I’ve been thinking a little further about this question of alliances. Everyone seems to have it in mind lately. Feministing recently touched on it (framed, sadly, by an “those old feminists are so naive” argument that always gets my goat) and Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon was talking about my favourite Poly Sci Jocks Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein as allies (see the comments on this post). And then the other day I clicked over to a frequent Harpy commenter’s blog, where he called us Harpies “womyn” in what I can only assume was a derogatory manner (we haven’t assumed that mantle for ourselves, after all) because we were apparently “too hardcore” when he tried to call himself a “reluctant feminist.” And then there was our own little run-in with Eileen Calder, who thought we were crucifying her by suggesting that a burlesque dancer might not be the most appropriate act for a rape-survivor centre fundraiser.
The complaint seems always to be that we are not nice enough to our allies and therefore they cannot support feminism. (?) The problem, of course, is that I’m not really sure why I have to be personally nice to anyone in order to get them to be in solidarity with me.
One passage that I keep coming back to is from my old favourite Twisty Faster, who touches on an important point below. She is actually articulating this in the context of feminist-sympathizing men getting all up in arms because some feminists seem mean to them, but is touching on the idea that everyone seems to have these days, i.e. that political solidarity will look much like a sixth-grade sleepover:
I am not surprised when the efforts of my upper-middle-class-prep-school-honky-self, absent any actual experience of racial discrimination, are met with suspicion at the Women Of Color Unite Against Honky Oppression convention. There are inner circles of class solidarity into which an outside “sympathizer” simply cannot tactfully incurse or reasonably expect to be invited. Raise money for causes? Sure. Vote for progressive legislation? Duh. Support the movement rather than pretend to sympathize, risk-free, with individuals? Word. But there comes a point at which one must be content to align oneself with the ideology, and then politely get the hell out their way.
[...] The real issue is that a thing is ultimately right or it is ultimately wrong, regardless of how its PR is managed. Racism, for example, is wrong, even if some black chicks think I have my head up my ass and don’t invite me to the cookouts. Likewise, these white fuckwads who say “you’re just too shrill, I don’t like your unsexy tone, the liberation of women will never happen and it’s all your fault” are not seeing the larger ideological and/or ethical picture. It is either wrong to oppress people or it isn’t. What’s it gonna be, assholes?
This, to me, is the fundamental point. When I think of the sisterhood, I don’t imagine us doing trust-building exercises in a back corner of the playground of life to achieve it. I don’t think it will result in an effervescent wind ruffling my bosom whenever in the presence of another ladyparts-haver. Nah, my sisterhood is constructed from good old fashioned struggle; I imagine us fighting together to get things done that have to be done for women in this society to be considered fully human. If we’re friends at the end that’s great – I can always use more friends. But I don’t think we are a failure if we aren’t friends, assuming that somewhere along the line we actually eliminated sexism.
Que pensez-vous, commenters?