In the midst of my final revision, my intern sent me this article from The Nation about feminists being mean to each other on the internet, especially with regard to the intersection between gender and race.
And so I need to ask for your advice, since I have seen here the most civil disagreements among feminists that I’ve seen anywhere.
Here’s the thing:
One of the features of my book is that it follows the narratives of four women – composites constructed from the hundreds of women I’ve taught or otherwise known in my nearly 20 years as a sex educator. Two of those composite women are identified as women of color – one is a first generation Korean American and one is African American. A woman’s heritage and her culture are part of how she experiences sex, and race is one element of that, and so I’ve included it in the stories.
But I’m worried about it.
I feel like I’ve got two choices:
(1) Write these stories as well as I can, integrating a variety of stories women have told me about their experience living in bodies that are meaningfully different from my own, recognizing that there’s a risk that this will be interpreted as appropriating the stories of women of color for my own gain; or
(2) Don’t include any women of color.
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do the latter. One of my goals with the book is to be as inclusive as I can, and to recognize where I’m not being inclusive. I want to integrate different life experiences and identities into the idea of sexual pleasure, to normalize the idea that EVERYONE has a unique experience of sex and everyone has a right to autonomy over their own body. And the stories told to me by women of color are more SIMILAR to those from White women than they are different; so much of women’s sexuality is either utterly universal or else utterly individual, without reference to cultural groups.
But still, I am a white chick, so I’m not writing about these narratives from firsthand experience, but from stories other women have told me.
I mean, I guess what I’m asking here is: how can I write these stories in a way that feels respectful and honoring, INCLUSIVE, as I intend it to be, rather than appropriating?
And, given that I can’t do it perfectly, how can I prepare myself for the inevitable attack on all the ways I’ve fallen short?