As I have said before in this column, I try not to be the loudest or most domineering in a conversation. At times, it can be difficult for me to recognize my aggressiveness toward or blatant disregard for others’ opinions that are different than mine. Spending time listening and taking a backseat in conversations has made me realize I was not only overshadowing my peers, coworkers and friends, but also dominating the topics of conversation. These last three years have been enlightening when it comes to recognizing my privilege and the importance of elevating marginalized groups — not just being a voice for them, but giving them a place to have a bigger platform.
Being an ally to marginalized groups can be frustrating when attempting to advocate for them. You want to speak out and rally around these groups to help, but at times, it is more beneficial to allow those actually affected by the dominant culture to run on their own agenda and platforms. When we recognize well-meaning allies can cause more harm than good, it largely promotes a better perception of the marginalized group for the rest of the world, because we understand our place as an advocate and not the person who needs to take center stage.
Standpoint theory, created by Sandra Harding and Julia T. Wood, points out the perspective marginalized groups have. Their views are more realistic when it comes to their perspective, and they have strong objectivity — they don’t seek power; they seek to be heard and understood, which can feel impossible when there is a dominating group silencing smaller groups.
The differences and connections between social location and standpoint are key to understanding this theory and the perspective of people in marginalized groups. Understanding my social location as an upper middle-class white woman has been both frustrating and enlightening. I have learned a lot about the subgroups within marginalized groups, especially women, when I think about my standpoint. I recognize my place in the societal hierarchy is much higher than other women I know, and I want to fight beside them. Notice I said beside; another level of understanding my standpoint is understanding my voice is already elevated above my fellow women. Therefore, I have a greater responsibility when it comes to standing for and with them — everyone deserves a chance to fight their own battle without someone stepping in.
This has come up several times when choosing topics to write about as opinions editor for The Bison. I want to use my voice to help those who won’t write or cannot write with the honesty they would like, and I understand I can assist with that through opinion writing or seeking opinions from those around me who truly do have something to say. I hope I have achieved this during my time as opinions editor this semester, and I am going to continue to pursue more voices not currently being heard.
Here is what I need from my readers, friends and mentors — call me out. Help me see when I fall short in my pursuits to allow others to have a platform. Then, flip the script on yourself; are you helping or hurting those around you who need to be center stage? Pull back the curtain, hand over the microphone and take a step back in order to give others a platform for their perspectives.