Don’t Mind Me

My plan to blog away my afternoon has been thwarted by my inability to steal internet access.  A city of how many million and not one kind soul nearby has left himself unguarded?  What is this world coming to?

I had a meeting this morning in which we ended up spending some time talking about Mack.  I was thinking about Slartibartfast, but I didn’t bother to bring him up.  It’s like this, when I say that my experience as a woman matters–that because I am both myself and a member of this group “woman” and am not allowed ever to forget that without endangering myself–and Slartibartfast says “I don’t have male privilege,” I’ve got to say, at a very basic level, it hurts my feelings.

I mean, yes, it makes me mad and causes me to roll my eyes, but my first experience of that is to have hurt feelings, because, it means, when it comes down to brass tacks, Slarti thinks I’m a liar or stupid.  I’m either lying about my experiences or stupidly misinterpreting what’s going on around me.

It’s hard not to experience that as incredibly hostile.

It’s funny, not in a funny-ha-ha way, but in a funny-fuck-me way, this situation: I say there’s a problem.  Slarti says there’s not.  I think the evidence I could present that there’s a problem is overwhelming (and evidence that is presented by women over and over again) and yet, I guess, that evidence is not overwhelming to Slarti.  I can’t get him to recognize my problem because I can’t get him to give my evidence any weight.

That’s a problem.  Or, I’d say, that’s the very problem I’m trying to illustrate to Slarti.  That’s what makes me laugh so long and bitterly about it.

I was reminded of it reading Coble’s entry about The Homeless Guy, who wants $5,000 so that he can emerge out of homelessness.  I’m not interested in this context so much in Coble’s argument in how she delivers that argument–in a strong voice that doesn’t coddle The Homeless Guy.  Look down to the comment where she’s criticized.

What is the gist of the criticism against her?

That she’s not being nice, that she’s not being generous enough to The Homeless Guy–that she’s refusing to do the emotional work to keep things going smoothly that we just automatically expect women to do.  Look at W.’s criticism of me in regards to the whole Krumm conversation from earlier this week.  He’s upset that I appear to be being more harsh and less understanding of Krumm than he’s come to expect from me.  Krumm advances a point of view that clumsily accuses me of racism and sexism and not one person calls him on that.  But I get chastised for not being kind enough to him in return.  And then when Krumm does decide to address my post, what’s his complaint?  That I’m being patronizing.

Here’s my question for you, Slarti: when was the last time you had a discussion online about something serious like racism, sexism, or homophobia in which folks wanted to talk not about your points but about whether your behavior is appropriate?

If calling that “male privilege” makes you uncomfortable, might we at least call it a “female detriment?”

Because it is to my detriment that any time I want to talk, I have to spend so much time justifying how I talk, in order to get folks to listen to me.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Mind Me

  1. Anyone ever told you you’re adowable when you get all in a tizzy about being “patronized”?

    But seriously, currently showing on the CNN main page:

    “Sexy beyond 60: Mirren, Hawn, Keaton… Pelosi?”

    But not as sexy as that Obama, ooh isn’t he just a clean, that is to say sharp, black man… well spoken… and how the white women love him. And Hillary, isn’t there a rumor she’s actually a lesbian?

    (this is the impression I get looking in the television set / America is this correct?)

  2. Here’s my question for you, Slarti: when was the last time you had a discussion online about something serious like racism, sexism, or homophobia in which folks wanted to talk not about your points but about whether your behavior is appropriate?

    A-FREAKING-MEN, B!!!!! Thank you for posting this, that’s dead-on.

  3. Jebbo, don’t get me started on all that. The whole “sexiness of public figures” thing skeeves me.

    And part of the reason it skeeves me is exactly because of what B. is talking about here. I take it as an assumption that the Woman half of the national audience is incapable of truth and reason and operating in the land of ideas. We must pacify womankind and draw her into the discussion by talking about pretty shiny objects like sexiness, jewelry, fashion and haircuts.

    Ironically it’s hard for me to slam Slarti here because he’s so good-natured and I really really like him.

    That being said, I think that on the issue of sex privilege/sex discrimination he’s always been right and he’s always been wrong. He’s right because he says he doesn’t experience male privilege. You don’t have to look any further than his article on the lack of women in computer programming to see that whether or not he EXPERIENCES it–has a mental and emotional knowledge that it is happening–he BENEFITS from it. He wrote a post asking where all the women were in his field and almost immediately heard from two women (me and nm) that we were essentially forced out of practicing in computers by the inherent gender bias of the field. He seemed honestly surprised. Yet here he is, apparently financially comfortable and enjoying a profession he likes because twenty-five years ago he was NOT shut out of it by virtue of his gender. Meanwhile I and countless other women can either battle uphill to enjoy the same employment benefits as men like Slarti or we can do ‘women’s work’ like transcription and medical coding for less than a third of the money true programmers make.

    I think Slarti is the best example of the problem with Male Privilege. Like most men (my husband included), he doesn’t believe male privilege exists because his only experience of it is visceral.

    As far as my own example listed, what I think is funny is that there were at least half-dozen commenters at Homeless Guy’s site who all said essentially the same thing I did. I was the only one who took heat. And the only woman.

  4. B & KC, as somebody who has read you both long before I ever met you and started commenting on your blogs, I want to say that as a woman I respect you guys so much–and you both are taken much more seriously by the male readership than most others of us. I don’t know what that says. Perhaps that speaks volumes of how we are all perceived…some of us who would like to have someone hear us out without a patronizing pat on the shoulder or “you’re so cute” kind of dismissal or just flat out ignored. This kind of treatment truly hurts when I’m trying to learn and interject my opinion on an issue. The same goes for general treatment in life on a day to day basis. I think we all just want to be valued for the amazing women that we are on all levels, and dammit that isn’t too much to ask.

  5. While I have nothing of substance to add to this thread, I feel compelled to at least validate B’s point by stating:

    As a male, I can’t actually point to any event in my life and say that I’ve directly benefitted from “male privilege”.

    However, I have eyes, and a brain, and I can perceive that I have benefitted indirectly from male privilege almost from birth. Any man, especially a white man in America, who tries to assert that he doesn’t benefit from that fact is either a tad slow (I don’t know the currently PC word for retarded), or is purposely wearing blinders in order to continue to convince himself that he is living in a just age.

  6. I like the idea of framing it as “female detriment,” because it really highlights the mechanism. Very few men in their day-to-day lives experience their privilige as privilege. The privilege fairy doesn’t buzz around their heads opening doors and greasing wheels. Instead, because of the framework we’re all stuck in, women get held to different/higher standards and systematically shunted away from things deemed “men’s work.” Men often see their own hard work being rewarded correctly (I debated putting scare quotes around that… it’s not correct if half the population doesn’t do it, but it’s usually the right reward for the amount of effort put in), while women often don’t.

    Unfortunately, that compounds the problem; a man for whom this is working can say with a perfectly straight face “I got this on my own, and I worked really hard for it,” and not be wrong on an individual level. Just like kids who were raised in well-off families who could provide them with educational resources can say that they worked hard to get into college – it is hard work, and it is being rewarded mostly correctly as long as we’re only paying attention at the micro level. As soon as any macro-level analysis happens, though, it’s clear that some groups are favored over others, or at least didn’t have the same obstacles to overcome. That’s privilege.

  7. To me, this is much the same argument that some white people make to say that there is a level playing field now, so what’s the big deal about racial preference..we’re all on the same page.

    Setting aside the absolute BS that we are equal (look at mortgage rates for homes and interest rates for cars for blacks vs. whites with the same income), the fact is that white people my age got better education because the brunt of the resources went to educate white people (percentage wise), white folks got to pay for cheaper labor because black folks by and large got paid a lot less for the same work as white folks, white people were welcome in clubs and restaurants where business was routinely done and deals were made while the only people of color were the ones serving the tables…I could go on and on and on, but the point is, my kids are the extension of that privilege. Do we bow our heads in shame and speak penitentially…NO, but we need to acknowlege and join in the quest for justice.

    As a guy, I was the one in the Health department back in the early 80s to learn about this new computer system that was being installed. There were at least 8 more experienced women in that office, who all could have done as good or better of a job. I’m grateful for that experience because it led to a job that I love. I am good at what I do, but that had nothing to do with the fact that I was selected in the first place.

    I do think things are better now, and the selection process for such choices is on a more equitable footing, but it still doesn’t mean I don’t a foundation of privilege, while perhaps the females reading this have the built-on-sand foundation of detriment.

  8. Since I am just now back from a long, exhausting vacation, I’ll not chime in on the whole male privilege thing for now, but I am compelled to ask if the meeting where I was discussed involve any authorities? A heads up seems in order here, B.

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