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Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand

So, I had just about decided not to speak on the Amanda Marcotte issue and the Seal Press issue because I figured everyone knew I supported BFP and didn’t think too much of Seal Press or their tactics. And I know I am absolutely not capable of much in the way of diplomacy or tact so I left commenting to the people that could say the necessary things without the profanity. But then I saw this post with images from Amanda Marcotte’s latest book and I decided that the time for diplomacy and tact was over. Because when a so-called feminist puts out a book where she shows the empowerment of white women involving rescuing a white man from the evil brown people? Yo, the boys and girls over at Stormfront have lost track of one of their members. When the editors from her press feel the need to try to silence WOC bloggers for saying a resounding Fuck You to a company that is willing to put out this shit while calling themselves welcoming to WOC writers? The sheer ridiculousness of it is choking me. Or is that just vomit?

I’ve made no bones in the past about my feelings that feminism by and large has very little to do with actually helping all women and is really just for white women. Oh, I know it espouses anti-racist ideology, but it has never failed to escape my attention (or the attention of other WOC) that feminism has a distressing tendency to focus on the concerns of middle class white women while ignoring the realities of racism and colonialism and anything remotely to do with intersectionality between gender and race. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen white feminists assume a very paternalistic attitude with WOC particularly when it came to discussions about issues involving MOC while ignoring their own internalized racism. I once sat in a class on the psychology of sexual harassment (the only black woman in the class) and had the lovely experience of a white woman trying to challenge black women on their support of black men despite the misogyny in rap music and the Clarence Thomas case. She literally could not see (despite my efforts to beat reason into the conversation) a problem with her attitude. When I pointed out that white men weren’t immune to misogyny and no one was asking white women to abandon them? Yeah, there was a whole riff about how enlightened the men in her life were and so clearly there was hope for white men. Another white woman who had been sitting there listening politely pointed out her racism and suddenly she could see it. Because clearly the 20+ times I’d pointed it out just did not matter at all. And at this point it’s clear that WOC talking to Seal Press or Amanda Marcotte are actually beating their heads against a brick wall. Because the bigots never listen to POC. They absolutely cannot manage to get past their prejudices long enough to see us as people, never mind as intelligent or capable of critical thought.

So where does that leave WOC and feminism? Frankly we’re at a point where it’s time for feminism to either get it together, or for us to leave it where it is and continue on with our own progressive movements. There’s been some talk for years about how feminism is comprised of multiple movements and until now that’s been enough for me. But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist. And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.

And yes, Holly at Feministe has spoken up and I do see plenty of white feminists that are acting as allies. I also see people talking about the need to give Amanda Marcotte a safe space from which to respond. Maybe it’s just me, but why exactly is it that WOC aren’t entitled to the same calls for safe space? If we’re supposed to be sisters then shouldn’t safety for us be a priority? AFAIK there is exactly one community devoted to safe space for WOC on the internet and I created it. My co-mod and I work very hard to keep the voyeurs, trolls, and bigots out and the community members guard the space jealously from anyone that might slip past us. And I wish we didn’t have to do that, but I look at this book and the responses to it and the original Seal Press fiasco and I think that we are operating in very hostile territory and the only choice WOC have is to pull back and operate our own spaces in our own ways because we can’t expect anyone to fight for us. And yes, I know many of the people reading this are truly allies and I’m not saying this to hurt you. But we’re going to need you to commence cleaning up your house before you can help us clean up the world.

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

94 comments to Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand

  • nojojojo

    THANK you. I couldn’t even try to be coherent; I saw those pictures and threw up in my mouth a little.

    Just for neatness’ sake and since you’ve handled this so eloquently, I’m going to remove my little blurb about the pics.

  • Veronica

    Following up on expressing anger:

    I’m fucking furious about this. I’m furious about the resurrection of racism that should have been dead and buried decades ago. I’m furious about the way that resurrection destroys any connection women of color may have felt with feminism. And as a feminist, I’m furious about what this racist bullshit does to the movement, alienating smart, political women from the movement and the term feminism. It’s bullshit and there’s no excuse for it, none at all. This feels like a visceral blow for me, because I do identify as a feminist and I am sick and tired of having to do fucking fruitless repair work when feminists like Amanda and Seal Press tear it down with what seems like cavalier racism and contempt for women of color.

  • karnythia

    I was so angry this morning I actually spent ten minutes stomping around my house swearing before I could go near my keyboard.

  • baltogeek

    I agree.

    I’ve struggled myself with the idea of what it means to be a feminist and how to participate in the “movement”

    Being a young black woman and new to these discussions it’s been a rude awakening to see the amount of bigotry that exists.

    It’s time to talk about not only the “Patriarchy” but the “Matriarchy” too.

    The group of white women who hold power and wield it just as cruelly as any man and who hide behind their gender to fend off just criticism of the harm they do.

    We need to not be afraid to acknowledge these women because at the end of the day they do as much damage-pushing women who should be working together to being at each other’s throats-as any man.

    Fuck them.

  • Abydosangel

    I’m just 1- boggling over the pictures, 2- In total agreement with you on so many points here, I’ll just say “Word!” to all of it.

  • Kim

    I’m not active in the movement or even this blogosphere, but I’m amazed that this kind of ignorance could even be happening among women who are this active and this vocal about oppression. Those pictures are completely unforgivable, Amanda Marcott’s response is a joke (like the last two times, it seems), and I don’t know how even the most overt racist out there couldn’t have looked at those pictures and said “Uhm, hey, guys, we might piss some people off with this.” Just sick.

  • skirt

    thank you for writing this. feminism has broken my heart in the past couple of weeks, and i don’t *know* if i’m a feminist any more (which is not a place i ever thought i’d get to, mentally). this newest chapter in the fiasco is so.much.worse. and i wonder if feminism really is at a necessary breaking point, or if somehow white feminists will smooth it over and continue on as before (but then, that is a breaking point all in itself, isn’t it, for so many of us?).

    i don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been beautifully said by other people on the topic, but thank you for the post.

  • “They absolutely cannot manage to get past their prejudices long enough to see us as people, never mind as intelligent or capable of critical thought.”

    You’ve translated my sputtering anger into words that make sense. I thank you.

  • Thanks for this post.

    It seems so fucking stupid to say “sorry about us white feminists.” Or “sorry about my own contributions to these fucking continuing marginalizations and silencing behaviors.” Or “sorry that we seem to be such fucking hypocrites.”

    And stupider to say “she doesn’t speak for me.” She doesn’t, but if that’s ALL any given white feminist is saying, that’s fucking not enough.

    And you know, you don’t fucking need or likely want my approbation or approval (to what end? who the fuck am I?). But. You know. Word. It’s not up to me to assert I’m trustworthy, or I’m an ally. It’s up to me to prove it, and you’ve got no earthly fucking reason to believe anything of the sort about any of us white feminists at this point.

    So, I guess, stupid as it is: sorry about us white fucking feminists. I’m going to do my part to clean house.

  • And shoot. That comment has all of the wrong contact information for me, in case you want to, you know, call me out or verify I exist or what have you. This one’s right.

  • riv

    Prediction: when Amanda’s internet-drama has run its course, the white feminist blogosphere will act as though, since the Amanda situations have been fully processed, the Issue Of WOC can finally be put to rest and we can all get back to the really important feminist stuff now. Because it’s obviously all about Amanda and not about anything systemic.

  • Dianne

    I also see people talking about the need to give Amanda Marcotte a safe space from which to respond. Maybe it’s just me, but why exactly is it that WOC aren’t entitled to the same calls for safe space?

    In the ideal world where we’re all happy and have ponies, I’d say that Amanda Marcotte should have a safe space from which to respond. But in the real world, well, BFP clearly didn’t have that safe space or she’d still be with us in the blogosphere, so why should Marcotte? Or, more to the point, why should anyone expect or demand that Marcotte should have it?

  • She has a safe place to respond. Um, it’s her blog. She’s got platform after platform after platform and I’m really not concerned about her. How is she lacking a safe place?

    (And no, I’m not saying she deserves it. I’m just pointing out that wishing Amanda had a safe place to talk is like wishing that there was a white male history month).

  • Delux

    You have a very angry tone….

  • Delux

    Also, I want to get into your safe space community, so I can learn.

  • And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.

    Sigh. The effort it takes to do the weeding out is one of the overlooked ‘hidden’ costs that people don’t see when they invoke the ‘multiple feminisms’ angle of things. Also, the effort it takes to recover from somebody within your community Just Not Getting It.

    Anyway. Thanks for the words.

  • Legible Susan

    What Dianne and punkrockhockeymom said. That hole Amanda’s in just keeps getting deeper … and it will until she stops digging.

  • So much word, Karnythia.

    Nitpick:

    And yes, Holly at Feministe has spoken up and I do see plenty of white feminists that are acting as allies.

    This makes it sound like Holly’s white. I couldn’t tell if you knew that already from the post, but for other readers it may be good to clarify that Holly is herself a WOC, not a white ally.

  • Ico

    Great post, Karynthia. Nothing much to add to it except yeah, Fuck Seal Press, Marcotte, the lot of them. I am so angry/sad/pissed/depressed at all this shit. Every time I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

    Mind if I link to your post?

  • Great post. Also, ditto what punkrockhockeymom and lco said. This is so depressing. I hate it.

  • karnythia

    Ico, feel free to link. Micole I didn’t mean for it to sound that way. I was trying to convey that Holly had spoken up and white allies were responding to her post. Bleargh, any suggestions for clearer wording? I thought I was clear and now my brain is too fried to supply anything useful.

  • Not This Mess Again

    Great post, as usual. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Black women don’t really have the numbers for womanism to be even remotely relevant, but when stuff like this keeps happening, it’s hard to call yourself a feminist with my nappy head held high.

    On the LiveJournal side (since that’s where I know you from), I’m surprised that pennygwoods (Jennifer from The Message) hasn’t said anything about this. I thought she was a real witch (with a capital B) for comparing us to black Republicans, but now I’m starting to see her point, and it stings more than just a little.

  • Not This Mess Again

    One more thing – remember back when Amanda turned her whole plagiarizing thing back onto Brown Femi Power (I think that’s right) and made it all about how people were picking on her? I predict a repeat performance.

  • >>But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist>>

    I’m not, but I am really pissed and sad that fuckers like this drive you and others to that point. I keep saying I call myself “feminist” because it’s just, like, a word to me, always has been; but if it’s going to get to the point where even that becomes a badge of “automatic distrust” to too many people I’d rather ally with, I may have to rethink even that.

  • >>In the ideal world where we’re all happy and have ponies, I’d say that Amanda Marcotte should have a safe space from which to respond. But in the real world, well, BFP clearly didn’t have that safe space or she’d still be with us in the blogosphere, so why should Marcotte? Or, more to the point, why should anyone expect or demand that Marcotte should have it?>>

    ayupper. If your “safe space” is dependent on way too many other people, -good- people, feeling hell -being- unsafe, then it isn’t actually a “safe space.”

  • They were not thinking.

    But how could they not think?

    It’s like the white people all around us at the Bacchus Krewe Mardi Gras parade, which leads out with Mr. Kong, Mrs. Kong and Baby Kong, and not a single one of them seeing the racism in it. When we turned around to ask them about it, our jaws hanging down to the grass of the neutral ground, they had no idea what we were talking about.

    In other venues when we bring up this example of unconscious racism, white people all around again insist this isn’t racist, it’s OUR eyes that are at fault — we’re pushing PCness and ‘ideologue loyalty’ too far.

    Yet our New Orleans black friends see Bacchus the same way we do. Among New Orleans black communities Bacchus has the rep for being mean to little black kids with the throws — for racism.

    But the white communities hold Bacchus in such high personal esteem they are blind to the blatancy of what it really stands for.

    Love, C .

  • Thanks so much for this. I want to be down with the safe space you’ve created too.
    love,
    lex

  • It should be noted now that Amanda Marcotte has now issued a public apology for the images found in her book; and that Seal Press has issued one as well; with a promise to purge the offending images from the book.

    Not that that makes her original act of allowing these images to be created in the first place any less heinous, or that it negates all her other previous acts of blindness towards WoC…but it does clear the record a bit.

    Anthony

  • Not This Mess Again

    It doesn’t clear up SHIT! (No offense, Anthony.) Back last August when people were complaining, she actually LAUGHED about it. And now she’s apologizing?

    THERE’S NO ROOM FOR BITCHASSERY IN FEMINISM!

  • joankelly6000

    Karnythia, thanks for your writing as always.

    I feel like, it is the height of someone having a lot of effing balls to do hurtful things and then call for solidarity from someone, or someones, they’ve just hurt.

    Even from a me-setting-aside-my-anger-for-a-second perspective, the only logical call for people to not cause a rift, as it were, would be from the people not-causing it towards the people who just did something that fractured their good will. “How about some sisterhood?” only makes any sense if it’s said, in a you-are-not-showing-any-sisterhood-with-your-racist-behavior context, towards unsisterly individuals. And groups.

    So. I dislike that it’s ever used in an attempt to guilt any woman of color over not supposedly loving “women” when it’s factually white women and it’s factually white women’s racism that is being rejected.

    I feel like what I’m seeing is white supremacy, not feminism, but I don’t care what people call themselves, feminist or not. I care how people act, what they choose to talk about and how. This site has never disappointed.

  • littlem

    Some suggestions:

    If you have friends that work as
    - university administrators
    - tenured professors
    - lecturers

    you can let them know that the attitudes that are espoused in the book as perpetuated by the illustrations are NOT attitudes that should be supported and disseminated in institutions of higher learning.

    If you have friends that work at
    - Borders
    - Amazon
    - Barnes and Noble
    - Powells

    you can let them know that this is not a voice that should be supported — and that you have let prospective large-scale purchasers KNOW that it should not be supported — until such time as the offensive images are pulled and a new edition of the book is issued without them.

    If you have friends that work in
    - the mainstream press
    - the offline alternative press

    you can let them know that the attitudes that are espoused in the book as perpetuated by the illustrations are NOT attitudes that should be supported and disseminated in public institutions or public lectures.

    There are things (when and if one is not falling down tired) that can be done in addition to powerful withdrawal — like BFP’s — to demonstrate that there are voices that should not be marginalized, dismissed or ignored.

  • meh

    Holly is a WOC.

  • meh

    great post otherwise though.

  • Ico

    Now that Marcotte has issued an apology there’s this huge lovefest going on at her blog. Hugo’s come out in support of her book again. And I want to bash my face into the wall because it is all just so disgusting.

    Like, what happened to appropriation? What happened to her insulting behavior to WOC, for which she has never apologized? What happened to Seal Press’s treatment of BA? All the crap that happened is being forgotten because of a little “I’m sorry” over the pictures?

    No fecking way.

  • riv wrote:

    Prediction: when Amanda’s internet-drama has run its course, the white feminist blogosphere will act as though, since the Amanda situations have been fully processed, the Issue Of WOC can finally be put to rest and we can all get back to the really important feminist stuff now. Because it’s obviously all about Amanda and not about anything systemic.

    I think you’re right, unless more specific action is suggested, demanded, and produced from white feminists. Hopefully the carnival of allies that’ll come out soon will include some specific actions we white feminists can do to temper, dismantle, and reject our white supremacy.

  • Kim

    Amanda’s full apology is sincere. I believe it. I don’t give her a cookie for it, but it’s exactly what she should do *for this particular situation*. “I didn’t think. It is my fault I didn’t think. I’m sorry.” But I’m pissed that more people aren’t choosing whether or not to accept the apology and then saying “You know the privilege that made you not think about this? Let’s all have a good look at that, and then you can apply it to the rest of the problems with you and Seal.”

    Seal, on the other hand, doesn’t Get It even half as much but is reporting for diversity training. So maybe something in that effort will make them get their heads out of their asses and finally start to see what they’re doing.

    Now if they’d just combine the two, I’d feel a lot more confident about what might come out of this whole thing. Not that it would soften the hurt people have felt from this situation.

  • I don’t think there IS an “ism” word for me. Besides “ally.” If I’m helping “women,” like asking a senator to support a bill over equal pay by gender, I still think of myself as an ally…just to…myself, too. I’ve resorted to trying to slip that into everyday conversation as much as I can. It doesn’t work as well in the real world as well as it does online, though. But this is why.

  • Maevele

    And have you read Seal Press’ waffley-ass “I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way, jeeeeeeeeez” apology?

  • Also, Elaine’s comment makes me want to go more into the “P.P.S.” of the post I submitted to the carnival as a follow-up post, but I MYSELF am reading the blogs I do because I’m not an intuitive, creative type and am stuck for ideas. Gaargh.

  • Ico

    Karynthia,

    OMG. I just went and looked at Marcotte’s apology thread. And all I can say is wow. WOW, you have ovaries of steel to walk into that huge horrendous echo chamber and engage with that pack. And to let her commenters behave in such a fashion — ugh. It’s VILE.

    Brava, you.

  • Psychobunny

    Karnythia,

    Awesome post. It has made me SO DAMN ANGRY to see Seal Press go, “But it was meant to be funny!!! And ironic!!!” Well I’m sure it seems that way when you’re an uninformed white girl. OH WAIT NO, I *am* an uninformed white girl and I can’t imagine what the hell they were thinking.

    Good to see Amanda’s finally figured out that “apologising” doesn’t mean screaming “Y U ALL PERSECUTE ME, U HATE MY SUCCESS”.

  • NC

    As a straight, bi-racial man, I am completely in support of feminism, but I find this manifestation is a perversion of meaning of the term.

    I keep meditating on the following quote:

    “In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity, become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.”
    -Paulo Friere, from “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

    Perhaps Macotte needs to read bell hooks who chides both anti-racist activists for being sexist AND feminists for being racist. Anytime we pit one system of oppression against another (i.e., playing the “Oppression Olympics”), we all lose.

  • littlem

    NO- IT’S STILL NOT OKAY
    SO IT WON’T GO AWAY

    An addendum to my previous post to accommodate apparent recent developments.

    Should someone decide not to read or purchase the book, they might want to
    POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON INDICATING WHY (a concrete suggestion from another blog’s commenter).

    Should someone who chooses not to read or purchase the book write about their concerns to
    - Seal
    - Perseus (Seal’s parent company)
    - Their own local press
    - The press of cities scheduled for the book’s tour stops,

    you may want to suggest that the TOUR BE POSTPONED UNTIL THE NEW BOOKS WITHOUT THE IMAGES BECOME AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.

    PERMANENTLY IF NECESSARY.

    Until that time, should you write to the local press of cities scheduled for tour stops to tell them you will not be attending,
    TELL THEM WHY.

    Should you decide to reach out quietly, by private telephone call or email (for you shrinking violet-esque types) to your friends who are
    - publishers
    - booksellers
    - university administrators
    - university professors
    - conference organizers
    - mainstream and alternative print, radio, and television journalists
    to let them know that you will probably not purchase the book until an edition is released without the images in question,
    TELL THEM WHY.

    (Because somehow I can’t quite see the author or the original press including a statement in the second edition as to WHY the first edition was pulled).

    That way, you and your friends have an opportunity to thoughtfully consider the extent to which you want a press – or an author’s voice – that purports to be justice activist but will suppress, but not concede, an error of privilege, in the
    - classroom
    - lecture hall
    - conference

    that YOU call YOUR “safe space”.

    NO- IT’S STILL NOT OKAY
    SO IT WON’T GO AWAY

  • Geek

    “And yes, I know many of the people reading this are truly allies and I’m not saying this to hurt you. But we’re going to need you to commence cleaning up your house before you can help us clean up the world. ”

    Many white feminists have already declared Amanda not part of their house. So I’d say it’s pretty clear where people sit on this type of thing. Some white people refuse to see their privilege (me included at times) when they are busy pointing out other peoples’ privilege.
    I’m sure There are far more racist things than this out there, and in bookstores, and selling. I think it would be interesting to point them all out to publishers, not just the ones that are betrayal-like.

  • A.

    I’m too pissed off with feminism to even consider joining their ranks again.

    This is going to happen again. As popular as it is to make racist images or say racist shit and then apologize and get your ass kissed for it, and as long as people keep saying that “White women should have their safe space” it will solidify why feminism is not for me.

    IMO – it never had my interests at heart. It’s paternalism with a vagina. (I was going to say another term for alliteration purposes, but it’s very vulgar, and I’m not sure to how ABW or Karnythia would take to my brand of talk.)

  • A.

    And BTW – the root of the problem STILL has not been fixed. The images is really just more fuel to the fucking fire that Amanda Marcotte built.

  • Nothing to add because it’s all been said.
    And then some.

    I will say this,

    I love when you break your vow to not talk about something.

    I was under a similar vow and am just about at the breaking point myself.

    You give hope.

  • Danakitty

    I don’t know what to say except…. thank you for your anger, and your words. I know it doesn’t sound like much for me to say I’m going to try, but I really am, starting with a deep look at my privilege. Thank you for not letting me get away with it.

    I hope someday feminism will be the ideal we all hope it can be.

  • Juan

    Can’t help but flail and yell expletives at all of this bullshit and asshatery.

    Lost Brownfemipower and BLackamazon and who knows who else will follow. amanda and seal press are still full of batshit crazy, bullshit and ass showing. Supporters/defenders including posters at pandagon are mostly full of asshatery and bullshitery and treating the blogsphere as a popularity contest. Bunch of white people become turd-flinging apeshit, batshit crazy the moment someone says “white people can’t be trusted” and others start to agree. And so much more.

    The mentality and intelligence of the fuck-ups: perpetrators, supporters and defenders, can be compared to that of a helper monkey fucking a tennis ball.

    I’m with A. In at least a week or two’s time they’ll (mostly white people) go right back to touching the hot stove instead of proving they’ve learned a damn thing or try to change their thinking.

    I think I’ll laugh my ass off and get blurry eyed drunk the day they actually start standing up and handling business instead of closing ranks, wagon circling, sticking their heads in the sand and all those others fancy images.

    Until then it looks like I’ll be lacking the beer-goggle effect for quite a while.

  • This might be generational rather than analytical, but I was never been a fan of AM’s site, and thus never went there except on the rare occasions someone I respect suggested I take a look at a post there.

    But basically I just didn’t get it. It didn’t seem feminist, per se. Rather, more like the playpen constructed by indulged kids.

    Which would explain the incapacity for, you know, actually THINKING, and thinking anything all the way through. It’s a sandbox mentality that people raised as they were cannot see past. “Feminism” is merely another part of the ambience — a lifestyle choice of decoration, like the music chosen when friends come over: not for listening to or hearing, but so the friends will go, “Oh how awesome cool you are!’ Their’s is not feminism, just another part of their dress-up idenity wardrobe.

    They are to feminism as the chimp&hisilk are to democracy.

    Love, C.

  • I once sat in a class on the psychology of sexual harassment (the only black woman in the class) and had the lovely experience of a white woman trying to challenge black women on their support of black men despite the misogyny in rap music and the Clarence Thomas case.

    Because, you know, black women totally support the misogyny in rap music–plus, the white higher-ups at the record companies and TV stations have nothing to do with it anyway.

    I also see people talking about the need to give Amanda Marcotte a safe space from which to respond.

    I don’t understand the calls to make a “safe space” for Amanda at all. Not only does she have one (as punkrockhockeymom said), but dude, she wrote a book. That opens you up to all kinds of criticism. (IOW, she waived her “safe space” right there).

    Maybe it’s just me, but why exactly is it that WOC aren’t entitled to the same calls for safe space?

    Nope, not just you. Great post, karnythia

  • wordsseldomsaid

    wow…i have never heard of it…but think i may buy it now to see what all the fuss is about….

  • holy $#%@. thank you karnythia for writing this. clearly these kind of attitudes and behaviours are not in any way new, they are just getting the spotlight right now. and in the process wonderful people are being hurt and pushed out, while the biggots say sorry and people flock to them in adoration. the group hug going on in response to AM’s apology is beyond annoying. this sh*t has made me stop just reading, and start “talking” in blog comments, and when it all blows over and the white women go back to their business of themselves at the expense of everyone else, i’m not going to stop. i’m well done with feminism though, and any white-centered movement for social “justice”.

  • I feel like Amanda was sincerely surprised to see the pictures (I’ve written books before; I know how easy it is to miss stuff like this at the proofing phase), and I hope this affects her thinking enough for her to give a second look to the appropriation issue and do the right thing on that front.

    But the patronizing Seal Press apology (“Our books should never offend ANYONE!”) was worse than no apology at all, and to make matters worse they were the folks who specifically picked out and paid for the illustrations. They’ve promised to get antiracism training. I hope remedial classes are available.

    So I don’t know if this qualifies as touching the hot stove or not, but right now I’m mad at Seal Press and not really mad at Amanda, though I still think she has an obligation to use the appropriation controversy as an excuse to highlight the work of WOC on this issue. Because frankly, white allies who sincerely give a shit should ALWAYS be looking for such excuses anyway–it shouldn’t take this much prodding. Her first thought as soon as the controversy came up should have been “OMG, I can use my Alternet column as a way of highlighting the work of WOC on this issue–that’s fantastic!” The fact that she’s acting like you’re trying to take a pound of flesh is a little troubling.

    But all that said, I blame Seal Press for the pictures and I blame Seal Press for not even being willing to apologize for the pictures without piling on more insults. At least it’s going to be taken out of the second printing, and since they probably can’t afford to do a recall that’s very likely the best practical step they can take, but it all seems to be done to avoid controversy and damage to their reputation instead of to avoid causing harm. That’s unfortunate.

  • I have no idea how the hell that winking smiley got there, by the way…

  • They’ve promised to get antiracism training.

    It’s not about training, it’s about not being an a**hole and seeing people as people, not savages. I’m not entirely sure that is something that you can learn in your heart, though maybe your head, through “training”. How about they bring some WOC who won’t throw racist ignorance around everywhere, and put them into positions of authority so that the people choosing pictures like these have to answer to them? Now that is something I could believe in.

  • Ico

    Profbw has written up a very comprehensive summary of the Seal Press stuff, with a list of things they need to do if they are indeed serious in their apology:

    http://profbw.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/why-seal-press-is-off-the-syllabus-pt-2/

    I think it would be good to push this, to write to Seal Press and to bring it up on the blogs that are talking about this. If they feel the pressure lighten because they issued an “apology,” I doubt they will change.

  • “I’ve made no bones in the past about my feelings that feminism by and large has very little to do with actually helping all women and is really just for white women. ”

    To be honest, ever since I was a kid I associated feminism with wealthy white women who really had nothing better to do. It wasn’t recently I discovered blogs and saw that feminism actually had a purpose beyond the 1960s. However it is the “alternative” blogs that, as a WOC, really made me think that there was a place for me.

    To be honest, its good to see that people of all backgrounds are calling out Seal Press on this. Though I think its pretty sickening that they thought putting out those images were okay. I can’t imagine what they have to do with feminism besides “the white woman takes her place alongside white man by slapping a POC or too”. Which I imagine is not only frustrating to POC, but whites who know better.

    This post puts into words what I’ve felt for years. We’re only wanted if we’re mindlessly supporting the “true” campaigns and maybe one day we’ll get some tokens in return. If we ask nicely and thank them profusely for their generosity. *gag*

    I do think there are countless causes to take up for the many disenfranchised, but no one should be left behind so that someone else can go ahead.

  • isaidfeminist

    I was absolutely fucking disgusted by how some people believe that because Amanda is a feminist, she should be given a free pass to promote whatever racist images she chooses to. The fact that even within this community, feminists believe that that we as WoC should play nice and not cause trouble, and when there is something problematic and racist, it is somehow wrong for it to be pointed out. That, in fact, WoC are stepping out of line.

    I love feminism, I really do, but recently I’ve been feeling as though WoC are *allowed*, are *given permission* by white feminists to join *their* movement, but that we are second class citizens only here because of the benevolent white woman. That’s not the kind of community that I want to be a part of, and I desperately hope that feminism gets its act together.

  • Ico, that is brilliant.

    dana, I’m definitely not saying that taking classes on antiracism should be necessary, and in fact called Seal Press to task on that on their blog; the images are obviously racist to any reasonably intelligent person, and I find it impossible to believe that these two very intelligent young women did not at least consider the possibility when they decided on these images. The only reason I brought that up here was to make the “remedial” snark…

  • grandpa dinosaur

    Thank you for your strong voice, your hard work is appreciated and thank you for creating (as much as you can) a safe place for women of colour.

  • Thank you.

    I was astounded by the pictures from the book. Simply astounded.

    Then I got mad.

    Thank you for turning your anger into words. It helps me understand my own anger better.

  • Tom, yeah, I saw afterwords maybe you would see that as directed at you, but it wasn’t. I realize you weren’t saying that as “look it’s all fixed”, I just had to add my two cents.

  • >>To be honest, ever since I was a kid I associated feminism with wealthy white women who really had nothing better to do.>>

    The funny thing is, my Mom, when I asked her if she’d y’know been a part of alla that, heyday the early 70′s, college etc., she said pretty much the same thing, minus the “white” part. And the thing is, she’s -now- pretty upper-middle class, and has always been liberal, pro-choice, pissed about the glass ceiling (if she didn’t use that phrase), most things you’d associate with liberal feminism, you know.
    But she’s not into activism or groups and, while academic, would be out of place in womens’ studies.

    and then so like, we’ll be in the car, right, and “Under My Thumb” comes on, and she’ll say, “You know, I never really used to think about it, I always liked that song, but actually those lyrics are pretty sexist, aren’t they?”

    and, you know: so, maybe a CR group or a womens’ studies course or a Take Back The Night March would’ve gotten her to that conclusion a lot faster? but, I don’t know, if that’s the only difference, is it -worth- it? shrug.

    personally I’ve always felt more connected to umbrella-queer/sexuality/gender-based activism and theory than feminism qua feminism. On the other hand, hay, there’s certainly stuff that affects women qua women; there’s no one lens that covers -everything-, so…

    I guess where I get lost is where people treat “feminism” or any other “ism” like it’s, I don’t know, a religion or something, the One TRue Way, and the Patriarchy isn’t just a convenient way of framing systematic/historic crap that particularly affects women/gender roles/etc, but the Evil Empire Incarnate.

    alternately, or as here, a tool for self-aggrandizement and power consolidation.

    or sometimes even both (hi, Catherine MacKinnon and Sheila Jeffreys! hi!)

    and, I dunno: I guess I’m just not enough Go Team Women Yayz! or whatever it is to be that arsed about any of that. I -do- care about y’know actual issues. maybe that would be a way to go, rather than worry about I don’t know identity? you want x, I want x, let’s work together. you want y, I don’t care about y but I’m passionate about z, we’ll go our separate ways there, then. ?

  • >>This post puts into words what I’ve felt for years. We’re only wanted if we’re mindlessly supporting the “true” campaigns and maybe one day we’ll get some tokens in return. If we ask nicely and thank them profusely for their generosity. *gag*>>

    which, oddly enough, is exactly the same damn thing so many of the same damn “progressives” have been bitching about wrt the Democratic Party and/or the Mens.

    “my Issues are Universal; yours are tangential. What do you MEAN you won’t help?? yer so SELFISH.”

    and so on, and so on, and so on…

  • belledame222 writes:
    “I guess where I get lost is where people treat “feminism” or any other “ism” like it’s, I don’t know, a religion or something, the One TRue Way, and the Patriarchy isn’t just a convenient way of framing systematic/historic crap that particularly affects women/gender roles/etc, but the Evil Empire Incarnate.”

    Thank you. Yes. This idea that if you’re a feminist you can’t be anything else, like blanket gender oppression (as if it were ever that simple) is the only form of oppression there is… I used to say as a radical feminist that sexism is the “most fundamental” form of oppression. Now I’m not sure what the hell that even means. It seems to be almost a backtrack–explaining why one might do activism on sexism but ignore other issues. To speak about the “most fundamental” forms of oppression is, to my mind, to give myself excuses not to recognize anything else as being worth my time, effort, and worry.

    Now I say death is the most fundamental form of oppression and living death a close second, but if we wanted to look at societal factors it’s probable that civilization itself is the most fundamental form of oppression. Gender oppression is usually much less pronounced in hunter-gatherer societies; gender roles exist, but they’re more practical gender roles (e.g. men hunt because they tend to have more upper body strength, women take care of children because men usually can’t lactate) and one gets the feeling that they could be eradicated in a single generation if circumstances changed. It was agriculture and the “permanent settlement” culture that came with us that gave us institutional sexism, I believe.

    dana, I figured you weren’t talking about me but I just wanted to clarify. :o) Truth be told I’ve never taken an antiracism class as such, and I would be very careful about any I did take. Some of the worst advice I have ever gotten has been given to me by other whites in the name of shaping me into a more effective antiracist ally. I’m also a conscientious objector to any antiracism program that segregates white allies from people of color so that people can stay comfortable and talk amongst themselves; I respect the fact that some folks might disagree with me on that one, but the segregation-for-comfort approach is not for me.

  • Damn. Enough about me. Sorry, folks, didn’t mean to go off on a tangent like that. Case at hand: Anyone got a national directory of academics in women’s studies? I’ll email every women’s studies prof in Mississippi if it might help.

    And is it possible that this is something that INCITE! would want to cover in their next newsletter?

  • i just want to question and push the feminist blogoshpere in the use of the word ‘ally’.

    i think it is a perfectly nice word – one that generates visions of well-intentioned persons reaching across a space to join another. when in fact – the act of offering to be an ally is just an extension of one’s power. the very language of ally implies that i (the ally) have power – but want to join with you because you have none and need normative ol’ me to legitimize your struggle for…. and this act of being an ally will get me closer to the kingdom of heaven – because i am being generous in joining with a lesser being.

    i have plenty of allies – well meaning white persons who like me well enough to not throw things at me. but what i really, really need, is someone who is willing to buber (i-thou) me. treat me and my experiences like the subject, not an object. or sit with me – or even just humble themselves to shut up and respectfully listen to me without excuses for privilege once in a while. with an open heart toward my humanity and the veracity of my worldview.

    forming an alliance with me or anyone is the start of a conversation – not the substance of it…

    and thanks abw. you’ve compelled me to break my lurking for the second time ever! :0)

  • Kerrita, wow… As a white male who is active in local woman/POC oriented activism, I viscerally hate the word “ally” but have never been able to articulate why until now. Thank you…

  • Yeah, I use “ally” when other people are using it for convenience’s sake, but I’ve never used it much for myself, really. Usually I just say “friend.”

  • Agreed. “Allies” is what I put on flyers because it’s normal–for example, the local SisterSong retreat I helped publicize was very much described as “women of color and allies”–but I like “trusty sidekick” or “the white guy” or, heck, “Tom” so much better… I think ally is one of those words that was invented to make white people feel more welcome when white people really shouldn’t feel welcome unless they’re willing to let their guard down and become part of the group.

    Besides, ally, as Kerrita pointed out, has altruistic implications… The message of “I support you, but really I could take this or leave it”… And I don’t know about other white guys, but that’s just not true in my case. Activism has done so many good things for me and my social life and my growth as a human being that I could be a total sociopath and still have more than enough selfish reasons to participate. I guess I could pretend I don’t get anything out of this if it’d make me look more noble and shit, but I’m not a very good liar… It’d tear me to shreds if I had to give this up. I get a lot of joy out of it. I’m no hero. I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t absolutely in love with it, but I am… “Ally” makes it sound like I’m just writing checks…

  • Ico

    Kerrita k,

    Can I just say that I <3 your post? Especially this:

    forming an alliance with me or anyone is the start of a conversation – not the substance of it…

  • Mnemosyne

    But I’m pissed that more people aren’t choosing whether or not to accept the apology and then saying “You know the privilege that made you not think about this? Let’s all have a good look at that, and then you can apply it to the rest of the problems with you and Seal.”

    I think that’s what’s saddest to me in this whole situation — the entire point that Brownfemipower was trying to make got lost in the finger-pointing, and there were fingers busily being pointed on both sides.

    Personally, I don’t think Amanda is irredeemable. I’ve been reading her for a few years now, and I’m still pressuring her to address the whole issue, not just the pictures. And, though I hate to say it, I can understand the blindness to the pictures, because I’ve done it myself and had to have people pound my head a few times to get me to see the problem. Speaking for myself, I grew up in an incredibly segregated white neighborhood where we didn’t have a single black family until I was 16 years old — that made it 1985. Huge swaths of the Midwest live like that to this day, and I’m still trying to pull myself out of that well of ignorance. I may have moved away physically, but parts of my brain are still there and I don’t even realize it until I do or say something incredibly stupid.

    Here’s the thing though: even if Amanda does a full and free apology for her actions, the underlying problem still remains, just as the underlying problem still remained after Jessica Valenti’s book. And unless we can figure out a way to address that underlying pool of crap, this is going to happen over and over and over again.

  • witless chum

    Thanks for writing this. I’m a white guy and occasional Pandagon commenter. My first reaction to the pictures was what Amanda was presumably going for, as an ironic repurposing of cheesy old stories. My first thought was, actually, that this was the kind of thing that white people would get offended at on black people’s behalf.

    But reading this, I get it. I’m sorry for not getting it at first.

  • As a young, Black, female anti-feminist I have to say that this article resonated a lot with me, so much so I had to not only link to it but also put in my own two cents on feminism on my blog.

    Karynthia, thank you for writing this. I used to feel a sand grain of guilt about my beliefs–my suspicions–for choosing not to follow along…and now I feel none.

  • I have been trying and trying and trying to get a white feminist friend of mine to understand this. No success. Absolutely none. I think they are way too paternalistic (maternalistic) toward black women. They truly think they are capable of “taking care of us”. ..and that we don’t trust them to. The white woman’s burden aside, they have made being victims such a definition of holiness that to even admit that they might in some ways be victimizers would be to lose their holiness and saintliness. I really think that is what is going on. There is a desire in them to be saints and to be seen as perfect…and any admission of wrongdoing or privilege on that part touches their soul deeply…so admission is not possible. We’re not talking about sane people here when their worth is wrapped up in thinking they are holy victims. -C

  • I have no idea how come I never noticed this before. Perhaps because I wrote Amanda off months ago and tend to ignore any subject if she’s involved.

    Anyway, two months later and it’s still mind boggling. No wonder women of color are fed up.

  • [...] here courtesy of Karnythia @ The Angry Black [...]

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