Comment by Maureen Master:
"Apologies in advance for the very long post.
I think there have been a lot of interesting and useful comments to this discussion. Since many of them seem to be in response to my response to the OP, I would like to clarify and expand a bit on my views. First, I do not think there is anything valuable or productive about baseless charges of racism leveled for the purpose of silencing a particular critique or political position. Quite the opposite, such attacks are counterproductive and do nothing to advance the interests of anyone, and certainly do nothing to advance the interests of women of color. As Martin pointed out such “critiques” are “often motivated by traditional misogyny and antifeminism.” This does not mean that there aren’t very legitimate critiques of racism or exclusion in feminism that deserve attention and careful consideration. I hope that the fact that there are those who are happy to use spurious charges of racism to silence feminists will not be used as an excuse not to listen to sincere criticisms, which are often based on genuine problems, an understanding of which can lead to a better, stronger, more inclusive feminism.
I was careful in my comment to state that we should listen to women of color when they criticize “white feminism.” I did not say, and I do not believe, that we need to listen to porn-loving dudes (white or otherwise) when they claim that their attacks on a radical feminist are being carried out in the interest of protecting, defending or speaking on behalf of women of color. To do so would be absurd. Many of Meghan’s attackers were those very dudes and they should be quickly dismissed along with their misogynistic ulterior motives. As far as the women of color who made this charge, I believe that had they brought forth an argument, it most certainly should have been considered. However, they proceeded from the very weak premise that any criticism of twitterfeminism was inherently racist because some women of color like twitter. This is a rather bizarre assumption that was never explained and must ultimately be dismissed for lack of substance. It is also quite relevant that most, if not all, of the women making this charge were pro-sex industry.
In the short time I have been following some of these exchanges on twitter, I have noticed that baseless charges of racism against radical feminists are part of a wider strategy to discount radical feminism’s critique of the sex industry by painting radical feminists as a homogenous group of pearl-clutching, bourgeois white women who want to both silence women of color and “rescue” non-white, non-Western women from prostitution. This narrative completely discounts and erases the critically important roles of radical women of color in the struggle against sexual exploitation. For example, in the midst of the frenzied (and mindless) twitter assault on Meghan, the radical feminist group Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI) issued a press release condemning the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Bedford case. This press release expressed support for the Nordic model and urged “all those who seek justice, freedom, and equality to view prostitution as a colonial system and as a form of violence against women and girls that must be abolished.” The press release was also published on Feminist Current, but it does not fit with the pro-sex industry lobby that paints radical feminists as only privileged white women so it was ignored by them, as was the position of the Asian Women Coalition ending Prostitution, which also supports the Nordic model and has highlighted the sexualization of racism in prostitution.
When the sex industry lobby paints radical feminism as a bourgeois white women’s movement, they erase Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a woman of color and France’s Minister of Women’s Rights who fought tirelessly to ensure that France adopted the Nordic model; they erase Kamala Devi Harris, a woman of color and San Francisco, California district attorney who has done more than any other official in the United States to educate the public about the reality of prostitution and who passionately opposed efforts to legalize prostitution in San Francisco; they erase the women of Apne Aap, an NGO founded by Indian women in prostitution, which supports the Nordic model and has started a global campaign to oppose the move of some UN agencies’ to promote the decriminalization of pimping and buying sex. The list of women who are erased by the pro-sex industry narrative goes on and on.
Listen to what Alice Walker said in an interview in Ms. Magazine when asked about the resurgence of prostitution in Cuba:
“When I see older white men with these primarily young, educated women of color, it is hard on the spirit. The women are too naive and inexperienced to know that they are engaging in an ancient system that oppresses women. They think of what they’re doing as a lark because it enables them to get a new tube of lipstick or some shampoo. But it’s very dangerous for them.”
Is Alice Walker a moralizing “whorephobe” who is denying young women of color their agency by claiming they are the victims of “false consciousness”? Or is she engaging in a critical and radical analysis of racial and sexual oppression in the institution of prostitution? The sex industry says the former; radical feminism says the latter. But it is in the interest of the sex industry to ignore, erase, or misrepresent, Alice Walker and other radical women of color, because to acknowledge them is to acknowledge that the insights and contributions of radical women of color are vital in the fight against sexual exploitation and that radical women of color bring a critical analysis of racism and colonialism to the discussion that is often otherwise missed.
The fact that this narrative is oft repeated on many corners of the internet is, in my view, not coincidental, but quite intentional. It appeared in the attacks on #twitterfeminism and #sharedgirlhood and reared its ugly head again recently in the hashtag #notyourrescueproject . This narrative means to erase radical women of color. That is its purpose. If the sex industry can characterize feminist opposition to it as coming only from privileged white women who are on a rescue mission, it is much easier for them to claim to speak on behalf of those most affected by the sex industry – i.e., poor women of color.
As you have probably figured out by now I could go on and on, but I will stop here and simply say that for me the erasure of radical women of color is the central issue, as well as the erasure of the voices of survivors, which I have not touched on here but is also critical. I have great sympathy for those who have endured unjustified, defamatory, personal attacks, such as those launched against Meghan and Victoria Brownworth. They were entirely undeserved and both women handled them admirably. But rather than focus on those, I would suggest that radical feminists ensure that the voices of women of color are lifted up in this struggle and that attempts to silence them are called out for what they are – cynical, racist and sexist.”