What good is it, anyway?

annie annoyed« Even the cat tries to keep me away from those evil fem-blogs. I needed something to break up the monotony of text, so I’m copying Twisty by posting photos.

I’ve asked myself that question lately, especially in regards to reading feminist blogs. It’s something I feel I have to justify, somehow, although that comes with the awareness that the gut-twisting worry associated with Even though I’m angry more often (and that, coming from a woman, is definitely seen as negative by our society-at-large) I’m definitely learning, chiefly about myself and my privilege as a white middle-class educated Westerner.

Stephen Dann recently shared the benefits he has gleaned from blogging about comics on Girl-Wonder.org, elaborating on his experience in identifying and fighting his privilege:

Somedays [sic], being white and male isn’t all that’s grand. But for those hours, minutes or few fleeting seconds, they’re nothing to complain about, no reason to say “But white kids have it bad too” or generally be a defensive asshat when called on an issue. It also means that 24-7, I need to be aware. I don’t get days off to be privileged if I want to change. … Cutting back on the privilege, taking steps back, having spaces you can’t access, having place your voice ain’t gonna be heard when you’re used to the opposite is a good start.

I’ve been noticing in myself a willingness to shut up and listen to, for instance, bloggers of color and transgendered folks. Even though our culture is hetero-normative, I don’t have to espouse those beliefs/attitudes. I was raised, like most other white middle-class people, that girls dress like girls and act like girls and just like the boys. This is a woefully limited world view that doesn’t begin to take into account the humanity of all those girls and boys. Also, that white was the default, the base, the ‘vanilla’* as it were, which completely ignores the fact that ‘white’, ‘straight’, ‘male’ are not defaults but options. Variations. Modes with equal intrinsic value as ‘black’, ‘queer’, ‘female’ not to mention ‘brown’, ‘bi’, ‘transgender’ and myriad other characteristics.

So, knowing that I’ve been socialized to be wary of the Other (to the extent that the humanity of anyone not fitting the default is to be ignored when inconvenient to me) is indeed the first step in consciously not practicing my privilege, which I must own that I have because society gives it to me. Not thrusting in with my opinion on an issue for women of color, for example, is me not exercising my privilege (as a white woman) to give voice to something I could justify having an opinion on (women’s issues). I can contribute, but not in a way that belittles or dismisses the concerns of a woman of color — because I can’t possibly know what it’s like to have racism to combat in addition to the sexism I encounter.

(On Shrub dot com Andrea Rubenstein has compiled an ever-updated list about what privilege is, so if you’re lost, I suggest you go check it out. There’s also a series of examples of privilege in action, for further reading.)

So reading feminist blogs and bloggers-of-color is changing the way I view the world. That’s one good thing. And that awareness is helping me change how I treat the world. And that is enough for me — and it doesn’t matter if it’s enough for anyone else.

* I waxed rhapsodic on the use of the term ‘vanilla’ meaning ‘default’ in relation to sexual positions (missionary as ‘vanilla’) on Sex Calumny, but I thought the parallel between what some perceive to be ‘normal’ (heteronormative) sex and treating white-male-straight-etc. as the default human being to be applicable.

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