Privilege. The thing you don’t notice, when you have it. You get so used to it. You open the tap and water comes out. You don’t think: “Holy cow, there is actual clean water coming out of this… thing… and I can drink it! I don’t even have to leave the house for it!” Many things become natural. Let’s take a moment and think about those.
I am an extremely privileged woman, I had a fabulous primary school education with people who were encouraging. My secondary school was great, there were people who were supporting me, getting me into writing, I started drawing. I have wonderful friends who are always there and whom I love dearly. I have amazing parents following my every step and whom I am so grateful for, I just became a bit teary. Now I’m studying. I can go to uni and have a further education, I can pursue my dreams and follow my passions besides it. Art and writing. My loving family who never fails to make me smile, my friends who are so kind and hard working and I just want to hug them every minute of the day.
Privilege comes in so many different categories. I’m reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay at the moment. It’s an absolutely fantastic book. In a chapter about privilege she mentions that it is important to acknowledge you are privileged. That, however, does not imply that a) you have to change anything b) you have to apologise c) you cannot raise your voice d) you cannot have an opinion and most importantly e) that it hasn’t been hard for you too. It simply means that you are aware of the benefits you received based on certain aspects of your life.
You might be male/ cis-gendered/ straight/ able-bodied/ white/ highly educated/ with high income/ etc etc. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the ability to talk. To make decisions. The implication is just, that you should listen to other people who are not as privileged as you are. To see that there are other people out there. Because your combination of privileges makes up such a small portion of this earth you shouldn’t speak for all of humanity in that position.
There is the concept of intersectionality which was initially founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate, in 1989. Intersectionality is often mentioned together with feminism and is a big part of it. The basis of it is privilege. There are so many different ways in which you can be discriminated against. For example, black women are not only facing sexism but racism and these two intersect. Therefore, not every woman, feminism wants to support, faces equal oppression. Feminism is a great movement but it normally doesn’t take all these aspects into account. A good example is that feminism brought in many countries the right for women to vote. But only for white women most of the time! Which is why we need intersectionality. I do not call myself an intersectional feminist because I do not face discrimination on another level than being a woman. I do not have the experience to talk about these issues but I’m very determined to educate myself and listen to other stories.
I am privileged, is what I am saying. It wasn’t easy but it was never hard! And this is where I would like to start my argumentation. On my blog I am telling you my opinion on the problems of the world. Problems that we all face. Sometimes I might even suggest solutions. As already mentioned, I do have the right to speak out even if I’m privileged. However, I often doubt if I’m doing the right thing. Who am I to tell you? I, whose life is so easy with all those people and institutions around helping me all the time. Who am I to cure the world? What annoys me sometimes in the news is people trying to fix problems they don’t even know about. Talking about global climate change and how they should reduce emissions… “We don’t even have a properly functioning sanitary unit”, they might answer, “clearly we have different problems”.
Another point I want to emphasise on is that I’m not an angel. When I am talking about reducing plastics consumption or something like that: I am also drinking out of plastic water bottles sometimes! Maybe I am a hypocrite. Maybe it makes me a bad person talking about things that I do too. However, you might also argue that it is at least good that I recognise it. It’s the first step, it was taught to me by my study course. Recognising that we all have flaws and we do not act morally all the time. We try, though.
(We had a discussion a few days ago that it always should be allowed to state constructive criticism, regardless of the position you are in. The person facing that criticism has to think about reacting to it or not. Criticism is always the beginning of a conversation, even if it has no basis that the other one supports. I think it is important as a decent human being to listen to people and think about what they say. Communication is after all what makes us people.)
Because we are flawed humans, we cannot expect feminism to be a flawless movement. People who are representing it and “fail” are thought to be damaging the concept. Which is simply not true. We are all humans and we need those advocates for equality. As women we need more representation in the governments, in the media, basically everywhere. Not only white women again. Women of colour, women of other than heterosexual orientation, women who maybe didn’t have the best education possible. We want them as main characters and not only side products in films made by men. There is a reason for the existence of the Bechdel-Test. It measures film on the amount of times women are picture talking about something different than a man. 58% of the 6500 films (on http://bechdeltest.com/) listed did not pass that test. An argument was that there would be even more failing if conversations about babies and relationships were not counted. Half of the Academy Award nominees for Best picture wouldn’t have passed the test! In the entertainment business that lack of female contribution is clearly visible. We want representation!
Women bring so much to the table. We have different approaches to problems, we are generally more concerned for the environment. We birth children and therefore miss out on so much because we want to be there for our families and also have jobs. When men talk about their successes, they usually state that it’s because they are great. When women talk about what they accomplished, they are more likely to attribute it to other aspects, not themselves. They had exceptional help, worked hard, had good opportunities…
We need more women in high positions to be able to bring change. As heads of states. There are only a few more than 10 female world leaders at the moment. Today, in the US you have the possibility to elect one more and to hopefully thereby bring change in other countries too. Hillary Clinton is a woman I admire for her strength and endurance and her experience. You are able to contribute to your first ever woman becoming the head of state.
From an outside perspective we are like the annoying neighbours always watching you over the garden hedge. We are deeply troubled by what we are seeing. We are not involved, though. As a person involved in environmental protection, as a feminist, as a woman, I cannot believe, though, there is a candidate who stated that climate change is an invention by the Chinese and who bragged about raping women. This election is not only vital to the US but I think to the rest of the world. It sends a message, after all. It would send a message to women to step in and demand the right to represent half of the earth’s population. It would bring change the focus and underline the challenges women are facing all over the world. It would bring different ways of dealing with problems to the political environment.
“Then we’d come a little bit closer to a balance of women and men in leading positions,” our chancellor said and Norwegian’s president Ms Solberg added that it would be “inspiring for many young women to see politics not just as something that belongs to men”. I think that that is an important part of this election.
This text isn’t about politics, though. I just wanted to share with you some additional aspects of feminism that are important to consider. There are a few points where it gets difficult.
1. When it’s “we” and “they”. I also did it, I excluded myself. This is what we do as humans. We want to be different. Global issues, however, should be discussed as a whole society. Because it matters to all of us.
2. When it is one person trying to find a solution. A person who is not able to listen. Problems are always fixed by the person who knows the problem best and has the adequate measures to fix it. Have you ever tried to tell a friend how to fix their relationship? Yeah, of course you have. We do it because it is so obvious what they are doing wrong. In the end, something completely different worked. We didn’t listen.
The goal in my life is to make this earth a better place than it was when I was born. I want to make voices heard that are normally not and I want to broaden my perspective. I do not want to sit here on my pile of privilege, ignorant and with my sunglasses on, seeing nothing of the world. I want to be in the world and with the world. I want to analyse and think, I want to discuss and review, I want to suggest and expand my knowledge. This is for all of us. A place where we can have that little spark of hope. A spark that may cause change at least in tiny bits of our lives.
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