Valenti’s Feministing stablemate, Courtney Martin, is currently in the running to be the Next Great American Pundit, with a column at the Washington Post up for grabs. On the blog and elsewhere, she’s been promoted on the basis that “we need more feminist voices in the media”.
But I think this misses the point. I’d like Courtney Martin to have a Washington Post column not because she subscribes to a particular philosophical framework, but because she’s an exceptionally good writer and analyst, who thinks about issues in a way that most others don’t, presents her arguments in a nuanced way, and is able to capture visceral emotional truths.
i would NOT like courtney martin to have a washington post column, because she thinks about her issues in a way common to many mainstream internet feminists, which is through a lens of white middle-class college-educated women. frankly, i think there are sufficient representations of that kind of feminism in the mainstream media - valenti appears to be the nytimes’ new darling, with the coverage of her wedding and the recent interview with her in the times magazine - that elide or entirely erase issues of importance to women of color, trans women, women with disabilities, and other women who aren’t exactly like courtney and jessica.
when we have this discussion of whether “feminists” should engage with the mainstream media, we need to keep in mind that the women getting the book deals, getting the campus speaking tours, getting the nytimes interviews and WaPo column auditions, are usually representative of a single kind of feminism that not only fails to include but actively alienates wide swaths of women and feminists. it is, essentially, mainstream feminism engaging with the mainstream media, and feels wildly irrelevant if you’re in one of the groups not included in mainstream feminist discourse.
the jaded hippy wrote a great post recently, reacting to a quote that a feminist from the 70s was shocked to see the struggles regarding intersectionality continuing in mainstream feminism, as “she just shakes her head and is all ‘I thought we worked through all of that years ago! I can’t believe people still aren’t getting it!’”
i think this is a really important point - and i see jessica or courtney’s engagement with mainstream media as continuing, basically, the “same old shit” that creates a saturation of the mainstream feminism that disregards intersectional issues of race, class, sexual orientation, trans status, disability status, etc… and thus harms women.
At first I thought, “well, there’s always new people coming into the movement, they’re n00bs, they have to learn the ropes and they’re making mistakes because they’re n00bs and that’s what n00bs do”. *Dusts off hands* Done! But another thought followed it: “But WHY DON’T the n00bs of today start off with more information? HASN’T all this good work been done and useful knowledge produced? WHY isn’t it sticking?”I mean, us, the generation of knowing how to use computers, and our younger siblings or children, growing up in a world that never didn’t have computers and video games. They know how to use these things. They learn very, very early on how to use this stuff because it’s all around them, it has saturated their daily lives.
So, why are the n00bs of today as seemingly woefully ignorant as the n00bs of forty years ago? That comes to my head as I puzzle about this? Because we don’t have that saturation of info, not at all.
What are we saturated in, growing up? For the most part? The same old shit. That’s what. For as long as we (womanists, feminists, anti-racists, socialists, LGBTQ activists, dis/ability activists etc. etc.) have been doing this work, something is preventing our hard work from becoming part of the social fabric.