Category Archives: ethics

The Pill

by cacophonies

edit as of 10/14/09: Please read the updated post that will appear sometime 10/14/09 evening (US Central time) for a clarification of what I intended to get across with this post before commenting on this thread. Comments from here on out yelling at me about my tone will be deleted. Thank you.

Amanda Marcotte wrote an article about how she’s irritated by all of the criticism of the Pill, and claims of scientific studies proving that hormonal birth control is harming women’s health and the planet. She doesn’t believe the claims, and believes instead that because the Pill symbolizes “female sexual independence,” it should remain on the market, for everyone, no matter what the silly studies say.

I usually really appreciate Amanda Marcotte. She’s an intelligent and insightful writer, her book is hilarious, and I just generally know that if she writes something, I’m likely to enjoy it. But jumping on the bandwagon of feminists who can rant all day about right-wing ass holes not believing in global warming and other proven scientific facts, and 15 minutes later are closing their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears when someone says they ought to be informed and look for another form of birth control (there are a whole lot of choices out there, ladies and gentlemen) because this one is proven to be detrimental to most women’s mental and physical health, and also fucks with the ecosystem, is not progressive. Not in the slightest. And when they do acknowledge that all of those things can be true, they are very quick to claim that, regardless of all of the known dangers even to people who don’t take the Pill, we would have no right taking it away from the people who wish to continue using it.

Why not? We expect that once it was proven that cigarette smoke not only causes lung cancer in a smoker, but also in non-smokers via second-hand smoke, that cigarette smoking will no longer be allowed in an enclosed public space, in order to protect the people who are not choosing to do something dangerous to their health. In most Western industrialized nations, it is.

We expect that once we learned about the dangers of DDT to the workers who sprayed it, the people who ate what it was sprayed on, and the environment, that it would be banned. It was.

We expect that if it’s discovered that spinach has E.Coli, it’s recalled and stricter safety regulations are enforced. It generally is.

But feminists of the so-called “third wave” or contemporary persuasion, for some reason, love the crap out of Big Pharma. You can’t pry those precious prescriptions for all of their many problems out of their claws. They can’t seem to grasp the idea that many prescription medications are bad for you, and bad for the environment. If they can grasp it, they try as hard as they can to find a reason why it would be wrong, immoral and sexist to ban them. Or, how, Who cares if it’s bad, what you said made me feel fat!

Amanda discusses some study done somewhere that proved that while women were on the Pill, they were attracted to more “domestic” men than they were when they were off the Pill. She blows it off, eventually seeming to call people who are predisposed to consider what anthropologists have to say silly for believing what she clearly thinks is hogwash.

She also finds a way to make sure that it looks like someone is leaving out lesbians: “I’m also sure lesbians in the audience will be amused to hear their hormones direct them to this man or that, depending on their cycle.”

No. While the article is clearly hetero-centric and doesn’t take into account the fact that lesbians ovulate just as much as heterosexual women do, Amanda doesn’t take into account the fact that “domestic” and “rebellious” are not traits that only exist in heterosexual people. If the study is more or less accurate in it’s hypothesis, then lesbian women would be more attracted to more “domestic” women while on the Pill.

There was a thread on Feministe a while back, reviewing a book about all kinds of lefty-natural-green-save-the-planet things. Like how antibiotics in your system will kill fertile soil when it goes from your body to the earth. The author found this out by pooping in his yard regularly, and noted the difference when he pooped while taking antibiotics.

Everyone got mad at me, and the author or the post told me not to comment on that thread again, because I was too snarky for them (I was of the belief that there was nothing too snarky for Feministe commentariat) and “condescending” because of what I said in the comments about the reviewer’s criticism about the author’s claim that the Pill is bad for the planet. I heard all kinds of reasons why I should be just totally fine with toxic chemicals in my drinking water:

also your call for eliminating antidepressants and other drugs “for the good of the planet” is pretty damned ableist. i think my not committing suicide from uncontrolled depression takes priority here.

I think that if I am going to be called an ableist for understanding that many chemicals in anti-depressants are bad for those using them and also, eventually, for those who choose not to use them, then it could be argued that you could be labeled selfish for choosing to save yourself from the magnitude of your depression rather than the health of 6 billion other people.

he is causing MAJOR environmental issues by possibly introducing foreign bacterial colonies to local soil populations. VERY BAD idea to be eating things from ALL OVER the planet and then pooping them out on the surface of the soil.

“Foreign bacterial colonies”… Hmm. I guess hormonal birth control doesn’t count as something foreign to introduce to the local soil populations… I guess soil just evolves happily with synthetic hormones, but not with this guy’s poop?

Why are all of these feminists so reluctant and angry and unwilling to admit that sometimes, these things are bad, and that even if we think they’re bad, we should keep them around all the time for everyone anyway? Ok. Science knows nothing? Then why not let the religious right have what they want, and teach Creationism in schools? That’s a good idea, then, right? If we follow the proposed logic, anyway.

I get the concern about people who are dependent on prescription medication, and I’m not proposing that we make prescription medication illegal. I also think that it’s very important to consider that many people are dependent on prescription medications because of conditions caused by pollution, toxins used in our household cleaners, baby formula, and poor health decisions that didn’t exist 100 years ago. Do we want to eradicate this trend, or perpetuate it? Again, I’m not advocating forbidding medication to those in existence who need them, but there has to be another option. Am I willing to say that having the Pill is an even trade for the slow, inevitable death of our planet, if we keep it up?

No.

It’s time for feminism to get out of bed with the pharmaceutical companies and think about their health, the health of other women, and the health of the rest of the planet that we all claim to care deeply about.

The catch is that there are women who genuinely suffer from excruciating pain when they have their periods, who haven’t been able to find comfort in anything but hormonal contraceptives. This, I understand. I’m not trying to advocate taking your only comfort away from you. But that isn’t the end. “Some people neeeed them” isn’t a good enough reason to ignore the fact that Big Pharma, the FDA, and the rest of the government really don’t care about you or me or anyone else. It isn’t a good enough reason to keep up production and not demand regulations and absolute, 100% safety in these products. That’s what they are: products. Have we forgotten that we, as a users of oral contraceptives, are not people with a problem that you’re taking a pill to treat or “cure,” but a consumer of a product? I think we have. Consider, then, that manufacturers of these products are going to do what they can to manufacture these drugs as cheaply as possible, which will create the highest profit, which means the product will be sub-par in quality. A trend that has always led to adverse effects on our health, and everyone else’s that manages to inadvertently come in contact with it. Under-regulated drug designers are concerned with their profit, and only with their profit. They are in the business they are in, not because they care about increasing the quality of the lives of the people who purchase their products, but because they know that there is a demand for oral contraception, and they want to get in on the profit. Even the religious suppression of the Pill in the United States has never overcome its demand.

I was on The Pill for a few months. I figured I might as well, since I was in a monogamous relationship and it seemed terrifically convenient to pop a pill a day and say goodbye to condoms. I imagine that’s the way most women feel when they go on The Pill for contraceptive reasons.

My experience, however, was less than pleasant I grew incredibly depressed. My breasts hurt constantly, and I had cramps that were worse than the ones I got with my period. My doctor asked me absolutely zero questions and basically just handed me the prescription that she figured would be best, and I therefore had no idea what to expect or what to do, other than take the thing at the same time every day. I didn’t ask her any questions because I trusted that she knew best. When I got to the end of the first 3 weeks, and took the placebo pills, I started to bleed, as though I had my period. From Wikipedia, explaining the placebo pills:

The placebo pills allow the user to take a pill every day; remaining in the daily habit even during the week without hormones. Placebo pills may contain an iron supplement, as iron requirements increase during menstruation.

Failure to take pills during the placebo week does not impact the effectiveness of the pill, provided that daily ingestion of active pills is resumed at the end of the week.

I guess it just didn’t occur to me that I’d need to be reminded to do the thing that stopped me from possibly getting pregnant while I bled. Oh, but I didn’t even need to bleed:

The withdrawal bleeding that occurs during the break from active pills was thought to be comforting, as a physical confirmation of not being pregnant.[55] The 28-day pill package also simulates the average menstrual cycle, though the hormonal events during a pill cycle are significantly different from those of a normal ovulatory menstrual cycle.

So I took a pill so that I didn’t get pregnant. My breasts grew one cup size (permanently) as a result of the extra estrogen that my body didn’t need or want to produce or accomodate; everything hurts; I’m depressed as hell. Fuck this– there are plenty of other ways that I can prevent myself from getting pregnant when I don’t want to be. And don’t even think of telling me that one way to help the depression while still taking The Pill is to start taking an anti-depressant. Just don’t bother.

I know that my experiences are not the same as every woman’s, and I wouldn’t presume to tell other women that they shouldn’t do something simply because I had a bad experience with them. On the other hand, many women report problems with The Pill. Many women need their PIll’s estrogen level increased or decreased because what they’re doing is introducing more of one hormone (actually, two; progesterone is the other active ingredient in The Pill) into the body, that the body doesn’t naturally produce, that the body does not want. Since the body does not produce it and does not want it, it creates negative effects. Like depression, tender breasts, cramping (fooling your body into believing it’s pregnant, so it doesn’t think it needs to let you get that way), blood clots, breast cancer.

Once I realized that my depression was so severe and I couldn’t figure out why, I had a spark of curiosity and Googled The Pill. When I read about the depression, I stopped taking it. When I read about how my “period” while on The Pill was not in any way real (I knew something seemed quite off), I got mad.

It’s time to stop blindly trusting the corporations that produce toxic chemicals and tell us that they symbolize our freedom. It’s absolutely nonsense to allow these corporations to get away with it, just because we can’t think of a better solution. Let’s focus on a different way to help women with reproductive freedom; The Pill is clearly more detrimental than beneficial.

update: Lookie here! I’m already called an ableist because I write a post that dares to discuss the negative side effects of oral contraceptives!

Shocking! Heaven forbid we allow ourselves to consider the larger environmental impact of our rampant pharmaceutical usage.

Micro vs. Macro

by cacophonies

This is a post where I hope to see readers’ participation. I’ve devoted a lot of blog space lately to how I think feminism “ought to” be, but I don’t want any ensuing discussion to be yet another feminist echo chamber like so many blog posts we often see, and I also hope to avoid arguing for the sake of arguing. Hopefully we can learn something from one another and bring up some ideas for change– no matter how theoretical or utopian. Hopefully we can help elaborate on one another’s ideas and provide contructive criticism when necessary.

It seems that the majority of disagreements that occur between feminists and non-, or anti- feminists occur because the parties involved in the debate are not coming from the same place in their arguments.

One thing we all see repeated over and over in blogs, in discussions with friends and acquaintances when discussing social justice issues are situations where a discussion like the following occurs:

Woman: “Women bear the brunt of institutionalized sexism, are the majority of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and earn, on average, less money than their male counterparts.”

Man: “But my friend Tim, who has a doctorate, was turned down for a job he was more than qualified for because a woman applied. She wasn’t as qualified as Tim; they only hired her because of Affirmative Action. That’s blatant sexism, and it is sexism with men as the victim. Sexism is not only a problem for women.”

Woman: “But that woman may not have had another opportunity for that job. Where do you expect her opportunities come from? What about the countless women who are turned down for promotions that they are qualified for, only to have an under-qualified male hired instead, because the male boss didn’t trust that a female would have the necessary drive or intellect, even though she had more than proven her intelligence and worth to the company?”

Man: “The system that you are talking about is legalized sexism toward men and toward white people, plain and simple.”

Woman: “Think about it this way. A man, Bob, and a woman, Sue, work for a company. They do the same job, they started on the same day 5 years ago, they have the same level of education, they achieve identical results on their performance reviews. One day it comes out that Bob makes $60,000 a year and Sue makes $40,000 a year. Since they both perform equally as well, are identically educated, and neither has seniority over the other, Sue is rightfully angry. She confronts her boss, who states that he has exactly $100,000 in the company budget to pay the two of them. There is not a cent more they can squeeze out. He is under obligation to make their pay equal, or he faces a battle in court that he will certainly lose. He decides to do the right thing, and make Bob and Sue’s pay equal.

In doing so, Sue got a $10,000/year raise. Bob received a $10,000/year pay cut. They continue to perform the same job with equal skill and dependency.”

Man: “That is not fair. Bob does not deserve to have his pay cut just because the boss was sexist in the first place. The boss needs to figure out a way to please everyone and make things fair for Sue, but Bob should not be penalized for it. He did nothing wrong and was not involved in the decision to pay him $20,000 more per year than a woman of equal education, skill, and experience.”

Woman: “But there is no more room in the budget. Should Sue continue to earn less than she is worth because the boss is sexist, and because it’s not Bob’s fault?”

Is this fair?

Well, that’s hard to say. The man has a point when he says that it’s not his fault that the boss made a decision rooted in sexism, and that he should not have to pay the penalty for being favored initially.

The woman has a point when she says that it is not fair that the woman not be compensated equally for equal work.

The boss, however, made it clear (and let’s assume he is being truthful) that there is no room in the budget to put them both at $60,000/year. And furthermore, where does the equality that is missing come from? It doesn’t materialize out of nowhere; it must be redistributed from existing resources.

What is fair, then?

You could argue that if Sue is not earning what she deserves, which is half of the payroll budget for half of the work, then Bob is earning more than he deserves, since he does not have more experience, education, work ethic, etc. than his female counterpart. No, it is not his fault, but he has also done nothing to deserve more compensation than what was allotted in the first place.

Focusing on the fact that most women earn less than their male peers in the workplace is what often occurs in feminist discourse, on the internet and elsewhere. Focusing on Bob’s experience, and Man’s friend Tim’s experience with Affirmative Action is what tends to occur in non- or anti-feminist (or MRA) discourse– or, more often than not, their polarized arguments are yelled back and forth at one another.

Both have valid points, as we’ve explored already. Bob doesn’t seem to deserve a pay cut; he wasn’t a part of the sexist decision-making that caused the problem in the first place. But Sue is representative of scores of women who are systematically compensated inadequately and unfairly for equal work, education, experience.

The problem with feminist discourse is that no one is willing, apart from the outspoken critics of feminism, to discuss what happens when we try to dismantle the patriarchal structure from the top and watch everyone fall down. Would we benefit from working our way up, from the bottom, instead of scrambling to put the pieces back together after everything falls to the ground? I think we would be.

Most of us agree that “the patriarchy” as it stands is the root of many, if not the majority, of our social problems. Do you think that the current “macro” approach to solving these problems is beneficial? Would focusing on a “micro”approach yield better, or faster, results? What are your theories? Are there lessons from personal experiences that may prove beneficial if applied across a given populace?

Your beliefs are counter productive

by imnotme

What about mine? I have… few. Precious few. Honestly, I struggle to identify a single one. Which I suppose at least partly explains why I have become less socially effective and more aloof.

Or, for the sake of full disclosure I can definitely name one belief that I do have, which is probably counter-productive whether or not I want to admit it: that people ought to be considerate. I really believe this no matter how much evidence (mostly deconstructivist or theorist) is presented to me. I believe that, regardless of your beliefs, you should be considerate.

With that in mind, I would like to address political/social/religious/economic/legal/any-other-word-that-encompasses-the-notion-that-some-general-concepts-are-necessarily-bound-to-infinite-dead-ends, behaviour versus discourse… OR, it’s possible I mean to address discourse versus behaviour. It’s possible that I will address both now by stating the following:

In no uncertain terms you are accountable for every instance of your being. Regardless of how this becomes manifest. So basic is this assertion that I would say, with confidence, that any reader who understands the first premise of my argument will also concede the following: that those who recognize accountability also recognize their own offenses, AND FURTHERMORE, will then be necessarily tethered to an obligation to speak in their own defense or apology. This is a trick few have mastered in tandem with maintaining what dignity they feel they should have in a given situation. Yet, this is precisely the trick that I feel yields the most valuable written discussion/argument.  If not for its pleasantries and freedoms then for its security. You see, atmosphere is something that most people seem to innately understand. IF you stumble across this blog and find it “combative” then we have failed. If you meet me in person and find me to be “pompous”, then I have failed.

Yep. It’s on one hand elementary and on the other an issue that demands such refined attentions that high academia would only be jesters in its court. The ‘recognized polarity’* and unity of this concept is precisely the same reason socially minded discourse often turns violent, or at the worst, counter productive. Some groups of feminists, some groups of masculists, some groups of atheists, some groups of theists, some groups of ethicists and some groups of moralists have been and will be prone to ‘group-think’ as it is a human problem; therefore, self-assuredness would be the ultimate crime one could commit in terms of bringing their own beliefs into discussions that seek definition and reconciliation (which I truly believe both Nice Feminist and Feminist Critics really seek).

One last note, and this will sound simple to those of you who have been interested up to this point, that I would like to point to is that Male/Female is abstractly congruent. Whether it be an artistic, academic or sensual impression, it is hard to find ways in which the norms of sexual expression are symbolized as obtuse. Stated otherwise: it is problematic to defend one belief against a sea of perspectives. Stated otherwise: it is permissive to defend one perspective against an ocean of beliefs.

For further illustrations of this problem (and a further defense of why consideration is possibly the ultimate ‘virtue’-whatever that means to you) read “On Contradiction” by Mao Tse-tung.

[if you’re wondering what in the hell this has to do with feminism simply wonder on the nature of being pro or anti a “stance.” I.e. wonder on the productivity of choosing a “side” as it were]

*The conflict of perception versus absolutism

Counter Point to ‘Thoughts On Privilege’

by imnotme

I have been reading and reflecting on Cacophonies’ last post on privilege, a post I very much enjoyed, and instead of commenting, thought I would simply counter-point since my comment is truly another perspective and not necessarily a criticism.

Cacophonies wrote, and I will summarize rather than quote/cite, that, while oppression and privilege exist in varying degrees, does not each individual existing along that spectrum have their own right to lament or have concerns regardless of their level of privilege? To this I say yes, each individual has that right in-arguably. However, there is a further ethical question here… or, an additional axiom with which to calculate preferable behaviour. A consideration that I think is quite fair since the original complaint of Cacophonies is a social one, i.e. it is the social repercussions of ‘people with privilege who complain’, that would cause people to say things like “you know, Paris, others have it worse, so don’t let your day get ruined over this chip in the paint on your favorite Ferrari.” It’s possible that the roots of this sentiment are envy, but I don’t think it’s very likely. I think the sentiment is altruistic in nature and that it’s generally said one privileged person to the next. So that one investment banker would tell his stressed out coworker at their private spa that “Hey, your portfolio fell flat this week, but you know, look at us, we’re doing fine, be grateful.”

This to me is not a criticism of the plaintiff’s feelings, but a reminder that things will probably turn out okay given their relative well standing, be it economic, medical, spiritual, or social privilege that a person enjoys. Additionally, people do not tend to console each other over types of privilege they do not have in excess. This means that a wealthy woman would be less likely to remind her wealthy friend who recently lost a loved one that they are privileged as an effort to lessen that person’s pain. Contrarily, a person of very little wealth may indeed console an equally impoverished friend on the loss of their loved by reminding the bereaved that they led a rich life and shared many beautiful moments together. So I believe that the impulse to console, or temper if you will, another person’s emotional reaction to a perceived or real pain is done so by individuals who share the same privilege.

On a brief sidenote, I am accounting for the underprivileged who either feel they are, or actually are oppressed by the ultra elite as separate from this argument in that polarized class struggle is a social phenomenon, and therefore, it is another topic entirely.

Back to the point then. I would offer up the notion that personal excesses beyond survival necessities (say, food and shelter) can readily be called ‘privileges’ since they do not enter the realm of life and death, and furthermore, easily open the door to exploitation when labor or resource distribution are factors. I offer this notion as additional to Cacophonies’ general thesis and not necessarily contrary or irreconcilable to it. Yet, using this more definitive approach to privilege it certainly follows that those with privilege, or those with more than they need to survive, may not have a socio-ethical “right” to complain about their privilege-dependent concerns (although, here the court would, of course, withhold any harsh convictions upon children raised in privilege and simultaneous ignorance).

In this sense I would readily accept the burden of holding my tongue when my computer fails, because it is more than I need to survive, and survival is a pretty accurate indicator of whether or not one’s needs are met. And I hasten to restate now, that I hold the unsatisfied elite in great contempt when they lament within the context of their privilege, but would never console them about their lost child or dying relative within that same context. With that I feel that I have touched on a more mysterious universal truth of sorts, in as much as people can mostly agree that reasonable people who are poor or unskilled are generally provided a basic standard of living, and reasonable people who achieve incredible privilege are pressured in some way to give from their excess (and by reasonable, I mean non-malicious or non-predatory).

Finally, if it is the right of one person to complain, then it can only be the right of the next person who shares the same type of privilege to say, “hey, you may have lost a rug here, but it seriously could be worse.”, and it would most certainly also be the underpaid fast food worker’s right to roll their eyes at the tirade a wealthy person unleashes in front of them about the quality of their fast food.

Thoughts On Privilege

by cacophonies

The other morning at work, a group of my coworkers congregated around one of the windows (we’re on the 17th floor), where we could see the AT&T building. Employees were picketing for better health care or benefits or contracts of some kind. I didn’t know all the details, but I knew it was healthcare-related. I went to lunch with imnotme and we walked past them, scowling and irritable, because imnotme had worked for AT&T in the past and knew their union’s benefits; neither of us can afford the benefits offered to us at the national bank that we work for. How irritating and privileged of them, we thought, to complain about their benefits, when I work 40 hours a week for a large corporation and earn a reasonable hourly wage, and still can’t afford medical insurance with their plan? I can’t go to the doctor without severely taking from my money available for monthly bills, because I cannot afford the $120/month plan my employer offers.

Then I realized that I have been in their position, in regards to a number of different issues, a million different times. I’m privileged, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to complain if conditions aren’t ideal. If my $3,000 poodle pooped on my $10,000 rug, that might be a more desirable problem than potentially starving to death, but don’t I still have the right to be upset about my ruined rug?

I realize that was a shallow example, and I certainly can’t afford a $3,000 dog or a $10,000 rug. But the point remains: do I not have a right to complain if someone else could ever, in any possibility, have things a bit worse off than I do?

Each one of us has certain privileges, and each one of us suffers from oppression. The degree to which each of us experience these vary, of course, but we can’t very well argue that there are some people with zero privilege, or zero oppression.

As someone who is very privileged in comparison to a great number of people and/or groups, I can say that I’ve been both accepting of my privilege and try to take necessary steps to make sure that that doesn’t negatively or unfairly affect others, and also that I’ve been simply resentful of any implication by anyone that I don’t have the right to complain, to feel oppressed, or to feel hurt by accusations that I abuse my privileges, when it’s not my fault that I have them.

People who feel “more” oppressed than others will often call people out on their privilege, which often yields a defensive and knee-jerk response from the alleged oppressor, which often makes the alleged oppressor shut down any openness to understanding. The alleged oppressors then anger the less privileged by making angry statements declaring that they, too, have rights, stop reversing the oppression/various “-isms.”

Where do we come to a common ground here? I think much of the problem lies in what we collectively consider to be privilege, and what we consider to be oppression. When engaged in a discussion about privilege/oppression, people often play what many refer to as the Oppression Olympics, comparing various ways that people are oppressed, how it’s worse than certain other groups’ oppression, how one is more deserving of attention than the other.

I’m privileged in a number of ways, and while I am very aware of that, I feel a biting resentment toward anyone who would say or imply that my experiences as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied female are less valid or deserving of consideration than others that come from someone less privileged than I am (in a general sense; who ultimately decides?). My knee-jerk reaction is to declare that the “more” privileged person is being silenced, being shoved aside and told they don’t matter. The response of the accuser is that people with less privilege are often shoved aside and made to believe that their experiences, perspectives, etc., don’t matter, and that that should be enough to make me shut up. To stop being so expectant of privileged treatment all the time, and let others have a turn.

I was raised by a single mother who was on welfare for a while, and that affected my perspective in a number of ways. Another female with an identical upbringing, but who happens to be a person of color, may be more oppressed than I was because of her race, but her presence (on the internet? in the room? On the planet?) doesn’t negate my experiences. If you want to follow the logic that it does, you’d have to follow it to the only one, solitary person who is the very most oppressed in the world, and it certainly isn’t you, so you’d better shut your mouth.

That doesn’t make sense. Do you think you should just shut your mouth? I don’t. I don’t think I need to complain every time I think something “sucks,” but I don’t think that I just need to shut up, either. I resent the implication that I need to be all-inclusive in my speech and behavior at all times, when the same isn’t required (or even expected) of everyone else. I resent the fact that, while it is a good idea to be all-inclusive as much as you can be, I’m a member of what seems to be the only group who is held accountable for that.

For example: mainstream feminists blogs won’t even touch the fact that the vast majority of black voters are against gay marriage. Mainstream feminist bloggers are nearly all officially in support of gay rights and effectively anti-racist, but for some reason they all shy away from criticizing any non-white person who behaves in a oppressing way toward other minority or disadvantaged groups. When someone else brings it up, they sarcastically and dismissively brush it off, saying something about not silencing oppressed peoples voices or how white people, both men and women, should be entirely responsible for changing everything, and everyone else is off the hook for helping to change our society, and even volunteers are suspect.

In a similar vein, a group of women talking about how all men are ass holes, violent pricks, rapists, etc., isn’t any better than a group of men speaking derogatorily about women as a whole. Just because they are understood to be part of an oppressed class should in no way exempt them from basic rules of respect when it comes to other human beings. It is unfair to hold only those who have relative privilege responsible for their infractions. The blatant hypocrisy ruins anyone’s credibility, for one.

The point I’m ultimately trying to come back to (believe it or not) is that, while privilege is confusing to deal with, oppression is uncomfortable to admit to being a part of, and no one knows what terminology to use anymore, we really do all have to try.

If I find myself noticing, for example, that 8 out of 10 people that I know and see every day claim to be bipolar, and I roll my eyes and think at least half of them are just being dramatic, that’s when I have to stop myself and remember that I’m not bipolar. I couldn’t possibly be so arrogant to assume that I know better than they do what is going on inside of their head. I think this applies to many other ways that privileged people can forget their privilege and effectively blame oppressed people for their oppressions, and not acknowledge how they, as a privileged class, are helping to oppress those other people, no matter how indirectly.

There’s no real attempt at understanding where anyone is coming from, there are accusations and declarations that the privileged just “know better” about what the oppressed individual or group is going through, or what they need to do.

It’s really as basic as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying to understand what it is that someone goes through on a daily basis, and how you would feel and how your perspective would change it it were you. And remembering that, and acting accordingly.

I catch myself violating these rules, and I keep trying to eliminate that from my behavior and change my perspective when I find myself acting or thinking in a very privileged manner. Everyone should do this. It’s not a defeat or a concession. Think of the different ways that your voice isn’t heard, and respect the voice of others, because you know how it feels.

One thing that is hard for me, and many other people, is calling out racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic behavior when a member of my peer group expresses it, and it’s easily one of the most important and influential things that you can do to help raise awareness. Instead of rolling your eyes and chuckling at your friend’s “tranny” joke, even when you don’t think it’s funny, because you don’t want to start an argument or cause a scene, you actually say something about how it’s disrespectful and ask them to stop using that language, or think about what it is that they’re really saying.

All that said, acknowledging your own privilege doesn’t mean being quiet and letting people who are less privileged walk all over you, simply because they themselves get walked on all the time. That’s not productive and it furthers the problem.

I’m not even sure that I am comfortable with the current privilege/oppression model anymore, but it’s just the easiest to use at this point.