On 4th July 2016, we announced our new editorial policy on Twitter which stated,
We formed a new editorial policy where men don’t write on women’s exp, upper-castes on Dalits, heterosexuals on LGBT, etc. No appropriation. This is an attempt to make our feminist politics as intersectional as possible & give voice to the most marginalized. FII is a place for all.
At the outset, this looked like a harmless tweet to us. In our head, it is pretty obvious that in a feminist space, priority is given to marginalized voices. We didn’t expect the reaction it garnered from feminist, progressive and liberal circles and the rebuke came as a shock. The policy was called fascist, dangerous, sectarian, absurd, patronizing among others. One tweet read, “How impoverished would such a discourse be!” We were accused of segregation and called names including but not restricted to crazy, trash, cancers of society, dumb, and of course feminazis.
We are an intersectional feminist digital platform which aims to amplify the voices of women and marginalized communities using tools of art, culture, new media, technology and community. It is evident that we are not a news site, but more of a magazine or a media platform. We are here to educate and explain concepts, think and reflect, offer alternative spaces of dissent. We understand, this becomes difficult when it comes to reporting news in an urgent and short period of time. But we are not limited by that aspect, hence we could take this liberty.
This measure was taken in a bid to refrain from appropriating the lived experiences of people from marginalised communities. Also, more often than not, the dominating and popular discourse is the discourse of the majority. In a situation such as this, an individual belonging to a marginalised group feels alienated and silenced. We, at FII, aim to challenge this and provide equal opportunity for all to voice their narratives. Themselves.
This has been a constant critique that we have got for our articles and for the fact that our team mainly consists of upper caste, upper class women. We duly recognise our privileges and wish to incorporate diverse voices on our platform and refrain from indulging in patronising accounts of others’ experiences.
Below we will attempt to answer a few questions and doubts that we have received on Twitter and how we plan to go about this.
Silencing Voices of Allies
This is one question that everyone has been asking us if we will silence voices of allies. This is completely untrue and was never said by us in our announcement. We fail to understand how people came to this conclusion. It must be noted that we are conscious of the fact that not everybody is privileged enough to write on one level and especially to write for an online website on the other. Keeping this in mind, writers who wish to bring others’ stories to light would be encouraged to file them in a reportage format, incorporating the voices and consent of the targeted community and/or the individual.
We, in no way, see our policy as a means to create segregation. The way we see it and plan to implement it is, prioritizing and centering voices that have traditionally being silenced and denied access. We are building solidarities with other groups and collaborating on bringing and making intersectional feminist content together. The whole point of being an ally is not to prioritize one’s saviour complex over others’ lived experiences. Considering the systematic exclusion of marginalised voices, this policy is a bare minimum.
As said before, this policy only applies to lived experiences of marginalized groups. Hence, it is not limiting a viewpoint, but giving the viewpoint from a first-person narrative. The whole point of the feminist movement was to bring the marginalized at the front. This is also the critique of White feminism by Black feminists which we as feminists in India agree to and offer solidarity, so can’t we apply the same in our context? Why does it pinch us so much? As feminists, we condemn manels (all male panels), we understand men are allies, supporters but must also know when to take a step back. We know men do not and cannot lead the feminist movement. Then why can we not apply the same logic to other movements? The fact that opening doors for the marginalised to speak up is being equated with shutting off the allies just reinforces the necessity of such a move.
A lot of people accused us (and still continue to do so) of exclusion. We again fail to see how this leads to exclusion. Our previous writers, who are mostly privileged, stay and continue writing, we continue accepting guest posts from anyone and everyone as long as it falls under the topics we cover. The only point that we are trying to make is, when we talk about experiences that are not our own, we will prioritize writings from a person from that community instead of the privileged writing on behalf of the marginalized. By doing this, we are trying to be inclusive and bringing diverse voices to our platform. This isn’t exclusion for creating a rift, it’s for creating opportunity for the marginalised.
Lastly, we’d like to thank everyone who supported us, fought for us on Twitter without knowing us or us asking them to speak on our behalf. Our special thanks goes to Dhrubo Jyoti and Tejas Harad who spoke about our editorial policy and the reaction it received on their personal social media channels. We are open to more discussion and debate on this over email, however, we will not respond to any mails that include hate speech or abusive language. If you wish to take this up with us, kindly email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments have been disallowed for this post for our sanity and yours.
- We Storify-ed solidarity tweets and some backlast tweets here.
- Newslaundry re-published our editorial policy.
- Indian Express and The Huffington Post wrote about the policy and the Twitter backlash.
- Tejas Harad wrote a solidarity piece at Round Table India.
- Inedible India and Savarna Fat Cat made solidarity memes on the policy and the backlash.