Writing About Not Writing
Tuesday April 08th 2014, 1:57 pm
Filed under: Commentary

I am not a writer.
It seems that feminists write. I came to feminism through feminist blogs; almost all of the feminists I look up to are writers or bloggers. I got involved in WAM!, but felt left out because it seemed like all of the workshops were about how to get published (or how to get paid for being published). Meanwhile, some of my feminist college friends were starting to get noticed. I felt inferior because I wasn’t getting published – and more so because I wasn’t trying to.

I have a blog, I’m on the listservs, I think I’m a good writer, but I don’t feel that “urge to write” like writers are supposed to feel. And these days, I find myself trying hard not to write. Let me explain.

As I follow more marginalized people on twitter, I find myself wanting to write less and less. I follow people of color, queer folks, trans folks, folks who are disabled or gender-non-conforming or all of the above. When they write about privilege and feminism, they know what they’re talking about because they have lived it. Instead of jumping in, trying to get published, or making sure my voice is heard, I’ve been asking myself: “What do I have to add to this discussion?”

I have a lot of privilege. I’m write, I’m straight, I’m cis, I’m non-disabled, I’m upper-middle class. I’ve been told all my life to step up, be seen, take charge. It feels revolutionary to sit down, to move back, to listen. I don’t want to say that my opinions don’t matter, but…they don’t. My activism is about centering marginalized voices, and creating a feminism where folks on the margins are listened to and recognized as the experts in their own lives.

This brings up some complicated feelings. It’s my mom telling me that my experience is valid, and that I have things to say. It’s my tattoo that says #feelings telling me to access my emotions. It’s also got to do with thousands of overprivileged white men who don’t seem to have any any voice in the back of their heads telling them to Sit Down. Aren’t they the ones who should be battling these conflicting feelings? (OK, can you imagine? All the WM asking themselves if they should engage? OK, wow). It’s the farce that is Lean In: if I don’t stand up, who will?

I wonder if I’m sitting down for the wrong reasons – is it because I’m scared? It is because I feel like I’m no good? What if I’m selling myself short by hiding behind ‘good politics’? What if the theory is being wasted on me – I’m being silenced by theory that is meant to silence those with even more privilege? But that doesn’t sound right – I’ve got lots of privilege. But it only works if other folks who look like me are also actively practicing Sitting Down.

I’m trying to separate the forces that say “You don’t have a right to speak” from the part of me that is asking “What right do I have to this space?” or “What am I saying that hasn’t already been said?” and more importantly, “Can I signal boost instead?”

When I told my good friend Dan about this blog post, he said, “writing about not writing is the first step :)”
The first step toward what?


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