Archive for the ‘Privilege’ Tag

Progressive Dudes and Clueless Rape Analogies   6 comments

[Trigger warning for vile rape analogy, sexual assault, and self-injury.]

So I followed a link from Ian Welsh’s blog to read this supposedly awesome piece on Obama. It may well be awesome, but unfortunately I’ll never know. Because a few paragraphs into what’s a very long post, I came across this:

“He’s [referring to Obama] dealing with people [referring to the Republicans] whose idea of compromise is a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”

WTF?!? Needless to say, there was no trigger warning and nothing in the post’s title or Welsh’s recommendation prepared me for this disgusting analogy. My interest in the piece came to an abrupt end and I began to feel physically sick. Images of being raped flashed through my mind. Pretending to be into it so my rapist wouldn’t kill me.

And I thought of a friend who was forced by her rapist to experience an orgasm during the attack. Afterward he claimed it couldn’t have been rape because “she came” and most people agreed with him. Worst of all, my friend blamed herself and began despising the body she felt betrayed her. Even though she understood intellectually that what another friend and I were telling her was true, that the human body responds to stimuli whether we want it to or not and that what her rapist did to her is a torture technique designed to humiliate and destroy victims, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was sick and disgusting because her body experienced arousal during the assault. As a result, she developed an eating disorder and began cutting and burning herself. THAT is the reality of “a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”
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About Those Oppression Olympics   4 comments

The term “Oppression Olympics” refers to the claim that the oppression faced by one group of marginalized people is somehow worse than the oppression faced by another group. Competing to see who’s more oppressed is rightly viewed as counterproductive and a derailing tactic in social justice activism. Aside from the general futility of such arguments, competitors in the Oppression Olympics ignore the reality that many people face intersecting oppressions. Therefore it’s far more helpful to think of individuals as privileged in some ways and disadvantaged in others, rather than attempt to create a hierarchy of oppression in which the most oppressed is considered the winner.

One thing I’ve noticed is that feminists are more likely than other social justice activists to call each other out for “engaging in Oppression Olympics.” However, most of the people called out for this offense aren’t saying sexism is worse than other *isms. What they are usually saying is that sexism is considered more normal and acceptable than some other types of bigotry. Simply pointing to the success of another social justice movement and asking, “How can we learn from that?” is enough to get feminists accused of playing Oppression Olympics (interestingly, several of the commenters in the Feministe thread making the Oppression Olympics charge are serious competitors in the games themselves).

As I’ve mentioned before, the male hosts of our local radio station’s morning show are unabashedly sexist. In fact, that’s true for the hosts of every single morning radio show I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. They may very well be racist too. I suspect that they are. But they know better than to make racist jokes on the air. Not because racism is a thing of the past, but because the anti-racism movement has succeeded in making racist on-air pronouncements more or less unacceptable. I’ve noticed the same thing slowly starting to happen with anti-gay jokes, thanks to the work we’ve been doing in the LGBTQ rights movement. Sexist and misogynist jokes, however, remain as acceptable and noncontroversial as ever. But we’re not supposed to talk about that? Or we can talk about it only if we neglect to look at other social justice movements that have been more successful to see what we can learn from them? No wonder we’re not making more headway.
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Blonde Privilege My Ass   2 comments

I just learned about a new privilege I have: blonde privilege (no, I ain’t linking that crap; go Google if you must). It’s true; my hair is naturally blonde. Light blonde even. Now let me tell you how great it was to grow up with all that blonde privilege.

First, there was the steady flow of dumb blonde jokes ranging from the idiotically sexist to the viciously misogynistic with such hilarious punchlines as the one about women who look like me being too dumb to know when we’re being raped. I know, right? That’s a real thigh-slapper. Particularly when told to a girl who’s both blonde and a rape victim. Hearing that shit on the radio or TV was bad enough, but it was even worse when people I knew, supposed friends even, told such “jokes” right in front of me, expecting me to do what? Laugh?

Then there were the wonderful assumptions many people routinely made about my intelligence and supposed shallowness. Not only was I often presumed to be dumb unless and until I repeatedly provided evidence to the contrary, but lots of people also figured I had neither knowledge of, nor interest in “serious” stuff like politics, law, environmentalism, and social justice movements. Because everyone knows that girls who look like me are airheads who are all about fashion and guys and parties and shopping.

Another huge advantage of being blonde was the type of guys I attracted. Thank goddess I have small breasts or I would have hit the trifecta. Still, talk about being a magnet for the biggest assholes around, the type of guys who think of their girlfriends as trophies. When I was too young to know better, I actually dated a couple of guys who introduced me to their friends like a prized possession while I stood there wishing the earth would swallow me. Meanwhile the progressive and alternative dudes I was interested in thought they were “protesting” mainstream culture with its constant messages that all guys prefer blondes by NOT being into blondes. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized any guy who thought a woman’s hair color was this important wasn’t worth my time.
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Redefining Privilege into Meaninglessness   5 comments

A recent post at Racialicious alerted me to the fact that white women don’t just have regular old white privilege (indisputably true), but that we also possess white female privilege, which, in some situations, privileges us even over white males.

How does this white female privilege manifest itself? Well, it turns out that the majority of items on the White Female Privilege list are simply examples of straight up white privilege. But there are a few that are indeed specific to women.

For instance, did you know that many dudes think we’re so emotionally fragile and overwrought that we’re liable to burst into tears at any moment? These guys are so terrified of provoking a crying jag (described as the “sheer fear of tears”) that they’ll do anything not to upset us. And that’s an enormous privilege we can use to our advantage.

Okay, first, I don’t know how many dudes actually think that (white) women are this fragile, and of those who do, how many would get a kick out of making women cry? But even if I’m wrong and fear of “white lady tears” is actually a common phenomenon (maybe it’s a class thing?), I question whether privilege is the right word for it. Most women I know try to avoid public tears at all costs. No matter how much we’re hurting, we try to hold it together. That’s because our tears are not only perceived as a sign of weakness, which is bad enough, but they can also be seen as manipulative in a way male tears aren’t.
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Street Harassment: The Privileged Victim   3 comments

Nancy Leong’s Harassment in the Intersection: Gender, Race, and Class in the Street at Feminist Law Professors echoes many of the sentiments expressed in the Feministe discussion on legislating against street harassment, specifically the idea that the women victimized by street harassment are usually more privileged than the men harassing them.

The assumption is that the typical victim of street harassment is a middle or upper class white woman and the typical harasser is a poor, possibly homeless or mentally ill, man of color. “Think of those who spend the most time in the street,” writes Leong, as she asks us to picture the typical perpetrators of street harassment. What neither she nor the Feministe thread mention is that this applies to the victims of harassment as well. Poor women, who are disproportionately racial minorities, are considerably more likely to experience frequent street harassment because they spend more time in the street and on public transportation. They are less likely to own a car, and cabs are out of the question when you’re poor. That means lots of walking and taking buses and subways, all of which expose women to harassment.

That has certainly been my experience. When I first moved to NYC, I was very poor. So poor, in fact, that I walked almost everywhere. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the street. The harassment was relentless. Walking even one block without commentary of some sort seemed to be too much to ask. I was harassed by men of all races, ages, and classes. Boys who looked like they were in junior high and men old enough to be my great grandfather. Wall Street types and construction workers. The only thing they all had in common was that they were male; therefore they felt very much entitled to let me know what they thought of me and what they would like to do to me.
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