Welcome to Push(back) at the Intersections, an exploration of responses to feminist responses to pop culture.
Yes, that’s right. Bitch very kindly invited me back to guest blog about one of my favorite things: meta-analysis of pop culture critiques. I’m interested in how people interact with feminist critiques of pop culture, and I’m not just looking at nonfeminist responses, but also feminist ones. Some of the strongest pushback when it comes to feminist explorations of pop culture comes from within the feminist community, rather than from outside it.
Push(back) at the Intersections is about challenging dominant narratives, starting with ‘feminists united against the world.’ There are, as we know, all kinds of schisms within feminist communities, many of which play out over old and tired ground, including in the world of pop culture discussions.
Feminism has a problematic history. A profound lack of awareness about this history means that we engage in the same dynamics over and over again. For example, the failure of many nondisabled feminists to recognize the history of eugenics in the reproductive rights movement means that it’s hard to understand why disabled feminists feel marginalized by the mainstream feminist and reproductive rights movements. Likewise, a lack of awareness about the history of transphobia in the feminist movement leads many cisgendered feminists to stumble unawares into very loaded conversations.
The only way we can break free of this is to examine it, and that’s what I’ll be doing for the next eight weeks, Bitch-style, along with some good old fashioned pop culture analysis. I hope that all of us deepen our understanding of the history of the feminist movement and apply that understanding to the way in which we assess, evaluate, and respond to pop culture critiques.
I’ve found that many people find discussions of pop culture accessible, while they have difficulty engaging with discussions about structural issues. People feel comfortable getting their teeth into some pop culture analysis because it’s on familiar ground and we all view ourselves as authorities on pop culture since we all consume it.
I’m going to take advantage of this to explore some complicated and tough issues. My goal is that you’re going to come for my pop culture and stay for my structural analysis, and that somewhere along the way we may have an opportunity to learn things together. Am I going to change the feminist movement forever? No. After all, I am far from the first person to challenge widely accepted feminist narratives and I will be far from the last. Perhaps I will water some of the seeds planted by people who have gone before me to encourage some ideas to take root.
It’s time to turn the lens onto how we respond, not to pop culture itself, but to critiques of pop culture. Why do nonfeminists push back so hard against feminist critiques identifying sexism and problematic social attitudes about women in pop culture? Why do feminists resist critiques of their favorite pop culture when those critiques are grounded in things like disability activism?
Why do discussions of pop culture attract such intense and high-running emotions? Like other folks who delve into pop culture, I’ve been sent rape threats and death threats. I’ve received scores of generally not-nice comments. People have attempted to hack my server. None of these things have succeeded in shutting me up, but it’s worth pondering why it is that they happen at all, and especially why it is that some of these things have come from fellow feminists. Indeed, some of the most horrific things that have been aimed in my direction have come from people claiming to be ‘on my side.’
Why are we continuing to allow certain people and perspectives to dominate the feminist movement and define feminism? Why are certain concerns deemed ‘more important’ when it comes to feminist responses to pop culture?
A little about your fearless guest blogger:
I’m a fat, queer, disabled, genderqueer person. (Ou’s my pronoun—don’t wear it out—and, yes, I identify under the trans* umbrella and as a transgendered person as well as a genderqueer person.) I previously blogged at Bitch with the Transcontinental Disability Choir, which included some of my fellow FWD/Forward contributors. We explored the role of disability in pop culture and more generally discussed disability rights issues, and there will probably be some more of that in Push(back) at the Intersections. In addition to writing at FWD/Forward, I also maintain a personal website, this ain’t livin’, and can be found on Twitter as @sesmithwrites.
I’m very thankful to the crew at Bitch for inviting me back, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with y’all again!