Sunday, July 10, 2011

Making Excuses, Part 2: The Otherside of Intersectionality

Due to declining health, I've been unable to keep up a regular pace with this blog.  Alack and Alas. 

I've been unable to keep up even an adequate pace with my normal routine, consisting only of going to work, and coming home.  Now I'm facing making a big decision about leaving my fabulously well paying job for something far less demanding (and less well paying). 

I have an interview for one such job tomorrow morning.  I'm upset that I don't think I'll be feeling any better for it.  Hopefully I won't have to look the way I feel.  My goal is to at least not look like a dying aquatic mammal. That's been my impression every time I've gone to the mirror in the last two months. Yeah yeah, I know ---  internalized fat hatred, disableism.... bite me.  Just for the moment.  My ability to sustain this household is on the line here and I'm going to muster every last privilege I can to continue doing so.  :p

Which brings me to one of the many post topics I'd started and never finished.  The Otherside of Intersectionality, the one far less discussed in anti-oppression blogs, is the intersection of privileges.  This matrix of social advantages is used by all, not merely to maintain our own (always) precarious status in the hierarchy of bodies/identities/lives... but in order to avoid descending (perpetually) therein. 

The intersection of privileges is why we have the phenomenon of Co-Dependent Bigotry, and of Kyriarchy, it is why we have LGBT Conservatives who insist that being gay is only a small, merely incidental piece of their lives and that national security and taxation matters MUCH More,  it is why we have an a Western LGBT movement that by and large erases anyone who is not a gay white upper class male.

The intersection of privileges is why we have black people who support the Tea Party, why some immigrants who came to the USA as children would violently enforce border patrol against illegal immigrants, why transsexual women with tremendous amounts of passing privilege, and access to resources for surgery would viciously oppose public association with any and all trans people who do not.   

I point these things out not in judgment, but in acknowledgement of my own similar response in certain situations.   All of the examples above represent different strategies for survival in a hostile environment.  It would be one thing if the consequence of losing privilege was simply not having that privilege.  But its not.  The consequence of losing privilege is an increase in personal suffering.  It's why discussion about privilege is so difficult to begin with.  To be accused of having privilege feels like an accusation that one has not struggled to be where on is.  

The fact is, EVERYBODY is constantly struggling to maintain and/or advance their own position in the hierarchy.  Because doing so results in LESS suffering.  And suffering SUCKS.  Consequently there is no single body in the hierarchy of bodies that does NOT suffer to exist.  Even the whitest, richest, cis-est, straightest, most able-bodied christian man is struggling and suffering to exist.  The main question for those who resist oppression  is not "who has it hardest or easiest?"    But  "at whose expense is one group's own suffering made less?"

Even tho it is in our longterm best interests to resist the oppression of the least advantaged of our own targeted group, we often choose instead to maximize our social advantages over our disadvantages, whether its our ability to "pass" for mainstream members of the dominant group, or class status or financial resources, or the personal approval of a select few powerful dominants, we use any and all of these to counterbalance our own vulnerability as members of the targeted group... and we do it at the expense of the "least" of that group each time.

But identifying the problem is only one part of it.  I can say all of the above, but tomorrow I'm still going to do my best to "pass" for a cis, non-disabled middle class woman who appears thinner than she actually is.  I'm still going to try to neutralize the reality of my blackness by possibly straightening my hair, thus amping up the overall "racially-diluting" effect of my light skin.   Thus sending a subliminal message to my would be employers that I may be black but I'm one of the "okay" ones.

I'm going to do all of this so I can continue to support myself and my Significant Other in the lifestyle we've become accustomed.  But really I'm doing it because if I don't,  I and my S.O. may very well end up on the street in a few months without any kind of job, right along with the "least" of our brothers.  You dig?

So what is the REAL solution to all of the above?  And tell me a solution I can achieve in my lifetime.  You'll forgive me for not being willing to dedicate my own life as well as the lifetimes of my (hypothetical) children and grandchildren for a better world that may never happen 100 years from now, especially when a worse world definitely will happen 100 days from now if I don't all that I just said I would.

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