Last year, at AMC a revolution began. It started through heartache, rejection of women of color feminist voices because they were not prepackaged with a stamp of legitimacy from an established white feminist. No such stamp has been required of the multiple book deal white feminist bloggers who publish on the same press and represent a view of feminism that is largely different than that of the radical woc in question. As these amazing feminist women of color banded together under a simple phrase that also begins with “F” meant to empower them, the publisher struck back, publicly, offensively, and without much consequence. The feminist blogosphere lit up with promises very few have yet to keep and with declarations of rejection of feminism as a label and mainstream feminism as a movement from some of our strongest new voices. Those of us who teach WS pushed back from our computers and shook our heads at how prolonged the control of who gets a room of one’s own and who is expected to clean it has been in this movement we cherish so much. Some of us raised our voices in solidarity. Some of us wielded the power that we do have to counter that of those who would lock the door on woc voices and still claim feminism as their space against an “unfair siege” by “unrecognizable, angry, conflict inducing, woc.” When the dust settled, all the players were still there. Those who had fought for woc had all locked their blogs for a period and taken a hiatus, while those who had voiced solidarity but kept up with the status quo or who had shown up in droves at the publisher’s table at WS conferences to reaffirm their white female innocence and the solidarity of mainstream feminism against the radical Others in their midst kept right on blogging without skipping a beat. The publishers posted pictures of themselves eating steak and drinking wine, while some woc blogged about another month of unemployment or whole towns of women workers being locked up for having the wrong ID. Some women reminded how important it was to come out to book launch parties or unapologetically continued to call “feminist press” as the one press that still isn’t, while others wrote about how that pancake recipe isn’t yours. When the dust settled, the power dynamics remained largely unchanged except for the occasional invitation to a woc to be featured, naked and abusable, on someone else’s blog; while the dynamics of who writes shifted slightly, the dynamics of who speaks with legitimacy, the cultural milieu of spaces, and how we speak to & about one another staid largely the same. It was a story so old that the only thing new was the technology itself.
While some women did change, and some showed us what a real apology looks like, it was a story that ultimately appeared to have no winners. Not the women who retained their power at the cost of feeling forever entrenched and worried about the next “flare up.” Nor the women who had lost their faith in solidarity with women across difference for a feminist world. You see someone had to look in the mirror and some lost their faith that a feminist world would be any different than a remodeled master’s house with a mistress at the front of the table and the rest of us, mostly, still on the floor; b/c for some women only means “us” when it is comfortable or when bridging difference is someone else’s responsibility.
But what we did not know, was that women who had dared not to be silent, not to be pushed around by people who called them “jealous,” “haters,” and “incomprehensible” or worse, trashed their reputations, claimed they were a threat to real feminism, misrepresented the facts to make them appear irrational, and even accused them of trans and homophobia under the racist assumption that woc are all straight and more homophobic than mainstream culture, these women were writing back . Following in the footsteps of Barbara Smith and Cherrie Moraga and Norma Alarcon, these women did not simply throw stones at the locked door and then slip away into angry stunted silence while those inside waited them out. No. They started their own publishing effort. They put their words on the CD that the publisher told them was too expensive to make and would never sell inside a book b/c of the additional cost, on to a CD. They got together in the summer and used the heat of the sun and of anger used in the Audre Lorde sense of productivity to create handmade covers for each one.
Ultimately, while the world pontificated about hearing woc “rage” and the celebrating the ongoing interest in connections between racism and feminism like Republicans filibustering in Congress, these radical women of color were The Spook Who Sat by the Door.
I cannot tell you how proud I am of these women for refusing to be silent. They give me hope for the next generation of feminists and remind me that the struggle those of us who came before them have fought or continue to fight is reaching the next generation. A Feminist world is possible.
There are not enough words to describe how their actions are an example of revolutionary feminism at its most baic and recognizable: women, turned away from the gates of alternative power, refusing to give up, banning together, working collectively, to be heard. Women taking the books out from under glass and spreading the necessary theories for change for ALL women, spreading the voices shut out of mainstream discourse or only sprinkled in like pepper.
Now it is time for us to do our part of the feminist puzzle that helps support the radical paradigm shift we all promised was at the heart of our activism by spreading the word about their efforts and buying their work if we can afford to do so. The CD is only $12 and if you want the e-zine that accompanies it, it is only $17. For those who can, buying an extra copy and donating it to your local women’s center or feminist collective ensures that the like Lauryn Hill, radical woc feminism will continue to flip the script on The Final Hour. Even if you just take it into to your WS and feminist classes and tell people about it, or pass it around at work, or your dorm, you will be the next step in the revolutionary praxis of actual feminist publishing.
As in the case of many early feminist publishing, the Women of Color Media Collective is donating its proceeds to the continued consciousness raising of marginalized women. All proceeds are going to women who would not otherwise be able to afford AMC. For those who do not know, the Allied Media Conference has become a critical place for young radical feminists to find one another, share and celebrate each others voices, and to share knowledge about digital and alternative media activism. Some of our best and brightest have begun or been strengthened there.
A movement is only as strong as the willingness of the people in it to actually work for a better world. Some people this summer said there is no feminist movement. Others said they only want one if everyone, or mostly everyone, looks like them and thinks like them. I say, there is a real feminist movement and today is the day.
The Women involved in the Collective include, radical bloggers:
- A Book Without a Cover
- Alexis @ Broken Beautiful Press
- Aaminah @ Aaminah Hernandez
- Anjali @ Los Anjalis
- BFP @ Flip Flopping Joy
- Black Amazon @ Having Read the Fine Print
- MS. Cripchick @ CripChick’s Weblog
- Devious Diva @ This is Not My Country
- Donna @ The Silence of Our Friends
- Elle @ Elle PhD
- Fabiola @ Hermana Resist
- Fabulosa @ FabMexicana
- Kameelah @ Kameelah Writes
- Lisa @ My Ecdysis
- Little Light @ Taking Steps
- Magniloquence @ Feline Formal Shorts
- Mamita Mala @ Mamita Mala
- Nadia @ No Snow Here
- Shannon @ Egotistical Whining
- Sylvia @ Problem Chylde
- La Tigera @ Tiger Consciente
- Turtle Bella @ Slow But Steady
These are the voices of the next generation of feminism. They are not alone. For every radical feminist with a blog, there are 100s dreaming of finding a space for their voices that are inspired by these and similar feminist bloggers. For each of these 100s, there are 100,000s more without the means – computer, internet service, reliable electricity or phone lines, free time – doing feminism every day around the globe. Their generation and ours and the ones who have come before and will come after are re/defining feminism despite the closing of institutional and “alternative” institutional doors. We don’t have time to wait for promises never kept, for legitimacy mediated or never given, or for anger to eat us from the inside out. These women, we women, are proving every day that we have the faith in the equality of women that is strong enough to move mountains.
Don’t forget to pick up your copy of this powerful CD and let the ideas within move you to commit or re-commit to the equality of ALL the women in your communities and in our world.
PS. I have purposefully linked to the texts that lead the conversation forward by raising consciousness and avoided the links to the posts written in the midst of the conflict by myself and others so as not to drag us back to things many of us have walked away from as unproductive. I realize I could have further avoided those conflicts by not mentioning them in celebrating the publication of this CD and e-zine, but as a historian I believe we need to look at the history that led to this moment, both to remind and to honor what comes from the ashes. As a feminist, I cannot help but document where we fail and where we succeed in order to keep pushing toward a better feminist future and the lesson of the Women of Color Media Collective is one of a brighter future even in adversity.
Despite all of the pain and conflict, to me telling the whole story (or as whole as one person caught up in it can) is the only way to honor the beautiful project that emerged as a result.