The Dueling Critics on…

The Dueling Critics on NPR's Eight-Forty-Eight take six minutes to discuss Yoni ki Baat. At least one of them didn't much like two of my pieces, sadly, as they thought they weren't bringing anything new to the feminist conversation. But overall, they recommend the show, which is good.

I have to say, I do kind of get tired of the kind of review that essentially says, "oh, the best parts of this are the 'exotic' bits, that will be fresh to the audience because they're so unusual, and the rest is old hat." What that kind of review says to me is that they're assuming the audience is white people.

Which is problematic in part because the non-white audience may well be less exposed to some of these ideas than the [upper-middle-class] white audience they have in mind, and in part just because -- well, why would you assume that? Why shouldn't the audience be mostly non-white, especially in such a diverse city as Chicago? It reminds me of the time my advisor asked who I intended my audience to be for Bodies in Motion, and I realized that I was hoping white folks would end up being just a small percentage of my audience -- that I was writing the book primarily to speak to the kind of people the book was about.

Anyway, the review irritated me. Maybe it's just sour grapes because she didn't like my pieces? Would be curious to know what others think.

3 thoughts on “The Dueling Critics on…”

  1. I haven’t listened to their review, and won’t have time to for a while, but wanted to agree in passing that the “most of the audience is upper-middle-class white” assumption (and, in most contexts, that assumption also includes American and native-English-speaking and college-educated) is insidious, and very very easy to fall into.

    I do it all the time myself, in a wide variety of contexts. You’ve caught me at it a few times and pointed it out to me, which I appreciate. In a few cases, after thinking about it, I conclude that I still think it’s true–but in most cases I make the initial assumption without any thought at all.

    But I certainly don’t mean to excuse the NPR people making this assumption; the fact that it’s an easy mistake (for white people) to make is all the more reason (for white people) to watch out for it.

  2. To be honest, I think you’re obsessing a bit much over an overwhelmingly positive review. 🙂

    And that the first duty of any reviewer is to provide his or her own reaction to a piece, and that when the reviewers are white folk, that means reacting as such.

  3. Mary Anne,
    I just listened to the review, and I will have to agree with you. The thing is, I haven’t seen the show, so it’s hard for me to comment a whole lot about it. But, I think, the review also takes a very homogenous definition of “feminism” as its basis, which I found problematic. But the other thing is, as a writer, I often wonder about it. So, what if a topic has been explored multiple times? Say, for example, Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” It’s all about little girls, whiteness, popular culture and body issues. But just because it has been done, can we really say, no other women artist of color can walk into that terrain? Because it’s already done?

    So, thank you, for writing this post. It gives me a lot to think about.

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