A Thought Exercise on Discursive Violences

Do you know what it is to be the Other? To be ascribed marginal status and identity on the basis of one’s physiology, skin color, ascribed race, socio-economic standing, dis/ability, and so on? Do you know what it is to be constantly asked to choose just one of the many fragmented subjectivities that make up the whole of you?

That’s violence. It’s violence at the epistemic and ontological level. Words matter. Discourse matters. Discourses have material consequences in our lives.

I know this discursive violence well. I know it intimately. It is inflicted when white feminists fail to understand that racism, cissexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and so on intersect, overlap and interact to condition the subjectivities of those who are subjected to these discriminations. To ask a working-class woman of color living with a dis/ability to deny facets of her lived experience in order to be in solidarity with the generalized category, “women” is a violence. It is the violence of male-dominated movements centering issues of race demanding that women of color be silent, supportive and subordinate within the movement. The demand to choose race over gender, when racialized misogyny from within and without the community characterizes the lived experiences of women of color, is a violence.

Is it too much to ask to be recognized as a whole human being with fragmented subjectivities?

I think not.

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