Thursday, August 12, 2010

The End of the Stick

I've been doing a lot of thinking about privilege. Who in our society has it? Who doesn't? Who has more? Race and gender privileges is what I've been doing the most thinking about, and I've been reading up on these matters to broaden my mind on the subject.

I've come across a privilege checklist on a blog that I'd like to share, a compilation list developed over time. Sometimes it's so hard to explain to men that they enjoy privilege that I do not. Often it turns into some sort of misunderstanding that I believe these privileges give men a free ride. I don't. But I think it's important to realize that whatever issues men face, women are getting the shorter end of the stick.

And as a white woman, it behooves me to recognize that I experience privilege that people of colour do not. One of the big privileges is being able to ignore that fact I have it.

The Male Privilege Checklist
If I'm a man...
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability.
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”
45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

White Privilege:
Because I'm white...
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
50. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

I think it behooves us all to be aware of privilege. It's not acceptable to pretend like it's not there, or to brush it off because we all have our own problems. When a person is born into this world and bestowed automatic exemptions from certain bullshit or immediately in a low risk group for certain harms, and others are thrust into it due to the luck of the draw in their DNA, that's something we all need to see.

If you don't or won't see it, it can't be fixed. Pretending you don't have a mouse in your house doesn't mean you don't have an infestation. I can only take a backseat to stories of racism and listen and try to learn. But I can speak of sexism because as a woman I live it. I truly believe in in the end it hurts everybody, not just women.

When men are taught to devalue women, they then dissociate with them as human beings. If you can't let yourself be feminine ever for fear of the lurking inferiority it will bestow on you, you can't be in touch with your emotions. You can't truly experience affection and love. You can't be a good parent. You can't be a fully realized person.

It's all connected and it all starts with acknowledging there is a problem, then seeing the problem and then working to fight the problem.

If as a man you need guidance as to how to do that, I direct you here, written by a smart man, the author of Critical Masculinities.

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