Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Art of Misdirection

Magicians use intricate hand movements to misdirect our attention from the hand that carries the "disappearing" coin or card. We white feminists have a similar trick to make sure that political discussion focuses on us. Here's a classic example:

In a post at TPM, Jessica Valenti mentions the behavior of a sorority at DePauw University that decided to kick out fat women and women of color from their group because they were "socially awkward" and were deemed unable to recruit new members.

This is a story of women from traditionally underprivileged groups making it past the many barriers to social progress and entering into a particular elite society: sororities on college campuses.Yet all that money and educational privilege does not protect them from the raw discrimination that the rest of us get to experience more frequently.

What can we learn from this and where should we turn to learn more?

Well, you could look to women of color who have been talking about this for years. You could look at women who deal with body issues. You could cite activist groups of young women who are making a difference.

Or you could just chuck all that and use this incident to focus on the pain of your white, middle class twit-like self. Which is exactly what Jessica chooses to do. And she specifically implicates her "feminist and blogging peers" in her effort to turn this important discussion into a rant about the needs of white privileged women.

What are the horrors faced by these women? I'll tell you, but first I believe I should post one of those disclaimers you see before TV shows:

the following may be inappropriate for some viewers. Boys and girls, prepare yourself for the horror and pain that is the life of Jessica and her peers:

Are you ready? Deep breath, now. Here goes:

"Being told you're too young to speak on a panel (this happened to someone I know at the 2005 NOW conference); being lectured about how your opinions are naïve or misinformed ("you weren't there!); being relegated to the "young feminist" table or forum at major conferences, having your accomplishments looked on warily because you didn't "pay your dues," getting emails about how all of your hard-working feminist blogging is for naught because your logo is sexist (cough, cough)."

The horror. The horror.

There you have it: the pain of racism is comparable to having to sit at the "kids table" at your family's holiday dinner.

As an older feminist, I should probably take umbrage that Valenti is using the worst sort of psychobabble to explain our failure to admire her and her peers. Katha Pollitt actually takes the bait in her response.

And that makes the circle complete. Misdirection accomplished. When racism and body issues are involved, all it takes is two white women focusing on their own issues to divert the discussion onto the problems faced by white women.

I'm hoping for something better this time. I'm hoping that readers of Valenti's post will also see the awesome reponses being posted by kick-ass women who call bullshit on this nonsense.

Go, read, and learn (be sure to read the comments as well):

Women of Color


Black Amazon

Renegade Evolution

Women writing on the body


The Gimp Parade