On Being Allies

There’s been a lot of recent discussion about the cause of feminism and whether it can progress – or should be allowed to progress – if it only serves the needs of some women and leaves the problems of others up to other movements. The issue has reared its head over and over for decades, as the white middle and upper class women in positions of power in the movement forgot to educate themselves and get passionate about the entirely different sets of issues facing women who didn’t share their privileges.

We here at Hathor believe feminism must serve the needs of all women. We acknowledge that this is a tall order; we ourselves are struggling, as a multi-ethnic group of feminists coming from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, to realize this goal. And of course feminists are going to make mistakes along the way. But every time we realize someone’s getting left behind, we have to feel the desire to get them caught back up. We have to care and not get defensive. That is solidarity, and without it, feminism can achieve nothing.

This post is both a public statement of solidarity and a series of personal challenges. We at Hathor are committed to public acts of feminist analysis. We challenge ourselves – and others – to make these acts anti-racist, and inclusive of all women, as well.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m going to assume you’ve read this from Suky, which I think is very good if one needs a primer on being more of an ally.

    I have to admit, I really wish more mainstream feminism would talk about things like
    – Disability & Accessibility
    – Access to services as more than just a once-in-a-while thing (Ooh, so, we have abortion rights – except only in hospitals, and this is a big province, and it’s hard to get out to a hospital for an abortion from a rural area)
    – How rape is more likely to happen if you’re in some sort of facility, like a prison, a hospital, ect, because that’s something i just didn’t know until recently, and is again going to affect lower-income women and women of colour
    – book reviews on books that talk about these sorts of things
    – Lesbians and how “We’re not Gay!” is such an off-putting thing to say
    – probably other things that I am not thinking of now.

    I mean, the more I read the so-called mainstream feminist sites, the more disenfranchised *I* feel, and I’m decidedly middle-class, white, fully-abled, and can Pass.

  2. says

    Thanks for linking that, Anna. I hadn’t read it before.

    I’m trying to get more aware about disability and accessibility and the intersections between that and feminism and pop culture – are there any blogs or books or articles you’d particularly recommend?

  3. says

    I’ve jst started re-reading F.R.I.D.A.: Feminist Reponse in Disability Activism. Usually, the posts make my hair curl and I need to take breaks from them.

    I haven’t really come across any good books as of yet, sadly. Most of the stuff around the flat are focusing on disability and sexuality, since I’m rather tired of the idea that people with disabilities are just like children and obviously don’t want to have sex, or shouldn’t have sex, or aren’t attractive sexually.

    I’m finding disability & accessibility to be *really* off the charts for most groups that say they’re working for equality. The mere idea that the website for my local candidate should be accessible both to people with visual imparements AND people who may not have the latest computers is apparently mind-blowing. The idea of speaking clearly and slowly to a group that includes both people with English as a Second Language and hearing difficulties is mind-blowing. The idea of their annual convention not having their accomodations on the second floor of a walkup is mind-blowing.

    It’s part of why I’ve started making a point of blogging about it. So many people have commented with “Wow, yeah… I never really thought about it before”, and I’m very happy to use my soap box on that subject.

  4. says

    Hi Anna —

    Part of the reason I think it’s hard for feminists of color to get on board w. talking about disability studies is that so much of these issues of access/disability are coupled with issues of race/privilege. Even in your response here, it seems like you’re offering a split between people who are ESL and people who are hearing impaired, as though there’s no overlap between those two groups.

  5. says

    I think the basic problem with all of it boils down to: it’s just really hard to focus on more than a handful of problems at a time. That’s not an excuse. I’m just saying that’s the basic animal limitation we have to overcome, and there’s nothing for it but everyone doing the best they can to listen and work together.

    I’ve realized recently there’s another area of life where feminism let me, personally, down: abuse. (Defined here as ANY form of violation, ongoing or one-time trauma.) I know, feminism has raised a lot of awareness about certain abuses of certain women. But within feminism, abuse fights for attention against a lot of less threatening issues, like inclusion and equal pay. I think abuse gets similarly shifted to the back burner in other causes where it plays a role, too. I’ve written more about this over here, but it seems pertinent.

    I’d like to see feminism as an umbrella with a lot of sub-movements within, all of them receiving the same time and attention. The problem is that once a handful of feminists or one feminist organization gets 10 seconds of spotlight from the patriarch, they feel the need to narrow it down to the battles they can win.

    So why are we waiting for the patriarchy to tell us, “Okay, you gals can have a soundbyte to discuss whatever it is yer bitchin’ about today”? We’ve got the internet, if nothing else. BFP made a lot of good points, but the one I’m finding that’s sticking with me is her choice to put her energy toward indie media.

  6. says

    *ponders*

    Melpomene, that wasn’t what I meant, but I can see how it’s what I *said* so it’s not necessarily helpful. I’m sorry for misspeaking. (Mistyping?)

    BetaCandy, I think the focus narrows down for Bigger Feminist Groups to “soundbite” issues, as you say. My frustration isn’t with smaller, typically one-woman blogs who have a specific focus, or even one-woman blogs who have a more general focus, but with larger sites in the blogosphere that have multiple bloggers, have a larger ability to outreach, and have a larger audience not even considering things about ESL, accessibility, victims of abuse, racism, poverty, and other issues. You’ll see the occasional post about pregnancy and motherhood, but since a lot of these larger blogs with the bigger audiences are written by young white women who are middle to upper class and childfree, those issues get brushed aside.

    It’s not that I think “Big Bloggers Must Write The Blog I Want To Read” – blogging isn’t really a paying gig in and of itself, and even if it *was* the internet according to Anna would be a lot smaller. But more outreach to other smaller bloggers on these topics would make a big difference. Why isn’t Miss Crip Chick approached to submit? Why isn’t there more outreach to victims of abuse? Why does pregnancy and childbirth only hit the bigger sites about the opt-in/opt-out issue?

    To me (and hey, I’m just a wee little blogger, I”m obviously jealous) it’s that these issues don’t hit the radar of bigger blogs. They don’t strike as “universal” enough for “young women”. Which gets us back to the idea that of course FFF isn’t appreciated by young women of colour – it wasn’t written for them.

    I’m kinda tired of being “them”.

  7. says

    Hi Anna —

    :D I’m glad that’s not what you meant. I’m still working on understanding more about disability issues… it’s funny because my entre’ point is really the way being diagnosed with a behaviorial/mental issue in the educational system, which is a diagnosis that’s disproportionately applied to POC. I’m lucky now to be in a situation where I’m learning more, and having my prior understanding get complicated, etc., but the hesitation I keep running into is that the idea of a healthy body is socially constructed… which means it’s also race/class/gender specific… which a lot of the stuff I’ve seen has ignored, or has only mentioned briefly.

    But now I need to ponder too! Some of the points re asking for submissions are valid, but to me don’t acknowledge that those identities are sometimes intersectional. Like for me, I’m a blogger of color, a feminist, a woman of color, AND a sexual assault survivor. I just did a lot of my blogging about that when I was still in counseling, but now it’s a facet of my identity that I don’t really think about or blog about (not to say it doesn’t affect me! I just have a lot in the day to day to worry about. I’m gonna ponder this, though, since I feel like you’re positing an obligation to speak, and I wonder why that’s my response when you’re not saying that at all).

    But really, me being a survivor doesn’t necessarily fulfill the kind of advocacy role you’re describing since I don’t do that sort of work (well, I do in my real life, but it’s not something I blog about). So to me it seems that you’re not suggesting that it’s an issue of the identities of the blogger but also how those identities cause them to move/move them to advocacy.

    Anyways, you’ve given me a lot to think about. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.