A large part of why I started this website and Year Of the Real Black Girl was because of how unhappy I was with the current cultural landscape. True journalism has been swapped out with shock chasing the thirst for clicks. Social media has made icons of the most mundane. The new thought leaders are more confused than the rest of us. Anything adverse to one’s opinion is reduced to “shade” or not “staying woke”. Two worlds that have been the most excruciating to live next to collided and the showdown unnerved me to no end.
Enter, Eddie Huang and the high priestesses of #BlackFeministTwitter. Before I go on to what I hope will be a clear and concise diatribe, please stop here, remove as much bias as possible, and read the discussion between both parties.
::dances to Chaka Khan/Rick James “Slow Dance” while I wait::
Okay, is everyone ready? Let’s go!
I first need to clarify that I generally find Eddie Huang and the ladies of #BlackFeministTwitter to be a problemo. My disdain for them is equal and even in times when I tried to vouch for whatever antics they were up to, my soul was vexed.
For anyone unfamiliar with any of these people (as I believe they mainly exist in NYC and in very specific spaces online), let me give a quick intro. Eddie Huang is a restauranteur here in NYC. He had a show on Vice (aka the devil) and “Fresh Off the Boat” is based on his memoir. BlackGirlDangerous is a very popular blog for “radical” people of color and queer folks, similar to ForHarriet. Kara Brown is a well-known writer at Jezebel. You may remember her from the roundtable I did about #NewBlack. TheTrudz is a writer known on Twitter for her fierce takedowns of people in regards to race and black women. FeministaJones is a popular blogger and along with the other ladies, Twitter famous.
So I was having a discussion last week with a friend about my beef with the visible women on #TeamBlackFeminist. Every point I made was laid out on a platinum platter in the exchange with Eddie Huang. The overarching problem is that these women live exclusively on the defense. There is a constant theme in their tweets, articles, and websites of the black woman as second class citizen. Their mission is to rectify that by any means necessary. More often than not, the means is attack. As a black woman from the inner-city, I have enough discernment to know the difference between attack and asserting your opinion and the only way I can explain their approach is the former.
The fact that I had to type that last sentence brings me to my second point. There is this ironic dance in play where these woman say that they are combatting black female victimization while unconsciously putting on a victim’s garments. If any of them or their following read my sentence about their means being attack, immediately, the call out from them would be that asserting their opinion, which they are justified in having, has been reduced to attacking because the world only sees black women as viscous rottweilers. We see this dance clearly in the Twitter exchanges. BlackGirlDangerous tweets Huang for clarity, even though she knew exactly what study he was referencing. He responds. BGD continues to push the issues and her cronies join in. Huang’s attempts to end the convo fail as the water boarding continues. Seemingly using humor to diffuse the disagreement, the women then accuse Huang of belittling through use of misogyny.
As much as Huang irks my life, I believe he hit the nail on the head when he asked “you trying to get follows?” The dance laid out above is a daily occurrence on the timelines of these women. It’s how they have gained such prominence online and parlayed it into lucrative careers irl. Their fans feed off what I would consider misguided feminism. They often call out issues without a full scope of context. With their visual filter on “the world is anti-black women”, there is an inability to clearly see things as they were intended. We saw this with the Cosmo mag fiasco. #BlackFeministTwitter was calling the mag racist when first of all, the mag was condemning the trend, not the person in them. Furthermore, everyone speaking out against the article did not include that fact that out of the 21 trends being killed off, there were 17 white women in the picture, plus there was a black woman on the “in” side…Nicole Richie. Without the constant streams of outrage, which is the current trend in media, I’m not too sure that their followings would be as big. People currently thrive on sharp judgements and love seeing people be mean to each other. Which speaks to Huang’s other poignant question I always ask myself when these women get RT’d into my timeline, “you trying to argue or understand?”.
Now we all know that trying to explain or gain understanding in 140 characters is pretty close to impossible. When Huang asks to take the convo offline, I’m thanking my lucky stars, because I’m a firm believer in constructive convo. Instead, it’s flipped that an offline conversation would somehow be unsafe. #HowSway As lowly as I think of Huang, I thought it very cavalier that he not only continued to engage with them at all, but that he extended the offer to continue offline aka real life. There was a segment on Melissa Harris Perry’s show last year where the panel discussed online activism. The panel felt that it was the starting point of creating revolution and that sent anger waves throughout the black feminist Twittersphere. MHP and her panel were called elitists for saying that online discourse was just not enough. To reach out to someone only to discuss heavy issues only to refuse offline dialogue makes me question exactly what your motive was from the door.
To wrap this all up (because I could discuss this all day), the inability to have impactful discussions with the women involved in this melee and the women aligned with them is at the crux of this whole thing.. Huang said it perfectly, “this brand of feminism has gotten nowhere because its formulated in ivory tower labs and void of conversation or reality”. Growing up, I had no concept of black women and feminism, Our existence didn’t mirror the white feminists I saw, so this concept of “black feminism” was lost on me until about 3,4 years ago. Once I knew it to be a thing, I became a lurker on these blogs and twitter to learn more about this world. Based on the writing of the above ladies along with another prominent writer in this clique, the brand was one that does not allow for diversity of thought and rests on theory instead of how everyday black women live and exist in this world. It’s as if feminism, womanism have been reduced to a few buzzwords (misogyny, black bodies, unapologetic, problematic…ya’ll know the buzzwords) or like Huang calls out “repeating definitions you learned in a textbook”.
With the platform that these four women have, I truly wish that they would be more conscious about how they discuss real issues, pick the right battles to fight, and were open to opinions outside of their own. It’s a dangerous place to have so much digital power like these women have without an entry point to engage them in conversation that both parties can walk away having learned something. I often wonder if they realize that the belittling and disrespect they speak so fiercely against is exactly how they engage with people who do not share their ideas. I’ve wanted to really have a hard and necessary talk with the women of #BlackFeministTwitter (and those in my personal life) for the last two years about these issues, so it sucks to have of all people, the obnoxious and vapid Eddie Huang be the one to do it. I know that this Twitter beef will only increase the prominence of these women, but I’m glad that someone was finally able to get out all of the things I’ve been holding in for so long for these women I’m supposed to be calling my sisters.