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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I don't blame women.

10:48 Posted by Afro Latina , No comments

Today I came across a quote the internet attributes to Amy Poehler, allegedly about women who renounce feminism, and it reads "That's like someone being like, 'I don't really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don't know what I would do without it'."


I took a deep breath and responded to it, and the backlash was immediate. I understand I might have sounded a bit confusing in my discomfort with said remarks, so I decided to blog about it, in order to try to clarify where I stand in relation to this type of argument, which unfortunately keeps popping time and again in many mainstream feminist online pages. 


First off, this is not about Amy Poehler. Her analogy is one in millions, but somehow I had time to argue and now I avail of the patience to try to develop it further, although I am not quite sure I would be able to express everything in one blog post - that's how complex this is. But here, I am a feminist who used to engage in that very type of reasoning, by blogging and even thundering things like "being woman and not supporting feminism is like being black and racist, gay and homophobic, jew and nazi, a cat person who adopts a dog" and so on. 


I did that until someone pointed out to me that I was actually blaming the victims. And I know liberal feminism is particularly attached to the notion of 'agency', but failing to understand why someone does not subscribe to a certain view because it OBVIOUSLY benefits her is, to say the least, arrogant and condescending. Not only it fails to take women who fall outside the category "white-middle-class" into consideration, it also exempts men from any guilt. And I do believe men are the main perpetrators of violence in patriarchy. I wouldn't be a feminist if I thought it is merely half-half. 


That said, I also do need to point out that many people think I just can't argue this is victim blaming, because otherwise I would need to be as compassionate with men, for that's just how both males and females are raised in a patriarchal society. Now it is time for me to inhale and unhurriedly let the air out of my lungs until I am calm enough to say: if that was the case, such quotes wouldn't really exist, they wouldn't be so popular. Their popularity lies precisely in the fact they are directed at women. Apparently, Amy did not have men in mind when she uttered those words, and in all honesty I also didn't when I used to subscribe to such view. That's why I feel it is an oversimplification to assert that the oppressed who agree with the system are part of the problem. 


So I realized it is a counterproductive thing to do in my personal practice and, even though that particular page might be directed at the white, middle-class niche of North America, I do think we need more intersectional considerations before we just go ahead with certain posts. The most obvious reason is, we live in a globalized world where English is the lingua franca and that is reason enough to efface other practices, other points of view that might be of particular relevance to any given discussion. So I think it's a good idea to contemplate whether a quote is important in any context other than that of privileged women, just for a change. 


I also believe my experience is relevant, otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it. Like, I clearly remember when I quit straightening my hair. As a black woman, I've been always aware that racism is beyond terrible. However, for over 20 years I tried to disguise the blackest thing about my being, which is my hair, in the name of unattainable beauty standards that somehow benefited me, as I would 'pass' as non-black in many contexts, and even be able to gain access to a job I wouldn't have gotten with natural curls. In other words, my hair feels offensive to many people, and when I decided to love it, a revolution took place in my life. 


However, I grew resented of others who weren't as 'enlightened' as I was, those friends who insisted in ironing their tresses in order to benefit a little from the system. Thankfully, I realized my narcissism soon enough. So today I wouldn't say I cannot understand what it is that makes women of color straighten their hair. Because I do - sadly, I do. I comprehend them well enough to refrain from judging. And I think that's precisely what is missing from feminism. Looking back in time and realizing that maybe those women who 'renounce' feminism are not really different from what I was is essential to keep my struggle humane, I guess.


And let's be careful with lines such as "MRA's use women, homossexuals and people of color who rebuff activism in order to validate their arguments". As militants, we should be able to recognize tokenism well enough to refrain from it. Again, I am not here saying what you should and shouldn't be doing in your activism. I am not a mind colonizer. I just felt I should clarify where I stand in this, and I believe many people would give it a second thought and re-direct their attention to the root of the issue: men oppressing women. 


So this is what I have to say today. I am not denying the agency of women, I am just stating that maybe the limitations patriarchy imposes in such agency make it even harder to engage in facile, black-and-white statements. And again, I fight for women. I acknowledge and celebrate the fact that men can benefit from feminism as well, but today, at this very minute, I want to be with women, embrace them, not judge them, for patriarchy does that all the time. 






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