Leading feminist portal Feminism In India (FII) recently announced that they have changed their editorial policy and that men won't be allowed to write on women's experiences for them anymore. They also added that upper caste people and heterosexuals will not be allowed to write on Dalit and LGBT issues respectively. The reason behind this policy, FII said, was that they wanted "no appropriation".
This is what they tweeted:
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.— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) July 4, 2016
Twitter exploded in response.
Someone is making rich Dalit, poor upper caste man argument. I.Can't.Even! @FeminismInIndia— Swetha (@swethadandapani) July 6, 2016
I'm disappointed by these panicked responses to @FeminismInIndia's statement regarding their important efforts to center marginalised voices— Ian Woolford (@iawoolford) July 6, 2016
@FeminismInIndia So empathy not a thing? It's one thing to promote voices hitherto marginalized; another to ban others based on identity.— Rohan Sandhu (@Rohan_Sandhu) July 5, 2016
@FeminismInIndia While I understand letting exp talk, doesn't this meant observations about said exp, from the other pov will be ignored?— Arun Chembilath (@ichembilath) July 4, 2016
What FII probably did not anticipate was that their decision would open out a much complex and wider debate: Should those who do not belong to a certain community be allowed to write about issues affecting it?
FII said their policy is not about excluding non-members but about putting them at the centre of the discourse. Some welcomed this view.
so everywhere dominants are writing the discourse, you create small corner for others & apparently that's dangerous https://t.co/wl9ZYCV9IY— Dhrubo Jyoti (@dhrubo127) July 5, 2016
The discussion soon turned to feminism and gender issues, not specifically related to FII’s policy.
FII clarified they were not asking anyone to leave. Allies would always remain allies.
.@vivek17b allies stay, nobody is leaving anyone.— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) July 5, 2016
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— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) July 4, 2016
We have received much criticism on the above. Lived exp of Dalit/Muslim/Adivasi women by them is imp, & that's what we are trying to do.— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) July 4, 2016
While feminism is about women’s rights and issues related to their lives, it is not only limited to women. It generally addresses the evil of patriarchy and just about anyone -- of any gender identity and sexual orientation -- can be affected by it.
Similarly, people supporting the causes of LGBT and Dalit communities may do so entirely for the principle of it, without sharing any of the identity politics of the members of these communities. Surely, this shouldn’t make their voices any less pertinent to these movements.
You may or may not agree with FII’s policy, but there’s no denying the fact that it has opened an important can of worms around debates on gender and minority rights in India.