“Failures in Solidarity” in the Intersectionality of Feminism and Racism

My previous commentary are Slutwalk is here and here.

Racialicious blogged a post yesterday entitled “Which Women Are What Now? Slutwalk NYC and Failures in Solidarity” which features this picture from Slutwalk NYC:

The term, coined by Yoko Ono, became the eponymous title of  a song, “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” performed by John Lennon.

At first glance, the sign utterly confused me.  I hadn’t heard of the song.  The “of” was awkwardly place, making it grammatically unintelligible. It didn’t present as a coherent message, and that’s a possible explanation of why the sign’s holder faced delayed criticism.

After reading the article I believe that the theme the woman was attempting to convey here was the reappropriation of pejorative terms, by referencing what Yoko referred to as a pro-feminist song and making a analogy to the “nigger” reclamation movement to Slutwalk’s reclamation movement for word “slut.” (The analogy is flawed, anyway, since Yoko’s song wasn’t necessarily about term reclamation.)

Both the song and sign have been decried in the blogosphere as “racist.”  Slutwalk organizers have also announced their disapproval for the sign.

Racialicious posted a follow-up post,”Slutwalk, Slurs, and Why Feminism Still Has Race Issues,” in which the author included an emotional response to the comments on their previous post about solidarity in feminism:

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting.

Wait, what?  When did the argument that they do have a monopoly on a language’s cultural meaning ever make sense?  The person who wrote this post is obviously not a supporters to those who have been trying to re-appropriate the word, for cultural purposes, for decades.  Ironically enough, the first post mentioned was about lack of solidarity in movements.

If you wanted to apply this type of logic onto Slutwalk, then men who are arguably ineligible for the defamatory title would have no place in the the pro-feminist movement, which I feel would be based on obviously flawed reasoning and hurts progression.

crunktasticCollapse had one of the more articulate comments on the topic of word reappropriation:

“But the idea that it’s fine to appropriate the term nigger without critical engagement of the word and what it represents to the women who are marching with you gives me pause.” Yes. Absolutely.

But doesn’t this critique hold true for the appropriation of the word “slut” as well? It seems to me that this kind of egregious misstep was bound to happen within a movement that has as one of its central tenets the reappropriation of an offensive word. There are a few major models of this kind of reappropriation–those which come out of queer activism and disability activism, in particular. But the “sexiest,” and most provocative of these models is of course, Black folks’ attempt more or less successfully –less I would argue–to reappropriate the n-word.

I’m not going to spend time to parse why semantics evolve, and why cultural shifts of pejorative words to neutral or positive words can be a good thing.  (For those who can’t parse language properly, that means I am for the reappropriation of words such as a slut. And no, “reappropriate” is not a logical inconsistently since the “re” refers to the act of defining again, not the implication that is was once “mine.”)

But I want to pose a couple questions.  You don’t have to limit your comments as answers. Unlike some blogs, I do not like to moderate my comments, even unpalatable or off-topic ones.  Questions may or may not be flame bait:

Has the movement to reclaim “nigger” been successful?  To what degree?  How would “success” be defined?


3 thoughts on ““Failures in Solidarity” in the Intersectionality of Feminism and Racism

  1. I disagree completely. This woman has every right to use the word Nigger.

    The word nigger is undoubtedly a powerful word. It conveys the absolute terror and complete and utter domination that occured and continues to occur wherever people are discriminated against for aything from you race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. . Yet, hiding the word. Saying that because you cant empathize with the word that you cant use the word. Is just plain ridiculous and in plain facts is censorship. Yes, the woman has all the benefits of being part of the racial majority and yes she might not be able to COMPLETELY empathize with the hatred and profound awful effect that word might have on someone. That doesnt mean that she is incapable of empathy or that it is a disgrace to even try to empathize

    It doesnt mean she shouldnt be able to convey the tremendous terror and domination that also and still does occur to woman everywhere. It is because the word Nigger has such an emotional and tragic historical background in which it is the PERFECT word to use. It is powerful and gets the womans point across perfectly. WOMAN ARE OPPRESSED.

    More importantly people fail to see that not only does it further the cause of woman but it also furthers the cause of all people who are discriminated against. It does this because it brings up the tremendous emotional feelings of racial conflict that should not be forgotten. Feelings that should not be pushed back. People should remember and continue to remember the horror of the word because it is what is keeping society from repeating the terrible mistakes that it sadly continues to make. We do not live in a racist free world. And not saying the word is not going to alleviate anything. NOTHING WILL ALLEVIATE THE PAIN OF RACISM. The reason why people might be upset that the word is used is because they believe that she has no right to attempt to empathize with their plight. This is ridiculous. Everyone has every right to empathize. Yes, She is vocalizing her domination by comparing it to an african americans domination during one of the darkest spots of Americas history! SO WHAT.

    Woman have been,and continue to be oppressed. They our tremendously Oppressed. but because you have this belief that because she is white and has all the priveledges to being born in a racial majority that she will never be able to understand and empathize is absolutely ridiculous. the belief that her plight is so much less than your plight is just plain ridiculous.

    In fact it is petty and the only people who are failing to empathize our the people who told her to take the sign down. They fail to see that the word is being used to reveal the absolute horror of the word and awful oppression that comes with being discriminated against. Yes they are specifically using the word to further awareness of womans oppression. They have every right to do this. They have every right to use any word that they feel describes the oppression that is happening. We our all connected by our past. We our all affected by our past. As an American the word Nigger has one of the most powerful messages. Complete and utter oppression hatred and domination. This woman feels exactly that and I believe has every right to use the word.

    Please comment I really want someone to address my point of views. My purpose of this post is to have a constructive debate and I really just want people to think about the points I have made!

  2. Thank you for expressing my thoughts. It was and is a wonderful song, too bad the meaning is unclear to people. I hope someone actually reads your words.

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