Before I start this, I want to say that I am well aware that this has probably already been spoken about but I feel it is necessary to talk about and I wanted to put my own spin on things. One thing I read about continuously is this idea that some social issues or taboos are more acceptable when (more) important people do them, or they have a ‘better’ reason. There are so many things that hold us back from freedom and liberty in our modern society; race, gender, sexuality, disability, or the intersectionality of all of these things. However, I believe that the perception and portrayal of individuals can be the most dangerous.
What I am talking about is the hundreds of comments from white women who claim to be feminists, when they only fight for certain women and not all. Or the comments from ‘pro-choice’ activists who’s first argument is that women get raped and need a way out of that. Or Trump’s ‘locker room talk’. I’m calling this the ‘Boy in Striped Pyjamas’ effect.
After re-watching the film earlier this year, I saw it in a whole new light. The film is based in a concentration camp during the second world war, about 2 unexpected and innocent children who were unaware of the real nature of their surroundings. I watched the film as a child and always sobbed. Yet this time it had a different effect on me. I didn't cry, and I really cry at films. All I could think of was the fact that no one cared about these people. What we need to take from the film is that people only cared when those poor children died, when it wasn’t a Jew. When it was someone perceived as more important. And I get it, it’s the way things were. People genuinely believed that was the right thing, or that Jews deserved that treatment. But do we still want to be living in that frame of mind? Are we still going to fight that some lives are more deserving than others? That some situations deserve less social acceptance for the same act?
Disclaimer: I know some things are unacceptable and there are going to be situations in which this doesn’t apply. What I am applying it to are situations in which I believe are acceptable or unacceptable regardless of their reasoning or the person that carries it out.
For example, all the topics I have spoken about are things which I feel are morally and/or socially correct or incorrect. Therefore It wouldn’t matter who carries them out, or whether it is justified.
The pure fact that Trump is allowed to say even half the things he does about women or racial and religious minorities is outrageous. If a comment is made that directly attacks a group of individuals, it should not matter who said it to decide if it is okay or not. Racism is racism. Sexism is sexism. I don't care who you are. We cannot allow people to believe that their social status, or place in the social hierarchy, grants them power to discriminate. We cannot play down sexism to 'locker room' talk.
When we allow individuals to believe that their comments or actions are acceptable because of who they are we are creating inequality. Whether we agree or not on what is/isn't social acceptable, it should be the same for everyone.
For example, I take a very feminist approach in life. All that means to me is that I fight for people, and positive change. I fight for gender equality, but overall just equality for people. Feminism is what it says it is. It infuriates me what people, firstly, use the word incorrectly. I continuously heard people calling themselves feminist and then contradicting themselves by saying that they only fight for certain women, or in certain situations. Feminism that doesn't include all genders, races and all types of people, is not feminism.
If we are saying that sexism is unacceptable, then its unacceptable when it is done or said to anyone. It doesn't matter who says it. It doesn't matter who it is said to. It is still wrong.
Likewise, if you believe abortion is socially acceptable and right, then surely it doesn't matter who is having one? Yet when you look at the stigma surrounding abortion it shows us that women who have had more than one abortion experience more stigma. The reason women have abortions is also highly stigmatised. To me that doesn't matter. If you think something is right and okay to do, then thats that. If you truly believe something is right then an individuals reasoning behind that should not matter.
We are limiting ourselves by allowing individuals who are perceived as more important to control lives that they do not live. The only that should matter is the act itself, not who does it or for what reason. This also carries through to topics in which some people may find their voice more valuable or important than others. I believe everyone should find their voice, and I want to open every closeted conversation there it.
The truth is, some voices do matter more. But this is subjective. It depends on the topic.
I love hearing people talk about their passions, interests and also what ignites them. For me, that is feminist issues. I find that although I am very passionate about these issues, they are also things that I live with and relate to. Everyone gets very defensive when they hear people say that a woman’s voice is more important than a man’s, when discussing abortion. It is. Just like, I could never advise policy or opinions surrounding testicular cancer as well as a man could. My opinion, whatever that may be, wouldn’t be as important. Because I don’t have to live that life. That is an issue that will never affect me directly.
So yes, some peoples voices matter more than others, but they matter more because of the way they effect those people, not because those individuals are superior.
As a white female I understand my space in society, and alongside that I know where my voice matters the most. My voice can mean so much within certain groups, and in others it is unheard. Quite frankly, thats how it should be. I cannot cause direct change to lives I do not live. I do not have the right, so to speak, to implement that change. I do not have the appropriate voice.
I believe that in order to achieve true freedom we need to listen to the individuals who are directly affected by issues, not people who believe they are more suitable to control the issues.
I am not male, so my opinion should never be put above a mans when looking at male issues. Similarly, I am not black, so why would I try to understand what it is like to live within that community. I can't. I will never know what it is like. At a base level, we should be listening to the people who live lives of inequality.
I do not want to be living in a society where certain voices negatively effect lives. If it is not your life, it is not your place.