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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?

Today’s links

29 Aug

New U.K. Study: One in Ten Women in Prostitution Are Slaves. That should send a message to guys who pay for sex: either make sure you’re paying someone who is not a slave, or don’t pay for sex. Still haven’t reached a conclusion regarding my thoughts on legality/illegality of prostitution.

Kentucky lawyer is cited for contempt for refusing to divulge the name of her client whose status as a minor compels her to seek permission from her parents or the court before obtaining an abortion. The young girl did not want her name given in court, and the law states that she had the right for it to remain private. Rock on, KY lawyer, rock on.

Someone remind me what the problem with stem-cell research is? From what I can tell, it improves the lives of people actually living with actual diseases, who can actually feel pain. I’m glad the Obama Administration feels the same way I do.

Hey! United States! You’re failing again! A new study shows that “the U.S. trails other nations in the proportion of women holding elected positions.” But we’re really super progressive, right? And feminism is totally unnecessary, right? Because we’ve definitely reached our full potential as a gender, right? Or, you know, not.

The word “abortion” is googled more in conservative areas where access to the procedure is much more restricted. Interesting. Thoughts?
Coming at you from Feministe, which rocks my world all the time: Marginalized folks shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger persons” Too true. Most of the time, I try not to be a huge asshole when calling people out, I try to explain coherently why whatever has been done or said bothers me, and I try to be calm. At Grinnell, that’s been working really well, and people are pretty much always down to hear what I say and respect my feelings about subjects, words, etc. But sometimes that doesn’t work. And sometimes, I just don’t care how “sensitive” or “overreactive” I’m being. The other night, a guy friend (who actually isn’t really a friend anymore) made a rape joke, and I just went off on him. Two of my girlfriends were there with me, and I know there were a little taken aback by how upset I got, but I really couldn’t give less of a shit. I’m gonna get angry sometimes, and I sure as hell hope (for your sake) that it’s not at you.

Wins

21 Aug

The FDA approved ella, a new, more effective emergency contraceptive that can work up to five days after unprotected sex.

Our great state looks to expand access to free contraceptive services through Medicaid! “The state health department estimates that 11,064 unintended pregnancies were avoided through the program in 2008, saving the state about $139.1 million, which would have been needed to cover births and subsequent health care for those children.”

Officials in Arkansas start to wise up to the fact that abstinence-only sex education does not work, and consider abandoning that policy and instituting comprehensive sex education, instead.

Someone stands up for the rights of low-income, pregnant women.

polling numbers

13 Aug

This Gallup poll rates the morality of social issues. See what Americans think are the least and most moral things you can do. Hilarious.

On the no-so-funny side, check out the things Americans are willing to do and not do in order to lose weight. Devastated by the first two, not at all surprised by the last one, and actually kind of okay with the fourth one, because I think we all need to disconnect from electronics a little bit (I’m saying this while talking on the phone, using the computer, and having spent 2 hours last night watching tv. woops).

Daily Whipping Girl quote

7 Aug

“I am attracted to people, not to disembodied body parts. And I would be a selfish, ignorant, and unsatisfying lover if I believed that my partner’s genital existed primarily for my pleasure rather than her own.”

So, so true. Her point, with this quote, is that one is not defined by his/her/hir genitals. We can be attracted to people, no matter what genitals they have. That’s why the argument “trans women are not real women” is bunk. If we argue that a woman’s penis is what makes her a “fake” woman, then we are putting way too much emphasis on one small part of a much greater, more complex person. And isn’t the central tenet of feminism that we are all more than the genitals we were born with? That what we do and experience is so much more a measure of who we are than our individual body parts?

Feministe

5 Aug

is rocking my world lately.

See here for a video (and accompanying transcript) about the stop-and-frisk policy in NYC.

See here for a discussion about the recent TIME cover of the Afghan girl; it touches on disability (and feminism), the Afghanistan war, similarities to the National Geographic cover in the 80s.

See here for an interesting analogy regarding the pervasiveness and silence of privilege.

See here for another post by Maia, one of my favorite Feministe bloggers, who wrote the post I linked to and blogged about (twice) last week. This post is a little shorter, but just as thoughtful, and challenging, and stream-of-consciousness-y.

Finally, see here for a post about friendship, sex, relationships, and the way those interact in this blogger’s relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Her(?) ideas mesh with mine in a good way.