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Me wasting some time

April 2, 2008

So I was called crazy and racist and anti-feminist over on the Feminist SF Blog and for some reason I couldn’t help taking the bait.

Ok, I’ll bite.

I find it really interesting that the author of this blog post, on a supposedly feminist journal, chose to describe me as a ‘crazy lady’. I’m pretty sure that I have never blogged about having mental health problems, because I don’t have mental health problems, so I really don’t understand how it is that I could be called crazy. And really, even if I did have mental health issues, I find it really troubling that the word crazy is being used as an insult on a feminist blog. I have deep friendships with women with mental health problems; many of my sisters (in the feminist sense of the word and the biological) struggle with eating disorders, chronic low-self esteem, depression, PTSD. I would never, ever refer to them as crazy in a disparaging way. They suffer from an affliction called oppression, a social/cultural disease called male supremacy.

Whatever problems you have with the way I blog, I have never called another feminist crazy when linking to her blog. I can’t believe that feminist women would so casually use this word in the feminist blogosphere.

On the issue of racism, what I actually said was:

Zoe, of course, is meant to be our empowered, ass-kicking sidechick. Like all sidechicks she is objectified from the get go. Her husband, Wash, talking about how he likes to watch her bathe. Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour. I have known a black woman whose white husband would strangle and bash her while her young children watched. My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession.

Joss Whedon does not share my view, of course, and he paints the relationship between Zoe and Wash as a perfectly happy, healthy union. If anyone is interested in portrayals of relationships between white men and black women written from black women’s point of view, I would suggest watching Radiance, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Serenades, skip Joss Whedon’s shit.

I stand by what I said here because it is true. Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I should have been that I was speaking from my own experience, as a multiracial woman, who has suffered violence at the hands of a succession of white men. I was speaking of watching my mother, my grandmother, my aunties, my great aunts all being abused in relationships with white men. I was speaking of my Black sisterfriends who have suffered from white male violence, the Aboriginal woman I saw on the train, her white partner talking about he used violence against her to keep her in line. I was speaking about how white men who use women as objects and possessions are not capable of having healthy, egalitarian relationships with Black women. I did not say anything about my opinion on interracial relationships. And, yes, I do have an opinion on interracial relationships. I know of many lesbian interracial relationships that are beautiful, loving and egalitarian. I have never seen a white woman treat her woman of colour partner like an object or a possession. If I did see this, however, I would believe this to be racism and misogyny and I would conclude that the white lesbian was abusive.

I also did not draw any conclusion from this that all relations between white men and Black women were abusive. I did not say this; therefore I did not mean this. I do know a Black separatist feminist who believes that all Black women in relationships with white men have deep unresolved issues of self-hatred. I can understand where she is coming from, but I don’t agree. By the way, I do not believe for one second that her opinion indicates that she is racist, I don’t believe she is. I think that women of colour/multiracial feminists can disagree on things without resorting to calling each other racist. But back to the point, I do believe in the possibility of Black women forming egalitarian relationships with white men. BUT I think that the venture is fraught with difficulties because of the massive social conditioning that white men are subjected to from the day of birth, into white male supremacy.

Going back to the issue of Joss Whedon and his portrayal of an interracial relationship, I take issue with this portrayal because it is written by a white man, who obviously has absolutely no understanding of the way in which race and gender impact on the sexual and racial politics between a white man and a Black woman. I don’t think that many white men, even white men who are in respectful relationships with Black women, would ever fully grasp what it means to be born Black and female under white male supremacy. I think that the only peoples who have this complex understanding of the world are Black women themselves. If you will notice, in my original post I linked to three movies that were made by Black women (or had serious creative involvement by Black women). Two of these movies were negative portrayals of the way in which white men have colonized and slaughtered Black women. The third movie, Serenades, is a romance between a white man and a Black woman, and ends with the budding potential for a revolutionary alliance; a white man following a Black woman’s lead.

The difference with the movie Serenades, is that it was written by a woman of colour, who knew exactly what she was doing. She knew exactly the world, and the romance, that she wanted to believe in. Serenades is the only heterosexual romance that I have seen so far that I consider unproblematically feminist.

Also, as a multiracial woman, I have no choice but to be in an interracial relationship. The only people I know that have exactly the same racial background as myself are my siblings. I doubt very much that I am going to find another woman who is: Finnish, Papuan New Guinean, German, Irish, Polish, Chinese (with a bit of Arab and Jewish thrown into the mix). Of course I am supportive of interracial relationships. How the hell could I not be? I have been in a relationship with a white woman and she did not treat me like an exotic object or possession, unlike the many, many white men who have shown an interest in me over the years.

As to rape: I have never said that I consider all heterosexual sex to be rape. I have said that under male supremacy, sex and rape do not exist as discrete concepts or acts. That does not translate into thinking that all heterosexual sex is rape. I referred to a discussion that I have participated in recently on the rad fem blogosphere (mostly straight radical feminists were participants in this discussion) where we discussed whether all male-initiated sex was rape. It is my feeling that most male-initiated sex should be considered statutory rape, as men have political, social, psychological and economic power over women. Again, that does not translate into all heterosexual sex being rape.

I have been raped. A man committed sexual acts upon my person, without my consent and against my will. I did not say no at first, when I did he ignored me. I did not scream or resist. I call it rape because for me this was not a trivial occurance. If you want to call it something else, fine, but it is my belief as a radical feminist that we should respect women’s stories and respect the language that she uses to express her lived reality. I will use the word rape to describe my reality. If you choose not to believe me that is your decision. Although I will say that I am quite bewildered by the fact that you feel that you need to deny my lived reality in order to make your own more tangible.

My mother was driven into suicidal depression by my father’s sexual use of her. She submitted to him and acquiesced to him as that is what a good wife is supposed to do for her husband. My mother’s tangible and very real suffering is just one of the many, many reasons that I believe that women’s acquiescence to men cannot be considered consent. Many other women have shared their stories with me throughout the years, and after coerced sex disclosure after coerced sex disclosure (which none these women dared name rape), I have come to believe that this form of rape is highly common and almost ubiquitous.

I have no idea why anyone would consider that saying what I have said above, trivializes rape. I have seen the effects of coercive marital rape. Watching my mother starve herself, constantly talk about suicide and self-hatred, never knowing whether my mother would still be alive when I got home from school. Yeah, great, fun-filled, trivial times, they were.

What I would like is an apology from the author of this blog post who dismissed me as a crazy lady. Just because the author of this post doesn’t agree with the view of the world that I choose to espouse on my journal, does not give her the right to disparagingly refer to me as crazy. I don’t think I deserve the epithet.

I would also like an apology from the women here who have misrepresented my opinions. I know that I probably won’t get either of these, and by the by, I fully support the right of the author of this blog post to delete this comment. I believe all women have the right to safe space and support all women to take on board criticism or not, depending on how she safe she feels and how strong she feels at the time. I hope I have not hurt any of the women who blog here with my words. It is not my intention. I just wanted to clarify my actual position on certain issues which have been misrepresented here.

Love, sisterhood and respect,

allecto

11 comments

  1. Thanks for your comments over at Debs’ allecto, I haven’t seen this programme, so I can’t comment on it, but yes, I would agree with you on the subject of power imbalances. If you have a double power/privilege imbalance (as in white man, black woman) it’s going to be very hard to get over that. I also think that most popular films and TV are racist, for the same reason as they are misogynist – because they reflect the wider society. Also everyone can see obvious overt racism, but most people can’t see subtle racism like how wanting to watch someone bathe is objectifying – because it’s an intrusion on their privacy. It’s very easy to think you’re treating someone equally, but you’re doing nothing of the sort, you’re patronising them.

    Anyway hope to see you over at mine (probably the most rapidly hated and linked to blog on t’internet ever) soon…..


  2. Put your socks back on allecto, you write beautifully!


  3. Hiya Polly, I look forward to reading more of what you have to say. I’ve been loving your comments for ages now. I agree that most popular TV shows are racist and misogynist.

    Thanks Pisaquari!!! You are so awesome.


  4. I’ve not seen the show, or read any of the controversy, but this is a really powerful post.
    x


  5. Thanks E-Visible. I’m enjoying your blog too.🙂


  6. I apologize for confusing your statement (that there had been discussions about whether all male-initiated sex was rape) with you stating a belief that this was the case; I think a lot of people reading made the same mistake. I also agree that ALL nonconsensual/pressured sex is rape.

    I’m confused because you did express a belief that no white male/black female relationship could be healthy, and later agreed with a poster that all male/female relationships are unhealthy: “Let me just say now that I have never personally known of a healthy relationship between a white man and a woman of colour.” You offered this heuristic statement for a reason; if it wasn’t to illustrate how unhealthy white male/black female relationships are, then why did you write it?
    As a heterosexual person who has been in interracial relationships, it bothers me that statements like this are made so blithely. I think learning to respect all sexual orientations and preferences is incredibly important, especially because so many close-minded people still regard lesbian, gay, and (yes) interracial relationships as unhealthy or sinful.


  7. Nice peice of work – good defense against people who (for whatever strange reason) are incapable of seeing the structural racism and sexism that pervades every aspect of our society.


  8. Thanks for the apology Serena. I can understand that some of the things I say can be confusing. Like everyone else in the world I am not going to be 100% accurate all of the time. And I really only write my blog for other radical feminists and we have a certain understanding of the world that isn’t shared by most others. When we make generalised statments like that, we are often talking about structural problems rather than of specific relationships. Heterosexuality is patriarchal and male dominant in our culture. Therefore I understand that most heterosexual relationships are ones that are often damaging to women in one way or another.

    I think learning to respect all sexual orientations and preferences is incredibly important, especially because so many close-minded people still regard lesbian, gay, and (yes) interracial relationships as unhealthy or sinful.

    Agreed. But believing that heterosexuality and the politics of male dominance within heterosexual relations is a bad thing for women, is not the same as intolerance of heterosexuality. Also, critiquing white male dominance in interracial relationships is not the same as being intolerant of interracial relationships. Never said anything about sin. In fact, I believe, as Mary Daly believes that women need to have the Courage to Sin. And break the Terrible Taboo of Being/Be-coming Woman-Touching, Woman-Loving women.

    Thanks Amanda and welcome. I’m glad you thought so. The reply I got from many women from this was that I am crazy.


  9. Hi again. Thanks for putting this post up. I think a lot of the flak you’ve received is because people have jumped to massive conclusions about some of your writing, and haven’t stopped to think about the background and what your politics mean, if that makes sense. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that you, as is totally your perogative, are writing for a like minded audience and you are assuming your readers have a certian amount of background knowledge. Most new readers to this blog don’t have the background knowledge or understanding so get the wrong end of the stick. I think that’s one of the problems with use of the internets, people forget that bloggers don’t have to explain and justify every opinion they include.

    I don’t think you’re crazy and after having read through all your posts on Firefly now I think a lot of what you’ve said makes sense. Some areas we disagree on, but that’s the joy of the internet – an easy way to locate differing opinions and challenge your worldview.

    I shall be keeping your blog on my favourites list.🙂


  10. Thanks Saranga. Yes, because radical feminism/lesbian feminist/Black feminism is so marginalised by the malestream, I am speaking in a language that is foreign to most people. Many people have felt quite threatened by what I have to say and dismissing me as crazy makes it easier. That way they don’t have to think about the issues that I talk about.

    But for me feminism and anti-racism are central to my existence. Living with care and thought takes guts and courage. Because people do not want to hear your anger. Loving women of all colours means living in a constant state of rage at all the injustice we suffer. As they say, I’ll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy.

    I shall be keeping your blog on my favourites list.

    Thats so sweet. Thanks.🙂


  11. I have to admit that I found your blog through a firefly discussion board and after skimming your analysis dismissed you as “crazy” as well. However, as a bisexual feminist woman I was drawn in by your opinions. While, I don’t agree with much of what you write about I can see the absurdity of judging you to be “crazy” after so little time invested.

    You are, to the contrary, not “crazy” but rather passionate, strong, and (as I believe it) quite intelligent. Qualities that many can clash against but shouldn’t write off. I applaud your opinions and your blog and though I don’t always agree with what you say I believe that not only do you have the right to say it but that you should say it because regardless of right or wrong in the eye of the reader, it inspires a response, often thought-provoking. And your subject matter is something to think about, certainly.

    As to what you mention in this blog: ” I call it rape…” This sentence got my blood boiling, you call it rape? Rather, it WAS rape, no implications that it couldn’t be, involved. The fact that someone could question that you were raped is horrible. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t fight, or you didn’t scream, or you didn’t anything…if you didn’t consent then it was rape.

    My thoughts on this subject turn to two other discussions I have read about. The first: disgusting. Discussing whether or not a character, “Julie,” from the show “Felicity” was raped because she didn’t fight against her attacker. The very idea that women must grapple with their rapist to show others that they don’t want to have sex? The simple fact that consent wasn’t asked for, nor given should always be enough.

    The other discussion stems from a blog: Persephone’s Box, in which the blogger discusses rape a number of times including the fact that rape can occur within thirty seconds in a consenting relationship. If a man and a woman are having sex and she says, “stop” and it takes him thirty seconds to do so then yes, he has entered into the realm of rape.

    I would love to read your take on this Felicity episode.

    Don’t let “crazy” labels stop you from blogging, because even though I don’t agree with all of what you write, here I am, now an avid reader who maybe will learn and have their mind opened more to your strong and passionate views.



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