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.
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.