Initial Blog Entry: On Hegemonic Feminism/Feminist Projects

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This is a really awesome book! My engagement here is on hegemonic feminism/feminist projects, which is expressed as mainstream and academic feminism in this book. Additionally, I wanted to make clear that the book is not about prioritizing their own efforts. I don't feel the authors (or at least all) are arguing their causes and injustices are "more" important and that we should pay "more" attention to it. Rather it is a critique of how mainstream feminism is able to, what appears, prioritize its own political grounds because of its already existing (and needs to be challenged) hegemonic power systems. And that in doing so hegemonic feminism further contributes to the long history of oppression, colonialism/neo-colonialism and exclusion of these communities. I believe the purpose of this book is about challenging that, as well as claiming and speaking from a space of exclusion; a space that has traditionally been used to marginalize these voices and communities.

Jessica Yee states "....I knew for sure that this isn't just about feminism, academia, or even the book itself. It's about so much more" (14). This "so much more" and a remerging theme I want to address is the colonial/neo-colonial narrative of hegemonic feminism (read: white mainstream feminism). Although this precise wording was not used in the text per se, the idea is referred to frequently. Yee references to it when she states the need to " "deconstruct" what has led to the existence of "feminism" in the first place, and where feminism exists today" (quotations original 13, emphasis mine), Andrea Carmen notes it as, "[f]eminist philosophy is a historical reality for European women" (18), and Krysta Williams and Erin Konsmo explain it as "academic: the institutionalized, the inherently patriarchal and colonial. Claiming our spot as !INDIGENOUS! and what that means as !INDIGENOUS! women" (22). Thus, I wanted to point out the importance of acknowledging the larger colonial narrative in approaching this piece--only because there is the "danger" that this piece comes off as "anger" and a recasting of exclusionary space.

The works presented in this collection are in opposition to how women of color and indigenous communities (among other identity groups) have been traditionally excluded from feminist spaces. It seeks to challenge hegemonic feminism and hegemonic feminist projects--particularly that of academic feminism. As mentioned throughout the tone of the book, who gets to define feminism and what is the role of "our" colonizing and colonist culture in shaping that definition, as well as its types of engagements?

While reading this book something, that relates to this book, happened to me. Thinking back to the idea of "the white woman's" role in the colonial project and her continual part in the neo-colonial project, earlier this week a friend of mine (who self-identifies as white) said to me "I have a lot of spaces, and that's OK." Her statement was in response of our discussion about an upcoming conference for LGBT people of color and people of color allies.This space is specifically for people of color. Although there was some hurt in her statement there was also a sense of acknowledgement and self-awareness as to why these organizations are taking this stance. I think it was in this moment of recognition that the sense of sadness was illuminated in her talking. This was also a really interesting/uncomfortable moment because I felt like she couldn't say what was really on her mind because I am a person of color--who comes from a group that has its own history with the US and its own positioning within US culture. In all of this happening, I thought of the quote Yee used.

It states, [t]here needs to be struggle in order to lay out a path to co-existence, and that process of being uncomfortable is essential for non-Indigenous people to move from being enemy, to adversary, to ally." My question here is then, what if indigenous and people of color communities reject "you" as an ally because they see "you" as part of the colonial narrative, or part of the "masters tool"? (Some post-colonial scholars even argue that we are not a "post-colonial" when the affects of "decolonization" have not panned out.) Can people respectably accept that "rejection" and not see it as "threatening"? In the same vain it is often asked why would these spaces "practice" a form of "exclusion" if that is what they are attempting to challenge? Yet, questions of the like are preciously a part of the hegemonic feminist thought. It denies these communities their agency, history, and the fact that they occupy spaces of exclusion. Perhaps then the question should be, are "you" comfortable with this type of political stance and organizing--speaking from spaces of exclusion and claiming those spaces as exclusively "ours"? I believe this is the tone of the book, and this is what may make it "more" startling--or more "angry"--for some than others, depending on your own position and privileges.

Something that strikes me about the piece is that although it attempts to dismantle the status quo of hegemonic feminism, I'm wondering if it fails at this in its very own approach? That is, can the book essentially be read a way for people of color and indigenous people to "teach" mainstream feminism about their culture and struggles?

In all, I love this book because it is taking a radical stand (i.e. the language used, the tone of the pieces and its attempt at de-centering hegemonic feminism) and making noise.

2 Comments

I liked some of the aspects of the book as you did. I enjoyed the methods that the different authors used to get their points across, the unconventional prose, the honest poetry, and the no holds barred anger expressed. While I did not agree with many of the proposed ideas, I enjoyed reading this book. I think it is a GREAT conversation starter and gets the reader thinking about things that we might otherwise avoid.
It has left me thinking, how can academia make space for more voices like this? Obviously we are doing it here, in our class!
Do you think that Jessica Yee and the other authors in the book would find it ironic that we are reading their critics of AIC within the very walls of such an institution?!

I wanted to comment on laineykato's comment in saying that I wondered too if Jessica Yee and the other writers wonder consider our discussion of their book in our classroom and on the blog ironic. I'm not sure perhaps that is part of the reason it was thought up. Perhpas its goals were to speak to those that either don't have access to academic feminism, those who feel rejected by it and by those that are treating their women's classes as a religous experience to avoid by. I think that's another strenght of the book in that it reaches so many different audiences, granted it only reached academia because Sarah thought it worthwhile and did many other gender, women and sexuality studies think the same? Is this book being discussed the majority of academia or are we an exception? I think it should be required within a women's major. I think this because it stirs the pot. And it makes college feminists aware of the opposition they face not only in patriarchy but in other feminist communinties.

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