Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Under Fire: Privileges and the Systems that Love Them

What can you do when you abuse your privileges? Someone in one of the areas in which you enjoy privilege abuses it, what then? Many people push back and say there is no such thing as privilege, white or otherwise. There are some people with whom one can debate and discuss. However, many are ignorant of that which they speak and so what’s the point? More times than not they have not sought out knowledge or evidence to support their views and opinions. They are ignorant by choice. If there is a social issue and you are relying on what is apparent to your superficial experience then you may well think the sun rises on one side of your world sets on the other revolving only to appear again day after day or you may be a flat-earther. You are ignorant by choice and that works for you. However for NASA and the space program not so much.

Here is one view of Internalized Privilege – This is a result of being a member of a privileged social group and absorbing the dominant cultural view point of your group. It leads to a sense of special entitlement i.e. feeling that being in a dominate position is the “natural” state of affairs because you are more capable or god gave it to you, divine right. The more privilege one has the more one views the worlds as an individual devoid of social and historical context. (Asante, Adair, Aal –Tools for Change)

At Home Depot today I couldn’t believe my ears overhearing an exchange between a customer and a black female employee in her 60’s.

The random white guy talking to the floor clerk: "Hey hun!" She doesn't hear him or pretends to not hear him. Random white guy: "Hey Hun!"

It’s obvious by his intonation he is purposely using this term, fully aware it is unacceptable, as he calls her again with emphasis on “hun.”

I ask, "how old are you?" Random white guy: "49" Me:" Wow, that young!"

I'm surprised, this language is wholly a holdover, a residual effect of my baby boomer generation or so I thought. My generation came by it righteous watching John Wayne drag Elizabeth Allen to a fountain, turn her over his knee, (Donavon's Reef 1963) spank her, then manhandle her right-side up and kiss her. At first she struggles but then gives in... because, you know, she really wants it... I was 7 years old. Elizabeth Allen died in 2006.

In “The Quiet Man, the Duke” grabs Maureen O'Hara by the hair and drags her through sheep shit. Maureen O’Hara died in 2015. By 1963 there were over 280 instances of films that included a spanking scene. Possibly this was a good ole tip of the hat to S&M since spanking was often a prelude to romantic involvement but there was never any confusion that men were large and in charge.

Back to random white guy, "what?"" Diid you just call her hun,? I asked. "Yeah what's wrong?"

Well I ventured “It's pretty brave or ignorant especially considering what's happening in the news today." Actually there was nothing brave about what this bully did. She could “pushback” and risk getting fired. Me pushing back in her stead? No chance of getting fired, well not from Home Depot.

He asked, "Do you think she was offended? I like it." "I like it too,” I replied, ‘ probably most men but not most women, yeah, I think most woman would be [offended], either because they think they should be or because they are."

He seemed to try to placate me with "Good point."

So I’m thinking he has a good point too, “I like it!” Forgive me for talking for most men since most of us have never met; I don’t know that we’ve every been offended by “hon, baby, sweetie,” talk. Male privilege talking? One of the more outlandish things that has happened to me, has been, having three women at work in single file, grab my ass. I wasn’t a longshoreman, it didn’t happen in a stockyard, it was in a professional office. I feigned anger and chastised them. I chastised them mostly because I was in one of my three marriages and I thought I should be pissed at least on marriage grounds. Though I think as I was fussing them out somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking, “yeah you got it!” Did I report it? Oh hell no. What for? It wasn’t a common occurrence, it didn’t set up a hostile environment for me, and I’d been subject to much worse. They had no authority over me nor did they have any desire I was aware of, to lord power over me. I just forgot about it.

Should women just get over it? I think not. As a group of people (women) this kind of incident has happened on a regular basis. Maybe not this incident exactly but women are subject to the thinking behind this kind of incident and micro-aggressions like Random White Guy is putting forth. Like spanking in the movies, like objectifying, way too familiar monikers are some of many reminders of who is in charge, even who is in charge of a women’s body. “I can treat you however I want to treat you; I’m a man and you are not and the system says so.”

I must say though, systemic superiority aside, often men see things, um, differently. Years ago when female teachers sleeping with their male students was all the rage coming to light on the nightly news, many men quipped, “Abuse? Are you kidding me? I wish my (fill in your own hot teacher) had had sex with me!” Apparently not many boys felt sexually assaulted as they bragged to their to other boys and even captured evidence as videos and cameras turned our phones into mobile surveillance devices.

So when men exhibit this “I’m special, almighty, and you’re not,” behavior should they be castigated or much worse, brought up on charges, shunned by society, stripped of their sports teams or fired from their tech jobs?

OK, let’s mull this one over. From time to time I lecture about white privilege, white supremacy, racism and empowerment. Are the dynamics of male privilege, male supremacy, and misogyny different from white privilege, white supremacy, and racism? In my high school in the 70s there was a rumor about campus that a member of the football team was, “bangin’” a hot female teacher. The rumor never got legs. Had there been a rumor about a male teacher “bangin’” a female student on the field hockey team I’m quite sure all hell would’ve broken loose. Notice in both cases the male does the banging. Supremacy supports privilege which exacts power's whim. And there is a downside for all concerned.

I argue if you are brought up in a system you are an unknowing product of that system perpetuating it, giving it life. If you are white and feel for instance systemic racism doesn’t exist, guess what, you and systemic racism are one.

Let’s take your average silver spooned white male baby boomer, like Donald J. Trump. Baby boomers are generally considered to be born between 1946 and 1955 after WWII when there was a jump in birthrates. Born five months after this, I missed it but I put myself in this category. Suppose Donald X grows up in a world where men spank women, men are the head of household, men’s ideas are better than women’s naturally and no one blinks an eye. It’s the way it is. Even today men congratulate sons for their first sexual, not encounter, not experience, their first sexual conquest into manhood outside of marriage. Not necessarily into adulthood but manhood. It would be juvenile if the implications weren’t so dire. Then again it’s juvenile and the implications are dire. I grew up in an era where the official advice for potential female rape victims was, “just relax and enjoy it.”

You can read often that beliefs and world views start as early as two years of age and are pretty much in place by around puberty. At this age a person has developed a view of how safe the world is, what it takes to stay safe and what is right and what is wrong. In most cases there has not been much formal training on a man’s place in the world, they” just know” through on the job training so to speak.

How much push back is there against misogyny? Well probably a lot but we all know who’s number one. How are women impacted by this male domination misogynistic point of view? Well woman glean and absorb these ideas like everyone else. Like I said, if you live in a systemic ism you are a part of it. Back in the good ole days they not only absorbed it but society had the good graces to send them through formal training. Yes that’s right Home Economics! Yeah this is one-sided and of course Home Economics could teach one to make a living with as a Domestic Engineer out in the world, but never without upholding the status quo how to keep house and satisfy their men.

It is so good this kind of thinking has fallen by the wayside, or has it? It was a little shocking to see female Trump supporters poo-pooing and down playing his penchant for... pinching or grabbing. Once I realized most of those women were Baby-boomers it made perfect sense.

The church has been on of the biggest proponents of a women’s place is not in authority. In more than a few churches in 2017 women are not allowed to preach or teach from the pulpit often quoting "Apostle" that women should not be in authority over men. Least ways that's the coming contemporary interpretation. Though this has changed in much of the male dominated religious world, as the bible says, “it is hard to kick against the pricks..” (I know it's out of context..I couldn't resist.) Fortunately they church doctrine forbids pussy-grabbing and is ofter pretty puritanical about sex, you know, except for that little boy/priest thing.

You can see the range and extent of male dominance goes from the pulpit to the porn pit. OK back to the dilemma at hand. What to do when a person is caught in the changing social tides of female and equal empowerment looking to morality and the constitution as guides?

I will proffer an incident I was involved in several years ago. For the majority of the last several years I’ve been celibate. (Celibacy is what you do with your mind while not heavy petting or sexing it up.) I ran into a colleague at a restaurant. We had worked together several, several years prior. We embraced in a hug and before I knew it my hands were traveling almost grabbing her beautiful butt. I was taking a deep whiff of hair and I may have even briefly nuzzled her oh so inviting neck. It was like going without food and not noticing you are hungry until food is within your grasp and then you are ravenous! I managed to stop before helping myself to a literal handful of butt. It was awkward. I was embarrassed and I think she was embarrassed. We didn’t say anything. Maybe we pretended it didn’t happen. My actions were not familiar or premeditated. I mean I wasn’t in the habit of accosting former colleagues, waitresses, store clerks, or random women at bus stops and thought I was impervious to such actions.

Again, I ask, what should be done to me how should your view of me change. I’m in favor of women’s rights, in fact respecting all people.. women included. At least I think I am. I thought I was till that incident. Maybe she thought nothing of it maybe it was a degrading devastating experience for her. The incident has nagged me since it happened. I long to be trusted and for people to be safe around me. I betrayed a basic trust and I would think she at the very least she doesn't feel safe. It took me a long time to find her and my apology was lame.

Well hypocrite or not I challenged this random white guy at Home Depot, he smiled, waved, and hurried out the door. I smiled and waved and watched him exit.

I could have handled it better. to me it was definitely a power play on his part, no way she could call him on it and not think about the prospects of becoming unemployed. Hindsight I should have had the conversation louder... at least _that._ Maybe in the back of my mind I could be only so judgmental.

I endeavor not to be judgmental period giving people the benefit of the doubt and offering them an opportunity to shift toward new possibilities and alternate perspectives giving grace and mercy when it can be afforded. Once again what should be done? I haven’t a clue but I will put forth this quote: It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. I am officially a dinosaur striving to evolve. Your thoughts? Also guys hit me back if you know what, “riding bitch,” is. Was this a part of your environment growing up?