I, often, get frustrated because my marginalization enables me to see the marginalization in others. Also, my marginalization is compounded due to intersections which disables my privilege. I encounter individuals that face marginalization but in a singular form. There is no hierarchy to oppression but there is a noticeable disregard for the impact of combining identities whether intentional or not.
The phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” really applies to feminism and inclusion. Many feminists recognize that various intersections of identities like gender, socio-economic status, race, nationality, ethnicity, ability, and sexuality which greatly impacts our advantages in society. But actions exemplify true thoughts. Often feminists that recognize intersections outside themselves but continue to discuss and advocate for the identities that apply their own.
Of course, we should talk about our experiences as our marginalized identities. But when we cut off the opportunity for discussion, it leads outside identities to feel like they have to advocate for their beings due to exclusion. Of course critics could claims that this idea is could be pointless because it is almost impossible to recognize all identities without leaving out an intersection. But, it is very easy to express that your identity does not fully encompass the marginalization and oppression individuals face in society. Allies have a duty to acknowledge, supporting conversation, uplifting marginalized voices. It is important to note: just because you do not experience it firsthand, does not mean it is not oppressive.
The depths of an individual’s oppression is not up for evaluation depending on your personal definition of marginalization. For example, transgender people of color do not have to prove that they face structural oppression which disables their abilities to live their day-to-day lives. I often come across feminists, who experience oppression in a singular identity, that speak of their oppression like it is encompassing for all individuals. When I remind them of the inherent exclusion of identities that face compounds of oppression, the normally respond – Oh of course, but I was referring to myself.
This ideal of simply referring to your own challenges can be harmful to the identities of others and feminism. Multifaceted identities are not an asterisk to add to your challenges for you to appear inclusive. Multifaceted identities are inherent parts of conversations in issues like wage gaps, microagressisons, reproductive justice, equal protection under the law, adequate representation in legislatures and much more. It is very common in the feminist community to look at issue as single sided. For example, women make 79 cents to a white cisgender man’s dollar. Most feminist know this, but do feminist also know that this number represents only white cisgender women? This number decreases for women of color with varying intersections like disabilities, sexuality, gender and identities that many may not take into account. 79 cents is publicized as the outstanding figure for all women. Like the wage gap, there are grouping of identities as a whole. Grouping ignores the marginalization of an individual. Looking beyond yourself is needed for feminism to progress and enable misunderstood, forgotten and ignored lives.
The idea from Audre Lorde’s “No Hierarchy to Oppression” discusses oppression does not trump other forms but we cannot afford to pick and choose which identity to advocate for. Lorde closes with, “And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.” Feminism aims to combat all forms of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia but also is not exclusive to these forms. Failing to combat all forms of oppression will only enable them to continue. As Lorde covers, looking at your identity can hinder others and yourself. The combining, intersecting and layered forms of oppression are deeper than our identities and enable all forms of oppression to continue. Various forms of oppression are embedded in cultures. There is a need for collective and intentional acts of inclusion to end all forms of oppression.