To privileged folks I know (in this post, white dudes) who get pissy when someone tells them that their privilege gets in the way of their statements’ validity…
Someone telling you that your opinion on something (for example, feminism) is not really valued in the discussion because you are a white dude is not them shutting you down or devaluing you because you are a white dude. It’s indicating to you that you possess the privilege and the power to step in and out of that conversation. You can only remain an objective observer because your privilege allows you to be so.
It’s not that your opinion is never valued (for fuck’s sake, every “valued” opinion in most mainstream socio-political discourse is that of a white guy) or that you can’t be a helpful ally—but the reality is that your understanding of the matters will remain limited because those issues do not truly affect you.
I can read all the bell hooks essays that I want, but as a white woman, I will never know how it is to be a black woman. Therefore, my opinions and input into conversations on racial issues should be acknowledged only as secondary to the discourse. This isn’t “reverse discrimination,” a personal attack, or even mean-spirited. It’s really easy to read it as those things. And I will admit that it can feel disappointing, frustrating, or disheartening until you apply better analysis. But it’s not based in hatred or prejudice.
It’s called shutting up and listening to folks whose words are based on more than just theory.
Totally agree. It’s like, that’s how privilege functions, so that you are able to live your life unaware of certain oppressions. Some things you will not be able to comment on/understand because you don’t have to experience those oppressions and systemically, you also benefit from them. And it’s just plain annoying when cis dudes get all “know it all” about those things (in the case of sexism, for example) and subsequently get pissed off when other folks tell them to stop taking up space in the discussion, or that they can’t speak to certain things because they’re a dude, because it’s like, everyone fucking listens to you on everything else. It’s your own goddamn sense of entitlement that makes you feel like you should be able to speak to everything and if you’re really down with anti-sexism, you’ll check that shit.
Seriously. I’m sick of this “unpopular opinion” shit being used to try to make it okay.
HOLY IJSFIOJJEO!!! THANK YOU.
When I was in fourth grade, I was sitting with my cello, waiting for my orchestra concert to begin. The cello was on the floor, but I was seated in my section in a long dress with my knees spread wide, and my elbows on my thighs. My mom - in the audience - gestured to me for five minutes to sit “properly,” and when I didn’t follow her instructions, she came up and reprimanded me for sitting “like a boy.”
When I was a senior in high school, I gave one of my good friend’s a copy of my senior portrait. Rather than thanking me and saying I looked cute/pretty/whatever, she looked at it for a while until she asked, “Why are you posing like a guy?” In the photo, I was sitting on steps, but my legs weren’t crossed … you know, how people normally sit on steps.
When I was in graduate school, I was walking to dinner with some colleagues. I was in front of the group with a male friend, walking as I normally do - rather quickly and in a straight line. A guy moving toward us had to step out of the way for me, and my male friend said to me, “Wow, you just barrel right through, don’t you?” I replied, “Yeah? Why shouldn’t people get out of the way for me?”
The way women use space and move through space is constantly policed. We are told to fold up, cross our legs, defer space to others, be as small and insignificant as possible, and interfere with the movement and space of others as little as possible. I see it on public transit, where women shrink into their seats. I see it in classrooms, where women don’t spread their stuff beyond the width of their chair. I see it in magazines, where women are photographed differently from men. I see it everywhere.
A good number of these “presence” norms are embedded into gendered constructions of etiquette, and they get internalized; so much of the policing women experience is actually self-policing. It is rude for a woman to cross her ankle over her knee, or stand with her legs shoulder-width apart, or to expect others to move around her. A woman can get all of the other bits of a feminine gender performance right, but if that woman doesn’t use space in the proper manner, she will be met with resistance and condemnation - her own or someone else’s. But where she has gone wrong will be noticed, and she will be told. Even if she is not corrected outright, her behavior will be the subject of comment (as was the case with my male colleague above). She will be made to feel continually anxious about her presence in space. She will shrink and fold until she nearly disappears.
Men can be expansive, and command as much space as they like. They can sit with knees splayed wide and arms draped over several seats, their crap strewn six feet in either direction, creating a massive bubble of space that is theirs. They can walk down the street, and assume the straight line in front of them is theirs, as far as they desire to go. Men take up space - even technically unoccupied space - and no one questions them.
Women’s space is always borrowed. Even women’s bodies don’t really create a bubble that is all their own. If a woman has enough room to sit or to stand, that is deemed to be enough for her. She isn’t supposed to claim anything beyond her physical, bodily allotment, and even that is policed if she is “too tall” or “too fat.” If she does, she’ll be made to feel it.
Osho (via moonsiren)
filed under: things I need to remember/words to live by.