Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Intersectionality and me.

Fascinating stuff in a biog from @Stavvers made me think long and hard about privilege.

As a middle class, white woman my thoughts are, according to the rules of the concept (as I understand them), rendered obsolete but as I've never let that stop me in 46 years I'll continue.

I'm not sure where I fall on this particular spectrum. I'm white and middle class but I'm also middle aged and a carer. I've been at my heaviest adult weight 14 stone and since the birth of my first child I've been a housewife. Not through choice but through the  circumstance of having two disabled children and my mum having Alzheimers.

So to say I know something of being disenfranchised is true.

Being a carer is not the strongest position to find yourself in, being fat is tiresomely denigrated and attempting to have a voice in the media, whilst being in  your middle 40's, an age when society expects you to withdraw or get surgery is also "difficult".

Then there are the issues I raise. I write predominantly about disability. This is something I feel passionately about, but not being disabled myself is, by the "rules" of some verboten. I write also about feminist issues and atheism. All these topics have caused me to get a lot of very "interesting" venom online. But that venom is something else I'm not supposed to mention. I like irony.

My Intersectionality here is clear. I'm a woman, a feminist, a carer and 'media old'.

I'm also an atheist, pro-choice and a campaigner. The problem with having an opinion and being prepared to voice it,  isn't conducive with having a quiet life. The fact that I even reflect on that stems from being a woman. Men don't tend, in my experience, to agonise on that point to any prolonged degree.

I was fat, now I'm thin so I think this cancels out my experience of that. I'm not disabled so that cancels out my being able to comment on disability, I'm not a comedian so that cancels out my being able to comment on disability targeted comedy, and I'm a housewife so apparently that cancels out my being able to comment on feminism.

My privilege negates my voice, but surely accidents of birth and circumstances in life as a pre-determinant for attainment is something we all fight against. In my opinion it shouldn't be championed as the new truth, because it feels like censorship to me. Discouraging anyone from speaking no matter how obliquely that discouragement is, is censorship through stealth.

I've built a profile for myself online and have actively used that profile to promote others. I think that's a responsibility of any privilege no matter how small it is. I've also criticised, commented, joked, ranted, railed and campaigned. It's won me a few friends and a lot of enemies.
It's also made me some "frenemies" but they are assholes so I'll leave that there.

I'm acutely wary of any prescriptive line which calls for the silencing of any voice. There are many fights still to have in the battlegrounds of feminism and those who have fought and won, those who have publicly or privately made life a little easier, made  universal truths a little clearer to understand, should be acknowledged. That isn't to say they are exempt from criticism. That isn't to say that they agree with me or that I agree with them on all occasions.

I suppose to me, my own way is in trying to find what unites me with others. I like compassion it's my favourite thing. I like compassionate people and I really like kindness. I absorb it when I find it and stays with me.

Intersectionality as a concept is a crucial one, I just hope it stays as one marker point in a much bigger picture because objecting to anyone on the grounds of their perceived "validity" worries me.