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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Privilege We Don't Talk About

These days, everyone likes to talk about race, gender, sexuality, and sometimes religion, if it's the right religion. Entire worldviews and ideologies exist around these factors, and people build their entire identities around the circumstances of their birth. Circumstances that are built entirely on chance and often do play a part in the way your life plays out, but these very self-same people generally tend to ignore the elephant in the room.

The very well-off, well dressed, upper-class elephant.

The elephant with multiple degrees, a trust fund, and paid speaking positions.

The elephant that makes daily stops at Starbucks to micro-blog on their Macbook Air about injustice.

Maybe it's just the reformed Marxist in me, but nothing irritates me more than seeing someone who genuinely, in their heart of hearts, feels that they're a victim of the world lecturing someone in a rougher place than they are. I can't help but feel that regardless of race, gender, whatever factor, that someone who has just stepped off the stage of the Sydney Opera House from a lecture where they earned enough to buy one or two reliable used cars shouldn't be lecturing someone in rural Appalachia regarding their place of power in the socioeconomic structure of systems.

So let's talk about Roxanne Gay. Who, according to her twitter feed 24 hours ago, will be lecturing at Missouri State University. Who, according to her twitter feed 15 hours ago, complained about a $400 suitcase that can charge her iPhone and weigh itself, just doesn't work. For comparison, last time I flew anywhere, my company paid for it, and I had just my carry-on in a $20 bag I bought from Target. But I don't want to weigh myself, who debated going to the doctor last week for a stomach ache that I thought might be my appendix (it wasn't - don't eat gluten-free pizza) against someone who has had her own TED talk. I want to talk about perspective.

Fight.. the.. system? 
Screencap for convenience. Link for veracity. The person behind the counter at McDonalds is making, in about six months, what you make for a speaking appearance, I'd wager. If not less. This person who asked you "boy or girl" might have a boy or girl of their own, who they're worried they won't be able to feed, and are just hoping the glint in your eye doesn't mean you're about to ask for the manager. This person that you're explaining how damaging enforcing the gender binary to doesn't even have an ounce of power or privilege that you have, where you can go on a national speaking stage and explain your ideas to modest crowds of people. She can't even take the words that you've spoken to her, verbatim, to her manager and have him pass it up the chain. because it won't matter. "Girl or boy" isn't something that the counter employees at McDonalds have any influence at all over. At best, all you've done is waste her time. At worst, you've impacted her productivity and inconvenienced the people behind you in line, and that's not going to cost you anything. 

Fortunately, there's a little bit of a silver lining to this story. After publicly and proudly tweeting (again, on a public platform), she was quite handily told how completely out of touch and lacking perspective she was, and did her best at apologizing. Of course, between the initial tweet and the 'apology' were quite vitriolic statements thrown at people who were being everything from supportive but critical to straight-up assholes, but progress is progress.

But this is the crux of what bothers me about identity ideologies: They're mainly made up of people who make a living out of them. I'm not paid to write these posts; I write them because these are things that I enjoy or things that I feel. I don't have a trust fund; I have a real life job somewhere that I don't mention that takes up entirely too many hours of my week to pay my bills so that I can keep myself distracted with video games or action figures, and I'm thankful that I have a job. Some people don't.

And some people have a job they hate, that pays them sweet fuck-all, and still have to deal with people who have no sense of perspective or empathy for someone that's struggling because they don't look like them or think like them. 

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