Response to Tavi’s Introduction
After listening to Colby-Sawyer’s cohort of introductions, as well as those from our own class, I realized that the introduction exercise itself is a literal form of the act of becoming. Exiting our comfort zones and exposing ourselves to vulnerability, we recite our personal narratives in relation to feminism which are themselves forms of reaching — reaching toward each other to share more and facilitate “touch.” Through this we venture into the unknown, our introductions on the Internet are open to anyone’s ears. A personal narrative is a form of engaging in the Politics of Touch — sharing and being vulnerable encourages others to do the same.
Particularly, I really began to think about the idea of the introduction as a form of “touch” in the context of the Politics of Touch after listening to Tavi’s introduction from Colby-Sawyer’s cohort. I have chosen to respond to Tavi in the following letter, wherein I also negotiate the role of the “introvert” in politics, activism, and feminism.
Thank you for sharing this powerful verbal monologue. Similarly to you, I am also an introvert (I, too, try not to speak often in the presence of others) and I understand, in one sense, the extreme vulnerability and instability you likely felt posting this personal anecdote online. I also felt this while writing my own introduction. As a shy, introverted, and socially anxious person, I feel you on those levels and commend you for the amazingly written (and spoken) introduction!
Your mention of verbal silence got me thinking about my own silence in the context of contemporary feminism (intersectionality, post-colonial feminism, etc.) and what happens when our voices are absent — and when we speak up.
In your introduction, you mention that you don’t like to use your words in front of others. This is because — on top of being an introvert — you are also a black woman, or in your words: “I have two strikes against me.” You explain that as a black woman in the face of hegemonic white feminism and the rest of the world, your silence is a tool for safety. You “… keep secrets. Even though I’m told over and over by white feminists that we must reveal ourselves, open ourselves, I keep secrets. Disclosing our secrets threatens our survival.”
I am also an introvert, and my “mainstream” intersections (white/cisgendered female/heterosexual) allow my silence to be easy, dangerously habitual, and perpetual. I often wonder if my silences — which I often pass off as symptomatic of my introversion — are actually instances of white fragility in disguise. How can I leverage my privilege to be a better ally despite these social anxieties?
This deeply intimate exercise of writing/reciting introductions then sharing them with a classroom in another country, though, has made me realize how important our voices are, especially when we don’t use them nearly as much as others. Tavi, your words are poetic and powerful — your experiences and points of view are heart-wrenching and teeth-clenching, and your lived experience as a black woman is something that I, a white woman, will never truly feel. But through your intimate monologue we connect — or as Erin Manning would say, “we reach toward and engage in the Politics of Touch” — and the use of your voice makes me want to use mine more, too. Through our introversion we connect, and through our own verbalized stories we can engage in the larger feminist dialogue together, no matter how initially difficult that may be.
Thank you, Tavi.