Rosemary (sophy) wrote,

Wiscon 40 Panel Write-up Intersectionality and Other Words Taken From Women of Color

Panel note disclaimers and clarifications:

1. I only use the names of panelists and moderators as listed in the program book (or as corrected/specified by panelists themselves before the panel). If you want your name removed, changed, or linked to any online identity (or added if I forgot you) please let me know.

2. I do not name or link to audience members, even if I personally know who they are, because I want to err on the side of safety. Please let me know if you need to be credited for a comment, or wish to be linked to as the person who said the thing.

3. My notes are always incomplete. I take them for myself primarily and love to share what I got, but I absolutely miss stuff and get stuff wrong. Corrections and additions are welcome!

4. If I mess up a pronoun or other important info, please lmk! I will fix it immediately.

5. I add my own thoughts and feels in [] - if you see something in my panel report in [] that means it was not part of the panel, just stuff that happened inside my own head during the panel.

Intersectionality and Other Words Taken from Women of Color
In conversations about intersectional feminism, we often forget that the term itself was created by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a black woman, for the express purpose of addressing the ways in which sexism and racism work together — specifically against black women in the US legal system. Mainstream (largely white) feminism has a history of minimizing or erasing the contributions of women of color, particularly black women. Flavia Dzodan, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker are just a few examples. Intersectionality has become an important part of WisCon's feminist identity, but how can we claim to be intersectional if we don't make a point to continually lift up the voices of the feminists and womanists of color who have contributed, and continue to contribute, so much to the movement?
M: Chesya Burke. Mikki Kendall, Amanda Emily Smith - also added Jackie Gross to the panel
#wordstakenfromwoc for twitter

[I missed a bit of the intros because I was finishing up lunch and getting situated]

Chesya checked in to see if anyone wasn't clear on what intersectionality meant. Someone in the audience said they'd only started hearing the word about 6 months ago and were still sort of vague about it, so she gave a basic definition and history of the word being created by and for black women to specifically talk about the intersections of race, gender, and sex.

Mikki added that it was originally about how these things intersected specifically within the judicial system. It's been expanded to other identities because it so handy and works for other areas of life as well. For example, in the medical community, the phenomenon of doctors giving black women fewer pain medications.

Amanda joked about this being her first WisCon so she made the rookie mistake of doing research (because in the intros many of the panelists said they hadn't - I think in the context of saying they would be speaking primarily from personal experience and things they already knew anyway). Amanda gave the audience some more history of the word intersectionality, which was created by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.

Jackie talked about how the word has been used to legitimize black women's place in the world. It has since become a catch-all word and even used to erase the contributions and realities of black women.

Chesya spoke about how it minimizes women of color when the word gets used for other things.

Mikki said she was going to get up on her soapbox a bit... she talked about when black women set boundaries within feminism, they get accused of being anti-intersectional. An example is calling out how the Buffy-type "strong female character" is not representative of all women, and being told "you are being exclusionary."

This is not to say that white women aren't also underrepresented - it's saying that women of color are even more underrepresented, and underrepresented even in contexts that are supposedly holding women up.

White female characters often succeed at the expense of their black female friends, who are often fridged for white character's pain.

Mikki talked about this being an internal and external issue, and cited the difficulty in representation for Southeast Asian women even within a show with that has, say, Japanese and Chinese representation in it.

She also said that thanks to Shonda Rhimes, we are seeing more black women on TV now.

Amanda brought up axes of oppression and privilege. [I have these next two points in quotes but I'm not sure if I was cuing myself in that I was directly quoting vs. paraphrasing Amanda here or if she was quoting someone whose name I forgot to jot down but I got...] "One cannot use intersectionality within a framework of white supremacy" and "we cannot speak intersectionally while simultaneously oppressing others".

An example Amanda used was vegan communities comparing animal rights to human rights - this is especially harmful because of the ways that people of color have been compared to animals historically. "You're not being intersectional with this pig right here". [ha]

Jackie talked about the "everybody in the pool" kind of thinking and how it ends up silencing people from their own terminology. She quoted: "All the women are white, all the black people are men, but some of us are brave" (from this?

Words by and about women of color are being taken over and co-opted by academics who then ask "why don't you share?"

She talked about the importance of internally discussing things because sometimes it's just not for you.

Chesya brought up the issue of what people have access to. Example: MLK has been co-opted by white America and Disnified as a gentle soul - these people have not read his letters! This leads to white people telling poc that they are racist and that MLK wouldn't approve of them.

Women of color no longer having access to their own terminology because of this idea that they are excluding men and white people.

Mikki talked about her #solidarityisforwhitepeople that she started - lots of people wanted to use it. A panel titled "white women of color" used it and did not consult her - people on that panel were mad at her. This organization didn't like Mikki using the hashtag in the first place, but took it from her for their own use anyway. People even told her "you don't own this hashtag" [I believe there was a note about how copyright works here but I missed it in my notes]

So, Mikki is in a bunch of people's thesis papers, including one about "uneducated women on the internet". Her response: "I may be able to twerk at the drop of a hat, but I have a Master's Degree!" This person defended themselves by saying "well, your credentials weren't in your online bio." They could have just asked Mikki.

48 hours after creating the hashtag - it was already being taken away from her. She compared this to people who say things like "it's just hair" when in most states in this country, she could get fired for having the hair she does.

Jackie talked about how women of color are being run out of academia by the same white women who are now calling themselves intersectional. And they are making money from it. Example: Rachel Dolezal "feeling white". Jackie counters "you have a job."

Jackie further talked about women of color going back into academia in order to protect and claim their ideas, because academia legitimizes things that have already existed. When looking at who is legitimized - ask yourself who is getting paid to have a voice on the topic. That's an important question.

Amanda quoted Crenshaw on the subject of white women and men of color experiencing oppression, but only seeing it from their own point of view - the experiences of women of color are different. It doesn't make you able to understand their experiences from your own.

Mikki said that she does get called now when people want to use her words because "I am a grade A asshole and make trouble if they use my words without consulting and paying me". But then she gets calls for stuff that has nothing to do with her so she'll point them to someone who is Southeast Asian or trans, etc.

She talked about the importance of admitting you don't know everything - you can only speak from your own experiences. An example is men of color getting paid to talk about black women's hair (lots of groaning from the black women in the room).

Mikki said that Kimberlé Crenshaw had to get a twitter account to remind people that she was still alive and working and not some abstract academic notion.

Chesya brought up that black women are not just getting erased in academic conversations, but in things like cornrows and twerking.

Jackie posed the question again - who is getting paid? An example is Iggy Azalea. Jackie says she is not against white women rapping, but she sees all of these men of color supporting Iggy and wants to see that same support for black women rappers. Nicki Minaj and Lemonade was brought up.

Jackie talked about "black twitter" and all of the news articles popping up about it, as if studying black culture. A lot of these things are seen as bad when black women do/have them, but good when non-black women do/have them such as Kylie Jenner's lips and big butts.

When people say "you're just looking to be upset" - no. This is a legitimate hurt that has years of history behind it.

Amanda said that black women's culture and bodies are only seen as acceptable once they have been co-opted by white culture.

Mikki talked about the charity work that Beyoncé and Nicki do. People want to shame them by saying they're the "wrong kind of feminists", but let's talk about what they are actually doing for their communities.

Chesya talked about how feminism means different things. She and Mikki talked about how black women might not be working on the right to work because they've always had to work, about how the school to prison pipeline affects black women as much as men and it's often driven by white women.

When people want to make a thing about Beyoncé taking Jay-Z's name, it's important to remember that black women were not always allowed to marry and take the name's of their partners.

Chesya said instead of feminism being "good feminists do this...", why not have it be "feminism is whatever the fuck you need or want it to be."

An example (I think still Chesya talking but not sure) given was a white female professor complaining about Beyoncé (or was it Rhianna?) dancing in heels. But the professor herself was standing there giving this lecture while in heels herself. When called on it, the professor said "well, I'm not a public figure" - response: "You are in the public eye right now - I see you!"

An audience member asked the panelists to address "blue lives matter".

Jackie talked about having friends who are cops and she just won't have certain conversations with them. She also noted that she uses her "talking to white people voice" when stopped by cops. Re: "blue lives matter" - oh, so suddenly you're mad that we're shooting you??

There is only one publication that is counting the number of people shot by cops in the US and it's a UK publication - we don't count it here anywhere.

Jackie talked about post 9/11 attitudes about certain jobs - hard to be critical of the police, for instance. But when you ask black people why they ran from a cop, the answer is that they were scared they wouldn't be coming home again.

Jackie re: the "talking to white people" voice - has heard people literally calling black people animals, and then told "well not you, you talk well" - that can change in about five seconds, she says.

Amanda talked about being born and raised in New Orleans and the democratic governor there just signed a "blue lives matter" bill. Without ever responding to the Black Lives Matter campaigns, they are saying "blue lives matter" - it's like saying "how dare you fight back".

Mikki then talked about being born and raised in Chicago - "we send our mayors and governors to jail". She has feels about Chicago cops. When they are framing a 7 and 9 year old for the rape and murder of a child, when there is a torture center in use by the local cops, and then they want to ask "why isn't the community co-operating with us?"

Mikki cited statistics that show that being a cop is actually one of the safest jobs out there. 2015 was a safer year than average for cops even. But a 6'3'' male cop can beat up a 5'5'' female bartender for not serving him a drink.

As a military veteran, Mikki is noticing that the National Guard in Ferguson has gear that they didn't even have in Iraq and Afghanistan. All to watch over some kids singing.

"Blue lives matter" is just about the cops being scared to finally be held accountable for their actions. She talked about the million dollar lawsuits against the police in Chicago.

An audience member brought up the MCU, specifically the latest movie Civil War, in regards to the blue lives matter stuff. They noticed so much debate about the movie, but none of it tied in to current events with black people and police brutality.

Chesya said she doesn't want the government telling her what to do but she Really doesn't want a bunch of white superpowered dudes telling her what to do.

Mikki added - especially a white superpowered dude from the 40's!

Jackie said the current movie is about what's happened in the previous movies - Tony should be in jail for the stuff he's done. She's Team T'Challa - screw these other two sides!

Mikki is also Team T'Challa - it's not just Tony who should be in jail. Steve blew up half of DC and didn't make a single call, but Bucky is more important? This all also goes way back to when Hulk wrecked Harlem. Relating this to Black Lives Matter where now the feds are involved in Chicago and the U.N. and Amnesty are looking at the US - these movies are asking us to have sympathy for characters who have created huge messes and then gone home. Meanwhile, people have died, their homes ruined, and no one is talking about them.

Amanda talked about how white men create the problem and then fight in order to fix it and then we're supposed to sympathize with them as the heroes of the story without ever looking at the fallout of their actions.

An audience member asked about changing education systems and academia. They want to empower students to say who they want to bring in to talk to them about this stuff.

Jackie says that history matters. Go back and do research about the original intentions of a hashtag you want to discuss, about the history of terminology and how it was used before it was legitimized by the academia - people have always had these ideas and conversations - find out how it started.

Chesya advised not to be the person that takes something away from someone else. Think about who you have power over.

[I know I missed a lot - check the twitter hashtag for some stuff I didn't get and if you were there, please do add to this/correct me on stuff]

[Side note: I actually suggested this panel because I am confused about some of this and wanting to learn more, and figured I wasn't the only one. This panel was very helpful and I thank all of the panelists for their labor, resources, humor, anger, and sharing of lived experiences & wealth of knowledge. Thank you!]
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