RENI EDDO-LODGE/JUNO DAWSON/LAURIE PENNY ***

 

EIF

One day event

 

The lead-up to this event was slightly fraught, and saw first iO Tillett Wright and then Jackie Kay cancelling at an increasingly late hour. The final lineup was a powerhouse of intersectional feminism: Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, was accompanied by Juno Dawson, author of The Gender Games, and chaired by Laurie Penny, feminist columnist and author of Bitch Doctrine.

The discussion centred on whiteness–ironically the topic Eddo-Lodge is now most often asked to speak about, despite the title of her book, how it informs a global power structure that limits the life chances of minorities, and how it intersects with other identities.

Eddo-Lodge, Dawson and Penny articulated a number of the double standards that plague our society’s minorities, people of color but also trans people and women: the framing of white or cisgender as ‘normal’, and allowed to be seen as individual, while minorities are lumped according to their shared features, fact that the two speakers are rarely asked for their opinions on topics other than race and gender, and the fact that women especially are often asked to write about their feelings on a subject, their views framed as subjective, whereas men can write in the same way about the same topics and have their work presented as objective fact.

Another important point, made by Dawson, was that while she and Eddo-Lodge are so often asked to speak about the most prominent aspects of their identities, gender and race, they feel this as a burden, and don’t feel comfortable speaking on behalf of every trans person or every black person: said Dawson, ‘the fact that we’re put on a little platform and given a little microphone, people assume we know what we’re talking about.’

The speakers leaned heavily on technical terminology, for example identity politics, that was not always very well explained. I sensed at several points during the talk that the audience–largely white, some older–might have been slightly alienated, even uncomfortable. Most of the questions at the end were from sympathetic, genuinely curious audience members about how to be better allies, though there was one from an older audience member that managed to be both transphobic and offensive to Canadian First Nations people. Both speakers took the question in stride, however, and avoided giving offense back.

Overall I found this talk enlightening and informative, but I got the sense that this was because I was familiar already with the language of feminism, intersectionality and identity politics. I suspect not everyone got the same out of it that I did.

Eris Young