I’m a white cis able-bodied woman, my partner is a white cis able-bodied man. It often feels like writing about my experiences takes up too much space on this blog. As part of my work on Kandaka I have published „If you look like me“ (2018) and „The right time and place to be a skinny white girl“ (2017). As you can tell by these titles, I used to eagerly address other white people in a loud and self-centred way. Looking back at the conversations leading up to these pieces, I’m starting to see my different stages of realising and dealing with privileges. These are based on my personal experience, but others, too, might relate to this evolution. You might just have to change feminisms to any of the other -isms.
- SELF-CENTRED POLITICS
I’m just out of school, leaving my home town and comfort zone. What will my future look like? How does the world work?
Not quite as I’d imagined. Real life seems to be unfair. Actually, it is really unfair. Oh dear, where do I even start? With me. I’m a woman, so I should probably become a feminist. Wow, what an amazing feeling to be able to talk politics. I demand change: same wages, same rights all around the world! There’s no need to research, since I am of the oppressed. I can tell everyone about the problems I face navigating the world as a woman. I listen to Beyonce and feel empowered. I roll my eyes at friends who still don’t get why we should all be feminists.
A new lady boss is born.
2. OH, SO THERE IS A THING CALLED PRIVILEGE
So you are telling me that even though I experience sexism, there are women who have it even worse? That men suffer from toxic masculinity, too? That demanding women not to wear headscarves actually undermines them? That there are people out there without a uterus who are also women? That they are being killed for that? That the world isn’t binary?
Why isn’t this being discussed everywhere? How can I even cope with all this? I’m now watching shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Pose and Dear White People (and, of course, writing my own post “Right time and place to be a skinny white girl“).
3. WHY DOESN’T EVERYBODY KNOW WHAT I KNOW?
I’m so angry.
Why don’t other people’s lives revolve around social justice! I’m now starting a fight at every party, always making sure to shut everybody down who does not realise their privilege. People have to know what I know. You say something which is not politically correct? Let me school you. I can not be friends with you if you are not woke and if you want to date me you better check your privileges first. Let’s have deep talks about how bad this world is and if you feel the same frustration towards all these unaware people (and read my post “If you look like me“), we can become best friends.
4. I AM AN ALLY NOW
Only talking about this with my friends is not enough. Other marginalised people need to know that I’m not like these other white cis women. I’m now going to demonstrations to show them that there are privileged people who are trying to understand and do the work. Please tell me about your story, let me know how I can help! I will tell everybody I know about your suffering, because it is so important.
The world needs more allies and I’m one of them!
5. MY INTENTIONS WERE GOOD THOUGH
Many people don’t like the way I address certain issues. Friends have even told me that I make them feel uncomfortable. This hurts me. I want do good so why are they angry. I think it’s super unfair that they’re angry.
If I make a mistake please tell me exactly why and how I can do better in the future. It’s so important for me that you see how hard I’m trying. Please tell me you know that I had good intentions in mind.
6. THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME
Who am I to call myself an ally? Appointing myself with this term is yet another way to say “I’m a good person“. I’m now educating myself instead of expecting others to constantly invest emotional labour into my learning. I listen differently and re-evaluate the space I take up. I should probably stop talking about how I do good in this world.
This is not about me. Intentions do not matter when my actions are harmful.
7. THIS IS A NEVER ENDING EVOLUTION
I don’t have to be so hard on myself. Being a political person is painful, exhausting and frustrating. I will think that I understood most of it just to discover once again there are so many other perspectives and facts I haven’t taken into consideration. But as long as I am willing to learn, listen, educate myself and be aware of my own mistakes, I’m on the right path. I should not feel offended when people tell me that I messed up. I should continue to check my prejudices and my position in society. I’m now being honest with myself and my emotions.
This political awareness thing is a never ending evolution and I just embrace every step of it, even when it hurts.
Words by Hannah Wolny
Photos by Hannah Wolny and Amuna Wagner