Intersectionality – whose voice is it anyway?

Ok. So yet again, I have twitter to thank for inspiring the content of my blog.

Preamble: my feminism is influenced by social constructionism, radical feminism and intersectionality .

“I have a platform and I’m going to use it.”

I love reading work by women: whether that is books, column inches, blogs or tweets. I love it. I particularly appreciate it when a woman is writing about her lived experience. Yet frequently, I’m reading about the lived experiences of women by women who have never lived that experience: middle-class women speaking about the lives of working-class women, cis-women expressing the experiences of trans* women. My discomfort about this has been growing and now I think I understand why.

“I’m an ally”

It seems to me in feminism, and indeed outside of it, there are self-elected spokespersons. The word ally is self-appointed and is being used to justify all kinds of language and behaviour. Furthermore, it appears that ‘allies’ are using the issues experienced by others to elevate a platform for themselves and foster their own particular agenda.

“It is my duty to speak out……”

Yes do. Always challenge where you can, engage in discussion, express your discomfort/anger. The problem is you are speaking for/on behalf of. By co-opting the experiences of others to fuel your writing, your anger, your ego….it is becoming your agenda.

“Not on my watch…..”

I am always supportive of anyone wishing to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism.  I appreciate some people, sometimes, feel unsafe to speak out. Sometimes I am thankful for the support of my sisters who can express my frustration/anger/pain when I cannot. Advocacy can be a powerful tool. But a man cannot advocate for me. A middle-class woman cannot represent me. A non-survivor cannot express my experience and anger.

“Educate me.”

No. Educate yourself.

“I just want to be better.”

How about making space? If you are a white woman, you can step back and make space for women of colour to advocate for themselves. If you are cis, don’t drown out the voices of trans* people and respect them when they ask you to stop co-opting their experience.  If you have never experienced sex work, don’t speak for those who have. If you are able-bodied, don’t interrogate disabled people for their experiences and instead support and encourage their own views to be heard.

Stop making it all about you: it isn’t. If you are intersectional, you’ll get that.

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4 thoughts on “Intersectionality – whose voice is it anyway?

  1. Thank you. Sometimes people, including myself, need a reminder to take a step back and let others speak for themselves. Oftentimes I get so caught up in MY own desire to just fix everything already, in MY impatience with our society’s problems, that I forget most of these problems might not have anything to do with ME. Thank you for the reminder to step back, make space, and listen.

    1. Alex, your comment is very much appreciated: I’m a ‘fixer’ too and thankfully years of learning makes me stop and think. Thanks for taking the time to read it 🙂

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