This month I got to go out and cast my vote in the Canadian federal election. I owe this privilege to women who came before me. Women who sacrificed their time, energy, and sometimes their lives because they believed that we deserved the same privileges as men. Because I’m thankful for the sacrifices those women made, I’m ecstatic to see a film coming out this month that celebrates those women and explores what they went through in order to win us the freedoms we have today.
However, if you have been paying attention to the way the film has been publicized, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding one of its marketing campaigns:
By wearing this particular quote on their shirts, these successful white actresses have demonstrated another instance of what many activists and bloggers have begun to call “white feminism”. In her article, “This is What I Mean When I Say ‘White Feminism'”, Cate Young explains that
“White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is “one size-fits all” feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit. It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.”
I have never been asked to “check my privilege”. That is by no means indicative of my actual status in life, one that’s already vastly higher than most by virtue of being born in a First World country. Not only do I come from a middle class family in a wealthy nation, but I also happen to be both male and straight. Those two facets of my person alone have freed me from a world of verbal [and potentially physical] abuse. It’s no mystery to me how good I have it going.
Replace “U. S. of A.” with “Canada” and this pretty much sums it up.
Taking all of that into account, and I really do dwell on the reality of how much better off I am than others on an almost daily basis, I can say with confidence that I would not enjoy hearing those three words. I acknowledge that they would feel like not only an admonishment for not thinking through whatever I had just said or written, but an outright dismissal of my viewpoints.
I want to state this as clearly as possible: no part of me supports the usage of any phrase to “strike down opinions” or otherwise silence others. I am a strong proponent of discussion and this activity flies in the very face of that. My issue is that the purpose of the article I’m responding to appears to be the throwing out of these three words completely, and generally appears to completely miss the point. Continue reading →