Letter to the Editors – Ainsley Brittain

NMP - couverture (Jan - Fev)

 

From: ainsley.brittain
Subject: feedback on the birth
Date: January 7, 2009 12:18:56 PM EST (CA)
To: nmp@nomorepotlucks.org

Greetings NMP!

I would like to congratulate you on the release of your first issue! I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the piece by Leah. I am familiar with the experience of negotiating the role of the white friend and/or white lover to queer women of colour in my life and all the conversations, mistakes, and struggles that inevitably go along with that.

The purpose of my email, however, is to express a concern of mine. As someone who has worked on queer and feminist publications before, I know how shitty a time this is to receive criticism. You have all no doubt been working on this publication full-time for weeks. But I believe that feedback is a favour, and a responsibility, especially if you have faith in that and those to which you are providing feedback. So here goes …

I think the cover was a huge mistake. When I first saw it I half-joked to myself that the featured woman ‘better be trans’. Regardless of your intentions, the way that I read that cover, and I know that I am not alone in this, is as a recentring of the privileged body. A cover image is never just a picture. And putting photos of people on the cover of publications like this is so dangerous, because they become representative. They inevitably are read as embodiments of the politics, purpose, content etc. of the publication. They inevitably resonate with some people and alienate others.

That being said, I would further argue that not all alienation is equal. There is a difference between a queer publication alienating its homonormative readers and alienating its trans readers. The latter is worse than the former. The same goes for NMP alienating its white readers versus alientating its readers of colour. Alienating someone who always gets alienated is worse than alienating someone who rarely gets alienated. And if one wants to try to avoid alienating people all together, one perhaps should not put a recognizable photo of a person on the cover of one’s publication. Unless the photo is of one of the featured contributors or something. Put cartoon people! or cartoon robots! or words! or barbed wire with flowers growing out of it. Appearing willing to risk turning away marginalized readers in order to be artistic or provocative translates in many peoples’ minds to carelessness and white-centrism. Questions about whether the cover image was deliberated over by a diverse committee are raised, whether or not there were any dissenting or critical voices, and if so, whether they were listened to.

Those are my thoughts. I look forward to hearing your response.

Thank you again for a (mostly) brilliant publication!

Ainsley Brittain