Mindful Ignorance

I’m left learning, politically, at about a 45 degree angle, if you catch my drift.

Now something I think many of us on the left, myself included, have in recent years been guilty of laughing off the ignorance of others. I did this morning when my housemate was complaining about her course-mate for being a ‘massive feminist’. I’ve never understood why or even how feminism has become a dirty word, assuming that those that use it as such just don’t truly understand this. But this I realise is a patronising and problematic standpoint. Gender equality has always struck me as a bit of no-brainer, for someone to stand against it is, in my mind, a misogynist. Plain and simple.

Now I’m not going to try to make allowances for these beliefs, because honestly I don’t think I can ever manage one that I’d even halfheartedly believe in. But these people do exist, and they do not hate women in any way. So how have they ended up at this rather confusing end-point?

To take it back to my housemate, she’s had a very privileged back ground, she is white, cis and heterosexual. A family of all girls and not doubt incredibly supportive background. Though I know little of her life I would guess that largely she’s not been limited by her gender. The lack of personal experience often leads people to think a certain way. For her I’m sure feminism feels outdated, a hangover from when it mattered because she feels she is treated roughly equally to a man. But its the lack of perspective, that we cannot hope to experience anything outside of our own subjectivity, that limits our understanding.

I can never hope to understand what its like to be a part of an ethic minority, to be a woman, nor to not identify with my biological sex. I can never understand what it is like to be from a working class background or to be an immigrant to the community I live in. But its important that we as people try our hardest to listen to these differing experiences rather than basing our world-view off our experiences alone. The Second Wave Feminist movement emphasised the need for ‘consciousness raising’, to find the common ground among all women to rise up and call for change.

Instead I think we need a kind of subjectivity awareness – the importance of knowing your privilege and how others are at a disadvantage to you, as well as knowing who has the advantage over you. We shouldn’t need points of similarity to someone to feel sympathy for their situation and want to support them through their struggles.

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