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Monday, February 6, 2017

Buzzwords

There are a lot of them around the Internet.

And in real life, especially in the last few months.

Some of these, especially in activist circles, are things like (insert-majority)-splaining, privilege, and intersectionality.

I try really really hard not to do the first (though sometimes I slip), to be aware of the second, and to practice the third, special liberal snowflake that I am. So I'm going to take them one at a time.

'Splaining, as I understand it, is people of a majority group trying to explain away the minority group's feelings / views as in, "what they really mean is..."  I can usually avoid the white-splaining, although I got gently called out for cis-splaining the other day, when a transgender friend pointed out that not all women have pussies (as in the women's march on Washington on the 21st of January). I said that I thought pussy in this case was in response to Voldy's remarks. That may be true, but it doesn't negate my friend's feelings of exclusion from the pussy corps.

Privilege. This is a hard one. Most of the privileged people I know aren't even aware of their privilege, and frankly, I haven't been until recently either. So, to my friends who do not share my privileges, please correct me if I 'splain here.

It's really, really easy to believe that you aren't privileged if you're not one of the one percent. I mean, how could you think you're privileged if you're struggling to pay your bills (as I am; death of a spouse is not cheap, and neither is grief counseling for children,) or if you're female (check) in our male-dominated society, or whatever?

But I am privileged. I have trouble paying those bills, but bill collectors don't automatically assume I'm a deadbeat, because I'm not a person of color. When strangers find out I'm a widow, they don't assume my husband was killed as part of a drug deal. They might make assumptions based on my size ('she's fat; she must've let herself go and her husband left her") but the fact that I'm a straight white woman means that people in our society do not as a rule make assumptions about me being on, say, welfare or food stamps.

So even though I'm a financial mess and often an emotional one, I have privileges that many people don't, whether because of color or gender identity or religion or whatever.

And lastly, intersectionality. This is also hard. If I understand it correctly, it's about making sure that all bases are covered, that if you support, say, women, you support all women: white, brown, black, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, straight, gay, transgender, disabled, all of them. I have noticed that while I - and most of my friends - try very hard to do this, there are unconscious biases that seem to determine a... a priority, I guess... of what we react to first.

I have a friend, for instance, who is a total social justice guy. He's out there supporting everyone, women, LGBTQ+ folks, all the things. But his first priority seems to be racism in all forms; if something is racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, and homophobic, he'll jump on the racism first. I tend to jump on sexism first, then LGBTQ+, then immigration and basic human rights, and only then on racism in general. I mean, I try to be involved as much as I can handle on all of these, but that's my knee-jerk priority right there.

And I wondered why? I mean, women's issues I get; I'm a woman, after all. But I am neither an LGBTQ+ person, nor an immigrant, so why are these taking priority in my brain? Is it that I'm a closet racist? I hope not. So I was puzzling this out, feeling guilty, (like I don't have enough on my emotional plate since last August) and I mentioned it to my mom.

Who said, "Jenn, your best friend all through your teen years was a gay man who thought he was the only one. That made a huge impact on how you see the world."

Oh.

So, for me, this is how it goes. I can be horrified and heartbroken at the racism in our country. I can do my best to shut it down, and to raise my children to have less intrinsic bias than I do. I can combat racism - and all injustice - whenever I see it.

And I can still have my own set of priorities.