This is the sixth post in a 6 part series on feminism and disablism written by The Psychology Supercomputer for A Room of our Own
In this final post of this series (1,2,3,4,5, here) I want to round off the discussion and bring together the narratives to what I feel is an important conclusion. Yes, I have tried throughout this series to demonstrate that mainstream feminism is disablist. That it ignores its own privileges and alienates women who do not fit within the middle-class, white, able-bodied categories. As a working class woman, with chronic illness (bordering on a disability) I find mainstream feminism often doesn’t work for me. It fails to understand the class level oppressions that I face on a daily basis and excludes me through its use of language and privilege denial.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, I hear the voices of other marginalised women saying similar things. Our sisters of colour have been trying to get us to take notice of these issues for some time. And as I begin to interact with more disability activists, I hear the same calls. I hear these calls from other working class women. Mainstream feminism has a real problem with privilege.
So, what does this mean? Do I suggest we turn our backs on mainstream feminism? Am I a further proponent of a splitting of the movement?
I see these mistakes of mainstream feminism as a learning opportunity – you can’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. Those of us feeling pushed out, need to push back. We need to make ourselves heard in whatever way we can and mainstream feminism needs to listen.
I’m also inclined to be forgiving of other women, of mainstream feminism. I can see cognitive dissonance in their reactions and responses. I can see mistakes due to a focus on individualistic analysis. I see in-group/out-group thinking taking over. And I KNOW that none of this is conscious. Women are not enacting these phenomena wilfully. All of this happens at an unconscious level. So I can step back and say, that this is not any individual woman’s fault. In an exchange with a woman I can see these things and change my approach. I can allow for the influence of these unconscious biases and not get so hurt and angry.
But most of all, I can see ALL women as survivors of male violence. I can see how we are all impacted by trauma. And I can be gentle in my exchanges. I can be forgiving. I can extend a hand of sisterhood and healing, even in the face of anger and rebuttal.
I am in no way perfect. And I fail at this all the time. But I TRY. I try really hard to remember these things. Because, when all is said and done, we are all women first.