Intersectional feminism can seem like a tricky thing. It’s not so much recognizing that there is such a thing or what the kyriarchy is or does either. It’s remembering the way it invades the spaces where we actually live and work. It’s realizing what to do after we’ve checked our privileges. We know they’re there, we may not be totally aware of how they affect others, but they are definitely there and we know it now. For me, the next bit comes down to the sentiment on this great feminist quote that I’ve seen and adore:
Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society and make it feminist. – Kelley Temple
It doesn’t just apply to men and feminism. With all the intersections we have, there are ways that same idea can be applied to me. I can do what I can in the spaces that I occupy to reduce bias, oppression, suppression. I can try to work against racism, ableism, cis-sexism, trans-sexism, classism, homophobia and just about any other discrimination based concept. Even if we know it doesn’t make a bit of difference to the person I’m dealing with, I’ve found that it can still help. It can work in the back of their brain sometimes, or mean something to someone nearby that I didn’t even realize needed to hear it.
If all I do is let people know where I stand, than it can open a conversation with someone who wants to have one on that topic. That can put ideas on the table. The ideas can open doors or invite other ideas. I’ve had long and interesting conversations with coworkers during lunch that have contributed to making our spaces safer for some identities sometimes. I can’t even take credit for it, many of these were started by other people. I wasn’t always the one to object to something derogatory. I was sometimes the offensive one. But I have worked in places where we can put it all on the table, I’ve had friends who will talk about anything. Sometimes hot heads prevailed but more often we bred inclusion of people’s whole selves. I’ve also spent time in places that got more divided as people talked, where being offensive was more acceptable than almost anything else. I have cowardly kept my mouth shut on some issues in order to not be known as the girl who has a problem with everything. I have been outspoken about other things.
For me, I have found that there is such a thing as being so outspoken that people stop listening. I tried hard to maintain a balance so that people do keep listening, but I know that it has hurt others. It’s not easy to pick which battles to fight today, but I have to look at it that way. Sometimes we agree to disagree. Sometimes we come to a better understanding of each other’s views. Sometimes minds are changed. It’s the agree to disagree that bothers me the most, and I know it’s not very feminist or intersectional. I also know that if I don’t hang my relationship on this one issue, we can talk about so many more things that could go better. Minds and society changes one issues at a time and I’m not going to right people off who cling to some of their exclusion. I work at it. A little here, a little there, and maybe we’ll agree completely one day. If not, at least I tried and they listened. They thought about it, maybe. Maybe something else or someone else will come around and finish the job. Either way, it’s not mandatory for all people to be inclusive of all identities, it’s just decent of them. If all people were decent though, we wouldn’t have need for courts and jails and fines.
At work, I have to be seen and heard in order to do my job and to grow into leadership positions. If I’m going to be out there on issues, I need to be out there in a way that makes a difference to the people around me. They need to feel safe at work and with me in order to do their best at work. I remember how important it was for me for that first man I worked for to treat me like a part of the team instead of the girl they were stuck with. I can do that. With friends and family, I have to be open and honest and let them know what they’re in for. They have to understand where I stand and where I won’t go with them on these things. But none of it happens if I don’t take the time to be mindful of the fact that I am privileged enough to do so. There are ways that the kyriarchy suppresses me, yes. There are biases that affect me negatively. There are also many things that work to my benefit that I can use to make safer and more inclusive spaces for other identities. I count my privileges and can use them to make my spaces intersectionally feminist.
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