I have Bitch PhD in my blogroll and yet somehow I missed out on this nonsense, but Shannon brings us up to speed. I don’t want to dwell too much on the controversy itself–the idea that Bitch has more discretionary funds available to her a month than the Butcher makes and yet that she still feels like she doesn’t have enough money to get by is so ludicrous that I really don’t know how to process it. One of the commenters over at WOC PhD, Profacero says
A friend and I noticed years ago that claiming poverty was a trope among upper middle class women without jobs of their own. At the time we decided it was a screen for a different statement, “I am feeling constrained by the way I am positioned in patriarchy, but I am not willing to give up the benefits I gain from remaining in this position.”
And I think that’s the wise truth of it.
I get suckered into the whole “If we’re all women and we’re all feminists, we must all be in it together” thing as much as the next person. What bothers me is that I’m so white when it comes to this shit. And what I mean by that is that I’ve internalized this idea that the concerns of moneyed white people should be my concerns and that, sure, I’m struggling now, but if I just continue to behave, I will eventually be rewarded, maybe not handsomely, but rewarded nevertheless by having my concerns finally line up with the concerns of moneyed white people.
I feel the implicit promise that, if only I work hard enough, I will make it, even if I, myself, don’t want what “it” is.
I think. maybe, this comes from growing up with modest means. In order to differentiate ourselves from other people of modest means, I think I felt like I should act “classy.” In other words, I should act like a member of the middle class, even though I wasn’t–not that there were any middle class people by most measures out there in rural Illinois for us to use as a guide, but no matter.
This is just a long way of restating that I think Profacero is onto something at another level as well–that many white people, including me, can sense our own discomfort, but are so socialized in certain ways that actually being able to name our discomfort correctly is very difficult for us.
The other thing I appreciate about WoC PhD’s post is that it reminds me that I see all around me institutions that are clearly racist and sexist and inaccessible to all kinds of people and that trade on making folks like me trapped by it and complicit in it and afraid to tell the truth about it.
Here’s a truth I know: Where I work, you can tell what job someone has by their gender and race. Hispanic men have jobs that rarely let them come in contact with white people, especially white women–such as groundskeepers. Black people by and large have service jobs where they will come in contact with white people–such as delivering the mail or serving food. Almost all administrative support is provided by white women. If there’s a black administrative assistant, you can bet good money she’s got a black boss. White women who are not providing administrative support tend to wear less makeup and less office appropriate clothing (either by wearing jeans or really expensive clothing); they also tend to keep different office hours than the support staff. Black people who are not in service jobs signal that by wearing expensive clothing.
There are people here–usually men–who are not required to usually show up to work. They are paid huge salaries. Once every year or so, they might be required to be here about three hours a week for four months. They may also choose to spend more time here if needed. There are people here–either people just starting out in their careers or women–who are required to be here three hours a week for four month increments. They are not paid enough to live on.
We have a living wage campaign that I sincerely believe will never be allowed to succeed not just because of the inherent problems of paying groundskeepers and cleaning crews what it costs to live in Nashville, but also because, if they paid people at the bottom a living wage, they’d have to pay the administrative assistants a living wage, and they might have to pay everyone who works here a living wage, which would mean that either they’d have to come up with some money or they’d have to ask some folks to take less money and there’s no one willing to take less money, even if it means fairer wages for everyone else.
God, this post is meandering, but my point is that a person can be of three minds–like a tree in which there are three blackbirds–you can be fucked up, you can want to promote justice, and you can want to preserve yourself. Sometimes those things work together. Sometimes they work at cross-purposes. You can feel uneasy; you can ask the wrong questions about your unease; and you can not know that you’re asking the wrong questions.
Even the brightest and smartest of us.
This is not right. This is not getting at exactly what I want to say. I want to say that I have these puzzle pieces that appear to all go to the same puzzle, but I’m not sure. Even if they do, I’m not sure how to make them fit together.
So, I want to bring in what Blackamazon says, too, that there’s something weird about the lack of thankfulness. I don’t know. It’s as if we aren’t getting the message we’re sending.
Ha, yes, I think that’s exactly what folks who critique feminists and leftists in general are trying to say–we’re not getting the message we’re sending.
If we know the deck is stacked against us, why are those of us who get a little farther along so determined to forget it? We live in a system and we know we live in a system in which we can never be sure that we’ve earned, free and clear, anything…
Okay, wait, (god, this is going to give Shannon fits), but it seems to me that another name to call “resiliant thankfulness” is joy, which I might want to consider in terms of ethical pleasure.
But where is the notion that, when you’re on the side of right, even when the struggle is long and hard, we do it because we’re thankful? And we’re thankful because being thankful reminds us that we’re resiliant.
So much to think about.
It’s hart stuff to talk about, though, or even to get at. We are going to have to work together, if we want to get anything that resembles real justice done, and yet, we white women still do run around the feminist blogosphere, and the world, with big clumsy boots and people get hurt, sometimes on purpose, sometimes inadvertently.
I don’t know any way around that. And I’m not looking for absolution or forgiveness about it. To stand in front of someone and say, “Oh, I suck so much in comparison to you” is just as disrespectful as standing in front of her and saying “Oh, I’m so much greater than you.”
I want to stand before you in all my flaws and be seen and recognized as a human being. I want to see you, flaws and all, and recognize a human being.
I want to laugh and bring down giants.
And I want to have the graciousness, when being laughed at myself, to see the stupid thing I’m doing and step back and laugh along, too.