I attended the Georgia Regents University 4th Biennial Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium “Mobilizing through the Media: Social Justice and the Digital Frontier” on March 7th, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia, USA. Melissa McEwan of Shakesville gave the Keynote Address entitled “Natural Allies: Building Bridges between Marginalized Communities.”
It was a lot for me to take in, and she was gracious enough, when I asked her if she planned to post a copy of her talk or a recording, to hand me the pages from which she read. I reread it this morning. I do hope she makes it publicly available. Perhaps she’s reluctant to do so because her remarks were not polished or tight. Another possibly is that, for people who have thought about the concepts of intersectionality, allyship and privilege in depth, these remarks were simplistic or reductionist, as keynote addresses tend to be. Nevertheless, for me, a recovering homophobic misogynist, I thought I learned something. So maybe Ms. McEwan will publish her remarks under a title like, “Allyship for Dummies.”
She began her remarks by acknowledging Kimberlé Crenshaw (Twitter) and Sister Outsider. Professor Crenshaw is a founder of the African American Policy Forum and author of Critical Race Theory (edited by Crenshaw, et al., 1995), Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment (with Matsuda, et al., 1993) and The Runner and the Track: Understanding Structural Racism (with Harris & Lipsitz, 2013), among others. Sister Outsider is a spoken word duo composed of Dominique Christina and Denice Frohman.
Failure to recognize intersectionality and restrain privilege and adoption of a fixed-state model of allyship are the flaws McEwan identified in activists’ attempts to build bridges. After Ms. McEwan’s talk, I feel like I have enough understanding to start limiting my flaws in these areas.
There were plenty of zingers in the talk, but I don’t want to share too much without permission. Here’s one:
The truth is that our interior architecture needs to change, before we can ever hope to start building external infrastructure. We are the foundations of the bridges we build.