Archive for January, 2012

January 25, 2012

what is beyond the academy and citations?

I read this the other day:

How do you properly credit people for inspiring you? I mostly use Tumblr to signal boost and to learn, however, I do write my own shit elsewhere. Of course, I link and cite as necessary…

But that isn’t enough, I don’t think. Because, when it comes to certain things I don’t think academic standards go far enough. Especially not when I’ve seen many instances of people using and relying on the work of PoC (especially Black women and/or trans* folk) without ever truly acknowledging how much they are not only relying on the particular content of whatever post/book/essay/poem they are citing but on methods of analysis, of a certain kind of perspective that would be unavailable to them if not expressed by creative PoC willing to share their lived experiences, their debates, their struggles, their successes, etc…

So, the question I have is: how can I go beyond links/citations and thank you notes? What is beyond? What is the best way to acknowledge the contribution that other people have made to your perspective/world view/life?

And I’m very curious about getting an answer to these questions. Anyone who has been to university will know that your duty is basically finished once you’ve given appropriate credit via a citation/link. But it seems so damn inadequate for trying to credit people with inspiring you and changing your life. Seriously.

So… how do we do this? How do you properly credit someone with opening your eyes and giving you a new way to see the world? Just citing/linking isn’t enough. It really isn’t. I just found this interesting. Because how to do we do this in places beyond academics?

Moreover, why should academia be the gold standard for how to cite things? It is readily apparent that the ivory tower exists within the same system that privileges some and oppresses the Other. How do we shake ourselves free of this trap and move beyond this notion that mere recognition is enough, especially when it comes to the labour of marginalized people.

Because it isn’t enough. Especially when so many of these voices (and others besides) contribute so much to the world but are outside of the normal distribution channels for ideas, such that they cannot profit or even benefit in a substantive way from their labour. And any benefits they get are ephemeral and fleeting. So, how do we credit people for inspiring us? Really?


(a great example is another person in the collective, who has changed my life and inspired me so damn much…)

January 20, 2012

The thing about identity and/or identity politics…

So this post is inspired by this post that is, in part, about how Otherkin can appropriate oppression narratives from other people. This sort of appropriation can even happen between two different, but oppressed, groups, like the infamous declaration that “gay is the new black.” However, the original post points out something interesting about how identities and identity politics can be co-opted. Recently, the Biyuti Collective posted a piece that was partially about the appropriation of the genderqueer identity by cis people with non-gendernormative gender expressions. It also applies to people involved in anti-oppressive politics who also decide to smash the oppressive binary by IDing as genderqueer. Another, but older, example of this is the appropriation of second w*ve/r*df*ms in the lesbian separatist movement, applying to those r*dfems who IDed as lesbian for political reasons.

The problem with these appropriations? And what some privileged people involved in SJ have forgotten? Identity politics is about *identity*. It isn’t about the exact terms and labels being used by individuals at certain points in time. It is about who people *are* and whether or not they are oppressed by this. I’ve seen some Indigenous people say that PoC isn’t a label that they feel represents them. Great. Does this mean that they somehow don’t experience racism for not being white? No. Because they are oppressed for who they are and not what ID term they might be using at the time.

Of course, I started discussing two different kinds of identity appropriation: the appropriation of oppression narratives and the appropriation of ID terms. The first works to dilute the power and impact of identity politics because it allows the notion of oppression to become so widely applicable as to loose all meaning. As Dumb Things White People Say has noted, it is hard to view anything as being true oppression without a body count. Thus, when Otherkin appropriate trans narratives, it aggravates trans* people who are literally suffering violence, death, homelessness, unemployment, etc. for being trans*. And they are suffering regardless of whatever identity term they are using to express themselves.

The appropriation of ID terms for political reasons is problematic for the same reason. It dilutes and obfuscates the impact and freedom experienced by oppressed people finding and using language to express themselves. Suddenly, the it becomes about the language and not the very real people who are suffering and being oppressed. It utterly trivializes the experiences of the people who *are* what they term is expressing. If you are involved in anti-oppressive politics and understand how and why the binary is oppressive this is not a good reason to ID as genderqueer.

And this isn’t about policing IDs. I’m not gonna question any person who self IDs as any of the above terms. I’m not gonna hold them to some normative notion of what it means to be genderqueer. However, they will get the ultimate side eye if I find out that they are using the term without actually being what the term represents. And, believe you me, these people actually do reveal themselves through their own admission. More than anything, this post is about trying to reach the anybody who thinks to themselves, “I believe that x is oppressive, thus I will ID as y.” This is always a mistake.

Why? Because identity politics isn’t about *language*. It is about identity. We all know that language changes and the terms that people use change. It isn’t about the language. First and foremost, it is about who people are and the oppression they experience as a result. Language is important for how we communicate these experiences and with each other, but it is only *one* way that who we are is expressed. Language is important for how we articulate and conceptualize these identities but it is not the identity itself.

Of course, then you might be thinking that if language matters less than the actual identities… Which isn’t true. Language, as limited as it is, is one of the few ways that we have for communicating inner selves to other people. Language becomes increasingly more important if a person finds that other, non-verbal avenues of expression are barred to them. And this is why it still matters, and will always matter, when people appropriate terms that aren’t theirs. It is also why trivializing and diluting the terms is a problem.