Monday, September 27, 2010

This is not a post about weight

In high school, I was proud of the fact that I didn't care about weight. I was a 95-pound skinny girl who looked like she was still waiting for the puberty train to roll around. When my friends would talk about how little I weighed, I would roll my eyes and remind them that at our 10-year reunion (ha) I'd probably be the heaviest of all of them. After all, being skinny meant I didn't think about what I ate, so I was clogging those arteries and fast! Being in high school, everyone seemed to be self-conscious about something and for many of my girl friends it was about their arms, their thighs, their hips, or whatever. I never understood why they cared about those things. Didn't it only matter what we were like on the inside? Weren't they all pretty, regardless of their shape? Wasn't it good enough to just have fun together? I didn't care when a friend obsessed about her looks or the number on a scale, per se, but I was definitely baffled. And I'll admit it: I was smug. I could rise above such petty matters.

And that, I now realize, was privilege.

I've been paying more attention to issues of privilege lately. It could be because I've stumbled upon some really awesome blogs that talk about important social/cultural issues from perspectives I'm not used to. For example, I had never given much thought to naming and language issues in intercultural adoptions. And shamefully, I'd hardly noticed, much less thought much about, the ways in which mainstream society persistently "others" people with disabilities.

But now I'm noticing things that I do, and those around me do, with much greater frequency. Things like fetishize people of different ethnicities or heritages. There are some things I've long noticed but haven't been able to put a finger on... like the overwhelming dominance of male-ness in punk rock discourse and the persistent hate of "girl singers" -- of which I am quite guilty -- as if all girl singers have one single voice that can be hated on.

Looking back, I can see how easy it was for me not to care about weight when I didn't have any of the cultural repercussions of being outside the socially acceptable weight range. I had a flat stomach, clear skin and plenty of naievete. I didn't have to notice weight because it didn't affect me in any way. But I made no effort to try to understand the concerns of my friends who struggled with eating disorders and low self-esteem. Instead, I just thought they were hung up on something that they shouldn't be hung up on. And that line of reasoning sounds too damn familiar.

There are ways in which I am part of an oppressed minority. I am a woman, part of a class of people that are being systematically oppressed all over the world: laws (or social norms) dictating what we can/can't wear, normalization of domestic violence and rape, slut-shaming, denial of reproductive rights (no condoms for you!), undervalued work, etc. etc. I'm also a Hispanic American at a time when conservative talking heads have a love affair with portraying Latinos as criminals, perverts and dishonest sheisters who come here just to spit out anchor babies.

But I am also an oppressor. I have so much privilege it spills out of my mouth in the things that I say without my even realizing it. I come from a relatively well-off family. I'm college educated. I am light-skinned. I'm American. I am (temporarily) able-bodied. I'm young(ish). I'm straight. And yes, I'm still thin (ish). And that's what interests me more. How am I benefiting from the status quo? What do I stand to lose as people of color, people of other nations, people with disabilities, the poor, the working class, the queer claim a bigger space in the world? What do other stand to gain? How do we all stand to gain? I don't spend enough time listening to other voices on these issues. It's all well and good to think about it and talk about it with my like-minded friends. But thanks to some amazing blogs, I have been hearing from people I might never have heard from otherwise. And for that I'm grateful.

1 comment:

JD-Maybe said...

whoa that was a lot to think about. It's great that you are aware of your mindset and working on adjusting it. I'm not there yet, but I envy you.