i dunno this has sorta got me thinking about my own experience learning about problematic shit and privilege and all the social awareness stuff i’ve gotten from tumblr
i don’t think my perspective is of particular note, but i think it’s kind relevant when talking about people like john green…
I think it is impossible to say that anyone who is on Tumblr doesn’t enjoy some form of privilege, and it’s also wrong to say that anyone who is on Tumblr has not been at the short end of a privilege stick. (I’ll use my bad self as an example as needed because I don’t know anyone better.)
One of the most important things we can do as human beings is work to recognize that inequality exists, and acknowledge that it’s not fair, and then do something to fix it. This goes for everyone, though, regardless of who one is or what privilege one has. And I think it would be SO constructive for all of us to stop thinking of privilege in terms of one big pissing match, which unfortunately is what happens altogether too often. Case in point: someone at Buzzfeed made a “how privileged are you?” survey with one hundred questions. After completing it, it provides a person with a nice little number that in some imaginary way dictates how good or bad their life has the potential to be. And I think that is ridiculous and harmful, not to mention a rather US/developed world-centric view of things.
However, its thoroughness does a really good job at illustrating that what privilege is, is not a simple matter of race or gender or sex or job or ethnicity or color of one’s skin or education or etc, ad nauseum. This is something that, I’ve observed, is either lost on or ignored by a lot of (not all) (lol) people on twitter/Tumblr/YouTube who deign themselves SJW’s. There’s a quote from a (fantastic) book called “Mountains Beyond Mountains” where this Haitian lady asks Dr. Paul Farmer, "honey, are you incapable of complexity?" when he expresses bafflement at the idea that one might believe in both modern medicine and voodoo. Although it’s not quite the same thing, I think that this question is something that’s applicable to the topic at hand.
I am a white cisgendered male, which some would take independently of everything else about me as meaning my life is cake. But I’m also queer. I also grew up in (relative to most americans) poverty. I’m fantastically charismatic, but I was also fantastically overweight during the most socially formative years of my life. I went to some good schools. I grew up in a house full of mental illness. I don’t have college debt, but I also had to give up my life and some basic human rights for six years so that I could afford an education at all. And these are just the handful of things that I’m willing to discuss, or allowed by law to discuss.
The thing is, though — I’m nothing special compared to the rest of humanity. Everybody is just as complex and tragic and wonderful as I am. So how are we supposed to be able to put any individual on a scale without knowing them wholly and saying, “you have ___ lbs of privilege, stfu”? But people tend to have difficulty with complexity when it comes to matters that deal with emotion and personal experience; understandably so.
I understand that the rage against male privilege at its core is rage against this social norm that results in my life being easier or more “fair” by default than that of someone who isn’t male — NOT a rage against all men, and not against me as an individual. We men are products as much as anyone of the environment that surrounds us and the genes that make us who we are, and we should be equal, in many ways that we aren’t, to non-men. This nuance is sometimes lost though. Here I’m gonna pull a quote from something I wrote on Facebook in a discussion regarding rape a while ago:
As for the tone that feminism can take… Yeah, sometimes it’s harsh and not really fair toward men. But, you know, people get mad when issues go unnoticed and unchanged for so long. How many times can a woman go with being called something demeaning before it’s acceptable for her to snap at someone — even politely — without calling her a bitch? (ladies, pardon my language) The answer should be zero, but it’s not. This anger that gets conveyed and channeled and harnessed in feminism is not without cause or reason, and when you really get right down to it, there’s been so much real shit that’s happened to women for hundreds upon hundreds of years and I’d be angry too if I were in their position.
If there’s anything that the internet has taught me, it’s that boys and men get defensive when faced with a feminism that lumps them all together and accuses them of doing bad, and when that happens (whenever anyone, regardless of anything, feels they are unfairly treated), it shuts them down. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to see a shift in tone, but I’m not demanding that from anyone. It’s more like, if that were to happen it might do a better job of sinking in with more men, and in turn protecting more men AND women.
I would love to see the message shift from one of anger to one of empowerment, but I’m not going to tell someone else that their feelings have any less meaning just because it makes me feel bad. I have internalized/taken onboard in my own brain that I am not a rapist, and therefore any statements that might imply otherwise don’t apply to me. That’s why I like how a number of people are changing the tone of the message. With respect to sexual assault, the message is changing from, “don’t rape women,” to, “consent is super-sexy.” The difficult thing with this is that, as we get solid definitions of what consent is, a lot of men start to wonder if past experiences they’ve had were rape/sexual assault. And I think, in some cases, the answer is yes and that’s a terrifying idea for a lot of people.
Society taught them that it was okay to rely on “liquid courage,” or that the absence of a no means yes, or that women are submissive and won’t always say yes, etc… and that’s the script they were playing off of without anyone telling them otherwise for so long. But now they’re being told they’re the villains and nobody wants that. Now don’t get me wrong: some people really are rapists and they have some serious issues and should be in prison and therapy — but those aren’t the people I’m talking about. I’m talking about the high school kid who just discovered his balls a year ago, or the college kid who’s told by his culture that drunk chicks are easy and if he doesn’t have sex there’s something inherently wrong with him.
Anyways, that’s a lot of words that I didn’t mean to write… But hey, like I said, I’m an essayist at heart. The point I guess I maybe was trying to get at is that people have emotions, and people who’ve put up with a lifetime of not having X or Y privilege may have a lot of justified rage that is sometimes really hard to control.
The best I can do is continue to let everyone know that what whatever they *feel* is never wrong, it’s sacred; and that no matter what, no matter who they are, I love them. Because in my mind, that’s what the world needs. That, and a whole lot of love-motivated activism to fight inequality when I can.