From one straight white cis male to all the others… we need to have a little talk.
Here’s the thing. This country was literally built for you. For me. For us. The United States and its predecessor colonies existed for 400 plus years based entirely around our supremacy. Even when there were people like us who recognized this as a problem, it didn’t stop the way our society ran.
Now things are starting to change. Slowly, painfully, but they are definitely starting to change. We talk more about this than ever before. At this point, there’s still more talk than action, but at least we’re starting to comprehend the problem.
We need to acknowledge that from a societal standpoint, “straight white cis male” was considered the default position. That it was the textbook (literally) definition of “American.”
That was of course, what people do when they run everything. Everything defaults to them.
People are starting to realize this won’t work any longer.
Many straight white cis men understand that things need to change. Our culture, our social structure, our political structure, all need to represent… all of us. Not just the old default, but everyone. We’re all in this together. A realignment of our society is not an attack on straight white cis males. It doesn’t mean others are going to treat us the way we treated them, though one can understand the poetic irony in that occurring. It’s simply that we need to reset how we think. Guys, we aren’t the default any longer.
That’s where you have the old guard. Guys like Donald Trump. People who see the world around them changing, but in scary ways. They see people pushing for greater equality, greater access, an even playing field. And they see it as an attack. Too many of us (straight white cis men) are fearful of losing that default setting. The head start we get by virtue of being born… us. And when people are accustomed to having that societal advantage, they see attempts to bring about equality as oppression.
Which leads to obnoxious men who act like they’re an aggrieved party. They act like the world is against them. That attitude, by the way, is how one inadvertently sets the world against oneself.
Guys, please listen. This is from someone who knows. From one straight white cis male to all the others… it’s no longer all about us. And that’s a good thing. Women make up 51% of this country. People of color make up about 37%. The percentage of LGBT people has been harder to accurately measure, but we can safely lowball the figure at 10%, with room to grow. And yet, our system still makes it harder for all of these people to contribute. Is it right that women only make up a quarter of government officeholders? And people of color make up just 10%? Is that representative of who we are now?
We’ve gotten too comfortable with seeing a movie with 20% women characters and maybe one token black guy and thinking that it accurately represents our world.
Privilege isn’t an absence of problems. Privilege doesn’t mean that everything is handed to you. It doesn’t mean that someone with less privilege can’t achieve greater things than someone with more. It simply means that people don’t start out on an even social playing field. A blogger whom I admire described being a straight white male as playing life on the lowest difficulty setting.
That’s just about right.
Even when we don’t have it easy, we still have the easiest start. And the idea is not to make it harder for us. The idea is for all groups to be able to start on the same setting. Nobody is saying the cops should now start harassing white guys, or women should catcall men. We’re saying that cops shouldn’t harass anyone and nobody should make unwanted sexual advances on anyone else. This isn’t an attack on one group. This is about getting the one group to quit fighting the advancement of everyone else.
So back to my fellow straight white cis males:
If you have a problem with everyone being able to start at the same point, be treated the same way, get the same chances – then you’re part of the problem.
Don’t deny your privilege. Don’t act like you don’t have an automatic leg up on the rest of the world. Acknowledging it isn’t self-hatred. It’s simply the first step. Be aware of how you interact with others. Think about how you see the world around you. And understand there are many other legitimate points of view out there, each deserving of the same respect. And with each person, their perspective is their own default. They shouldn’t expect to see yours as their own default perspective. Try to be aware of that.
It’s sad how people don’t know their own history. Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, and Dobson’s Family Research Council basically ruined the Republican Party. The GOP God is roughly the same age as you and me. They are quick to tout being on the right side of history where slavery is concerned, yet the religious right wing conservative is more likely to have an MRA stance. They will claim affirmative action gives special treatment. They will scoff at women’s rights as if the ERA was the endpoint where women forfeited our right to fight for fair wages, for body autonomy, for maternity benefits beyond the FMLA, for protection from sexual harassment in the workplace. Why are women treated like possessions among this group, as if they are incapable of self sufficiency? Why is the single mother treated as if she is a failure for her broken family, a whore who conceived illegitimately, instead of the shame being cast upon the absent father? If women need to be cared for, if we are naturally submissive, then why are we having to suffer obstacles in career advancement when we bear children and have no support from the other parent? Why aren’t these men stepping up to take care of the women they claim cannot survive on their own, but feel defensive about losing a promotion opportunity to a female coworker because it’s not plausible that the woman was better qualified? Clearly she slept with the boss, right? It’s unfortunate because we are also teaching our young boys to be ashamed of their more effeminate traits, to be tough and to compete against each other in sports and in courting women. But the notion of women choosing mates for themselves is still a farfetched notion even in modern day America. It’s discouraging indeed, but men like you are refreshing to see taking a stand. It’s wonderful to know that there are intelligent men sensitive to the specific challenges that women and minorities face, and to not feel your own livelihood is threatened by progressive equal rights efforts.
Anyway, I was trying not to leave a self indulgent reply, but seems again my verbosity got the better of me. It’s just discouraging as a woman who had to save for months to afford maternity leave for my two children. To know that I am still privileged as a white female because I’m not having my applications tossed aside if my name sounds “ghetto” to a prejudiced employer as if it evidences a lack of skills or professionalism. I don’t want to benefit from my privilege either, when it means I may be taking away the only chance that some will have due to a much lower glass ceiling. It’s depressing indeed.