(The Root) — Online feminist publication Feministing drew criticism on Twitter last night when black feminists and allies charged that the site used the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag in promotional materials for an event without the creator's permission.
Black feminist writer Mikki Kendall told The Root that she created the hashtag "to call out the problem of mainstream feminism sidelining the concerns and safety of marginalize women." Her efforts resulted in one of the year's most visible conversations about black and brown feminism, and also inspired lots of important writing on the issue (like this and this).
Here's what went down: Last week, Now-NYC held a panel discussion called "Activist Night: What Is Solidarity For Women of Color" and used #solidarityisforwhitewomen in the event description on Facebook. Lori Adelman, Feministing's executive director in charge of partnerships and outreach, attended and wrote about the panel.
Confusion arose when some tweeters took the write-up to mean that Feministing had hosted a panel event on #solidarityisforwhitewomen without Kendall's involvement, a claim that Feministing denied in an apology (which also drew criticism because some thought it followed the template of a nonapology):
Again, Feministing has not ever hosted a panel on #solidarityisforwhitewomen. We are firmly against erasing the work of Mikki Kendall or anyone else who has engaged this discussion, which we have covered from early on.
Maureen Jahmed from Now-NYC, the actual host of the event, apologized for using the hashtag in the Facebook language, and also said she invited Kendall to the event on Twitter. (Screenshot provided by Kendall.)
Kendall missed the invite. "It doesn't come off as an invite to be on a panel," she told The Root.
Then Feministing held a Google Hangout yesterday that also touched on #solidarityisforwhitewomen a great deal. Kendall wasn't aware of that event, either, she said.
But for her and her supporters, the melee is not just about the event, the missed invitations or the subsequent write-up. It's about a trend she finds troubling: the co-opting of her work by mainstream feminism for use that doesn't stay true to what Kendall intended for it. She told The Root in an email:
I started the [#solidarityisforwhitewomen] to call out the problem of mainstream feminism sidelining the concerns and safety of marginalized women. It's an old problem. The tag was great for the marginalized. But now it seems it's being commodified to suit the same people who were complicit in the problems it references. Now they're talking branding and setting up meetings and events. And even if those things don't directly pay, they do help people get paid.
She elaborates on Twitter:
The controversy raised questions about Feministing's commitment to black women and other women of color. Fans and contributors to the site disagreed that Feministing has an issue with representation.
What are your thoughts on the backlash? Continue the convo and tweet us at @Ko_616 and @TheRoot47.