Today, walking back from the bathroom at work, some guy started talking to me about an email I had sent twenty minutes earlier, and I was mentally like, “How the hell do you know me?” I knew the email he was talking about, and I quickly figured out who he probably was. But this happens to me all the time — there are a thousand guys all named Brian or John or Mike that all wear basically the same thing that are very easy to confuse. But if you’re talking to a girl under 35 from my department, it’s Kelsey. Because I’m the only girl under 35 from our support team, on a whole half of this floor.
(Also, for the record, if you’re talking to a girl from my department in general, and you have three guesses, you’ll likely get it right. If you have five guesses, you’ll definitely get it right.)
I hate being singled out for being different. And I’m trying to learn from this.
My class this summer centers around social justice. I have white privilege. And actual like monetary class-oriented privilege. And I’m able-bodied, cis-gendered, and in my twenties.
And I’m grateful for these things, except when I resent them. Because the invisible nature of privilege and the reluctance power-holders have towards giving up some of their power make privilege such a pervasive aspect of our lives, no matter which side of the fence we’re on.
I hate, like anybody, being on the oppressed, kept-out side of the fence. And as an increasingly conscientious person, I resent being on the side with the power. But nothing changes until that fence is torn down.
Which is a great argument for activism, by the way. We often harp on awareness, because the side with the power can have an awfully hard time seeing the fence. We even try to teach young children that there isn’t a fence — this is a misconstruction of what we need to be teaching, which is that there shouldn’t be a fence. But a substantial part of understanding that there shouldn’t be a fence is understanding that that line definitely exists and has consequences.
So awareness matters.
But seeing the fence is not enough. This is a magical fence that does not deteriorate with age. It has to be actively destroyed; standing by, no matter how much you watch it (ie, are aware of the line), does nothing to change things. Arguably, it actually strengthens the fence. That’s right: knowing that there is a fence actually empowers the fence if all we do is say, “Huh, that’s interesting” and then stand back and ponder without doing anything.
I wish this entitled me to be a jerk to all the people who act like they know me when we’ve never met.
Here is something I was thinking about earlier:
Sara Bareille’s recent single, Brave, has a clear empowering message (one review actually referred to it as a “pep talk”).
The videos for this single are very interesting.
The lyric video features a handful of young girls. I like the notion of empowering young girls, especially to “be brave” and “say what [they] want to say.” But check out the video: They are almost entirely white. They are pretty in a traditionally feminine manner. They have privilege.
The official music video features a larger range of people, including people obviously just on the street and not hand selected to be in a video. There is, visually, obviously more diversity here.
What does it say when we hold our stereotypes so closely and so tightly that we are afraid to associate different and differences with children? How can we teach to change the world if we teach with this fear, which admittedly we often don’t even recognize, held so closely?
P.S. Tonight, I am buying a polo shirt, and tomorrow, I am going to work in the guy uniform: polo (white or gray undershirt), khakis, belt, generic leather shoes. I might even bind. It’s not full out drag, because work would freak out and seriously I love my hair. But even though I haven’t figured out exactly what it is, I feel like I’m doing this to make some kind of statement. At least for myself. I partly want to fit in and I partly want to stir things up and I partly want to mock the notion that the guys wear the same thing every single day and I partly want to go to work in what is the closest to jeans and t-shirt I am allowed to get. ANYWAY — I am psyched!