Thursday, March 24, 2011

To My Fellow Privileged Feminists...

So I just posted a rant at Sady Doyle on Tumblr. That might not have been the wisest course of action. But I'm angry and frustrated. I am disappointed in third wave feminism, and in us, white cisgender heterosexual able-bodied North American class privileged feminists. I thought we were trying to do better than our predecessors. I thought we were trying to set our egos aside and make room for people who deal with more axes of oppression than being cis women. I thought we were trying to not use feminism to trample over more marginalized people. Can we try to not fuck that up for a while? Seriously. And if we do fuck it up, can we at least try to not make things worse subsequently?

Without getting into the background of the Tumblr thing, here are some of the key points from my rant:

  • Questioning the subjective reality of the marginalized person you’re talking to is not cool. 
  • You know what doesn’t matter and what you don’t need to explain when someone tells you you’re being racist, or disablist, etc? YOUR INTENT. Does. Not. Matter. What matters is that you understand how and why what you did was racist/disablist/etc, and that you make an effort to not do it again. 
  • If you step on someone’s foot (to use the ever-popular foot-stepping metaphor) you don’t say, “yikes! Either I was being clumsy, or you got in the way. I’ll assume that I was being clumsy. But see, I was just trying to demonstrate this really neat dance move that involves a lot of stomping.” No. You step off the person’s foot, apologize, and be more careful. 
  • As white cisgender heterosexual able-bodied North American feminists, I tend to think that we should always be combating our own privilege. That means not deciding, “Oh, I’ll just revel in my privilege this one time, in this one space.” If you realize that you’re looking at something from a privileged perspective, challenge your perspective yourself. Don’t wait for a more marginalized person to come along and do it for you. 
  • What we can do is SHUT UP AND LISTEN. And help in the ways we are told we can help. And also: WE ARE OWED NO ALLOWANCES, NO ASSUMPTIONS OF GOOD FAITH. If you want to be considered an ally, you need to prove that you are an ally, and continue to prove it. And if you fuck up, that does not mean that you get a free pass because, hey, at least you’re trying! It means that you have to keep trying harder.
Yeah. End rant.


  1. And if even googling your own pet terms like "cis het" doesn't find definitions then write them out.

  2. Well said, as usual. Rules to live by.

    "cis" is short for cisgender (i.e. opposite of transgender) and "het" is short for heterosexual. Not hard to figure out.

  3. I changed "cis" and "het" to "cisgender" and "heterosexual".

  4. huh. if i google cis het a definition is the top result.

    But I disagree with you on one point-- it is ok, in some spaces, to look at things and examine things from your own viewpoint. you can try looking from the view of others, but really, you don't know their experience. And your experience is also valid, even if it IS privileged.

  5. Amanda,

    I don't disagree. It depends on the context.

    I think the main thing is to be able to tell when you're wallowing in your own privilege, and to challenge yourself - does my perspective on such and such an issue really matter? Does my perspective bring any depth to this issue? by centring myself am I distracting from the perspectives that matter the most?

    That type of thing.

    You're entirely right to point out that you can't ever know the experience of more marginalized people, and it's problematic to assume that you can. Thanks for adding that.


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