Feminism: Still for white women only?

“It’s thinking I’m the hero of this pretty white world/I want to change the world
But I won’t change anything/Unless I change my racist self.”

*Heavens to Betsy, “White Girl”

It started innocently enough. A free form blog entry at Blackamazon’s blog, reminiscing about WAM!, the amazing people she met, and a final stray thought. “Fuck Seal Press.”

What brought the comment on–no one ever stopped to ask–but the comment has revealed a lot about the problems that remain in feminist thought–specifically in regards to feminist publishing.

Brooke Warner, the editor of Seal Press books, responded to the “f* you seal press” and the comment “Seal Press has nothing on WoC (women of color)!”-though the comment was meant in solidarity, Warner misunderstood the comment to mean that Seal Press doesn’t have books on women of color.

Her response: “We WANT more WOC. Not a whole lotta proposals come our way, interestingly. Seems to me it would be more effective to inform us about what you’d like to see rather than hating.”

And the fire started. And spread.

Now, before I go on with what happened, I’m going to make a confession: her comment (minus the hating part), almost sated me. I mean, yay! they want other voices! Right?

Wrong. So wrong. I can only blame the my recurring naiveté (need to get rid of that) and lack of knowledge on many things.

As I continued to read the comments, I realized how much sense the BA and other bloggers (many also women of color) made.

Why should women of color have to come to Seal Press to give them their experiences? Especially when, as one blogger (Deoridhe) notes, the whole “We WANT WOC” statement is very reminiscent of the “gotta catch ’em all” mentality of Pokemon (“WoC, I choose YOU!”).

Why Warner had such a difficult time comprehending the comments that she’d set off is beyond me.

So the story continues: Warner comments again, after many other highly intelligent women have made their case against Warner’s original statement. She writes that she appreciates the dialogue (nice try…) but then says that, from all the comments before hers, they must hate Seal Press and goes on to say that “I get that you all engage best through negative discourse…”

Sounds like something your average joe would say to a feminist, don’t you think?

At any rate, nothing is near resolution on BA’s blog, so Warner goes to the Seal Press blog to post an entry (frankly, I’d rather not include the link because I’m disgusted with Seal.) in which she explains her reasoning behind posting a comment in the first place (“I was writing off the cuff in response to the comment FUCK SEAL PRESS, which yes, I took personal offense to.”), and how Seal has faced a lot of difficulty in the past couple years and has taken a more “commercial” route to stay afloat.

Supposedly, Warner is a professional with a professional position, yet she cannot seem to differentiate herself with her job. Right now, this blog is one of the highlights of my yet-to-really-begin career. My business cards all feature this blog under my RiotGrrrlRevolution pen name. It means a lot.

If someone went and said, “Fuck RiotGrrrlRevolution,” I’d be upset. Of course. Who wouldn’t? But would i barge in to that person’s space and assume I know what they want? Would I assume that their problem with me was something that THEY could fix and I wouldn’t have to worry about? No, I’d ask why they think what they think and not try to incite any more argument than necessary. There’s no point and gets us nowhere.

Though, it seems in the case of Warner’s comment-completely unprofessional & immature-it has led us somewhere.

In defense of their not publishing more books on women of color, let’s see what Warner had to say for herself:

“We admittedly do not publish enough women of color, but we never have. Seal was always seen as more of a lesbian press back in the day….i (sic) don’t pretend to understand the struggles of women of color, so i thank each and every one of you who’s posted here for all the feedback….”

I’m not sure how she thought to defend herself with this statement. There are several problems with the first two sentences alone. Let’s dissect the two, piece by piece:

“We admittedly do not publish enough women of color, but we never have.”
I’ve got to admit, this perplexes me. How is it that bygone practices can be an excuse for today’s practices?
Dear Seal, we currently live in 2008. I don’t know if you know this, but more than white people inhabit the US. If you do know this, then the books you have been publishing do not seem to recognize this. As a feminist press, you should know that feminism started as a white woman’s thing, but we soon discovered that women of color had different problems. And the idea of intersecting oppressions came into play. Rich white women have different problems than rich black women who have different problems than poor white women who have different problems than poor black women (and this isn’t even bringing into play able-bodiesm.)Have you heard of it? If not, may I recommend you do some extracurricular reading? Do check out Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins (also, notice how I didn’t post a link to amazon? Thanks to much of the discussion on the Seal Press blog about this whole fiasco, I won’t be linking with amazon if I can help it…).

After you get some reading done, reflect on what it means to move on. Seal Press has been around a long time–1976-now is nothing to laugh at, but it’s also not an excuse to stay stuck in the past. Catch up with the rest of the feminist blogosphere already, please?

Seal was always seen as more of a lesbian press back in the day….

And women of color cannot be lesbians? Really?

As you can imagine, Seal has gotten hell from many bloggers, most (if not all of it) deserved. A post at Feministe mentioned the Seal catastrophe in a blog published on April 10, “This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging.”

I suggest a name change to this title, because it’s so close to being good, but so very far. Here’s my proposed change:

This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging feminism

This change reflects this situation much more honestly. With the title “This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging”, the word placement suggests that the women of color bloggers are in fact to be blamed for things not going well. How’s that right? These women bloggers have devoted much of their time to exposing injustices along color lines and trying to help others see from a new perspective only to find their opinions not valued. The point: the word choice, in this case, is very wrong.

I am a young 20-something white woman who has only had a few years of living life as a feminist. (before I was introduced to feminism, I had no idea it even existed. weird, eh? especially now that I can’t remember how I made sense of the world before feminism.) I’m still learning about feminism and its many hidden pitfalls. Having stumbled upon one so massive is enlightening to me. Seeing a pseudo-feminist press that claims to be groundbreaking and for women, by women mostly ignore women of color is mind blowing. You could argue that, hey, they tried to get some input by women of color by saying “we want you!” but that’s not the answer. As a business they have a professional standard to live by, and they have to have a vision. If their vision includes excluding women of color/making women of color come to them because they’re too busy working on the next Full Frontal Feminism-type of book (good book, but not at all ground breaking. Plus the cover IS atrocious, in a feminist sense) or soliciting other white women as authors–well, who needs ’em?

This whole situation with seal press and the women of color bloggers proves that feminism is far from perfect. In fact, it makes me wonder–if a feminist book company refuses to make women of color an issue they need to pay attention to (and not have people tell them they’re missing it & get all huffy), then what does that say for the feminists reading Seal Press, happy with the book quality?

It definitely suggests that we as feminists have a lot of work to do in identifying the problems that feminism faces and the stereotypes we hold inside ourselves. One of the problems Seal Press had was an inability to really hear anything the women of color bloggers were saying-which says a lot about the women at Seal. Both Warner (editor) and Krista Lyons-Gould(publisher) are white women, and if you look at the book covers at the Seal website, most of them feature images of white women.

With feminism becoming more and more mainstream (thank you feministing, and the more ‘mainstream’ Seal Press books), it’s important we look at its flaws–such as its continuing inability to deal with intersecting systems of oppression. We need to address the problems, and deal with them in a manner that is fair and honest to both others and ourselves.

But most of all, we need to listen and learn to look at situations from another point of view.

Until Seal Press can learn to do either, I support NOT buying Seal Press books.

And, like Blackamazon before me and several other bloggers before me,


Sunday Random 10!

Random 10:

1. Elegie-Patti Smith
2. Shick Shaving-Chicks on Speed
3. Burn Your Life Down-Tegan & Sara
4. Viz-Le Tigre
5. Empty Walls-Serj Tankian
6. Decide-Heavens to Betsy
7. Down by the Water-PJ Harvey
8. Made in Japan-The Great Kat
9. The List-Metrick
10. Bucky Done Gone-M.I.A.


There can never be enough love for M.I.A., so here is a “Bird Flu”!

Feminism Friday: The Guy Edition

One of the fun things you’ll come up with when you google ‘feminism’ are the articles featuring ‘men’s rights activists’, men who like to blame feminism for the deterioration of (what they believed was) their masculinity. In the blog site for the Canadian magazine, The Walrus, you’ll find an intriguing piece by Edward Keenan: It’s Really Not About Women. For the most part, the entry is positive towards feminism, and he calls men’s rights groups as he sees them (misguided), but Keenan mentions something which is an important topic for discussion:

“That said, I think underneath the… mostly sad complaints of men’s rights types, there is something worth discussing, which is that many men don’t feel like they have an obvious role to play in today’s society…or that the role they are supposed to play is unclear. And that is at least partly the result of the changes in the roles women and men feel allowed to play in society…”

What is it these men feel that they are missing? Men’s rights groups tend to think that taking orders from women is a terrible thing and that men are rightly the hunters/breadwinners of the family, so clearly what they are missing is the alpha male gendered identity.

As Sarah Womack wrote in the British newspaper the Telegraph, “asked what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than half thought society was turning them into ‘waxed and coiffed metrosexuals.'” And the men had to follow women’s orders? Gasp. What an outrage!

Womack continues to say that the hunter-gatherer role is a strong male instinct. But…is it? Is anything we identify as a masculine trait really instinct? Or is it socially encouraged? And these men advocating for a ‘menaissance’–a return to the “Manly Man”–is this really a good idea to begin with? Could there be problems with associating a gendered person with certain traits? And finally, what role does feminism play in all this?

Let Feminism Friday begin.

The Pitfalls of Gendered Identity.

We’ve all seen the commercials where men sit around at a restaurant together and expound on the many wonders of meat. Burger King, Arby’s, McDonalds, Hardees, and all other such restaurants love advertising their new burgers to a male-centered audience. And they like increasing their portions. A Bigger Meal for a Bigger Male…right? Leave the green stuff to the women. On the surface, this is just advertising. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that advertising is a big form of the media, and-as David Croteau & William Hoynes discuss in Media/Society-the media is a powerful socializing agent: “Media also affect how we learn about our world and interact with one another. That is, mass media are bound up with the process of social relations.” In other words…an ad is not *just* an ad. And men will (whether they realize it or not) internalize the “meat–good, green–bad,” message that these fast food chains are selling them.

Now. Really. Is this healthy?

No, not really. Who can say eating lots of burgers from any of those places is healthy? Remember Super Size Me? That should tell us something about that good hearty meat that men are supposed to consume instead of a salad or another healthier alternative.

Of course, this isn’t the only trait we associate with the alpha male. There’s also athleticism and, to a further degree, aggression. Men are encouraged from their youth to play outside, climb trees, go camping and fishing with dad, and a whole other assortment of things whereas girls are more likely to be encouraged to play with her dolls, play house, and idolize Disney princesses like Ariel from the Little Mermaid. A boy can get into all kinds of scrapes and if he gets into a fight, he might get into some trouble with the parents, but there’s the underlying assumption that, well, he’s a boy and this is what boys do. And even if he doesn’t get into a physical fight, he’s still got his GI Joes to do the warplay.

Now, if a girl got into a fight at school that involved some hitting/punching, she’d more than likely be admonished for her actions and told that she’s less of a girl because of it.

Here’s the big question: Why is it okay for boys to be so aggressive in the first place? What place does aggression really serve in our society that brings it value?

You Tell Me. 2005 Richard Chapman

Point is–social upbringing is a big part of who we are, and it’s as much a part of who we are as are our genes. When we find out if the baby is going to be a boy or girl, the process of socialization begins. The clothes are picked out in pink/blue, the toys chosen for what’s appropriate for a ‘girl’ baby versus a ‘boy’ baby, and so on.

By this very socialization, we are putting children’s identities into boxes and limiting their roles. Boys can be tough and outgoing, but if they so much as shed a tear, they’ll be humiliated by their peers. Girls can play house all they want, but if they want to join the kids playing football or soccer, they’ll be laughed at and told to go away. It’s kinda like the episode in Freaks & Geeks, when geeky kid Bill Haverchuck-the kid who’s always picked last-gets tired of being picked last and asks the question: What if I am good at this but I never got the opportunity to find out?

Thus, we see why socializing our kids as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ is limiting them as people. When we see a young woman on the street and assume her to be the kind of girl who is super sensitive and a natural caregiver, we’re ignoring the fact that she’s an individual. We’re boxing her into our social expectations. So next time you see a girl like that, change your mindset, and consider the fact that if you think she’s the perfect young lady she could very well kick your little arse straight outta the neighborhood.

Likewise, when we assume that junior high boy on the football team is the perfect example of stoicism, we’re ignoring his individuality and boxing him into social expectations. We’re not allowing him room to express emotion and–if he does–we’re wondering what in the world is wrong with him? For anyone to ignore their feelings can be damaging–both to that person and to the people around them. whether we like it or not, what is going on in our lives impacts our feelings which in turn impacts our immediate surroundings. and if we feign stoicism to ignore said feelings, we risk bottling them up which must then be released in a violent, aggressive manner–be it in a violent outburst against someone or the physical act of punching a wall and ending up in the hospital to treat that hand.

So, really…how attractive is it to be trapped in a box of social expectations?

Redefining Gender Through Feminism

All of the stuff I’ve written before is to help lead me to this point: Feminism is good for guys too. I know! Who would’ve thought?

One aspect of feminism is looking at gender through a critical gaze, disassembling it, and reworking it. Feminism encourages all genders to abandon traditional gender roles so that we can embrace who we really are and not be who people expect us to be. Feminism gives men the opportunity to ditch the antiquated notion of ‘hunter/gatherer’ for a more honest realization of self. And believe it or not, a feminist relationship is the best kind.

So here’s the thing, guys, you may not think you’re needed in the sense of the big man on campus, but the opportunities for what you can be when you think outside of the box is enormous. Fly with it.

The Usual Suspects.

Women guitarists are too often overshadowed by their male counterparts. This is a fact that we all know and why we love books like She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and lists like Venus Zine’s Best Female Guitarists of All Time.

But could these books and lists be leaving out some formidable musicians who could, very likely, kick Joan Jett’s rock-tastic abilities out of the water? Could writers/journalists interested in giving women musicians exposure that they haven’t had in the male dominated world of rock-and-roll be ignoring some musicians?

The answer: Hell Yes.

The names on Venus Zine are not unfamiliar. The musicians listed span from electric gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), to country (Rosie Flores), to alternative rock (PJ Harvey) and finally to rock (Joan Jett).

If we were to take this short list seriously, we’d be thinking women musicians don’t go beyond mainstream rock. How Lita Ford didn’t make this list is beyond me.

But this post is about women who aren’t the usual suspects.

And these unusual suspects do turn up in the genres so buried in male domination that many writers forget women exist.


Though the Great Kat has been around for quite a while–her album Beethoven on Speed came out in 1990–you won’t find her in She’s a Rebel or The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls. And you sure won’t find her on a Venus Zine best of female guitarists, despite her long musical background. When it comes right down to it, she can shred like the best of ’em. One need only listen to “Flight of the Bumblebees” to understand just what she can do technically.

And by the way, people give Trans-Siberian a lot of credit for the heavy metal renditions of classical tunes.

Well, The Great Kat had several years on them. Before they were even a group, she was comWagner\'s Warposing metal versions of classical tunes from artists like Beethoven, Back, Pagannini, and others. Where TSO enjoys the complicated orchestral sound, The Great Kat kept it simple: electric guitar & violin.

The Great Kat, born Katherine Thomas, earned a scholarship at Juilliard as a violin student at the age of 15. From there she began to perform as a classical violinist until the realization hit her that classical music was dead.

So began the career of The Great Kat. She’s been named one of the “Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time” by Guitar One magazine.

And yet, though she is, as she herself claims, “fast, furious, and virtuosic” (think six-note-per-second metal), you won’t see her on any lists compiled by Venus Zine or in the index of any of the more popular woman musician friendly books.

But by her very existence she proves that women can make a name for themselves in metal. So if you have a top ten list of favorite guitarists or want to make one, add her to yours and pass the word on.

Metal isn’t just for boys anymore.