While I was writing that comment I had exactly this thought but I am highly aware that when I speak about these topics, I can only speak on behalf of the person or group that I represent. Because I am Anglo-Indian, I speak for a broader community of brown people, half Indian people, Anglo-Indian and biracial coloured people (among others, and also very generally). I can empathise to some degree with your experience of course, but it is not the same because it does not have the same histories as mine. I can’t talk about your experience as a European person because it’s not my lived experience and for this reason I think it’s inappropriate for me to be a voice in what is essentially your conversation. You are entitled to your experiences and of course, your feelings and opinions shaped by these are completely valid – it would be so wrong of me to invalidate them! Especially because this validation of experience is what I aim for by participating in intersectional feminist discourse.
It is important that you remember too that intersectional feminism only exists because identity is intersectional and of course, experiences are common among many women from all walks of life. Intersectionality as a branch of cultural studies considers that experience as a coloured woman intersects with many cultural issues – for example, my experience as a half-Indian woman can’t be divided up into “half-Indian issues” and “women’s issues” as for me, these two parts of my identity are so entwined and their issues are often common ones. Because my experience intersects with issues that are common among many women, both white and non-white, it’s a more appropriate discourse for me to be involved in because it caters to me but also to a broader range of women.
I am always very explicit about the context at which I speak from, which of course is the perspective of an Anglo-Indian woman in White Australian society. I am explicit about this because, as I stated earlier, I am not able to truly empathise with your experience and so have no right to control this discourse – I can contribute, but should only foster conversation, not direct it. This is exactly how I feel about white women in the black feminist conversation – participation in this discourse is important, but white women must stand beside or behind coloured women, and not tell them how it’s going to be or what they “deserve” but instead stand in support. This is because whiteness is coded with a long history of institutionalised privilege and Western standards of living aren’t necessarily appropriate for all women (but that’s a whole other conversation).
Distinguishing between coloured feminism and white feminism is extremely important, and not differentiating them is damaging and counterproductive for every community that doesn’t fit the mainstream ideas of feminism (which are overwhelmingly middle class and white). Distinguishing differences and celebrating cultural pluralism is important because to not do that is to render my experience invalid which of course, is exactly what you took from my comment and have been offended by. It is also incredibly important for us to learn from the experiences of the Other, whether it be through cultural practices or expressions, or through ways of making, living and doing. To not do this is the effectively “colonise” the feminist conversation as being one that can only conform to mainstream ideas of “freedom”, “liberation” and “civility”, which unfortunately exist almost exclusively within Western, European grammar (because “globalisation”/”colonialism”/”Western dominance”). Intersectional feminism allows a negotiation of these terms, which is a major, major part of all the work that I do.