Words of Online Feminists Of Color

March 23, 2011

“If I write race, I write it slant. I write it scat. I write it slipshod. I write it in the same manner I live it. Letting my work embody contradiction and delight. I love rumors about black men. I love the attention on the street in daylight.” Reginald Dwayne Betts

My friend, the esteemed poet Claudia Rankine, was recently making art and conversation about gender and race in America at a tony literary event in Washington DC. As can often be the case in lived spaces and live rooms, things turned rather ugly when unstated norms were breached and some people behaved badly while others erased themselves and the invited artists left feeling bashed or at best unheard. The controversial event quickly entered the blogisphere and there, of course, all bets were off: things turned uglier still, dignified people were more brutal, no holds were barred. Not one to be silenced Claudia (with John Lucas) created Learning To Not Know, a website holding original essays responding to her Open Letter Call for writing about “creative imagination, creative writing and race.”

“It’s grimly funny that the voices least sanctioned to speak come from the bodies most on display. There’s such power in looking–in being the one who looks and not the one who runs, slithers, dances, glides. The power of looking is magnified by speaking to what one has seen or felt or thought.” Danielle Pafunda

This beautiful, considered, simple website is evidence of our power to use the internet to produce productive dialogue and imaginative communities just as the racism and sexism that defined the very air of the room and the ground of the blogisphere evidences how quickly we can lose control of the spaces we choose to inhabit. Claudia’s story, and the countless others that reverberate on her page (like those of Pafunda and Betts quoted above) reverberate with the issues of safety, anxiety, self-authoring and violence I have been discussing here in regards to what we might want from online spaces. We are reminded that most online spaces mirror (and often multiply) the cruel norms of power organizing much of the world we inhabit; and yet we also remember our carefully crafted ghettos, our lovely homes, our classrooms and art, the very many intentional places we make and control, where we have and share power, and from these places we can become emboldened to use digital tools to build similar and new places online that function within our past rules, norms, and architecture while imagining the expanding possibilities allowed for access and interaction on the Internet. See this reduced list authored by the The Crunk Feminist Collective for the rules of our game (and read the long form on their site of course):

  • Know your history.
  • Positions—Know Yours/Take One.
  • Contextualize and Situate.
  • Avoid the pitfalls of presentism.
  • Embrace ambivalence. – Reject false binaries.
  • Envision the possibilities. – Rather than merely deconstructing, Hip Hop scholars and feminists scholars alike, must ask “what kind of world are we creating or do we aim to create?”
  • Wield Technology.—Technological literacy is critical for scholarship, creativity and social movements.
  • Lived Realities Still Matter.
  • Recognize the Power of the Collective.—Collective organizing draws on the best creative, political and scholarly traditions of both Hip Hop and Feminism

One Response to “Words of Online Feminists Of Color”

  1. […] and so the answer is that critics (and teachers) of digital culture need to circulate examples of better models, like Transformative Work and Culture recently suggested to me in a comment from Melanie Kohnen who […]

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