Posts Tagged ‘privilege check’

This shit. Again.

May 3, 2011

Yes, I am breaking my hiatus for this shit.

And I’m going to do the white feminists who may read this an extra-special and exceedingly rare favor:

I’m going to bite back some of my anger, my disgust, and my dismay. Just for this post. I’m going to play your game. And not because I think it will do any good (I don’t).

But. I’ll do it this once. Here goes:

When people complain about “call-out culture,” that reminds me strongly of when people complain about others being “too politically correct.” The complaint almost always comes from those who have the most privilege, the most institutional power, the biggest voices (in terms of being taken seriously by society at large). And they are almost always complaining about those with the lesser amount of privilege, the lesser amount of power, the smallest voice.

The excuses that I hear for why those who call out others should be dismissed are rather similar in both situations: “They just want to feel like a better person, they LIKE making mountains out of molehills, they just want to spoil our fun!”

The excuses that I hear for why those who are called out made the mistakes that they did are likewise similar: “I didn’t know, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t have time.”

And when those who have been hurt insist on having their hurt recognized (which sometimes means they let their anger show), then the Big Voices say things like “We’re all in this together, your anger is silencing me, kumbayah!”

“Silence” is a loaded word. Marginalized people do not use their marginalization to “silence” others. In fact, reality bears the exact opposite is true.

When people in a position of power tell those who do not share their power that there is a limited “correct” way to express anger at being marginalized, the conversation becomes about How Marginalized People Say Things (And How That Harshes Our Squee) rather than What Marginalized People Say.

People. This is 101 level, Derailing for Dummies shit.

If someone approaches you about an axis of oppression that they are vulnerable to and that you can only daydream about, give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume that when someone says “I feel hurt and excluded” that they decided to speak up because they feel hurt and excluded. If a marginalized person lashes out and hurts your feelings, take a breath and then think about WHAT they said rather than HOW they said it. They might not necessarily be right. But honestly? They probably are.

This notion that marginalized people are causing a rift in feminism (or whatever anti-ism space) and that things would improve if only we’d swallow our anger (how is that NOT a tone argument, by the way?) has got to fucking go.

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Accountability

November 19, 2010

Yesterday I witnessed some Twitter drama go down between four women that I follow. One of them made a statement about men, women, and domestic violence, and another woman called her out for trans erasure. Everything went to shit very quickly after that. Some nasty slurs were tossed about from the woman who had been privilege-checked to the other three.

I was stunned. The woman who used the slurs is a mother of color and a lactivist, like me. She’s got a blog with a much larger following than this one, and she spoke at the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association Conference – something that I was sorry to have missed when I couldn’t make it to the conference.

A dozen of the anti-oppression activists who follow me also follow this woman. People who blog regularly about oppression, marginalization, privilege-denying dude, and derailing for dummies. People who have no qualms about calling out folks who are not familiar with the dynamics of privilege and oppression quickly, loudly, and forcefully. People who pride themselves in their activism.

None of these people said a goddamn thing.

So what is this, then? What the fuck are we doing here? We bloviate on and on about how we’re gonna change this and that and the other fucking thing, and the importance of words and their impact on how we perceive the world around us, and the necessity of privilege checks, and blahfuckingblah. And when a stranger says something fucked up, we pounce on them like a trap snapping tightly over a mouse. But when our own fuck up, we look the other way? We don’t say shit? We give them a pass, why? Because we’re afraid that they might stop linking to our fucking blogs?

Personally, I feel like I’m at a crossroads. I started blogging, and then I started getting noticed by like-minded bloggers, and it was all very exciting and warm and fuzzy. But by saying something about this, I may be cutting myself off from those people. A large part of me doesn’t want that, at all. And another part of me wants exactly that, if this is the way it’s gonna be.

I get it. It’s hard to say this shit to your friends. To people you admire. To someone you wanted to meet in person someday. It hurts, it makes you sick to your stomach, you wonder if it’s even worth it. But if it’s not worth it to dig your heels in and say “No, that’s wasn’t right” in your own house, then what the fuck gives anyone the license to do it anywhere else?

This whole situation is so fucked.

I’m Car-Lite and I’m All Right

October 14, 2010

I’m in my second week of taking the rail to work, and I feel pretty good about how it’s going. It’s cold early in the morning, and today the sky looked like it wanted to start pouring down at any moment and I don’t have an umbrella or rain coat, and it sucks having to sometimes wait up to twenty minutes for the next train if I missed the one I meant to take – but I still feel that it’s worth doing.

I save 30 miles every day that I take the rail instead of driving. I knit, read, or nap on the train, things I definitely can’t do in my car. I no longer have the ability to just jump in the car and drive to the closest McDonald’s if the cafeteria here at work is closed, so that means that I don’t work through my lunch time anymore; I take the time to stop and eat in the middle of my workday, which is something that I rarely did before.

Not everyone can give up their cars full-time or even part-time like me. I’m fortunate to have a public transport system that’s fairly convenient, a job that does not have rigid hours (so it doesn’t matter if I oversleep, I can still afford to take the train and be an hour and a half late…like I did today), and no disabilities that require private travel in a vehicle. The fact that going car-lite is an option available to me because of my various privileges is something that I’m sorry to say that I failed to acknowledge in my last post about killing my car.

The public discourse regarding driving and its effect on the environment for the most part does not seem to take into account all of the people who, for a myriad of reasons, really CAN’T ride a bike or take the train or walk to work or the grocery store. There are definitely people for whom cars are a luxury (I would count myself among them), but there are plenty for whom cars are a necessity. There are people who literally NEED their cars to either support themselves, their livelihoods, or their families. Public transportation can only go so far, and there are definitely limits in accessibility (wheelchair ramps are really not the end-all, be-all of accessibility, ya’ll) on trains and busses.

We need to expand the dialogue to include those who have been left out if we really intend to find solutions. Some people will always need private vehicles, but there are others who are currently locked out of non-vehicular travel options and they need not be.

Trans Women, Lactation, and Exclusion

August 19, 2010

While I have discussed the obstacles faced by cis women who wish to breastfeed many times, I have neglected to delve into the reality of trans women and their experiences with breastfeeding. This is unacceptable, and a reflection of the cis privilege that I enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, almost every person regardless of gender has the necessary equipment to nurse a child. If you have a healthy breast, you can probably breastfeed.

Now, when a cis woman wants to breastfeed, she is in for an uphill battle. She will get so much misinformation from health care professionals, well-meaning relatives, friends, and advertisements. Her decisions on when and how frequently to nurse are going to be policed by total strangers. If she nurses for “too long,” people will accuse her of being selfish (as if there were no health benefits to full-term nursing or child-led weaning); if she doesn’t nurse “long enough,” then people will accuse her of being vain or lazy (as if there were no legitimate reasons to choose not to nurse or to choose mother-led weaning), which not only is disrespectful to a woman’s bodily autonomy, but also feeds the “rabid baby-fetishing mommy-guilting breastfeeding zealout” meme and turns more women off to even considering breastfeeding in the first place. If she wants to take breaks at work to pump, she will have to deal with coworkers and superiors who may be less than understanding.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for cis women. For a trans woman, take all of those issues and multiply them by a million.

Misinformation regarding, well, almost anything about trans women’s lives is regurgitated and unchallenged by the vast majority of the cis population (who, naturally, dominate the medical profession as well as every other discipline of our society). Trans women have to deal with discrimination from the medical community on a horrific level; things that cis women do without much thought, such as filling out medical forms, are not such a carefree task for trans folks. When I see a new doctor for the first time, I don’t have to wonder if she is going to be so bigoted against me that she will not even enter the room or touch me.

While I feel snug and protected by the laws in my state that guarantee my right to nurse publicly, trans women do not have the same luxury. They cannot take for granted that someone will not challenge them (or arrest them!) on the basis that they are “not really women.”

While many cis women can take for granted that their milk will come in without much effort on their part, there are many trans women who will not be able to afford the hormonal regimen that will allow them to simulate a pregnancy and induce lactation. Insurance companies already overwhelmingly fail to provide support and supplies for lactating cis women; trans women can expect to get exactly squat to even spur lactogenesis in the first place.

The books that I’ve been reading about breastfeeding are of course filled to the brim with cis-sexism. There is a complete black hole in regards to the needs and concerns of trans women who wish to nurse their children. This is something that needs to change. When the “pro woman” battle cry really means “pro cis woman” (and let’s be honest – it almost always certainly means just that), then we are failing. We are neglecting our duties as supporters of health care, as womanists, as decent damn people.

My silence about the needs of trans women in breastfeeding advocacy is a testament to my bigotry. I’ve been fucking up. And I need to do better.

Shake the Shit Out Of ‘Em!

July 29, 2010

Fuck Feminism.

Guest blogger Mai’a said a lot of things in her post entitled “ain’t i a mama?” on Feministe yesterday, but for some reason, “fuck feminism” seems to be the only thing that a lot of people heard. 

The notion that feminism might not be such a great and awesome force for ALL women (and not just middle class, cis, white, able-bodied ladies) seemed to blow many minds, to the point that they bounced from the site altogether, never to return (or so they claimed). The idea that feminism might actually be an OPPRESSIVE movement and a THREAT to many women (ESPECIALLY trans women! Exclusion of trans women from feminist and women-friendly safe spaces is actually super fuckin’ common! And do I have to start listing the radfems who have actively called for their genocide?) caused many a Well Intentioned White Liberal Feminist to literally shit themselves with rage!

The comments section of this post is absolutely golden. There is plenty of racefail, but there are many good and thought-provoking points (as well as some free education) that make it worth the ride. Here are some of my favorites:

From bfp:

I think it would be an *amazing* conversation to talk about why feminists will “reclaim” bitch and cunt, but find “mama” just too fucking goddamn offensive to even think about

IrishUp:

have we USians internalized some thing(s) about being a mama or mothering that might need unpacking? What about having internalized that mothering and mama = cis het female? The OP, and other commenters strongly identify with mami and mothering in the context of their social justice work and their sense of nurturing – myself included. That should be OK in a feminist space, and I think there is a lot to learn from the WHY’s w/r/t OP’s identification with mami over feminist.

Nanette:

My reasons may be different from that of others – to me, centering children means centering life. And it means centering *all* children – loving by any means necessary, as you say (I love that!). Imagine a world where the children were the center, and the parents/adults were the satellites – people would pull out all stops to make sure that no child went hungry, that they were not bombed, that no child was ostracized because they were gay, or trans, or gender queer, or not abled in any certain way, or poor, or of any particular color or ethnicity, or born to a certain group of people in a certain place, or… well, I could go on, but I think that’ll do. What a world it would be when they grew up – not perfect, because there is no such thing, but maybe… different.

And, by way of centering children, centering life, it naturally follows that women are centered. Whether they are biological parents or not – that is not really important (to my way of thinking) to the centering of life (not wombs, specifically, by the way).

Mamita Mala:

I chose and choose mami on purpose. I am not a mommy. I am not a mama. I am a mami : mami because it has been cooed at me by ancestros who have passed as a term of love even when I was a child and clearly not a mother. mami because as soon as decided to identify as a young woman of color it was hissed and yelled at me in the streets by men across racial/ethnic lines, mami because it has a sexual context attributed to women like me: poor single women who have had children and are struggling. Mami because my mentor helped me learn how to work in the streets with other mamis whose children had been murdered by police and racists (which usually have been one and the same). Mami porque yes, I have two hijas but oh so much more. Mami for all the white men who wanted to call me that as their way to trying to own my ass. Mami for all the men I give my ass to…

And for me mami is not gendered. I want to be clear on that. In my community mami is not gendered. Yes, I identify as a cis-mujer pero I can think of sooo many people whom I call mami with love and soo many people whom are called mami with love who are not.

One of the things that I learned from the post and the comments it sparked is that what I as a middle class American think of when I hear the word “mama” is not the same thing as what someone in another country or culture is going to think. The childfree discussion that is going on misses the point, in that for many cultures outside of the white American middle class demographic, “mama” is really not limited to who can or has borne or raised children.

I try to be aware of my privilege as much as I can, but my American privilege is one that I pretty consistently forget to check – the rest of the world does not revolve around me and my US-ness. It’s something I need to keep working on, and I’m grateful to Mai’a for giving me an opportunity to look at myself and my assumptions from a different viewpoint.

I also loved where Nanette was going: that if we stop oppressing children, we stop oppressing everyone. Having a goal of raising children in an environment that is free from transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, ableism, and classism means eliminating those things entirely – in which case, everybody wins. Challenging the memes and myths that are the building blocks of rape culture and slut shaming means starting early; it means respecting the bodies and lives of all children with the hopes that they will grow to become adults who respect the bodies and lives of others. Bigotry is learned behavior and if we ever hope to fully eradicate it from our society (which I know will never happen, but it’s still a goal worth pursuing), then that requires not just unlearning that bigotry in ourselves, but actively refraining from teaching it to the generations that follow us.

The title of this post comes from the movie Ink, in which one character asks another how he plans to wake up a child that has fallen into a coma. His answer: “Shake the shit out of her!” Of course he doesn’t mean this literally (and I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film), but I love the idea of shaking the shit out of someone – of giving them a rude awakening, taking them out of their comfort zones, and just doing what you have to do to snap them out of the dream they were stuck in. Mai’a did exactly that in her post, and I do hope that despite all of the derailing and bickering, that at least a few people have woken up.

—-

Edited to add: Another fabulous quote from bfp (emphasis mine):

to be clear, when I say “reclaim” mama, I am talking in the white centric US centric sense of the word, I am NOT talking about mama in the way mai’a is using, the way I am using, the way mamita, etc are using. mama, mami, mamita, m/other, etc–all these call for a decentering of the US white heteropatriarchy dominant imposition of “mommy” on the entire world.

When I say “reclaim mama”–I am asking white dominant US centric feminists who think I am calling them a stupid lazy bitch or a mythical child eating cunt because I *do* organize around mami–to consider why “mama” is so infantilizing, offensive, horrific, etc to them. And if you can reclaim a word like cunt, when it is used to hurt you, why can’t you reclaim a word like mama when it is used to control you and hurt you? I am not saying “embrace your inner granola girl”–i’m saying, if sexist pricks don’t get to control “cunt” then why do they get to control “mama”? 

YES, Oklahoma Legislature Fucked Up, BUT That Is No Excuse For Ableism

April 30, 2010

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard about the two laws that were passed in Oklahoma by overturning the governor’s vetoes. The first requires that before having an abortion, a woman be required to view and listen to a description of the fetus’ organs and limbs, even for survivors of rape or incest. From what I understand, that means for very early pregnancies which cannot be viewed with an external ultrasound, those women will have to submit to the vaginal penetration required for internal ultrasound; while terrible for all women, that could be especially traumatizing for rape survivors.  The intended result is to guilt women by making them realize “Oh hey, I didn’t know a fetus has limbs and if it has limbs that makes it MURDER” as if women didn’t understand what pregnancy is or what ending a pregnancy means. The law is paternalistic, invasive, and yet another ridiculous barrier to women’s agency in pregnancy.

The second law is much, much worse. It protects doctors from being sued by their patients if they decide to lie or mislead (either outright or by omission) pregnant women about the health of their fetuses if they think that this information may cause the woman to choose to abort. In essence, doctors are now allowed to lie to women about their pregnancies, keeping them from being able to make an informed decision regarding those pregnancies. Not only will these women [those with dishonest doctors] no longer have the option to abort, they will also no longer have the option and ability to prepare financially, emotionally, and mentally for the outcome of their pregnancies, whether that be for caring for a child with disabilities or for the birth of a child whose life may be exceptionally painful or short. This benefits neither woman nor child.

Now, this IS enraging. This IS terrible. What this is NOT is an excuse to exercise all of your able-bodied privilege to devalue the lives and worth of people with disabilities, lives which are devalued every day (many times for “laughs”) in our society. Some of the comments that I’ve been reading in reaction to this law pretty much boil down to “This law is disgusting because more ‘defective’ people will be born and we don’t want that!”

That is unacceptable. That is wrong. When you devalue the lives of people with disabilities, you are also devaluing the lives of women with disabilities – and if you do this as a supposed pro-choicer and supporter of women, well…I don’t know what else to say except that you’re fucking up.

Keep in mind that many of the people fighting to protect the right to abortion are themselves disabled. We are all in this together, so check your privilege. Defending the right to choose means defending ALL women – not just the temporarily abled.