Privileging Around

This is a nicely precise discussion of Thin Privilege and its relationship to sexism:

This lists specific examples thereof:

The article made me think of the extent to which the obscene and constant media/cultural conversation about women’s bodies is part of the, for lack of a better word, conspiracy to keep women so focused on their bodies that they forget to think about their brains/abilities/goals/self-respect. It’s hard to think about, because it’s not actually a conspiracy if we accept that a conspiracy is a product of conscious planning (keeping the uglier facts about, for instance, the Manhattan Project out of the news for decades was the product of conscious planning, and as much as those facts haunt me, I am deeply grateful to Susan Griffin for both publicizing and contextualizing them in the bottomlessly brilliant A Chorus of Stones). Male Privilege, Thin Privilege, White Privilege are all products of something deeper, more pervasive, and probably far more damaging than conspiracy encompasses, which is pretty scary, since conspiracies have a history of being hideously dangerous already. While some of the behaviors associated with the unholy trio of Privileges are certainly conscious and have had one group or another intentionally working to preserve them–everyone from Conde Nast to the KKK–I don’t believe that constitutes conspiracy, because the prejudices that produce the privileges are so rooted in the collective consciousness that it’s more remarkable how many humans manage to consciously work against them than that they exist in the first place.

And, should you be one of those (white, male, thin–or all three) people who like to claim noisily that you don’t believe in the existence, pervasiveness, and danger of any of them, you might think about the fact that you are white, thin, and/or male in the first place and only members of your particular club are inclined to make that claim. And that the other members of your club who accept that they are privileged and live their lives in awareness of that are all smarter than you are and A) working very hard to perpetuate that privilege, or B) trying to figure out what to do to shatter it.

And should you still want to pick a fight with me about the existence of it, you may not pull out the pudgy and African-American Supreme Court Justice who just voted to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of predominantly non-white REGISTERED Texas voters, because Clarence Thomas is an outlier (among many other less polite things) and outliers don’t count, even when they’re important and influential outliers. Thomas is still more likely to be randomly pulled over by the cops–assuming that he drives himself anywhere.

But the part of this whole issue that is relevant to this blog is that ALL of these systems of privileges–these ancient, hugely pervasive, ugly, soul-damaging systems are enacted on the basis of bodies. They all see the body of someone other as a fit site of oppression.

Or, to put it in the most trivial context possible: it is not a function of Thin Privilege that I cannot find the clothes I want in the endless shades of green that I prefer to wear. That’s a function of my slightly unusual preferences and the fact that there actually is some cabal somewhere that decides on cycles of color-dominance in the commercial world. But the fact that in, say Kohls or Target, no single piece of any of their spiffy “designer” lines of clothing appears in  my size is a function of thin Privilege. The designers don’t want their names associated with my size–the stores barely want to and, in spite of increasing numbers of women in my size range, continue to make the relevant departments smaller and smaller (talking to you, Target) and blander and blander (hello, Kohls). There are more and more places for fat women to go to get the cute/edgy/affordable/high-quality clothes we want (bless you Modcloth, ASOS Curve, eShakti, and eBay), but they’re all on-line and by no means mainstream. Nor are their offerings nearly as comprehensive as what’s available to “normal” women.

That’s the least of it.

And Thin Privilege, awful and soul-wounding as it is, is the least crippling of the Unholy Trinity, and wounds the smallest proportion of the human population.

Like the others, it is s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y and bumpily losing its hold on humans. But loathing others and institutionalizing that loathing is a beast that is going down hard, and I am frankly inclined to wonder whether they will ever go away, or, if they did, what would replace them (the older I get, the more aware I am of The Law of Unintended Consequences being one of the more critical functions of the Universe). Which is no reason to stop working on stomping The Privileges into extinction. They deserve to die. They need to die. They have no bodies, yet they poison bodies and the lives they contain endlessly, ruthlessly, causelessly, murderously.

There are ideas no one is entitled to hold. No matter how important I believe the First Amendment is–and I do–hate speech is not covered by it, and neither should unreasoning hatred be allowed to flourish or exist under its protection. And make no mistake, White Privilege is a function of blanket hatred of non-white people, no matter what its members try to believe. Male Privilege is a function of the hatred of the feminine in all its manifestations. Thin Privilege is a function of hatred of fat people, no matter how often it is cloaked in “concern.”

So what if we are hard-wired by evolution to believe in the innate superiority of certain human types? We’re also hard-wired to be selfish, rude, and ( for the most part) violent, but the (very bumpy) progress of human civilization has been built on moving beyond those natures.

Here’s the exercise for the day: What privileges do you own?

Here’re are mine:

White. Cis-hetero. Economically advantaged (if not anywhere near the 1%). Highly educated (if not, by a long shot, the smartest person I know). Securely and mostly sanely married. US citizen (though the extent to which that is a privilege is contingent, yes?). Able-bodied. Health-insured.

Take any of them away and my life would be VERY different (unless you replaced my citizenship with another western, 1st world citizenship–not so much difference then).

Add thin and/or male and my life would also be very different.

And pretty much all of those are located in, functions of, or enacted upon my body. We haven’t even gotten into the issue of beauty.

round angel.2


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s