Black Women's Problem With Feministing

Akoto Ofori-Atta
Mikki Kendall (Twitter)

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Feministing did not organize the panel in question, and as such it did not use the #solidarityisforwhitewomen in promotional materials for that panel. The original version of this post also attributed "criticism of a nonapology" to Feministing, but the criticism was intended for a tweet issued by the NOW panel organizer, not by Feministing. We apologize for these errors. We have also added a statement from Lori Adelman, Feministing's executive director of outreach and partnerships.

(The Root) — Online feminist publication Feministing and NOW-NYC drew criticism on Twitter last night when black feminists and allies wrongly charged that the entities used the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag for a panel event without the creator's involvement or 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. 

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.)

This image was lost some time after publication.

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:


Adelman sent a response to The Root on Oct. 31:

Feministing has proudly been led by a woman of color for years. It is currently led by me, a black woman, and previously was led by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. The site also features not one or two but majority people of color voices including multiple black women, some of whom have been writing for the site for years. And because misinformation on this point persists, I will clarify one last time: Feministing did not host the panel on#solidarityisforwhitewomen, The panel in question was in fact hosted by NOW-NYC. This is not a claim in question to be denied or accepted, as has been presented by various people and media outlets, but a cold, hard fact … I agreed to participate in the panel event — which was unpaid — after being contacted on Twitter by on of the organizers, who has said that she reached out in the same manner to Mikki Kendall, who created the hashtag, and other women of color writers and activists. I did so because, as I said on Twitter, I think the conversation is worthy, interesting, and one I'm very much invested in … And I will say that as a participant, I thought the panel, which gave due credit to Mikki Kendalll for starting the hashtag, engaged in a productive, thoughtful conversation — not an exercise of commodification or branding.


The controversy also 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.

If you want to see what's hot on black Twitter, check out The Chatterati.Akoto Ofori-Atta is the editor of The Grapevine. Like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter. 

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