Category Archives: Intersection

We Rise Together: Resisting White Institutional Culture In Publishing

By Daniel José Older; originally published at his eponymous blog

Journal and Coffee

Had coffee with Saeed [Jones] today and we were talking about how, as people of color, we are socialized to feel gratitude to even have a seat at the table in the publishing industry, and how silencing that discomfort can be, the challenges of knowing how and when to push, how to gain and maintain a strong footing and sense of self while navigating the swamps of the literary world.

Then I went home and looked over a contract, noticing how every part of me just wanted to say, “It’s fine! It’s fine! Whatever you got for me is fine!” because I’m still just so happy to be paid for writing something, aghast at what that is and, even though I know I’ve earned it and I know it’s my path, there’s always that voice trying to barge its way in saying, Stay in line, be careful how you come across, don’t ask for too much, because it’s fragile, the weird world of publishing, the undefined, over-defined, never full, outlined beast called success.

And so WTF is success, right? I prefer the term “victory” because that’s what it feels like when shit comes together, but “success” is the word we hear most after the word “literary,” and what we believe to be “success” and “not success” matters. It matters a whole lot and what we’re never taught to do, not in MFA programs, not in [ridiculous] online how-to-be-a-writer-troll-ass blog posts, not damn anywhere–except maybe if you go to VONA–is that we have to, have to–as in it’s-a-matter-of-survival have to–deconstruct the fucked-up narrow version of success that we’re spoon-fed and create for ourselves a new understanding of what that means. Each of us has to do this, and we have to do this as a community.

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SBF Shout-out: The Feminist New Crew

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like buttonAs brilliant friend of SBF, Sofia Quintero, said recently, “The face of feminism is far more diverse than the same names and faces that keep getting traction.”

True dat.

We are constantly amazed at the smart and creative feminist thinking, writing, and activism happening–online and offline, in classrooms and nonprofits, on blogs and in self-published books–all around us. And we are disheartened that many of the most insightful people we know are neither name-checked nor used as sources for analysis often enough. There are so many perspectives beyond those of the lions of second-wave feminism and the handful of third-wave feminists whose voices are amplified.

So, we decided to compile a list of feminists we love–voices that you really should know.

Now we tried to stick to brilliant folk who don’t get lots of shine for their work, so you won’t see names like Melissa Harris-Perry, because, come on, everybody already knows she’s great! But we did list a few people we are sure are on the cusp of the kind of mainstream recognition they deserve. (Janet Mock, we are looking at you!) Also, included in this list are some folks who emphatically do not embrace the label “feminist” for valid and understandable reasons, but who are still fighting the good fight on behalf of gender equality and against an oppression that is intersectional.

Also, we are fully prepared to wake up tonight in a panic, remembering someone we left off the list. We apologize in advance. Feel free to suggest more names in the comments. And look for this list to evolve.

Now, here it is, in no particular order, Squeezed Between Feminisms list of the Feminist New School:

Tressie McMillan Cottom

TF Charlton

Janet Mock

Dr. Yaba Blay

Carolyn Edgar

Maegan La Mala Ortiz

Lindsey Yoo

Aiesha Turman

Aishah Shahidah Simmons

The Feminist Wire crew

The Crunk Feminist Collective

Sikivu Hutchinson

David J. Leonard

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Slouching Toward Feminism

By Guest Contributor Deesha Philyaw

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was raised to see the world in Black and White.

This manifests itself as an ingrained wariness of White folks, built in for the purposes of self-protection when I was bused from my working-class-on-the-decline neighborhood to the suburbs, beginning in first grade. My handful of White school friends notwithstanding, this was an us-versus-them kind of black and white. No one else–religious minorities, other racial and ethnic minorities, and people in other marginalized groups–was really on my radar in any meaningful way until high school. Even then, I heard friends and relatives use slurs against Asians (the least offensive reference was “Orientals”), “foreigners” (everyone who wasn’t identifiable as Black, White, or Asian), “sissies,” and “bulldaggers.” But I never used those words myself. Even as ignorant as I was, maybe I had a gut feeling about the ugliness and the harm in those words. I don’t know. 

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Image courtesy of All About Uni on Flickr

In 1989, I took an Amtrak train from Florida to Yale with my neighborhood friends’ warnings ringing in my ears: “Don’t turn White!”  In a panic, I’d read The Autobiography of Malcolm X from cover to cover during the train ride. In New Haven, I bought a fiery poem by a poet with an Egyptian name from a street vendor. I posted it on my dorm room wall right next to my bed, before classes even started.  I had to protect my Blackness. Don’t turn White!

By contrast, I’d grown up hearing a different warning given to girls who attended the HBCU that I’d considered attending: “Don’t get pregnant.” This school had a notorious reputation for “turning out good girls.” The lesson: At a Black college, I’d have to worry about sexual matters, but at a predominantly White institution (PWI) I only had to worry about race.

And worry I did, from the moment I stepped onto campus, overdressed for the occasion and the August heat, in a long-sleeved cobalt blue knit sweater set, matching shoes, and white tights. Immediately, I was aware of the differences between myself and the other Black women students. They wore cute cut-off denim shorts, flip-flops, and funky t-shirts.  By the end of the next day, I would note the class, regional, religious, speech, and cultural differences as well. Just like that, everything I thought I knew about Blackness went right out the window. If I wasn’t “them,” and if I didn’t exactly fit in with “us” in this new place…who was I? Turning “White” was the least of my concerns.

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