...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

La Facultad*

Last night M was over and, as always happens when we get together, the finger was taken out of the dam and all KINDS of shit broke loose all over the place in terms of conversation. But at one point, the topic of Michfest came up which evolved into the topic of "gay pride/female pride," and we found ourselves discussing it at length as it's something that is a source of mixed feelings for both of us, I think. It's a subject that I've also come back to time and time again with my sister (shout out to L. Danger!) over Denny's coffee or over a game of pool—she and I have always shared similar viewpoints on the subject, a sort of confusion as to whether to SUPPORT the whole notion of ______ pride and the purpose it clearly serves for these communities, or a disdain for privileging one's self as "more special" based on your gender/sexual orientation/race/class while at the same time shouting out that everyone should be treated and respected in the same way. And we've also talked about privilege often, just the two of us, or the two of us battling it out with my mom in trying to get her to understand the idea of it. But I don't think I've ever really really GOTTEN it, let it all congeal in my brain and plunk out the other side formulated like playdough into some noodle-shape from a playdough machine, until last night when that dam(n) finger got pulled out and I unleashed a splashing rambling tirade of discussion on the topic that was a surprise even to me.

So here are my post-Mo, 1 am ramblings from my notebook on the topic. Damn you, Mo, for getting my brain chugging away until 1:30 last night (though the caffeine is I'm sure also to blame). ; )

I shall preface this by saying that I haven't so much reached a conclusion on the topic, figured out what to do about it to fix everything, or for that matter, even decided if my ideas really make sense at all or whether they're just juvenile ramblings, so please do not take this as some sorta diatribe that you are meant to respond heatedly too or respond to at all. It is moreso just me trying to make sense of things in this crazy world, just a bit of rambling from my brain that I share with you to take or leave, to set fire to or eat with some fine wine.

That being said, so goes the ramblings:

Lately I find myself getting angry at men. I no longer look forward to going to the Westside Market on Fridays because of men. I find myself breezing through the produce section as quickly as possible because I am tired tired tired of dealing with the catcalls. I'm tired of being referred to as "baby" whenever I purchase something from a guy. I'm tired of being ogled. And I'm tired of being put in a situation where my only choice is between being a) uncomfortable or b) more uncomfortable; a) sucking it up and ignoring it and being on my way as quickly as possible or b) telling each of these assholes to fuck off, and then, when I go back next week, having to be even MORE uncomfortable because of the hostility that hangs like electricity in the air as I walk by each of these same folks, buy fruit and veggies off of them, etc. That's a shitty piss-poor selection of options.

And for this reason, I find myself getting angry and disgusted with men. *But* it's misguided in a lot of ways, and I always try to take the time to remind myself of this fact, because it's moreso not anger at them for being men (and not anger at ALL men for being men), but anger at the fact that so many folks fail to acknowledge the power and privilege that's been bestowed upon them and who, due to lack of self-awareness, wield this power clumsily and carelessly and without forethought.

The privileged tend to not RECOGNIZE their privilege. And I say this coming from a place of privilege myself and recognizing that most of the time, it's something I fail to think about or even notice. I am guilty too. It's like recognizing the way your stomach feels on a healthy day—you don't notice it until it's NOT feeling that way. If you've never had a stomach-ache, how can you really be aware of what it feels like when it's "normal" really? It's like an awareness of your eyes—you rarely think about them existing in your head and functioning daily as they do until a big chunk of dust flies into them while you're driving or something. Privilege is like a white noise. You don't really ever realize it's there, even when it's humming loudly all around you.

But for the folks who DON'T have it, privilege is like a constant jackhammer outside their window; for those folks who can't walk down the street without getting shit shouted at them from passing car windows, from folks who get their faces smashed into the cement by cops for just being in the wrong area at the wrong time and having dark-colored skin, for two people who have to think WAY too long about the safety (the fricking SAFETY) of holding hands out in public before deciding whether to do so, for the person who doesn't have the CHOICE to shop at only independently owned shops because they don't have the financial flexibility to even MAKE that an option for themselves, it's a goddamn motherf-ing marching band stomping through their living room.

All this is kind of self-apparent. At least I'd like to think.

So I come back to the question: is it silly and pointless to celebrate my woman-ness? As silly and pointless as, say, celebrating my cuticle or my nostril? Is it also a form of privileging myself (and women) in some sorta way?

For a long time I would try to undercut myself as "woman" to people. I've never been embarrassed about revealing that I'm a feminist, but I'd shirk out of showing any sort of "pride" in the fact that I'm a woman. I'd shrug off the idea that "woman" is something that defines me, saying, "Fuck gender. If I don't want to privilege males, I shouldn't be privileging myself as female by putting extra weight on the word or the fact or the role that it plays in my life. I shouldn't celebrate something that is just (bad) luck of the draw anyways." But I think last night it really just dawned on me finally.

I can shrug off the fact that I'm a woman and say, "Well, that shouldn't make any difference in who I am or how I want you to see me or my value as a human being." But the fact is, IT DOES. Outside of my little bubble of a head, people are gonna look at me, and one of the things they're gonna see is a big fat scarlet F hanging around my neck regardless of whether or not I choose to acknowledge it. It is impossible for me to step outside of the system that is already in place. I can say, "I don't want to be looked at as either male or female—I want to be looked at as genderless, because gender shouldn't make any difference to who I am anyways." But I will nonetheless bear a label of some sort, despite my best efforts. So gay pride, women's pride, black pride, etc.—it's starting to finally make sense to me more.

You can't play the game if you won't acknowledge that you have pieces on the board, acknowledge that there IS a system and that system stamps a label on us whether we like it or not, a label independent of the one we self-impose, and attempt to get others to see this as well.

The label's there no matter how hard you try to scrub it off, deny it, run from it. You need not embrace it joyfully, but you MUST acknowledge it or you're just one more fool blinded by this whole stupid system of privilege. If you don't RECOGNIZE that you are part of the system whether you want to be or not, if you don't RECOGNIZE that a fucking power system DOES exist, then there ain't jack shit you're ever gonna be able to do to help tear it down, shred it, stomp it with your steel-toed boots, turn it inside out, rebuild.

It is a good thing to acknowledge that gender, sexuality, race, class, shouldn't make an ounce of difference in how you treat a person, in their worth as a human being, because it SHOULDN'T. It is a good thing to live by these standards and treat people with this respect. But it's NOT a good thing to convince yourself that race/gender/sexuality/class does not in fact make a difference in how people are treated. It's not good to just ignore the labels that are inevitably placed on people in the hopes of wishful-thinking them into non-existence.

And this white guilt bullshit, this male guilt bullshit, may be a bunch of crap too. No different from blaming a black person for being black. You're born what you're born and that's the chess piece you're stuck with in playing out the game. It's luck of the draw—some luck out, some don't. Thus, it's stupid to blame a person for having drawn the long stick of straight white male privilege, just as it's stupid to judge a person for being born with different colored skin. However, it's NOT stupid to blame and hold a person responsible for not RECOGNIZING this privilege. And goddammit, the straight white males out there SHOULD be held responsible if they fail to exhibit any sort of self-awareness of this fact. And the same can be said for the gay folks, the women, etc. who fail to have any self-awareness of where THEY fall in this power structure as well.

It's the people who don't acknowledge that they are, whether they like it or not, part of a power structure, part of the system, who don't acknowledge that there is a system of power and privilege currently in place, that are completely impotent in doing anything to fix it. It's like having no arms and trying to climb out of an empty pool—if you don't acknowledge the fact that YOU DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING ARMS, you're never gonna get out—you're just gonna keep falling back down into it. If you place that knowledge in the foreground of your brain and work from that point, THEN you can begin to think up alternatives and ways to break down the system.

So where does that leave me? To be all about women's pride? Or to shrug it off as an empty gesture? Lately I find myself leaning more towards the former than I ever have. I find myself being beaten over the head with this power structure again and again and having to remind myself that it's NOT all "straight white males" that are to blame—it's folks THAT FAIL TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PRIVILEGE THEY HAVE, us white folks, us straight folks, us middle-class and wealthy folks. Not pointing the finger at straight white males and shouting Pig! Oppressor! but tying the privileged up and forcing them to notice and assume responsibility for their position in this system of power.

This is not a "woe is me as a woman" call for pity. It's a "woe is us" call for self-awareness, no matter WHAT role you are playing out in this power structure. If you're gonna fail to recognize your place/power in the system, then I sure the fuck am gonna for you. If you're gonna wield you power obliviously like a caveman's club, then I'm gonna damn well hold up and embrace and utilize myself and my title, "woman," to defend myself.

You can't play the game from outside of the game. You can't fuck with the rules unless you acknowledge that there are in fact rules to fuck with. You can't work to change the system from OUTSIDE the system. And you can't BE outside the system.

This should be relevant to ALL of us. Because none of us exists outside the system.

/End ramblings

"…I remain who I am, multiple
and one ___________________________ of the herd, yet not of it"
– "Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone" (Gloria Anzaldua)


* "The capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to see the deep structure below the surface… The one possessing this sensitivity is excruciatingly alive to the world… It's a kind of survival tactic that people, caught between the worlds, unknowingly cultivate. It's latent in all of us." – Gloria Anzaldua



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