July 29, 2008 Busy
I’m feeling a little strapped for time, and particularly am feeling nervous about going back to study next week after six weeks off. Six weeks in which it didn’t feel like I actually had any spare time to fill, but in which the pressure of way to many balls in the air was lessened somewhat.
So because I’m flat out I think for a while I’ll be linking to articles that make me go “Wow”. Here is the first.
Trying to explain priviledge is both time consuming and frustrating. Frustrating because the starting point is so often, if not always “That’s not true. If you think that’s true, you’re stupid, if you think that’s true you prove it to me – to my standards to my satisfaction.” And you sit there and shake your head and think “Seriously? You want the right to assume I’m a full of shit moron, and then demand I explain myself, demand I satisfy you when it’s impossible? You want ME to teach you the world is full of bigotry when you could teach yourself?”
As a white cisgendered woman with a reasonably *acceptable* body type, in a hetero relationship, and on a decent-ish income, gender is where I experience the most personal instances of bigotry and discrimination. I notice and speak up about other kinds, but I’m thinking through the fact that while I can be an ally and speak up where I see other kinds of discrimination, I don’t fully *know* the experiences of those discriminated against on the basis of race, weight, gender performance, sexuality etc. And that my priviledge will play out in the same sorts of unthinking ways that say men’s priviledge plays out.
A good illustration of the way in which men’s priviledge plays out is in this article, discussing a women’s performance, a group of women allowing themselves to be vulnerable in public, quite a special thing…pissed all over by a dude standing up and requiring the women to *explain themselves* as to why men’s experiences were not included.
The article’s point that priviledge demands to be represented always and everywhere, to be included reminded me of a god-awful experience of white priviledge playing out in these kinds of ways at the 2007 Sydney Writer’s Festival.
It was an event at which Indigenous authors and activists were speaking. First bad thing? Well, the organisers decided that when there was a clash in timetable with an overseas guest, that, you guessed it, the Indigenous speakers ought to be moved, shifted, shunted to a smaller, more obscure location. Cos you wouldn’t want to displace a white French dude, but hey, Indigenous issues? Those are really kinda *peripheral* anyway right?
So they shifted it, which had me livid already. Anita Heiss stood up and remarked that ‘It’s ok, we’re used to being displaced anyway’.
So then these speakers took turns speaking. I cried almost the whole way through. These stories of pain, struggle, power, progress, frustration, silencing…it was a pretty sacred space to be allowed into. It wasn’t *my* experience, but the fact that I was allowed to hear these stories, to sit and listen felt really bloody special.
Then comes question time. First question? White dude. Along the lines of, “Well YOU’VE been excluded right? So aren’t YOU excluding by having only Indigenous speakers?”
Second comment, white woman “I was an Indigenous person in a past life…” basically something along the lines of isn’t it grand to be *so speacial*, I wouldn’t swap that experience, I wish I were an Indigenous person again, because it’s so much more *special*. To which Anita (my hero, be still my beating heart) replied along the lines of “Yeah? Well I’m an Indigenous person in THIS life, and given my experiences there are times I WOULD swap”.
Jesus people are arseholes. If they can’t immediately OWN the experience they move to tell you how much they *relate* or *get it* but how you’re wrong. So the guy feels *alienated* as a white guy, and therefore goes on the attack about exclusion instead of getting his head out of his own arse, and the woman needs to *own* the stories she’s just heard as a claim to inclusion. Fuck.
Anyway…go read the article. It’s very good, and a good (though gender specific here) example of the ways in which when people who feel and experience discrimination attempt to express it, there always appears to be one or two arseholes around to invalidate it on an ‘everything is equal, tit for tat, I’m gonna call you on your *hypocrisy*’ basis. GOD.