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What is missing?

So, I was reading Jill’s post at Feministe (and the comments therein) about “call outs” and minority voices and who writes about what in the Feminist blogosphere (and subsequently, who/ which stories get attention). And that got me thinking a bit. So, I am going to turn to you, readers, for a second.

I have already posted a bit here so, I guess regulars might have an overview of what I am up to. Still, I would like to set some facts straight so that you have a better idea of who I am and where my perspectives come from:

I am a half Hispanic, half Eastern European cis woman, living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, by way of my home town of Buenos Aires (where I was born and raised). By now, I am a truly adopted Amsterdammer capable of cursing in three languages, after living here for almost a decade and a half.

I write mostly about politics, race and feminism from my very mixed perspective of place of birth, culture and education in the Global South and current European residence. It’s a mixed bag of frameworks and references that sometimes complicate matters because I have to remember that none of these issues are coded identically in each of the places I write about/ from. To quote myself, from a blog post I wrote a while ago:

Let’s assume a Turkish child moves to Argentina or Uruguay or Chile (etc.). That child settles down with her family, and because she is young she learns the local language (Spanish) like a native speaker and carries on with her life. She will be coded as White and belong to the dominant culture because she is Caucasian. When she grows up and looks for jobs, she will be treated like a local White woman.

Now, this same Turkish child, moves to The Netherlands instead. She also learns the local language with fluency and speaks it at Native level. However, in The Netherlands, she will be coded by the state as a WoC and her entire experience will be different. Yes, I said that right, there is a state sanctioned classification that labels the same woman as a PoC and there are specific laws that she and her family need to comply with.

Now, this doesn’t mean that South America is this enlightened and magical place where people suffer no discrimination. Oh no. Far from that. It just means that race, color, ethnicity and who gets to be part of the dominant culture are not universally constructed. Certainly skin color plays a role (and that’s why I chose an example of a Caucasian person), but the construction of what it means to be labeled “Person of Color” is not the same in Europe than it is in North America than it is in South America.

So, you see, things are not that simple when one becomes an immigrant. It so happens that then, the world can sometimes resemble a prism: every person will be seeing a different facet of it depending on where they are standing and it can be difficult to convey what that facet looks like when others cannot see it or have no experience with it.

Of course, in the Feminist blogosphere we all write from our personal experiences. I suspect even more so than in any other political blogs. “The personal is political” permeates our entire culture. But, in the interest of a) genuine curiosity and b) the ubiquitous “room for improvement”, I want to ask: what are the readers of Tiger Beatdown interested in? What kind of voices and stories do you wish got more coverage, particularly given the kind of perspectives I can provide? I won’t be writing on command; after all, these are not school paper assignments but, given the fact that I know I am a minority voice for several of the reasons listed above, what are you interested in?

15 Comments

  1. araliya wrote:

    As an intercultural person myself, I find your perspective one of the few I can identify with, precisely because it is one that has a shifting identity. I don’t have the same background as you, but I understand how it feels to see things from multiple cultural perspectives at one. More importantly, I think bringing these different perspectives to bear is vital. I love the post you quoted above, precisely because while it is something I know almost instinctively, many of my monocultural friends have found it shocking/unsettling. More of that, please!

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink
  2. mira wrote:

    THANK YOU. Race is actually not a simple visual binary and I think it’s pretty ethnocentric and unconstructive to talk about that way, even if you’re doing it to object to racism. Talking about how it’s experienced differently in different contexts is sooo important.

    I find it really frustrating to talk about in the US sometimes because I am a person with an ethnic background similar to your example living in the US, and often Americans tend to assume in conversation that “we” are both obviously white but “Middle Easterners” are obviously PoC. When this comes up in the context of “racism against brown people” I tend to get frustrated because I want them to think about how they are constructing “white” and “brown” according to nationalistic and religious assumptions. Okay, so Middle Eastern Muslims are all brown, whether they’re Turks, Arabs, Iranians, or Egyptians, but Israelis and Armenians are white? Except for the Kardashians, because they have black hair, and white=blond, which implies the criteria for whiteness are narrowing back to Northern European only? We need to THINK about these categories!

    I would actually be very interested in more European and South American perspective, since those are outside my experience.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  3. Em wrote:

    I’ve enjoyed when you’ve talked about racism in the Netherlands. I’ve mostly thought of race in black/white terms since those have been the demographics of the places I’ve lived. I really need to learn other perspectives.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Travis wrote:

    …I’m Araliya’s opposite. Monocultural, monocultured. Frankly, your experiences are so different from mine, all I could ask you to do is “write more for me personally”, and I don’t want to do that. Just do what you do, I (and I think we, The Beatdown) will read.

    But you know what you don’t read much about that you’d probably have some interesting insight into (given your heritage(s), your immigrant experience, and your understanding of Marxism)? The legacy of colonialism. I have my own reasons, but if I could ask you to write about anything, I’d ask for that.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  5. Kathy wrote:

    Like Mira, I’d love to see more written about race not as a simple visual binary, and not only in USian terms. You do that already, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

    Race and culture are difficult for me to talk about simply because I have no idea where my experiences fit on the spectrum. My dad’s family is ESL and very different culturally from my mom’s who’ve been in the US for many generations. I was exposed to two pretty different cultures even though I still fall under the umbrella of white. I feel I have to rewrite my own history when talking about whiteness, because I don’t necessarily fit the image of a typical “American white girl.”

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  6. PantherPaws wrote:

    The problem is that Jill isn’t interested in intersectionality, race, or anything else that doesn’t directly affect her.

    She made the ‘call outs’ post because she feels it’s unfair that SHE gets called out so much. From joyously celebrating someone’s death, to erasing the experiences of WOC/trans/disabled/poor people, to posting about pwetty wedding dwesses on a blog about feminist issues, she’s proved that i’s her blog, and she’ll do what she wants. Jill cares about Jill, Jill’s life, and Jill’s agendas. As regular staff members have fallen away in droves (especially Chally, I don’t blame her for leaving, she was too good to stay there) her posts are usually the only ones there, and the racism, classism, transphobia, hetero&ciscentrism, ableism and americentrism are becoming harder to hide. People are calling her out and she’s not used to it, and doesn’t like it.

    When she fucks up she doesn’t own it and say “Sorry I’m speaking from a position of privilege, I admit I cannot understand your POV”. Instead she makes huffy posts calling her attack dogs to back her up, because AMG! WOCs and disabled people or asexuals or poor people are being mean to her.

    That’s what her post was about, and no-one else need feel bad about it. Her veneer is slipping, and every post about how meany poor people spoil her fun in NYC restaurants (how dare they want separate bills!) or how AMG she only has 30 pairs of shoes so why can’t poor people buy ethical clothing, or how she toootally knows about POC, cus she lives in NYC

    You’re doing a great job here. She’s blinded by her privilege, and about to crash HMS Feministe into the iceberg that is her ego.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink
  7. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    @Mira–you made several good observations.

    @Flavia / generally–
    This is a very complex topic, but a very significant one. Would it help to understand where any given society is today, in terms of race and ethnicity, by looking at the recent historical progression? Just as an example, in the U.S., it was not that long ago (1950′s if not later) in the dominant cultural (“WASP”–White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) view of us-versus-them-versus-them that even, for example, people of Irish and Italian backgrounds were very much looked down upon as inferior. Today I think lots of people would classify those of, say, Lebanese descent based on a semi-arbitrary view of how Americanized they are and how dark is their skin. This is definitely an interesting and important topic that does not fit neatly into check-boxes on a census form.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  8. You know, @PantherPaws, it’s easy to get angry because a blogger doesn’t provide enough diversity. It’s always our primary response (and I am as guilty about this as well), but I also have to wonder where is OUR responsibility as media consumers in the lack of diversity? Are we, as consumers voting diversity with our clicks? Are we actively seeking minority voices? Are we linking to posts by smaller voices in our comments to illustrate our points instead of linking to the usual “big media” names (both mainstream like the New York Times and non mainstream like big name blogs, etc.)? Are we actually rewarding difference by leaving comments in those smaller blogs or in those blogs that touch on issues outside the realm of our primary experiences? Or have we turned our media consumption into a passive exercise where we expect the content to be curated on our behalf and we consume what is presented?

    There is a movement within food politics to encourage people to buy local, consume from small, less known but ethically sourced businesses. The Buy Local movement is now cascading into other areas, like clothes and furniture, etc. The reasoning (and I am sure everyone reading this knows the premise already as it has been written about everywhere) is to support the smaller, ethical sources. A part of the burden is placed on the consumer to make the right choice. Where do we apply similar principles to our media consumption? How do we actively seek to support these minorities that have little media representation in the mainstream? And I am not posing the question to you, specifically, @PantherPaws, because you might as well be doing that already. So, it’s not that I am holding you specifically accountable for these musings, but more like throwing the question into the table because it is something that does bother me as well. So many people WANT different voices, but they won’t leave the comfort of their known media to actively seek them.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  9. You know, I am in a ranting mode and this does not necessarily warrant a post so I’ll leave it as a comment here but I do have something to add to my previous comment.

    Members of the dominant culture (i.e. “Whites”) go to the blog of a specific member of the dominant culture. They feel represented; this blogger speaks about issues they hadn’t thought about! One of our own who is above most of us and who can provide us with this view from the heights of her awareness! They celebrate their newly found voice. This one person, is, of course, just one individual. And of course, she won’t be able to offer more than (to continue with my metaphor of the prism in my post), a reflection of the facet of the world she inhabits. The members of the dominant culture are not aware of this. Or if they are, they do not care. So, when this one blogger fails (and she will, inevitably, as all of us who put ourselves out there eventually do), she will be eaten alive. Now, every group that has not been represented most likely has a valid complain. However, at this point, the members of the dominant culture who were reading and praising her, distance themselves. They look in bewilderment, nodding at each other and expressing how, indeed, those minority voices have been left out and how they do not have representation. However, also invariably, they will allow this token White blogger to take the fall for it without examining exactly what their role, as media consumers, has been in the fall out. “Oh, she screwed up!” they will mutter and wait for the next post to resume their vitriolic comments about bad grammar and personal anecdote. Their role as passive media consumers is left unexamined. The one person who did put herself out there is shred to pieces (and again, sometimes rightfully so, I am not implying the complains are without warrant).

    In every discussion of political events in a historical continuum, the role of the consumer/ the masses/ the supporters is always taken into consideration. Except in this case, where only the one that is perceived as a leader is beaten up and they can move on to the next cat meme unchallenged, their role in the fall out never spelled out or properly contextualized.

    And I am sorry but I find such dynamic to be dangerous and actually extremely unfair. I am more interested in the collective force that denies presence to minority voices than in one individual that, by virtue of her individuality, won’t be able to speak on behalf or about every human experience.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  10. Joji wrote:

    I would be enthusiastic to read more about the construction/perception of race in other European countries (I live in Italy). The rest of Continental Europe especially, since it’s close by and yet necessarily different, and the kind of discussion one finds on English-language blogs is often pretty superficial (link to news article about something that happened in European country, two comments along the lines of “oh, I was there once and yeah, it was racist”).

    Living in a place where, when I arrived about 15 years ago, the most vilified immigrants were (often sandy-haired) Albanians, I figured out pretty quickly that North American racial/ethnic dynamics did not apply. But it’s a very complex picture, and most of all, one that refuses to sit still for long—to an especially dramatic degree in Italy, perhaps, for both geographic and political reasons, but I would imagine everywhere. I realize I’m almost as clueless about race and feminism in The Netherlands as my friends back in the US are about race and feminism in Italy, because the blogs I follow have such a heavy geopolitical slant; even the Italian-language sites are often fishing from American ones, so I get to read the same sort of article a week later, in translation. This is frustrating.

    So, basically: what I’ve read from you so far is fascinating, more along these lines, please! I find your perspective especially valuable because the Context A and Context B you’re comparing are BOTH shifted from my own A and B.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  11. Angelina wrote:

    “You know, @PantherPaws, it’s easy to get angry because a blogger doesn’t provide enough diversity. It’s always our primary response (and I am as guilty about this as well), but I also have to wonder where is OUR responsibility as media consumers in the lack of diversity? Are we, as consumers voting diversity with our clicks? Are we actively seeking minority voices? Are we linking to posts by smaller voices in our comments to illustrate our points instead of linking to the usual “big media” names (both mainstream like the New York Times and non mainstream like big name blogs, etc.)? ”

    I would say, a resounding no. As a POC who actually doesn’t like to -ism blog, the only time white feminists want anything to do with me is if I’m acting as “angry black lady”. When my emphasis is on pop culture I like, film criticism and office supplies. I don’t like having my experiences erased because I live in the US. I lived outside the US and guess what, I was still treated like the black person I am in the US and sometimes even WORSE. I pretty much ignore 95% of white feminist blogging, regardless of what they’re blogging about, as their concerns tend to be narrowly focused, elevating concerns specific to privileged women (usually by race) or tend to assume that knowing/connecting with one member (always carefully selected to ensure mellows won’t be harshed) is to know them all.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  12. Eli wrote:

    Like Joji, I would love to see more discussions on constructions of race and gender in varying national/cultural contexts. I lived in Italy for many years and I’m currently writing a book on the “new migrants” in Italy–where there’s actually a similar phenomenon to the one you describe in the Netherlands(though its not a legal category) wherein foreign residents are discursively divided into two groups: people from the States and Western European countries are understood as individuals with specific nationalities, people from the Global South/East are lumped together in a category called “extracommunitarian”. Which is deeply fucked up. Also deeply fucked up: gender parity in Italy. “Extracommunitarian” woman are thus facing a whole host of god-awful shit that has yet to be acknowledged or unpacked in any significant way in popular discourse.

    So, basically, I would love to know more about the ways that migrant identity is produced in other national contexts, not just in Europe. I absolutely want to hear more from you, and it would be wonderful to see some more polyvalent perspectives too.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  13. Anka wrote:

    I’m delurking for the first time to say that I’m fascinated by this topic (different construtions of race in different countries), and I’d like to see more of this, especially because it’s influenced my life so much as a half-Slav, half-non-Ashkenazic-Jew-with-Israeli-extended-family, who has lived in the Middle East and in Scandinavia. I have the hardest time explaining to Americans that yes, I look white to them, and AM white by their definition (because all Jews are white, right?/sarcasm) but I’m not considered white everywhere, and even in the US where I was born and grew up, I’m only white until someone decides I’m not, which has happened. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading your posts!

    Friday, May 6, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  14. Athenia wrote:

    I’ve been visiting more POC feminist blogs lately and honestly, I don’t think a white feminist blog can ever measure up to a POC feminist blog in terms of POC content…and that means white feminist blogs aren’t going to be quite as good with intersectionality business.

    But ultimately, people also need to realize that blogs (particularly English speaking ones) are privileged spaces to begin with and it doesn’t matter whether you drink wine or you buy books–you are still privileged.

    Monday, May 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink
  15. multipony wrote:

    I agree with several of the other commenters here, i.e., discussing race as not just a visual binary, as a multi-racial person who is often not recognized as such in the “visual binary”.
    I would also like to point out, with the Jill at Feministe debacle: my issue with her post wasn’t the points she was trying to make, it was what triggered those points. By using the post at Shameless to frame her discussion, she completely derailed what could have been a really important and productive argument that the Shameless post brought up. It didn’t have to be a blame issue, which then devolved into a huge, unproductive comment thread about “is she or isn’t she” a good blogger, a racist, etc. argument. What would have been wonderful would have been the discussion that Jessica Yee then continued with her own response to the issue, about the constructs that allowed her book to be missed. So, I don’t want to judge her about missing stuff, it happens, and frankly I didn’t even notice because I don’t look at Feministe all that often. I was just super disappointed over how she reacted, in a post that made me feel like she was trying to erase a recognition or discussion over the Yee book in an attempt to, honestly, whine.
    I would love to see discussions that Yee was trying to have in her response. And I would love to see respectful, productive discussions where people get to say, “here I am, you need to look at me, let ME tell you who I am, and what I need and vice versa and let’s talk about it.” This seems like the type of place where that happens.

    Friday, May 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink