Or maybe it’s more than sometimes…
I was on this website the other day that talks about pornography and its portrayal of women and its relationship to violence against women. Nothing too shocking about that, right? We all know (or should know) that porn is pretty damn terrible for women’s rights and safeties. But still. It’s hard for me to read that stuff because I know so many men view porn. The only men I’ve ever known who didn’t look at porn were ones who had really taken time to get to know about feminism and oppression of women. Not that I talk to that many guys about their use of porn but still…
Anyways, my point is, I was reading info on this site and it put me into one of my moods. It’s a mood that doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t reflect my actual beliefs. But when that mood falls upon me, oh, it’s consuming. I feel angry and hopeless and like I can’t trust any man, except the ones I already know very, very well. I’m not saying this feeling is rational… though these feelings are not without basis for reality – my reality, anyway. I mean, think about the work I do. I am constantly being inundated with articles and information about violence against women. Of course, I’m going to feel this way sometimes. That doesn’t mean, however, that this is how I usually feel or what I usually believe or that it’s true that men are not to be trusted – that’s not true. And on an average day, I believe that the vast majority men are good people and even the ones who do bad things are not terrible people. After all, no one is all bad.
But anyways, I was in one of those moods. And I was waiting for a train when I spotted a young Asian woman who looked about my age. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m sure she can relate.’ And somewhere in the back of my mind, the reality that I’m 100% white and very Anglo-Saxon was kicking around… but it was not at the forefront of my mind. And it was not until a few days later when I read this article that I realized that the reality of race should have been front and center in my mind – as well as any other demographic that may or may not have been obvious.
I believe that there are some experiences that all – or nearly all – women can relate to. However, race, ability, age, class, sexual orientation and many other factors intertwine with gender for many women in a way that I, as a young white, middle class, straight woman cannot personally relate to. Sometimes, I understand the experience of a woman of color or a woman w/a disability and other times, I don’t. I always listen and I always believe (even if, admittedly, I sometimes don’t want to believe it and become defensive, I regret to say) – in the end, though, I know that what a woman of color and/or a lesbian woman, low-income woman, immigrant woman, etc is speaking about is something that is not my lived experience. And therefore, who am I to disagree or become defensive? Who am I but someone to at the very least listen to and believe them when they courageously share their experiences?
So while it’s true that all women are impacted by pornography and the ways it perpetuates and contributes to violence against women, women who are of color, have a disability, are lesbian or bi and/or are low-income are much more impacted and vulnerable to these horrendous violations. Again I’ll refer to this article, which I mentioned in my last post. If you scroll down halfway, you’ll see some sobering facts on violence against women and race. And that is only one article and one example. Furthermore, if violence against women is committed against a woman of color or a lesbian woman, no doubt her race, sexual orientation, etc will come up somehow and be used to further harm her… which, to state the obvious, is awful.
It’s important that I remember my privilege… the sheer fact that I forget it all is evidence of how privileged I am. As a woman, I am absolutely more vulnerable to rape and/or partner abuse and many other grave injustices/violations. However, I am significantly less vulnerable to all these things than so many women are because of their race and/or class, etc. And that makes my heart heavy. And reminds me that I must never try to speak on behalf of all women. White, privileged, middle-class, straight women – sure, and believe me, we have quite a bit of sh*t to deal with. But there is significantly more sh*t, complexity and sheer lack of safety for many, many other women.