I’m Learning About ‘Privilege’

‘Privilege’ is a word that crops up increasingly in conversation at the moment – as it should – to make every one of us question our attitudes towards different races and genders. woman-1302674_1280


As a middle-aged woman with some free time now that the kids are older, I have noticed a reignited hunger and enthusiasm for learning to understand what the world holds for my young adults entering into it and the generations of our family in the future. I’m becoming more aware about the different kinds of ‘privilege’, in particular those that have been staring us in the face for centuries – that of ‘white privilege’ and ‘male privilege’.


I learned more about these when I went to the launch of Clementine Ford’s book ‘Fight Like A Girl’ in Sydney last week.


Sometimes when I try to convey my personal feelings about inequality, whether it’s with friends or here in this blog, internally that little voice in my head tells me that I don’t really have the right or enough knowledge to speak about this important topic that divides nations. I was never an activist for feminism in my youth and when I read articles by leading feminists that are so much more intelligently written and researched than the meagre offerings I put out, I feel like a novice. Yet everyone has their right to their own opinion, everyone has a voice, and we should use it in whatever forum we have if we are to progress and make any change in our society.


I suspect that if I mentioned the term ‘male privilege’ in one of the heated discussions about feminism that I have monthly with my dad on Skype, he’d laugh in my face, in the same way that he does when I talk about the pay gap and climate change. I’m not making excuses for him, but there is a distinct generational gap of understanding when it comes to equality, I believe, and interestingly his opinions don’t necessarily anger me – he’s entitled to them – it’s the fact that he won’t listen to my perspective that irks me.


Perhaps because he’s male.


I’m sure that Clementine would disagree, but I can’t draw up a huge list of times where I’ve been the victim of male privilege, either on a personal level or in the work place. I’ve been fortunate to have been given the same education opportunities and I don’t believe that I have ever lost a role due to my gender or colour, so I am undoubtedly the perfect example of ‘white privilege’.


Perhaps my bolshy nature has helped because I’m no pushover and I’ve always voiced my opinions loudly, so although I can admit to being witness to sexist and racist remarks that I since regret not jumping on immediately, and I’ve equally suffered at the hands of the occasional, ageing male predator, I’ve made sure that my circle of friends and my partners have inherently feminist ideals, even if they choose to be more ‘silent’ than I’d like.


Certain among them have required some extra coaching – not mentioning any names.


There was one situation in my late teens when I was hitchhiking through France and the initial delight that a Mercedes had stopped to pick me up quickly turned to fear when the driver’s hand found my knee and I was forced to bolt at the next petrol station.


Inevitably, more and more stories about male dominance are currently bombarding the media due to the catalyst of Trump’s march, nay limp, towards the Whitehouse – thwarted recently (*praying*) by the exposure of the level of his abuse of women, (and it seems to me), general misogyny.


How any nation could consider putting such a man in power when girls and women around the globe continue to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, married off and made pregnant when still children – often for political gain – or silenced and abused in the workplace, I have no idea.


Yet in spite of these daily events and stories of male dominance, (that even the most ardent anti-feminist can surely not remain immune to), astoundingly there remains an underbelly of male supremacy that continues to try to curb whatever progress women at the coalface of the feminist movement, such as our own Clementine Ford and Germaine Greer, or politicians such as Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton try to make. And they employ brazenly vitriolic bullying tactics and threats.


The state of Victoria is about to introduce a new program to public schools to educate children about ‘male privilege’, not to ‘man-bash’, but in an attempt to get to the root of where this concept of male dominance comes from and to reduce the number of female deaths at the hands of domestic violence, before this privilege spreads like a cancer into the developing brain cells of the next generation of young men.


Of course the program already has its skeptics, who have accused its creators of brainwashing our children into a campaign of ‘man-hating’ – yawn – the atypical reaction to feminism in spite of statistics that prove that many of us man-haters continue to put up with them, and some of us even like and marry the fuckers.

There Are Two Sides To Every Victim Story

What a sad week it has been in the news; a week when the adage that there are two sides to every story has never rung more true. throwing-154588_1280

There’s not a lot I can add to the extensive debate surrounding the Depp/Heard story, but when I began this post, soon after the news first hit the press, the reaction of the haters who had come out to bag the victim – that is THE VICTIM –  forced me onto my soapbox.


If anyone ever questioned why women hold back from reporting domestic violence, this case has confirmed the answer. It’s fear and vilification. For in the days since it was first reported, we know every reason why Heard decided to make up a story about Johnny beating her up (money), we know about every dollar that she doesn’t earn (motive) and every manipulative reason she might have for humiliating him. While, he has kept schtum – a tactic I assume he has been advised by his lawyers to take, to appear less vitriolic than his crazy, lying wife, I imagine.


Or simply to make it go away.


The point is, only Depp and Heard know what really happened behind the doors of their mansion, and the rest remains speculation unless it goes to court; which is unlikely due to the power and influence of the accused.


But whether you have a personal opinion about Amber Heard or not, it takes a brave women to take on an icon such as Johnny Depp, a golden boy of Hollywood, who apart from trashing a few hotel rooms and making some dodgy films, has rarely put a foot wrong in the media. Who would dare defame a cinematic legend who has played the protagonist in many memorable and much-loved children’s movies such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Pirates of the Caribbean, and who is such is a role model to kids, as well as being a supporter of sick children.


The same man who held a special place in our nineties teen hearts, until Kate Moss unceremoniously snatched him away from our dreams. Which was okay, because she was boxing at her own weight. Kinda.


But sadly, such misplaced idolisation is why men like Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby all got away with their sordid little crimes for so long, because they held power and influence in their respective industries and had the dollars to shut any salaciousness down.


And that can’t be right.


I’m always prepared to look at a story non-judgmentally if there are no proven facts. I don’t know if Depp abused Heard, and if he did I would never excuse any violent act against a woman, but we are human and it wouldn’t exactly be unheard of for a big star, possibly under the influence and excesses of drink and drugs, to lose it one day and make a terrible mistake. How many of us creative, drama queen types haven’t lost physical control in the heat of the moment, when we’re fighting to save the last smouldering vestiges of a relationship?


I remember throwing a plate of baked beans over the old man once.


And women like Amber make easy targets for the press – pretty, successful, younger than Depp – attributes that the public fawn over until they overstep their mark, when they’re quickly hunted down and redefined as immature, sugar-daddy-loving, gold diggers.


How could her claims possibly be credible?


And talking of impulsive young people …and we all know what three year old boys are capable of and how easily it is to lose sight of them for that few precious seconds. Because it happened to me once in a busy mall with NC and then again when both the old man and I were with her at a garden centre, until ‘whoosh’ she wasn’t suddenly, because she’d fallen into a freezing cold lake. And frankly those seconds of frenzied fear were some of the most awful seconds of my life as a parent so I can’t begin to imagine what the parents of that little boy felt as they watched him confronted by a gorilla.


A fucking gorilla! Which is the stuff of nightmares or movies.


And I agree that it was terribly sad that the decision had to be made – quickly, because no-one knows exactly how a potentially dangerous four-hundred pound animal is going to react in a stressful situation – to kill the ape in order to save the child. TO SAVE THE CHILD!


And the gorilla will be mourned, deservedly so.


But should the parents really be vilified for taking their eyes off their child? Were the boys parents wrong to assume that zoo enclosures should be safe from the natural curiosity of a child?


And albeit a terrible outcome and a horrible loss, if it happened again, that animal would be taken out, again. And this public, crazy outcry leads me to suspect that we are grieving less for the unfortunate gorilla whose own curiosity got the better of him and more for the underlying shame of what we do in zoos.


We all make mistakes because we’re human and we’ve all had those parenting fails where we’ve said a hasty ‘thank fuck’ prayer afterwards when we were lucky, got away with it and something awful didn’t eventuate. Those parents were lucky that their boy was saved and should not be shamed for the death of Harambe. Neither should the McCanns, although they’ve paid more heavily for their decision.


What right do we have to judge or throw stones? By definition, a ‘victim’ is someone who has been ‘harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action’.


In other words, they’ve suffered enough.