I didn't originally think this needed comment, but I've seen it linked a couple of places now and the Wrong is making it hard to focus on dinner. So.
There's a post, titled On the difference between Good Dogs and Dogs That Need a Newspaper Smack
, that's being passed around the atheist blogosphere as a good Privilege 101 teaching tool.
It's not - not a good tool, that is - and if this is the level the progressive
folks are at I can start to see the problem.
The fact that people are stupid isn’t news, however. And actually that’s kind of why the concept of privilege is important – because privilege isn’t about being stupid. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, or something with a moral or value judgement of any kind attached to it. Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk.
This is the main issue throughout the post - the idea that privilege is just something that happens, like big feet or a thick fur coat. Privileged people are born with an advantage (true!) and it's not their fault the world is set up to support men/white people/straight people/the able-bodied/cisgendered folks/etc/etc/etc, that's just the way it is. Like magic (false!). You should be nice to people who don't have your privilege because it's the right thing to do, but don't worry about getting rid of it
No. Privilege is a constructed reality, it exists because humans created it. Because of a long, terrible history of deliberate and non-deliberate choices/actions setting one group over another. It is constantly perpetuated by the people who benefit from that history, i.e. people with privilege. We should absolutely be working to tear it down. To tear white privilege, cis privilege, straight privilege, male privilege, able-bodied privilege - the whole damn kyriarchy - apart.
Back to the post, which consists mainly of a parable:
Imagine, if you will, a small house, built someplace cool-ish but not cold, perhaps somewhere in Ohio, and inhabited by a dog and a lizard. The dog is a big dog, something shaggy and nordic, like a Husky or Lapphund – a sled dog, built for the snow. The lizard is small, a little gecko best adapted to living in a muggy rainforest somewhere. Neither have ever lived anywhere else, nor met any other creature; for the purposes of this exercise, this small house is the entirety of their universe.
The dog, much as you might expect, turns on the air conditioning. Really cranks it up, all the time – this dog was bred for hunting moose on the tundra, even the winter here in Ohio is a little warm for his taste. If he can get the house to fifty (that’s ten C, for all you weirdo metric users out there), he’s almost happy.
[...]So one day, she sees the dog messing with the A/C again, and she says, “hey. Dog. Listen, it makes me really cold when you do that.”
The dog kind of looks at her, and shrugs, and keeps turning the dial.
This is not because the dog is a jerk.
This is because the dog has no fucking clue what the lizard even just said.
It goes on like that for a while. Again, no.
Men and women, queer folks and straight folks, etc etc etc, are not separate species
. Our needs are not wildly divergent, we are not incapable of empathy and understanding. The house does not simply exist. People who abuse their privilege are not dogs that need a smack on the nose.
If you want posts that actually work as Privilege 101:
* White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
* Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog
* Privilege is "not."
* I Didn’t Dream of Dragons
* White people, its not all about you, but for this post it is
* "comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable" is not just a bumper sticker for me
* All of starkeymonster
's 'for clueless white people' tag
* The Dos and Don'ts of Defending Muslim Women
Additions or corrections are welcome in the comments - I know other folks have made better link lists than this, but I can't remember where. Fixing typos and closing logic gaps will wait until the morning; it's somehow 11pm and past my bedtime.