Sunday, March 04, 2012

In Which the Author Realizes How Privileged She Is

Although it's really difficult for me to abstain from political conversations in daily life, I have tried to keep this blog free of my personal politics.  I know too many colleagues whose blogs were closed after a "friendly suggestion" or whose comments in private spheres came back to bite them in the professional ass.  Nonetheless, I take some courage from my co-bloggers at State, who have jumped on this topic in a variety of ways.  (We'll all go down together, I guess?)  I want to talk about the current debate in the U.S. about access to birth control medication.  And as always, this is 100% my personal view.

Like a lot of my friends and loved ones, I've watched the primary debates of recent months with equal bemusement and horror.  The usual suspects for rallying political support against the Other - immigrants, gays, recipients of government assistance - made their appearance early on in the season.  Who was left?  Well, apparently it's women writ large, given the recent debate on access to birth control medications, and that's when I got pissed off.

Then I stopped myself - I was upset at the ad hominem attacks against gays, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged, but it took an attack on something I personally identify with to pull out my credit card for donations.  At that moment, I realized two things: the extent of my white, middle class privilege, and the extent to which I will let things slide if they don't affect me personally.

I've never considered myself a particularly privileged person.  My family was pretty broke when I was a child, and after my parents' divorce my mom and I lived on almost nothing for years.  I was able to go to a good university because of this relative poverty, and after I got my financial aid package to college my mom married my stepfather, who cosigned all of my student loans because my worthless shit of a father had cast my mother and me aside.  I thought that, by all rights, I had had a Hard Life.  Sure, I was an educated liberal with a good job after graduating from college, but I'd lived a Hard Life, right?  I'm not like everyone else.

It took a panel of all men testifying before Congress about the "religious freedom" implications of mandating prescription birth control coverage to wake me up to my privilege.  I was pissed off.  I wrote angry emails to my representative and senators.  I donated money to Planned Parenthood after Komen screwed them over.  I shared angry graphics and open letters on Facebook about what certain politicians think they can do with my body for political gain.  And then I realized...  oh, shit.  I'm so angry and financially invested in this cause because it affects me.  How many other causes have I professed to support but didn't give money and time to, because I wasn't really affected?  Certain politicians have been using my uterus, and the uterus of millions of other people, as a vote-earning tool.  Why does this anger me, when using the gender identity and sexual orientation of others as a fundraising and vote-earning tactic hasn't really motivated me in the same way?  Why do I rant and rave to my friends about the effects of race and ethnicity in legal decisions, when I don't give my time and money to support causes that try to correct this bias?

So to my friends and family members and colleagues whose causes I believe in but have not fully supported, I apologize.  I truly do.  I read all the right news sources for lefty feminists, but it took the current political climate for me to take their social, racial, and gender justice messages to heart.  To my sister, my oldest friend, my mother, and countless others who have had a harder life for specific as well as intangible reasons that I cannot understand due to the privileged life I've led, I apologize.  I am trying to align my practices with my beliefs, but please tell me when you see me being deficient.  I want to learn.  I want to make things better in the grand scheme of things.  More than anything, I want everyone I know and love to have equal rights, privileges, and access to the things that have made my life easy.  I will do anything I can to make this happen.