Don’t hate; reappropriate.

I would like to share a full-length article with you, outside of the traditional mechanisms where I’ve shared works and articles. Normally, I list the work’s name and its creator in the title; then the body of the entry shares the video/essay/poem/story, etc. I try to make sure I offer proper accreditation, and I tend not to make any modifications of the original work.

In an effort to demonstrate the need of doing exactly what Jenn’s blog title suggests — to reappropriate — I will take a different tactic with this article. I will not alter the original text; I’ll only redirect its emphasis. For my sister, Brownfemipower.

Sexual Abuse Fueled by Abusive Immigration Language
By X, RH Reality Check. Posted April 7, 2008.

Describing immigrants in dehumanizing terms like “illegals” turns immigrant women into targets for sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers to rapists.

In all the furor over rising immigration rates in the U.S. often disguised as concern over “illegal” immigrationone story in particular demonstrates that contrary to scare stories about the effect of immigration on this country, the reality is that this country is often a scary and oppressive place for immigrants. And immigrant women, having drawn the double whammy card, are especially vulnerable. A 22-year-old immigrant from Colombia exposed her immigration agent using the threat of deportation to rape her, using her cell phone to tape the assault. Unfortunately, as is all too common with these sorts of stories, most reports describe the event as sex, even while making it clear that the sex is question was coerced, and should be more accurately described as rape.

The story has hooks most likely because it’s about how a common crime — sexual blackmail against immigrants and other women marginalized in society — became more difficult to hide and ignore because of new technologies. But despite the dubious reasons why this story hit the mainstream news, the activist community can still seize this opportunity to make two very important points: 1) Immigration is a feminist issue and 2) The distinctions between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants is red herring to distract from the fact that it’s immigrants, full stop, who face oppression under a tidal wave of anti-immigration sentiment.

This woman’s story demonstrates the way that the cut-and-dry distinctions between illegal and legal immigrants touted by the Lou Dobbses of the world tend to turn shades of gray when examined closely. Or actually, shades of paperwork. The rape victim entered the U.S. legally on a tourist visa and overstayed, but managed to enter the system to get her green card by marrying a citizen, which all but the worst mouth-breathers accept as a legitimate way to get a green card. Her story shows why it’s front-loaded and racist to describe a human being as “illegal,” especially when her illegal actions were misdemeanors such that they didn’t even raise the ire of the law when she got her paperwork in order. I’ve managed to drive a car before after letting my inspection lapse, and then got the ticket straightened out by renewing my inspection sticker, an equivalent crime. No one describes my very being as illegal, though. Though rape, on the other hand, is not a minor crime and is earth-shattering enough that it’s acceptable to describe the people who commit that crimes as “rapists,” I suspect that rapists get called by that moniker less often than immigrants without their paperwork in order get called “illegals.”

Words like “illegals” dehumanize immigrants, whether or not they have their paperwork in order, and that dehumanization makes immigrant women juicy targets for assorted sexist oppressors, from anti-choicers to wife beaters to rapists, as this woman’s story shows. One Honduran immigrant faced charges after trying to self-abort with an ulcer medication, an attempt that failed to induce abortion, but was linked to her giving birth to a premature infant who passed away. The same article notes that a 22-year-old Mexican immigrant living in South Carolina was put in jail for inducing her own abortion with the medication at home. That immigrant women often resort to self-abortion should surprise no one. Not only is safe, legal abortion financially daunting for a number of women, the atmosphere of dehumanization of immigrants makes many women understandably eager to reduce their encounters with authority figures of any type, including doctors.

Green card manipulation isn’t just a trick practiced by immigration officials wanting to control and dominate women, either. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (PDF), many domestic abusers use threats about immigration status to keep women in relationships with them. Whether married to citizens or non-citizens, the quasi-legal status assigned to immigrants means that many victims of domestic violence fear seeking help; consequently, the rates of domestic violence are significantly higher for immigrant women than women at large. Congress stepped in to create the International Marriage Brokers Regulation Act, which gives immigrant women the right to leave abusive marriages without being deported. It also requires that men who go through “marriage broker” services to disclose their domestic violence histories to potential brides.

If you ever want to despair of the human condition, Google the term “IMBRA” — the vast majority of the results returned are authored by men outraged at these entirely reasonable measures that keep men from beating their immigrant wives and using green cards as leverage to perpetuate the violence. Strangely, few of these websites argue that men should be given the direct right to beat women, but it’s hard to imagine what other worldview they could be operating under, when they think that it should be perfectly legal for a man to threaten his wife with deportation if she leaves him after a round of beating. If you are under the incorrect impression that sexism is dead and feminism isn’t needed anymore, I recommend listening to the howls of men who think the government owes them the right to treat immigrant women like a population available for their punching bag and sexual assault needs. That goes double for you if you’ve ever sneered at the term “intersections of oppression,” because I can’t think of a better example myself.

All original ideas in this entry remain unlinked.

So, X of Pandagon

and of RH Reality Check:

Link, love.

M.

P.S. If I’ve given you too many examples, start with this one link. That’s probably the best point. Know that people say women of color are sometimes dark as night, not born last night.

edited by request.

addendum

Another thing this debate conjures for me is when people have been caught for writing fictionalized memoirs, race, and the question of authenticity. I’m sure people have heard about the Margaret B. Jones debacle, for example. I think in situations like Jones’s, the clear line where appropriation diverges from attribution begins to rise and become clear.

Stereotypically, the situations and narratives Jones identifies in her work are experiences linked with a certain class and race in America. But Jones, through her whiteness, gained more popularity and eventual notoriety because she came to the situation 1) writing with a distinct claim to authority on that experience (one that was later determined she didn’t have) and 2) writing with knowledge of what people with no authority on the subject would like to read and see. Which is where the privilege of her white lens became a boon for her and a new opportunity to ignore similar narratives from people of color living the same and similar realities. Like the autobiography of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, from the overhyped but under-acclaimed series The Wire, for example: Pearson could likely claim authenticity for her work, but because of the stereotypical nature of our system and the fact that she is writing with no conscious head nodding to the white lens, the lens of distance and cultural observation, her work is undervalued in this discourse.

That’s the same as what’s happened in this situation. No one backpedaled on the accusation of appropriation. My post, which I was careful to compose, does not link point for point where Amanda “stole” things word-for-word from BFP. Rather, it makes BFP’s work — who is just one of the bloggers who have been tying feminism with immigration before the article Amanda quoted hit the “zeitgeist” — visible. And it questions why Amanda took upon her shoulders the claim of authenticity on critical issues on immigration and feminism, immigration and dehumanizing language, and immigration and sexual abuse without giving some indication of the longstanding body of work from multiple people of color who have identified more heinous crimes, who have pointed out more causal links, and whose work undoubtedly could lead to honest and critical engagement with the situation and possible broader activism in coalition with people who don’t want to touch the situation.

Because without that reference, it invisibilizes people who do have that authenticity and experience, who live those experiences, because they cannot impose a lens of detached whiteness that they did not have into their narratives. They cannot pretend that they’re horrified witnesses without a dog in the fight who have sympathetic and probing viewpoints in the matter. And as a result of not being able to claim that detachment, you get the phenomenon Belle quotes from BFP, as well as a continuing dependence on people carrying the white lens to ferret ideas from people of color for publicizing and spreading awareness. The peddling of brown people without last names who get mundane yet detailed narratives of their every move because it’s so different. Who get their horrific moments sensationalized and their tragic and common moments ignored.

THAT’S the sinister nature of appropriation. And in this instance, by not linking to anyone that inspired her viewpoint — forget BFP, even — Amanda tapped into this narrative that has been tapped into by countless folks online and offline. And each leaking into this scheme hurts and makes the victims of invisibility less than charitable once someone white sees us and says, “Hey, what’s wrong? Please write us a book report with cross checks and proper cites, perfect spelling and grammar, and completely objective — that means don’t interpose your oversensitivity into it — yes, please write us a great screed telling us everything very clearly about what’s wrong. One ‘t’ uncrossed, and you lose your argument. And please, make sure you note everyone involved; if you fail to do so, that’s intellectually dishonest and we’ll refuse to engage with you!”

About problem chylde
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:6

81 Responses to Don’t hate; reappropriate.

  1. los anjalis says:

    holy. shit. damn.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Wow. This should be public.

  3. Damn straight it should be public.

  4. Aaminah says:

    LOL. Very good. Yeah, I’d make it public. But that’s just me ‘cuz I can be such a bitch. :)

  5. cripchick says:

    yes please please make it public??

  6. Sudy says:

    Pissing in my pants…

    Grrl…public public public…

  7. Zan says:

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a point made so clearly before.

  8. Lisa Harney says:

    A work of art.

  9. Pingback: Sudy Lays It Out « Questioning Transphobia

  10. Brilliant, Sylvia. Just brilliant.

  11. An absolutely magnificant bustdown of a greivous theft, Sudy…cast my vote for making this public, too.

    Anthony

  12. Sylvia/M says:

    Lol, as much as I’d love to walk down the street and have people think I’m as beautiful as Sudy, I’m Sylvia/M. But thank you! (And it is public now; that’s why you can see it. :-p)

    And thank everyone else who’s commented here so far.

  13. Daisy says:

    Oh wow, when you do it like that… it’s just so embarrassingly awful.

  14. Damn…look before you post, ‘Dog (note to myself).

    Sorry bout that, Sylvia….great job, anyway.

    Sudy rocks, too, BTW.

    Anthony

  15. Carmen D. says:

    Incredible M. You’ve laid it all out. Just awesome.

  16. Pingback: Brownfemipower, Amanda, and Thieving WoC’s Efforts: Publicity or Plagarism??? | The SmackDog Chronicles (Ver. 2.5)

  17. Pingback: Mamita Mala - One Bad Mami » Blog Archive » Puerto Rican Catholic Guilting Applied to the Blogosphere : Thou Shalt Not Steal

  18. turtlebella says:

    Brilliant. Glad you are here.

  19. Daomadan says:

    Wow! :O

  20. Vanessa says:

    This just makes me so angry. Thank you for putting this all together.

  21. Gwen says:

    Well done!!

  22. Sylvia/M says:

    I’ve changed the name to an X; but I think you all get the point.

  23. belledame222 says:

    You know what it reads like? It reads like a college student doing a report for class. One who never was told about the whole “cite your sources” thing, I guess. But, that and the responses: yeah, it feels rather…disconnected from the actual subject, somehow. I can’t think why.

  24. Pingback: Burning Words » Blog Archive » Stealing other people’s stuff is not cool

  25. Aaminah says:

    belledame, you are too kind. I was taught about source citing in middle school. And I went to Public schools. :)

  26. Pingback: Addendum to the Memo « A Secret Chord

  27. La Lubu says:

    Shit, damn, motherfucker. I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on—thanks for putting this out there. I never drop by that site.

    Fuck. Me. Running. BFP, if you’re still out there, know that you will be missed. Seriously. I miss you. Your blog was an oasis of connections, depth, breadth, blood sweat, bone and marrow. I’m damn sorry other women won’t get the pleasure of finding your voice (or will have a harder time of it), finding that light in the tunnel, that cool breeze in the pit of hell. Your blog made me feel less isolated. Less alone. Keep your head up. Your words can be stolen but your spirit can’t. Some folks are gonna have a whole lot less to write about when they don’t have your “cliff notes”. Meanwhile, your writing will just get better and better.

  28. Charity says:

    This was amazing…thank you for doing it. I wish I had a blog to link to it!!

  29. WOW!!!!

    That’s amazing.

  30. Emily says:

    Oh, this is so awesome. My blog-love for you is overflowing, Sylvia.

  31. Brill says:

    This is brilliant – well done, you.

    BFP, if you’re reading – I miss you. Be well.

  32. Capsicum says:

    I noticed BFP’s blog was gone this morning, and started looking around for why. I missed the whole hot mess with Amanda. Damn. The complete sociopathic lack of any scruples at all kills me.

    Thank you for putting together all of this documentation.

  33. PinkPoppies says:

    Brilliant. Awesome. Fantastic. Can I say brilliant again?

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  34. Deoridhe says:

    Oh.

    My.

    God.

    One sentence.

    One fucking sentence.

    Pathetic. Amanda is pathetic.

  35. wede says:

    it took me a while, several hours to read through all of this and while it’s terrible and upsetting, it’s not that surprising. What is awesome is that it’s all documented thanks to you and other bloggers connected here. Shame on you Amanda. Shame.

  36. saltyC says:

    I sure will miss BrownFemiPower. I really hope her hard work will not be lost. Plagiarism is serious.

  37. nojojojo says:

    OMFscreamingG is THAT why BFP’s site is down?! OhnothisAmandamoronDIDN’T.

    Unfuckingbelievable. BFP, I don’t blame you. If they’re going to be this damn blatant… ::shakes head::

    What’s the best way to deal with this? I’m going to email Alternet to complain, but what else can a fan of the TRUE, ORIGINAL BrownFemiPower do to help out?

  38. Redstar says:

    This is an amazing effort that you put here for an amazing blogger. It’s a real loss for the feminist ‘sphere to lose bfp’s voice. You know, I’ve been on the road for the last few days and am just getting caught up on this awful story now, but before I left I dropped Pandagon from my Google reader. I just found I couldn’t deal with the site as I got to know other feminist ones. Boy, does this f-cked up incident drive this home now.

    I’m so sorry for bfp, and so impressed that you’ve documented this.

  39. Sylvia/M says:

    nojojojo, the best thing is to keep speaking up for women’s rights and their existence. keep supporting women who won’t let governments and technologies and wars and circumstances roll over their lives. support them, and their families, and tell their stories. and credit them for those stories, and keep them alive.

    that’s the best thing.

  40. Pingback: Frankly, I’m too mad to blog right now… | A Slant Truth

  41. Pingback: Another Voice is Silenced at THIS IS NOT MY COUNTRY

  42. Roxie says:

    Woooooow.
    Wow.

  43. Pingback: Don’t hate; Reappropriate. « Searching for Crabshells

  44. Theriomorph says:

    Thanks for this, Sylvia/M.

  45. Pingback: IMBRA « Searching for Crabshells

  46. Pingback: The Heeb 100 and Brownfemipower « The Girl Detective

  47. Pingback: Feminism, Hierarchy and Self-Aggrandizement « A Secret Chord

  48. belledame222 says:

    I hadn’t been up on the Margaret Jones thing, btw. am reading it now. that’s disgusting. but, yeah, after James Frey and J.T. Leroy and any number of similar scams, it shouldn’t be surprising, I guess.

    yeah, I want to write more about this. well, there are a few things. later in the week, maybe.

  49. Ravenelvenlady says:

    Thank you so much for this post.

  50. Pingback: » To A Dear Friend of Mine - By ¡Para Justicia y Libertad!

  51. Pingback: Shame on you, Amanda Marcotte

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  53. sokari says:

    Thank YOU for exposing this in such detail. Unbelievable and outrageous – I hope this person is full of shame where ever she is!

  54. bobbiejane says:

    Thanks for breaking down this plagiarism/theft so clearly- it is truly disgraceful!

    Come back BFP!!

  55. Eric Stoller says:

    Thanks for posting. The documentation is phenomenal and the deed is horrendous.

    From a comment you made on Feministe “Oh, please; don’t start this good vs. evil shit. This isn’t Star Wars. People on all ends of the spectrum fuck up.”

    Amazing!!!

  56. Pingback: Invisibility : Elaine Vigneault

  57. I feel very late to this discussion, and I’m really sad to hear of Brownfemipower leaving the blogosphere, but unfortunately, because she has shut down her blog, there’s no way I can back check to get the evidence of Amanda’s plagiarism.

    So, apart from being silenced, Brownfemi has made it that much easier for the plagiarizer to get away with it.

    One of the things I love about blogs is how wonderfully dated (to the minute!) it is, so that one can always go back into the archives and find what you need. You can even track the actions of people and establish a paper trail.

    Brownfemipower needs to come back just on the basis of providing solid evidence of theft. But, if she’s burned out, I can understand that as well. Still, BFP, if you’re reading this, I urge you to take a much-needed break, hold onto all your evidence, and THEN make a big stink about this intellectual theft when you return (as you must).

  58. nowhere says:

    It’s unfortunate that Bfp’s blog was taken down. I’m glad that the article was re:appropriated here. These are extremely important issues that clearly need to be dealt with in the now.

  59. Pingback: The BfP/”X” Files: An Update | The SmackDog Chronicles (Ver. 2.5)

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  62. kendall says:

    I came into all of this too late to see the links actually work, but the magnitude of your effort here properly reflects the importance of the issue at hand. Thank you for your contribution, here and entirely.

  63. Catmoves says:

    Wow. Oh, really wow. What a bunch of crap Wow. All that work to try and crap on the fortitude and honesty of the people who emigrated to America LEGALLY.
    If we are NOT a country of laws, then we will shortly become a country of a Dictatorship. I am aware that our schools do not teach the Constitution any longer, but make the supreme effort. Google American Constitution and bloody READ it.

  64. Jenn says:

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), I completely missed the whole thing that sparked this latest controversy that resulted in BFP shutting down her site. But I do appreciate this post.

    And thanks for the link love surrounding my blog title. So many people don’t get the name of my blog.

    So happy to read that someone does!

  65. Bq says:

    Catmoves, you’re talking to a law student who I’m sure is pretty familiar with the Constitution. I hope you’re as passionate about slippery slopes to the end of democracy that Guantanamo and the Patriot Act concretely represent. Somehow I doubt it.

  66. Nell says:

    The Wayback Machine has archived a smattering of WOC Blog posts (some of the post numbers between 212 and 1567). Don’t know if any are among those linked in this post, just offering as a resource for those who might want to check.

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  68. Pingback: The Amanda Marcotte Controversy: Race in the Feminist Blogosphere. « PostBourgie

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