Intersectionality or Bullshit: When White Feminists Profit From Women of Color

A mix of roman caps, italic, and uncial calligraphy of Flavia Dzodan's quote, "My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit."

Intersectionality or Bullshit: When White Feminists Profit From Women of Color

A mix of roman caps, italic, and uncial calligraphy of Flavia Dzodan's quote, "My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit."

A few years ago, I read a pow­er­ful arti­cle by Flavia Dzo­dan enti­tled “My Fem­i­nism Will Be Inter­sec­tion­al Or It Will Be Bull­shit.” It res­onat­ed with me, so much so that I chose to cal­li­graph it. That’s some­thing I do very often with phras­es or sen­ti­ments that I believe strong­ly in. I even shared the design with her on Twit­ter, and she seemed very pleased with it. This was, of course, before her can­cer diag­no­sis and inter­net hia­tus.

It was also before it became a meme and took on a life of its own.

This week, I read with great sad­ness and anger about how so many peo­ple took her words and sold them — with nei­ther per­mis­sion from nor com­pen­sa­tion to her.

You see, last year, Fem­i­nist Appar­el saw my design and expressed great inter­est in sell­ing a shirt of it. I was intense­ly uncom­fort­able with this. Yes, I put in the work of draw­ing the let­ters and cre­at­ing the design. But the words were not mine. Nei­ther were they words in a pub­lic work like a book, for which the author had been paid. While I cit­ed the source, I couldn’t in good con­science prof­it off of the words and work of a woman of col­or. Espe­cial­ly in the name of fem­i­nism (and espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the con­text of the arti­cle the phrase came from!).

I didn’t ignore the request from Fem­i­nist Appar­el. Instead, I reached out to Flavia on Face­book to tell her about the inter­est in the design. I told her I was uncom­fort­able mak­ing mon­ey from her work. That if she was okay with the design being sold, I want­ed to make sure all the prof­it went to her, not me. But I also told her if I didn’t hear from her, I would nev­er sell it and it would only become part of my port­fo­lio. I nev­er did hear from her, and so I have nev­er sold it. Ever.

The biggest part of why I’m writ­ing this is because it was an absolute jolt to see my art­work used in a Vox arti­cle cov­er­ing the top­ic. It seems to be used as an exam­ple of some­one appro­pri­at­ing from her work. And I want to be clear that I have not, nor will I ever, accept com­pen­sa­tion for the work of some­one else. I will nev­er sell that piece.

But sec­on­dar­i­ly, I’m angry. I’m angry with the kind of fem­i­nism that will take the words and work of women of col­or and cap­i­tal­ize on them with no recog­ni­tion or offer of com­pen­sa­tion. Par­tic­u­lar­ly steal­ing from women of col­or. Par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the racism that’s always been a dri­ving force in white fem­i­nism.

Look. I’m not a saint. I don’t deserve cook­ies or kudos for how I’ve han­dled inter­est in this design, for being pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with Flavia’s own­er­ship of her words and desir­ing that she receive com­pen­sa­tion for her work rather than me. This is bare min­i­mum decent human behav­ior.

Espe­cial­ly for fem­i­nists who claim to be inter­sec­tion­al when their actions prove, when it comes to inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty, their fem­i­nism is indeed bull­shit.

Posted in Fat Girl,
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