Respectability politics makes us comfortable. It hoists us up on our high horses, and takes away our responsibility for the way we treat other people. It puts the burden on the marginalized person to adjust their appearance or behavior to earn respect from the majority.
There are rules, spoken and unspoken, meant to govern the behavior and presentation of people. They are not relative or flexible, but wide-sweeping and stem from colonialism, privilege and whiteness. It forces conformity, erases culture, and alters the path of a people. Many of us like to think of ourselves as progressive and liberal, but frequently exercise respectability politics for reasons we may not understand which are rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
Over the past few years, feminism has grown in popularity, and this has led the media to put the spotlight on it to sell magazines, get clicks, and earn likes and shares. The media’s interest is not in spreading the message of feminism, but to sensationalize it by putting celebrities on the spot to see what they will say in response to bait questions.
Alicia Wallace is a women's rights activist, public educator, and cultural critic from Nassau, Bahamas. She is a non-profit consultant and movement builder, and has worked with organizations in Canada, USA, UK, and The Bahamas focused on issues ranging from homelessness to sexual and reproductive rights. She wears an intersectional feminist lens and enjoys learning, sharing ideas, harnessing the power of people, asking questions, and creating solutions. She makes time for cycling, running, cooking, baking, reading, writing, eating cupcakes, and having tea. She tweets as @_AliciaAudrey.