Co-Signing: An Open Letter to Feministing

I haven't been to Feministing in over a year because I felt it was a bit too 101 for me, and by that time, I had found other spaces which were more challenging. However, I feel the need to co-sign this, related to the continued able-ism demonstrated by Feministing staff and commenters. Any sort of -ism should be challenged, even - no, especially - if it happens in a feminist space like Feministing.

Dear Feministing,

I’ve been reading you guys for a while now. I haven’t always liked everything you do or say, but I think that you bring some important issues to my attention and sometimes some good conversations happen on your website.

But, you know, in recent months I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the exclusionary language and attitudes I see on your site, most particularly in reference to people with disabilities and people in lower social classes. You have a pretty poor track record on even covering disability issues, and the casual ableism which I see in your comment threads and sometimes in your very posts is extremely grating. It is especially irritating to see dismissive responses from site administrators when this issue is brought up.

Today’s post on chivalry was the last straw. Courtney used the line “If having my car door opened makes me feel like lover man thinks I’m an invalid, not so feminist.” This is offensive.

I’d like to point you to a piece I wrote recently, “Why Inclusionary Language Matters,” because I think you need to read it. Using ableist language is not just offensive, it’s antifeminist. And I would really appreciate it if y’all would stop doing it and stop tolerating it in your comment threads. I would also love to see y’all including more posts talking about topics related to disability and disability issues.

Please address this. Feminism includes people with disabilities. Disability is a feminist issue. Please make Feministing more inclusionary.

Thank You,

s.e. smith/meloukhia (meloukhia at gmail dot com)

Original post here.


  1. A big YES to this. One thing that worries me about writing on a popular feminist blog is that pretty much everyone who reads it is going to hang on to your every word. This is clearly an anti-disability slip-up that wasn't thought through well enough when it was written, and shame on Courtney, as a seasoned Feministing writer to make this kind of mistake.

    Some time ago over at Muslimah Media Watch, we've had similar issues, although it created less ripples across the feminist blogoshpere (hhmmm, wonder why...).

    I still read Feministing though, for a variety of reasons. And though I think that it's the editor's responsibility to ensure that the blog's content is regulated accordingly, the apology should come squarely from the individual writer.

  2. It's not just the individual writer either. Commenters are also running around spouting exclusionary language unchecked, and besides which, a lot of FWD have been writing to Feministing for a while on their able-ist language, too, without getting any responses.

  3. Oh yeah, that's one thing I noticed about Feministing too: sometimes they've got annoying commenters - not quite on the verge of trollness, but enough for you to go "Wha...?" But then there's the thing about Feministing and it's wide-reaching appeal though; it appeals to women (and men) who don't have their Feminism 101 in order but are in the Feministing club because Jessica Valenti makes it cool and really mainstream; this is where able-ist and transphobic language can creep in (because disability and trans issues are not mainstream feminist enough). (I don't know if this has anything to do with why I NEVER considered reading her book, Full Frontal Feminism... hhmm)

  4. Yeah, it's great to spark conversation, but it's still coffee-shop talk.

    I've read Full Frontal Feminism though. It's actually quite good and accessible for people who need that Feminism 101... within America. I sent it to my cousin anyway (he needed some help with feminist theory for a paper).


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