I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Feminism

Intersectional or not at all. Critique and essays and personal thoughts.

Consideration — For the Well-Meaning Christian

The #MeToo campaign has taken hold once again in the wake of yet another lauded celebrity’s criminal activity being dismissed for the sake of the good they do. People — overwhelmingly cis women, but including people of all genders — have been using the hashtag to relay their stories of harassment and assault. They want to make sure people know that their…

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

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 we worked out a way where all the profit would go 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 want to claim to be intersectional when their actions prove that, when it comes to intersectionality, their feminism is indeed bullshit.

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture and Shame.

I had a very eye-opening conversation with my mom recently.

We were talking about my marriage to my ex, and she asked me if her hunch was correct that I’d have married him anyway if my parents hadn’t given us permission. (You see, in our iteration of purity culture, even as a 22-year-old adult, I needed my parents’ permission to marry.)

I thought a moment and answered honestly: yes, I would have still married him. Then I clarified, “I honestly thought I had to.”

“You didn’t get that from us!” Mom responded in astonished confusion. “You don’t have to marry someone just because you slept with them.

Let me state up front: that’s an entirely true statement. I agree with it 100%.

And yet it was my turn to be shocked.

Because that statement flew in the face the entire narrative of my first 20+ years of life..

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

Purity culture: a definition.

As defined by the excellent No Shame Movement,

Within the conservative Christian context, purity culture is simply the view of any discussion of things of a sexual nature outside of the context of heterosexual marriage as taboo.

Those with in purity culture must adhere to a strict heteronormative lifestyle that forbids most physical contact with significant others, as well as engaging in self pleasure, or holding lustful thoughts about another person that is not a spouse. This view is generally enforced and policed by the family and church community. Purity culture includes an insistence on female modesty and responsibility to shield boys and men from sexual temptation.

To be blunt, purity culture is distinctly religious and sexist at heart. As Dianna Anderson states, “Purity culture is, in brief, the linking of religious piety with virginal status, particularly in young people, and the association of sin and shame with sex.”

As such, it operates with an awful lot of assumptions about the world and how people do and/or should belief and/or behave:

Microaggressions and fat-shaming.

It is no one’s goddamn business what I eat, except for me and my doctors. I owe no one explanations for my food choices. I owe no one an explanation for my body. I’m not obligated to share my financial availability for Good Food, nor my health surrounding ability to lose weight or process nutrients in a way ignorant people think I should. My body does not require an explanation or an apology, and it shouldn’t elicit the spouting of erroneous information or meaningless advice from friends, family, or strangers alike — and it most certainly shouldn’t inspire complete strangers to pressure me into eating things I don’t want to eat and adjusting my restaurant orders to something they’re more comfortable with a Fatty McFatperson like me eating.

If I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables, I would not be worthy of more respect.

If I ate nothing but fried foods and sweet, I would not be worthy of less respect.

If I incorporated regular intensive workouts into my daily life, I would not be a more worthy human.

If I did nothing but sit on the couch and eat Cheetos all day long, I would not be a less worthy human.

And I hate so much that, despite working constantly on body positivity and self-care for the past 4 years, all it takes is one terrible person to make me second-guess the validity of my existence and self-worth as a fat femme person.

The body I have, continued.

Some days, I absolutely rock at self-care. Some days, I don’t hurt as badly and I’m able to function. It’s easy to accept myself on those days, to like my body on those days.

But some days, I look in the mirror and want to scream. Some days getting out of bed without screaming in pain takes so much effort that it’s all I can do to catch my breath. Some days I still want to give up on everything. Some days I’m still overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal about my body, feelings of hatred for it, feelings of moral decay and failure for being unable to attain society’s label of a Good Body.

But you know something?

The body I have is a Good Body. No matter what anyone says or thinks, even on days when I can’t quite believe it myself.

It’s the only body I will ever have. Its shape, abilities, size, and other physical attributes absolutely do not decide my worth as a human being nor my ethics or morals. The hatred I’ve been taught to have for it is what’s immoral. The system that shames women, particularly fat women, particularly fat opinionated women, is what’s immoral. My existence? Nah. My existence in this particular body has no bearing on my morality.

White Supremacy in America and me.

It’s easy for us, the white children of the Colorblind Generation, to continue to focus on individual prejudice while denying systemic oppression. It’s how we were raised. It’s how we were taught. Surely, we are innocent. Surely, we don’t benefit from white supremacy. Surely, we don’t perpetuate it.

And yet, white supremacy is alive and thriving in America today. It exists as a system, perhaps even more than as a skin color. It rewards not only those who work to support the system, but also those who do nothing to impede it. Those who sit silently in the face of oppression. Those who step up and affirm the system that oppresses them. Those who don’t even think to question the stories we’re told about whiteness, blackness, and our place in the world.

White supremacy creates an environment where generation after generation are uninformed about the violence it takes to maintain their safety, then rewards them for never questioning what they’re told.

White supremacy created the environment that allowed me to reach the age of 21 without ever questioning it. For decades, I did nothing to try to stop it.

I benefit from white supremacy.

And if you’re a white American — so do you.