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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Well Done! Sister Suffragette

Today I posted a link to the trailer of the movie Suffragette in a 'feminist' group on Facebook. The group calls itself "This is What a Feminist Looks Like." I was immediately attacked by 4 people who told me that this was a terrible movie because it didn't depict the movement correctly for black women. I was removed from the group (apparently this is NOT what a feminist looks like) when I asked them to even tell me why they were all saying this and was shocked at the new language I was hearing about my supposed white privilege (from here in the trailer park) and that I was a believer in 'white feminism,' a term I didn't even realize existed.

Once I was blocked from the group, I used my other account to go in and see the discussion that followed. Apparently, one young 'feminist' who wanted to condemn me as a racist posted a picture of one of the hoodies I've designed for my shop. I guess reading its message and considering the context was too much to ask of someone who can't be bothered to have mature dialogue with a human being who respectfully asked for their side of the argument and received only trash talk in response.

Are there complexities in this message that I cannot see?
The young ladies who didn't realize I had been blocked went on to educate me about all of the black people who had been left out of the movie. Of course, they were all Americans. I researched all of them before posting this and the people did not have anything to do with the suffrage movement across the pond. You see, as I was attempting to inform these young women before I was so graciously dismissed from the conversation, the movie is about the movement in London. The movement, itself, is what I wanted to celebrate and encourage us to show excitement about because OUR MOVEMENT is repeatedly accosted and given more negative connotations than positive in our society. Regardless of where the movie is located, if we dismiss the accomplishments of those who came before us because we don't like the manner in which they were achieved, we also have to dismiss the progress that they made. Frankly, I'd rather not.

The media and social media are the resources most used in order to get the messages out about anything in our national discourse. The media, itself, can hardly be expected to direct the narrative to the conscience of the country, they don't have a conscience themselves. And what does the left do when they are given an opportunity to celebrate or educate about some facet of its movement? Well, we take a shit on it. Every single time.

Its funny (in the way that its not remotely funny), but I actually researched the beginnings of a recent Battle Royale held between ourselves earlier this summer to see if my suspicions were accurate and that they were started by someone on the right. The attack was against the Black Widow character in the latest Avengers movie. The attack was specifically against the writer/director Joss Whedon by saying he hated women and the character wasn't quite feminist enough for them and she offered a negative stereotype against women. All of these people determined that he hated women. I literally shut down that conversation on Twitter by passing this meme around. I had it saved in my personal happy place file because I have been a huge fan of his since back in the Buffy days.

I was convinced that this entire controversy came out of some place on the right and I determined I would trace it. Wanna know where I traced the beginnings of this nonsensical frenzy to? A guy who lives in London and is an editor for Breitbart. Yep. He decided it was something radical feminists would jump all over and talk about without having actually seen the movie or having had a single idea what they were talking about. And, sadly, he was right. Nice work, ladies.

Because I had missed previous discussions surrounding the new movie, I researched our latest feminist attack on feminism (Goddamn ... any wonder why we can't get anything done in 100 years?). Apparently it all started when the female leads of the movie were all wearing this shirt for a photo shoot and people found it offensive. I will not research it, but I would not be surprised if someone else wants to, they will find that the right injected just one little well-placed nugget into the Twittersphere and allowed us to take it from there. Let me be quite clear: If we ask the RWNJs to direct our narrative, they will be happy to oblige. If we give them an opportunity to perpetuate divisions within our varied movements, they will gladly take it upon themselves to do that, too.

Please breathe here for a moment and then hear all of the things that no one could have said in 140 characters:

The movie is set in London. The quote on the t-shirts was from Emmaline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep in the movie. That quote was her response to how she felt at that time. This isn't about Americas history with slavery. By acknowledging that white women have been oppressed, no one is discounting the fact women of color have been, as well. And by celebrating the accomplishments of those women, we are not dismissing those who were not included in that struggle.

Having been enslaved means more than being black. That is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word, especially in America, and for good reason. But slavery did, like it or not, offer the same legal freedoms to all blacks as it did to all women. We were not allowed to vote or allowed to own property and we, too, were property. (I am only speaking in legalities, again, obviously the treatment of these human beings was quite different). We were not mentioned in the Constitution until we were given the vote (1920). Because we were not able to pass the rest of the Equal Rights Amendment, that is still the only right that women have, per the Constitution.

For various reasons, throughout the last century the ERA has had its ass kicked by feminists. There were always divisions among those who argued about which rights they wanted and how they wanted to have them enacted. Historically, we have fucked ourselves out of meeting our own goals. Fabulous, huh?

Maybe we could all unite, not fall for dog whistles and look for reasons to disagree with one another? Maybe when opportunities come up for us to celebrate womanhood and those who preceeded us in this fight we could do that instead of looking for reasons to dismiss their accomplishments?

God Damn. The right has it so easy, don't they? They can just all agree to rewrite history or ignore it altogether because they don't really have anything to be proud of. Instead of throwing that in their faces and cheering ourselves on to victory, we are demanding more of our history. Reflect quietly on that sentence, please. We cannot rewrite our history, either. But by denouncing it as if every element of it had to meet today's standards, we condemn ourselves to having had no accomplishments.

If this movement is to get anywhere, it really is time to be more thoughtful about where you project your angst. Pissing off and alienating those who are literally fighting along side you on our journey to move (or drag, if need be) Americans forward is only going to do two things: #1 Give the Regressive Party just the tools they need to ensure NOTHING is accomplished (and did you notice how many of them were anxious to jump into your fight and confuse the argument even further on social media?) #2 Scare more people from joining our movements in the first place.

I leave you with a quote from Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand. This regarded Princess Sophia, of India, who battled prominently in the London movement and was celebrated, regardless of her skin color:

“The empire took everything from her father but she spent her life fighting for women’s rights in this country. She believed there was something stronger than racial hatred and it was the sisterhood.

Please, my feminist sisters, pause and reflect. We want to move forward WITH you, not IN SPITE of you.

My most sincere Love,
Mean Progressive


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I have a hard time believing this is 2015 when I see my sisters and brothers falling for such obvious bs. All I can say, at this point, Angie, is hang on, because it is going to get bumpier from here, but as long as you've got your voice, you have to keep on keeping on, as the old folks used to say, before they lost their minds.

  3. Angie, thank you! I have finally heard the roar that the song talks about. Your clarity and passion are desperately needed in the coming battles. Keep #BerningBrightly.

  4. Wow, tone policing, racism, AND lying to your base about what actually happened.

    Why am I not surprised.

    1. Baby, my readers know I wouldn't come in here to lie. By all means, give us your truth. I won't delete it. You can even send me a screen print of the conversation since I can't go back in, what with my not being what a feminist looks like.

      You are only defining yourself. Tone policing? Maybe its just that I am a mother of this movement and I am trying to ask the (obvious) children to consider who they are alienating in this movement and where that will get us. And, finally, absolutely no one would ever spend their time thinking I am a racist. Please make sure to support that accusation in your response, as well. I won't be surprised, either, when you don't take the opportunity to do so. Shame on you.

    2. First, don't call me pet names.

      Defining myself as what? A WoC? An intersectional feminist? PoC, myself included, told you why we won't get behind this movie.

      Immediately after my post you acted as if White Feminism wasn't a thing. And then told us to "use words." Then you post six times in under a minute, half of which is telling us were children and need to grow up. You also used ableist language, which is not welcome in the group. And now you're defending that racist shirt.

      I have screenshots of the entire post. For someone who takes pride in being blunt, I gotta question why you claim you were "assaulted."

    3. Interesting... I replied in quick succession to each of the people who jumped on me the second I, innocently enough, asked about the controversy. You all were (and continue to be) behaving like children. I told you to use words because no one was even trying to answer my question, just continue a conversation they'd obviously had elsewhere but make me your target for having not participated in it. I was a racist because I told you that I don't believe your contentions about white feminism? And because I made a hoodie to scream back at the morons who shout ALM every time they hear anyone try to even explain BLM. If you can look at that design and call it racist, you will have nothing in your life but the walks you build. Don't put all WOC into your little diatribe because many of my readers (those who would actually add any substance into dialogue with me as they actually know what I'm about) would jump all over you for that insistence. You can call your movement whatever you want, but leave the word feminism out because you're just confusing the message those of us who actually are working toward equality for all women are trying to get out to have success. Your immaturity and hate speech (oh yes, baby, that is what you're tossing out there) will only set us back.

    4. I was absolutely attacked. And I was insulted for having not known about the controversy. I was dismissed without anyone having even taken the time to know what I was talking about. I am still waiting for the screen shots from the conversation. I am more than willing to add it to this piece so you can prove your point. You were acting like morons. You can interject any other adjective you like. Get over yourself. You, like the other young lady who commented above, obviously have no capacity to read this column and ask yourself if there is any truth to the point I am trying to make about what type of progress we can ever find as a movement when we are directing our anger back at ourselves instead of at the society which perpetuates these low standards you seem quite willing to live with. Lest you start demanding more of yourself, society won't hear your pleas. And the feminist cause will be meaningless. Some more. I compel you to grow up, too. You are embarrassing yourself and, more importantly, the movement I have battled in for decades. Have pride in this movement or don't identify with it. Because you are making a mockery of what it stands for. You should be ashamed of yourself. Honestly.

    5. 1. You asked what was wrong with the movie, we provided an answer. You do not get to define what we consider racism. That's not how this works.

      2. You were the one throwing a fit in the thread. Caps lock much?

      3. White Feminism is a thing,I cannot stress that enough. If you'd like, I have articles for you to read.

      4. I made no comment on the hoodie, though can see why people are offended. Intent vs impact. There's a comment on here saying she didn't understand it at first, and tbh the sarcasm isn't immediately realized.

      5. How am I speaking for all WoC? I specifically said those who responded to you.

      6. So I'm not a feminist for refusing to watch a whitewashed, historically inaccurate film? We're able to appreciate what some did in the past, but also be critical and acknowledging their overwhelmingly exclusion of WoC.

      7. Hate speech. Hate speech? How has anything I said considered hate speech?

      8. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds. This is twice now you've used pet names, yet I'M the one who needs to grow up? My name is Irisi. EYE-riss-EYE.

      Like...are you serious.

    6. I missed one of your objections: There were at least 5 or 6 links sent to me to educate me about the WOC who were left out of the movie. Off the top of my head I only remember Tubman and Douglass. You don't get to rewrite this discussion in order to support your contentions any more than we can rewrite history to make everyone feel more included by the movement.

    7. I'm guessing you missed the part when I said we can both appreciate the early feminists, while at the same time being critical of their racist beliefs.

    8. Im not doing this with you. It is ridiculous. I said send me the screen shots and Ill add them. If you think calling someone a racist isnt an attack (or hate speech), I guess you need some sensitivity training, too. I was in all caps because I was pissed that someone dare call me a racist. I was replying rapidly.You are taking every single thing I said as having been directed at you. I have repeatedly said that it was a lot of people. The hoodie comment above was my daughter who knows how I think and who I am better than anyone and was just trying to get me to change it to avoid any more issues. My issue is trying to understand how it is being misunderstood.

      You are right, I do not get to define racism how you feel racism and, honestly, I do not get to define another persons interpretation of feminsim. The term is equality between men and women. I do get pretty protective about the movement and pretty pissed when it is driven so far away from that mission. I have never heard of white feminism. I have been decades in the movement and never met a single person who made me feel it was only a white movement. And, believe it or not, I am incredibly sensitive to racist intentions and aware of them in white society (the bulk of my BLM columns are directed at the white people who are not aware of what they are projecting). Again, we cannot change what our history has been. We can embrace what we have today and move forward together. There really isnt another choice.

  5. About this, I personally would put #blacklivesmatter just because I don't think people will understand. This shirt to me says , all lives matter, now all you.BLM peiple need to shut up. I understand what this shirt means to you, but that isn't what I gather when I read it

    1. This is exactly my interpretation as well. I was highly offended when I first read the shirt. I thought I had stumbled onto a tea party page. If you were going for sarcasm or irony you totally missed. Americans are more concrete then that.

  6. If Princess Sophia were actually in the movie, the reaction would be different. That's the problem.

    I don't agree with the way you were treated, as you characterized it. We have to be able to talk to each other civilly if we can hope to educate each other about our intersections. But having said that, I still think the film makers and t-shirt wearers are a bit tone deaf.

    Centering white figures and erasing people of color, tone policing... These are the very definitions of White Feminism. I know you think your shirt is crystal clear, but that's why stepping back from one's ego and listening to more marginalized voices is important.

    It's funny. I can't seem to find a good feminist space on G+. They are either overrun with misogynist trolls or locked in intolerant bickering.

    While it's no one's responsibility to educate others, it would be nice if people were more patient. OTOH, that means the offender needs to be able to hear what is being said without getting all ego hurt about it.

    1. I agree with most of what you said and I understand the issue of Sophia, no one mentioned her to me in this discussion online. And I even agree with you about my having my ego bruised. I imagine it wouldve been a different conversation had people not instantly used the word 'racist.' Only 'Republican' is a more offsensive misunderstanding. But I sincerely thank you for your having read and responded with respect.

      If you can understand what I am missing about my hoodie, I would really appreciate your explanation.

  7. I heard the #BlackLivesMatter vs #AllLivesMatter controversy best explained like this:
    You are at the dinner with your family. You aren't passed the platters of food. You say, "I'm hungry." Your dad says "Everyone's hungry," but still doesn't pass the platters. The #BlackLivesMatter movement addresses the critical inequities in the US justice, class, education et al systems. To say #AllLivesMatter is (to many of us, & I'm white) to deny the legitimacy of the movement's insistence that Black Lives should Matter as MUCH as white lives, which they currently don't. When I see #AllLivesMatter, I jump to the (apparently in this case erroneous!) conclusion that the person doesn't get what the movement is even about. And -- to be frank -- Republicans & neocons have co-opted the #AllLivesMatter meme to the point that it is like wearing a stars&bars T-shirt. I wish we could talk more about these issues, and not yell at each other. Haven't we learned that anything that divides us plays into the hands of a patriarchal, patristic system? Sigh...

  8. Angie,
    I thank you for your article. It sheds some light on why my 23 year old daughter (who goes on Tumblir way too much) did not share my enthusiasm for this movie. When I questioned this she told me that she did not understand why they did not include Harriett Tubman and women of color in the movie. I was taken aback by this because the movie was based on the early suffragette movement in Great Britain. I was not aware that it included women of color but honestly I really did not think that was the issue here. These suffragette women paved the way for women of all races and ethnicities to vote and for that reason I really don't care what color they are. It is my understanding that many of the early British suffragette women were wealthy white woman who later recruited working class women to join the cause. This was most likely because they had the means to get the movement started. Let's face it. Racism and feminism are two different subjects. Yes, there is overlapping at times. I do not see anything racist at all about the tee shirts. People of "color" are not the only people who have been enslaved.