Patricia Arquette’s comments at the Oscars have set the internet on fire. Her call to arms for equal pay for women and her commentary that, knowingly or not, added to the much critiqued erasure of WoC within the larger feminist movement as a whole has everyone weighing in. There are a bunch of articles that explain this particular intersectional fail so I don’t want to retread that. What I will speak on is the conversation being had within the progressive/liberal space about how one can critique comments like Arquette’s.
The criticism of critique methodology is nothing new. From cries of Toxic Twitter to dismissals of callouts based on perceived tone or demonstrable anger, there is a constant desire within the liberal space for it to be inclusive but not accountable. To speak for all but for some to be silent. The progressive coalition as is is one that should fight against injustice but simmer down if issues are actively in our own camp.
This morning, for instance, I was told that I attacked Arquette and her defenders. (You can take a look at my Twitter timeline to see what an apparent “attack” look like.) These claims weren’t from the faceless hordes with egg avatars that ride across the Twitter landscape, but from folks I know directly within the progressive community. The happiness they had over Arquette’s very high-profile callout against wage discrimination made it much harder for them to hear those who found the backstage commentary concerning LGBTQ and PoC problematic. “We’re on the same team,” I was told. “We shouldn’t be eating our own,” they exclaimed. The idea that intersectional erasure of Women of Color and LGBTQ women was a byproduct of Arquette’s comments wasn’t just a problem, but another example of a continuous problem within feminism was lost. You can actually drill up and view it from the very common perspective in the US: that the default in America is being white.
The much-vaunted yet clumsily attempted “national conversation on race” hits this snag constantly because in the end, the progressive coalition can always be divided by race. Allies are only allies if their allyship is not at odds with their own wants/desires/causes. This is why the term “ally” has started to be spoken about with negative connotations. This is why the “team” metaphor that is used often in these situations is seen as laughable by some because can we really be a team if at any point in time a significant portion of the team can be told to shut up and stop ruining it for the rest of us?
In an attempt to have a conversation with me, a progressive who disagreed my fairly soft critique of Arquette wrote this in a longer email about why she disagreed:
At this point I’m finding the commentary from Arquette’s defenders more problematic than Arquette herself. Her comments were like a black light for privilege. Yesterday a lot of progressives seemed fine but today they’re glowing like a mutha. I’ve had folks demand I explain to them what the problem is even as I wrote on my feelings on my timeline. This is not how a team should work. And if this is the team that we’re all on then consider this my resignation.’
TWiB! PRIME Ep. #467 | “INTERSECTIONAL, SON.”