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lvasko's picture

Does Voice equate Privilege?

I am still struggling with ideas of voice and privilege, as in- it is a privilege that Emily Dickinson was able to spend as much time as she did writing poetry, a feat she was able to accomplish because of, and perhaps at the expense of, the swedish (?) maid she had cleaning the house, doing the chores for which Dickinson would otherwise be responsible.

I agree. I think this is a privilege.

Like Dickinson, anyone who goes to Bryn Mawr is privileged in their ability and opportunity to develop their intellect and their own voice. Cisneros, too, is privileged in the education she received and the grants she earned that enabled her to travel and write her perpective, her "voice."

I guess my main point of contention is that anyone who is able/has the opportunity to pursue their own interests/voice/expression is privileged. It is a wonderful privilege to the able to do this. To be a college student, to be a writer, an actress, a poet, an artist, even to be a professor is a privilege. The chance to develop the self through your occupation is, to me, a privilege.

This often means that your privilege is happening at the expense of other's privilege. The people who are working to support your privilege are often unable to attain the same level of privilege as you because they have had to spend time where you have not. They have given you freedom.

With that said, what does that mean for "voice"? Does privilege mean voice? Does having the opportunity to develop your 'self' mean that you also have a voice? Does not having the opportunity to develop the 'self' mean that you do not have a voice? Does voice mean political agency? Or the ability to be heard in the public sphere? Does having a voice mean being published?

Even if we forget the definition/or lack thereof, of "voice", I keep coming back to the same point: Yes, the ability to pursue one's own thought, vocation, "voice" is a privilege. But I also believe that everybody is born with a voice and a choice to voice. For some the choice is undeniably easier to see, but I still think that, even if the choice is voice or death, there is a choice.

Emily Dickinson chose to exclude herself from the world and focus on her self, on the development of her thoughts and her brain. She was privileged in her ability to do so... but she also made a choice to do so.

Sandra Cisneros chose to become a writer. Her choice is a privilege that came at the expense, literally and figuratively, of her mother and her boyfriend (supported her while she was writing).

I feel that everyone has a choice to voice. That that choice comes with a certain privilege and at the same time a certain lack of privilege for those around you who support you in your privilege is undeniable... but it is a choice that anyone can make nonetheless.


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