Archive for category feminist blogosphere

Here’s my Feministe Question about Radical Childcare

I’ve been a reader of Feministe for a few years now.  It’s pretty much one of the few mainstream-ish blogs/sites that I pop my cyber head in for a check-in for women and gender news and updates.

It’s not just the writers that provide news.  What I find more telling about the temperature of mainstream feminism and how far (or not) we have come, is the comment section. Comments can range from supportive and affirming to downright knee-slapping hilarious for its ridiculousness.

Right now, there is a post that I genuinely support and am eager to read how others are reacting.  As a contributing writer and editor at make/shift magazine, I always feel a thrill when a significant article, like Heather Bowlan’s Power to the Parents, is picked up by another outlet, like Utne.

And then there’s more thrill when it’s mentioned in the feminist blogosphere.

My curiosity set in, though, when NO comments were made in the post.  None.  Not even a “thanks for posting the link,” or “I disagree because collective childcare is _____ ” kind of comment.

No reaction.

Or, is it no interest?

What does that say about feminist readers?  Or is it just Feministe readers?  What does it say that when feminist sites cover news about abortion signs or Planned Parenthood, media goes crazy and the readers respond. But when an article reports of a much needed service in the activist circles, the voices of support or even of mild inquiry are nowhere to be found.  When the subject is redefining the family and broadening inclusion in the “movement,” why is there an echo in the room?  For all of the cries of “liberal” and “progressive” readers, where is the interest in the news when it reports a piece of information that actually DOES something to make a difference in the lives of women?

Is there no reaction to this amazing effort by China Martens and others who work to try and include children in the movement for justice and peace?

No reaction?  Is it that people want to react to more posts about Charlie Sheen’s assholery or popular and well-covered issues such as white privilege?

Or is this more telling about the disinterest the capital *F feministers have when it comes to women who are not white, heterosexual, partnered, and without dependents of any kind?  What does a “no comments” section mean about the vested interest in a truly pro-life (non-political term usage here), pro-women, pro-family effort?

Just observin’.

Just sayin’.

Just questioning.

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Truthout About Kyriarchy: An Open Letter To “Feminist” Writers, Bloggers, and Journalists

In April 2008, I wrote a post on my blog about and introduced the word “kyriarchy.” At the time, I was writing in response to a feminist blogosphere blow-up.  The feminist blogosphere in April of 2008 was busy unveiling the torrent history of feminist-identified white women writers and presses co-opting and adopting the work of women of color writers, and ignoring the lines of power and oppression between women.  Or, in other words, it was about the long history of white women acting as the authority on subject matter that clearly were out of their lines of experience.

And then it resulted in an unprecedented fallout when Seal Press, whose tagline is “publishing ground-breaking books by women, for women” publicly disgraced itself by insulting women of color writers and bloggers.

It was because of these incidents, I began thinking of kyriarchy.

I studied in one of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s classes, one of the most searing feminist theologians of our time, and, afterward, took a personal vow and role of academic vigilante.  Such thoughts and transformative insights, I thought, should be made available to those outside the ivory tower.  I began incorporating kyriarchy into my poems, criticizing the criminal cost and hoarding of knowledge by universities.  I even dipped into recorded spoken word, which resulted in a CD compilation of work by other women of color.  The CD was used as a fundraiser to financially assist mothers to get to a powerful Allied Media Conference in Detroit.  Kyriarchy became the bedrock of my activism.

That was the origin of bringing kyriarchy out of the academic walls and into the blogosphere; that it would be (more) available. I thought that by offering a new term for folks to chew on, a deeper understanding of who we are and why we are the way we are would bubble.  At the very least, an on-going and informal conversation of patriarchy vs. kyriarchy would be achieved.

To date, the piece about kyriarchy is correctly linked and cited by nearly fifty articles and posts, and one urban dictionary even added “kyriarchy” to its pages. It became apparent that kyriarchy, a neologism by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, caught fire.  A few months after writing about kyriarchy, I was contacted by the research assistants of feminist writer, Shira Tarrant, who asked for permission to use my name and properly cite my work in her forthcoming book, Men and Feminism.  I gave my permission, reminding the author that the term was clearly not my own, just my effort to bring the compelling word to a non-academic audience.

I was ecstatic it was so well-received by so many different circles of thought.

And then two months ago, I received a link to a recently published article in The Guardian entitled, “The Patriarchy is Dead, But the Kyriarchy Lives On,” by Nichi Hodgson.  After reading it, two questions immediately popped in my head:  “How is this article covering the emergence of kyriarchy in the feminist sphere with not one attribution and where had she learned it from?”  and “What have I done?”

(I’ll tackle the second question first because it’s ten fold more important than the first.)

Hodgson pats kyriarchy down to a nice and quasi-intelligent term that relegates the freedom to complain about oppression to include The Men, too.  It turns a highly flexible academic term by a feminist theologian into a pop cultured meat loaf: a soft, feel good term that everyone can chew and swallow.

Hodgson uses the pornography industry as an example to illustrate kyriarchy’s clarifying power.  She posits that both women and men are exploited by the porn industry. With kyriarchy as your scapel, you can see how: not only are women exploited and objectified (who could potentially benefit and profit from this work) while men, with their overexposure to the X-rated world, may experience problems keeping their sexual organs and libido “up” in high gear.

And then Hodgson makes a common and dangerous jump about kyriarchy and contemporary feminisms in general:

It helps us to recognise the interconnection of education, class and eating disorders such as anorexia, and of domestic violence and poverty, rather than encouraging us to indiscriminately blame men.

It helps to explain how women themselves can in some cases morph into the supremacist bully, when paranoid mothers pass on anxieties about food and bodies to their daughters, ground down themselves by years of trying to live up to constructed notions of beauty.

The purpose and measure of kyriarchy – and feminism in general – is not to increase our time at the microphone so we can more accurately assign BLAME.  The purpose and measure of kyriarchy is to further understand the power and crippling tendencies of the human race to push, torture, and minimize others.  It is in our nature to try and become “lord” or “master” in our communities, to exert a “power-over” someone else.  Kyriarchy does not exist to give us tools to further imprison ourselves by blaming our environment, upbringing, or social caste.  It is the opposite.  Kyriarchy exists to give us tools to liberate ourselves by understanding the shifting powers of oppression.  It is not about passing the megaphone to men so they can be included in the oppression olympics.  Simply check-marking our gender, sex, race, ablity, class, citizenship, skin color and other pieces of identity will not free us from the social ills of our stratified society.  Kyriarchy is not the newly minted alarm clock to wake us up to what’s wrong.  It exists to radically implement our finest strategies to deconstruct our personal and political powers for the liberation of self and community.  For self AND community.

Which is why I so vehemently disagree with Hodgson who believes that the most helpful piece of kyriarchy is “its emphasis on individual liberation…”

Please indulge my own theory-making right now:  There’s no such thing as liberation if the word ‘individual’ precedes it.

I cannot speak for Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza.  I cannot pretend to even guess what Hodgson herself means in writing that phrase “individual liberation.”  However, in the spirit of feminist theology, in the spirit of radical understanding of power, I would argue with 100% confidence that the absolute LAST thing that kyriarchy strives for is individual liberation. Solely pursuing your own liberation often comes at the expense of others.  That’s not liberation, that’s mainstream feminism.

Which brings me to the second question, and my personal slant/issue on this article: where did Hodgson find kyriarchy and, knowing the migration of this term from the ivory tower to the digital masses, why is there no attribution?

After I send my message to The Guardian, in which I congratulate her for the published article, but state my concerns and ask why her references are not included, Hodgson acknowledges my message and promises to reply in a few days when she is more readily available.

A reply lands in my inbox after a few more days in which she explains her source, which is the book by Shira Tarrant, who she makes no mention of and is the author who had contacted me to cite my work on kyriarchy, and some of Schussler Fiorenza’s original texts.  Hodgson, upon rechecking Tarrant’s book,  acknowledges my name in the credits to which she offers a sincere apology if I “felt plagarized.” It concludes with a request to list where my other work is so – the next time – she can properly include my name.  I wanted to ask, “You mean other than the “FAQ” section of my website where it’s the first term under my own lexicon?”

“Felt plagarized?” What I found most ironic is that I was brought back to 2008, to the originating circumstances of what drove me to introduce kyriarchy to the US feminist blogosphere: the blantant and irresponsible disregard for (at minimum) thorough research and (at best) moral and ethical journalism. But, for me, this incident just tacked itself in the ongoing practice of appropriating, ignoring, and assuming authority on and of the work of women of color by feminist-identified white women.  Or, as Hodgson writes:

Perhaps most importantly, kyriarchy exposes a sin within the women’s movement itself: that of feminist-perpetuated oppression.


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Birthing a New Feminism

On December 20, 2009, I gave birth to two things: a 9lb. 7oz son and a new feminism. It was the third time my reproductive organs had encountered surgical metal; twice to remove ovarian tumors and cysts and once to remove a breathing boy.

By nightfall, I was vomiting from the drugs administered to my body for my c-section. After an excruciating vomiting episode, my head hit my pillow in utter exhaustion and my newborn began to cry out of hunger.

I looked at my body. Like a meticulous and tedious film director wanting to capture every detail of a flowerbed with a camera, I surveyed every inch of my body. I started at my feet.

My legs were buzzing numb, still, from surgery. To keep from forming blood clots, my legs had been strapped to a pumping machine. Two pieces of plastic swathed my legs. They hissed when they squeezed my calves and lazily loosened after three seconds of tight holds. The noise prevented me from deep sleep and made my legs sweat.

A catheter was inserted. I saw the bag full of my urine with taints of blood. It was a horrendous sight.

The dressing over my surgical incision covered the most tender and vulnerable part of my birthing body, the exit wound of my baby.

An ugly red rash had exploded onto the top of my chest. Its bumps were just as unsightly as they were itchy. A reaction, maybe from the hospital gown? Or hormones?

My left hand was a splotchy mess from a messy IV insertion. Mounds of clear tape awkwardly held in a needle and dried blood itched under the surface. It was hooked to a machine, beeping and regulating my body. Bags of I don’t know what dripped into my arm.

My right arm held Isaiah as I tried to breastfeed him. His desperate attempts to latch on were beyond painful, but with the help of countless nurses and my husband, he drank.

Gulped, really.

My normally brown face was gray with remnants of drugs and fatigue. No food. No water. Only ice chips. My water was taken away when I drank too much too soon and vomited into the pan again.

Later, to help stir bowel movements, an enema was inserted.

And I surveyed my body, every orifice of my body was either plugged, bandaged, bleeding, dry, or fatigued. And as Isaiah drank, my breasts ached with new agony, unfamiliar with this new demand of nourishment and, suddenly, as if my leg pumps, catheter, IV, and surgery scars weren’t enough, I began having more contractions. My uterus throbbed with an intensity that made my eyes close.

The hormones stimulated by breastfeeding will cause contractions. This will help your uterus descend and go back to its normal size.

And Isaiah’s latch intensified.

Never, in all the days of my life, had I ever undergone anything so life-giving. Never had I myself been so life-giving. Every part of my body was simultaneously healing and giving.

But I was in much pain. The lactation consultants were so beautiful and caring, I wanted to weep into their laps.

They gently touched, massaged, and handled my breasts. The nipples, swollen and red, screamed with pain at the slightest touch of a hospital gown. Maya, a middle aged woman from Russia, was sharp, informative, and decisive. Her teaching was fast, her hands careful, but her eyes were business. She recognized the pain, she knew how hard this was. Myra understood that I was thisclose to losing my sanity.

She understood that while the vagina or, in my case, the abdomen, was the door to life in the womb, it was the nipples that were the entry point of survival for my son.

The body, my body became a poem, a poem of survival.
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I stayed in the hospital room, save two hours to walk down the hall for a parenting class, for four days straight. My dreams were in neon and my breasts were engorged. What I remember about that period in my life was how unbelievably gentle and kind people can be when you are in pain.

Briefly, like a loose leaf lightly touching a windshield before moving on, I thought about Feminism. Now a mother. Never again like before. Never just I.
My life just took the most radical turn. That morning I had made myself chocolate chip pancakes. Six hours later, I was a mother. Everything had changed in the blink of an eye. And in that change, I came to a realization that there were two kinds of feminism. The Feminism of issues and the feminism of our lives.

I realized the Feminism that is perpetuated in mainstream and mainstream-like media is not the feminism of our lives. It is the feminism of commerce. It is the feminism that picks and chooses the winners and losers, the visible and invisible, and accessible and ignored. It chooses what will sell and what sells focuses on status climbing, material wealth, and westernized independence. Things that bring pleasure, not transformation.

The Feminism that has stepped on the backs of women of color and ignored the backs of trans and disabled women is the Feminism that camouflages itself with diverse panels and collectives but neglects to modernize its definition of social liberation in the era of digital media. It is the feminist theories stuck in the academy with no implored action. It is the round table discussions reserved for annual conferences that result in no true connection or building blocks.

This is the Feminism that has the time and luxury to ask leisure questions such as, “Why don’t you identify as feminist?” and “Where are all the women of color bloggers?” The same Feminism that circulates the energy over the same privileged circle of the educated, the employed, or as I call it, “the Sames;” the ones who stand an inch into the outskirts, banging on the “equality” door but who also ignore the women whose heads are in toilets cleaning their bathrooms or nannying their children.

This is the Feminism of fruitless banter and recycled conversations. The space to bring these issues up could be a hopeful sign of progress, however, the repetition of those conversations and the predictable accusations and defenses serve no other purpose than keeping the pendulum swinging in balance. Aka, the status quo.

This is the same Feminism that haunts the academy and academic support offices such as Women’s Centers and elite conference gatherings. The conversation of the privileged becomes priority over decision-making. Consciousness-raising is imperative for transformation, but it cannot begin and end with questions. There must be forward motion, however slight.

Simply putting 50% of women into anything male dominated may alter the demographic, but that’s not necessarily transformative. Putting a woman’s face where a man’s once was, without any sort of critical change, is not equality but appeasement. And before Linda Hirshman takes that quote of mine again out of context, let me explain further.

The purpose of feminism is to end itself. Andrea Dworkin called it one day without rape. Others have other land posts measuring feminism’s victory. The purpose of feminism is to one day find ourselves where we don’t need to fight for human rights through the lens of women’s oppression. Note: I didn’t write that the purpose is to bring down the man. The purpose is not to have a female president. The purpose is to transform the infrastructure that holds kyriarchy in its place. Replacing men with women – of any race, ethnicity, creed, or ability – who refuse to acknowledge the insidious and mutating face of gender oppression is not forward stepping. It’s a perpetuation of history.

And so the question comes: how invested are you in the liberation of women?

Because if you agree that the liberation of all women carries more weight than the identification as a liberal feminist, the feuds over whether feminism is dead becomes irrelevant. The uproar should be about dying women, not a dying Feminism.
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There was something so entirely miraculous about those four days in the hospital. I witnessed myself birth life. Bones from my bones. Blood from my blood. Life from my womb, I brought a person into the world. From two, I grew my family to three.

This awesome mystery/reality settled itself in bits and fragments.

My father told me that the birthing woman is different afterward. Her power is different. She herself is different.

My power is different.

For months, nearly everyone I encountered – friends and strangers alike – offered their opinion on what parenting should and would be for me. It was in that hospital room, where Nick slept uncomfortably on the couch without shaving and I, hooked to monitors and machines, understood a profound difference.

Parenting is the responsibility that we both shared. Together. It would be the late nights of feeding, rocking, and soothing that we’d walk together, he and I. But mothering, becoming a mother, was an entirely different bond. To me, motherhood is a yearning helplessness. Yearning to love more, yearning to teach better, yearning to make the world right – however impossible that might be. And recognizing that impossibility often made me cry.

I suddenly had this crazy urge to clean up the world for my son. I needed to organize.
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The feminism of my life unfolded in a love story that resulted in the birth of my son. Gathered at my bed was my mother, the woman I’ve thought of and written so much about. The woman who I have processed more than any other human I’ve met. My father kept stroking my hair and muttering concerns over my state.

The feminism I had begun to build was a house of love that no longer shunned my parents out of frustration, but embraced our difficulties and disagreements. Filipino culture was not something I needed to understand to live, it was something I needed to live out.

Nick held the can for me while I vomited. He wore scrubs and, in the delivery room, wore a surgical mask. The shade of the scrubs made his hazel eyes deep green. I saw him between hurls. I saw my son. Our son.
____________

Anything that I would dedicate my life to had to include, even demand, men. It may prioritize the lens of women’s experience for the liberation of all, but men had to be there. Where was I going without my son? What was I creating if not for him? I didn’t want to go where my family would not belong. It no longer made sense to separate myself and be alone. There was no division between the world I wanted to build and my son’s participation in it. I wanted freedom. Mine and his.

The Feminism of issues serves its purpose well. It informs us of the problems. But we’re more than issues, are we not? Isn’t our life worth more than the issues?

The feminism of our lives is the story of love, survival, testament, death, and epitaph. It is what we dedicate ourselves to and what we will pass on as truth to our children. Whether or not we identify as “feminist” is a sandbar to the oceanic movements of feminisms.

In my community, there is so much work to do, so much silence to break, that for the brief minute of a life where I get to use my voice, I am not going to expend my breath on explaining whether or not I identify as feminist. And the back-breaking work of so many women and men who never use the word feminism is not qualified or standardized on the arbitrary use of the word either.

The awareness matters. The intentional work toward eradicating inequality matters. The feminisms of my life matters. The use of the label does not.

Listen. Listen closely. Can you hear it?

The revolution will not be a movement. It will be Birthed.

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The Revolution Will Be Blogged!

If you want to know the difference between the feminist blogosphere and radical womyn of color, read this beautiful article by Lex. Not many can say it better than Alexis Pauline Gumbs:

The energy transmitted through the radical women of color blogosphere (a.k.a. those of us who are seeking to build community and create transformation across space and time, bringing ancestors and babies every step of the way) is a life-giving force. This magic, this potential is also why we are punished for loving each other. This is not the glorification of a scene, this is a distinction between scene and community, a reminder of what is at stake.

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