Friday, April 25, 2008


Cross-posted at Female Impersonator

A huge topic in Feminism is the claim that minorities and women are invisible in our society. The default "human position" is male. When reading something in which the author is not specified, the average American assumes that the author is male. If the author is female, of color, or homosexual, we praise it as a "fine piece of work by X minority". In short, a white man can publish a book and be praised for his contribution to academia, while a woman, person of color, or any other minority is primarily identified by that minority specification, not their accomplishments. Their contribution is something that belongs to a collective, whereas a white male's work is attributed solely to him, not to his unstated group membership.

Being a Feminist, I abhor when the majority subconsciously classify the words of a "minority" as representative of that minority group. It creates this sort of "otherness" in which we are all hyper-aware of race, gender, and sexual orientation because it seems to be known as the most important facet of one's identity.

However, when this identity is not stated, we simply assume that someone is a straight white male. Perhaps we might think the tone is sufficiently feminine, and then we consider that the author is a woman. Unless a piece of literature specifically alludes to homosexuality, race, or religion, we assume that the author is heterosexual, Christian/Atheist, white, and usually male.

I, just as much as the rest of you, am equally guilty. I subconsciously make distinctions of "otherness" when reading something by a woman, a homosexual, or, for instance, a Muslim. I make insensitive comments even about my own gender unknowingly because I grew up in a society that counts privelege and many different bigotries as a standard part of socialization.

What I really do not like about the mainstream Feminist movement is that it ignores a lot of these intersections of privelege. We do discuss issues that affect all women, but I have noticed that when we discuss relationships we always seem to discuss them in the context of heterosexuality. Among other things, we generally do not touch issues facing South American women or Middle Eastern women, or concentrate on the inequities facing a "stay at home Mom" or a particularly poor woman.

More than anything, however, I notice the assumption of heterosexuality. As a bisexual female, many of the discussions in the context of heterosexuality do not apply to me at all. A huge portion of my identity is not covered by mainstream Feminism, although I do not think it is by design. The pursuit of a feminist relationship between two women is not absent of its pitfalls. Absent, however, from the usual columns on how to craft a feminist relationship is any mention of homosexuality, polyamory, or transgenderism.

I only thought of this recently because of the discussions surrounding Amanda Marcotte's racially offensive illustrations in It's a Jungle Out There. Privilege very often results in a subconscious prioritization of issues. I see that many feminists place women's issues above racial issues and gay rights frequently. It is not appropriate to demonize the privileged, because we all are in our own way, but it is useful to point it out.

I suppose then that this is my two-bits. I would like to see a lot more about gay issues under the Feminist umbrella, not only because both are important to me, but I think that it is instrumentally important that Feminists remain cognizant of all types of priviledge, especially those types we might unknowingly further.

For what it counts, I suppose this is a bizarre sort of post that I write more as a minority than a majority. Considering my educated whiteness, this is a rare state for me. The fact still remains that when I write, I do so knowing that all of my readers assume that I am heterosexual. This is both a blessing and a curse. One day, I hope that my invisibility as someone who is not heterosexual will be obsolete.

No comments: