The legitimate grievances of brown and black women are no match for the accusations of a white damsel in distress
That the voices of women of colour are getting louder and more influential is a testament less to the accommodations made by the dominant white culture and more to their own grit in a society that implicitly and sometimes explicitly wants them to fail.
At the Sydney writers festival on Sunday, editor of Djed Press, Hella Ibrahim, relayed the final minutes of a panel on diversity featuring writers from the western Sydney Sweatshop collective. One of the panellists, Winnie Dunn, in answering a question about the harm caused by good intentions, had used the words white people and shit in the same sentence. This raised the ire of a self-identified white woman in the audience who interrogated the panellists as to what they think they have to gain by insulting people who want to read their stories.
In other words, the woman saw a personal attack where there wasnt one and decided to remind the panellists that as a member of the white majority she ultimately has their fate in her hands.
I walked out of that panel frustrated, Ibrahim wrote. Because yet again, a good convo was derailed, white people centred themselves, and a POC panel was told to police its [sic] tone to make their message palatable to a white audience.
Trauma assails brown and black women from all directions. There is the initial pain of being subjected to gendered racism and discrimination, there is the additional distress of not being believed or supported, and of having your words and your bravery seemingly credited to others.
And then there is a type of trauma inflicted on women of colour that many of us find among the hardest to disclose, the one that few seem willing to admit really happens because it is so thoroughly normalised most people refuse to see it.
It is what that writers festival audience member was demonstrating, and what blogger and author Luvvie Ajayi called the weary weaponising of white womens tears.
To put it less poetically, it is the trauma caused by the tactic many white women employ to muster sympathy and avoid accountability, by turning the tables and accusing their accuser.
Almost every BW (black woman) I know has a story about a time in a professional setting in which she attempted to have a talk with a WW about her behavior & it has ended with the WW (white woman) crying, one black woman wrote on Twitter. The WW wasnt crying because she felt sorry and was deeply remorseful. The WW was crying because she felt bullied and/or that the BW was being too harsh with her.
When I shared these tweets on my Facebook page asking brown and black women if this had ever happened to them, I was taken by how deeply this resonated, prompting one Arab woman to share this story:
A WW kept touching my hair. Pulling my curls to watch them bounce back. Rubbing the top. Smelling it. So when I told her to stop and complained to HR and my supervisor, she complained that I wasnt a people person or team member and I had to leave that position for being threatening to a coworker.
For the doubters, here is a mild version of this sleight-of-hand in action:
Notice it is the white woman Jeanne Beker who first interrupts the black woman Jully Black who takes the interruption in her stride. Black continues to speak passionately and confidently, which Beker interprets as a personal attack on her even though Black is clearly talking in general terms (just as Winnie Dunn was). Beker then attempts to shut Black down by essentially branding her a bully.
Had Jully Black not stopped and repeated Jeanne Bekers words back at her Why are you attacking me? they would have passed largely unnoticed, just another woman of colour smeared as an aggressor for daring to continue speaking when a white woman wanted her to stop.
It doesnt usually end this way. White women tears are especially potent because they are attached to the symbol of femininity, Ajayi explains. These tears are pouring out from the eyes of the one chosen to be the prototype of womanhood; the woman who has been painted as helpless against the whims of the world. The one who gets the most protection in a world that does a shitty job overall of cherishing women.
As I look back over my adult life a pattern emerges. Often, when I have attempted to speak to or confront a white woman about something she has said or done that has impacted me adversely, I am met with tearful denials and indignant accusations that I am hurting her. My confidence diminished and second-guessing myself, I either flare up in frustration at not being heard (which only seems to prove her point) or I back down immediately, apologising and consoling the very person causing me harm.
It is not weakness or guilt that compels me to capitulate. Rather, as I recently wrote, it is the manufactured reputation Arabs have for being threatening and aggressive that follows us everywhere. In a society that routinely places imaginary wide-eyed, angry and Middle Eastern people at the scenes of violent crimes they did not commit, having a legitimate grievance is no match for the strategic tears of a white damsel in distress whose innocence is taken for granted.
We talk about toxic masculinity, Ajayi warns, but there is (also) toxicity in wielding femininity in this way. Brown and black women know we are, as musician Miss Blanks writes, imperfect victims. That doesnt mean we are always in the right but it does mean we know that against a white womans accusations, our perspectives will almost always go unheard either way.
Whether angry or calm, shouting or pleading, we are still perceived as the aggressors.
Likewise, white women are equally aware their race privileges them as surely as ours condemns us. In this context, their tearful displays are a form of emotional and psychological violence that reinforce the very system of white dominance that many white women claim to oppose.
Ruby Hamad is a journalist and PhD candidate at the University of New South WalesRead More
Judge rules tech giant must give US federal department snapshot of its 2014 pay records as part of pay discrimination case
A judge has ordered Google to hand over salary records to the government in an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Labor, which has accused the technology corporation of systematically discriminating against women.
Google must provide the federal government with a 2014 snapshot of the data, along with contact information for thousands of employees for possible interviews, according to a ruling made public on Sunday.
Judge Steve Berlin, however, also denied part of the governments request for records and partially sided with Google, which had argued the departments demands were overly broad and could violate employee privacy.
The limited records Google must release could help the Department of Labor (DoL) build a formal pay discrimination case against the company, which has repeatedly refused to disclose key data in what has become one of the most high-profile court battles to date regarding wage inequality in Silicon Valley. The department which had argued that additional records would help explain the extreme gender pay gap it uncovered in an initial audit said in a statement the decision vindicates its vigorous enforcement efforts.
The provisional order, written Friday, comes at a time of growing scrutiny of gender discrimination and sexual harassment across the tech industry, including a major scandal at Uber and a string of recent controversies involving prominent venture capitalists.
The DoL first publicly accused Google of systemic compensation disparities in April, testifying in a hearing that its preliminary investigation found that women across a wide range of positions at the Mountain View campus were paid less than men.
Berlins decision resolves a more narrow court battle stemming from a DoL lawsuit filed against Google in January, which accused the corporation of violating federal laws in its refusal to turn over salary history and employee contact information. Google has contracts with the federal government, which means it is obliged to comply with equal opportunity laws and has to allow the DoL to review certain internal records.
Google originally provided a 2015 snapshot of salaries. The DoL subsequently requested compensation history and contact information for employees so it could conduct confidential interviews, but Google argued the demands violated fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Berlins ruling, which is a recommended order that still has to be finalized, said Google must provide the comparable 2014 snapshot, though he said the DoLs demands for contact information for more than 25,000 workers was over-broad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused.
Instead, Google has to provide personal information for up to 8,000 employees the DoL selects, the ruling said. Berlin also denied the departments broader request for salary and job history data, saying the demands create an unreasonable burden on Google and its employees.
The departments regional solicitor Janet Herold praised the decision in a statement, saying, The courts decision vindicates [DoL]s vigorous enforcement of the disclosure and anti-discrimination obligations federal contractors voluntarily accept in exchange for taxpayer funds. Contractors will be held to their promise to let [DoL] fully audit their employment practices.
Google has vehemently denied that it discriminates against women, publicly claiming that it has closed its gender pay gap globally. In a Sunday blogpost, Google said it was pleased with the decision and would comply with the order, providing the much more limited data set of information.
In a final hearing last month, Google argued it was financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over the salary records the DoL had requested, saying it would have to spend up to 500 hours and $100,000 to comply with the ongoing demands. The defense earned a strong rebuke from the DoL and others in the industry who noted Google has touted its $150m diversity efforts and has a nearly $28bn annual income as one of the worlds wealthiest companies, building some of the most advanced technology.
Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph said in his closing arguments last month.
Google has faced repeated criticism for its lack of transparency in the dispute. The companys lawyers unsuccessfully lobbied to get the case thrown out last month, arguing that a DoL official may have violated ethics rules by talking to the Guardian about the federal investigation.
In that interview, Herold said the data suggested that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry. Google also tried to restrict press access during one hearing.Read More
She makes art that is intimate, romantic, funny, dramatic and confessional And yet after four decades there are still new truths about Sophie Calles past to be revealed. Eva Wiseman visits her at her home in Paris and hears an astonishing revelation
It is extremely important to Sophie Calle that she is able to disappear at a moments notice. That tomorrow she could lock the door behind her and become somebody else, somebody other than an artist whose 38-year career has involved documenting and exhibiting the most intimate details of her life. Calles father (the man she says she became an artist for, as a metaphorical seduction) died two years ago; her mother (whose deathbed she filmed, showing her final breaths at the Venice Biennale) in 2006. Last year her cat died she is making an album about him. My last dependent. Which means that now I could leave in one hour, forever. And maybe one day, Ill use that.
Its a hot day in the Parisian suburb Calle has lived in for almost 40 years. Inside her house, a glass-fronted studio hidden behind a graffitied garage door, its cool and smells of freesias which Calle picks through as she talks. She is an artist who works with absence, whether stolen paintings in an exhibition of missing art, or boyfriends who have left. She publishes delicate books of photography and text, work thats won as many eye-rolls for its Emin-adjacent intimacy as it has prizes. And at 63, she is finally about to break America, with her first full-career retrospective opening this week.
In 1978, when she was 25, she returned to Paris after seven years abroad. Her father, a doctor and pop art collector, had paid for her travels as a prize for completing a degree under Jean Baudrillard, who agreed to fake her diploma to help her escape round the world. Back in Paris, her mother now on her third marriage, she moved in with her father. To impress him, she decided to make art. Weeks passed, and she struggled to find a routine. One day, she decided to follow a stranger. She chose a person a day, stalked them through their lives and, in doing so, found her own. One of these trails (which took her to Venice in a blonde wig) became a piece called Suite Venetienne, which launched her strange and mutable career, one anchored in rules and routine. In the accompanying essay, Baudrillard considers, the sensuality of behind-the-scenes power: the art of making the other disappear.Read More