Privilege and Platforms

If you’re looking for a post about shoes you won’t find it here. Sorry to disappoint any Imelda Marcos devotees. In the wake of the fallout around what has happened to Caroline Criado-Perez. It’s an unfortunate consequence, but I have noticed a lot of debate around the issues of platform and privilege.

Let me be clear and congruent. Caroline does unquestionably have a platform. In the post-I have just re-blogged, it has been noted that Caroline is having a backlash and has been accused therefore of milking the media coverage.

First of all let me ask you a question. Why would anyone milk abuse and rape threats? They are two of the most disgusting things that can ever happen to a woman or indeed anyone.

I’m quite sure that there are a million and one other places Caroline would rather be than touring the TV and radio studios telling this heartbreaking story. But if she didn’t it would be like letting those who did these things off scot free which I don’t think anyone should do. I am glad Caroline is telling her story. It is resonating with other women and making them feel able to share their own experiences.

Another thing. You don’t just get given a platform. You have to work hard at it and have interesting things to say; things that will not only resonate with you with the public at large.

I believe Caroline has worked hard and is still working hard to justify that platform. Some would say even I have a platform as a fledgeling writer who has written a few published articles now.

Nobody just handed it to me in fact it was others who put me forward who pushed me and said I should pitch my articles properly. The thing is it is hard work. Combining writing and conducting a successful campaign with full-time education as Caroline does is also hard work.

She saw an issue and went out and did something about it. That takes determination and courage. I admire her tenacious nature. Anyone can have a platform if they want it but nobody is owed a platform and nobody therefore is obliged to give you one.

As my mother said tonight Caroline comes across as interesting and intelligent.

Writing articles is hard work. It takes a long time from the writing process to the editing process and then bam you see the finished article. You sit back with a half satisfied smile and think “Yeah! I did that.”

But heartbreakingly it is easier for some it seems to be opinionated and tell people what they’re doing wrong, how they would do better without actually enacting anything themselves or making a contribution.

It’s easy. That requires no hard work at all and no effort. All you need is a degree in being opinionated.

Moving on to privilege many writers feel that they are disadvantaged compared to people like Caroline Criado-Perez and Helen Lewis, Deputy Editor of the New Statesman.

Admittedly I have been quite deliberate in choosing those two examples. I saw a Tweet earlier from Helen saying that she is tired of the backlash from feminists.

The line from the opposition is that feminists like Helen are white and middle-class. That’s a whole bag of chips on someone’s shoulder. While you’re at it I always have salt and vinegar please, no ketchup thanks.

Some in minority groups say they lack privilege compared to Helen. The whole check your privilege debate was raging at the beginning of the year I’m glad to see it consigned to the history books of the information superhighway.

But Helen’s detractors say they have no privilege and no platform. That claim is completely absurd. Even those in minority groups have some privilege when you compare and contrast.

Let me illustrate from my point of view as a woman with a disability and as a trans woman.

I look at the world through the prism of being a trans woman and a woman with a disability and I notice some things.

Some trans women look like they have stepped off the front cover of Vogue rather than set out the front door to go to work. Whilst me, I’m overweight confined to a wheelchair and I do my best, but my body is hardly Boudicca as I’ve said before in previous writing. But I’m happy I enjoy life and I have a gift and aptitude for writing. Not everybody disabled or otherwise has got that. I feel lucky

Some feminists can walk and talk. I can only do one out of those two. I require help to do almost everything else.

Going back to disability though, I have friends who cannot walk nor talk. They can’t direct their own care and have to trust completely in the integrity of others to do the right thing by them.

The point of those three illustrations although somewhat polarised on purpose, was to show that I am aware of my own privilege. We all have privilege in some areas and lack it in others.

Nobody’s odds can ever be completely stacked against them. I just wish genuinely that people would acknowledge as I have done that they do possess some privilege even though it may not feel like they do. As I always say, how many people would want to change places with me, or my friends who can’t talk? I bet you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t last a day. That my friends is what lacking privilege is in a nutshell.

I just wish that people would stop diluting the concept and misappropriating it for the purposes of attacking others on the basis of some perceived mythical privilege. Anybody can sit down and write an article if they want to. Anybody can log into their email account and send it off and get a platform if they want to.

There is not a different section of the Internet that people like Helen have access to. Yes she has connections. She got those connections by getting out and meeting people so people know who she is. You could do it too.

I realised a while ago that my own worst enemy was myself. Here comes my psychological parting shot. I put it to you that if you attack people like Caroline or Helen you’re not frustrated with them. You’re frustrated only with yourself. It’s easy to feel like the world is the enemy. It is difficult and hard and tough to change that narrative.

Once people do, once people listen to those outside of the creed of their natural opinions that’s when things start changing because you’re able to achieve balance in your life and balance in your writing. I don’t see Helen as a white middle-class feminist otherwise known as public enemy number one, I see her trying to make a contribution like everybody else. Ditto for Caroline.

I know I’ll be hated for saying this last bit. But if people put the energy they put into slagging people off on Twitter into articles solutions and genuine discussion a lot more would get done and it would be more productive and constructive as well.

We are at the end of the article and still nothing about shoes. What a let down I truly am. šŸ™‚

I’m aware of my privilege. I own it even though there are many privileges I don’t have. Maybe you have them maybe you don’t but still I don’t accept that privilege begins and ends at zero for everyone.


2 thoughts on “Privilege and Platforms

  1. Its the Magic Momma/Trembling Sister syndrome that did so much damage in second wave feminism. You see it happening over and over again.

    “To understand that no one has or can have your power, that it remains in you no matter how forbidden you feel it to be, means defying the patriarchal taboo and that’s very hard. It means claiming one’s own limited but real power and abandoning one’s inflated notion of other women’s power. It means engaging in a direct public confrontation with the patriarchy as embodied in men and men’s institutions, not concentrating on its symbolic presence in other members of the women’s community.

    To risk failure is bad enough. To risk success is even worse. After all, women have been burnt alive for claiming a power which was, paradoxically, not enough to save them. It’s safer to be weak, safer to have someone else be strong for you and be punished for it in your place.”

    1. That’s a great quotation, mhairi! Hannah, I agree with you completely. Some people online seem to be professional offense takers. “Privilege checking” while necessary has gotten completely out of hand. Embracing our inner power is one of the most revolutionary things we can do. And if you can do it, I can too!

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