As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.
Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.
… Specifically referring to white privilege.
Now, I want to make two things clear:
1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.
2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.
Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.
It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.
That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.
The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.
The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.
And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.
I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.
The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!
The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.
Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.
The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.
Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.
That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.
They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.
And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.
So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.
And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.
Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.
In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.
That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.