Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Apology and explanation about Twitter battle over #solidarityisforwhitewomen

I was just thrust into a nasty Twitter battle because of a Tweet I sent out, related to #solidarityisforwhitewomen.

One of the members of the YFA asked about the lack of coverage of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen by feminist media outlets. Please see the conversation below. This is someone I know to be truly trying to understand and asked a genuine question to try to learn about racism. In response, another Twitter user responded with anger. Is her anger justified because of all the racism we as WOC face? Absolutely. I wrote about this recently for the One Billion Rising Blog and The Huffington Post. As a Muslim, immigrant, poor, young feminist, I understand all too well why #solidarityisforwhitewomen. I have been told I am a traitor for being Muslim, asked to prove my feminist worth and told to focus on the “real issues” when I bring up inequality in the movement. That is why I am so grateful for the #solidarityisforwhitewomen conversation that has taken the world by storm.

JerinNOW: RT @modemleftist:#solidarityisforwhitewomen biggest event in #fem2 for eons; no fem media will cover b/c all white women11:24am, Aug 14 from HootSuite

lerenzulli: .@JerinNOW @ModemLeftist what about @Feministing? http://t.co/PW1V4Qy96D 11:26am, Aug 14 from Web
@lerenzulli @JerinNOW @feministing You misunderstood. Fem media will NOT speak about the PURGE. WoC who say WW hold all power = banned.
,@ModemLeftist @JerinNOW @feministing what do you mean by the purge?
RT @lerenzulli: ,@ModemLeftist @JerinNOW@feministing That is only ONE outlet. What about the rest? #solidarityisforwhitewomen
Exactly RT @lerenzulli: .@JerinNOW@ModemLeftist @feministing you mean @msmagazine etc?
@JerinNOW @ModemLeftist @feministing It is pretty shamful that there's nothing about it on their blog..
@lerenzulli @JerinNOW @feministing@msmagazine You're not even reading stream to find out. Either ignorant or banal posturing to look good.
.@ModemLeftist @JerinNOW @feministing@msmagazine Neither, just trying to understand
@lerenzulli @JerinNOW @feministing@msmagazine WW posturing about "trying 2 understand" is worthless, already 50k msgs saying the same thing
@JerinNOW @lerenzulli @feministing@msmagazine Not going 2 educate every WW when they are willfully ignoring events. Read stream. Bye.
We need to welcome real questions & not shut them down. Otherwise, it discourages learning RT @ModemLeftist: @lerenzulli @JerinNOW...
JerinNOW: @lerenzulli I am grateful u are asking questions. Please don't stop. U can always ask me & I promise 2 try 2 respond w/ kindness11:42am, Aug 14 from HootSuite
@JerinNOW Thanks! That's how I operate when men ask me actual questions...I know all #fem2don't feel the same way though.

NOWYoungFems Dear WOC sisters, plz don’t respond w/ anger 2 WW #fem2 who r not just posturing but really trying to learn why #solidarityisforwhitewomen

@OHTheMaryD I am sorry if it came across as tone policing. The person who asked the ques, @lerenzulli, is some1 I know & asking genuine ques

I understand why WOC are angry when white women ask us to explain things that can easily be looked up online or read via the Twitter conversations. We are sick of explaining and coddling their feelings. We are tired of feeling excluded and oppressed within a movement that is supposed to include ALL women.

However, since I know the person who asked the question, I know her interest was genuine. She wanted to learn and make things better – not just “banal posturing to look good.” She is a young feminist, like me, and was asking questions because that is the best way she learns – just like me. I have found, repeatedly, if I want change, it's better to respond with understanding and patience than anger - even when it's justified. Anger has a way of turning people off, even if they agree with you. It's one thing to feel angry when I have tried explaining things to someone and they still respond with willful ignorance and racism/classism/etc. It's another to scare people into not asking any questions because they don't want to be vilified or branded as a racist/classist/etc. I was one of two students to propose and help create the sexual-assault policy for half-a-million students. During the two-year process, I had many reasons to be angry and lash out at the powers that be. However, that would not have helped my cause; it would only turn off allies and potential allies.

As I tweeted, I apologize for coming across as tone policing. I am truly sorry. I don’t want to do that for anyone – least of all WOC. However, I ask the same in return from other women – self-proclaimed feminists – who question my intelligence and feminism by saying that I cannot distinguish real friends who are white women from racist women who want me as a “pet WOC.”

The Twitter user who took the most offense, my conversation with her is below. I know much can be lost in digital conversation, with the wrong things being said in the heat of the moment and things being lost in non-verbal cues. In the way I try to handle all conflicts – I tried to turn it into a learning experience by asking to meet with her in person. Her response is below.

The lesson I am taking away from this – don’t give your opinion about how other women should react. It’s never ok, even if you have the best intentions and belong to the same group as the women. 

OHTheMaryD: .@NationalNOW needs 2 get whoever runs the@NOWYoungFems twitter account b/c this tweet:https://t.co/bJGcnJe9Jz is a problem.11:54am, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd @NationalNOW doesn't control our Twitter account. That is the beauty of NOW's independence. I'm a WOC, so ur not speaking to WW12:05pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems calls WOC "sisters" & in the SAME tweet wants to silence us so that we don't "hurt" WW feelings.#solidarityisforwhitewomen12:01pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd How so? It was started by me, a #Muslim #WOC who is still 1/3 leaders. How am I silencing u by asking u 2 listen 2 genuine ques?12:03pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems you're tone policing WOC b/c you don't want to hurt the feelings of WW. You're completely ignoring the racial power imbalance12:05pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd Yes, our anger is justified. But she wasn't asking re anger not being justified. She asked simple ques re lack of media presence12:07pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems it's NOT the responsibility of individual WOC to teach anyone ANYTHING12:09pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd No, but it's my CHOICE as WOC to engage w/ young #fem2 I know, who is truly trying to break#solidarityisforwhitewomen12:11pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems that's YOU'RE personal choice. Don't tell other WOC to do the same thing at the expense of their feelings/emotions12:16pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems @OHTheMaryD We should be able to answer simple ques w/out vilifying young #fem2 who r truly trying to learn. Plz see the convo among us

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd instead of shutting down conversations. In today's US, #racism exists but sometimes harder to fight cuz no one discusses it

OHTheMaryD: @NOWYoungFems I never specified the race of the tweeter b/c it's irrelevant. You're still privileging the feelings of WW over WOC12:10pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd Her race is very relevant. Would u ask the same if she were WOC? Q&A very important in trying to change oppression12:12pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems I was speaking to YOU, not her. As I have stated, yes her race is relevant b/c +12:14pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems the ENTIRE point is that you're privileging the feelings of WW over WOC by tone policing us & expecting us 2 "teach" WW

OHTheMaryD.@NOWYoungFems You're the completely ignoring the very real pain being expressed by your fellow WOC
OHTheMaryD .@NOWYoungFems and telling WOC 2B nicer so that WW can learn. As if there aren't thousands of books + articles + documentaries already
OHTheMaryD@NOWYoungFems have you read any of the other tweets ppl have sent you b/c they all state it very clearly +
OHTheMaryD@NOWYoungFems you're tone policing WOC b/c you don't want to hurt the feelings of WW. You're completely ignoring the racial power imbalance

NOWYoungFems@OHTheMaryD I'm not ignoring it. I'm expressing the same pain as a #Muslim woman almost run over after 9/11. But I also personally know who
@OHTheMaryD was asking ques & as such, didn't appreciate the attack on her - a young #fem2 truly trying to learn
@OHTheMaryD 1 of the reasons I've been able to make change on an institutional level is cuz I have patience to answer serious questions
@OHTheMaryD Plz read the entire conversation & why I sent out that tweet. Then, respond. This is why digital convo is not complete.
@OHTheMaryD And I am speaking that the most progress I have achieved is by patiently listening 2 those who truly want to change
@OHTheMaryD I'm not expecting ANYTHING or policing ANYONE. What has worked 4 me is by listening thru patience. I was asked once, ....
@OHTheMaryD How can I be #Muslim & #fem2? This was by a young #fem2 thru a private #FB msg. I could've gotten angry & told her to ***
@OHTheMaryD Instead, I patiently explained things to her. Not only did she enlighten her views, but became an ally against#Islamophobia

OHTheMaryD: .@NOWYoungFems once again, that was your PERSONAL CHOICE. In that tweet, you told ALL WOC 2B watch their tone so they don't hurt WW feelings12:18pm, Aug 14 from Twitter for iPhone

NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd Duly noted. I removed the tweet. But, as a seasoned activist, I will always encourage others to welcome ques & discussion
@OHTheMaryD I am sorry if it came across as tone policing. The person who asked the ques, @lerenzulli, is some1 I know & asking genuine ques

.@NOWYoungFems remove yourself from my mentions
NOWYoungFems: @ohthemaryd Are you around NY? Why don't we meet in person & discuss this? I have a feeling we agree on end results but w/ different tactics12:27pm, Aug 14 from HootSuite
OHTheMaryD: @NOWYoungFems no & even if I were in NYC, I wouldn't cause myself extra aggravation. For the 2nd time, get out of my mentions

@Sarafrasier @ShawnaDrhonda the person tweeting from the @NOWYoungFems acct is a WOC, but that doesn't ignore the BS of that tweet
I need @The_WFCA to collect @NOWYoungFems over this tweet:twitter.com/nowyoungfems/s…#collectiontimeisnigh

EDIT:
Please note: it was me tweeting on behalf of @nowyoungfems and not the entire organization. My handle is @jerinnow.

I also want to apologize for calling @ohthemaryd angry. Please note, the following is NOT an excuse, but an explanation. I was hurt she would not want to discuss this further offline, especially as a fellow Woman of Color. However, that is her right not to want to engage with me, especially when she was upset about my initial handling of the above. I am truly sorry for messing up twice in a topic close to my heart. All I can do is apologize and promise to be better going forward.

3 comments:

Sophie Andar said...

Jerin, you handled this bravely and wisely. Thank you for modeling patient, open-minded leadership. Thank you for standing your ground firmly but without anger. Thank you for encouraging us to engage in respectful question-aksing and response. Your tone was not policing, and you have no reason to apologize. Please continue to show us how social media can be used toward our collection liberation rather than as a boxing ring that corners us in a display of aggression.

Shane Thomas said...

Before I make my point, I feel I should state that as a straight, cisgender male, I'm not here to start telling you how you should behave in these debates. My intention is to try and be an ally to the WoC who have been angry at some of the ways the #solidarity hashtag has been unpacked.

While some may find the anger from WoC off-putting, the anger isn't indiscriminate. Now, I understand that some may prefer not to react with anger (personally, I always try to remain calm, even when I see bigotry). But that reaction doesn't work for everyone. You may find being angry unhelpful, and that's fine. But that doesn't make it ok to say that others should follow your approach.

So @OHTheMaryD has a right to her anger, and a justifiable one - remember the whole point of the hashtag in the first place. And I imagine she asked you to leave her @ mentions on Twitter because she hasn't the energy to explain what was problematic about your comments. I suspect it's something that she goes through on a daily basis online (the same goes for all marginalised people).

I believe that you're regretful about your comments. But I think the best way to say sorry, is to do just that. Say sorry. We all get things wrong (Lord knows, as a privileged male, I do it plenty). So when one errs, one shouldn't try to dissemble. One should just apologise.

P.S The above isn't an instruction, or an order. It's merely a suggestion for the best way to avoid such a situation occurring in future.

Jerin said...

I want to make something clear. The tweets in question were made by me, @jerinnow. It was not made collectively by @nowyoungfems. We have since decided that any controversial tweets will be made by individual members and not the @nowyoungfems account, not because the members may not agree with the person tweeting, but because we want to make sure there is 100% agreement - and that is difficult.