What Do You Think?: Racism in the Queerest, Most Feminist of Places

This picture was taken at a 2011 Slut Walk. I don’t know if it’s the smug grin on her face or just the poster, but I seriously have the urge to yoke this chick up. Ok, so obviously that’s not a real threat, I’m sure she’s lovely and probably smokes a mean bowl. That being said, I wonder about the clarity of her judgment when opting to create and display a sign with this particular John Lennon & Yoko Ono song lyric at a feminist protest.

“Woman is the n-gg-r of the world”

I stared at this photo for awhile trying to organize a mental list of the issues I have with it.  As already mentioned, that grin is the first problem. Second, to be real, why on earth would any white girl want to hold up a sign with the n-word on it?  Isn’t that just for people wearing hooded robes?  Did she just wake up and lose her damn mind? Third, where were her homegirls?!  Did not a single one of her friends think to maybe tell her to try a catchier, less ignorant slogan?  “Hey Molly, could you maybe write something more along the lines of ‘I’m not your bitch, bitch?’”  Finally, is she for real?  Does she really think that all women, Real Housewives and all, experience the injustice and oppression that people of color, specifically African Americans, experience on a daily basis? ::sigh::  I hope not…

We could go into a discussion about the history of the n-word, or the deeply embedded roots of slavery in the United States’ current power structures (and gender politics!) but I won’t play myself.  The Crunk Feminist Collective posted a super tight and explosive article on the Slut Walk and this picture.  In it they delve into the politics of why this slogan is f*cked up, grossly racist and why it exemplifies the difficulty women of color have in trusting movements backed predominantly by white women.  So go show the C.F.C. some love and check out their piece entitled “I Saw the Sign but Did We Really Need a Sign? : Slut Walk and Racism.

Forget John Lennon’s & Yoko Ono, Zora Neale Hurston said it best in her classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God:

The Black Woman is the Mule of the World

Ok, so I’m biased on this one. But I also just wanted to share this picture with the world and with Autostraddle and ask: what do you think?  Does this picture evoke anything out of the ordinary from the usual protest sign?  Tell us your thoughts and let’s open up an honest thread about racism, feminism and all those -isms messing with the world.

Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.

171 Comments

  1. Ugh. It’s a really stupid thing to do, partly just because it invokes this whole oppression olympics thing that is totally unhelpful and not productive. But mostly because no white person has much business using that word, quotation or not.

      • At the same time I see people use those issues all the time as an excuse to be mean spirited. I belong to a couple of minority groups (and I am not going to comment on how it goes in groups I don’t belong to, so this is just my experience) and sometimes there is a feeling among some of my fellows, if you will, that they should be able to say absolutely anything however they feel like saying it and not experience problems because of it. I find that quite frustrating. To me there’s always been a pretty clear difference between shut the fuck up minority person because your totally justified upset is screwing up my shameful sense of privilege and…um, could you not call me an inherently awful human being because I can’t possibly know your pain, and fuck me anyway? No, privileged folk shouldn’t be allowed to live in that metaphorical mansion forever, but no one likes being called a silly motherfucker (for example) to their face.

        • Of course no one likes being called a silly motherfucker, but when you compare the discomfort of being called out on being a silly motherfucker with the chronic discomfort experienced by members of marginalized groups on a daily basis… really?

          Why do folks who are constantly stepped on have to be nice about how they point that out?

          • I mean, to add on to this, I struggled with that for a while. At the end of the day I have to accept that when people are talking about oppression, I don’t get to tell them the correct way to express their legitimate anger… because it’s not about me.

            And the same goes for when I’m addressing people who don’t realize how they’re marginalizing me. If I feel angry enough to say “Fuck you silly motherfuckers, every last one of you.” that’s okay, because my expressing rage over continually being treated like X by a majority group because of whatever status I have to them Is. Not. About. Their. Feelings.

          • I experience marginalized discomfort on a couple of axes, so I have sympathy for the ones I don’t experience too, as much as I can without living it. So, I’m not really judging whether it’s good or not, or what have you. I’ve had times where I just didn’t see the point in anything and where I felt a real hopelessness about whether things could ever change, and a big and ugly fury over it. But:

            I can only speak for me and the things that Other me, but I try and lead with educating and calm. I am not out to judge whether or not anyone else is acting out of appropriate rage. Everyone’s experience belongs to them and so do each individual’s feelings.

            I have people say ignorant shit to me all the time (the latest being a drunken rant at my transgender “choice”) and sometimes I think I can identify people who just want to be cruel, who will never change their minds, and those people deserve my scorn and my non-participation in whatever hate they’re trying to put out there.

            However I think more often than not I encounter people who just don’t know better. I’ve just had experiences in the real world where I was able to have some kind of positive influence on a person who started out really hostile, so I try and remember that. I guess I think anger is one thing but just being abusive is another. I want people to hear a certain message and if I just show the rage without tempering it in to action then I’ve kind of lost my chance to make a point. That’s all just the way I roll, though. I guess I think at a certain point, it’s just more hate and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. For example recently I watched a feminist discussion turn in to outright mockery of male victims. At a certain point, everyone had gone from having a real and needed discussion to being hateful towards victims and I think that’s a level where we’re just taking up the tools of hate. I believe, in my experiences with being marginalized, that picking up the tools of the oppressor is diminishing.

            Again, that’s just me and my experiences with my own shit and I can’t and won’t put that on to anyone else. I can’t say if anyone else is doing that or feeling that but I think there’s something to be said for verbal non violence as well as physical. Non violence doesn’t have to mean making the majority comfortable with the status quo.

            (and for me? showing rage to the kind of person who is already hateful hurts me more than them. I can’t deal with feeding that fire and the erasing shit that comes up with it. I’d rather not engage with a certain mentality at all and spare myself the triggering stuff.)

            Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make a stab at articulating all that.

          • As much as you or I or anyone else tries to make instances into teaching moments it’s still unfair that marginalized folks are put upon to always have to be the bigger person, and the “educator” or what have you. And if you keep it together all the time, more power to you. But you can’t hold someone hating the people whose existence make theirs crappy by way of their privilege against them. I mean, you said something along those lines, but the “I think anger is one thing but just being abusive is another” still sounds tone-argumenty.

            And I’m not talking about victim bashing, that does sound genuinely abusive. I mean in terms of speaking to that dominant group. It’s difficult to stomach but in the areas where I am privileged, I can’t hold people’s legitimate wariness and even hate towards me as a personal thing. I think I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the ways in which I experience oppression and not enough on the ways in which my just being here can oppress others and it’s important to acknowledge that. It’s important to accept that folk’s rage and hate and everything else is legit and that privileged people don’t get to tag that as “abuse.”

          • Yeah, I am not really disagreeing. I do my damndest to be respectful of spaces and conversations and all no matter who is involved, and not to judge others as much as possible. I’m not a saint but I do what I can.

            The tone argument issue, oh boy. Personal story: I had a conversation with this guy I had known for years a little while ago, and he very much tone argument-ed me. God, it was infuriating. He devalued and undermined my opinion and thoughts and everything at every turn and when I get (UNDERSTANDABLY) upset, told me I needed to watch myself and my tone. Oh no no no I don’t. He had absolutely no interest in acknowledging his privilege or how loaded it was for him, with his particular intersectionality, to say those things to me, with mine. People don’t get to just say hateful shit and get away with that. (we’re not friends anymore, let’s say) I am in no way advocating that.

            I do think it’s potentially a bad thing to turn a single person in to a representative, whether for dominant culture or for marginalized culture. The people around me aren’t sign posts for their characteristics and neither am I, and I like to be open to straight people and whatever too, people who aren’t like me, who have more power and so forth, as long as they’re coming with what respect they know how to show and they’re seeking. At the same time I feel some frustration for how it’s like, the majority will look at a single representative (Chaz Bono) and demand that single person carry the weight of an entire world. (transgender people/issues)

            It isn’t fair that we’re forced to advocate for a whole group. Goddamn, I hate how every time I go out in the world as an obviously disabled person, I am bearing that weight for every disabled person, as far as able people are concerned. But I guess I think that’s the way it is for me and I try and do what I can within that without also selling parts of my being in order to be petted by the mainstream. Again, for me personally, engaging too much in anger just makes me feel like shit more than it shames the other guy.

            (Funnily enough as I was writing this, someone on my twitter list started blasting me for calling her on a homophobic comment, and I just walked away after a couple of exchanges. If I keep going around with her, her mind won’t be changed and my day will be lost to the anxiety it will cause. Others have a different experience and that’s ok. I think to really get at the heart of some of these problems, though, we do need to engage and teach the majority. It’s just, no one should get on your ass if you’re not a perfect saintly educator, and no one should be all OMG HOW DARE YOU, YOU UPPITY SO AND SO if you’re saying shit is busted. It’s really more about forging anger in to action, for me.)

  2. Sigh. This has been a subject of hot (and relentless) debate on tumblr for over 72 hours. Do I think her sign is appropriate? Hell no. But for all intensive purposes, let’s go ahead and assume that this girl is not inherently racist. Let’s also go ahead and assume that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were not racists that were intentionally exploiting a black-on-white slander. It can also be said that neither one of those people grew up in America and cannot fully understand the significance of the n-word, especially in the south.

    If we examine the n-word as loosely conceptual, it applies to a people oppressed, slandered, and marginalized. That’s the message. Good message? No, not the best because this is the slanderous word that Yoko Ono chose, with all of the history tied to it. And No, not the best because it almost exclusively applies to people of color. In the sign and the message, it appears as though ‘woman’ is excluding black women and ‘n-gg-r’ is excluding black women as well.

    But I think this girl was trying to draw attention to the loosely conceptual message. Poor delivery, absolutely, but the message was controversial, but like it was 36 years ago. That’s “what the fuck that girl was thinking.”

    I’m not an apologist. I was born and raised in Florida, was granted admission to my high school on “racial imbalance” (I’m caucasian), grew up in a greatly African American area of Florida, and I SEE the poison behind that word, because I see the way it affects those around me. But please, this girl selected this for her sign, because it was controversial (she was right) and she thought it was sending a bold message. It’s been an on-going crucifixion on her behalf in the name of political correctness, and I’m positive that had she understood the issue better, she never would have carried that sign.

    • well, to be fair it’s not that anyone (who’s a writer for this site, at least) is calling this specific girl a racist. you can do something racist, or with racist implications, without BEING “a racist.” people do it every day. and you’re probably right in that her intent wasn’t to hurt any people of color; we can even extend her a huge hypothetical benefit of the doubt and say that she’s not aware of the full implications of that word (although I’d argue that it’s pretty much every informed citizen’s responsibility to be aware of it).

      but in the same way that telling someone their outfit is horrible and then following it up with “i’m just being honest” doesn’t make it okay, using an extremely hurtful word that you have no personal experience of and no earned privilege of using and then saying “well, it was SUPPOSED to be controversial” doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the consequences of that action. Occupy Wall Street is a movement against an almost exclusively white majority ruling class. Does using the n-word offend them or make them think? Do they care about it? or is it only a word that has (really negative and oppressive) meanings to people of color? what did its being ‘controversial’ accomplish? are we closer to financial balance and equity now?

      Just some things to think about.

      • Ah, I wasn’t meaning to imply that anyone was calling the woman a racist. The focus in the general blogosphere is the racist content of the sign. I feel as though this woman wasn’t really aware of her doing something racist, as stupid and speculative as that sounds. This phrase wouldn’t have popped up on any sign any where and neither would the word, had it not been a John Lennon song which used a metaphor (albeit a realllllly crappy/inappropriate/bold one) to express the oppression of women. The motive isn’t really controversy as much as it is an attention-catching controversial message.

        I don’t agree with the action, but I do think that intent needs to be evaluated here.

        I can’t speak for the Wall Street almost exclusively white majority ruling class, but I wouldn’t think that the n-word would garner the same response. Just on basis alone. However, I’m sure there is another Lennon song that someone would find applicable for the Occupy Wall Street movement, definitely.

        • I really DON’T think intent needs to be evaluated in these instances. Don’t use racist epithets to make an unconnected point! Don’t use slurs that damage/have been reclaimed by a minority group if you are not part of that group! If you punch someone in the neck, does it really make it stop hurting if you didn’t mean to punch that hard? It might make them feel a little better, but their neck will still fucking hurt. This is not a tricky thing to figure out!

    • I really, truly think that most people don’t fully realize the consequences of their well-intended speech or actions and I believe equally strongly that intent needs to be taken into account. As a teacher and as a regular citizen I have seen this SO many times: people say or do something attempting to make a point they understand a certain way and don’t see how people might take it amiss.

      One of my students once made mention of a girl who was raped dressing a certain way. My first response was to chew her up one side and down the other, but instead I pointed out the implications of her statement. She was horrified and immediately clarified what she meant. I used it as an object lesson for mindful speech. Another example: I’m Hawaiian and grew up in a southern town that was 99.9% white (my brother and I probably made up the .1%). I would get called “exotic” or “ethnic” all the time. As a compliment. People honestly didn’t realize how that could be othering or offensive. They’d often follow it up with “What pretty eyes!” or “I love your dark hair!” This is a town in which using the word “nigger” is acceptable because *people don’t have any other language for it.* They may be *trying* to confront issues of race in their uneducated, ignorant way, but that’s just what it is–ignorant. They don’t know better, but at least they’re *trying.*

      My philosophy is never to assume people are terribly mindful about what they do or say. Our mission ought to be to educate ignorant people, not cut them down. They’re trying. It’s not going to be perfect and we can’t expect it to be, especially when we decide to cut out the people who may simply not know better.

  3. I would like to personally offer this woman a lesson on analogies. Here are some relevant examples:

    no:no::woman:n-word – INCORRECT

    No:yes::woman:n-word – CORRECT

    No:no::woman:woman – CORRECT

  4. it’s true that stupidity and racism aren’t one in the same. and i say stupidity because just using that word is STUPID, like C’MON….c’moooooonnnnn, it’s just a no brainer. just stay away from the n-word. it doesnt need to be on your hippie protest sign or your ultra cool/im soo aware t-shirt. personally, i don’t think anyone should really use it but there are some things that white people and non-black ethnic people (does that phrase work for everyone? lol) should just STAY AWAY from like the n-word.

    be controversial. but damn, if i was at a feminist rally and i had a sign that said “What do white girls know about oppression?”
    that would be racist, ignorant and i’d hope a few of you would line up to either kick my ass or kick my ass.

    🙂

    it’s just about maintaining a space that is positive and safe for ALL people involved. violating that invalidates the point of the protest.

  5. It’s just a word. A word that has been given way too much power in the name of some BS political correctness (yet only when it serves some of the people some of the time). In this case it was clearly being used in a non-hateful way, to make a point (blunt as it was).

    It is ridiculous when we can’t even say a word, regardless of the context of the conversation in which it is being referenced or used. Using a word to hurt or oppress others is gross and wrong, merely uttering a word, without hateful intent, should not be.

    • the history of the word makes it immediately volatile, and the white woman holding it above her head grinning in such a way is reminiscent of racists and a history that is to be treated with kid gloves. it’s something one should care to learn a lot about before one even begins to talk about the usage of such a baggage laden word.

      it’s not necessarily about the intent, but what may come along with it, the n-word is not a blank slate of a word. it is hurtful and denotes a history of oppression and racism and a way white people used to (some still do) put down and other african americans that is absolutely unacceptable.

      • Ok so I have some questions. Would it matter if the girl holding the sign was African American? Would it matter if the sign used the word pedophilia? How about dyke, wet back, dago or rape or any word which denotes a history of hatred, oppression, degradation or any other atrocity?

        These are just words, context absolutely matters when it comes to words.

        • I think reappropriation of a certain word by communities is fine, but really I don’t think it’s appropriate to use those sorts of words at any time for really any reason (even to prove a point).

          As Emma said down below on the thread, there are so many other words in our language to use, why not use others when they don’t have the connotations those words have? it’s totally unnecessary and simply thoughtless and offensive.

        • But the context is none of those things. The context is a white woman holding up a sign saying “woman is the n*gger of the world.”

          Let’s step back from the imaginary scenario and address the reality of the situation, which is not okay.

    • I don’t disagree, exactly, that simply ‘uttering’ a word is wrong, but as you said, you have to take into account context. You can, at the end of the day, say whatever the fuck you want. Because when people talk about this ‘BS political correctness’, it’s not about outlawing certain words. It’s about the rest of the world being able to criticise your use of that word within it’s context.

      In this context, using the n-word was at best unnecessary and, I think, at worst potentially othering and offensive to a lot of people.

    • The word itself is just one of the problems here. I mean, I’m sure she didn’t put it on her sign with the intent to make a bunch of Black people feel attacked and unsafe, but intent is only part of the equation. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t avoid saying that word because of “BS political correctness”–I don’t say it because it’s an incredibly hateful word and I don’t want to feel it coming out of my mouth.
      But I think the bigger problem is not the word but the message of the sign (and the song). It trivializes the experiences of Black people and it erases the experiences of Black women. Yes, women all over the world are affected by sexism, we can agree on that, but racism and sexism are not the same thing, and to imply (as this sign does) that a White woman experiences, through sexism, what a Black man or woman experiences through racism shows a total ignorance of what racism is and how it works. Also, it ignores the experiences of Black woman who are still, to this day, called n*ggers, by racists, because they’re Black–not “metaphorically” by well-meaning White feminists.

    • It’s not just a word. Although she may be well-intentioned, she still has white privilege… not of any fault of her own, but because of the society we live in.

      That’s why it would not matter if a Black woman has used it. The actual statement’s validity might be debated, but it would not be offensive because she KNOWS what it is to be Black and a woman. No white person can ever know this… that’s not an attack, it’s just a fact- that sort of oppression can’t be fully understood.

      MAYBE she could draw a parallel between the two sorts of oppression… maybe. It’s sketchy because she can’t know the oppression of racism.
      but by using that word, she subsequently denies her privilege and that is a form of racism.

    • Political correctness has a high potential for bullshit. I see the intent, but like any well-intentioned movement or philosophy it can and is taken too far. Silencing/erasing/censoring a word gives it power–I’ll avoid making a geeky Harry Potter reference but you see where I’m going. I’m not here to say who gets to use the word nigger and under what circumstances, if any, but I’ll reiterate the point I made above, that silencing those whose intent may be good but their methods are flawed does no good for anyone.

      • Buuuuut in the seventh Harry Potter book, they have to stop saying Voldemort because there’s a trace on the name and if they say it, the Snatchers will come. And in both this case and in Harry Potter, it’s not about silencing or censorship — it’s about considering the impact that words carry with them, and knowing when not to use them (ie: when you’re a white person appropriating slurs against a racial minority, or when saying a name is going to get you and your loved ones Avada Kedavra’d).

    • No, it is NOT “just a word”, and it is not just “gross”. it is and has historically been used as a weapon. Do you know how many black folks were lynched in this country? Do you know how many are still jailed in disproportionate numbers? This word, it is meant to dehumanize certain folks and it still carries a painful, powerful history. It is NOT okay for white girls (or guys) to use it on protest signs. Period.

    • ITS NOT JUST A WORD. it is a racial epithet. seriously, how dare you trivialize the oppression and violence inherent in the last word that many people heard before the were hung or burned alive? castrated? with body parts kept as souvenirs? or beaten? or raped? or dragged behind a truck? or beaten and then run over with a car? oh, if you don’t know, i’m describing lynchings and the last two i described happened in the LAST THIRTEEN YEARS. it is a word utilized to dehumanize black people.

  6. I have to say I completely disagree with you. The point she was making doesn’t matter. It is totally reprehensible to use a hateful slur towards any minority. By using this word she was hurting and oppressing others, and it doesn’t matter at all that she didn’t intend to. I don’t think it’s ridiculous not to use be able to use a single word. There are a lot of words in our language. There are a lot of ways for a feminist at a feminist rally to say, “this is oppression” without co-opting the oppression of people of colour. I think it’s wrong to hurt someone regardless of the intent.

    • I agree with you 100%. This is, to me, unequivocally wrong. You don’t say you can feel what other people feel for another reason by saying you are the same as them. This also erases the existence of black women! What are they, I ask you? The double n-word? Uggh, I hate ignorant people, who don’t even think about the implications of their actions and feel free to use hateful language with a smile.

        • No, she needs to skipping in the ethereal slut walk with magical fairies as they sprinkle glitter to all that sees while holding that sign so we know she means…fuck, it does not matter.

      • What about people who don’t know any differently, who were never taught how to use sensitive and mindful language? They exist–they honestly don’t see how it could be offensive. Do they deserve your hatred or do they deserve to be educated?

        • In this day and age I can’t see how one WOULDN’T know any differently unless they’ve never been to school (or went outside the house) a day in their lives. Even the dumbest of the dumb knows that the N-word carries excess baggage, so why wouldn’t this chick (who I assume is college educated)?

          • You assume a lot about the girl in the photo and about people in general. It’s still not, in this day and age, a given that someone has a college education and that they’re worldly enough to know what kind of baggage the word comes with. Even if they do, they may not know any other word to use. Have you ever lived in a place where the median level of education is high school or below, that’s largely cut off from big cities, that has virtually no racial or cultural diversity? It’s important to remember that this is still a big part of the middle of the US. It’s hard for you to imagine because you’ve never experienced a place like that. I grew up in one, as a minority, and I can speak to people’s honest ignorance.

            The most important point here is, however, that these people don’t deserve your hatred. They deserve to know better. Sure, some of them will stick by their deeply-ingrained, uninformed beliefs, but not all of them will. They can be allies IF people let them rather than brushing them off.

          • One doesn’t have to be super-worldly to know that the n-word is never appropriate. I know of people who lived in predominately white communities in the midwest who would correct n-word usage in a heartbeat.

            Also- The creator of the sign presumably lives in or around NYC, which is one of the most diverse places in the nation. What is her excuse?

            If a person learned about learned about slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights movement in social studies class, they can put two + two together and figure out that n-word = BAD NAME. It’s that simple.

            And for the record- I don’t hate anyone…I just call out moronic behavior.

          • Really it’s a matter of what cultural experience a person has had. Even if people know it’s not a socially acceptable word, they might hear it all the time and so don’t know any other way to refer to black people, or they aren’t fully aware of the cultural ramifications of the word. Social studies class doesn’t preclude anyone from being ignorant on that score, either. Also, just because someone regularly interacts on the surface with a diverse group of people doesn’t mean that they interact with or understand others’ cultural experiences, either.

            I’m not trying to excuse anyone–I’m just saying that it IS still possible to be that ignorant even when they don’t mean to be.

          • Gotta disagree w/you on this one…I grew up in a place where LGBT people were called everything but the child of God and even with that, the most homophobic of folks knew what not to say around “polite company”.

            Sorry to say but the people you grew up around just *choose* to remain in that ignorant, catatonic state for whatever reason. It’s not like they were born in the 19th or early 20th centuries. Anyone who uses the N-word these days just wants to use that word and get away with it.

          • perhaps i need to allow you the same benefit of the doubt you’re extending to the girl holding the sign…

            but the honest part of me wants to ask you if you’re serious? if there are people living in the united states where there arent any minorities and where people refer to black people using the n-word, you also want me to believe that they use that term the same way one uses “he” or “she”?

            i’m sure there are TONS of people who live in secluded areas where they are the only they of their kind for miles and miles and perhaps those people aren’t as aware of what the cool kids are doing BUT…wow, i’m so astounded that i’m losing my train of thought.

            you’re argument is just unfounded like i can’t even with you right now…

            you’re going to tell us in all earnestness that some people who use the n-bomb to refer to black people might not know it’s a bad thing??

            am i just a crazy minority? cuz i can’t even imagine that to be a true thing these days…maybe in the times of slavery but not now…right?

            i need to go to sleep or smoke some weed or something…cuz i’m just scratching my head right now.

            when i use words, i make sure i know what they mean and how they’re used by others.

            and why are you sticking up for this particular aspect of this argument? why is it so important for you to defend racism? and ignorant disrespect?

            hmm…i think i also need to step away from this for a bit.

          • Am I defending racism by saying that there are, in all honesty, people who are ignorant enough to either not know better than to use racist language or don’t have any other language? How is my argument unfounded when I’ve MET and GROWN UP AROUND these people? I’m a person of color and many a culturally insensitive comment was made in my direction, but these people were not trying to hurt or insult me. They honestly don’t know how else to address the issue of race.

            I’m not saying that people use “nigger” in the same context as they would use a pronoun. I don’t believe I ever implied that. Again, they may be aware or partly aware that it isn’t an appropriate word but it doesn’t occur to them to say “black person” rather than “nigger” because “nigger” is what they hear far, far more often. Nor am I saying that it’s not racist behavior if their intentions or good or if they didn’t know they were being racist. I’m saying it’s honest-to-god ignorant.

            What particular aspect do you think I’m sticking up for? I’m curious, because I’m not sure what you think I’m saying or implying.

          • Wait, so are you saying that it’s the person of color’s job to educate ignorant white people? You know, instead of them actually taking the initiative to educate themselves. I’ve got enough on my plate as it is now I have to educate a bunch of ignorant fucks who don’t even believe their behavior was offensive in the first place.

            Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind sitting down and having a real conversation about race with those kinds of people if I actually thought it would get anywhere. I’ve tried in the past. The problem is that a lot of the time they don’t want to learn. They are too busy bending over backwards to defend their actions and explain to us why WE are being “oversensitive” to actually listen to why what they said and/or did is offensive. I only have so much patience. And it’s not like minorities haven’t already been trying to educate these people for years. Decades. Centuries. Ever consider that we are fucking tired? We have been giving them homework for years. They just won’t do it. We can’t hold your hand forever.

          • Okay, so who is “we” and who is “you” here? If you’re using a hypothetical situation, fine, but if you aren’t, please don’t assume that I’m white, because I’m not.

            As a person who belongs to a couple different minorities, I get tired too. I will walk the hell away from a conversation if I think someone is being willfully ignorant and shitty. But what I’m saying is that not all of these people are willfully ignorant. /I/ want to educate people who are willing to listen. If someone in a racial minority WANTS to educate an ignorant white person, great. If not, that’s not my place to judge.

          • Yes, I’m being hypothetical. No, not everyone is unwilling to learn from their ignorance and those are the people who deserve my time. The ones who are actually remorseful and empathetic when they say something out of line and listen when you explain to them why. In the case of these young ladies, they don’t seem to fall in that category. Going by their own comments on the matter after the fact, they just don’t get it. They have gone on and on in post after post defending their use of the word, what the word means to them as white women, using the “But it’s John Lennon!” defense, implying the word hasn’t been used offensively in years as if racism is over, etc. I just can’t with them anymore. Giving them the benefit of the doubt has long passed now that they have actually had the chance to defend their actions and fucked it up spectacularly.

          • I can’t reply to your comment directly for some reason, so hopefully you can see this.

            I can’t deal with willfully ignorant people or people who do nothing but defend themselves, either. Some people can, but I don’t feel like it’s anybody’s job to have to do it if they’re not willing or able. I’m not disagreeing with you. Hypothetical situation or not, though, it’s not cool to erase MY identity as a person of color by implying that I am not part of the “we” you referenced.

          • “Hypothetical situation or not, though, it’s not cool to erase MY identity as a person of color by implying that I am not part of the “we” you referenced.”

            I wasn’t. Did you read my comment? I said, THEY spend their time defending their actions as if WE(we POCs. That includes yourself) are the oversensitive ones.

          • I did read it and I appreciate the clarification. What I’m saying, though, is that the way your post was phrased in a way that felt invalidating, especially, “Ever consider that we are fucking tired?” I have considered it and I, too, am fucking tired.

            This sounds like a misunderstanding and I’m not trying to bitch at you for it, just wanted you to know where I’m coming from.

        • seriously this is absurd. even back in the days of slavery there were more “polite” terms used to refer to black people. “negros”, “coloreds”, and even “darkies”. if one of these people who are so “uneducated” and impolite in middle america with no exposure to blacks weren’t aware one of the more recent respectful and polictically correct ways to refer to black people, i could have a somewhat limited understanding if they used one of the terms i mentioned above, but for real, n&%ger HAS ALWAYS been a racial epithet. come off it. if you’re not trying to make excuses for willfully ignorant white people to use a racial epithets and not (deservedly) have their asses handed to them then what are you doing? what is your point?

    • Absolutely. People need to accept that your intent means nothing when you’ve actually gone and done something hurtful or damaging.

      You didn’t mean to make anyone feel like shit? Well guess what, you did. So own up to it.

  7. Thanks for this article. That sign/picture just makes me really uncomfortable…..Do they not realize that black women are included when they use the n-word, and that black women have also been rape victims? I don’t understand!

  8. As a black African woman, this sign makes me uncomfortable. But in an environment where the n-word is now ‘mainstream’, it’s not so surprising. The young lady may or may not be racist. Who knows. Not sure I care. There are racist feminists/gays you name it. Sad, but true.

    Nor do I think it’s ok when ‘we’ use the n-word. I live in England and during my childhood 10-15 yrs ago, black kids did not use that word. Now it’s commonplace and it’s clearly due in part to(some) of our music culture. I personally don’t buy the reappriating argument. It hasn’t taken the sting out of for me. If anything, I think it’s worse. It makes it ‘cool’ for unenlightened white people to say it: ‘If you can, why can’t I? No really, why can’t I???’ I’m presuming this is where this young girl’s head is at. A silly mistake, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, just like I didn’t destroy all of my John Mayer redcords a few years ago.

    Let’s teach and not attack each other, life’s too short. X

  9. Sweeping generalization alert… But seriously white people, why does everything have to be about you? I get it, you feel left out because you can’t use certain words or else you’ll seem racist. But instead of just letting us have our own words, y’all always feel the need to step in by co-opting or policing our culture.
    “My [insert minority here] friends say it, why can’t I?”
    “Its a term of endearment!”
    “It’s ironic because I’m not racist, lol!”

    NO.

    I know I seem like a super hard ass right now, but under no circumstances is it okay for a white person to use racial slurs in this day and age. I don’t care how liberal and anti-racist you are, how many black friends you have or how many multicultural couples you chat with at the farmer’s market. Just step back and let us handle our business, for once.

  10. “where were her homegirls?!”
    FOR REAL
    i rely on my friends to be like hey whoa no when i say/do things out of line, and they rely on me.
    i think this person just doesn’t have a personal community of accountability. and that’s a shame, because it would have helped them a lot.

  11. The “it’s just a word” argument is so lame. Is factor jut a word to the 14 yr old that takes their own life because of it? Were this young woman in a women’s studies class or forum, her use of the n word would still be wildly inappropriate. Intelligent minds discuss oppression everyday without using words like spic or wetback.

    Also, um pedophilia is not a slur. So I don’t understand you placing it into his context.

    2- ok this next stuff might be racist or explosive but imma do my best to just be clear. As a WOC, woman of color, I watch my mouth and my actions EVERY second I’m out in the world so that I’m not perceived in a bad light, so that my people aren’t either and so that my behavior doesn’t fall into any negative stereotypes. Seems like some white people need to learn how to tread his earth just as carefully and respectfully as I do…just in case.
    It’s a tricky road but things like not usin the n word should be automatic. Am I makin sense? lol

    Ps- I love this and I truly love all of you for being honest with us.

  12. Talking about racism in queer (female) majority white spaces (but they swear they are inclusive) feels like when someone promises you cookies at the pot luck, you go there expecting cookies and not only you find them gone but they weren’t meant for people like you (a woman of color). You are allowed to stay, just don’t talk too much about your feelings and wait for them to come to you when you want to talk about your feelings. Yet all is not sucky, you might make a friend out of all the people you find yourself hating at the pot-luck.

    AutoStraddle is NOT like that, IT’S AWESOME!

    I am more or less indifferent about the n-word but guess what, IT’S A PRIVILEGE to be indifferent it’s a privilege to not allow a word bring you down when that word is rooted to marginalized people. I am also not surprised about that same sign excludes black women, it’s so Feminism 101: white girl problems (with some women of color issues because we are progressive *honk honk*). It’s shit like that I am not surprised that they had to have a very necessary womanist movement to get away from that bullshit.

    I can’t even be upset because I see this shit so many times I come to expect and just roll my eyes, I guess I am desensitized on some level because I hang out with some many fucking hipsters.

  13. I, personally, don’t ever use the n-word.

    However I do understand the point. While black people are quite often the most oppressed class IN AMERICA, on a global scale, it’s women.

    That’s not to say *American* women suffer the same sort of oppression that African American men and women do. But would anyone argue that African Americans in the US are as oppressed as say, Afghan women? Iranian women? Rwandan women?

    There is an actual world outside of the US. When someone says “of the world”, they are not referring to only Americans. I mean, if you’re arguing that because American “Real Housewives” exists, then women in Asia, Africa, the Middle-East and around the globe as a whole aren’t as oppressed as African Americans…that so doesn’t make sense.

    • OK, I posted first and now I am reading the thread. I think a lot of people are missing the point of the sign. Not saying they can’t find it offensive or think the N-word should just not ever be used, but it seems most of those commenting here and the author have the message going right over their heads. A gold star to you GrrrlRomeo. I think maybe if the sign had quotes around “woman” and the N-word the message would be clearer. But then again, I feel like it’s not so much about the words as it is about who a woman or black person is in these oppressive situations so quote marks might downplay the message.

    • SlutWalk is a largely white, western movement. Arguing that the sign is appropriate because of Rwanda or Afghanistan or Iraq is a strawman. Do you think a movement like SlutWalk could happen in Iraq? No, because those women face very different issues than white American women. Just like African American women face different issues, which makes their relationship to the term ‘slut’ different than a white woman’s. It’s clear from everything else about this movement that it’s based predominantly on the experiences of white western women. This isn’t inherently wrong, but the inability of some participants to acknowledge their privilege, acknowledge that their privilege is fundamental to the way the movement has been formed, and not use racial slurs (really, this part is so freaking easy, come on!) *is* a serious problem.

      • 1. slutwalks have happened across the world, including new delhi and cape town.

        2. slutwalk is not inherently white. i spoke at a slutwalk. i met women of color at a slutwalk. just because a lot of women are white in canada, boston, and london doesn’t mean slutwalk is a “white movement.” the right to be in public space and to wear what you choose and to be who you are without worrying about danger / the threat of danger is not a white ideal.

        3. one stupid white girl with a sign doesn’t make a movement racist. it makes the one stupid white girl with a sign an idiot.

        race in the queer and feminist community is so much more than this sign. i don’t think it’s fair to say slutwalk is the reason this girl was “allowed” to use this sign. i also don’t think it’s fair to assume that every, or even a majority, or even SOME people who go to slutwalks thought that sign was okay, or correct, or fair.

        on a larger scale racism manifests itself in the feminist, womanist, and queer communities. that’s because racism is everywhere.

      • The woman in the picture is a stranger. I don’t know her. I can’t know what she was thinking unless I ask her. She very well could be a privilege denying, clueless, western-centric, white woman. She could also be a globally aware feminist making a ham-handed attempt at a broader point.

        Maybe I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I feel like I have to because of the paradox in assuming the worst. See, if I just assume she’s a moron because she’s a young woman participating in SlutWalk, that makes me the sexist.

        To be clear, I’m not saying black women shouldn’t feel offended or don’t have the right to be angry about words that are used against them.

        If I could talk to this woman, I would say “I see your point. But could you make it in a way that doesn’t alienate/offend black women?” Because I’m also a white woman, I can engage in horizontal oppression. I have a different line to walk…a different role. I have to be more diplomatic about it. To act like n-gger hurts me would be, oddly enough, denying my own white privilege. I’ve been called a n-gger lover a couple of times, but that’s still horizontal oppression which is different than vertical oppression.

        I don’t know where I stand with regards to SlutWalk. I’ve never dressed provocatively and I’ve never been called a slut. I’ve been told I have a pretty face that’s apparently wasted because I’m butch. And worse things like a wannabe man, which is actually kinda transphobic. So, I mean, does that mean I have privilege because I’m not femme and therefore can be sexist in my female masculinity? Or am I just stigmatized because I’m butch? Is it a wash? Is it situational? Can a stigma be twisted into a privilege and vice versa?

  14. the n-word is not okay. it is not ok for a white woman to appropriate. life is a crazycrazy head spinning syrup dripping beautiful, horribly painful, mess- but some things are simple: give respect, get respect. i believe this girl had good intent, to make people take notice and speak, and i bet she knew how the storm of reactions would crash. but its a very serious miss. its not the now we want to create&cultivate. instead the sign/statement separates us (people) and inhibits the true cause of empowering women (all!) and making the general public consider/question culturally normal and historically ingrained harm&hindrance of women. the intent of the sign is only one part of the situation and to excuse the harm it does on the grounds of ignorance is to perpetuate the problem. we must challenge the things in the world with which we do not agree! i will be here supporting you when you do! i am white, and so, i am privileged in ways i will never fully understand and i do not want to take that for granted. i want to use it, to remember all i have, everyday. I want to live my life and be happy, so i can spread it in many ways to others i encounter. to me, again, its simple: one cannot challenge the privilege of others without examining their own. especially glaringly obvious privilege! historical privilege! we are all humans, struggling for something (equality, shelter, love…) and we can connect within that passion. respecting and appreciating diversity does not mean homogenizing. we were born with brains, please please use them. love to all of you for your voices, your feelings are real. and thank you team autostraddle for providing a safe space where we can all discuss issues such as these.
    to all of our futures! set the past on fire, let it burn and we’ll dance right through the night.

  15. I don’t know.

    I kind of feel like…well, a lot of things.

    First that when the word nigger is being used in a quote or whatever, it’s almost worse to censor it. A lot of times I think erasing that word is more to make white people feel better than it is to protect the people it has often been used against. I fully acknowledge that language issues are a thing that I have a lot of deep and complicated feelings about, and really I can’t say I have one easy answer.

    I tend to agree with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF1NUposXVQ

    I have a Black friend who informed me the other day that the Irish are “green niggers” (that is, me) so I feel like even in these communities there’s a lot of ways the word gets used. That felt accurate and validating in a way. It helped us have a pretty real race conversation. I crave realness more than I do censorship, even if people are being offensive. Then again there’s the question of who owns what words and concepts and that makes me all weird inside.

    Lennon was a white guy, and I’ve listened to that song a million times, and still think it’s a semi-appropriate choice, though obvs a white guy choosing to use nigger to describe the plight of women is fraught with like seven kinds of peril.

    I guess I default to the wishes of individual people I talk with. Stuff like protests and the Internet muddies everything because no one can know the context of a situation and then it often turns in to divisive complaining and so on.

    I suppose that’s my disjointed way of saying I am on the fence.

    • Meh. Irish were called “green n*ggers” by OTHER white folk, not people of color, IMHO. So, your “black” friend was repeating a real cultural occurence–a day in age were being Irish meant that you were NOT white, hence you were on the wrong side of the colorline, aka black. But we all know that this racial ideology doesn’t exist as a structure as it once did historically.

      It’s like censoring the word when it comes to “Niggerhead Ranch”…well, that would be erasing a period of time when racist white folk thought it was cute to go around naming locations after an epithet they used against a group of people they despised, considered subhuman, and felt were inferior. Let us not point at that example, however, and say “Look how far we’ve come.” Just because Jim Crow is gone doesn’t mean that our liberal leanings in the world have rid us of all of the implicit biases we have. It’s not realistic.

      Semi-appropriate choice? No, darling. Simply inappropriate. If we want to speak in those terms, “Niggers are the niggers of the world, not women.” Let’s be real. Want to clean it up a bit? Don’t use false analogies. The statement invalidates the experiences of black women, and not just those who are based/centered in the United States. THAT’S realness. Matters of ownership are best left undiscussed; it’s the false analogy and the inherent racism of the statement that is up for debate. Who gives a flying fuck if “whites” or non-blacks shouldn’t use the word.

      What truly matters is what the statement is attempting to say.

      1) There is no “divisive complaining” happening. These incidences are subject to didalogue and critique.
      2) There is no appropriate context for this situation.

      • [quote]Semi-appropriate choice? No, darling. Simply inappropriate. If we want to speak in those terms, “Niggers are the niggers of the world, not women.” Let’s be real.[/quote]

        Exactly.

        • I think it’s interesting (i.e. possibly illustrative of the major point in this discussion) that the phrase was actually coined by Yoko Ono. But since John Lennon was a white dude, he gets all the credit and Yoko Ono gets painted as the Dragon Lady who broke up the Beatles. Racism and sexism, two different things which often interact but are not equivalent.

      • I appreciate the response. It’s certainly an issue I think about a lot and don’t have a fixed opinion on, largely because of my mixed feelings and the sense that I just want to absorb as much as possible in terms of viewpoints before I really try and puzzle out my ideas.

      • Also I want to point out that I wasn’t really saying this discussion right here and right now is becoming divisive. But it is a thing I see a lot of in forums and that bums me out. It was a comment about the Internet perhaps being a limited venue for serious discussion.

        • Don’t be curious, I was typing mad fast and got used to typing “green n***rs” in quotes. I get it; your friend was actually black, etc. Also, I agree, the internet is DEFINITELY a limited venue. Sometimes, however, when these conversations are had, emotions come into play in ways that often prove to be unproductive. Some are labeled as angry, others are hurt or feel attacked, some feel that they have been called racist and shut down. So, I think we ultimately do the best with what we have, but we all learn how to communicate better with each other about issues like these…

      • “If we want to speak in those terms, ‘Niggers are the niggers of the world, not women.’ Let’s be real. Want to clean it up a bit? Don’t use false analogies.”

        I want to ask what you mean by this? Do you mean black people are the N-words of the world? Or N-words (meaning some sort of specific subset of black people?) are the N-words of the world? As a white person, I just would never call a black person an N-word, no matter what I thought of them, so I can’t comment on the latter.

        But on the first, are black people the N-words of the world? Are there parts of the world where blacks are the majority and aren’t oppressed at all? Surely there are. Now, what about women? Are there parts of the world where women are the majority and aren’t oppressed at all? Surely there are not. That is the point this woman holding the sign is making. That’s why the sign says “of the world.” Because it doesn’t matter where you go: Every race is running some government and some country. Every religion is running some government and some country. Every sex? I don’t think so. Unless there is some utopia no one told me about.

        • “Are there parts of the world where blacks are the majority and aren’t oppressed at all? Surely there are.”

          I’m thinking that you missed the part, in history, where colonization and globalization collided (BOOM)! And a shit ton of oppression was unleashed on the world’s black people.

          Rethink that statement.

          • “I’m thinking that you missed the part, in history, where colonization and globalization collided (BOOM)! And a shit ton of oppression was unleashed on the world’s black people.

            Rethink that statement.”

            this.

            Rethink that shit hard (I believe your truly have the mental capacity) with every fiber your intellectual faculty. Seriously do it because it is intense. It is hard because you find yourself accounting, estimating the lives impacted by colonization. Think about every fiber of your being, influenced by a foreign power that you know is not your “own”. Every thought, every curiosity you have about the world is more or less shaped** by people who do not look like you, and dammit probably did not think like your acensestors because they felt it is was “inferior.”

            It’s deep and it’s dark and Gabrielle asked us to be honest and dammit I am. I had to learn my *true* history from my grandmother from Nigeria who lived through British occupation and it’s (Nigerian) freedom and how everything seems “fucked” but she believes in hope through the fruits of her womb. My mother, myself and my sister and brother are the seeds of the hope of my grandmother.

            READ A GODDAMN BOOK ABOUT COLONIZATION OF AFRICA THE CONTINENT NOT THE “COUNTRY.”*

            *I say this with enthusiasm not anger.
            **People did think beyond the colonized paradigm, fyi.

          • Look, I’m not saying that’s not case and I think you’re right. But the point of the sign (which, to be fair is only six words and can’t account for caveats or nuance or leave a little asterisk to account for the partition of Africa) is making a comparison against the status of women and the status of blacks in the world. It may be entirely true that the colonization and the occupation of African nations is still hurting the black people in those countries and blacks are feeling the lingering effects of this oppression. But the point is being black is OK in SOME parts of the world. If you want to have an oppression face off where you aggregate every country, women will lose. As I said, I believe the point of the sign was to use shock and draw attention to the fact that the way racism is viewed in America (very bad) is the reality of women’s standing in the rest of the world (very bad). I don’t think it does this well because anytime you bring race up, a lot of feelings come up and a lot of history comes up, as you’ve shown. And, well, taking the sign as offensive ain’t much of a stretch.

          • I’m also struck by the fact that we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how oppressed black people are/have been, which clearly was not the point of this sign. Another reason it fails in successfully communicating its point.

          • Oh, so she was just reminding us that, globally, women win the oppression olympics.

            Great, i’m glad we’ve cleared that up. I guess we can all go home now.

            *eyeroll*

  16. It’s a shame that nobody grabbed her sign and ripped it up. If I had been there I would have gladly done so. I get the point she’s trying to make but it’s a stupid one.

    And why is that LGBT and feminist groups try to equate themselves with black people. We get it your being discriminated against, but stop with the black struggle comparison. It’s not the same and it never will be but that’s not a bad thing. Differences is what makes the world so beautiful. If we were all the same it would be very boring.

    • you know i thought about that like why didn’t someone rip up her sign but thats when the white privilege thing really popped out for me.
      if any person of color approached her in such a way, like to confront and physically remove the sign from her hands, it’d be perceived as an assault.
      like if i did it, the news headlines would read something like: crazed latina lesbian mauls innocent woman at feminist rally.
      and who the hell would wanna go to jail for that sh*t? we can fight and kill each other but if a white girl gets hurt, we going to jail. (and this isn’t anyone’s fault, this is just how sh*t is, you know?)

      the N-word is one of the only words in the lexicon that can/should/does evoke an immediate physical reaction. kinda of like how spitting on someone is considered an act of aggression…

      so it’s like she’s got her little inflammatory sign that she proudly holds up pretty secure in the knowledge that she’s not going to get her ass kicked by anyone and that is just so obnoxious. her smile beams with the protection of white privilege, privilege that she doesn’t even have to ever acknowledge…

      now i’m rambling again.

      ps- kudos to the lovies that made harry potter references. just when i think nothing will surprise me anymore lol

      • “priveledge that she doesn’t even have to ever acknowledge” Shit, truer words were never spoken. As a pale-even-for-a-white-kid (irish dad- guess which parent I look like?) latina girl, for years I didn’t notice the white priviledge my name and skin tone bought me. When I was little, I actually wished my skin was darker, so that people would acknowledge my ethnicity. It didn’t occur to me until years later that because I was pale, people treated me as JUST a white kid. I don’t have to watch what I say, because people won’t turn around and use it as “proof” that hispanic kids are a certain way. The only input I ever got on how my heritage affected my intelligence was my mom, who mainly told me about how the mayans were fucking geniuses. Honestly, it wasn’t until 7th grade when I sat through a class period long discussion on how creepy and uncivilized the mayans were for piercing their lips (way to intervene, teacher guy) that I fully realized other people didn’t view being hispanic the way I did. That people treat me differently from other hispanic kids. That unlike other latino/as, I could say/do inflammatory things without danger. That if I challenge the white girls, it wouldn’t be on the news.

  17. I think it’s a disgusting sign and its really hard to give someone the benefit of the doubt when they are grinning like that. I’m sure she’s heard of the criticisms I hope she’ll think seriously about it.

    I think when someone compares oppressions they are just trying to say “please take me seriously,” but its never a good thing to do, its lazy and wrong.

  18. I think there are a two ways to take this sign.

    I think it was probably intended to just mean that “woman” is a dirty word around the world. Women are still the most universally oppressed minority (well, it’s probably gays, but they aren’t even allowed to exist in some places and it’s a non-issues). Country to country, “woman” is bad and “woman” means “second-class citizen.” And, shit, sex-selective abortion is a thing — and they ain’t keeping the baby girls. So my initial thought is that the word “nigger” is intended to shock. In America, it’s a bad word, a disgusting word, a hateful word. And there’s the irony that the simple word “woman” is just as bad in some places throughout the world.

    Of course, there’s the other way to take it, which is that the sign only means women are oppressed like black people and the implication that black people are N-words. Then, the next line of thought that conjures is that the sign-holder is equating the struggles of women in the world to the struggles of blacks in America. I do not think this is what the sign intends. For one, it doesn’t make sense. The struggles of women and blacks aren’t the same and while I suppose the implication is N-words in America, it’s not stated, and black people are not oppressed minorities in many other parts of the world. And then, it’s just blatantly racist, which would be a rather counterproductive mixed message.

    Should this sign offend people? I don’t know. For me intent doesn’t appear racist and the use of the N-word seems in fact deliberate to make a very strong point about the status of women. I am not offended. But the shocking language employed here will surely elicit a visceral reaction that will undermine the point of the sign. So I think it’s a fair message, perhaps even clever, but it’s probably not too effective.

    • I hear you completely and I don’t want to take away from your argument or Tiger Gray’s….however, “woman” is not an epithet. It isn’t hateful, it’s not for shock value, it’s a word that we use to describe gendered realities/identities. The first paragraph is not one that helps your argument because even so it attempts to level the playing field between the word “n***r” and the word, “woman.” Not a great place to start.

      Also, where in the world are black people not oppressed? Non-colonized countries? If you point to the continent of Africa (where most people default to), then surely you must point to the African women leaders there too, right?

      The lyric’s/sign’s provocative use of the word “nigger” does not help the cause of women. And again, your entire post still managed to negate the presence of/experience related to black women.

      If there are places were blacks aren’t oppressed in your opinion, but women are, then what do you suppose the experience of black women is?

      Right.
      So this sign STILL had no place at Slutwalk. I am offended. The point of the sign was still not taken. And the message is not fair nor is it effective. If my earlier message wasn’t clear then maybe I should have re-written it as, “Black women are the n***ers of the world”

      Is that more clear, then?

      • I will give you that I think it’s best to choose arguments that don’t force people to wade through a bunch of negative feelings to get to the point. I’m a writer/editor and I get frustrated when I see another editor leave caustic feedback on someone’s work. That’s because I don’t feel you should force a writer to wade through a lot of awful, mean spirited language to get to what may very well be a helpful essential point. It could certainly be (and has been) intelligently argued that the woman’s sign does just that: she may have a valid point about oppression in their somewhere but it’s drowned out by her word choice, thereby diminishing everyone.

        I also believe in a person’s right to say whatever they want. So perhaps this very AS entry is working exactly as intended: the woman puts up a sign that is protected by a certain very basic freedom of expression concept. the message is considered offensive by many. those many speak out with their own messages. I think that’s pretty great, in the end. More discussion is almost always good.

      • I see your point and I think you’ve pointed out why this sign is both ineffective and potentially very offensive.

        But I just think the point was the concept of female vs. black, how black oppression is viewed in America vs. how female oppression is treated around the world. “Nigger” is clearly an offensive word. It feels wrong to type it. But “woman” is not. And yet, we can tell from this sign is that both words are framed through the lens of oppression. Maybe that’s where we are supposed to feel the outrage — black oppression is this deeply hurtful and taboo word that we all know is wrong — the N-word. But female oppression is common, it’s out in the open — “woman.”

        I agree that the white author of this sign probably didn’t consider how black women may view this sign. And I was remiss in not considering it myself. I won’t sit here and argue that the sign is not offensive, because obviously you’re offended and you have every right to be. (I certainly hope nothing I said was offensive.) I think it raises something interesting questions.

        When is it wrong to compare minorities to other minorities? When is it apt, when is it offensive and when is it unfair? I know as a lesbian, I have made comparison to the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Some black people find such comparison offensive. I think they make sense, but I can see why some black people may be bothered by it. But then I felt nothing but disgust and outrage when I’ve seen NAMBLA trying to piggyback on the gay rights movement to make their predatory desires acceptable. Going another direction, anytime a comparison is made to Jews and the Holocaust, I feel personally offended despite not being Jewish and I feel my intelligence is being insulted as someone uses extreme hyperbole. Oppression is not a competition. But it’s easy to make it one.

        Anyway, I’m getting rambly. Thanks for your input. Interesting discussion.

        • You weren’t rambly at all. I enjoyed reading your response and I thank you for fully engaging and reading mine. These discussions are so necessary.

          As someone who is a black queer differently abled working class survivor, I feel some type of way about a lot of the protests happening, “Slut Walk” and “Occupy Wall Street” and I understand their need, their context, and their message.

          It doesn’t however help that I feel so alienated from a lot of these spaces from people being so unwilling to engage in a non-privileged center of discussion. And sometimes, that alienation brings across a critique that I’m sure not most will agree with and I’m not at all arguing that I’m right and that anyone who posts to the contrary is wrong, but that we must think a little harder about the effect, not the intent.

          • …”As someone who is a black queer differently abled working class survivor…”

            I am all of those things except black, and I’m not working class; I live pretty far below the poverty line. Also I am trans. I totally acknowledge being white helps me out. I just look at this idea of dominant white culture and it feels so very far away from me, where I live on a day to day basis mentally, spiritually, what have you. I’ve been shut out from things my entire life, by white peers, by adults, by any number of things/people. I was raised in a very Irish pride kind of way and that had a lot of oppressed identity in it too. I am not trying to weasel out of white privilege; I get a certain dose of that because it kinda comes standard in American life. But god, it’s terribly frustrating to be grouped in with people I don’t feel I have very much in common with, and to see these binaries arise between peoples where it’s white vs black and there’s no hope of clasping hands. I guess I don’t know how to balance those feelings and thoughts so I keep coming back to these discussions trying to work out some kind of truth. I suppose I commiserate, as much as I can, with that feeling of alienation on the things you and I share.

          • “But god, it’s terribly frustrating to be grouped in with people I don’t feel I have very much in common with, and to see these binaries arise between peoples where it’s white vs black and there’s no hope of clasping hands.”

            This is where intersectionality comes into play. I feel this because I am not “black American” but African born but having parents that did VERY well in this country called “America.” My parents worked hard and I think that their ignorance of African-American history helped them (“double consciousness” W.E.B. *fucking* Du Bios). I know I am not the only one feeling this way in these issues of identity and how it serves us in the USA. I really appreciate your comment because it makes me think hard about the complicated feelings I have about this and how important is it to think about intersectionality of identities. Complicated shit is complicated.

          • Thanks for sharing that with me. I appreciate your comment a hell of a lot too. That’s really my point, that complicated shit is complicated and maybe we can’t tell who ANYONE is by looking at them anymore.

            “it makes me think hard about the complicated feelings I have about this and how important is it to think about intersectionality of identities.”

            Word. Right there with you.

  19. Also, that girl would benefit from reading “Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture” by Siobhan Somerville. This would help, perhaps, with the divisive and invalidating analogies. She’s not the only one who’s guilty of them either. If I hear one more person equate the gay marriage movement to the civil right movement–I might very well defenestrate myself.

  20. And ONE more thing–All this talk about intent this and intent that. Lookee here, you can’t off into the big bad world with armed only with your good little intentions. You’ve got to be armed with awareness, vigilance, compassion, and a wholesome commitment to share privilege. Intentions only ever got anyone so far. It is our duty as global citizens to engage beyond the mainstream; beyond the obvious and trivial soundbites.

    A friend and I did some diversity training at a charter school, and when asked to define privilege, this is what we came up with:
    [Privilege is certain sets of unearned or earned benefits that allows us to acquire resources and access to power. It matters to us as a concept because of the division along class, racial, gender, ability, size, and sexuality lines. To acknowledge one’s privilege is not a moral condemnation. Rather, it is a call to action that requires collective work in order to evenly distribute access to power and to resources so that human agency can be reclaimed and claimed by all. Our intention is not to inspire guilt but to inspire action.]

    And so, yes, people are pissed at this young woman’s message, at this movement, that one song–and some are out for blood, I get that. But mostly, this woman/movement needs to be held accountable, because that’s what you DO–when someone errs. Whether they do so with intent or not.

    • I actually very much agree with you. That’s a good description of privilege. I dig it. Intent matters to me ( especially in a face to face setting), but it’s not magic.

      As far as your other point about comparing movements. Lots of us have privileges in one group and are minorities in another avenue and I think rather than diminishing any one cause that fact can be used to bring us all together. But you know, it’s a tough thing because sometimes people try and appropriate everything, right down to the language of oppressed groups, to promote their own agenda and that hurts and can be really insidious.

      Personally I’d rather a cisperson, say, asked me a bold question and did so in potentially offensive language than kept their mouths shut out of fear of being chastised. Maybe their mind won’t change when they hear my answer, but at least I have the opportunity if they speak up. It means I get to speak up too.

      I’m just a seeker, really. The world is very big and complex and so are all the people and interactions in it so at a certain point I just try and be a humble student and listener. I hope we can keep having this discussion.

    • Yes, indeed. I realize, upon further reflection and after reading your comment, that my previous posts may have come off as excusing someone who has good intent from responsibility from their actions, so I’d like to clarify. I consider educating someone as part of holding them accountable. People ought to be allowed to transgress, but they should be asked to learn from their mistakes, and a lot of people need help learning from them.

      Related example: I have a good friend who refuses to acknowledge that she has white middle class privilege because the rest of her life has been legitimately pretty awful. I wish I could make her understand what you said above, that acknowledging privilege doesn’t mean she’s a lesser person. It frustrates me that she does that, but rather than rip her apart for it, I do my best to help her understand and own the fact that it’s easy for her to potentially offensive and invalidating statements like” people are just people” because she’s white. It’s an acknowledgment of institutional privilege, not necessarily personal benefit.

      Responsibility and accountability are of the utmost importance to me. I’ll own my shit and you’d better own yours. But there are barriers to people owning their shit that need to be broken down first.

  21. I am currently taking a women’s studies class on feminist theory on gender and one of the topics we have discussed at length is the intersection of racism and heterosexism. This photo exemplifies the deep ignorance many people have about the ways different kinds of oppression work to support other kinds of oppression. What most people don’t see is the way that heterosexist and racist culture work to uphold each other. I am deeply passionate about feminist issues and it is because of that passion that I am deeply passionate about the threat of racism in our society because the construction of these binaries (woman v man, gay v straight, white v non-white, etc.) serve to keep all of us separate from each other. Using derogatory terms like the n-word does NOTHING to move us past the oppressive nature of binaries that popular culture and society at large promote. Like they say, “United we stand, divided we fall.” I believe that it is the duty of ANYONE who claims to be feminist or queer to seriously challenge these notions and not to support them in any way, shape, or form.

    • …the construction of these binaries (woman v man, gay v straight, white v non-white, etc.) serve to keep all of us separate from each other.

      Word. Being divided is uncool. I often find those with the most power and privilege promote these things knowingly, because it keeps those with relative oppression from working together. In the biggest organized blind community where I live, for example, I’ve often noticed an effort by the white, elderly, rich leadership–who usually make up a very small part of the overall blind community– to keep the majority of us (poor as dirt, often LGBT, of color, having acquired our blindness through avenues other than age, etc) quiet, and, more than that, to be hands off about social justice in general. In my mind you can’t advance, for example, disability rights effectively without advancing everyone’s rights.

  22. As a black woman and someone who actually WAS called a nigger, I really don’t appreciate some clueless middle-class white feminist holding up a sign like that. Nor do I appreciate how black people are in general made out to be the poster child of oppression and OMG ALL THINGS BAD HAPPENS TO US!!!

    This is why I don’t participate in any feminist activities at all.

    • A couple of people have already criticized John and Yoko. The chick still thought she was being cute and clever and wrote it on a sign so no she does not get a pass.

  23. (reposting this from fb…)
    My response is pretty much the same to all white folks who attempt to use this word in an “intelligently offensive” way…basically, is it worth the alienation you are causing? i say, at least get to know people before you start experimenting with the term. otherwise, you just come across as an ignorant fuck, whether you are or not.

  24. Most of my thoughts have already been voiced, far more eloquently than I could have stated them, in the original post and in this comment thread. Basically I don’t think this sign is okay, and I’m glad we’re having a productive dialogue talking about why it’s not okay.

    I think a lot of people will be interested in the official response from the organizer’s of SlutWalkNYC: http://slutwalknyc.com/post/11198191308/to-our-community-we-are-responding-to-the-outcry

    I found it to be a well thought-out and well written response to what has happened. I hope other people find it thought-provoking, too.

    • “We find it saddening that three of our speakers who are trans women of colour, two of whom are Black women, are being erased from public dialogue around SWNYC. This speaks to a deeply rooted cissexism, which we are committed to interrogating. We thank all of our speakers for their passion, for challenging and empowering us.”

      tbank you for posting this. i am glad the voice of slutwalk is being incorporated into this.

  25. I totally agree that she is out of her mind and/or just plain stupid. I’m sure she was thinking of it as a “cool” quote relating to John Lennon, but out of context it’s not cool. I’m not even sure if it’s appropriate IN context. Yoko always did have a taste for the ridiculously melodramatic, even going towards the offensive. I always thought that was an offensive and ridiculous statement to make. Thanks for this article.

  26. I feel like there are really 2 problems with her sign.
    1) It creates an oppression competetition. It leads into this big arguement about whether women have been/are as oppressed as blacks, which (as so many of you have pointed out) ignores the existence of black women.

    2) To those claiming the N-word is just a word: it’s only just a word if you’re white.
    Last year in English, we read Huckleberry Finn. I noticed that whenever we read passaged out loud, almost every white kid said “n***er” when it came up in the passage. Not a single black kid EVER said it. In fact, they got awkward when the white kids said it. Of the white kids who wouldn’t say it, we replaced it with “black” when we read it out. But the black kids? When the black kids read it, they said “slave.”
    The funny thing is, I’d heard a lot of those black kids USE the n-word before, but always in the way lesbians use “dyke.” But once it was in its original context, meaning exactly what it historically meant, they couldn’t say it. It’s like it was too heavy.

  27. Most of the things I wanted to say have already been covered by Luna and Chrissye (thank you; I think you prevented me from having an aggravated anger-induced aneurysm).

    But to recap
    -The sign fails to acknowledge the existence of black women and WOC who face the intersectionality of both racism and sexism (along with anything and everything else).
    -Intentions are often irrelevant especially in discussions of race and power because it’s the hurtful impact that matters.
    -“Are there parts of the world where blacks aren’t oppressed at all?” Um, I don’t even know how to address this, other than to say, please read more books re: colonization, race, global power dynamics, institutionalized racism, imperialism. there is so much out there, please just go look for it, mkay.

    The blog, racialicious.com is an amazing one for those who “don’t get” it.
    These two articles are specifically about the sign
    http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/05/which-women-are-what-now-slutwalk-nyc-and-failures-in-solidarity/
    http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/06/slutwalk-slurs-and-why-feminism-still-has-race-issues/
    and I highly recommend everyone who has engaged to go read them (the comments are usually also very good).

    And for those who tend to “not get it” or utter things like “you’re being oversensitive” or “you’re seeing racism where it’s not there” to check out this article: http://www.racialicious.com/2008/04/16/racism-fatigue/
    and uh this
    http://derailingfordummies.com/

  28. *note – there’ve been rumblings in my ear from SlutWalk-ers that this sign wasn’t even hers and that she held it up for someone to take a picture of it while the owner of the sign (still a Caucasian female) was doing something else. (If I get any solid, quote-worthy info maybe I’ll add it on as an update.)

    That’s like picking up the weapon at a crime scene!

    so that also means that there’s potentially another chick out there deserving of all this critique…

    I guess the debate really lies in the sign itself. If a black woman was holding it, I’d be more confused than angry but it’d still be something important to discuss.

    • Gabrielle,

      Thank you for writing this article and allowing this discussion to exist on Autostraddle. I’ve been following the issue closely since it broke online, but it’s been really nice to have my favorite website deal with it specifically and I feel like I’ve learned from the discussion that has unfolded here at AS (as well as the ones that I’ve read around the rest of the web, but again, AS is my fave so it’s always most appealing to read things here.) As I stated in my last comment, I agree with your article inherently, and also with all the commenters who believe this sign is absolutely not okay in any way or interpretation, but I still feel as though all the commentary has taught me things and forced me to examine my own privilege (as a white woman) and for that I am grateful, though it’s unfortunate that this particular education had to occur from such a hurtful incident.

      Anyway I just wanted to say that I also read that the sign did not belong to the woman holding it: http://www.racialicious.com/2011/10/06/slutwalk-slurs-and-why-feminism-still-has-race-issues/ See: the facebook conversation, particularly the messages from Erin TheBeatles Clark (who apparently made the sign) and Kelly Hannah Peterlinz (who is apparently the lady actually holding it in the pictures.) I’m not sure how relevant it is anymore, who actually made the sign vs. who is holding it in the photo, because you’re right, the debate lies in the sign itself…but I suppose for the sake of reporting it is a somewhat interesting detail.

      Sorry for rambling, thanks again for facilitating the conversation.

      • The amount of denial and derailing in that comment section almost made me sick to my stomach.

        when a commenter said this:
        “you are all jumping to side and rally against the black version of “nigger”
        we are simply rallying against the human version of “nigger””

        I shook in anger. So the black version does not equal the human version? Point proven. Checkmate.

        And none of the accused was willing to acknowledge the impact on BLACK WOMEN (trans* included). NONE. NOT ONE.

        Sometimes the internet makes me want to curl up and cry. And then I step into the real world where people don’t always have forums to think before they finish typing a message, if even they do that. This frustrates me to absolutely no end and if I didn’t no any better, I’d be such a jaded person.

        As one commenter said, “As a BLACK person, I don’t want to be called a nigger. As a black WOMAN, I don’t want to be called a nigger twice. Going for the shock value by using such a charged word eliminates me from the conversation, when to some extent I should be at the center of it.”

        As a black QUEER person, I don’t want to be called any other slur that could apply to that identity.

        With this, I resign from the interwebz for awhile. I send all of my love and solidarity to my sisters of many different colors and my brothers of many different colors and I hope that you all remember self-care and self-recovery when thinking about/discussing these issues openly.

        I have exhausted myself explaining to white women why I should not be invisible (on tumblr mostly). I truly thank you Gabrielle for inciting such an amazing discussion and I’m so glad that our discussions on this board went in a much better direction than that at the Racialicious site/FB.

        be well.

        • If it helps conversing with you was a great experience for me and I felt like this whole discussion here had a lot of great things going for it. No one should be invisible, or erased, or dehumanized, and I am sorry as hell this sign and the sentiment behind it does that. I can sympathize with the feeling of erasure, though I can’t know your specific experience, of course. I feel much the same way you do about the Internet these days, with the sole exception of AS. I was talking over this issue with a friend in real life yesterday, and we both agreed that probably the Internet could only take us so far. Be safe out there. I hope to see you around AS again.

        • Luna, I wish I could give you a hug. Not out of some hallmark-y sympathy shit but because it’d probably make you smile and would feel awesome.

          all of this is so heavy. it’s heavy with the weight of hate, miscommunication, entitlement, resentment…all of the things that keep certain folks from recognizing that everyone is first and foremost a person.

          white privilege/culture will never ever understand certain things. the same way men will never understand certain things about being a woman (insert all appropriate terms for all of the ways people present themselves.)

          men will never understand that just their physical presence is a threat to women. white culture is the same way. it’s this thing that has run amok…even from white people, and it’s gon a little crazy.

          it makes otherwise normal non-threatening people create hazardous spaces for people like us to inhabit.

          also, it’s not our job to educate closed minded people regardless of race. look, i’m puerto rican and i’m involved in a debate that is pretty much between black and white women. even using the term POC kinda breaks down in peoples minds as: black. i’m in this grey othered othered space, you know? and at the same time, i’m still lumped in with a struggle that isn’t wholly mine. i don’t try to educate. i just communicate and if the people i’m communicating with are too busy defending their intent to listen to anything else that’s when the communication needs to stop.

          “a wise man told me don’t argue with fools cuz people from a distance can’t tell who is who”

          jayz – (yeah hova knows what’s up)

          but i think here on AS most of us just want to communicate with each other and learn in a group setting. it’s not just one puerto rican chick, or black chick or white girl explaining to the entire group what our people our like…it’s just us talking about our unique individual selves as we attempt to navigate this fucked up world.

          luna, from the bottom of my heart, i’ve got mad love for you. take the time you need to heal up from all this bullshit. hope to see you around here soon.

      • Wow, these women just don’t get it. I think all of their posts defending their actions come off even worse than the actual holding up of the sign. That is some impressive shit right there.

        Do they really think nobody uses the word “Nigger” offensively anymore and that racism is a thing of the past? Then there is the “But John Lennon wrote it and he’s my hero!” defense. Well, thanks for clearing that up. Whew, you are off the hook white lady. Jesus Christ, are we in the first grade and the “But Jonny did it too!!!” defense is still a get out of jail free card? It didn’t work when you are five and it doesn’t work now.

        All these chicks had to do was apologize for the sign and try to understand why it was offensive to some POC and keep it moving. I get so sick of people who say “I’m sorry you feel offended” instead of “I’m sorry I offended you.” I honestly don’t know how one excepts to actually learn from racist behavior and do better in the future if they don’t think they did anything offensive in the first place and spend all of their time defending said behavior. All that says to me about you is that you don’t actually want to be educated as to why what you did/said is hurtful. Look, when an actual person of color tells you “Hey, that’s really disrespectful” take that under consideration instead of trying to whitesplain to them why they shouldn’t feel disrespected in the first place.

          • OK.
            What I have learned from that website:

            1. Racism against white people acceptable.
            2. Racism against non-white people unacceptable.
            3. White people are funny and ridiculous, let’s all ridicule white people together!
            4. White people are ALL THE SAME and ALL HAVE THE SAME characteristics, thoughts, feelings, opinions and motivations.
            5. We must all think and say that all white people are bad and are ALL THE SAME but we must also not worry about doing that being racist in any way! Lumping people in to one basket using preconceived notions of their identities based upon their RACE….IS NOT RACISM, so it is A-OK!

            Vital stuff.
            Excellent. Now let us all move forward with that truly true, truthful knowledge of the truth.

          • Because I got your response in my email:

            You tell me who made white people a monolithic group. Was it PoC? No. Did PoC allow for the Irish to become white? For the Jewish to become white? Only in that their (thati s, PoC)differences served as a particular color threat which made white ethnic groups mobilize on one side of the colorline against the other.

            A collective participation in first, the dehumanization of blacks, and second, the economic benefits of identifying as white promoted a further acceptance of this identity as an all encompassing one.

            In other words, historically, if you didn’t identify as white, you must have been “colored”, which meant you must be inferior.

            In other words, people of color cannot be blamed for the category of whiteness. That was intentionally created.

            Calling out ignorance of these white protestors was not racism. You sound silly.

            So, in the end, your comment:
            a) proved nothing
            b) added nothing to the discussion
            c) attempted to derail from the conversation at hand
            d) still didn’t allow for a nuanced discussion of the issues that this thread addressed.

            Conclusion: Think a little more critically before you attempt to play the “reverse racism” card. Your inability to add to this discussion is definitely not becoming. Or maybe that wasn’t your intent. No biggie.

            References for you:

            Good luck!

        • She is seriously trying to use the fact that John Lennon, a misogynistic and racist white man, is her hero as justification? Unbelievable. Hey Erin TheBeatles Clark, that song is not an “incredibly moving, feminist song” it is offensive and racist.

  29. My Nonna once told me that if I didn’t understand a word I shouldn’t use it.

    At the time she was talking to a five year old who was saying lots of big words and was making very little sense.

    Now that I am older (and hopefully a little wiser) this sentiment has taken on a larger meaning: if I do not FULLY understand the dictionary definition AND the IMPACT of a word I know that I probably shouldn’t use it.

    Maybe this girl should talk to my Nonna…

  30. Wow, definitely some, deep, thoughtful commentary in this thread. All the things I was going to say were said, which is cool. Thanks for saving me all that typing time, ESP mind-sisters! 😉

    Anyway, sort of tangential, but someone above me mentioned how depressing comments can be on threads that are not on Autostraddle… If you REALLY want to get a dose of Internet depression, just jump on some video game threads and feel your brain explode anytime they try to tackle the “isms.” There were two news stories in the past month–one dealing with potential racism in a game, the other focusing on misogyny in game code–that seriously attracted the worst dregs of the human race into the comment section.

    I think I quit the Internet for about two weeks straight after that.

    Anyway, it’s smart, thoughtful threads like these that make me LOVE Autostraddle. You guys win the Internet!

    (Though your comment box seriously hates my tablet and its virtual keyboard.)

    • Misogyny in game code- I totally got that.
      I did hop on a couple of game forums when DI first came out (whaddaya know, I love games, pre-ordered DI too) and they were pretty terrible, I read 5 comments and I couldn’t read anymore.
      Kinda made me lose some respect for the developers, not that i had much because DI was really, really crappy.
      But it’s really great to see such a diverse group of people here. Especially someone who does play video games that can empathise with the whole “gamer chick” thing,which to be honest, I don’t really know how to react to that term.

      Sorry this had nothing to do with the post but I was just so excited to find a fellow gamer/gamers I had to reply!

      (P.S, I play purna on DI, haha.)

  31. I think the statement on the sign expresses concisely a relevant message. If you know the Yoko Ono song (and the essay it was based on), n— is not being used as a synonym for “black”. It refers to being categorised and given an identity by someone else, and existing for the purposes of supplementing the ruling class. It is saying “woman” is a construct, like “n—-” that is created to oppress those it defines.

    This is relevant in terms of the Slutwalk because it was about autonomy and self-defintion: trying to say that women should be able to dress as they wish without it being seen in terms of men or as relevant to men’s behaviour towards them.

    The parallel to “n—–” (the word, not the ethnic group it refers to) is drawn because oppression and definition of black people is relatively recent with a traceable history and so easily recognised as an oppressive construct, whereas the status of women is frequently either taken for granted or seen as natural or God-given.

    Given this, I think it neither trivialises the struggles of black people, nor excludes black women (given that it is not being used as a synonym for black).

  32. I’d like to pose a question to the Autostraddle community stemming from this image, and this thread.

    I haven’t been a member for too long, but I have been using the site for news and entertainment for a couple years. I’m a student at a small college outside of LA, currently enrolled in a class regarding feminism and anti-racism in online spaces and environments. I’ve been thinking about the issues discussed within the course in regard to Autostraddle. I’ve found Autostraddle to be an overtly feminist space, challenging norms in gender, and classic media representations of women, by posting articles that request thoughtful discussion and contemplation. I’ve also found Autostraddle to remain, for the most part, quiet about issues of race and racism- something dealt with in this post in the form of an open thread.

    I’d like to take advantage of the open thread to pose the question- Do you [members and users] within the Autostraddle community find this site to be quiet about issues of race and racism while dealing openly with other (incredibly important) issues? If so can this site be considered a feminist AND anti-racist space? Does Autostraddle take a stand against racism by bringing race into discussions, in more places than this thread?

    I’d love to hear what you all have to say about this- It’s a topic dear to my heart which I’m hoping to explore and discuss within this open space.

  33. Let’s be totally frank here, and as women we have experienced this with the word “bitch”. Does it not depend on who is expressing what and where?

    Case in point is the scene from “Rush Hour II” when Chris Tucker enters a bar and greets the bartender with, “What up, Negro?”. No problem. Jackie Chan, trying to be cool cheerfully utters the same line and ignites a brawl. Yes, I know it’s Hollywood, but is this not what we are saying? The receiver of the phrase has the right to accept or reject the wording coming form their paradigm.

    • I completely agree with you that is all about context and who is saying it to whom. For the past 3 years or so, I have been fully immersed in a college environment where the MAJORITY is made of people of color. I’ve heard tons of black people calling other blacks and even just normal people “nigga” n shit and they’re okay with it because rap/hiphop culture and reclaiming a word, etc. I’ve also seen some blacks get offended whenever a non-black person said the word, even if it was in the same friendly manner- but usually their reaction was to ask if the offending person not use that word in their presence. There have also been black people I’ve known that didn’t care if their friends- black or not used that word in a friendly way.

      Whenever I hear non-black people get upset over the n-word, I always wonder what gives them that right? They will never know the true extent of the word or feel a cold sweat from the word used as a greeting from some big scary stranger. Hell, there are white people calling other whites nigga in that same homie kinda way. I do understand the desire to fight racism and all, but does anyone else realize that there is a generation of individuals who mostly only hear that word from rap/hiphop music, spoken by blacks? Will these people ever fully comprehend the original extent of the word? Their understanding will mostly come from the reclaimation of this word by people who it once insulted.

      Do I think people other than black people have the right to call blacks “nigga” or so? No. If they’re immersed in that culture and all their friends are black and no one sees it as anything bad, then is it still racist?

      I think this way because I have similar feelings to the words “lesbian” and “dyke”. I absolutely loathe the word “lesbian”, as I’ve only ever heard it spoken in utter disgust (well until you guys<3). When I hear straight people say that word, even in something neutral/descriptive like "lesbian bar" or "oh, you should meet my lesbian friend", that feeling of the word refering to something completely revolting returns. The same applies to the word "dyke", but luckily I've not been around too many individuals who say it. Incidently, the only word I am okay with being called is "homosexual", probably mostly because it is the "scientific" word and also the movie "But I'm A Cheerleader" just attached this gratifying, free, positive feeling to it. So with straights: don't call me a fucking lesbian! However, I do have a small number of (okay, like 2) really close straight friends who I am totally okay with them saying "lesbian" because idk?they're myfriends?!

      Long story short: context. Do we reeeallly know this woman's context? What if she's like, BFF with all them blacks? I understand that's unlikely, but what is racist to some people might not be a big deal to others.

      Words are funny things though, there are not only different meanings, but different feelings attached to them by people. Should we always walk on eggshells and be politically correct and void of emotion? It would seem there is no other way, since it is impossible for someone to change the feelings a word exposes in an individual. There's this quote-
      you know the one-
      about not being able to change the world, so you change yourself instead?

      People are ALWAYS going to be saying words like the n-word or "lesbian". You can't change that. You can however, change what that word means to you, and thus remove any such power some offender would otherwise have by using it. That's like, what reclaimation is, isn't it?

      So okay, back to the picture. It kind of brings forth a very powerful if not devastating image, like if you really think about what it means. The n-word in this case refers to slavery,etc all the abuses suffered at the hands of the white man? Those things are not exclusive to blacks and whites though. I mean, Hitler and the Jews and of the non-white/European variety: the horrid abuses done to the Chinese by the Japanese in World War 2. The murders/hunting of the Aborigine by the early Australian settlers pretty much has similar overtones. Women of every age, color, and status have all suffered similar violence and mistreatment. Hell, even white men have done some fucked up shit to their own kind. Now, this girl probably didn't really understand the full extent of that phrase and probably used it because it was from some Yoko song or whatever and it seemed to make sense to her. Why are we focusing on the race aspect of it? What if she were white and was like, women are the Jews of the world? Or Asian and "women are the Chinese prisoners of the Japanese of the world? Those phrases, while having similar meanings to what n-g-er has in this sentence, do not nearly pull up as powerful of an image. Does it not make sense? Women HAVE been enslaved/abused/denied rights/mutilated/raped/murdered/tortured/etcetc like black individuals in pre-abolition America. And if you even try to deny that, black women are women too! I think the reason some people have an issue with this analogy is because "woman" is seen as one of those not-a-big-deal kind of labels. Like, have you never been completely insulted or brushed off or threatened solely because you were a woman? In some cultures it is a living hell to be born a woman. When the Chinese had their one-child law enacted, do you know how many daughters were aborted or given up for adoption or murdered? WHY? What is wrong with being born female? Why are they not equal to sons? If you think women aren't resented and mistreated with the same intensity as those blacks of the past- then holy crap, gimme some of that kool-aid, I want to to be ignorant and/or forget the unbearable horrors of the world too.

      Oh man. That came out longer than I expected. I kept trying to wrap that up but then MORE FEELINGS. If I have offended you by anything in this post, I apologize. If I have only solidified your opinions or made you question them, then I apologize. There are some things you learn only from experience.

  34. jesus. who cares about this blimbos sign. obviously her judgment is f*cked–look at her! do we really think this chick put any thought into this dumb sign when she couldn’t even pick out a decent shirt to cover her flabby racist parts? this b*tch doesnt deserve the benefit of the doubt…i am seriously more offended by her outfit. are those smileys on her posterboard sign? Hopefully she doesn’t breed.

  35. While I disagree with the way in which she is trying to spread her message it reminds me of the primary sources we are discussing in my American Political Thought class at the moment. During the women’s suffrage movement, leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used correlations between the two groups (women and african-americans) all the time in order to get their message out there. Granted, they were a product of their times, no matter how progressive their views on women. And in many ways during that time the two groups did have similarities in how they were treated, if you look at the political rights of the newly freed african-americans and women. So while she is using a method that does not correspond to today’s general views, she is also not doing anything that the leaders of the women’s movement haven’t been doing for a more than a hundred years.

  36. okay so what this photo says to me:
    I still live in a small town bubble where black people are treated 1920’s style and making an open statement based on my limited knowledge and probably small white\conservative peers/family would make sense and be heard by said community of peers/famiy but since i travelled to a large city with cultures diverse from my own this statement no longer holds the truth and power it once did in an all white setting.
    she most certainly made a dire mistake in comparing the two universally but she is comparing how white people treat black people and how white people treat women from a white perspective (she has no idea from a black perspetive since she has never been black nor has anyone black person ever been white)
    white person perspective: people are paying me less calling me names denying me jobs and basing things on social status/clothing/hair why does this sound familiar? this is how I read/heard black people are treated *begins poorly educated comparison*
    black perpsective: those things aren’t what I read/heard. this is my everyday life. *begins to misconstrue ignorance with viscousness*
    this definitely has to do with perspective.
    perspective is everything anthropology 101

  37. I’m pretty ambivalent about any kind of liberal movement as I come from a small conservative town and still have some weird ideas in my brain.

    I do consider myself a feminist though despite the fact that it is an unpopular term amongst pretty everyone I know and I get attacked fairly frequently for it.

    I find a good deal of this discussion a lot of liberal arts/psycho babble that goes straight over my country bumpkin head.

    I’m below the poverty line and grew up poor. I didn’t get me much of that overpriced book learnin’

    BUT I do know as a rule of thumb, if you wanna seem like one of them backwards ignorant dudes with the confederate flag plastered all over their truck, you might wanna not say the N word.

    This is something that even people from small towns know. -_-

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