Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Privilege

I have privilege.

I am white.  I am married to a white man.  He supports me in everything that I do.  I am a member of the American middle class.  I am well educated.  I have a stable job that I am fairly compensated for performing.  For the most part I do not experience workplace discrimination.  I own my own home.  I have good credit.  I walked into a bank, applied for a mortgage, and walked out with a pre-approval letter.  It was easy.  I own two well-maintained and reliable cars with insurance for both. And if I wanted to replace one of the cars, I could do that today.  I have money in my checking account.  And my savings account.  And my retirement account.  I am able to budget my money to go on vacations and for home maintenance.  If my car or my furnace breaks unexpectedly, I can get them fixed without enduring financial hardship. I have excellent medical insurance, the money to pay my co-pays and deductibles, and the knowledge to advocate for myself. I have the means to purchase and cook healthy and nutritious foods.  I can take time off if I get sick and not worry about job security.  Aside from a few grants that I was eligible for in college, I have never received government help of any kind.  I have a copy of my birth certificate (two, actually). And my social security card.  I have a passport.  I have a driver's license. Heck, I even have a gender neutral name, so if you see my name on paper you can't immediately tell if I'm a man or a woman.

I have it pretty good.

I am not rich and I never will be.  I do not say any of this to brag or draw attention to myself.  I worked my ass off to get to the point that I'm at today.  Aside from my own hard work, perseverance, and resilience, I acknowledge that I wouldn't be where I am today if not for luck and a few people who entered my life at just the right time to mentor me and guide me and give me a swift kick to the ass when necessary.  People who saw more in me then I saw in myself.  And I acknowledge that it could all disappear in an instant.

This is privilege.

But it hasn't always been this way for me.

Beyond being white and straight, I spent a good portion of my life not being able to tell you any ways that I had privilege.

I had a childhood where I grew up fast.  I shouldered responsibility that wasn't age appropriate.  I endured things that no child should endure ever.

If you asked my high school teachers, they probably would have told you that I had equal odds of making something of myself and of being an unwed mother of three on welfare and cooking meth to sell in my free time.  I was smart, I just didn't have a whole lot of direction back then.  My high school guidance counselor told me that she didn't know why I was bothering to go to college because I'd never finish.

I worked my entire way through college and paid my tuition myself with wages and loans.  Many (most) of my peers didn't have to work.  There were a few semesters where I wasn't sure if I'd be able to return to school because of money.

I was without health insurance from ages 22-25, despite working full time at a low wage job.  I had the misfortune of getting sick and requiring hospitalization at one point.  It took me five years to pay off this bill, and that was after they gave me a "discount" because I was considered low income.

There was a point in my life where I had to make the choice between keeping the lights on and buying groceries.  I got very creative with Ramen Noodles.

If not for Planned Parenthood, I wouldn't have been able to afford birth control or checkups.  Like the time I found a lump on my breast.  It turned out to be nothing and went away on it's own, but I knew that it was nothing to worry about because of PP.  They gave me low cost birth control too.  It's no secret that an unplanned pregnancy at that point of my life would have drastically altered my life trajectory.  I don't think I'll ever be able to repay them, though through my regular donations, I'll do my best to pay it forward.

There was a time when a car repair or unexpected bill would have put me in crisis mode.

I overcame a lot.  So much more then I'm willing to write about publicly.

I know what it is like to struggle every single day.  I vow never to forget this.  I also know privilege. I vow to not use my position of privilege to judge others, and instead to use my voice to advocate for them.

Knowing all of this combined with my previous posts about politics in my country, you'd have every reason to assume that I marched in the Women's March.  I didn't.  I believed in every single thing that the march stood for.  I wanted to be there.  Up until the day before I planned to go to the sister march in my city.  I wanted to use my voice for those who are trying like hell to claw their way out of the cycle.

My anxiety won on that day and I didn't go.  I think I'll regret not going for the rest of my life.

I did, however, stand with all of my sisters who did march.  I am so proud of them.  I was with all of them in spirit.

The march was important to me because I believe that the most qualified person should be the one who gets the job.  I've been passed over for a job despite being more qualified than the person chosen simply because I lacked a penis.

The march was important to me because I believe in equal marriage.  I believe the government should have no authority to prevent two consenting adults from entering into the legal contract of marriage.

The march was important to me because I believe in equal pay for equal work.

The march was important to me because I believe in affordable, high quality childcare options and reasonable paid maternity leave.

The march was important because I believe that the government has no business legislating my medical care.  That should be between me and my doctor.

The march was important to me because, on the intake paperwork for my recent surgery, I was asked if my husband consented to the procedure.  No.  My uterus.  My body.  My choice.  Period.  He doesn't get a say.  Of course he supported my choice, but that's not the point.  I shouldn't need his signature to get medical care for my body.

The march was important to me because I believe that there has been systematic discrimination against non-white populations in this country (since it's inception) and that we haven't done enough to right those wrongs.

The march was important to me because I believe that all Americans (and citizens of the earth) should have insurance and access to medical care.

The march was important to me because I believe that a person should be able to practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all.

The march was important to me because discriminating against a person because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, zip code, or any other reason is wrong.

The march was important because washing your hands on the way out of a public restroom is far more important to me then the parts that the person in the next stall who is minding their own business while taking care of their biological functions was born with and whether or not they correspond to the sign on the door.

The march was important to me because violence against women is not ok.  Women shouldn't have to worry about being catcalled just for walking down the street.  Women shouldn't be called a whore for their clothing choice.  Women shouldn't have to be wary of accepting a drink because it might be spiked with something that will incapacitate them.  Women shouldn't be grabbed by the pussy or raped behind a dumpster.  And they definitely shouldn't be victimized over and over and over and over again when they have the courage to report it.

And finally, the march was important to me because we cannot normalize abhorrent behavior and hatred.  Our president needs this message more than just about anybody else.  Because if our president normalizes these behaviors, I shudder to think of what it means for my country.  By not speaking out against poor behavior and by not apologizing for his own deplorable behavior, he normalizes it.

I suspect that there will be many more opportunities to march in the future.  I will not miss those. And I think it's important that all of those who are lucky enough to have privilege make the commitment to advocate for those who don't.

18 comments:

  1. Amen!!! And thank you. Beautifully said and very much needed during these times. I know you regret not marching, but I believe this movement is just the beginning. And next time we'll figure out a way to meet up so we can do this together.

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    1. I hope the movement is just beginning! I would love to march alongside you!

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  2. I've been attempting to write a blog post of my own on this very topic, but I get so far in and I get too emotional, too frustrated, sad, etc. to adequately put into words what I'm feeling.

    I, too, feel as you do. I, too, have empathy for those who do not have the same opportunities I have had. I, too, feel bad that I did not march. Thank you for sharing your story. I need to find a way to put this into my own post, but I just wanted you to know that your post inspired me to be able to find a way to write it out, as I almost abandoned the subject completely.

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    1. Definitely get the thoughts out and into your own post. It's cathartic, I promise. Don't abandon it. It's so important to get your voice out there!

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  3. I also did not march, mostly because I had to work and was afraid to ask for a very busy day off. I feel a bit like a coward, and that I missed out on something truly important and life altering. I will never again take the opportunity to protest for granted, and I will seize every opportunity in the future.

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    1. I felt like a coward too, but then a friend reminded me that there will be many more opportunities in the coming days. I look forward to protesting with you!

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  4. Yes! Beautiful. I have a privilege post brewing as well, and the more people explore this idea of privilege the more I hope empathy will grow and swell and people will see why women march, for ALL women (and people, really). I can't believe your husband had to consent to your surgery, that sounds so like something from another time, a dystopic detail that's true today in 2017. I am glad Planned Parenthood was so vital to you -- I have never personally used their services but donate heavily to them because of the many, MANY things they provide to women and families. Awesome post, I love it so much!

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    1. I really do hope that empathy will grow. And I totally agree about all people marching, because this is about human rights, not just women's rights. Honestly, I will be thankful to Planned Parenthood for the rest of my life.

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  5. Wonderful post!

    I too was stopped in my tracks - I could hardly finish your post - when you said you were asked if your husband condemned. I'm curious - was that hospital or insurance? If you'd said "no" would they have still performed the procedure? (My jaw is still on the floor.)

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  6. Thanks, Mali!

    I think it was hospital policy as opposed to insurance. The hospital was originally opened by Catholic sisters or something like that. I declined allowing him to consent, they pushed a little, and I stayed firm. After they realized my position wasn't going to budge, they laid off. He definitely supported me, and he was right there in the hospital with me. I gladly signed the forms for him to make medical decisions for me if I was unable to do so for myself. I don't think it was that big of a deal (the surgery happened and he never signed any paperwork), it just stuck with me.

    Now I wonder if they only wanted his consent because it was a procedure on my reproductive parts as opposed to some other part of my body....hopefully I won't have to find out!

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    1. I've just popped in again - and see my iPad changed "consented" to "condemned!" I'm glad you knew what I meant!

      Good grief. It's still mind-boggling though, in the 21st century.

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  7. Thank you for posting, for standing in solidarity. Please don't feel badly about not going! So many of us carried women we knew with us that day, who for whatever reasons wanted to come and couldn't. Our physical presence is only the beginning anyway. <3

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    1. Thanks, Justine! Agreed that the Women's March was just the first stand of many that we'll have to take over the next few years!

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  8. Just catching up here. What a brilliant piece, BnB. Also incredulous that you were asked if your husband consented to your procedure and had to get his signature. Living in Ireland, though, where the Catholic Church's influence over hospitals persists and some major ones are owned outright by religious charities, nothing surprises me.
    This is great writing.

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    1. Thanks, DS! I'm in a pretty traditionally Catholic area as well (though not nearly as Catholic as Ireland) and many of those values persist in the hospital systems, though it seems to be becoming less of an issue. I'm not sure if I'd been getting my tubes tied if the surgery would have proceeded without his consent though.

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    2. I don't know if they still ask for the husband's consent here for many things (I'm sure they probably do for tying tubes) but I do know that when I had IVF in 2010 the clinic would only accept married couples and asked to see marriage certificates, which I found shocking. There was also some news a few years ago about hospitals here rejecting trials of one of the big life-saving breast cancer drugs because to take it, women of child-bearing age had to be on birth control - the nuns/priests on the hospital boards were against it. That really shook me up. Terrifying. A hatred of women advocating for themselves.

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  9. "I had equal odds of making something of myself and of being an unwed mother of three on welfare and cooking meth to sell in my free time. I was smart, I just didn't have a whole lot of direction back then." I've probably asked you this before, but have you read "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance? He gives a lot of credit to his grandmother & several other supportive adults (including teachers) for recognizing & encouraging his potential.

    I can't believe they asked if you had your husband's consent for your procedure either. Holy crap. :p STILL.

    Anyway, FABULOUS post! <3

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  10. I’ve come back several times to re-read this entry. I find myself nodding in agreement with so many of your points, either through my own experiences or that we share a similar thinking.

    It’s a very moving piece of writing.
    As much as I like to think we’ve come along way with equality for all, our lack of compassion still in so many areas makes me realise we still have a long way to go.

    The march here had a very good turnout, minus me, unfortunately. I was on a long drive up the coast visiting relatives before arriving for a week’s holiday. I’ll be waiting for the next one.

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