Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 19, 2009

The chief exercise of privilege

Privilege: an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks. (Unpacking the invisible knapsack – the original, on race privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, male privilege, cisgender privilege.)

The chief exercise of privilege is to ensure that people who do not have your privilege are ridiculed or condemned for speaking up, when the privileged can speak up on their behalf so much better.

I am thinking in part of the silencing of Gene Robinson, whose last-minute invite was supposed to symbolically content LGBT people for the center-stage honor of Rick Warren, but who was never to appear on the HBO broadcast of the event, nor even (apparently) on stage at the same time as Barack Obama himself. Obama will, we have been told, speak up for LGBT people: we needn’t worry our little heads about the silencing of our own. (Pam Spaulding confirms that silencing Bishop Robinson was planned by the Inauguration Committee, who specifically told HBO that the “pre-show” wasn’t part of the broadcast.)

And of other circumstances, other times, other exercises of privilege, which all amount to: Let me silence you. For your own good. You don’t frame the discussion right. I know what ought to be said, and you don’t.
(For the current example I was thinking of: the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM.)

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5 Comments »

  1. well, it’s impossible to maintain privilege if everyone has what you have.

    Comment by Personal Failure — January 19, 2009 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  2. It’s one reason why people on anti-marriage or pro-life sites get so annoyed with me: I will not accept their framing of the debate.

    (I suppose I could, for comity’s sake, refer to the anti-marriage movement as the “protect marriage” movement, but given they really do define themselves strictly by who they don’t wish to be permitted to marry, “Protect marriage” is just too weird. I suppose in 30 years we’ll all be used to it…)

    Comment by jesurgislac — January 19, 2009 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

  3. Hey jesurgislac,
    I guess your comment here (“I will not accept their framing of the debate”) is an answer to my question. I was directed here from Avalon-willow’s post about “Elizabeth Bear’s friends”; I had wondered why a proposed zine issue(s?) focused on prejudice was denigrated as “fail.” I saw it as an actual attempt to help–but it could equally be an attempt to take control and frame the debate.

    Comment by MsGoblinPants — January 19, 2009 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  4. I guess your comment here (”I will not accept their framing of the debate”) is an answer to my question.

    Yeah… though I was thinking of a whole bunch of things and occurances, too.

    I had wondered why a proposed zine issue(s?) focused on prejudice was denigrated as “fail.” I saw it as an actual attempt to help–but it could equally be an attempt to take control and frame the debate.

    Yeah. There already are projects – Avalon’s Willow runs one of them, the People of Color in SFF Carnival – for celebrating diversity in science fiction and fantasy. Given who is running this project, it does not appear to be a genuine attempt to “help” – it looks like a genuine attempt to set the frames of the debate to ones that helpful white liberals can better deal with. Was going to link to the (eventual) Metafandom post to give all the links needed.

    Comment by jesurgislac — January 19, 2009 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  5. i say someone attempt to redefine “i am” in order to make homosexuality the homosexual’s “fault” and make the prop h8 crowd not a bunch of bigots.

    i bet that person laughed themselves silly when clinton waffled over the definition of “is”.

    Fail.

    Comment by Personal Failure — January 19, 2009 @ 4:57 pm | Reply


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