Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Privilege.

Just so we all know where I am coming from a quick list about your hostess:


  • Shannon

  • Black

  • Cisgendered woman who identifies as a woman

  • Bisexual living more in a queer universe.

  • Poor

  • Uninterested in higher education. Graduated high school.

  • Self taught on lots of things. I like books.

  • Mid level fat. Right around the actual size of an average American ladytype.


So there we have it.

I'm not going to link to people because I a.)don't have a beef with anyone and b.)just don't feel like it.

So lately in the Fatosphere (yet again) there's been a lot of YOU no U...U NO U (and before anyone feels hurt, that's not a personal slam it's just how I read a lot of back and forth arguing in my head) going on and I'm really kind of over it.

Here is my take on privilege and what it can mean in a persons life and how it can impact interacts both face to face and right here in the intertubes.

You take someone with a lot of innate advantages that they may have been born with and may have earned. Now when that person starts to think about these things a few things can happen.

Guilt. That person feels bad because they maybe don't have to worry about whether or not they can walk into Happy Go Lucky Pants store and buy a pair of pants. Or maybe they don't have to be worried about being harassed by the general public because they aren't a person of color, or queer walking about with their partner, or fat. This person wrings his or her hands and doesn't know what to do.

Then maybe this person gets upset when someone says, "Hey you know you might be able to go into Happy Go lucky Pants store and buy pants, I can't and it really sucks." Now our person with the privilege of being able to buy those pants, might say "Wow I hadn't thought of that." Or they might get defensive and say, "So what it's not my friggin fault that my ass fits into the pants and yours doesn't. What's your problem"

The latter reaction is unfortunately highly common.

People want to put up their Anti Blame shields (even when there isn't blame involved) and defend their position.

It's a natural human instinct. You don't want to feel picked on or singled out, you don't want to feel like someone is giving you the stink eye because you are who you are.

Now the former reaction in my mind is the more productive one.

Talking about privilege is not about shaming a person because they are this that and the other thing and not this that or this other thing.

When I am talking to someone about privilege my aim isn't to make them feel bad or get to the point where they are rabidly defending whatever it is they think they should be, my aim is rather to maybe get that person to see that things are different for a lot of people.

For instance.

I had a friend with whom I was discussing how I had a shitty experience in a retail store. I walked into a store where I was the only black person in the immediate vicinity. I asked the sales clerk who was not busy (I worked retail for a very long time so my attitude with sales people tends to be on the very polite/understanding side) how much a pair of earrings was and she looked straight at me, shook her head and went back to screwing around with a display.

A white woman came in, the sales clerk greeted her enthusiastically, helped her find a few items and go into the dressing room. I looked around a little, willing myself to give her the benefit of the doubt. After about ten minutes I walked over to the sales clerk and asked specifically after the item I wanted.

In hindsight, I'm more offended than I was then. I was not dressed inappropriately, I was polite. The kind of customer I liked having when I worked retail which is something I try to do when I shop. I know how it is to have already pissed off customers when you as a sales clerk really can't do anything about it.

Anyway, this woman looked straight into my eyes, and said "You can't afford those. They are real silver." Then went right back to what she was doing.

The fact is I had enough cash in my pocket to buy three pairs of them. I had brought cash specifically for that item. Luckily for me her name was on the business cards by the register. I phoned the owner of the boutique and gave her a lengthy piece of my mind and despite being offered a discount until the day that place closed I never bought a single thing even though I loved what was there.

Making a long story longer, in this instance the white lady who was shopping while I was there did not have to think about the color of her skin in that instant. I did.

That is a privilege.

The friend I was telling this story was defensive for a hot second then had the reaction that makes my brain say YES THANK YOU, she said and I quote "That is fucked up. I didn't even know that kind of thing happens anymore."

That simple statement opened up a lengthy dialogue over lots of years about what it's like for me to be me walking around in my brown skin.

I'm trying to illustrate the point of talking about privilege in my world.

The point isn't to start bitching about OMG it's not my fault, and well what am I supposed to do about it.

The point is talking about privilege isn't really about you. It's about the people who don't share those privileges.

I don't want anyone wailing and gnashing their teeth because they are different than me, it turns me off. Matter of fact at some point it pisses me off. What I want as being (often) in the not privileged in whatever way category is to be heard and understood.

That is the hard part.

In order to hear and understand and get to a point where we can discuss these things rationally you have to shut up and listen. You have to let go of the idea that one must somehow defend ones position and never budge or pay attention to what's actually being said because it's not about you most of the time.

Also if your peers (as in people who are statistically and or in terms of privilege pretty similar to you) are telling you to slow your roll and listen you might think about doing so.

Talking about these things is probably going to make you uncomfortable if you're not used to it. It's going to maybe make you feel dumb because you don't know the jargon and you haven't read all the Unpack your backpacks and whatnot. That's ok.

Personally, I think if you can't wrap your head around these things or if you're uninterested in doing so, you should probably not open up the dialogue or at the very least have a blog that doesn't allow for comments.

Part of being involved in something like the Fatosphere includes probably seeing/reading some shit that will piss you off. It probably includes people who think you're a dick. It also probably includes people you think are dicks. The Fatosphere like so many other places on the intertubes is full of differing viewpoints, ways of expressing those viewpoints just like the big bad world.

However unlike the big bad world, you can easily just keep stepping past the people you think are douchebags.

That my friends is pretty much how I operate. That said, I in particular don't have issues talking to people who don't get me or like what I'm saying. That's fine.

In My Litterbox, you can say pretty much whatever you like in comments and I'm probably not going to ban you. However, be aware that if I take issue with a comment I'm going to bring it up. If you are going to troll at least put some effort into it. If you're going to say something you -think- might piss me or someone else off but you really feel the need to say it, strap on your hard hat because you might get called out.

It's how I roll and it's worked pretty damn well so far. Well not as in entirely smoothly because it hasn't been but well in that I can deal with it.

And that's about all I have to say about it.

Hopefully on Sunday while I am hennaing my hair I can get to my tights review. I'm very excited about it. I have some serious recommendations that are thrifty and excellent, some buyer bewares and some reluctantly approving things to say.

Also I am really SO excited about Nanowrimo you guys don't even know. I am seriously (and I just heard this in Scotty's voice in my head, oi I'm a nerd) I'm giving it all I got Captain! Everything that I've been craving in a vampire book is going in. It's going to be overkill yes but, it will also be like giving myself a present.

I feel like a growed up novel writing author. I have an OUTLINE OMG, I have my chapters mapped out OMG, I have my research done OMG. OMG OMGOMG. I'm really that excited about it. And I am taking some creative liberties with ancient history but I have an absolute LOVE of doing that so it's all good.

With that I'm off. Time for food and tea. I love you my homies.

And my username at Nanowrimo is CrankyShannon let's have a Team Fatass shall we?

Homo out.

PS feel free to add me at Nanowrimo I think I've added a few people but I have to check.
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15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been reading silently for a long time but wanted to comment and say that I love your blog...and good luck with the NaNoWriMo novel! I hope you have a blast writing exactly the kind of book you are craving.

Trabbs said...

As always, you are awesomeness -- warm, respectful and wise.

MigiziNse-ikwe said...

CrankyShannon, I shall add you! Fantabulous post, btw, and as always.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post!

Meowser said...

Thank you, Shannon, for continuing to kick ass.

I just added you as a buddy. I looked for you when you first commented on my NaNo post, but I didn't see you. So if you check your NaNo mail, I should be in there. (I'm andeej.)

TuffyRox said...

Great post - you articulated a lot of things that were bothering me too.

I'll find you on NaNoWriMo - I am Ecriveron. I *wish* I had an outline ready to go.

hsofia said...

Happy novel-writing - just a few days left. Good luck!!

Jamie Longstreth Fritz said...

You're amazing. Thank you for posting this. And good luck with the NaNo. I swore off, myself. With much swearing. :)

Orodemniades said...

Yes, the "shutting up and listening" part almost seems to offend the most, doesn't it? then it all becomes U DONT WANT TO LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HOW MUCH UR WRONG ABOUT WHAT I SAID BECAUSE ITS ONLY MY OPINION AND U DONT UNNERSTAND MY SENSE OF HUMOR.

Funny how that crops up over and over and over again.

April D said...

YAY!! "SO excited about Nanowrimo you guys don't even know." Me too me too! I'll add you too; fat-writing power :)

As to the rest of it it is indeed very difficult to "shut up and listen" It is a REALLY hard lesson and learning it feels like a kick in the gut..especially when you THOUGHT that was what you were doing...and then find out that no, you were indeed doing just the opposite! Okay that sounded really circular logic-y. Anyways. Can't wait for the tights review.

Meems said...

This is one of the best discussions of privilege I've read in the past few weeks. Thank you.

living400lbs said...

I was not dressed inappropriately, I was polite. The kind of customer I liked having when I worked retail which is something I try to do when I shop. [...]
Anyway, this woman looked straight into my eyes, and said "You can't afford those. They are real silver." Then went right back to what she was doing.

The fact is I had enough cash in my pocket to buy three pairs of them. I had brought cash specifically for that item.
[...]
The friend I was telling this story was defensive for a hot second then had the reaction that makes my brain say YES THANK YOU, she said and I quote "That is fucked up. I didn't even know that kind of thing happens anymore."

That simple statement opened up a lengthy dialogue over lots of years about what it's like for me to be me walking around in my brown skin.

I'm trying to illustrate the point of talking about privilege in my world.


Thank you for this. :)

DavitaCuttita said...

*applause*

And this is why you continue to absolutely kick ass.

Thank you so much for posting this, by far its one of the best things I've read on privilege in a looonnng time. I was also happy the store closed down cuz that sales lady was prolly out of a job for a while: LOL.

Goodluck with your writing and nanowrimo! All the best. ^_^

Haddayr said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant post. Even amidst your generally brilliant stuff, this shines.

Thank you.

Scattered Marbles said...

Once again you have said what I was thinking in a much better and easier to understand way than I ever could, Thank you for your insight!!!

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