P Is For Participation: Navigating The World While Black, Female, And Invisible.
Every day I wake up and make an active choice to participate in a world in which there is a never-ending campaign waged against me. It seeks to remove my body autonomy, silence my voice and belittle my pain —all while making me feel crazy for calling attention to the injustices I face.
I’m no stranger to life’s little lumps. I was born black, female, and poor- the holy trifecta. The patriarchal-white-feminist- communion was plentiful. I was to act as a pallbearer in my own life while racism, sexism, and poverty lead the funeral procession. This decision was made for me by oppressive institutions I had no hand in creating. These oppressive institutions still play an active role in my life today. They are the reason why I will always work twice as hard for half as much, all the while pretending that all the disadvantages placed before me don’t exist. Many PoC have to do this, it doesn’t make me unique…just really, really exhausted. Especially when coupled with the constant applause needed for performative allyship and the coddling of white guilt…
The world is not positioned in my favor. It’s not made in my likeness. Situations aren’t manipulated to favor a positive outcome for me (regardless of the amount of effort I put in or don’t). There is no residual energy that I can tap into for success, safety, and security. I didn’t choose to be an activist, or a feminist, or that weird girl at the party who talks about connectivity, self-reflection, and the importance of examining critical theories through an intersectional lens. I have to be. I have to be that weird girl.
The world will always feel too big and my contribution to small. My potential will be met with limitations outside of my control. I lack the whiteness, maleness, and privilege to have space gifted to me. If I want to expand beyond my circumstances, I have to take my space. I have to do so unapologetically and with fervent determination. Again, I could really use a nap (#SelfCare).
I can’t escape the patriarchy, racism, sexism, or classism. I can’t eradicate these institutions (or others) from the world. The circumstances in which I was born into saw fit to make sure I didn’t have confidence in my own voice. Lucky for me I was armed with the best ammunition a girl could have- natural curiosity and really great teachers. So I will continue to use my voice but also listen. I will make an active choice to participate in the world…whether it likes it or not. Thank goodness I don’t have to do it alone…and neither do you.
Penny Middleton is an actress, writer, producer, and intersectional feminist living in New York.