Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One More Thing, Ashley...

This week actress Ashley Judd took some heat for describing hip-hop as rape culture. There have been many nuanced responses and conversations in the blogosphere and social media such as Twitter, especially from Black feminists like the Crunk Feminist Collective. (And infuriatingly unsurprising that it took two paragraphs from one famous White woman's memoir to spark the kind of conversation on a topic that Black women have written reams about-- academically, journalistically, creatively, and, yes, personally since Day One.) When others handle it, I prefer to just acknowledge, retweet, co-sign and otherwise fall back. No need to repeat what others have said so well if there is nothing more I can add.

However, as I read Judd's reflection on the response to her controversial remarks, there was one thing she said that I felt merited a reply that I had yet to see. She wrote, "In those 2 paragraphs, I was addressing gender and gender only. However, the outcry focused so much on race (and at times class) that it was naive of me to assume that everyone knew I was discussing only gender. My favorite feminist teachers, such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, would probably have admonished me, as they write that gender, class, and race are inextricably bound in the conversation about gender equality. My amends for thinking you could read my mind and know I was only talking about gender. I understand why you were offended."

While I found the rest of her blog thoughtful and sincere, I whiffed a bit of white privilege around these lines. Perhaps a heavy dose of class privilege and/or celebrity hubris is at fault here as well. How else does one explain how Judd can at once acknowledge the importance of intersectionality and immediately dismiss it? It put a backhanded spin on what otherwise read like a genuine if imperfect attempt to take responsibility.

And because one cannot post comments on Judd's reflection, I took to Twitter to gently express to her that there were a few more lessons to be learned from this experience:

RT @ashleytjudd: Just posted reflections on controversy re: 2 paragraphs in my book, "All That Is Bitter & Sweet".

I appreciate @ashleytjudd 's reflections and believe they are sincere. If there's one note where I'd push back and ask her to reflect more+

is the notion that 1 can ever talk "Just about gender." @ashleytjudd cites @bellhooks as one of her teachers , and yet in her work+

@bellhooks never fails to address intersectionality. If you do not take into account race, class, etc. when discussing gender+

then one is only speaking about the experience of a narrow group of women. And if we're critiquing rap, then 1 speaks specifically about+

and Black women. Thus, there's no talking "just" about gender. So @ashleytjudd, I hope that you will revisit some of @bellhook 's +

other Black feminist discussions of intersectionality bc the failure to understand that a woman's experience of gender is shaped+

make girls and women understand why they should embrace feminist praxis. Failure of White middle-class feminists 2 embrace intersectionality

is why so many women of color dismiss feminism as a White women's racket and WOC feminists dismissed as race traitors.

And as we say on Twitter #thatisall #fornow. Well, one more thing. This sure does make me appreciate more the White feminists I know who "get" it, many who happen to be hip-hop heads themselves such as JLove Calderon and Marcella Runell Hall to name just two. I have no doubt that they've read, cited and even exposed others to the works of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Tricia Rose, Gwendolyn Pough, Joan Morgan and other women of color feminists. I hope this experience will inspire Ashley Judd to do the same.

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