What I believe, what I write, what I research, and what I think — all these have all been profoundly influenced by my social location.
I recognize that my life experiences have been shaped by my white skin and class privilege. But I also occupy marginalized social locations: I’m a woman, I’m queer and I have a disability. I’ve come close to sliding off the ledge into the abyss of poverty when serious illnesses struck my family. My experiences of oppression on all these dimensions have often caused me to feel pain, desperation, and rage.
Despite all this, I’m still very privileged. I always “pass” as a straight woman and my disability is invisible. And my experiences of oppression do not mean I know how oppression is experienced by a trans woman, a woman of colour, or a woman with a visible disability.
I’m picking my way carefully through this post, because I don’t want to play the oppression olympics. Nor do I want to speak for anyone else but myself. I don’t pretend to be fully conscious of all aspects of my privilege. In fact, my sense of entitlement and my taken-for-granted assumptions still slap me in the face all too often.
Nowadays I critique white feminism, but many years ago, it changed my life. It helped me to name and combat certain gender-based oppressions in my life. Feminism was my personal entry point into understanding social power relations. But my passion for social justice forced me to seek a better framework. Other women’s stories were often so very different from my own and feminism was not sufficient to help me understand their experiences.
Intersectionality theory gave me the theoretical framework I was missing; anti-oppressive practice translated it into practice. Not only did these perspectives broaden and deepen my understanding, but they also turned the lens back on feminism and my own privilege as an educated white woman.
It’s time for me to shut up and listen .
I want to listen to the voices of women of colour, women with disabilities, trans women, older women, working class women, and many others. Some of them are represented in my blogroll.
These are my teachers at present.