Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Day 10 - Feminist critics

I've woken late. I've got a cold.  In America we call it a sinus infection, but in England it's a cold and no one will pay you any mind for it.  I tell you this because what I'm about to say is critical.

When did the dominant mode of feminist criticism turn to listing what various women (and men) fail to include in the story of feminism (or anything else for that matter?).  When did we decide that a good mode of critique is pointing out what hasn't been included?  Was it sometime in the late 80s after Derrida's deconstruction became popular in the states?  Did the watered-down version of his theory taught in undergrad programs all across America give rise to this tendency to point to exclusion?  If so, I think we all need to return to the text and re-think.

I'm responding here to the F Words recent review of the BBC4 series 'Women'.  You can see the review here:

The reviewers point out that no women of colour nor any ethnic group has been portrayed in this series.  This is without question true.  However, the reviewer fails to take the text into consideration.  What is the purpose of this text?  Is it to present an all-encompassing history of the women's movement?  Will it become the dominant mode by which millions understand the history of the movement?  No.  Without doubt.  No.  The history will be written, luckily, by a multitude of participants and historians, who like many of us have access to Word Processing programs and camera equipment. 

The reviewers want the white Vanessa Engels to access a racial experience that she simply cannot. Sure, she can interview black leaders of the movement, but can she really talk to them about race?  Will the questions falling from her lips illicit from those women the truth and hardship of their struggle?  I doubt it.  Especially in America where to talk of race openly puts most of us into roles we have no idea how to negotiate. 

Race is an incredibly complicated issue for Americans.  If it had been included into these documentaries, it would have been been watered-down, or added on as a supplement to the larger history.  I'm certain that that is not where I want to see race placed - as an add-on, a 5 minute nod to unimaginable struggle. 

To accuse this series of documentaries of racial prejudice is to ask for tokenism.  It is to suggest that if you just put one or two black women into the picture, the picture will be clearer. It won't.  It will still be the picture created by a white, British woman. As it currently stands, the series owns that. 

What would be awesome is if someone talented and smart could find funding for a series on the ethnic struggle in America during the feminist movement.  I fully support that and if anyone is looking to make that happen, I'm here to help.

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