Monday, March 25, 2013

This Knapsack Here

The other day I was trying to be supportive in a chat room discussion about the issues that many black and brown women regarding feminism in general, particularly first and second wave feminism. It was a great talk and it seemed to me that folks were able to express discontent freely and talk about how intersectional feminism was still not enough of a force to reach them, let alone include them.

I really wanted to talk about how the disabled were right there too, in line for forced sterilization in the beginning. And later. And still now.

I wanted to talk about how bisexual and lesbian and trans and queer women have struggled for recognition in the women's rights moment, too. How we were institutionalize and lobotomized in this country (US). 

I wanted to reach across the room and connect on how poor women are still struggling to get recognized in an era where they are still ignored and pathologized. Where the poor get lost in the shuffle.

It is hard to say that you are supporting someone's right to express themselves without interrupting them. So I stayed quiet, offered reference points as to which wave of feminism could be fairly characterized as doing what (human footnote machine!), and otherwise reading and learning and feeling what other people were writing. They hit a lot of the problems I have with the feminist label, too. Maybe I did the right thing, maybe not - and there is not always someone that will tell you. I did not have one this time, and I do not expect anyone to take on that job, but I appreciate it when someone does.

For all my sympathy, for all my intersectional connections to issues inside of the movement, I have a distinction: I am white. I am a whiter shade of pale. I am Whitey McWhiteson. That whiteness shields me, even with the shield seems pretty pathetic. As a white disabled woman, I am at an advantage over an Asian American disabled woman. As a white bisexual, I am at an advantage over a Hispanic (Latina) American bisexual woman. That is my knapsack, even if it is sometimes pretty useless feeling, it is always in effect.

I would not fault the folks that would never have that conversation in front of a white woman proclaiming feminist tendencies. There are some disability issues that I do not share with the TAB unless they are family and need to know. There are some bi experiences that are pretty exclusively understood by other bi folks. Poverty is a very specific way to try to live, and those that have never struggled with money seen to have a very hard time even understanding the basics, given the rare occasion that they seem to try to understand at all.

I did not feel left out of the conversation. I felt honored to be there. With all of feminism's problems, I was honored to see it, glad to offer what little I could and otherwise bear witness with no let or hindrance. 

(The links are kind of disjointed, and I am unhappy with them and just stopped using most of them. I am just going to leave my thoughts here and let them stand as they are.)