Plagiarism itself is common of course, and anyone can engage in it. But when it comes to feminist/progressive writing by women of colour, a very specific type of plagiarism is common. It is top down. It is often done by people with privilege if not privilege and power via the support of institutions such as the mainstream media or the academe. And even when they do not have the support of such institutions, White privilege alone is enough for them to be belligerent and feel entitled to the content while demanding “niceness” from those they’ve taken from. Many Whites engage in tone policing while they are being abusive.
Black women especially experience this type of plagiarism (as I mentioned in Exploitation of Black Women’s Labor…In The Name of Feminism or Justice? Please.) as much of what shapes feminist politics has a Black woman’s work as origin. (I am plagiarized multiple times per week without fail and have mentioned this before in I Could Not Be Any More Tired Of Academia And I Am Not Even A Part Of It.) Black women’s epistemology and Black culture in general are always treated as a picking place for vultures who simultaneously want to use our every expression while not only refusing to cite us but also discrediting us and straight up insulting us. The entitlement to consumption and exploitation of Black culture has a long history where Black cultural production and Black bodies themselves are viewed as products open for a White market at will. Even non-Black people of colour do this to Black people by using this knowledge while being anti-Black, yet many times cannot describe their experiences without this knowledge. Non-Black people of colour can be perpetrators of the exploitation of the cultural production of Black people and not feel accountability is necessary for the same reasons that Whites do. But Whites also engage in this exploitation against other people of colour. Many women of colour, Black and otherwise, have to deal with White plagiarists and the stages of plagiarism.
By the stages, I mean the common pattern of behavior when Whites are confronted about their plagiarism of women of colour:
- They deny that the plagiarism has occurred, even when it is obvious and blatant and other people notice it as well.
- They claim that the woman of colour that they plagiarized should be flattered to even be thought “worthy” enough to “deserve” to be plagiarized by someone White. They suggest that plagiarism is “appreciation” yet to actually appreciate someone is to mention them, and this logic is purposely skirted by Whites.
- They demand “niceness” and “humility” from the woman of colour that they plagiarized. It’s unacceptable for that woman of colour to be upset despite being exploited. They suggest that her caring about plagiarism is a “mental health” issue about “needing recognition” versus a matter of their own White privilege and actually a matter of the law; plagiarism is actually not legal. I know it’s common. It is still illegal. And Whites who especially are consumed by “legality” when a person of colour is in question sure do not give shit when their own behavior is in question.
- They insult. Racial slurs (i.e. anytime I speak of plagiarism, people bring in the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype), coded language only used against women of colour online (i.e “bully,” “toxic,” etc.) and sometimes ableism (the woman of colour who made the content magically becomes “stupid”) comes into play.
- They discredit the work itself. Ironically, their plagiarism is based on work that they think…is “stupid?” The mental gymnastics involved in taking work and thinking it is valuable, but thinking its creator is “stupid,” but then if the creator finds out and doesn’t applaud the plagiarism, they’re also “stupid” makes me think of the elaborate social illusions that accompany White supremacy, ones that James Baldwin wrote about so well.
- They turn into the victim. When the White person is a woman, White supremacist, patriarchal constructions of womanhood are evoked where they’re the victim of the “mean ol’” woman of colour who could not politely allow plagiarism to occur. “Delicate damsel” performance occurs. Worse, some will even claim it is “racist” to point out this form of top down plagiarism of feminist/progressive writing happens and plays out this way because of White privilege. They easily move from tyrant to toddler in these situations, trying to maintain control the entire time. At this point, other Whites may join in to gaslight and abuse the woman of colour or make excuses. Sometimes other people of colour join in the abuse as well and make the unequivocally false and nonsensical claim that the woman of colour in question wants “White approval?” Or is “greedy” and a “capitalist” for not wanting to be exploited? Nonsense.
Last night a mutual follow, a woman of colour and queer Muslim feminist @jaythenerdkid (Aaminah Khan) noticed that her tweet and viral quote about men giving women insincere compliments rooted in misogyny was haphazardly plagiarized by various White women. Again, this is very common when it comes to feminist/progressive writing even in the smallest microblogging form, as she uses Twitter for and as many women of colour do. She herself recently wrote about being plagiarized before in her essay If My Words Are Worth Nothing, Why Are You Stealing Them?. These White women will perch in the Twitter streams and blogs of women of colour looking for something as small as a tweet to steal in hopes of increasing their attention on Twitter or something as large as exploiting major conversations among Black and other women of colour and turning them into profit for their own mainstream media platforms or blatant content trolling and plagiarizing for their articles on feminism. Again, common and old activity here.
Once @jaythenerdkid confronted those White women, they followed the stages listed above to perfection. I supported her and spoke to some of these White women and advised them that they could share the content that they think is great without plagiarizing. It’s actually easier to use the retweet button or reblog button than to make a new tweet or a new post and take the content and pretend that they created it. It actually takes less time to do the former. They of course acted dominating and entitled at first and then switched to “delicate damsel” phase. This reminded me that @bad_dominicana alluded to how White women use their perceived “softness” as a weapon because of how White supremacy works in their favor. This is the pre-cursor to full-fledged White Tears™. Women of colour have no such luxury and Black women especially do not as we are not assumed to even be human enough to have nuanced emotions or feel pain.
There is no excuse to be made for this unless the person making the excuse is ready to defend White supremacy. And suggesting "well as long as the knowledge gets out there" does not address the question of why must the thoughts, ideas and cultural productions of women of colour be taken and are only acceptable from a White woman? No one can answer that without defending White supremacy. No one can explain why can’t the "knowledge get out there" attached to its creator and still matter? Why is it only good when when the woman of colour involved is erased? White supremacy and the notion that knowledge is not even knowledge unless it comes from someone White is why; period.
I tire of this cycle. I tire of the entitlement and petulant tantrums by Whites who feel entitled to the work of women of colour. It doesn’t matter if it is a single tweet (i.e. in @jaythenerdkid's case) or if it is a full essay (as it has happened many times to me and to so many other women of colour) or if it is an entire framework (i.e. how White women try to erase "intersectionality" from Kimberlé Crenshaw). It’s unacceptable. The entitlement to the labor of women of colour—and especially Black women since we are regularly viewed as objects of labor and not even as people—needs to stop. It is sickening and especially so coming from people who claim to be about justice, as many of the Whites who do this claim feminism or some other progressive politics. How can you truly desire to dismantle oppressive systems when you perpetuate them by manipulating and silencing the voices and knowledge of women of colour?
Related Essay Compilation: 2013: A Year Of White Supremacy and Racism In Mainstream Feminism
so, one of the admins here, who shall remain nameless, was giving me shit about the number tumblrs and twitter feeds and rss feeds that I follow. she was going on about how hard it is to keep track of them. it seems that she only follows a few people so that she can have some sense of what goes on at their tumblr / twitter / blog. my outlook is different. I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to wrap my brain around more than a dozen accounts. so, rather than me trying to have any control (and I’m as eager a control-freak as anyone else), I know when I don’t have a fucking chance in hell of keeping up.
so, I embrace a different strategy: give up any illusion of control / continuity / order. I liken these media streams as streams of water or rivers. when I have time or a desire to see what’s going on, I just log in and take in what is going by. like I was sitting by a river with my toes in the water and experiencing the water not as a captured body but as a passing one.
I like the great number of constant ideas and voices going by. I never know what will be on the dash when I log in and I can spend hours finding all sorts of things, in patterns that I doubt I could ever contrive deliberately.
I don’t think that I miss any more than if I were limiting my focus to a smaller set of accounts. to me, I would rather take my chances at experiencing a random little from a great number of voices than to have a detailed awareness of only a few.
like a river, I can either watch voices and ideas go by, or I can jump in and see where the current of one particular thing takes me.
neither idea is true or real, and neither is better. it’s just that the river suits me…and provides my partner in crime no end of glee in mocking me.
meh. at least I gave her a hobby.
All, we’ve heard from a bunch of you who are concerned about Tumblr censoring NSFW/adult content. While there seems to be a lot of misinformation flying around, most of the confusion seems to stem from our complicated flagging/filtering features. Let me clear up (and fix) a few things:
1. Last year, we added “Safe Mode” which lets you filter out NSFW content from tag and search pages. This is enabled by default for new users and can be toggled in your Dashboard Settings. As some of you have pointed out, disabling Safe Mode still wasn’t allowing search results from all blogs to appear. This has been fixed.
2. Some search terms are blocked (returning no results) in some of our mobile apps. Unfortunately, different app environments have different requirements that we do our best to adhere to. The reason you see innocent tags like #gay being blocked on certain platforms is that they are still frequently returning adult content which our entire app was close to being banned for. The solution is more intelligent filtering which our team is working diligently on. We’ll get there soon. In the meantime, you can browse #lgbtq — which is moderated by our community editors — in all of Tumblr’s mobile apps. You can also see unfiltered search results on tumblr.com using your mobile web browser.
3. Earlier this year, in an effort to discourage some not-so-nice people from using Tumblr as free hosting for spammy commercial porn sites, we started delisting this tiny subset of blogs from search engines like Google. This was never intended to be an opt-in flag, but for some reason could be enabled after checking off
NSFW → Adultin your blog settings. This was confusing and unnecessary, so we’ve dropped the extra option. If your blog contains anything too sexy for the average workplace, simply check “Flag this blog as NSFW" so people in Safe Mode can avoid it. Your blog will still be promoted in third-party search engines.
Aside from these fixes, there haven’t been any recent changes to Tumblr’s treatment of NSFW content, and our view on the topic hasn’t changed. Empowering your creative expression is the most important thing in the world to us. Making sure people aren’t surprised by content they find offensive is also incredibly important and we are always working to put more control in your hands.
Sorry for all of the confusion. If you have any more concerns or suggestions on how we can make these features clearer or more useful, please email us!