Ani DiFranco's cancelled feminist plantation retreat just managed to squeeze into a year in which a debate raged within feminism over whether mainstream (white) feminists care about the issues plaguing feminists of color, or only upper middle class, straight, white women problems. A white feminist icon selling $1,000 tickets to a retreat on a slave plantation isn't the worst thing to happen in 2013, but it highlights a certain level of obliviousness.
Race, gender identity and sexual preference have divided feminists since before they were suffragettes, but this year all the tension and criticism solidified into a series of hashtags, #solidarityisforwhitewomen being the most famous, that were either cathartic of divisive, depending on your point of view.
In August, Hood Feminism blogger Mikki Kendall started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag to vent her frustration over the reaction to Hugo Schwyzer's public breakdown on Twitter. Schwyzer, a blogger and former gender studies professor, admitted that he had slept with former students and used his position to silence women of color bloggers. Kendall and others felt that many of the prominent feminist bloggers Schwyzer had worked with — at sites like Feministing and Jezebel — didn't acknowledge his behavior towards feminists of color. "When I launched the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, I thought it would largely be a discussion between people impacted by the latest bout of problematic behavior from mainstream white feminists," Kendall wrote on The Guardian. The hashtag is still going strong:
And it has sparked other "airing of grievances" hashtags, including #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen and #NotYourNarrative, the latter started by Rania Khalek and Roqayah Chamseddine and covering Western media's portrayal of Muslim women.
We’re “biased” bc we resemble the occupied and colonized. They’re seen as “neutral” bc they look like the oppressor. #NotYourNarrative— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) December 18, 2013
In December activist and graduate student Suey Park launched #NotYourAsianSidekick an attempt to dismantle "white, hetero, patriarchal, corporate America.”
I'm #NotYourAsianSidekick when you assume sexual assault was less damaging for me because "Asian women are submissive by nature."— Sook Min (@doloresonthedot) December 15, 2013
Black celebrity controversies
The debate over Beyoncé's feminism — does the feminism of the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie verse on on "Flawless" cancel out the anti-feminism of the Mrs. Carter World Tour? — is maybe one of the dumbest things to happen in 2013. It led to its own hashtag, questioning the need for the onslaught of think pieces following Beyoncé's album drop this month:
American Whore-or Story: Why "Ghost" and "Haunted" are Hurting Our Young Women #beyoncethinkpieces— lauren ashley smith (@msLAS) December 18, 2013
But it also called to mind debates over whether Rihanna's "Pour It Up" video is empowering or "gross," or whether Lily Allen's "Hard Out Here" championed feminism at the expense of black women (it did). In a piece for The Daily Beast, Rawiya Kameir argued that Beyoncé isn't more or less of a feminist than Rihanna, or Nicki Minaj, or even Miley Cyrus. "The assumption that feminism comes in a neat, Xeroxable package is gravely outmoded and vacuous," Kameir wrote. "To minimize the possibility of pluralism is to do a disservice not only to these women and to their art but also to those of us who often model our notions of self on them. There are six million ways to be a feminist: choose one."