Privilege

An open letter to men who discuss Feminism

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feminist-symbol-keylaThere’s nothing wrong in not knowing much about feminism. Everyone isn’t interested, I get that. But if you’re trying to come off as interested and/or knowing, and discuss feminism with other people, then not knowing what feminism is about becomes a problem.

Discussing with/against feminists with the result that these women have to explain feminism for you is just another way in which you exert your male privilege. Instead of learning more about feminism from the countless sources that are available to you, you just lean back and expect a woman to do the work for you.

And I’m tired of hearing how we as feminists are condescending and angry when discussing with you. We’re not here to make the world even softer for you. Being a feminist sadly means being called different derogatory words, having people trying to silence us, being threatened with rape and murder. So when one of you comes along with your preconceived notions about what feminism is, when you try to tell us how to do feminism, when you expect to have everything served or talk about how hard it is for you as men, how you are discriminated against because of being men – then we get really tired. And some of us (myself included) get condescending when you don’t think we see through your condescending attitude and acting as victims of discrimination.  Because part of our awakening as feminists mean we won’t take any more shit.

“But I’m genuinely interested and want to learn!” you say. Pick up a book, search the Internet, take a course. But Making_History_pink-300x246stop asking us to explain it for you – again. In doing so you’re asking us to give you of our time, our knowledge and our energy – totally free of charge! Because of your male prvilege (google it, but be critical of your sources), you’re expecting to have everything served. You’re expecting your voice to be worth more than mine.

“See, you won’t let us join in!” Sure we do. We think it’s great when men show an interest in feminism or proudly proclaim to be feminists. The more people who learn and enjoy feminism, the better a world this will be. But you won’t get applauded for joining simply because you’re a man. You won’t get special treatment or privileges because of it. You left all of that on the patriarchal side when you stepped trough our door.

You see, feminism is for you too. But it means that you have to give up the privileges you’ve enjoyed on the expense of women, non-white and queer people. There’s no fun in acknowledging our privileges, we know. We who enjoy them constantly have to work at being consious of and challenging them. But if  you’re not willing to get your hands dirty and get the job done, please don’t stand in the way of us who do.

Why the Women in the Middle Discussion still matters…

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Mikki Kendall‘s #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hash tag sparked a great deal of controversy. I’m sure many in the feminist movement didn’t get why the hash tag was needed, and most who aren’t in the feminist and/or anti-racist movement def. didn’t . And they have some catching up to do,to say the least…

But what it also sparked was a discussion about the position of those in the middle – those  who don’t fit into the White Women or Women of Color-box. I thought it was great, that now we could also discuss what a narrow category whiteness is in the world, and how few people that get a membership into that club.

One of my paintings from 2011 - Frida.
One of my paintings from 2011 – Frida.

A video chat about that, mostly featuring white Latinas, showed how so many people just don’t fit into either group. But it also sparked another discussion about yet again excluding and silencing WoC (Women of Color).

I’m not a US citizen, have never lived there and don’t know enough about the country to talk about how Whiteness works there. And so I shouldn’t have opened my mouth, not even to try to explain how it works in Sweden, which is what I tried to do. And I apologize for that. I never want to silence anyone, it hurts me so whenever someone does that to me, especially when it’s something that happens over and over again – which is what is constantly happening to WoC. I thought (still do) that the chat was a result of the many blog posts about being a “White Latina” (check the bottom of this post for links) and being in the middle that started a short time after Kendall’s hash tag. A separate discussion springing from the first.

The #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion is such an important one and I hope it sparks more discussions, more understanding, and more actions. I dont join in on those conversations because I have the privilege of my skin that means I need to listen, not talk.

But I also don’t join in on the White Women discussions because my voice isn’t heard there. I don’t fit in.

And that’s hard to say without it sounding like a white girl whining about not always being white. But I think that’s exactly why this discussion is needed. Not to take away from an important discussion, but to have an entirely different one. Because I think there are a few perspectives in Intersectional Feminism that are lacking (well, several actually, but their not mine to voice). That Whiteness is both fluid and narrow, much more so than what we are talking about now. And it’s also lacking a global perspective; are we truly intersectional if we’re only talking about US feminism, North European feminism, Latin American feminism, in different corners of the world?

I have heard several light-skinned Latinas say they don’t face “blatant racism” in the US, and several who say they do. Whatever perspective is true – or if they all are – they do face exotification. They do face discrimination. They do face sexism that cannot be separated from their supposed otherness. Thing is, whiteness can’t always be measured by how it works in the US (if there really is even only one fixed way to do it).

I didn’t grow up watching women like me on tv, in government positions, as

One of my paintings from 2011 - Volver
One of my paintings from 2011 – Volver

educators, as professionals. Neither did most of the girls like me, those with backgrounds more colorful than the stereotypical Swedish one. We’re mostly lumped together into one group, as political correct as “women of another background than entirely Swedish” – isn’t that a tongue twister? Many girls like me turned to movies from the US to get to watch other girls of latin background – however stereotypical and misinformed that representation was. But – I have a Swedish citizenship. And no matter what they think I am, no matter if they think I’m white or not, that gives me yet another privilege in the world. I can travel almost anywhere without any problems.  Very few countries, if any, will demand that someone vouch for me to be allowed to enter.  I will not be denied simply for being born in the wrong country. And neither will you. Your US citizenship allows you to move freely as well.

You have a bigger platform to discuss than most – I couldn’t find a platform in Sweden, it’s all too new and all too white. In a country with so many different cultures, a country that is considered the center of the world and gets to define others, isn’t it time to get in some more perspectives?

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Women In the Middle/White Women of Color posts that inspired this one:

Juliana Britto – Solidarity Isn’t for women in the middle

Ana Cecilia Alvarez – I’m a White Woman of Color

Daniela Ramirez – What It’s Like to Be a White Woman of Color