Reaching Intersectionality

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We are all so different and perhaps it is our differences that should really unite us. The fact that we are all diverse should bring us together instead of pushing us apart. It’s usually our sameness that brings people together because there is comfort, understanding and safety there. But the fact that we are all unique is a sort of a similarity, isn’t it? The fact that no one can look the exact same and have the exact same experiences and the exact same background and the exact same trajectory should open the gateway for empathy.

However, even when looking for differences I’ve found that I’m often looking for differences outside of myself, not in me. Such as, in High School I wasn’t necessarily looking for people that challenged aspects of myself, I was looking for people that challenged the exterior structure. I bonded with people very different from myself in many ways because we still shared something. We were all discontent with the institutions we were in (school, religion, family…).

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

I think it is so easy to label people as “others” because we feel comfortable with the familiar and hold onto things, which establish and support what we see as “right” and “normal” in ourselves. People generally don’t seek out perspectives that challenge their views, but support them. Which I think is pretty sad. Where is the growth in that? Where is the evolution of the mind and thought?

I may encourage us to break out of this status quo, but I am definitely not exempt from it. Looking at my media and news intake, it is fairly clear what my political and social inclinations are. I choose my sources and topics based on what is most important to me. (So, a lot of stuff on feminism, equality, fairness, social justice, cultural awareness…). I am not usually reading things by authors who, in my opinion, are ignorant or who purport things that I consider wrong. But in doing so I am limiting my own dialogue. I am not learning to deconstruct other people’s arguments or to reevaluate my own. I find that I am dismissing their words instead of challenging them. By doing this I am keeping myself in a separate bubble and compartmentalizing.

Because of that when I write I end up not speaking to the people who I really want to affect, the people I think need to change their minds. Instead I am just talking to the people I already have an affinity with, the people who already agree (at least partially) with what I am saying. That is definitely a weakness.

This is something that is a huge problem in US politics today. How I see it is that there aren’t feminist Republicans because the whole political scene is an extreme bipartisan split with the whole mindset of “Us vs. Them” instead of actually being able to have an intelligent conversation and then compromise. The two parties have become caricatures of what they stand for (which makes them even more disconnected from the needs of their constituents and pretty useless). People often seem to see other people’s political views, or even basic needs, as threatening their own. So you have this strange combative fight for survival when it isn’t even necessary. There are female republicans but they all seem to hate feminism and feminist liberals who all seem to think republican females are hypocrites in terms of choice, healthcare, and opportunities. Of course, that is a very simplistic way of putting it, but it shows how these politicians are being exaggerated representations. That is something we really don’t need—particularly when it comes to our legislature.

It’s this whole thing of erasing people with whom you disagree. If you dismiss people’s ideas and what they stand for, you are dismissing them. If you never learn about the struggles of others then, in your mind, they do not exist. Think of it as if you are ignoring what is going on in the rest of the world. You are not going to run straight smack into it because you have that privilege, so you will never be forced to acknowledge it. Or, like people who say that they don’t “see color,” it is both trivializing a current issue and erasing the identity of others.

I’m not saying anything new here. It’s all about empathy and education, as I’ve already gone on about in my last post (and will continue to in the future). I will just end here with this excerpt from Zara Bennett in Dear Feminists: I’m One of You! Please Don’t Save Me discussing ignorance and dismissal and how it directly affects global feminism:

“Excluding a feminist or denying her feminist identity on the basis of her cultural affiliations is akin to rejecting the idea that a man can be a feminist. It creates divides that shouldn’t exist because the key role feminism plays in our lives is one of intersectionality; no two people share exactly the same experiences, and it is these distinctions that allow us to identify problems within our social institutions. These very same distinctions also help us find solutions to those problems, so instead of arguing over whose view is best, we should instead be focusing on how various perspectives can be used to further our understanding of oppressive constructs in our different societies.

Women from non-Western cultures do not need to be saved. When I go out wearing shalwar kameez, it is not a cry for help; it’s just as self-expressive as blue hair or a tongue piercing. It is a statement that I am proud of where I come from. I do not have to compromise my feminist identity with my cultural affiliations. If we could all just talk to and educate one another before assuming that different perspectives are automatically conflicting, I believe we would open a lot more doors for one another.”

(can anyone help with the source?)

(can anyone help with the source?)

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Casual Harassment Part 2

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Continuing our discussion from last week about covert vs. overt harassment, I want to bring up interactions with family members, coworkers, and friends. The examples provided last week were all about interactions with strangers, with overt harassment. That sort of harassment is the easiest to point out as wrong, offensive, and unacceptable. However, there are more serious and systemic forms of casual and covert harassment. While being threatened on the street is terrifying, being constantly demeaned and objectified is much more harmful overall because it normalizes viewing women as only bodies rather than a complete person.

One of my main issues is that casual or indirect harassment typically comes from a male gaze and is usually passively demeaning. For instance, at my current workplace, there is very little actual “work” that gets done. Additionally, my job primarily has male employees and mostly male customers. This unfortunately means I have to deal with customers who stare at my boobs behind sunglasses, constantly call me “sweetie” or “honey” (I am a person, not food), “compliment” my hair or attire, and a host of other minor, harmlessly demeaning comments and interactions. It isn’t bad enough for me to quit (I need money more than I need self-esteem apparently), but for every bad customer there are a few nice ones to make up for it. What is worse than the customers are my coworkers, who almost universally are sexist and bigoted.For instance, one day at work I wore a nice retro style dress and decided the store need to be vacuumed. Immediately, one of my coworkers made a comment about how I should be a housewife and then said I should get on my knees and dust something. However, because they aren’t always overt about their prejudices, it becomes difficult to resist their created environment. I tried to fight against their pervasive opinions but it’s tiring to the point where I don’t bother resisting them. I either shake my head or just say nothing. I cannot change these people, but it’s an oppressive environment. What’s worse is that they are not special and unique. Every other work environment I’ve been a part of has had it’s own culture of bigotry.

For instance, no one in retail likes Indians. No one. Every single job I have had is biased against them and while at first I resisted it, now I have joined them. Whenever I see an Indian in one of my stores, I assume they will smell, take forever, and be incredibly cheap. Obviously, this is a gross stereotype. But I have that now because of my environment. I’ve assimilated. As a minority opinion (Lesbians are not all man hating privilege seeking entitled bitches), no one listens to me and so I’ve just stopped bothering to disagree out loud, and my silence becomes acceptance, or at least compliance. Given the choice, I would work somewhere else, as it seems many other people with similar opinions have done. At my workplace, they had hired a gay man before me, but because of the bigoted environment, he did not feel comfortable and chose to leave. Bigotry has almost become normalized in my mind and that is wrong. We need to slowly change what is and is not acceptable in the workplace (and outside of it). And I definitely need to take more of a stance against it.

Recently, I chose to share with one of my coworkers that I am not straight. Despite his previous adamant denigration of lesbians previously, he accepted my statement by saying “That’s hot.” One form of bigotry met with another form of sexual objectification. Any woman who comes into my work has her body commented on after she leaves, each of my coworkers has his “girl” of the regular customers, and every male employee has made negative comments about women whose bodies do not meet their expectations. This is what I deal with on a regular basis. This is what many people deal with on a regular basis. Because this is “normal”.

Like a fish needs a bicycle?

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I am a feminist, and I am getting married.

Yep, thats right. I don’t need a man, but I want a man. Well I want one man, in particular.

I know there are many, many reasons why feminists choose not to get married. In fact, for most of my life I never imagined the possibility for myself (but that is equal parts self loathing, and personal philosophy). Around the time the loverboy proposed, I was going through an existential crisis about marriage, the likelihood of FOREVER, and my life in general.

So when, some time ago, loverboy asked me to marry him, I said yes. Having considered my options during the previously mentioned crisis, I could say that marriage was what I wanted.

For me, it is the right decision. My current relationship has made me happy (check this opinion piece) and I have spent the last few years getting to know a lovely man. He helps me to become the best me (and no, he isn’t the best part of me). He is a wonderful partner (a little food for thought, more to come later on why this is my term of choice while being in a heterosexual relationship). We make a great team, and love fiercely.

The great thing about marriage is that it can be viewed in so many different ways.

The thing about my relationship, and my marriage, will be just that: mine. Before I sign the fancy piece of paper issued by the state, you will get to hear about my thoughts on marriage, equality, love, relationships, and trying to maintain feminist sanity in the realm of wedding planning.

Sorry this post is short and or late.. life and allergy season got in the way.

Cheers and love

Banal Hex

In Response to: Does Feminism Have a Class Issue? (Belated Post)

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A day late but here it is! Which is probably not the best way to start off my posts, but I have lots of excuses as to why I was unable to put up a blog yesterday, I promise (just give me a little longer to concoct some better ones). Let’s all just agree to pretend it is still Monday, okay? Thanks.

This post was inspired to continue the conversation about class and feminism. So, do I think that (mainstream) Feminism has a class issue? Yes definitely! (Read the Curve article for some economic insight on this subject.)

I think it’s more that people find it difficult to completely see outside themselves even when they are trying. A lot of that is just ignorance. We don’t actually know the everyday problems and struggles that others face because the evidence is not right in front of our faces. That is a HUGE issue and really not a good excuse anymore with the plethora of information at our fingertips that the Internet provides. Yet we are still completely unaware of problems that are just outside of our peripheral vision.

As a white, middle-class, cis female, there are a lot of trials I have never had to know and most likely never will. I grew up in a community that I could fall back on should something go wrong, and a family who had the financial stability to support me when I worked for little pay when I moved back home in my early 20’s. I am privileged and blessed that the majority of my personal feminist fight deals with principles, definitions, and details, and not fighting for survival. But that is not the case for everyone, just those who have the loudest and most accessible voices in American feminism at the moment.

There are many things that the privileged have access to that others don’t. Education, healthcare (usually), respect, birth control, affordable childcare, recognition, safety… And, like with affordable childcare, it’s not just about having convenience, but having the opportunity to improve your situation. If you can’t afford childcare, how will you have time to work to improve your station? How will you have the chance to further your education? How will you have the chance to take the “equal opportunity” supposedly guaranteed by law?

It is very important for all of us to realize not just how the Civil Rights movement will help ourselves individually, but even more so how it will improve the lives of those who have a more pressing need. We ought not be complacent in our ignorance or only focused on egotistic goals. A lot of this is the idea of solidarity. But you can’t have that if you don’t even know the very real issues others face.

So get out there and educate yourself! Practice empathy! Imagine people complexly!

Here are a few places to start:

– Intro to the concept of the Poverty Trap

– On how “I don’t see race” is an excuse that erases identity

Cultural Sensitivity

– On trans-feminism (read ALL of them!): Natalie Reed

Transnational Feminism