Think with Your Head
On the bottom shelf of my dresser sits a shirt from my college days. Back when I almost exclusively wore t-shirts with slogans on them, I had an item from a company called Blacklava that said “Got Privilege?” on the front and sported pictures of various items on the back. At the time, I thought that I was cool for bringing various plights to light by wearing a t-shirt (yes, it was silly) and I honestly haven’t thought much about the garment for a while—I’ll still wear it every now and again but no longer with the hope that I’ll get questions. Memories of the shirt came flooding back, however, when I happened upon some comments by one of my students
I had to stop for a second and look at the screen. “He can’t be serious,” I thought to myself as I quietly began to lose my composure. There are few things in the realm of sex and sexuality that really shake me, but I could feel myself quickly getting to a place were all I could feel was anger. In front of me lay a half-formed argument that men have some sort of divine prerogative to be leaders because they were created before women in the Bible (God made men first so they must be more important, right? There’s no way that a book written by men would use religious influence to disenfranchise women.)
“It is not your responsibility,” I wanted to scream, “to fight injustice and be a provider because you are a man, but because you are a person. Because you are a human being.”
Digging my nail into my palm, I took a measured breath. It is this kind of thinking that makes it unacceptable for men to make less money than their wives or for males to be bested in something that they care about. I mean, it’s all right that women know how to cook and clean, because that’s what they’re supposed to know—real men don’t do that sort of thing. But a woman who is an expert in sports? An authority and not just interested? Dangerous. In my mind, all of this stems from a desire to keep things simple, to keep people in easily defined boxes, and to have an unwavering sense of gender roles and identity. Men like this will tell each other to “be a man” or to “have some balls,” not realizing that it comes from the same hateful place that considers being called a “pussy” or a “fag” an insult.
The student went on to argue that, even biologically, men were designed to be the penetrators perpetrators of action. That is how rape happens. Thinking that possessing a penis grants you some sort of God-given right to be the dominant force in a situation is precisely the foundation for forcing yourself upon someone else.
I willed the tension to go.
These thoughts swirled in my mind as I remembered the t-shirt that lay in my drawer. Sure, “Got Privilege?” was a great way to get people to start thinking about the issue but how would I go about making them feel it? Maybe part of a poem by D.A. Clarke would help.
It’s simple really, privilege
Means someone else’s pain, your wealth
Is my terror, your uniform
Is a woman raped to death here, or in Cambodia or wherever
Wherever your obscene privilege
Writes your name in my blood, it’s that simple,
You’ve always had it, that’s why it doesn’t
Seem to make you sick to your stomach,
You have it, we pay for it, now
Do you understand?
Do you understand?