There are some things that are not up for debate. White journalists cannot use women’s liberation to their own ends and then stick their head in the stand when it comes to questioning their own position in the power structure. In fact, if your critical analysis of power structures in the world we live in begins and ends at gender, you are part of the problem. In my F Word blog, I questioned who these people are fighting for. But after a few days of this, I’m not convinced they were ever fighting at all.
The white journalists pulling out every excuse to defend one of their own are doing it embarrassingly so, with arguments better left in the playground. Apparently black women ‘demand tokenism’. That says a lot about the understanding of representation of black people, if some think our presence is only useful to make white people feel better about themselves (because, that’s what tokenism is). Sigh. These fucking black people, demanding to see a reflection of themselves in the media they consume. That kind of complacent, self-satisfaction with popular culture should be reserved for white people only! Soon these black people will be insistent they want to see themselves as the central character of a plots consumed by white people, when we know their existence is relegated to the main character’s funny friend or the jolly next door neighbour. How unreasonable.
Those dragging defences of Moran or Dunham’s wider work into this very important discussion on white privilege need to be really careful that they don’t pick up splinters from the fence. I cannot stress how irrelevant this is to their dismissals of black women’s concerns- focusing on their work is a classic derailment, veering the conversation away from the main problem.
Some white women are hand wringing, insisting that this one woman, Caitlin Moran, ‘can’t represent everybody’. This is fundamentally missing the point, and, moreover, is a privilege denying distortion of the complaints against these white voices with power. No one can represent everybody. That’s not what we’re asking. We all have the capacity to check our privilege. I’d never attempt to claim I represent disabled people, because I don’t define as disabled. However, I can see how the world is structured in my favour as a non-disabled person. This is called checking your privilege. If I denied the structural privilege I benefit from in this respect, and a disabled person called me out on it, I would not flatly deny that it exists. I would not block them on twitter, tell them that their reaction is disproportionate, get my mates to rally round to defend me on my denial. That would make me an arsehole.
The most ridiculous thing about this whole saga is white people acting grossly hurt as though these challenges are personal attacks- thus, proving the point about the power of white privilege. Having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, acknowledging it makes you an ally to those who don’t possess it.
Ultimately this whole debate boils down to what marginalised voices want. I can tell you what I do not want. I do not want to see benevolently racist articles from paternalistic white women claiming to speak for black women. Most importantly (though I often feel compelled to), I don’t want to spend time and energy explaining this to you, because understanding your position in the power structure of privilege isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. I want journalists to consider talking to people from the marginalised group before you start running your mouth about them in a public forum. Inform yourself about the people you talk about before you put pen to paper, because people are listening to you. And as long as you monopolise the narrative on feminism in dominant media outlets, I reserve my right to hold you accountable.