Category Archives: Privilege

“American” dreams really do come true?

Owning your own home was a trend perpetuated by Nixon during his time in office, around the ‘white flight’ and ‘urban sprawl’ era around the 1950s and ’60s. This dream of homeownership was something to be proud of, and has encouraged further enchantment of the purchase, so much as to set a status quo of bigger and shinier as ‘better’. In reality, this may not be the case. Buying a bigger home comes with more household cleaning and maintenance or repair tasks, as well as higher property taxes and insurance rates.

Though, the greatest form of generational wealth in the US comes from real estate; while a high effect of generational poverty also correlates with the status of ‘renter’. After WWII, soldiers were given GI Bills, and thus allowed to put that towards houses, many of which may still be passed down in the family today. But, these policies were not as great as they seemed, for only white soldiers were given the GI Bills; this racial inequality persists today.

Renting may not be all bad though, because it means you have the freedom to move, and live a nomadic life, if you please. Our generation, X, has actually been called the nomadic generation, because many of us do not recognize or fulfill this ‘dream’ any longer. Rather, in our globalized society we have traveled and learned of other cultures. We dream of building new lives elsewhere. Often, those of us who can afford a ‘higher’ education end up falling into more perilous financial situations at future times when paying back our student debt. In the end though, we recognize the benefits of habitual freedom. Growing up our generation witnessed the crash of an entire, obviously unstable, economic system where, in the past decade, many families lost their homes; income inequality growing deeper and deeper. We were witnesses of this forced migration into a nomadic culture immersed in a very idealized, static society.

What does this mean then…”American” dreams really do come true? I’ll sit this one out…
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The Weight Of It All

I think the complexity of it — it being the effect of men on women, their weight and influence on our very existence — scares a lot of women from engaging in the conversation. We view our existence and our lives as our own; our ownership, our choices, our paths. But what if it’s not as simple as that? It’s much simpler to view it in black and white and peg us (females/feminists) as women who care too much/give a damn/make excuses/whatever. I wish women could be enthralled by the idea of diminishing the sexism and roadblocks, instead of being scared by it (it’s easier not to care, though). With the advent of sexism in the workplace and in daily life, I can only hope more and more women can be awakened to the barriers being placed on women. The weight of it all is real. The influence and weight men place on women is heavy and felt.

I’ve been networking the last few months, in preparation to begin a transition from current job into a new field. I made the decision earlier this summer to stop networking with men. It seems a brute and harsh reaction, but networking with men only led to not being taken seriously, connections not being made, and instead an offer to buy me drinks at another date, in perhaps a more “casual setting” (read: take me on a date). This happened to me and several other female friends, who all decided to refrain from networking with the opposite gender. What does it take to be taken seriously? We are all successful and driven; we even made a point to not wear tight-fitting clothes to these networking meetings. Though at the end, we were nothing more than a pretty face.

Though, what about how we women relate to each other? So often the first connection women make is whether or not they have a (male) partner. Half of the conversation is then spent comparing and contrasting experiences with males, with the important characteristics and facts about ourselves being saved for later. Why are men such a defining part of female existence?

Men continue to influence female workplace dress. Prior to interviews with men, I would agonize over what to wear. Would one dress emphasize my hips too much, in a manner that may be “suggestive”? What about a dress that hugged my curves and flaunted my figure? Would a pencil skirt imply I wanted to be fucked? In the end, I always choose clothes that fit somewhat loosely and give only an inkling of a figure underneath. I feel safer being bland and nondescript than being assessed on an underlying sexuality.

How much should we care? How much can be done? Earlier this week, I told a supervisor whom I admire and we have often had many a great talk about feminism, sexism in the work place, etc., that a client made a comment about my “pretty face”. I felt at great unease from this comment and was instantly distraught at the thought of my work being thought of as different, as attached to my body rather than my intellect and follow through. She essentially replied that I shouldn’t fuss/sweat it too much, since worse comments could have been made. Though I realize this is true, I was crushed at the fact that this woman, who has shattered many a glass ceiling in her day (hate that phrase, but it’s true in her case), could dismay my discomfort.

As a mental side project, started tallying how many times per day I’m catcalled on my 1/2 mile walk to and fro the public transit station I frequent for work. It’s disheartening, but telling. I’ve also made notes of whether the drivers are in vehicles that are clearly marked as part of a company, etc. I’ve often wanted to call these businesses and complain, but again, have feared the roadblock of a dissent manager getting in my way to do so. Despite often starting my day with such an upsetting experience, I’d rather brush it off and get on with my day than acknowledge it and have it be disregarded by someone who didn’t experience the tragedy of that moment.

A person very close to me, who is highly successful in a field in which men reign, hates the idea of feminism and all that goes along with it. She doesn’t see the point. She kept her mouth shut, did the work, and laid low to rise up. Why can’t we (again, feminists) do the same? It’s easier to assume instead of understand, and the sadness of that is difficult to bear.

The issue at hand is complex. In fact, there are many issues at hand. It’s more complex than it’s often given credit for (outside of liberal media, that is). The difficulty lies in the notion of getting people to feel that the idea is not “not complex”. There is weight and matters to be sorted through here, divided into layers and split up amongst their fixings.

The point, at the end of it all, is to have the voice be heard and the weight felt. To know that we don’t have to be silent, but that we can kick and cry and scream to move ourselves ahead if we need to. That we don’t need to mold into what is expected of us nor refrain from speaking our truths. We need not be discouraged. Hope is brewing, simmering, and rising.

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Friday Funday Links

consent-panties

6 reasons female nudity can be powerful: how Lena Dunham and other women are using their bodies to break the status quo

If you haven’t seen it already, read this powerful open letter from Dylan Farrow about her abuser Woody Allen (trigger warning). Unfortunately, however, Nicolas Kristof’s introduction to the article is another example of rape culture at work.

A Yale Law Professor argues for a new definition of rape that includes sex-by-deception.

A ‘spinster’ photographer poses with a mannequin family to depict the American Dream

A bar in Spokane, Washington created a drink called “Date Grape Koolaid.” And what’s worse, their horrifically offensive responses to complaints on their facebook page are an extreme example of the very rape culture they deny exists.

“In defense of twitter feminism”: a great analysis of how gentrification, race, and feminist discourse play out on the Internet

Black Girl Dangerous creator Mia McKenzie shows you 4 ways to not just to acknowledge your privilege, but instead to actively push back against it.

Need new underwear? Think about investing in some “consent panties”!

Start Seeing Straight Privilege

HeteronormativeLately, I have been more aware than ever of the countless benefits and privileges unfairly given those of us who identify as heterosexual. When I read or hear about privilege, it usually concerns race or sex/gender and because I am neither white nor male,  it can be easy to overlook the fact that I am still privileged AF.
I would bet that all the progress with gay marriage and public endorsement of same-sex couples creates an illusion that things are better than they really are. In the same way that people like to believe that sexism and racism don’t exist today, we are on a fast track to doing the same with sexual orientation.
I want to acknowledge that privilege is far more difficult to see when it’s working with you rather than against you. Still, that’s not an excuse to avoid putting in the effort it takes to own up to your privilege and to do something about it. I feel responsible for learning about the challenges of living as a LGBTQ individual in a heteronormative society and doing by best to mitigate those challenges.
Here are some of the ways I recognized my heterosexual privilege (I am aware that these are still from my perspective and are probably biased):
1. My sexual preferences are not seen by others as a core part of my identity – unless I want them too.
2. I don’t have to worry that the people closest to me will become distant after learning of my sexual preferences.
3. When looking for a partner, I can assume most of my target gender will have the same sexual orientation as me – also making the pool of potentials much larger.
4. I do not have to question how “gay-friendly” a space is to feel comfortable being there with my significant other.
5. I haven’t grown up in a culture that sees my preferences as sinful, immoral, unnatural or just a phase.
6. Clothing made for my body also signifies the gender I wish I express.
7. I don’t have to question if my same-sex friends think I have a crush on them.
8. Basically every movie I watch, song I hear, or ad I see validates my sexual preference as the unquestioned norm.
9. I am not lumped together with the entirety of the “gay community” whose members often have no more in common than non-members.
10. I am not subjected to the “be just like us” ideal American family model whilst being unable to fully participate.
Of course, this is not even scratching the surface. I chose these 10 points because they are less publicized, and in my opinion, more abstract. Discrimination in the media concerning LGBTQ folk typically consists of legal matters and acts of violence s – aka two of the most concrete topics. Subtle or normalized topics, on the other hand, often go overlooked.
I would argue that straight privilege is taking us longer to recognize because overall sexuality is more abstract to us than either race or sex/gender. For one, it’s invisible (well technically.) Two, even heterosexual sexuality is a taboo subject. Regardless, privilege and discrimination around sexuality can only be understood in the context of all other forms of identity – I still have a lot to learn about this!
If anyone has comments or criticism I would be happy to hear it. I don’t claim to understand how it feels to live as an LGBTQ member of society or to be an expert on privilege. I purposely didn’t research before writing because I wanted use my own ideas and my current, honest knowledge of this topic. I hope to be able to identify with others who are in this stage and hopefully get people thinking about how this applies to their daily lives and to start seeing straight privilege!
Heteronormativity Day
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Lessons from Autistic Hoya

Lessons from Autistic Hoya

This fall I started my teaching licensure/masters program in Special Education. I am in a program, at the University of St. Thomas – Minneapolis, called Collaborative Urban Education (CUE) . As a graduate of the CUE program I am required to be proficient in person-first language (identifying the person before the disability). While person-first language is generally accepted, a blogger I follow, Autistic Hoya, has opened my eyes to a critique of person-first language.

After perusing Autistic Hoya’s blog a bit more, I found a really interesting piece on ableist language. What I found most intriguing was a list of insults that were NOT ABLEIST. Often times we are told, or tell others, of things we canNOT say.  Although I feel wrong getting excited over insults, it is refreshing to see that someone has worked hard to provide a list of alternative language. It is helpful having replacement language for words that are so rampant in our society. When confronting a person about abelist, or insulting language, having an alternative can make it easier for both parties.

If you find yourself in need of an insult:

Non-ableist language:
Always respect an individual person’s preference for identifying or describing xirself.

For insulting people:
Asinine
Extremist
Ignoramus
Ignorant
Inane
Incomprehensible
Insensible
Insipid
Irrational
Obtuse
Overwrought
Petulant
Reckless
Ridiculous
Solipsistic
Unbelievable
Unconscionable
Unintelligent
Unthinkable
Unthinking
Vapid
Vile

Here are examples of person-first language:
For describing people with disabilities/disabled people in general:
Disabled
Has a disability
With a disability
With a chronic health condition
Has a chronic health condition
Neuroatypical
Neurodivergent

For describing people on the autism spectrum:
On the autism spectrum
Autistic
With autism [if preferred by individual]
Aspie [if preferred by individual]

For describing people with intellectual disabilities:
With an intellectual disability
Has an intellectual disability
With a cognitive disability
Has a cognitive disability

For describing people with sensory disabilities or impairments:
Blind
Low vision
Deaf
Hard of hearing

For describing people with physical or mobility disabilities:
With a physical disability
With a mobility disability
Uses a wheelchair
In a wheelchair
Uses crutches
Uses a cane
Uses a walker
Has [specific condition here]

 

What are you thoughts on person-first language?

Did you find this list of insults helpful?

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Blinded by Privilege?

Being a feminist is completely new to me and I’m learning something new about myself, the people I surround myself with, and the community I associate with everyday. A lot of what I learned has been positive, such as: I’ve found new friendships within Minneapolis that probably would have never blossomed had I not found a passion in feminism, I would have never, ever expressed my opinion on something if I knew someone was going to disagree with me, and most importantly, I’m learning how to be more comfortable in my skin. But aside from all the positive things I’ve been graced with, there have been a few negative things I’ve learned and haven’t exactly figured out a way to deal with them.

For instance, I’m realizing how misogynistic a lot of my peers are, I feel like a lot of us don’t know how poisonous some words, phrases, and gestures are. I hate hearing people around me call someone a “b*tch” because they’re a woman who is mean, cranky, or just in a bad mood (which we are all, men and women, entitled to be every once in a while), or because a man did something that our society has implanted in our minds to be considered “unmanly.” Or like calling a woman a sl*t because she is comfortable expressing her sexuality in a way that makes some people uncomfortable.

I’m also having a hard time finding good music to listen to at parties, because I like to dance, get rowdy, and jam to rap as much as the next person but it’s becoming increasingly difficult when all I hear is, “b*tch this, b*tch that.” What’s even harder though is voicing and expressing your opinion on the matter and being alienated or labeled as “the girl that needs to chill.” This weekend, for example, I was at an all ages hip-hop concert and one of the performers was using vulgar language in relation to women. I obviously wasn’t cool with that because that’s not the kind of thing I want to hear in an open music setting, especially one where nearly half the audience was women, and some were even underage. I asserted myself and expressed my opinion but wasn’t taken seriously. Why? Is it because misogyny in music is something I have to get on board with? Maybe it’s because women are better seen not heard? Or maybe it’s because men are so afraid to be viewed as sexist they won’t acknowledge the privilege that they have? This situation even got me asking another question: Maybe I was overreacting? A part of me is mad at myself for even suggesting that or thinking in that way, but can you blame me? Don’t get me wrong, some parts of our culture congratulate women for speaking up and expressing themselves, but the part of our culture that I grew up with, based on various TV shows, movies, music etc. women were expected to act “ladylike,”  and to never cause a scene.

The issue behind all of this is privilege; in many situations white males stand in a higher position of privilege than almost anyone else. And the amount of privilege you have is in direct relation to how you interpret and respond to any situation. Like when a person is in a position of great privilege it might cause them to write-off feelings or emotions of people that aren’t necessarily the same as theirs or opinions they don’t agree with, it might cause them to justify wrongdoings, and it might even influence the reaction that people involved in a specific incident may have. So when someone is in a position where they lack privilege, it may cause them to second-guess themselves, it may scare them from speaking up if they don’t agree with something, and it may cause them to feel alone. I guess what I’m trying to say is: maybe we all need to check our privilege.

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