Fri Apr 6, 2012
One of the things that bothered me greatly at Momentum seemed to be the buzzword of the convention. “Check your privilege” was constantly being tweeted and talked about. Being vanilla or Republican or heteronormative or educated or wealthy seemed to be an auto-bad when it came to assumptions of the type of person someone was.
At the keynote, something (I didn’t write it down, I can’t remember exactly what struck me) made me think that Logan Levkoff, one of the panelists, gets a lot of assumptions made about her because she’s a beautiful, thin, blonde white woman. You know, the type that FOX News likes to make an anchor, because hate sounds so much nicer coming out of the mouth of someone pretty. I don’t know if she feels this way sometimes, I didn’t get the chance to meet her or ask her, much as I wanted to. But I was curious about it. It felt to me like the tone, convention long, was one of brinksmanship in pointing out other peoples perceived biases or lack of inclusion. It also felt like the tone was if you had privilege you couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion or experience or viewpoint to share.
There was someone there, I don’t know who, wearing a t-shirt that said “I want to fuck the privilege out of you.“ I saw it tweeted and retweeted, and I asked for clarification in case I was misreading the intent. Maybe there was something on this t-shirt, in the design or font, that was intended to show it was a lighthearted joke. To me, though, it sounded awfully darn rape-ey for a convention where “rape culture” was one of the buzz phrases all over the place. Replace that word with “gay” or “vanilla” or “straight”. It sounds icky, huh? It sounds threatening. Oh, and while I also heard it espoused that intent doesn’t matter, to me it very much does. You can help someone with good intent but a lack of life experience learn something new, if you’re nice enough about it that their brain doesn’t shut off. You can’t generally make a change if someone is intending to be hateful though.
I realize that I am probably defensive, because *I* have privilege. As did pretty much everyone there. Back when I started JanesGuide, when my kids were 2, 3 and 4 years old and I was a struggling single mom whose daycare cost was $100 more than her take home pay, I could never have afforded a plane ticket to DC. Hell, I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car to get to work. Now, through a combination of luck, hard work and possibly questionable moral character, I can not only afford to go to DC, but I can buy a first class plane ticket for the extra legroom and the anxiety-quelling free drinks. And I’m ok with that.
It felt, really very strongly, as if every conceivable privilege was suspect. Blonde? Privileged. Thin? Privileged. Homeowner? Privileged. But the way it was being used made it seem as if that was being equated to being a bad or uncaring person, excluded from any cause like sex education, equality, sex workers rights, and I don’t agree with that at all. My privilege allows me to give money to causes I care about. It allows me to help a friend (or a stranger) in need. It allows me to care for my family. I don’t think we need to shame people for whatever combination of things gave them an edge, all it does is alienate people to your cause.
I love the Amos Lee song, Freedom:
“I don’t wanna blame the rich for what they got
or point a finger at the poor for what they have not”