Friday, April 18, 2008

 
Apparently, I also surfaced just in time to miss an epic discussion of Race and Feminism.

not that I could have contributed to that in any meaningful manner, except to say that white girls need to be very very VERY thoughtful before they go shooting off their mouths, either on the blogosphere or between bookcovers or wherever feminism is served, and also need to realize that no matter what they say, someone somewhere is going to take issue with it.

to that end, I have been very very VERY thoughtful about race lately. I'm really bad at writing about it, really inarticulate and shallow and never really contributing anything of weight or relevance. But here's something new (to me) about race and feminism, maybe, or race and me, at the very least.

from the time I got pregnant, maybe a little before, until just a coupla weeks before I delivered, I worked here, the Capital Region Education Council CHOICE Program.

back in the day, programs like the CHOICE Program used to be called simply "busing", wherein students (mostly black, some hispanic) from city neighborhoods were selected to attend suburban schools mostly attended by white students. Nowadays, playing the funding game requires cool catchy acronyms and mission statements and all that crap to stay hip and cool and relevant and funded, but it's the same thing today that it was 30 years ago.

The focus of the program is to reduce social, ethnic and economic isolation by integrating educational settings. and for the most part, it sorta works. at least, it tries real hard.

more importantly, the people in the office try real hard, struggle mightily against underfunded budgets, byzantine bureaucracies, vapid school administrators, angry parents and the students themselves.

here's the relevant part for today - out of an office of about ten people, I was the only white person. (I think I was one of five white people on the entire floor, in fact.)

the thing about diversity, as I experienced it at the office for nine months, is that it's. well, diverse.

three women were Puerto Rican. three other women and two men were African-American. the boss lady was Jamaican. and for every issue that came up, these nine people came up with ten different solutions. (my opinion totally did not count, not because I was white, but because I was a temp, and not an educator with a college degree.)

the lives of these people differed wildly - some came up hard on the mean streets, others had relatively comfortable childhoods. some grew up in rural areas, some in cities. some had children, some did not. One did time in prison. Many were very very religious.

one woman out of the seven called herself a feminist, but reluctantly. she didn't feel like feminism really spoke to her needs, but felt guilty abandoning the idea entirely. six women out of the seven were explicitly NOT feminists.

Obama-vs-Clinton? well, actually I think at least one woman intends to vote for McCain. Make of that what you will.

What I learned at the office is that, at least in that particular environment, yeah, feminism is not relevant to women of color. it's seen as a hobby for white women with more money than sense.

if the shoe fits, y'all.

more later maybe, as my little oppressor-kins is making a terrible racket, exercising his dominance in a most white and male manner...

Comments:
"it's seen as a hobby for white women with more money than sense."

Huzzah!
 
heh.

one weird thing happened at that job. oftentimes parents would come into the office and assume I was The Boss. I guess because I'm a white lady.

that made me feel really awkward. then again, I had the privilege of feeling merely awkward instead of enraged.
 
Antip! Hope life with the tiny oppressor is treating you well!

And yes, good post on the subject.
 
I have to say as a WOC that I disagree with you. Though I own the label womanist instead of feminist I still believe that womens rights are important to WOC. The feminist movement has largely been to improve the lives of rich to middle class white women but that does not mean that there are not issues we share. As WOC we need to demand a space for our voices and call white women on their racism when necessary.
 
Of COURSE I remember you! And I did indeed notice that you and Sue didn't make it to NoHo. Hope to see you and the little man again soon.
 
Hi renee! thanks for commenting.

pursuant to your comment - well, my point was that the women of color I worked with seemed to share the opinion that feminism was for rich white girls. as diversity is diverse, it does not surprise me that someone somewhere has a different opinion.

what kinds of issues do you think are shared, renee?

oh - and hi Debbie!
 
"at least in that particular environment, yeah, feminism is not relevant to women of color"

They apparently have good jobs and vote. I would bet that at least one of them has gotten an abortion. Therefore, feminism is relevant to them.

As Renee says, the relevance of feminism and whether the feminist movement has a ways to go in focusing attention on WOC and lower-income women are two separate issues.

Are you serious in asking what issues are shared? I'm hoping hard that's rhetorical.
 
octo - rhetorical, or just stupid? ;)
 
I like you too much, AP, to say "no comment." I'm sorry for taking this personally. I think, though, that it's just as insulting to consider WOC as people for whom good jobs and birth control and voting are irrelevant, as it is to ignore or not center issues that are of special relevance to them. I think both are problematic.

I cannot speak for my sisters who are WOC, but would swear on a stack of bel hooks' "Feminism is for Everybody" books that they'd be quite insulted at any insinuation that the first and second-wave feminist battles don't hae relevance to them.

It does no favors to WOC to group off their issues as completely non-overlapping. They are women. Their issues are women's issues. They, like other groups of women, have particular issues that deserve more focus than the movement currently accords, and that should change. But treating them like separate beings is utterly ridiculous.
 
aw, heck, octo...just because I'm smart, creative, kind, generous, fashionable and (of course) humble - that doesn't mean I'm immune to stupidity.

it was interesting to be the only white person in an Office Of Color, so to speak.

it was a fascinating contrast between Feminism Of Color as read, and Womanhood Of Color as lived. and one thing I realized was that while I could comment oh-so-wisely about all I had read about feminism in the community of color, I has nothing to say about what it was like to live feminist-ly (or not) in the community of color. and in the segment of the community of color I had contact with, feminism was stated explicitly to be more or less irrelevant by all but one of the women I worked with.

aaagh...Mr. Oppressor-Pants apparently has other plans that don't include me finishing this comment...bye for now.
 
AP, with respect to their POV, check this this out. A huge number of these second-wave accomplishments are relevant beyond racial/income lines. Whether a woman who votes, works, etc. truly believes feminism's irrelevant to her or not really doesn't matter. That claim is false. Period, end of story.

If she were to claim that the movement needs to be more responsive to issues of importance to her -- fair enough. But irrelevance? Hooey. I could "explicitly state" that the Presidency is irrelevant to me because we've never had a Jew. So what. Accepting what someone says hook line and sinker because of (justifiable) white liberal guilt isn't doing anyone any favors.
 
Accepting what someone says hook line and sinker because of (justifiable) white liberal guilt isn't doing anyone any favors.

touche, octo. :)
 
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