Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Possible Epiphany

Oh my holy shit!

So I've spent yesterday and today mostly trawling through two of my very awesome friends' Tumblrs. It feels like I'm wasting time, I've berated myself in the past for wasting my time thus - on my fave social justice blogs instead of what I should be doing.
Then I have the words to explain to a student why it's wrong to say certain things, or I gain the self-belief that I tell my oldest brother that actually, no, I don't appreciate "fat" jokes, or I show empathy in a staff meeting about a student suffering with a mental illness I've never experienced and the other staff look at me like I'm a space alien. So… "wasting", when it makes me kinder about others' difficulties and about my own? When it makes me more respectful of others' boundaries and of my own? Nah.

But anyways. I was shuffling through Vorvayne's Tumblr and hit across one thing that related procrastination to perfectionism, so I was all "gosh, it must be so much harder for the perfectionists than for me!" because procrastination is something I struggle with deeply.
Then I went through a bunch more pages of… you know, Benedict Cumberbatch, feminism, cuts from Supernatural and Game of Thrones, more Benedict Cumberbatch, pictures of pretty ladies, Who, kittens… you know, cool shit.
Then I went and had a shower on the basis of "better late than never". And when I was in the shower I thought about how I put off marking because it's such a time-suck. Because I could never, ever find the time to mark the way I want to. Because the way I want to mark is about 10 minutes per student per week… and I have around 150 students and I don't have 25 hours a week to mark, I have 6.
And I thought about how whenever I cook I sincerely want others eating the food how I could've made it better than it is. Is it undercooked at all? Too sweet? Do you prefer your curries more or less spicy than this? TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT SO I CAN DO BETTER NEXT TIME! And they're all like, "nom". And so am I. But I wanna do it better next time.
And I thought about how badly I hate housework. I'm not good at it. I'm not good at keeping things tidy. And I keep feeling like, if I could ever get things *properly* tidy then it'd be easier to keep that way. But I've never seen "properly". And so I don't have a set-point of "this is good enough" versus "no, this needs some work", because I've never found it "good enough" for more than 5 minutes and so it always needs work so… fuck it.
And I thought about all the things I've tried to write and then given up on, even though I know that I have a plot, an idea, and characters worth sharing, because I read it back and my voice sounds so fucking sophomoric. And I know that the only way to get better is (a) write more and (b) be critical of my own writing. But then I read it again and think "yep, that's shit. Top tip next time: write better!"
And I thought about the fact that, as much as I utterly dread lesson observations, I always welcome feedback afterwards. The last serious observation I had, a teacher was very hesitant and tentative about telling me that my classroom manner is slightly cold. I was all like "tell me more things I'm doing wrong! Stop worrying about my feelings I NEED TO KNOW".

And I thought, for literally the first time in my life:
"Holy shit.
...am I a perfectionist?"

And this is a brand-new thought so I may well not be at fucking all, but the fact that it's never *occurred* to me before… :-o

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Check Your Privilege!

Lots of people (including my boyfriend) don't like this phrase. Lots of other people (including me) like it a great deal. So we talked about it a bunch, and it quickly became clear that we had very different understandings of what the phrase means and, more importantly, what it implies. So I'm going to lay out my viewpoint on what "check your privilege" means and implies.

First off, what is "privilege"?
I'd make the claim that there are any number of properties that a person has that cause that person to be more or less favoured within society. Within my society (UK, midlands):
White - favoured; non-white - disfavoured
C of E - favoured; Catholic, generic "Christian", atheist, progressive or nonreligious Judaism and other "white" religions - less favoured; Islam and Sikhism - disfavoured
Currently able-bodied - favoured; Visibly and definitively disabled - less favoured; more invisibly, especially mentally or emotionally disabled - disfavoured
Gay vs Straight, Trans vs Cis (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender ) - take a guess

And so on. I'd also make the specific claim that, while membership of either gender has some advantages and disadvantages, girls and women are more systematically disfavoured by society and its systems. This is called marginalisation - women are marginalised, as in "pushed to the margins" in a wide variety of scenarios. This is a Bad Thing. Men are not pushed to the margins so much, which I'd say is good, and are in many cases beneficiaries of these unfair systems (if women are kept out of a profession, then entry to that profession is easier for men than it would be in a fairer system), which is bad.

Now here's the thing. We have two separate issues here: (a) people in the non-marginalised populations having rights that all people should have, and (b) people in the non-marginalised populations having unfair advantages. Both of these are called "privilege".

From the point of view of a lot of the world, that I grew up with plentiful clean running water, with access to medical intervention as and when I needed it, and with free attendance of both primary and secondary education, are huge privileges that they're missing out on. It doesn't mean I shouldn't've had those things - I should. It doesn't mean that I've done any wrong to have had them, or that it makes me in any way a worse person that I did - I didn't and am not. But it does mean that people in the world have not had those things, and that's something I'm morally obliged to consider before I, for example, judge someone who didn't have access to education for not being able to read (I mean, that'd obviously be a dickish thing anyway, but stay with me).

So, from my point of view, references to "male privilege"(see http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/ ) are not necessarily criticisms of menfolk. In the majority of cases I use the term, it's not a criticism. Men getting away with misbehaviour because society excuses it are the exception, but that’s not my emphasis in this post.

And yes, a man can be marginalised by dint of his race, or social class, or financial background, or sexual orientation, or any number of other properties, or combinations thereof. But will, in the vast majority of cases, be in a better position than a woman who shares those various other properties.

And it's not a competition. What I'm looking for is not a way to silence others, but a way to be heard.
Men are more seldom silenced in our society, and women more often - especially when daring to talk about "Wimmins' Issues". But it's not a bad thing that men aren't silenced - that's an example of a privilege that men have which we should all be entitled to. On the other had, some men are so used to female conversational submission that they presume a right to a disproportionate quantity of the conversational airwaves. That is worthy of criticism. I think it's worthwhile men in general taking a bit of time and effort to try to listen more - women, in general, have been socialised into this behaviour already.

So. Say you're a man, and I'm talking about street harassment that I've experienced today, and you laugh it off, saying that if it'd happened to you, you'd be flattered (see http://leftycartoons.com/street-harassment/ ). And I respond "check your privilege".

It does not mean "you're a man so you have to STFU"
It does not mean "you're a man so you're oppressing me"
It does not mean "you're a man so you're wrong"

It means "you're a man, so I think you've had qualitatively different experiences in this area of life than I have. Try to bear that in mind, to listen to what I'm trying to describe and why it might've upset me, to take the time to empathise with the experiences that I've had that you haven't. Try to remember that your life experiences give you a differing perspective. Try to hear me".

I don't think that's an unreasonable thing to ask.

Oh and: prison rape of men, underprovision of mental health services to men, higher homelessness rates among men - these and other things are indeed serious issues. I take them seriously, as does every feminist I choose to associate with (I'm so not a second-wave rad fem). They're part of the patriarchy, the kyriarchy, and intersectional feminism is concerned about changing them. This particular post wasn't. Nothing's about everything.