I’ve been thinking about my own privilege lately. I’ll preface this by saying that I am extremely late to this blogging party. As usual, it takes a bit for my thoughts to get into a state where they are well thought out enough to be shared.
As a white, female feminist, I am guilty of ignoring the privileges that my race gives me. Like anyone born into a position of privilege of any stripe, I am not always aware of the way it works for me. When I first read Womanist Musings post on the subject, I was enthusiastic. Hells yes, we should discuss those white female privileges that exist! And then, once I came down from the euphoria of solidarity, I realized that I was part of the problem. I am a white female feminist. I mainly talk with white female feminists. In fact, I don’t think I have a close relationship with any feminists of color. And when I realized this, it was a shock.
I was a bit miffed, for about 20 minutes, thinking of counter arguments to the Womanist Musings post. After all, all women have to deal with a male dominated culture, in which our contributions aren’t valued. Why should women of color claim that they were oppressed more than I was? That’s not fair! Aren’t we all women? Not my proudest 20 minutes, to be honest, but all the arguments I came up with came around to the fact that just because you are oppressed in one way, doesn’t mean you aren’t privileged in others.
I’ve read bell hooks and books about race and gender. I’ve tried to teach myself as much as possible, and it is humbling to realize that despite trying to learn, somewhere the main point missed me.
Just because I can claim some measure of oppression, because of my gender, I can’t look at my race as something that isn’t a privilege. I can’t complain about white men and their privilege without noting that I too share some of their privilege.
The best method I have found to think about my own privilege is defaulting. When you look at what is considered the stereotypical American Woman, I look like her. White, middle class, female. Most advertisements look like me. The ideal is reachable to some extent just because of the color of my skin. I can do anything I want without it being a reflection on my race or gender, because there are lots of white women around, and we do not all think or act a like(Most people realize this, some don’t, which is a different issue). I don’t have to worry about representing every woman who looks vaguely like me. I am a default.
This is the same issue when it comes to men being the default. They are overwhelmingly the default American. They are the default when it comes to medical testing. They are not the exception, they are the rule.
Basically, realizing you have privileges comes when you realize that you are the rule by which other groups are measured and that because you are the rule, you are allowed more leeway in your actions, that the rule is more lax for you. You don’t speak for everyone in your group, because you are the rule and everyone else who doesn’t look like you or comes from a different culture or is a different gender are the exceptions to your group. If they are the exceptions, then they can’t be individuals, they have to represent everyone in the group that they belong to.
I sure as hell don’t have the answers and some of my answers are probably wrong, but the kyriarchy has benefited me in ways I only begin to realize. And that’s probably a good start.