In preliminary readings of my new study of Feminism, there is one word that has caught my attention. It is a word that seemingly is a dirty word to a Feminist. It is privilege.
In a first blog post, we authors were asked to introduce ourselves and our interest in Feminism prompted by a series of questions one of which asked us to explain our experiences with privilege and/or discrimination. I am not bothered by the question, but it pricked my consciousness, and , as I began to do research in Feminism, the word kept appearing.
I understand that in the early days of the Feminist fight, privilege was something to reckon with, but the more I read and see that term, the more offended I am. It’s as if Feminists have a chip on their shoulder concerning anyone who is not of color, of certain sexual orientation, of certain religion, or of a certain mindset. That might not be accurate, I’ll have to keep reading, but that’s what I sense so far and this might possibly be at the root of my issue with Feminism because even though I don’t think I’m privileged, a feminist might see me that way. What I’m saying is that it is okay to be a white, straight, Christian female. I won’t deny it and I am proud of it.
It’s not a bad thing to be privileged either. I know the connotation is somewhat negative, but, as I alluded to in my introductory blog post, it comes down to what one does with one’s privilege. Does one use his position, money, opportunity, power, advantage to help those in need?
In certain eras and societies, privilege especially attached itself to rich and powerful people. In America today, privilege is not the same. Virtually anyone that works at it can achieve what they want. Some may have an advantage, but there are too many examples of people who overcame obstacles to achieve great success.
In my readings, I have noticed a new usage of the word. Some writers have turned it into a verb. In “Gloria Anzaldua’s Rhetoric of Ambiguity and Antiracist Teaching” by Sarah Klotz and Carl Whithaus, they write, “Our pedagogy of open-ended questions led to a method we term the ‘rhetoric of ambiguity,’ a discourse practice that privileges overlapping, intersecting, and constantly reshaping identity categories as a productive way to address racism in America today.”
I have a pet peeve against making nouns of verbs, so I picked up on this and had to study on it. It is interesting to me that I have never encountered that usage until I began my Feminist readings and it is in considering these feminist ideas, which I have never embraced, that I have had to deal with questions of privilege. Don’t get me wrong – no one has accused me of being privileged, although this week, in my classroom, a kid turned around and told his friend, “She got money.” I don’t (well, more than a high school freshman does), but to him, I may seem privileged.
If feminists could get past the idea that people like me are privileged and stop walking around dressed as vaginas, I could get with them.
Gloria Anzaldua, whom I am currently researching, has written of her feelings that as a Chicana woman, she has no homeland, no one accepts her fully. Here’s the thing: we all feel that way. Deep down inside, most people have their own set of insecurities, we’re all looking for acceptance, someone to belong to, and equality. If I am or people like me are viewed as privileged, it is necessary to understand that I don’t feel privileged, I want equality, too. At least at the outset, it seems as if feminists don’t want equality. They want more. We should not then begin to privilege ourselves over one another.
I found this from bell hooks in Feminism is For Everybody: “Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other.”