The reality of social movements is that they tend to be populated by the people who are most effected by the movement. The civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s was predominantly African American. The feminist movement is driven by women. I’ve found myself more and more interested in participating in these movements, but I often find myself without good role models. It’s not appropriate for me to emulate Claudette Colvin or Malcom X or Dead Prez. I’m not black. Nor can I emulate Virginia Woolf or Andrea Dworkin or Liz Phair. I’m not a woman.
But I’ve found a few good role models. I see pro-feminist things in the men around me that I can emulate, even men who don’t identify as pro-feminist. And really, many things that women feminists do are totally appropriate for men to do: defying gender stereotypes, calling people out on sexism, spreading information about sexist events as they happen around us.
One of the best recommendations I think I’ve gotten from women feminists is that I should be constantly checking my privilege. That whenever I am doing something or expecting someone else to do something I should think about what role privilege played in making it easier or harder for us.
The trouble is: I’m a white, straight-acting male, and that simple fact makes me blind to a lot of things. I’ve never had to think about whether people thought I got a job because of my gender. I’ve never had to try to reverse that, and until fairly recently I wasn’t aware that some women and minorities have to worry about that. Not every woman and every minority has to worry about it, but I’ve certainly benefited by the fact that I was born into a group of people who is categorically exempt from that concern.
To make this job easier, a number of “Privilege Checklists” have been fashioned, to help people see privileges that might be invisible to them:
Obviously, it’s useful to read those checklists that apply to you. But the ones they don’t apply to you (because you’re a person of color or queer or female or transgendered) might be worthwhile to look at too. Because maybe there are privileges you enjoy that others in your gender/orientation/race do not. There are privileges on the Straight Privilege Checklist that apply to me, and privileges that don’t.
I kind of feel like these things are important to know.