4.24.2012

The inconveniences of the privileged mean very little

The Slacktivist spotlights two recent articles, Dianna E. Anderson on Hugo Schwyzer and Chauncey DeVega on white privilege, that hit upon a very important dynamic that we see throughout countless social justice struggles: where the abused are coerced to be the better people and forgive those who abuse them. As I read, I realized how familiar this felt within fat liberation and also quickly recalled similar dynamics playing out with queer communities, discussions of ableism, and many others. There is this constant demand that we must always trust those who have a long record of hurting us. That we must unequivocally endorse any declared change of heart and to do recall their abuses would be petty of us. It is an insidious dynamic that only reinforces and entrenches our disenfranchisement and the privilege of our oppressors.

It seems to me this extends to two other dynamics common in the politics of privilege. The issue with Hugo Schwyzer is an individual who claims to have changed, but such claims aren't even necessary for the disenfranchised to be pressured to settle down. "Good intentions" are enough to erase any culpability for heinous treatment of oppressed people. This is perhaps most vivid in the racism denial that comes with white privilege. To many privileged whites, racism can only exist with the explicit and stated intention to be racist. To regard something as racist without such an explicit intention is shamed as divisive and unfair, generally by people who fret far more about being being accused of being racists than actual oppression of POC.

Fat people face the same sort of restraints on calling out fat shaming and fat hatred. Since most fat shamers feel their stigmatization of our bodies is to our advantage, we shouldn't be mad at them. We are scolded and told that they aren't the real problem. They mean well, after all. Sure, there is a whole cliche about what good intentions are used to pave, but the disenfranchised often discover that time-worn wisdom isn't really meant for us.

This further resolves itself into "But what about teh [privileged group here]" protests. Those who fuss and preen about the evils of misandry, anti-white racism, threats to heterosexuality, or thin shaming directly try to pervert equality. By insisting on an equivalence of resentment towards the privileged and the disenfranchised, they merely promote that privilege and disenfranchisement. No, this doesn't mean that "misandry" or "thin shaming" is good, but by making them "equal", they are actually elevating them above misogyny or fat shaming or the like. The power dynamics mean the two can never truly be equal. Demanding they be regarded as such places a falsehood over reality and allies with the oppression that ensures these two things could never be equal. This is why I am so frustrated at those who endorse the idea that thin shaming is the same thing as fat shaming. Its just not, and pretending it is just further privileges thinness so that their slights must be elevated at the expense of those more oppressed. I find thin shaming to be profoundly unproductive and it ought to be discouraged and condemned within fat activism communities, but that shouldn't extend to honoring thin privilege.

All of these form a very consistent pattern of putting the needs of the privileged over the needs of the oppressed which is a horrifying thing to demand of the disenfranchised. Also, its a profoundly ordinary thing to demand. I mean, that's the oppression we are fighting in the first place. Just because the framing of justice as been appropriated to fight against justice doesn't mean we are obliged to care. Maybe there will be a day when my rights as a white, heterosexual man will actually be threatened, but that day is not today. Looking at struggles of disenfranchised communities to seek justice and seeing instead an urgency to fight for justice for the powerful is predictable, but in no way valid. The privileged merit no empathy for their "plight". Yes, oppression can hurt us, too. Yes, I didn't ask for my privilege, either. Yes, actual resentment can happen and probably isn't helpful. It just doesn't really matter, either. And it never matters less than the context it is always brought up, to scold and silence calls for justice by the oppressed.

See Also:
A Spectrum of Privilege, February 2011

2 comments:

joannadw said...

Thanks so much for this. I get so sick of being reminded that size acceptance is for everyone and everyone deserves equal time. They would be right, but fat acceptance is not the space to do that. Fat acceptance should focus on fat. I guess what it comes down to is that FA is not a social club. It's not just a place where we can all just be fat (or thin) together and revel in how awesome each of us is, regardless of size. It has a set of goals and values, and two of them are to promote fat positivity and fat rights as well as point out the dangers of dieting and the pursuit of extreme thinness. Criticizing dieting and portrayals of extreme thinness does not mean I am attacking anyone or telling them what they should do with their bodies. Just because I'm not jumping on the sidelines cheering you one doesn't mean I hate you. It just means that I want to talk about, and read about, a different perspective that places the focus on those that actually need it.

Brian said...

I'm not sure I got at this enough in my post so I expanded upon it in a new post here:

http://red3.blogspot.com/2012/04/injustice-of-enforced-equivalence.html

"Equal time" is a myth constructed to give the privileged further advantage.

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