Being One of a Kind

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!

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3 thoughts on “Being One of a Kind

  1. Be you. Your are perfect the way you are. Wear the clothes that make you feel good and then let yourself accept you the way you are and others the way they are. It is not easy but worth the effort. Great blog post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I like this post. I have a lot to say about it. I will try to keep it short.

    When I’m at work, I’m also a minority. Except I’m on the other side of the wall. I’ll probably have more to say about this after I’ve worked there longer.

    We actually spent a few days in my jazz history class talking about music videos and how they change our interpretations of music. Particularly in the case of Esperanza Spalding, whose early videos are very “pep-talk”-y and whose later videos are completely disgusting, over-sexualized, misogynistic garbage that totally overhaul what you thought was a good message and turn it into mind-numbing penis praise.

    Why do you want to fit in so badly? I can understand a desire for acceptance, and I get this whole not-wanting-to-be-singled-out-because-you’re-female thing, but isn’t it more fun to be accepted for being whatever you happen to be? And more congruent with your tearing-down-walls ideals? Anyways I like the stick-it-to-the-man deal (satire ftw) and you should totally slick back your hair and put on a tie. PS you should see me in my work uniform, I look like the beginnings of a FTM with my shaggy haircut and my masculine black sneakers.

    • It’s not really that I want to fit in so badly. I mean, I am kind of curious to see if there is something magical about the polo/khakis combo, because I’m pretty sure some of the guys would suffer some trauma if deprived of it, but the fitting in bit is kind of silly like this. And also ironic. Because there’s the notion that if I dress like them, I’m still other. Which my polo shirt experiment really puts out there. I’m not trying to be one of the guys.

      In other words, don’t worry, I’m really doing whatever the heck I want. I just happen to want some social experimentation and to lightly mock them by dressing up like them.

      FYI, I know you did not intend it, but folks could possibly construe your PS as offensive. Learning moment.

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