Saturday, 22 February 2014
This is the sort of thing I get mad about:
Let me make this clear? Your claims to be intersectional amounts to precisely a piss in a pot if when it comes down to it, you still think other people's oppressions are worthless or not really worth acknowledging in cases where they cross over with your empowerment.
Yesterday Suey_Park started tweeting a poem by Alice Walker which uses a slur, the slur in question is "midget" which is offensive to little people. Now while Suey_park is great on the subject of race and race issue? Whenever those race issues cross over with disability or other oppressions, she starts getting it wrong.
The Poem may be seen here: https://kimblekorner.wikispaces.com/Alice+Walker It is called Expect nothing.
Now Alice Walker is an amazing poet, but the use of slurs still matters and hurts. Suey_park would never ever countenance the idea that racial slurs and ideas in historic white writing don't matter and don't wound people of color even today, her response when it's other groups being hurt however is rather unsatisfactory.
Here's the thing, it is perfectly possible to celebrate the empowerment of women of color via writing and lit, while also acknowledging that they can and did write some things that wound other groups. Pointing out the existence of slurs used by a writer who worked within, against and sometimes reinforced an oppressive framework via them does not devalue their work, it does not mean we have to throw it out, but it fucking well does mean we have to acknowledge it. Just as we should acknowledge that all the slurs used by someone like Mark Twain matter. Except in the latest case it once again didn't get acknowledged, instead people derailed like woah. I'm going to dissect some of the conversation.
"Context" is not a magically "fixes all the problems with using a term" thing. Of mice and men for example is still massively disabilist for all it's historical and for all it's meant well. You can place the novel in historical context but it's still a novel that carries the message that disabled people will end up being put down out of pity.
So if someone uncritically tweets historical white writing containing racial slurs, it's magically okay? Of course it isn't, because slurs do matter and shouldn't be treated uncritical.
Heard this argument before, it's gaslighting, they're basically arguing that if minority folks just examined the work, then they wouldn't find it offensive. Could you imagine if someone told a Person of color that if they examined Huckleberry Finn that all the times it uses racial slurs would magically become not hurtful? People would understandably call whoever did that on being shitty.
Yay, more gaslighting. I've examined the poem, I can't see how it could be remotely considered as opposing ablism. What the poem seems to be more addressing is both self kindness and not relying on others to be your mirror, which is hardly tackling ingrained dehumanisation of disabled bodies.
It's a call to self strength as far as I can see, not a call out of social structure. Alice Walker's work has always primarily dissected racism and racial identity, not other isms for all that she is blind in one eye. She doesn't have to tackle other oppressions but she shouldn't be made out to be tackling them when she isn't.
Pushing against white inbuilt racism does not automatically mean you're also pushing against other forms of oppression perpetuated by society.
Because the only thing we can do with problematic writing is to toss it out you see. That's the default, nothing else is allowed. Seriously, what part of pointing out that a piece of writing contains a slur term means you're arguing for it to be chucked in the waste bin? Acknowledging the problematic shit in something doesn't mean throwing it out, it means acknowledging it as well as the value of the piece.
It's a metaphor! No, how a slur is used doesn't make it magically not hurtful. Especially when it's being used as a metaphor for the bodies of those who it isn't directed at. Alice Walker is not a Little person. She also used slur terms a lot: Count the disabilist terms. She was by no means non-problematic.
Try a lot of DISABLED people in her mentions. Suey straight up ERASES the fuck out of their identities. She's done this before. This is some seriously problematic shit. Just because someone is white doesn't mean their other identities cease to matter and that's the only one that is important.
Yeah, that's ironic coming from the person who treats rich, non-disabled, cis het guy as being the default for white people, by talking about how white folks are never oppressed. Not never oppressed racially but literally NEVER oppressed at all. As if somehow our minority existence disappears into whiteness and is auto smothered into not being a problem.
No it is entirely fair to point out an oppressive statement made in the context of tackling oppression. Nobody is saying "stop tackling oppression" or getting pissed because someone said something "mean" about white people. There's a big difference between "not all white people are like that" and "This poem while empowering contains a slur that harms another group". The latter requires some form of acknowledgment.
"Oh folks didn't consider it a slur back then", folks didn't consider racial slurs to be slurs back then either, should all the white literature containing racial slurs receive a pass as well? I don't think so.
Yeah, that poem is not specifically addressing disability, and even if it was, unless the term was being used by a little person of color? It's still not magically not a problem.
So all the defensiveness about it wasn't saying it should be okay and should go unexamined?
Okay, there is literally nothing about acknowledging problematic elements within our movements that require centering a privileged group. We can say "I love this poem, it represented this part of my groups struggle, though I find the use of the slur to be archaic and harmful to the group it affects".
Nobody is asking you to break off and write 500 lines on how it's problematic and never use it again. PoC who get called on repeating ablism uncritically tend to frame anything that isn't talking directly about PoC experiences as centering others. But an acknowledgement isn't centering. How should it go:
PoC: Says something problematic about X group in the course of talking about racial oppression.
Member of X group: That's problematic because of Y reason.
*cue a very short discussion of the merits of the argument or literature to PoC with a thread of acknowledgement that it's not perfectly anti-oppression for everyone before returning to the main discussion of racial oppression".
Instead we usually end up with several hours of defending how it's worth so much that PoC shouldn't have to acknowledge that it hurts anyone else because it's just that good.
Yeah that's just a "it's not problematic, you just read it that way" argument. Which doesn't fly at all.
In short: This stuff is problematic. Suey_park is not supportive of disabled people, she routinely erases us, especially if we're white. Nobody is asking her to stop fighting against racism, but she really needs to stop telling people their oppressions don't matter if them being oppressed serves her fight against her oppressions.
Because oppressions matter, they matter because we need an inclusive movement. That means I don't uncritically defend stuff like which contains racism, and it should also mean that people like Suey don't uncritically defend things which contain other isms just because they like them.