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Mon Jul 6, 2020, 07:45 PM

Being White and Female: How Toxic is Half the Privilege?

So, yeah, privilege in American culture has many dimensions and race and gender are only two of them. There's a poisonous mash-up of other characteristics we use to dehumanize each other-- who we love, where we worship, how educated our parents are/were, where we were born, what level of education we finished, what kinds of work we do, what ZIP code we live in, how healthy we are, how thin, how attractive, etc.

Many privileges are conditioned or affected by other privileges, but most often by the Big Two: Race and gender. Once those are assigned in the genetic lottery, our culture uses them to define us and place us in the hierarchy that has "White/Y-chromosome" at the top.

I am white and I can barely imagine the experience lived by not-white people in America and I certainly can't speak to it.

But I am also someone with two "X" chromosomes. And I've come to painful terms with the reality that even men who are heartfelt allies, who are fighting with us for our rights as full human beings, who have an intellectual appreciation of how integral the dehumanization of women is to our culture, can NOT see it as we experience it. Even men who are aware that the cultural definition of gender roles is a fundamental tool for maintaining that dehumanization, still reflexively default to assumptions about the role of the Y chromosome in creating differences between who men are, and who women are.

From this I have to hypothesize the extent and the persistence of my own blind spots from being raised in a racist culture. Because I can't see those blind spots from inside my white skin and my white experience. The pain I feel for the experiences of those who are not white will always be mixed with my own deep shame and sorrow and desire to escape the awareness of the privilege of whiteness that has dictated those experiences. My privilege.

Intellectually, I reject that privilege. Emotionally, I repudiate that privilege. Socially, I scorn that privilege. Politically, I strive to be aware of and demolish that privilege.

But on some deep, deep level, I fear losing that privilege.

On some level, having lived the experience of NOT having the privilege that would be mine if I'd been born with a Y chromosome, I'm terrified of losing 'the only privilege I have'. It seems like, maybe, it's my only compensation for the status of Superior Domestic Livestock that is allocated to us double-X chromosome types.

Let me be clear: What I want, what I am committed to, what matters profoundly to me on an emotional and spiritual level is making America a place where privilege is bestowed fully and equally on all of us by virtue of our humanity. Where we all have equal access to the choices and opportunities to earn greater privilege by virtue of our value to one another, or to lose our privilege by virtue of our choices to damage or disregard others' humanity. I am committed to that.

But in that blind spot, the blind spot of being white and female, fear lives.

I have to constantly remind myself of this, check it, look for its tracks in my unconscious choices and assumptions. It's work. I'm not complaining about the work, but nor am I overestimating my flawed human capacity to sustain the effort. I fuck up plenty. And try again.

I believe this experience of being white and female is at the root of some of the more toxic racism that white women perpetuate. A kind of frenzied psychic clutching at the half-privilege of being white, and a terror of losing that, if being white no longer bestows institutionalized advantages.

(Sometimes I ask myself: "Do humans who have a Y chromosome, but not the privilege of being white-- do they have a similar set of blind spots and fears?" Is there a kind of toxic misogyny that goes with being not-white but clutching that Y chromosome as the only superiority you have a baked-in 'right' to? I don't know.)

This awareness of blind spots is one reason why I am increasingly looking to women of color for leadership. It's not a fair burden to assign them, I know. Race and gender do not guarantee that a person will not have plenty of blind spots-- there are all those other privilege-meters we've established, after all. But I think they have a better chance at seeing clearly, and I appreciate all the women of color who are stepping up and providing leadership.


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Reply Being White and Female: How Toxic is Half the Privilege? (Original post)
TygrBright Jul 2020 OP
Hortensis Jul 2020 #1
GulfCoast66 Jul 2020 #2
Tink41 Jul 2020 #3
WhiskeyGrinder Jul 2020 #4
bloom Jul 2020 #5

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Jul 6, 2020, 08:04 PM

1. Are you sure enlightenment lies in seeing white women as toxic?

Perhaps you should do a lot less constantly reminding yourself of what's wrong with your white femaleness and broaden your reading. Oh, and if you have that book, White Fragility, I'd donate it. It's done its job.

Instead, chew on this:

Racism is bad, and stupid. There is no good racism. There is no enlightened racism.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Jul 6, 2020, 08:13 PM

2. I think you are way overthinking this.

Be against racism. Learn all itís expressions. Speak out when you see it.

No one is born racist. It is learned.

You canít help how you were born. Iím a southern, upper middle class white male. Iíve hit the jackpot of privilege. Iíll have it till I die. But I did nothing to cause it. All I can do it work to insure everyone has the same privileges I do.

For the first time in my life I hear even my Conservative coworkers saying the injustice is wrong. But I donít work with any of the batshit crazy ones. They donít last long at our company.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Jul 6, 2020, 08:47 PM

3. Something similar.

The job I have is non-traditional for women. I work w 99% men for almost 30 yrs. I followed in my father's footsteps. I grasp, cling, dearly to my privilege. I feel it affords me things "normal women" don't have. I do not feel obligated to do certain "woman" things because I have a man's job, make a man's money. I do realize this is F'd up thinking, but it's what I witnessed growing up. When the bottom dropped out in 2008, family tried to convince me to find a different profession, the thing I feared most, many crying sleepless nights, was being put back into the box.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Jul 6, 2020, 09:02 PM

4. One of the most important things white women can do is recognize their role in white supremacy.

The role is that of a tool, a weapon, a beneficiary and an object. Many white women are happy to play that role in one way or another, as the payment is well worth it. To reject it is a deep cost and yet must be done.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Jul 6, 2020, 09:40 PM

5. white women are becoming the scapegoats

What with the 'Karen' business (apparently started by a man who was mad at his divorced wife).

Even though men do the vast majority of killing and abusing.

While there have been some stupid white women with guns and all it still feels out of proportion.

And why is there no similar name for the white men who are the problem?

Or maybe I missed it.

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