Monday, April 20, 2015

Turning Privilege Into Oppression

Let's play a game. Think of some privilege you have, like...

"I have electrical service in my home 24/7."

That's pretty awesome! Do you know how many people DON'T have that kind of luxury? And did you really do anything to deserve it? You may have earned the money to pay your electric bill, but it's unlikely that you're personally and solely responsible for the existence of the power plant and the electrical grid in your city. If you're like most people who have electricity, you lucked out on those things. Now, take that privilege, and find a way to turn it into a complaint.

"I can't get ahead because I'm burdened with high electrical costs! Every time I try to see the sunset, all I see are wires. I worry constantly that my house will burn down or that I'll get shocked. I'm afraid to turn on the light when I take a shower. I fear that the wiring in my house puts me at special risk during a thunderstorm. I worry that all that electromagnetism coursing through the walls may be giving me cancer while I sleep. The power company conspires with manufacturers to make products that make me increasingly addicted to electricity usage. I don't want mountaintop removal or wars in the Middle East, but I don't know how I'd get by without an unlimited supply of electricity, so I keep voting for horrible people and feeling guilty about it. It's all a devious conspiracy to keep me trapped in a job I don't want working to pay for things I wish I could live without."

Wow, what a burden! Now, if you can couple that with neoteny, you...

What's neoteny? Neoteny is the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. It's a biological term. In humans, females are strongly neotenous. For example, the size, shape, and sound of a twelve-year-old child of either sex are much closer to the size, shape, and sound of a grown woman than to those of a grown man. Men appear more different from children than women do. Socially, this has worked to women's advantage, because all humans--men and women alike--have evolved to nurture children and to place importance on protecting them and providing for them. So when a child--or a woman--cries, you're going to feel more biologically compelled to care than if you see a man crying. The same characteristic that would make you want to avoid a war movie where all the casualties are cute, little kid is the same characteristic that makes you listen and care when a woman talks about someone hurting her feelings.

So anyway, if you happen to possess this trait that makes everybody biologically hardwired to care about your well-being, and then you manage to re-state everything good in your life as a terrible burden, you've just learned the basics of how to be a Feminist.

Here's an example from the editors at Everday Feminism. The link goes to a cartoon called "How Society Polices Women's Clothing," that shows us just how tough it is to be an affluent, Western woman. There's just no way she can please everyone! The cartoon shows seventeen different ways a woman can dress, and how, in all but the last instance, other people are going to have opinions about it. Opinions! Uncharitable ones, even. Go on, go read the cartoon and let it soak in just how badly America treats women over something as simple as getting dressed to step outside. Terrible, isn't it?

Now go back and look at the whole cartoon again, only this time, imagine that each of the characters you see there are men, and imagine how the captions might differ. Go on and do it. I'll wait. Frame by frame, no advancing to the next one until you've wrapped your head around the idea that each one is male and expects to be regarded as such. Give them guys' names if it helps. I'll start you off: The dude with the long hair and the Daisy Dukes is Kevin. The one in the long skirt is Doug. The one in the suit and a bunch of makeup is Marcos. The one next to him in the pink dress is Frank.

I suspect the criticisms these guys would face might embody something a little harsher than just, "You should wear clothes that do more to flatter your shape." They'd be more likely to contain the word "faggot" and threats of serious bodily harm. which all those compassionate feminists fighting for equal rights for all humans will just shrug and say, "If he doesn't want to get his ass kicked, he shouldn't dress that way. It's not our fault he chose to throw away his male privilege." Because it's privilege when a man is all but assigned a daily uniform and threatened with physical violence for deviating from it, but it's oppression when a woman has multiple options for every occasion and her biggest problem is that people will notice her and feel moved to say something they think is helpful.

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