Being Privileged (and not being an ass about it)


Jen McCreight over at Blag Hag just posted about a rather predictable thing that happened when she mentioned her disappointment at an impressively-skewed gender ratio of speakers at a conference. Namely, that only 2 of 15 speakers were women, which would be impressively skewed if it weren’t so darned common.
A predictable reply, of course, ensued:

Jennifurret, do you think the organizers are being sexist? Should they seek out more women to speak? Do you have a list of such speakers you could give them? If you feel there need to be more women at such conferences, then by all means, go to such conferences. Get involved, write articles, get invited. I’d do it except I’m not qualified to be a woman, so you have to.

Now, Jen has perfectly marvellously demolished most of this person’s, eh, ‘arguments’, since she’s got the list, writes the articles, and speaks at the conferences. Booyeah! This is the woman behind Boobquake, fer feck’s sake!

The thing I’d take issue with is that last sentence. You know the one. Just so you don’t have to strain your eyes too much looking up at it, I’ll copy it here for you again:

I’d do it except I’m not qualified to be a woman, so you have to.

This, my lovely readers, is one of the major essences of Being A Privileged Ass. Not only do you get to have bucketloads of privilege, but you also get to completely deny any responsibility for doing anything about it! It’s up to those lazy oppressed people to get up off their asses, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work as hard as all the privileged people have been working all these years! Privileged people have no responsibility whatsoever to even be aware of their privilege, never mind actually giving a damn and doing anything about it. Right? Right?

Which would be great, if it weren’t, in fact, the other way around. Members of any oppressed class you care to mention tend to have a whole lot more to deal with than their relatively privileged counterparts. In addition to this, they tend to be less likely to be in positions of power, and are less likely to be listened to. Not to mention being at higher risk of all sorts of hassle and violence if they do speak up. Because of this, people who are relatively privileged- and as a white, able-bodied, college-educated cissexual Westerner, I’m counting myself in this- have an absolute responsibility to do something about the structures which privilege us. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to add our voices to those calling for more representation of, and necessary accommodations for those who do not share our privilege.

Or, you know, we could all throw up our hands and say that it’s nothing to do with us. That’s sure to help.