In this article, Jezebel Group Think member and blogger, Cate Young, expresses her frustration with white feminist bloggers’ willingness to ignore the issues of race that Miley’s VMA performance raised, in favor of discussing the slut-shaming going on post-performance. After listing some of the problematic racial messages within the performance, Young bluntly states, “it is very clear to me, that Miley thinks that black women’s bodies are to be enjoyed, devalued and put on display for entertainment purposes.” Young goes on to share comments, tweets, and insights, her own and others’ from around the web, on the historical issues of black women’s agency, the sexualization of the black female body, and minstrelsy. Later, she discusses the association of “rachet culture” with a monolithic idea of “black culture” and concludes that, “(i)t is reductive and racist to present one subset of black culture as indicative as the whole.” The article goes on to discuss many other important points and definitely deserves a full read through.
After reading Young’s article, I understood the truth and intelligence of her critique of Miley’s performance and appreciated her taking the time to lay out all the problematic issues from the perspective of a woman of color. To exclude or dismiss intersectional issues of race, class, sexuality, etc. is to diminish the importance and relevancy of third-wave feminism. This is clearly not an issue limited to Young’s experience, either. A plethora of other blog entries by women of color, like “I’m sorry, did my existence hurt your feminism?”, which discusses the lack of concern over race-related issues within “mainstream” feminist discussion of pop culture (re: Miley, Iggy Azalea, Lily Allen, etc.), or “Why We Can’t Have Black Feminist Pop Icons”, which discusses how “mainstream feminism shuns Black celebrities for the very things they laud their White peers for,” makes one question how far the struggle to create an inclusionary feminism has really come since black suffragists were made to walk separate from their white counterparts in the 1913 suffrage parade.
What can a white feminist do to increase the awareness of issues that go beyond our own lived experiences? Jamie Nesbitt Golden’s advice on how to avoid becoming a “performance feminist” seems to offer the best insight:
“As the famed poet Dewayne Michael Carter once said, Real Gs move in silence, like lasagna. Let your work speak for you. When advocating on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, remember that they are human beings, not a cause to be advanced; let them tell their own stories in their own words. Use your online platform to facilitate discussions in good faith. If someone calls you out, graciously accept the criticism and learn from it. Talk less. Listen more.”
So, what does everyone think of the Miley controversy or other recent issues of cultural appropriation? I know the Miley performance is a little old, as fast as the news cycles move these days, but did it hit your radar after the VMAs?