Inclusiveness and the middle class writer

woman reading statuetteI read this Vagina Monologues playwright: ‘It never said a woman is someone with a vagina’ article in the Guardian the other day and it just added up to a lot of confusion I have been feeling lately about the dismissive attitude I see projected often towards individual experiences of feminism for the reason of not being inclusive enough. (This other Guardian articles,Class is permanent and Stop this stream of sob stories from self-pitying middle-class writers – we’ve suffered enough, have also contributed to the confusion.)

There are whole sections of female experiences that have been marginalized for too long: poor women’s, black women’s, lesbian and transgender women’s. The voice of the white, heterosexual, middle class woman has been the one heard most often and most loudly. All that is very unfortunate. We should all be given a voice. We should all have access to education and technology, to publication platforms. There is an acute need to promote those voices that previously have been unheard. I wholeheartedly agree with all that.

Unfortunately, as a middle class, heterosexual, white woman I feel slightly uncomfortable now. I feel like I don’t matter. Is it because I suddenly simply don’t matter “as much”? My experience is clearly not very inclusive, but is anyone’s experience truly inclusive? I don’t know. What I know is that, unfounded or not, I am feeling uncomfortable with this and unsure what to do about it. I feel like I’m being judged for something that I don’t have any control over. Right, boo-hoo, that’s just what all those disadvantaged women previously mentioned have been feeling since forever. I know. That’s why this is so hard.

What I have control over is my writing, though, and because I write fiction and a fiction writer has so many liberties, I think I shall have to make sure to include more diverse characters in my stories. To the extent of my knowledge of their experiences, of course. That will not erase who I am or what I know best (myself), but it will hopefully create an atmosphere of inclusion. Because, being a woman, I understand how to it feels to not be represented. I know how hard it is for me to find, for example, an adventure movie where the main character is a girl, so my daughter feels empowered. At the same time there will always be many other categories of people much less privileged than I am, and I think I have a duty to at least acknowledge the importance of their experience, as different as it is. It’s all I can do. All the while trying to convince myself that my experience is not insignificant, because no human experience is.

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