US Centrism and inhabiting a non space in #femfuture
I live in cracks and nooks. I exist nowhere and everywhere. My feminism is a territory cast aside from the big island that is Feminism, at least, the feminism that everyone has been discussing regarding #femfuture.
There is this US territory, not coded as such but as “online feminism” (presented as neutral, deterritorialized, homogenous) but this construction is not online feminism, it is American or perhaps North American, or should I go all Latina and just call it what it is: Anglo feminism and then there is me in the sidelines. So, when Jessica Luther wondered out loud what I thought (there have been a lot of polemics about the report), I sincerely have no thoughts because I don’t belong in this.
To call what is going on in an Anglo centric environment “online feminism” is to cast me (and millions like me) away from the umbrella. We live elsewhere. We communicate in English but we are not part of the culture that is being discussed. We are the outsiders that have issues that are alien to this “online feminism”. I highlight the attack on reproductive rights going on in the US as much as I can, but this is not my personal fight; I point to the need of US immigration reform as much as I come across topics that cover it, but my reason of existence is EU immigration reform and its intersections with gender; when something that happened in the US needs denouncing to harness the collective attention, I gladly lend myself to it because I believe feminism is not a zero sum game (i.e. if I spend a few minutes or hours talking about an issue in North America, it doesn’t detract from my long term goals about policies, racism and gender in Europe). However, that’s not my “online feminism”. I might get lumped into the term because I communicate in English but my reality is rather different: I live in Amsterdam.
And here’s what happens when you inhabit these cracks: you pretty much don’t exist. Years ago when I started writing publicly, I made the decision to write in English (instead of Spanish or Dutch) because a) it’s the language most spoken in my surrounding and b) my written Dutch is appalling. I lack nuance, I lack depth, I have the vocabulary of a child and quite frankly, it’s a language that limits my ability to communicate on the level I wanted to. Besides, when in 2002, the Euro came in, I quickly threw myself into the political consequences of this Union and I thought I’d be more effective writing in a language that is widely spoken within the area. However, because I am simultaneously in (i.e. part of this online feminism by virtue of writing, blogging, creating media, etc in the English language) and outside (i.e. I live in Europe and the bulk of what I write and communicate is about WoC living in Europe), I get pretty much ignored. When feminist organizations in The Netherlands organize events, they do not know I exist. Sure, I know for a fact I am read by some (in fact, the biggest feminist NGO in the country has me listed in their blogroll), but I do not speak the “local language”. Oh I do speak Dutch all right. But I speak of a feminism that is practically alien to them. I shout about immigration reform and death of WoC, I yell about State violence directed at WoC, I insist on the hierarchical nature of a White Supremacist Patriarchal State… all the topics that local feminist organizations won’t touch with a ten foot pole. So, I simply do not get invited. They will happily bring Caitlin Moran over from the UK to give a talk (they did last year) but those like me simply do not exist locally.
Then there is the American version of online feminism, which has other realities and other goals and other culturally relevant issues, to which I do not get invited either because frankly, I have nothing of meaning to contribute (thousands of WoC are doing that locally and passionately, so why would anyone bring me over to talk about what people with better local knowledge and ideas are already doing?). In the UK, the online feminist discourses seem to be dangerously US centric as well. The exception being Black feminists who are contributing a wealth of knowledge and creating their own epistemic histories but that is not (yet) mainstream UK feminism. Mainstream is, once again, Caitlin Moran. Online, British feminism looks either inward (rightfully so, because they are focused in their local issues) or towards the US (as if the US was the feminist Mother Ship one should aspire to) but there isn’t much in terms of a European focus. “Things” happen either in the UK or in the US and once again… I inhabit another space.
So, all these talks about #femfuture are certainly not about me. If anything, I try to firmly stand my ground so as not to be colonized by this increasingly US centric version of online feminism. My resistance ends up being a double bind: I need to resist the policies, racism, discrimination, etc of a State that considers those like me disposable and I need to resist the absorption of the “Mother Ship” that owns the discourses around which feminist issues matter the most. In the meantime, I can tell you this much: my #femfuture is about yelling louder. Because really, there isn’t much else I can do, further than assimilating (which, no) in order to create the awareness I believe is needed.
For the past decade and a half I have been making all my content available for free (and never behind a paywall) as an ongoing practice of ephemeral publishing. This site is no exception. If you wish to help offset my labor costs, you can donate on Paypal or you can subscribe to Patreon where I will not be putting my posts behind a lock but you'd be helping me continue making this work available for everyone. Thank you. Follow me on Twitter for new post updates.