Sunday, March 1, 2015

Patricia Arquette and the ongoing exclusion from feminism

Melissa Harris-Perry examined some of the controversy surrounding Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech and nailed it with humor as usual.  Someone definitely  needs to hear "ain't I a woman?". Sojourner Truth spoke these words  over 150 years ago and apparently we are still dealing with the notion that womanhood is an exclusively white thing.
I missed the Oscars because I was watching the Walking Dead, Atlanta housewives or some other brain numbing show, but thank to social media I've caught up on the highlights.
I totally agree with Arquette's stand on equal pay for women. Where she goes off the rails is the assertion that since they have fought for everyone else, it's time for people of color, the LGBT community and men in other countries to fight for them. Whoa! MHP nails it in her segment by saying she doesn't get the intersectionality of these labels. 
The burden of multiple labels is figuratively back breaking sometimes. It feels like there are very few places where you're accepted wholly for who you are. It brought me back to when I wanted to work for the campus feminist magazine in college, but quit going to the meetings because the other girls completely ignored me or only wanted me to do the menial computer work. Not because it's the grunt work newbies do, the patronizing tone gave away the real reason. And these were supposed to be the liberals! I quit going to the meetings and no one ever called or asked why. I guess it took too long for me to realize my presence made their self righteous ranting uncomfortable. Waxing on about women's rights and patriarchy must be hard when you're sitting across from a group of people you've happily oppressed. I get it now. It's that story I keep referring to from Rita Starr's book. In a nutshell she says, acknowledging white privilege is like telling a kid his mom robs banks while he's at school. Would you want to believe that? Do they want to believe they've enjoyed a position of privilege above others as they chastise men for doing the same? Do you want to acknowledge that your childhood nanny didn't enjoy your company more than that of her children? Or that the woman at home with your kids now while you make your speeches doesn't enjoy being asked to teach your family Spanish? 
I could forgive Patricia Arquette if she thought about her heat of the moment comment and realized later it could use some tweaking.  (I'm all for a fiery speech. People that don't stand or have passion for anything are so boring.) But no, she has to go full-ignorant and take to Twitter saying don't talk to me about privilege, I grew up poor.  Waaaaa, poor you. Experiencing poverty doesn't give you license to ignore the plight of others. Ex-Poor people make mistakes too. I will talk about privilege as all I want. It's privilege that makes you think you can tell people what to do on Twitter. It's privilege that makes you think black women owe you their fight, knowing the victory won't trickle down to them for a while. It's privilege not feeling your face burn when people talk about affirmative action or welfare, even though you're the one who has benefited the most. It's privilege when you're the executive who doesn't have to worry if her hairstyle intimidates people. 
Women of color deal with gender inequality. How do you think it feels to try to contribute to a conversation on civil rights and be told by a man to 'make him a sammich'? Not only do we have to feel marginalized around some white people, we feel it with black men. Still I understand I enjoy a position of relative privilege to most people in the world. I have a college education, a safe place to live, food and the right to speak my mind. I wouldn't dare go to some charity and say, since I did for you it's my turn! A rising tide lifts all boats.
I'm not trying to get into a pity war, just pointing out that everyone has a struggle. Trying to shame a group of people doesn't win support from them. Although I fervently believe equal pay and rights for women is a noble global goal, I won't be following her hashtags....ya know since I ain't the 'right' kind of woman.

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