from your blog, and write a statement explaining why such a submission is grossly inappropriate

as a woman of color who believes wholeheartedly in the struggle for gender egalitarianism, gunmolly’s submission to your zine offended me on multiple levels.

first and foremost, the relationship between female bodied people of color, word reclamation, and the word slut in particular have a very complicated relationship. the history of female bodied people of color is one of hyper-sexualization and slut shaming, its roots grounded in colonial/imperial practices that reach far and wide. the effects of such understandings surrounding female bodied people of color still persist today. fundamentally, we’ve been called sluts and every synonym akin to it long before slutwalk became a global movement. yet the attention paid to such abuses of our personhood have largely gone unnoticed.

while gunmolly’s picture can be seen as an attempt to acknowledge that complication history and relationship, its a miserably shallow one at best. the depiction in gunmolly’s art is an overly romantic representation between the relationship between female bodied people of color and “slut” reclamation. female bodied people of color wearing a t-shirt saying “slut pride” would not have the same consequences as it would for a white person. when white female bodied people reclaim the word slut, its seen as a revolutionary act. yet when female bodied people of color reclaim the word slut, the world often turns to us as we have finally admitted to a long silently understood truth. the transposing of a white female bodied person’s relationship to the word slut onto that of a female bodied person of color is an unrealistic one, and also a silencing one.

which brings me to my second point. female bodied people of color, regardless of their relationship to the global movement for gender egalitarianism, are perfectly capable of articulating their respective relationships to the word slut via any medium they so choose. by upholding gunmolly’s art as a submission, you are effectively silencing the voices of female bodied people of color while saying its acceptable for white female bodied individuals to take the issues pertinent to female bodied people of color and use them for rhetorical fodder in whatever medium they see fit.

With that being said, I ask that you forgo allowing this submission to make the final cut for your zine. I would also advise soliciting issues related to people of color from actual people of color, and not white people who are willing to co-opt and essentially appropriate our struggles for artistic/rhetorical fodder. In the future, I look forward to seeing productions from this group that are truly inclusive to all those engaged in the struggle to gender egalitarianism, and not ones which simply pay lip service to ideals they have no intention of upholding.

In solidarity and accountability

the womanist behind navigatethestream

For anyone who wants lessons on being a bad-ass.

things i need white feminists to do before i will take you seriously


i need you to come to terms with the way white women have facilitated some of the most unspeakable violence upon black and brown and indigenous people, bodies, and community. often in the name of white womanhood. often in the name of freedom. often in the name of feminism.

i need you to understand that you killed Emmitt Till. i need you to think about all of the black men and boys that have been murdered because either you accused them or your men took it upon themselves to defend *your* honor. i need you to look at pictures of lynched bodies and think about what role you played in it.

i need you to know the names of the women raped by U.S. military in countries we invaded, in part because feminists said we needed to save the women and/or children and supported the various invasions.

i need you to know that those reproductive rights you all are up in arms about were created via the destruction and maiming of black and brown bodies. i need you to know who Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy are, and what was done to them. i need you to know the names of the Puerto Rican women who were lied to and who died so that The Pill could bring you your precious sexual liberation. i need you to know the central role white women played in sterilization programs that targeted black women, poor women, anyone they deemed too “feeble” to procreate. i need you to think about why more big name feminist organizations are up in arms about the most recent kick up about contraception than about sterilized black women getting compensated for what was done to them.

i need you to understand that at this point, it’s not about privilege. it’s not about you being able to find products that work with your hair no matter where you go. it’s about people’s lives. it’s about WOC lives and a centuries old disregard white women have shown for them. it’s about that fact that white women have been an active agent in the destruction of our communities, our histories, and our families. for centuries.

and WOC don’t owe you a damn thing. not. one. thing.

so get that through your skulls then maybe we can work together. maybe.

I can’t believe there are white feminists who can talk about Sisterhood out one side of their mouths, and then get up in arms about a statement like this out the other side.

It seems to me like studying history would make you a good feminist, no? So why the refusal to acknowledge the less pretty parts of that history? (When was the last time you think I, a black woman, picked up a standard US history textbook and found pretty things about myself that made me feel good about myself?)

When it comes down to it, what I understand least is how white feminists can respond to a statement like this by selling themselves so short. Someone wants to talk about the role of white women in the histories of lynching, and you refuse to engage? Those are historical facts; how can you possibly benefit from pretending it isn’t true? Emmett Till was lynched because white men thought white women so fragile that a woman couldn’t even be whistled at by a black 14 year old boy; how does it speak to your strength if you then refuse to fight against that?

But in the meantime, there is plenty that I feel amazing about being built by people of color. Y’all probably haven’t noticed (at least til it becomes tokenizable and trendy). If you want to be a real ally to people of color, make it happen. Put in that work. But we have things to build and no time to just wait around for you.

Since the notion that we should all forsake attachment to race and/or cultural identity and be “just humans” within the framework of white supremacy has usually meant that subordinate groups must surrender their identities, beliefs, values, and assimilate by adopting the values and beliefs of privileged-class whites, rather than promoting racial harmony this thinking has created a fierce cultural protectionism.

bell hooks, “Killing Rage”  (via bhavitavyata)

timely… thank you Hasan.

(via notyourkinddear)

I’ve written about this already, but this sentiment of “We’re all the same/stop talking about race/we just need unity” is coming up in organizing that I am peripherally involved in right now.

I read Killing Rage earlier this year and really really liked it. I know she sometimes gets a bad rap from radical WOC for being too accommodating to white feminists, and I sometimes feel that way about her writing as well, but then I read this book and it totally went the opposite direction. She was really harsh when she needed to be—constructively harsh, but harsh nonetheless. The whole thing was about POC anger and what to do with it, but not in a self-helpish way.

(via comradeclaudia)

[I]f we were to situate Native women at the center of feminist theory, how would feminist theory itself change? Such a project moves from a narrowly-defined identity politic that ascribes essential characteristics to indigenous womanhood to a revolutionary politic emerging from the nexus of indigenous praxis and the material conditions of heteropatriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy.

Andrea Smith, Against the Law: Indigenous Feminism and the Nation-State

Excited about this essay, and on seeing more from her about people of color not being simply included in feminism that is otherwise by, for, and about white women. Inclusion like that means that white women won’t be outnumbered or overruled by people of color, and therefore won’t have their power threatened.

Optimistic reading list for the weekend

"Female circumcision" has become almost a dangerous trope in Western feminisms for the muting and mutilation of women—physically, sexually and psychologically—and for these women’s *need for* Western feminism. Circumcision, clitoridectomy, infibulation, become one visible marker of outrageous primitivism, sexism, and *the* Third World woman…The battle over the Black Third World women’s body is staged as a battle between First World feminists and Black Third World men.

This is a suspect development of affairs to say the least, one reason being that a Black feminist response is often to defensively revalorise the role of men and traditional African societies as indiscriminate wholes, against what is seen—often rightly—as arrogant and culturally “superior” Western interference and insult.

Kadiatu Kanneh, “Feminism and the Colonial Body”, in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader

This essay wasn’t what I was looking for, but damn if it isn’t relevant to discussions right now. Looks like exactly the problem of white feminists noticing Tyler the Creator now, kinda late, but knowing seemingly little of how hip-hop functions, how it’s read, and who really makes big decisions about what can go on a record and who’s getting paid off it (hint: they don’t win VMAs but they make mad money off them).

And also looks like the predicament poc feminists get put in, where defending parts of poc cultures seems to require “standing by our man” or gets characterized that way anyhow. Specifically I remember oscillating pointing this out. I don’t even expect most white people to “get” hip-hop anymore (but I do expect them to GET PAID off it), so maybe if white feminists misrepresent it, or misrepresent my participation in it…oh well, if they weren’t listening to begin with.

POC articles on ›, a big archive of anarcha-feminist writings, was pretty much defunct for a long time but is updating now, and has a decent amount of exciting stuff on people of color and intersectionality. This link is for everything there with the tag “race/racism”; I’m definitely finding some hurricane-weekend reading for more zine research.

SlutWalks v. Ho Strolls ›

Oooh, Crunk Feminist Collective gettin it complicated:

What becomes an issue is those white women and liberal feminist women of color who argue that “slut” is a universal category of female experience, irrespective of race. I recognize that there are many women of color who are participating in the SW movement, and I support those sisters who do, particularly women who are doing it in solidarity and coalition. But rather than forcing white women to get on the diversity train with regard to the inclusivity of SlutWalk, perhaps we need to redirect our racial vigilance. By that I mean, I’d prefer that white women acknowledge that they are in fact organizing around a problematic use of terminology endemic to white communities and cultures

In doing so, this would force an acknowledgement that the experience of womanhood being defended here–that of white women– is not universal, but is under attack and worthy of being defended, all the same.

Perhaps, also, if white women could recognize SlutWalk as being rooted in white female experience, it would provide an opportunity for them to participate in coalition and solidarity with similar movements that are inclusive and reflective of the experiences of women of color.

So excited to own Feminism For Real!! even if white Feminists don’t notice it came out.

this ain't livin': Why I'm Leaving Feminism ›

I’ve been accused of being a pawn to a number of conservative movements for disagreeing with some aspects of the feminist movement, but the only pawn I’ve been is a feminist one. Today, that ends.

I’m happy to work in solidarity with some of you, because I firmly believe that there are some feminists who are doing very good, important work, who are fighting to change the movement from within, who are making a difference. And I do not fault you for remaining feminist. It would be an honour to work beside some of you in almost any venue I can name, and I hope to continue to do so.

Read this! (if y’all want, I don’t want to be bossy) because the whole essay is really really good!

I think for exactly these sorts of reasons I’ve always considered myself lucky to have never directly encountered much mainstream feminism, at least not in ways that I couldn’t easily remove myself from. And that’s pretty sad, too, that I am so thankful for rarely crossing paths with a movement that is supposed to be about supporting and empowering me. The few times I have been around mainstream capital-F Feminism were mostly in college, and that junk was so glaringly focused on white cis hetero able-bodied upper-middle-class college student young women (yes, they ran the whoooole gamut). That junk was hardcore in how steadfastly it was only about those specific women privileged in all those specific ways. Every now and then they tagged someone else in as a token, but at that point I was clearly too mean and too black and flipping my shit nonstop, so I was never granted token status. THANK GODS for that.

So because I was always too clearly not in the club to be tokenized by Feminism, I haven’t had too many direct beefs with it, and have instead mostly been around people of color and/or trans & queer-centered feminism. And for that, I’m realizing more and more, I’m really lucky. I do like having a name to attach to any framework I’m using, but since I’ve never too much encountered Feminism, I’ve always used names that showed the focus of those feminisms. Like I like the label women of color feminism, but I also want to be doing work that actively includes lots of genders. Maybe people of color feminism is cool?

Even if we think we are not personally racist or sexist, we are clearly marked by the burdens and privileges of our histories and locations. So what does it mean to think through, theorize, and engage questions of difference and power? It means that we understand race, class, gender, nation, sexuality, and colonialism not just in terms of static, embodied categories but in terms of histories and experiences that tie us together—that are fundamentally interwoven in our lives. So ‘race’ or ‘Asianness’ or ‘brownness’ is not embodied in me, but a history of colonialism, racism, sexism, as well as of privilege (class and status) is involved in my relation to white people as well as people of color in the United States.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity

Perhaps more than any other scholar, Mohanty’s work consistently forces me to reconsider, rethink, and reformulate the political stakes of my work. I have lost count of how many times I’ve read Feminism Without Borders, but I know I cannot exhaust the political and critical possibilities it articulates.

(via bollywoodsuperstar)

Whenever I learn how to read theory & nonfiction (srsly never managed to in college) I am devoting an entire issue of my zine to this book.

(via avry-deactivated20110415)