Sunday, April 12, 2009

Boycotting or Engaging? Strategies for Success

You know, I've been trying to write a particular post for a few days now. It's about how some members of the transgender community have been calling for a boycott of two popular feminist sites.

For some reason, I just haven't been able to get out my feelings about this. I know there has been some disagreement about what sort of strategies are most likely to result in success. Heck, I'm not even sure what "success" would look like in this situation.

I stopped reading Feministing a long time ago. That place has long been a cesspool of white privilege and body privilege. The two Valenti sisters are both assholes who have a long track record of poor treatment towards marginalized groups. I'm not surprised that anyone would want to boycott their site. I've been boycotting it and will continue to do so.

My feelings about Feministe are more complicated. I have asked to guest post there twice and I really appreciated the opportunity to do so. It was really great to be able to discuss disability rights issues with an audience of that size. As much as I wish it weren't so, people with disabilities (PWD) just don't get many chances to do that. That's one reason why I feel less certain that boycotting Feministe is the best decision to make right now.

On the one hand, cisgender women need to show support for those who are relatively more marginalized (i.e. transgender women). A real ally doesn't disappear into the shadows when it comes time to make the tough decisions. I think that those calling for a boycott are making valid arguments. In other words, it's not just some petty gripe.

On the other hand, I do believe that people with disabilities should not have to sacrifice our voice for any reason. I want people to hear about how my sisters and brothers with disabilities are being treated in this country and around the world. I want to be visible in a world that does it's best to warehouse and silence people like me. I want to use every opportunity possible to speak out and say that what is done to us is wrong, even if it won't make anyone change their mind or their actions. Feministe is one of the largest feminist outlets online that allows me to do that.

I'm really conflicted about this. The more I think about it, the more I feel like I need input from others because I'm just not confident about what would be the best thing to do.


GallingGalla said...

well i can only tell you why i decided to boycott feministe. and i want to clarify that i support whatever decision you make, including a decision to continue engaging at feministe, that my long-winded explanation below is not a critique of your thoughts or your ultimate decision.

first, i agree with you that feminsting is a cesspool.

re feministe, i am not completely comfortable with my decision, partly because of what other bloggers have said (particularly queen emily) that boycotts are often reactive and don't accomplish much in the end, and this particular boycott - as it is, so far, confined to two livejournals - is not going to do much to change feministe, i don't think.

so why boycott? because i am tired of defending my right to exist and to self-identity as a (trans) woman, over and over again. because i am tired of seeing every single thread about trans issues, regardless of who starts it, cis or trans, get derailed into cis concerns. because i am tired of having my particular experiences with growing up, and particularly how my experience being severely oppressed in public school, dismissed out-of-hand as illegitimate by self-declared progressives as happened here.

i also have disabilities: asperger's, lifelong depression and anxiety, chronic pain, multiple permanent joint injuries. they are all hidden; no-one can tell that i am disabled when they see me walking down the street. in the thread i linked above, the ableism -- particularly the neurotypicalism -- was as distressful as the cissexism. and again the brutality that i was subject to in school was as much due to my neurodiversity as due to my being trans.

i would have preferred to just withdraw quietly. but i could not let this pass without making a statement, ineffective though it will likely be. it has become a matter of protecting my battered self-esteem; i cannot engage with the cis / neurotypical world with my self-esteem hanging on by a thread.

i hear you on what you are saying on visibility of a group that majority society works hard to invisibilize. perhaps my own internalized ableism -- which is very severe and which i have not been able to get a handle on -- is interfering with my being able to fully understand your viewpoint. but for myself, i have a limited amount of energy to just navigate everyday life in meatspace -- looking for a job, working with other people when i'd rather be working with a machine or looking at rocks, shopping, being in crowds. i don't have much energy anymore to spend on constantly "educating" bloggers / commenters who don't want to be educated, but just want to derail conversations and deny our right to exist and be visible. so am i participating in invisiblelizing myself? probably. but i've not the energy to keep fighting battle after battle.

whatsername said...

Huh. I hadn't heard about this. Thanks for posting!

meeeean queen emily said...

I think it is a difficult one. I'm glad it has been raised, because I think that it's easy to dismiss our concerns when they're seen as only being singular.

Having said that, I've said a number of places that I don't want to define myself reactively to cis feminism, because there are issues, people and resources I may need to engage with. So a boycott doesn't seem the best way for me to spend my energies. And I take your point about platforms, at least re: Feministe.