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What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Privilege

Creation date: Nov 29, -0001 4:00 pm     Last modified date: Apr 5, 2019 7:11 am   Last visit date: Jun 16, 2019 1:51 am     link & embed ?...
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Apr 5, 2019  ( 1 post )  
4/5/2019
7:11 am
Andie Murray (mashkakashka)

"Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is" is one of those things, like the Bechdel Test, that seems insightful, means well...and ultimately falls short, because it's way too reductive.

 

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the concept of privilege, but there are a few things missing from the discussion that really need to be involved.

 

First, and this is first for a reason, class.

 

Poverty is a huge blind spot in these discussions; they don't call it a poverty trap for giggles.  It's pernicious, it's nasty, it kills, and your race, gender, and sexual orientation do not matter to it.  More to the point, half of Americans will live in poverty at some point in their lives before the age of 65.  

 

This isn't to say straight white guys aren't better off in this respect: if you're straight, white, and male, you're the least likely to be poor in this country.  Women especially get the short end of the stick because they're generally forced to pay for and provide child care.  But poverty goes a long way towards negating any privilege you may have, and we need to acknowledge that's a factor, and in fact that that's the most important factor, one that supersedes anything else.  Unless you want to tell the guy currently choosing between food and rent just how great he has it.

 

Secondly, there's a failure to acknowledge that privilege is damaging to everybody, including those who "benefit" the most from it.

 

Here's a good example: the "traditional" household, where the woman stays at home and the man works, is insane and benefits nobody.  I've been in that situation, involuntarily, and it's completely unworkable in the modern age for all but the independently wealthy.  The stress is almost shocking, and how it wears on both your psyches no less so.

 

Or the idea that men are allowed to sleep around in a committed relationship, but women aren't.  I see the fallout of that attitude every day, in my inbox: broken relationships, lost trust and respect from friends and family members, people cut off from their families, and even damage to the emotional and physical health of both parties.  Seriously, who wins here, in the end?  Nobody.

 

The problem is that the dialogue is couched in "winners and losers", one of the key problems with Scalzi's game analogy.  There are no winners here, just people who lose less.

 

Again, none of this is to bemoan that straight white guys are in the same boat as everybody else.  They're not.  Denying that our society is built around privileging straight white men is inherently foolish: if it didn't, women wouldn't have to worry about their jobs when they got pregnant, Black men wouldn't be terrified about traffic stops landing them in jail for no reason, and we wouldn't live in a country where sexual assaults against immigrants don't "count" to some people.

 

But until we start acknowledging that the problem isn't a difficulty level or a simple attitude, but a complex web that we have to untangle, and until we make clear that nobody benefits...well, I don't see it going anywhere.

 

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