Contextural Margins

by matttbastard

Well, bastard.logic–and *ahem* yours truly–have made it to the finals of the Canadian F-Word Blog Awards (final round voting takes place February 22-23–w00t!) Fellow nominee Pomegranate Queen did not make it past the first round (too bad, as her blog kicks ass). While expressing her gratitude for the acknowledgment she took the opportunity to explore some personal concerns the nomination provoked: namely, that having a separate Women of Colour category others WOC who may (or may not) identify as feminists; how the awards serve a microcosm of feminism in general; and how WOC have been marginalized throughout the history of the movement.

Prole from ACR shows up in comments to address the matter of the WOC category:

I’m really sorry to have offended you or anyone – to be honest, I had questioned the category also when we were putting this together. We consulted some other bloggers while coming up with the list, and the WOC category was insisted on, by a person of colour. We deferred to their judgement.

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I am the person of colour in question.

Prole, please don’t take this the wrong way, cause I love your guilt-ridden cracker ass (grinz), but “my black friend sez” is never a valid explanation (not that you’re the first to fall back on it). I’m certainly no proxy for all the brothas and sistas out there, and apologize to all concerned if I presented myself as such. I hold opinions that many would disagree with (obviously), regardless of ethnicity, identity, gender, or orientation.

With that out of the way, speaking solely for myself, I do happen to believe that (for whatever reason, right or wrong) there IS a difference between mainstream middle-class liberal white-centred feminism and the sort that is practiced and written about by WOC bloggers (to say nothing of the perspectives that are highlighted by black male, LGBT bloggers, or disability bloggers). By itself, having a distinctive category highlighting and celebrating the unique contribution to feminist blogging made by Women of Colour isn’t necessarily othering; however, the lack of nominees in the WOC category is indicative of the fact that white feminist bloggers (and white feminists in general) do need to expand their horizons with regards to interacting with bloggers who reside out of the so-called mainstream*, to redefine the boundaries of what feminism(s) is (are).

What does lend credence to the charge of othering (and I should have thought of this when I pushed for the category) is the lack of a parallel “Best Mainstream Middle-Class White-Centred Feminist Blog.” Having an unqualified “Best Canadian Feminist” category alongside categories specifically devoted to racial/gender identity makes “Canadian Feminist” the default stand in for “white”, illustrating the fact that, to too many folks, “white” is synonymous with “normative”. PQ is right: what needs to be discussed isn’t that the F-Word awards othered WOC, but rather that WOC are already marginalized from so-called “mainstream” (read: white middle-class) feminist discourse (and discourse in general) to the point where POC have to cause a ruckus in order for the experiences and issues that affect them (us) to be acknowledged.

Would any WOC-authored blogs have been nominated otherwise? I suppose we’ll never know, and perhaps my (unwarranted?) cynicism was precluded by witnessing too many battles within the USian femisphere where the voices of WOC were reflexively marginalized to the point of non-existence.

The issues explored by POC/WOC bloggers, like all issues, are simultaneously universal and unique; that people default to “white” as being “the norm” is a product of a white supremacist (and no, I don’t mean skinheads and white sheets, lol) patriarchal discourse that has been imposed upon–and willingly embraced by many in–our society. And, much like oblivious Popular Male Liberal Bloggers, white feminists (and, to varying degrees, POC) aren’t immune; having a vagina (and/or darker complexion) doesn’t mean one can’t be affected. But if Feminism(s) truly represent a radical discourse, then the idea of the existence of an inherent “norm”–rather than lazy assumptions born of unconscious and deliberate social conditioning–needs to be challenged.

And that includes lazy assumptions that exist within a radical discourse, even if the privilege is affirmed by somebody who should know better (doh!)

* One thing that I’ve realized throughout all this is that I don’t have much interaction with other Canadian bloggers of colour. That fact was made apparent when I tried to think of blogs to nominate in the category and was stumped–ironic, huh? Which, as I said, is partly the point of the awards: expanding one’s horizons.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers