I'm learning more than I ever really hoped or expected to about just how tightly people cling to privilege. The situations I've been dealing with lately have mostly been about white privilege, but in confronting these ugly little debacles male privilege has come up too. I've questioned a few people lately on comments they have made, and more than one of them has taken the "you are just too emotional to argue with" approach--obviously as a confident woman I have no grasp of rationality. And then of course there's the flare of anger, the instant defensiveness, the "why don't you mind your own business." Because you see, women can be such nosy bitches, and somehow when you posted that Facebook status you didn't really mean for anyone to comment on it, let alone challenge your problematic ideas expressed therein.
These people know that the tactics they use to respond to me will shut down any real attempts at conversation. I really think they know that they're wrong, somehow. When they get called out, somewhere in there they know that they've said something fucked up and don't know how to justify it, so they skirt the issue. They make it about me. They make it about me because they convince themselves that I'm attacking them, that I'm trying to be rude or to hurt them or to make them look stupid. I couldn't care less about any of that. What it's really about is the world we live in that normalizes and encourages white privilege and male privilege, and a whole host of other unsavory attitudes that systemically contribute to the abuse and oppression of others. I hate that world. I hate seeing it reflected back at me in people I know. Teachers of mine have told me that the most important part is planting that first seed of consciousness, the thing you say that pierces the surface and gets carried around, turned over, periodically examined, occasionally making its presence obvious and uncomfortable. That's when it starts to make a difference.
For now maybe I'm clumsy. I don't always express myself like I want to, though the words come easier now in conversation and in type. I'm getting better at controlling my anger, but I still feel the heat in my face and the shiver in my voice when I know I'm about to go somewhere ugly. But I've decided I can deal with a little extra anger and discomfort--it's worth it. And you know what, white dudes in my life? You could stand to be a little more uncomfortable too. Think of how shitty it can feel when you're being challenged, or getting called on your nasty comments, or being asked to check your privilege, and I can guarantee you that the people you trample on every day without ever noticing feel a lot worse than you do in that moment when you realize you're wrong.
So I'm trying. I'm trying to be a better advocate for myself and ally for others, and someday maybe I'll actually get to consider myself an activist. But I'm still learning, and it's still hard.