Monthly Archives: January 2015
The conversation about privilege is difficult, because it’s easy to get defensive right off the bat. The thing is that most of us have experienced privilege in some form or other over the course of our lives. It’s hard to see that when we’re feeling downtrodden, but it’s true. Likewise many of us have experienced some form of discrimination based on sex, or height, or handed-ness and feel that gives us some insight into systemic racism. Having a discussion about issues of race can’t even begin until first privilege is understood.
Let’s start with the notion of systemic privilege and discrimination. There is systemic handedness bias in our culture. Left handed people live inherently more dangerous lives simply because the world is designed for their non-dominant hand. But generally handedness isn’t going to get you put in prison. It isn’t cause for shop owners to eye you suspiciously. It isn’t going to prevent someone from renting you an apartment and in most cases it won’t cost you a job or an education. Right handed people are privileged, the world is designed for us.
There are plenty of statics out there that back up an argument for systemic discrimination against women. (Google gender discrimination if you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole.) Women continue to make less in the workforce. We continue to be less upwardly mobile with families. When the same essay is graded by teachers with a male name or a female name the male name paper scores on the average significantly higher. When #allwomen first came out documented how prevalent street harassment is. It became clear that #allwomen have experienced being dismissed in a group, their ideas lauded when reintroduced by a man. There’s a universal uphill climb.
The counter argument is that there is privilege that goes with being a woman as well. The problem is that those cultural privileges are not as universal as the discrimination. Yes, some women can bat their eyes and get out of a speeding ticket. Yes, some women always have doors opened for them (I’d give that up for equal pay – it’s not really an equivalent argument.) And yes, in some cases being a woman means you can hit a guy and he won’t hit back. (Domestic abuse statistics will give some sense of how NOT universal that “privilege” really is.) But I would bet that most women have tried to lean on those alleged privileges to avoid something, or get something they wanted. That doesn’t make this a good counter argument.
There are too many women supporting the men in their lives to argue that being a woman means you can expect the man to pay your way. There are too many women in the workforce by necessity to argue that being a woman means you get to choose to work or stay home. There may be privilege, but the woman privilege may not even be the one that applies. It may be privilege by education. It may be privilege by “pretty” (being blessed with good genes). It may be age. It may be socio-economic status that gives any given woman her privilege.
The argument/counter-argument trap comes up a lot in discussions about privilege. It takes a willingness to actually parse out value to realize how silly this argument can become. For instance, my son who has never walked and uses a wheelchair and an aid everywhere gets “special parking privileges”. What people who make that argument don’t understand is how impossible it is to get in and out of the car without the extra space. What people who make that argument don’t understand is how much energy goes into adaptive mobility. Legs are made for walking, arms aren’t. Shoulders of wheelchair uses wear out much faster and more regularly than knees in walkers.
Most of the people I know with handicapped stickers are grateful for the days (few and far between though they may be) when they feel good enough NOT to park in those “special” spots. The handicapped parking spots aren’t guaranteed. I’ve driven around the parking lot, or decided not to shop on more than one occasion because the spots were full up. All they do is give an underprivileged population a fighting chance to be able to participate in the daily economy.
That’s actually the same argument for title IX to promote women’s athletics. It’s the same argument for affirmative action. It’s not a guarantee. You still have to fight for it, and earn the place. It just gives an underprivileged population a chance. That’s why it’s such an insult to assume that a minority in college or at a workplace got the position because of affirmative action. Remember the comment about grading papers? The same thing applies to resumes. Without affirmative action, with equal qualifications the female or ethnic name doesn’t get the interview as often as the “white guy”. In fact, even with better qualifications employers will often go with a lesser resume that doesn’t look “ethnic”. (National Bureau of Economic Research paper)
In order to better understand systemic racism it is important to actually listen to the experiences of people of color. I am proud to be a contributing author in the new anthology Bringing Race to the Table. This anthology is focused in the Pagan community, but the points it makes are universal. In the first section People of Color describe both overt and covert racism in our community. The second section talks about the historical and mythological context of racism. The third section talks about being an ally and shares ideas about awareness and support. I’m pleased and honored to be able to participate in this ongoing dialog.
It’s occurred to me in this past week that I’m spending a lot of time going “been there, done that” with this current health set-back. I knew, as soon as my leg swelled up, that I was dealing with a blood clot (a DVT) because I’ve “been there, done that”.
I’m finding the same thing to be true with the weight-loss journey. I’ve lost a large amount of weight several times in my life. I lost 70 lbs with medical complications before they found and identified that I had cancer. Several years later, when I actually GOT the cancer diagnosis, after surgery and chemotherapy I realized I had to do something about my weight and again lost about 70 lbs.
The experience of planning to start an exercise program and being sidelined with medical complications is not new to me at all. The two steps forward one step back process of building a lifestyle, or a career, or a new routine is the story of my life. There is a reason I have the magical name Spiral.
This weight is where I was in my mid 20’s, when I got married for the first time. As I go digging through old clothes desperately seeking something that will fit I am reminded of where I was in my life each time I crossed “this number”. I may be the same weight, but my body is not the same shape. I’m no longer in my 20’s, or in my 30’s, but I still catch myself falling back on old patterns.
Most people have “life lessons” that come around again and again. The hope is that each time we confront these issues we have a different perspective on the problem. Each time we are tested we learn new skills and have new (better?) ways to tackle our problems.
I am better at accepting the compliments when people tell me I’m looking good. I’m better at recognizing the traps in the back-handed compliments (“You’re wasting away!”). I’m much more willing to accept ownership of my journey and not depend on others for confirmation of how I am doing. I’m much more willing to seek help and advice from others who have had similar experiences.
I’m less flexible – change at this age is harder than it was when my kids were little. I don’t have as much resilience, especially physically. It takes longer to take those two steps forward after a set-back. As a single woman, I don’t have the same kind of support. (This is as much a plus as a minus, depending on the day!)
My goals are different. My motivation is different. My perspective is different. I may have “been there, done that”. I just hope that this time I don’t do it quite the same way.
I seem to be stuck in “whiney” mode and I don’t like it. So my thoughts for today are consciously choosing to look a little more positively on the world and to be grateful.
I’ve been really busy. Getting the DVT diagnosis doubled my appointments last week. But I have a great team. All of the medical personal in my life (the one’s I keep around anyway) tend to be exceptional. They listen, they talk straight to me about risks and advantages and choices, and they seem to “get” the circumstances of my crazy life.
Treating a blood clot seems to work a lot like faith. Once they find it, they put you on meds and don’t bother to really look again. The doctors trust that the blood thinners will eventually dissolve the clot and in the meantime reduce the risks of complications. The only evidence it’s working is a reduction in swelling and pain. I’m grateful that I’ve got a team I can trust.
One of the things that’s come up is that it’s time to start a serious exercise program. (Something more than ‘be more active’.) I actually bought a swimsuit. I have no idea how long it will fit, but the chances of my actually going to the pool have just increased significantly. Not today of course, but my goal is to get there sometime this week. Once I go, it will be easier to go again. I’m really lucky to have those resources available to me and it’s high time I took advantage of them!
I still have swelling in my leg so it’s a balancing act between moving and elevating the leg. I acquired a brand new recliner to help with that. I’m not sure why I thought Monday morning between 7-9am would be a good delivery time. It will be easier on my back than trying to lounge on the couch with my leg up! Again, I am grateful to be able to do this, and I’m grateful for the recliner that died to make room for the new one as well.
In the land of debatable for my physical well-being, but phenomenal for the attitude adjustment is Karina. She’s also been “in a mood” and so she called me and took me out to the movies. We saw Mockingjay. When she was a snotty teenager, I read the books and literally MADE her go to see the first movie. She was not happy, didn’t want to, wasn’t going to like it. She came home from the movie and read all three books and has waited in anticipation for each movie since. I’m grateful that she took me. She’s grateful that I introduced her to the series. It’s nice to know I did something right.
I think I’ll start the week with Monday morning coffee and breakfast at Gilda’s Club
That’s another thing I’m grateful for. The people are fabulous, the services the club provides powerful and necessary. Being able to be a volunteer there takes me out of myself and puts me in service. It also means I have the opportunity to take advantage of the wonderful programing. Just walking in the red door is enough to create an attitude adjustment!