This post was prompted by a series of tweets from @graceishuman about the general silence of white feminists – especially white feminist institutions – on the mistreatment and slagging-off of Quvenzhané Wallis at the Oscars. Not only the silence, but, in one instance from Jezebel which I’m mainly going to address here, downright coming out and saying that it wasn’t that big a deal because [insert white lady problems].
This post shouldn’t need prompting, but it did, because it really is a lot easier for people like me to read a few blogs by women of colour, retweet some of their commentary, think “they got this”, and continue to auto-unfollow anyone who uncritically tweets Jezebel into my feed.
The shit of publications like Jezebel has to be called out, and it has to be called out by white feminists, and yeah, we’ve got to do it before we’re prompted by more marginalized women.
That being said, white feminists also don’t get to ride in on chargers carrying beautiful flowing banners which just coincidentally block the faces of all the women of colour who are speaking out on this shit.
So, first: the linkage. Go read these, then come back.
A Love Letter to Quvenzhané Wallis from Moya at Crunk Feminist Collective
Let Me Explain Why The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis Tweet Was so Hurtful by T F Charlton (@graceishuman) at Bitch Magazine
Apparently, People Have Beef With Quvenzhané Wallis by Arturo at Racialicious
Where Were White Feminists Speaking Out For Quvenzhané Wallis? by Kirsten West Savali at Clutch magazine
ETA: Once I’d drafted this, I saw Jessica Luther’s On Quvenzhané Wallis at Shakesville, which covers a lot of the same threads as this post.
Now, to Jezebel. Jezebel, which on top of all its previous crimes against social justice decided that right now, right after a young black girl was called a cunt by The Onion, was the perfect time to post a big ol’ article about how cunt isn’t a bad word, it’s a word we should reclaim, woo yeah girl power right on.
They ain’t getting a link from me, but slap this into your address bar if you must: http:// jezebel.com /5987317/ cunt-is-not-a-bad-word. There are those on my Twitter feed who will understand what I mean when I say “trigger warning for white feminist quoting Audre Lord”.
The only things you really need to know about the article:
First off: Katie J M Baker gets eight paragraphs in before saying “It’s impossible to talk about the c-word this week without talking about the Onion‘s Quvenzhané Wallis tweet.” You know, with a harsher editor and a smaller wordcount, you probably could’ve managed, Katie.
And: Katie J M Baker thinks the real problem is
Focusing on the word “cunt” is a distraction; for example, the Onion debacle kinda overshadowed how sexist the Oscars were overall.
Apparently Katie J M Baker’s feminism will be non-intersectional and it will be bullshit. She only manages to mention Quvenzhané’s race when referring to another writer’s reaction to the tweet. The whole tone of the piece is basically a pissant STFU to those bloggers who have objected to the tweet – not that Baker’s going to link to anyone she disagrees with.
Baker thinks we should “take advantage of [the word “cunt”‘s] true awesomeness”. I would really love to know how she’d work that into an explanation to a nine-year-old black girl of why a Twitter account decided to call her a cunt to its 4.5 million+ followers.
The overarching question, of course, is why this kind of shit gets published in Jezebel. It’s not a difficult question. It’s basic, simple, instinctive, ingrained racism, mixed with the kind of self-centredness which is the equivalent of tattooing “I AM PRIVILEGED” on your forehead (while living in a society where face-tattoos on white people denote high status).
It simply does not occur to the writers and editors of Jezebel to think about Quvenzhané’s feelings, or situation, or circumstances. They cannot consider that she is black, that she is NINE FUCKING YEARS OLD, that this is (hopefully) the first in an inevitable, ongoing series of humiliations and aggressions which she will have flung at her for her entire life.
Katie J M Baker and the team at Jezebel just hear “The Onion called someone a cunt” and the immediate reaction is “Me. What if someone called ME a cunt? What would *I* do? What response would best exemplify MY amazing feminist cred? ”
The real irony is that I couldn’t find Baker’s article by searching for “Quvenzhané”. I had to search for “cunt”. Because when you search for “Quvenzhané” on Jezebel you actually get a big long list of posts which purport to celebrate her achievements and awesomeness.
Take that list. Compare it to Baker’s post, her complete lack of disregard for Quvenzhané Wallis. Now consider: what’s Jezebel going to do when Quvenzhané – and Willow Smith, for that matter – stop being adorable little black dolls which the comfortable white feminists can coo over? What happens when they start saying things that make the comfortable white feminists less comfortable?
New Zealanders in the audience may like to think back on when Keisha Castle-Hughes, Maaori Doll-child of the Nation, got knocked up at 16. I’m recalling the popular response being less that positive.
This is 2013. You can’t Helen Keller people any more. There is going to be some ugly shit when Quvenzhané gets old enough that her “use my name, douchebag” routine becomes less “adorable little minx” and more “bitchy”. And I hope I and other white feminists will fucking stomp on that shit when it happens.