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privilege part one

21 Sep

Discussions of privilege are always, always, always necessary. I will save generalities and lecturing on privilege as an abstract concept for another time. For now, here are the specifics on how I am privileged:

1. I have light skin, what some might call “white.” I do not use “white” as an personal identifier, but see it merely as a trait, just like curly haired or right-handed. This is not because I do not recognize the privileges others bestow upon me given the color of my skin, but instead because I do not believe that my skin color is a trait that should take precedence over any other trait. “White” is not a race, and rejecting my title of “white person” is how I demonstrate my rejection of the idea of a “white race.” See here to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

2. I am able-bodied. This means more obvious things, like the fact that I can walk, jump, run, dance without impediment. It means I have access to all buildings, rooms, events, and activities, and am not prevented from entering or attending anything because there is not a walkway or elevator. It also means equally important, but less frequently mentioned, things, like the fact that I do not have to worry (as much) about being unable to defend myself in the face of sexual assault or other forms of violence.

3. I am college educated.

4. I am middle-class.

5. I am read as straight.

6. I am cissexual. This means that my gender identity and biological sex characteristics match up, and thus I do not experience gender dissonance or dysphoria.

7. I am young. Although there are benefits to being older, for the most part, our society places great value on youth, with even more value placed on youthful looking women.

8. English is my first language. This may not always be a privilege, but it certainly is in the United States.

9. I am what some might say is “conventionally attractive.” That is, I fit many societal standards for “beauty.” In conjunction with that, I often fit the female=feminine standard (although sometimes not, depending on the length of my hair, whether I wear makeup, if I’ve shaved recently, how tight my clothes are, etc).

Let me know if you think of any other ways I am privileged which I may not have noted here. That’s the tricky thing about privilege…it’s difficult to recognize if you have it.

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teaching moments

5 Sep

we took a vote on the way our bathrooms would be gendered. two teaching moments occurred:

1. we did the votes on pieces of paper, and were asked to write down our preferred gender (so they would know to make a single-gender bathroom for men if most of them wanted it, or for women if they wanted it). anyway, it didn’t ask for “sex,” it asked for “gender,” so I put down “woman.” I recognize and accept that my biological sex is female, and am okay putting that down if the question is asked of me, but would prefer to answer “woman” when asked about my gender. To me, gender is more purposeful than sex and results from experience and growth and life. I identify as a woman because I feel like it’s something I’ve grown to, something I’ve chosen for myself, something that is strong and beautiful and flawed, whereas “female” is something that was assigned to me by someone else.

Anyway, a girl sitting next to me saw me write “woman” for my gender, and asked me why I wrote it. I think she was confused as to why I didn’t just write female. So I got to explain to her everything I just explained to all of you.

2. The rule for voting was this: if even ONE person said they unequivocally needed a single-gender bathroom, there would automatically be one, even if the majority of people said they wanted gender-neutral bathrooms. For example, if even one girl said she wanted a single-gender bathroom, there would automatically be a women only bathroom. I asked why that was, and they (the Student Adviser and the Residence Life Coordinator) said they wanted everyone to feel as comfortable as possible. I asked what if a gender neutral person felt really uncomfortable choosing either a men’s or a women’s bathroom? why aren’t we worried about them feeling safe and comfortable? i didn’t really get a good answer to that question, but there was a half-hearted attempt at justifying it by saying that we cater to the most conservative person. Um, horrible reasoning? I also ran into a tad bit of unspoken animosity as a result of me challenging the idea that one gender binary-conforming person’s interests trump the interests of everyone else. Dear person who gave me asshole-y looks during this conversation: genderfucks, transsexuals, gender neutral people, intersex people all exist. Your rights do not trump theirs. They have just as much a right to a safe space as you do. A compromise would be more productive than just simply asserting the rights you claim as a member of the majority.

In the end, we did come to a compromise. One bathroom is woman-only, and one bathroom is gender neutral. I have chosen to only use the gender neutral bathroom, not because I am genderfuck or transsexual or gender neutral, but because I think it’s important that everyone feels comfortable entering that space, and I want to show that gender neutral bathrooms can work for all kinds of people.

Teaching moment number three, which did not involve the bathroom vote:

A person I just met, who has since become a friend, used the word “pussy” in a derogatory manner toward one of his friends. I asked him not to use the word, and explained that it bothered me because he was equating a body part of mine (which I love and take pride in) with weakness and fear. My pussy is not weak or scared, it is powerful and a great source of joy for me (and others). This leads to the greater issue of equating femininity with weakness. Feminine=strong, wonderful, powerful. Not worthless or weak. Next time you insult someone, please think of a non-gendered word, because I take offense when you use my body to bring other people down.

(p.s. look forward to a future post about using gendered insults)

During the course of the conversation, I had a learning moment, too! We were brainstorming words to use instead of “pussy” that could convey the same message without being super ultra sexist, and we came up with “sissy.” I have no personal experience with that word being anything other than a synonym for weak. But my gay friend spoke up, saying that “sissy” is a word used to describe/make fun of gay men. He told me about how he was called a sissy throughout his childhood, and I promised him I wouldn’t use that word either.

Can’t decide which is better, teaching or learning. Thoughts?

2 Sep

I’m really digging butch in america, which jessi has on their blogroll.

23 Aug

so, Jess hasn’t been blogging for about a week because they’ve been at the femme conference. i miss their blogs. so i’m linking you to a recent one that’s really great.

hurrah!

Another reason

6 Aug

Bones rocks:

Jack Hodgins: I thought women liked it when we fought over them

Cam: “Women” is an unacceptable generalization

Yes.

4 Aug

Yummy things on my tumblr recently:

1. “here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

e.e. cummings is always wonderful, and I believe Jessi has posted some recently.

2. “Although born identical twins with matching DNA, Tom and Ryan were two immensely different children. As toddlers, Tom entertained himself with toy trucks while Ryan fawned over his girl cousin’s Barbies and Little Mermaid dolls. Photo after photo of them at that age show Ryan with a t-shirt wrapped around his head, mimicking long, flowing hair. At age 4, he asked his mom, Cecelia, a heartbreaking question: When do I get to be a girl?… Ryan is now 12 and goes by the name Sylvia… Tom, who says he always felt like his twin was a girl, isn’t surprised by the twists their lives have taken so far. “I do wonder what it would be like to have a brother,” he says, smiling at Sylvia mischievously, “But I guess a sister cuts it.” (via genderqueer)

3. “On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold? The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.”

Michael Bloomberg, you’ve never made more sense.

4. Yep, that’s definitely yummy.

A little of both

20 Jul

Something I learned today:

  1. Using the word “transwoman” (or transman) is inappropriate. The two words should be separate (trans woman), as this phrase functions kind of like “Jewish man” or “black woman”…it is a descriptive phrase, not a summation of an entire identity, like “transwoman” might suggest. Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl says using a phrase like “transwoman” third-sexes or third-genders (both verbs) a trans person, thus “relegating [them] to [their] own unique categories that are separate from ‘woman’ or ‘man.'” Using the adjectives MTF (male-to-female) or FTM as nouns is equally offensive. As Julia says, “I do not identify as a ‘male-to-female’ – I identify as a woman.