This “family feud” has been mentioned in blog post after blog post, so I’ll keep the history short. Big “feminist” site Jezebel posts about female comedy writers not being represented in the staffing of The Daily Show. Big “feminist” site XX Factor posts about how hypocritical it is for Jezebel to post something controversial to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue, as XX Factor uses their controversial article to stir up page views and therefore ad revenue. Other less commercial blogs such as this one write about the feud. Then! The female employees of The Daily Show put out an open letter insisting that Jon Stewart isn’t sexist. Cue the (admittedly hilarious) response to that letter and the background chatter regarding new TDS female correspondent Olivia Munn and how she gets half naked sometimes, hates fat people (she does come off as pretty fatphobic) and isn’t funny. Ad infinitum.
I’m not going to critique any of the above-referenced articles, nor am I going to offer an opinion of whether or not Olivia Munn is qualified to be on The Daily Show. What I am going to talk about is the fact that I’m tired of middle to upper class white cissexual Internet feminist all-stars dominating the debate over what is acceptable in feminism and what isn’t. I’m not saying these women aren’t talented writers; they are. But I want to see myself (not literally, although of course that would be nice — a chick’s gotta eat) and other marginalized feminists represented in the feminist all-star constellation. I want to read articles in WaPo and Slate and Salon and the NY Times by marginalized women dealing with issues that actually affect us, and don’t involve pot meeting kettle. I want to see articles on the big woman-oriented blogs that deal with intersectionality, that talk about deeper issues, and that inspire me to think and take action other than reaching for the Tylenol.
Tangentially, but also related in a way, I want to raise a concern I’ve had for a while about the name of the Slate woman-oriented blog “XX Factor”. Titling your blog after a set of chromosomes that not every woman has and not every man does not have is, to me, extremely transphobic and also ignores intersex folks with varying sets of chromosomes (because it ain’t just XX or XY). It completely erases trans women as women, and it is really appalling to me. Why should I take a woman-oriented blog seriously that clearly doesn’t understand or apparently doesn’t care about intersectionality or exclusion of certain women? Cutesy names don’t make up for erasure of identities.
Examples like the one given in the above paragraph are what I mean when I say we need representation of marginalized women on the big, ostensibly feminist, woman-oriented blogs like Jezebel, Salon’s Broadsheet, and Slate’s XX Factor (well with them, we need a name change as well). The discourse is controlled by women for whom sexism against white cis women seems to be their main focus. We need to stop looking to these white middle/upper class cissexual feminist role models for instructions on how to interpret feminism or on how to apply feminist principles to media critique. We need prominent marginalized women who have more than paid their feminist/womanist dues to offer a fresh and very much needed perspective.
What’s interesting to me about these large woman-oriented sites is that when you look closely, they’re actually not explicitly feminist. That’s why I keep referring to them as “woman-oriented” or “ostensibly feminist”. Writing articles that appeal to women does not mean that they’re feminist articles. For example, Jezebel’s tagline is “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” XX Factor’s tagline is simply “What Women Really Think.” Salon’s Broadsheet just doesn’t say anything, as far as I can tell. Basically, these sites can simply fall back on the fact that they never said they were feminist. So maybe we shouldn’t be expecting representative feminist content from these blogs. When questionable content pops up on these sites, like Hanna Rosin’s critique of Al Gore’s accuser (which, to be fair, she did later follow up with a sort-of “I was wrong” post) on XX Factor, or the Emily Gould anti-Jezebel article, also on XX Factor, what standard can you hold them to? Emily Gould is a woman, and she wrote what she “Really Thinks”. I guess that’s all you can ask for when they’re not specifically identifying themselves as a feminist site. These sites are simply woman-oriented. Not all women are feminists.
Marginalized feminists/womanists need to have the door unlocked so we can finally kick it down and get some actual representation alongside the current white cis feminist all-stars. Unfortunately, those same white cis feminists are holding the keys to the door. The only way we’re going to get that door unlocked is to continue to point out the lack of meaningful diversity among the feminist gatekeepers and insist that our voices be heard. We need to make it their problem. We need to “show our color”.
[This piece originally appeared on Feministe.]