“Intersectionality as a label combines a level of abstraction with an appearance of value-neutrality”, says one European White Feminist.
Through this work, an advance reader copy of Turn This World Inside Out, The Emergence of Nurturance Culture by Nora Samaran found its way into my hands. And although at 140 pages it’s only little, its impact on me has been disproportionately large. It has helped me find compassion; it has helped me connect fragments of ideas which existed in my brain already, but floated untethered in abstract (where they were of no use at all).
Power is the capacity to influence others which–notwithstanding systemic privilege–fluctuates, sometimes on a daily basis according to self esteem, personality, age, maturity and in every unique relationship dynamic. How can power be measured or compared, when there is no absolute, and perception of power is also a form of power?
World building, as Marvel has proven it can pull off over the last decade, is a skill I admire, it’s an escapist’s ultimate playground–yet my aversion to imperialism and the influence of a feminist education on how I perceive fictional heroes and supervillains ate holes in the fabric of my appreciation.
But there is no victorious ‘democratic’ ending to this story. In Syria the civil uprising has gradually been transformed into a full scale civil war. Sayid and his colleagues have all lost loved ones to this war and their political is personal. Sayid’s own crime–and why he is here–was to film government violence and put it up on YouTube, after which he was put on the list of wanted terrorists.
What we find funny is indicative of our beliefs, attitudes, judgements and opinions. It is a useful barometer. When we mock those who by birth or circumstance are less fortunate, we become persecutors and make others our victims. We have no less duty of care for verbal abuse even through humour, than we do for physical abuse.
Britain has never taken responsibility for the bloodshed and exploitation which built the empire. This is evidenced by Theresa May’s hardline on Brexit. We want to take without giving anything in return. We make no apologies for our xenophobic attitudes; our comedy ridicules ‘those bloody foreigners’, our narrow-minded and disrespectful behaviour often shames us in the countries we visit.
Gone are the days when I positively affirmed every day in the shower, and shared uplifting memes. Now I see these past behaviours as tragic extent of mine and others’ unawareness. I thought if I changed my mindset and concentrated on dismissing the negative and amplifying positive activism, that the world I wanted would resettle itself with my aligned actions.
Privileged white woman pain is more gradual and less dramatic than that experienced by intersectional minorities. It is insidious. Kind of like bonsai trees, white women have the innate capacity to grow to a normal size but our roots and branches are cut so that we grow far smaller. Stunted or trained along a trellis in such a way that few see, sometimes not even us.
Like Mithridates, the ancient Greek King who–legend has it–ingested small amounts of poison to create immunity, it is the art of swallowing what we hate little by little, of being formed by it, developing an immunity to it and even learning to appreciate the rush it gives us so we can make it in this sick world. If it is no longer poisonous to us, it is easier to dish it out as we deny that it’s poison. It’s still poison though.