Friday, April 25, 2008

Plagiarism, Publishing, and Black Feminism

There something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear...
— Buffalo Springfield

Admittedly, I'm on a different trip than most feminist bloggers. My focus is on books, reading, the book & publishing industry, and the like. So the firestorm on the Woman of Color (WoC) blogs that is brewing is a bit difficult for me to suss out. But there is something very big brewing there and from what I can gleam, it ain't pretty. I'm trying to piece this together so bear with me ...

First, it appears that the blogger Brownfemipower has accused a white feminist blogger/writer, Amanda Marcotte, of plagiarizing her work. After many attempts to gain recognition of the afore mentioned plagiarism Brownfemipower took her blog down.

Now it seems that Amanda Marcotte has gotten herself a book deal with Seal press. I know of them. They are a decent feminist press and have published books from Edwidge Danticat and others. Thus, the WoC bloggers have decided to take action. Some being professors have taken to boycotting Seal press and standing together to speak out about this outrage.

To which Amanda Marcotte and Seal press has made a response. Even Salon Broadsheet has chimed in.

Have I got everything?

It sounds to me that it is high time for an independent black feminist press. I'm just sayin'...

This does, in a strange way, tie into the current political campaign. People of Color have for the last 30 to 40 years been trying to work with the white liberal establishment thinking, wrongheadedly, that they are in someway more receptive to our cause. It has now become clear to me that power only respects power. We must come to the table with equal strength. Which means we need our own institutions funded and maintained on a separate basis from the white liberal establishment. White supremacy is white supremacy. Pure and simple. They will be our friends when it's convenient to them and use us likewise, a la Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Blogger Jeff Fecke (a white guy, BTW) summed this up well in his post:
"The Blindness of Privilege" —

One can't attack the patriarchy with racism, any more than one can undo racial oppression with sexism ... We cannot as a movement achieve equality for women without achieving equality for women of color. We cannot get to a more egalitarian society by marginalizing groups. And we must work assiduously to hold allies to a higher standard.

Incredibly, this just got uglier. Here is a link to the images from Amanda Marcotte's upcoming book.


CircleReader said...

Ouch. (Not that "ouch" is necessarily a bad thing to encounter.)

So, Jenn, how would you say this fits into "the conversation?" What do we do when we realize that the liberal, progressive humans are still only human? How do we avoid the traps of trying to speak to each other as equals when the real world is unequal?

(Sound's like its time to pick up You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down again...)

jenn said...

This fits into the "conversation" very well thank you. It fits in by saying that people of color can no longer think that having "the conversation" without an equal power base is going to work. The world is unequal but there are ways to even the playing field. Maybe it's the Caribbean in me, but I think that its more that overdue for more black or PoC institutions like presses and such that we actually support. From having a bookstore I know how much and how little we give to each other in our own communities. And also how much we support outside our communities. As we can see from the Seal press episode, this does not work.

Al said...

Great piece. It's one I share your take on. Though I wanted to offer one clarification that has freqently been mischaracterized, and that is that bfp accused Amanda of plagarism. She didn't. She also didn't accuse her of appropriation.

What she did say, was that it was unacceptable for the article to be written and not somehow point to the wider body of lengthy and personal work written by an entire activist community who's voices which are often not heard, were dismissively silenced. routinely silenced was unfairly silenced.

I think it's telling how unfairly that dynamic played out in this case. At any rate, just wanted to point that out.


CircleReader said...

Thanks for your response, Jenn, and for the updates, including the link to the "Blindness of Priveledge" post.

Reading through this whole Jungle mess via your links and others' is an education in itself. I'll try to take some of the lessons along in my future book-blogging.

Different trip or not, I'm grateful to you for sussing this out for your readers.

jenn said...


Your post on this situation is the most eloquent that I've read to date. Thank you!

Updates from the Land of White Feminist Blunders

Amanda, how is it that in an online and real life activist culture which specifically deals with the issue of immigration and sexual explotation, and with the majority of people who work for, and fight for those organizations being the exact people this issue effects, how is it possible that a major article by a popular, well read and recognized feminist, has completely ignored and denied that entire community?

By not linking, by not referencing, and by failing to mention that community, you not only invalidated them, you stole their voice and used it for your gain. Make no mistake, there are years and years of documented work and historical precedent done by local grassroots activists. The offense is not just “one woman who writes one blog who is throwing a hissy fit”. That is a complete mis characterization and is grossly unfair to not only that woman, but more so, it is abuse of that community that your derailing side arguments over semantics and picking the best "framing", for your supposed offense. Once again Amanda, your actions and aggressive disregard of the way this issue plays out, has served to ignore and invalidate minority experience.

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