Thursday, October 9, 2014

Privilege is a Funny Thing

There are a lot of men, especially of my generation and younger, who see women as something they are entitled to. It's really funny, because this attitude is becoming too common. There are men who have this attitude toward women, and they do it with a straight face. If a woman decides that she doesn't want his advances, suggesting thereby that she wants to make her own choices, he becomes obsessive and, with the blessing of early 2010s pop culture, he becomes more aggressive. 

How dare she deny him his suddenly urgent need to have a wife and make a family? How dare he have to find someone else, do some work, sort through the endless milling faces of society as a whole to find someone who actually enjoys his company and is happy and comfortable with the idea of becoming part of a family. The best part is that this is how we've been taught to be as men. We've been simultaneously taught that women are independent creatures when it comes to dressing and feeding themselves, but that they're also not quite human compared to us. They can make their own choices so long as they don't go against our choices.

It's sad when I really think about it. I am almost directly impacted by this attitude, and I see it every day. The majority of my friends are women, and I get to watch this happen from both sides. For whatever reason, women are also taught to be more forgiving and tactful than men, and society tells them to accept advances or be known as a bitch. It always hurts to see your friends in pain, and trust me, having someone insist that you have no right to reject them, it's painful.

This whole blog is essentially the hypothetical story of someone with straight and male privileges (which are real only to those outside of such a privilege, apparently. That's another, more hateful blog directed at straight, white, heterosexual men, and it will occur at some point) who treats dating as acquiring property rather than getting to know someone. I cannot see that being a happy life situation, and it's usually not. Unfortunately, men are taught to acquire and women are taught not to argue, even if those men are silly, talentless, worthless, undesirable, smelly bitches.

I have to say that in my experience, this attitude also extends into homosexual situations, but it meets an equal and opposite reaction. It usually goes one of two ways: either the two are mutually obsessed for about a week, then they hate each other; or one is not interested, and the other becomes more and more obsessed, and he starts to actually harass the other guy. I've been there. I've been on both sides of it, I'm embarrassed to admit. It's a sense of entitlement, and when it comes up against opposition from an equal sense of entitlement (that men have this singular ability to make their own dating choices, reinforced by society), it becomes a new creature. It becomes silly, unattractive, and almost cartoonish. Men are taught, ironically, to resist any attempts to control them.

I'm going to go back to privilege for a minute, talking about it not existing to those within it. This is something that I've seen discussed online in many, many places, and some of the discussions are informative. Others are screaming matches between straight, white, heterosexual men and the rest of the world. The thing about existing within male privilege or white privilege or straight privilege is that you're born into it. Most privileges start out as birth rights. It's all you know. It's not privilege to you, it's just the way it is. Everyone screaming at you about privilege are telling you that you're being an asshole on purpose just by living the way you've always lived.

But that's the thing, isn't it? Those of us who haven't grown up in that world get to look at it from the outside. It's a glass wall. We can see through it, but it's not our world. We see it as a box. Those on the inside can't see the box. They think the whole world is made of the same material that they live in, because the box moves with them. It goes where they go, and it's just large enough to fit around them without including anyone else. This is why privilege as defined by those outside of it does not exist to those inside it. That's why those inside it insist so hard that they have no such privilege. They can't see it. There's almost no use trying to point it out. Some of us who exist within certain privileges but not within others are able to see and recognize the ones we live outside of and therefore realize that there must be others.

Perhaps this blog has turned preachy. I suppose I might feel bad if I weren't so absolutely fed up with watching the way people behave toward one another. I guess I feel some burning need to sort things out for everyone, because the people doing it right now turn into illogical, screaming walruses when confronted with a solid argument from either side. Allow me intervene.

I don't know what I am as far as activism goes. I'm certainly not someone who goes to conventions or participates in many discussions. The word feminist has come up a few times, and I like that word a lot. I don't know the true definition of it, so I might do some research just to make sure. I do actively believe that we all need to stop living in the world we inhabit now.

I really started to cringe when the "cool story, babe, now make me a sandwich" internet meme started, followed quickly by many more almost-not-joking memes suggesting that women shut the hell up. In the last five years alone, I've watched the attitude of men toward women swing from annoyed to violent to entitled. It's almost as though women are viewed as a necessary inconvenience if one wants to have a family and pass on his DNA. That's another thing I hear more than I can stomach as a reason for chasing after a woman: "I want to have kids" or "I want a family" or "I want to pass on my genes " In gaming terms, women are an achievement to unlock. This attitude sometimes comes up with gay men, too. Occasionally, a gay man goes on this rampage to find a fag hag who will let him impregnate her so he can have a family. In my opinion, this is the most disturbing thing I've ever witnessed.

How ridiculous is it that we have all forgotten that the purpose of love and relationships is not to command and conquer Risk-style, but to get to know someone for who they are, find a friend you can live with and not kill, find someone who can stand to be in a car with you long enough for a trip to the Rocky Mountains and so on. People are not prizes to be won. People are not entitlements. People are not awarded to other people like participation trophies. That's the worst part. My generation is the worst generation in regards to this attitude because we're all used to getting awards and ribbons just for participation. Men of my generation think that merely showing up having showered and slapped deodorant on ought to be good enough. Talent is not necessary, nor is a compelling worldview or anything resembling a personality for that matter. They also don't consider what might happen if roles were reversed, because my generation also lacks the ability to step outside of their own experience. We see the rest of existence as the background of our selfies, nothing more interesting or alive than that. We lack the ability to recognize good leadership, and it relates directly to the last item, so that the people we choose to represent us have no debating skills. They scream, yell, punch and claw their way into power, and that's just how they treat debates. Discussions about abortion, feminism, gay rights or marriage equality are conducted like WWE matches.

It's unfortunate the state we find ourselves in. We're really lost, folks. The word "privilege" has almost been hijacked in a sense, because it's become a dirty word, and rightfully so in the way it's used. The actual definition of "privilege" fits the meaning we've given it recently. It's something that's a benefit of being a part of society not subject to certain rules and hardships applied to others. That's very close to the dictionary definition. The main difference is that this particular privilege seems unrevokable unless it is done willingly, and if the offending party doesn't recognize the privilege, there's nothing to revoke. You have to know you have something for it to be taken away sometimes. Isn't that sick? And you can't make someone aware that they have privilege by screaming into their face that they most certainly do or opening the argument with bullshit tiny examples like the position of someone's hands in that one movie no one but you watched. Start with big, obvious things so you don't seem like a reactionary asshole right away and discredit yourself. Trust me. You'll get fewer eye rolls if you start with the big stuff. I'd give you examples of the big stuff, but I'd like to think that Tumblr hasn't turned us all into microcomplaining social justice zombies incapable of remembering that at one time, people had problems beyond the first world PC outrage nonsense we busy ourselves with now.

This is where I get all preachy again, because people who don't know the privileges they exist within are the ones who say things like "shemale" and "talk a little more urban" and "you talk too white" and "how do you know you're gay if you've never done it with a man/woman?" and "there are plenty of women in power. Look at Oprah." People who say things like this make me want to punch them in face until they're dead. Seriously. I want to throw them off a cliff, run them over with a car, toss them into the East River and watch them sink. I dislike racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. It makes me physically ill, no matter how jokingly it's said. We ought to be a society of adults, not a society of entitled little white boys.

Yes, I said it. And if you think otherwise, that's fine. I'm not saying I'm right and you're wrong. I'm not necessarily subject to the black-and-white view of the world we as millennials exist within. I'm saying that if you do and say the things I've talked about, you're probably one of the little white boys I mentioned. You're an infant Godzilla, and the world is your sandbox. When the sandbox rebels, you wipe it clean. Am I right?

Privilege: that's how it's done. That's how you define it. That's how you address it. You have to explain what it is at the most basic level. Assume the person you're addressing has no idea what it is. Don't get into a screaming match because you think they're just being an ass and pretending they don't know your pain. It's likely that they actually don't know. Tell them, because you can scream at a brick wall all day every day until your throat bleeds, and the brick wall is not going to change. However, painting the wall will at least change it in some superficial way. It's a start. Go from there.

We are adults, even we millennials, and we need to conduct ourselves in a way that conveys this. We need to say to one another: I get that you don't get it, and here are some big obvious examples of why you need to change how you think.

Don't scream at one another. Don't live inside a box where everything is PC and friendly so that going outside requires sunglasses and ointment. Don't let Tumblr shape how you argue, because some of the material is good and some of it is just too aggressive for how tiny the examples are. If you scream and yell, expect to be more of a spectacle than a catalyst, because no one learns anything from being yelled at, regardless of what you think you learned growing up. If you want to remake the world into a kinder place, make sure you aren't identifying as a hostile takeover. No one walks willingly into a dictatorship anymore. That shit's ugly.

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