Much feminist theory today is dedicated to intersectionality. To give a wider understanding of any situation it is theorized that race, class and gender be operationalized to problematize the existential situation. Tongue twister isn’t it? Theoretically I position myself as a womanist falling under the umbrella of feminism. Though I would like to completely own the label of feminist, it seems to be a movement that is intent on privileging some voices over others. I simply cannot accept justice in words, and injustice in action.
Feminism as a movement is highly policed from within. To be a dissenting voice is to face ridicule and isolation. Though we claim to converse what we are actually doing is talking at each other, instead of too each other. In the din of all of the self-righteous finger pointing what is lost is the ability to build coalitions. So preciously do we hold the desire to be correct, we reject the fact that there is no universal experience, just as there is no universal woman. Some will claim to support women of color while at the same time silencing us when we speak about how our experiences differ. Some will claim to support the GLBT community but fail repeatedly to purge homophobic, or transphobic language from their everyday discourse. When we belittle others in our precious desire for affirmation, not only are we reducing ourselves, but we are reducing the potential of feminism as a movement.
Just like any other socially progressive movement, feminism takes work. It means being conscious of not only our own personal deeds and actions, but how they are affected by the world around us. It means owning the fact that each and every one of us daily negotiates multiple sites of oppression and privilege, the two are conjoined and cannot be severed for the sake of convenience and willful avarice.
This post is entirely inspired from the responses I received to a post I wrote entitled my “mourning dress is tight“. It was cross posted at Feministe. That experience confirmed what I have been saying about feminism since I started this blog, only certain voices matter, and only certain people are considered relevant. The comment that set me off the most was, “learn your audience”. I must learn how to speak to people? This was knowingly said to me, a WOC. I am not sure if the author was aware of the racial overtones that came with that demand. It is the perfect example of the policing that is done on feminist blogs. Your truth is only truth if it is reflective of the majority of voices, and this kind of philosophy has a tendency to silence people that are socially marginalized. Who does have the right to speak in feminist circles? It is fine for me to express an opinion but if it is not backed by links from more authoritative voices, of course my reality is irrelevant. When we consider that the voices of authority are privileged white women this sets up a race/class hierarchy that is reflective of the larger social world that we all share.
It would perhaps make some more comfortable if we were to all sit in a circle and sing blowin in the wind, purposefully blinding ourselves to the deep chasms that separate us from each other, but I cannot afford to take that road. As a WOC, playing “the game” for the sake of presenting a false image of unity to the world, means internalizing racial stereotypes that are harmful to my person. I will not allow myself to be created as less than so that others may feel empowered. This is a sacrifice that WOC have been asked to make since the very beginning of Feminism. I stand along side women like Sojourner Truth in saying ain’t I a woman. If my truth makes you uncomfortable it is not because it is filled with fallacy or omission, it is because it causes you to challenge assumptions that you have taken to be universal.
I am so tired of being on the defensive, and having to explain my commentary over and over again, as people try to twist my words to justify their own view of the world. Part of being an ally is truly listening to what someone has to say, with a desire to understand. I am sick of the self righteousness that says do not question my position, and I am sick of those that falsely offer friendship because it suits an agenda. How many times are we to be expected to turn the other cheek in the face of overwhelming arrogance, and aggression? How many times must I reiterate a point only to have it obscured by some more pressing issue? If you want to “own” feminism you are on the right track. Daily the exclusionary behavior makes less and less women want to identify as feminist and this is harmful to movement. Keep going, don’t listen steadfast in the belief that you are always correct but when the time comes when you need support, you may find yourself twisting not so happily in the wind.