Watch this, please:
For several reasons. The first is the obvious one. White feminists do need, have needed to pay more attention to what black women have to say about their experiences for a long time. A very long time. Reading This Bridge Called My Back and an essay or two by Audre Lorde won’t do it anymore, at least in terms of being able to claim that you have any real awareness of the complexities of being a woman with brown skin. It’s an interesting question for fat white women–on the one hand, there have been lots of white feminists who’ve been talking body-acceptance for a long time, and on the other hand, the simple fact is that Gloria Steinem got to be Gloria Steinem partially because she’s conventionally beautiful. Also largely because she’s ferocious and kicks ass, but there was always a certain weird fascination about how&why someone so beautiful could/would/should be a FEMINIST that you could tell got her certain kinds of attention from certain kinds of male-dominated media. But I confess that I sometimes think I have a tiny fraction of an idea what it’s like to be a woman who is judged immediately and negatively simply because of the surface of her skin–NOT as though I were black (I claim ZERO understanding of the complex anguishes, irritations, frustrations, furies, and difficulties of that)–but as someone whose intelligence, integrity, character, worth, and general right to exist is something many folks feel they have a right to judge based simply on my physical geography. So being, say Gabourey Sidibe, must be a whole other universe of soul-bruising pain in the ass, as witness the assinine kerfuffle over whether she has or has not lost weight (google it, it’s actually nuts) and how and why.
So back to Leslie Jones. Who is not fat, but who is not small. And who has been trolled relentlessly by all the usual cadre of tragically pathological losers who spend their time vomiting their wretchedness onto social media, and by questionable humans like Milo Yiannopoulos who make their livings spewing hate at people they don’t even know (what is his pathetic deal???? Feminism is cancer????? Really????? I don’t even begin to know how to address this sort of hyperbolic stupidity.) I didn’t see Ghostbusters because it was the sort of summer when I didn’t much get to the movies, and I gave up SNL before John Belushi died, so I don’t know much about Leslie Jones. But I do know that she’s tall enough, and not-conventionally-gorgeous enough that she had a terrible time finding a dress for the red carpet until Christian Siriano stepped in and up. And I know that any black woman who makes it into the cast of any big budget movie (especially as something other than the amusing sidekick, though even that has to be no small feat) has managed to put up with rafts of crap along her road that I couldn’t begin to calculate. And being merely smart-as-hell, and having killer cheekbones to go with your 6 feet of grandeur and goofiness is clearly not enough for the world to leave your un-cringing womanhood alone. So, for what it’s worth, this is me standing up for Leslie Jones. And acknowledging/claiming that there is a hierarchy of crap-to-deal-with in the universe of feminism, and conventionally attractive white women have X amount of unacceptable, human-rights-violating garbage and violence and barrier to deal with, but women outside that demographic have a additional layers of often paradoxical (fat women are both too female and not female enough…) shit to cope with, and women of color have pretty much infinite numbers of other stupid, violent, terrifying, frustrating shit to cope with, fight with, deal with, overcome on a moment-to-moment basis. Part of me doesn’t understand why all my black woman friends don’t just start every conversation we have by punching me first and then asking how I’ve been, just to even things up a bit. Not that I’m making a suggestion.
We’re at a weird point. As much as I believe in the First Amendment, I wonder whether the guys who wrote it could begin to envision a universe in which there would be so much violent speech with so little consequence. It’s not just the asshole trolls like Yiannopoulos and the basement-dwelling, id-spewing losers for whom he is a weirdly glam proxy, it’s members of Congress and presidential candidates whose words and actions seem to me to cross the border from protected repugnance to active treason. And there are no consequences for them. There are too many white men (and women, but I fear it’s the white guys who are carrying the ugly flags on this) out there who feel free to say in public things that do violence to us all. All. I don’t know where or when this consequence-less will run into the law. I don’t even know if it will. I don’t delude myself that the hatefulness currently making so much noise in the public discourse wasn’t there all along. I might argue that Trump & Co. have done us the weird favor of turning over a bunch of rocks that really needed to be turned over so that the pathetic darkness-dwellers would be exposed to the light. But it’s getting to be like climate change–it used to be a matter of projection and theory; it’s now unavoidable (unless you’re really working on it) reality, and it’s eating the planet. The shitchat on social media is eating our culture. The planet is dying. The planet’s conversation is also toxic. There need to be consequences for the folks who are poisoning the atmospheres. But it’s a lot easier to (relatively) to name and fine and impose consequences on Exxon (be nice if we’d get around to that…) than it is to name and fine and impose consequences on shitheads like Roger Ailes and Mitch McConnell.
How does all this fit together, you ask? Well, the thing about feminism was, when I was growing up into it, that it would free men to stop being jerks just because they had penises; free women to make choices no matter who they loved, how they looked, or what color their skin was; free children from having to be one thing or another from birth, and free bodies (including the planetary body) from casual (or intentional and entrenched) violence. I’m not as naively, blithely hope-filled as I used to be. And I seem to have missed a lot of forms of oppression going on around me. But I have figured out one thing: Pretty much everything starts with the sanctity of the body. Gabourey Sidibe’s body is her business. Leslie Jones’s body is hers. The bodies of black, brown, and red humans are as sacred as those of white people, the bodies of queer humans as sacred as those of cis-hetero humans (funny, I bet self-described “faggot” Yiannopoulos would agree at least far as it comes to his queer body . Those of fat, short, disabled, un-pretty, tall, gifted, scarred, violated, famous, solitary, pea-brained, small-hearted, gorgeous, rich, poor, Trumpish–all sacred. It really is all about the body–whether you see it from a Christian perspective or any other. When we get around to seeing the individual body as the beginning of care for both humans and the planetary body they inhabit, we’ll start giving a shit instead of talking shit and being shits.
Meanwhile, I have a word for you to learn and use: Misgynoir. And I propose a rule: Remember that every time anyone disrespects a woman of color (including those in some form of hijab), they have disrespected you, oh feminists, no matter where you started from. And you should be angry.