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How Privilege Works

January 1, 2010

Some women seem to be under rather weighty delusions when it comes to privilege.  I’ve referred recently to a raging Aussie racist who goes around promoting “mother-right,” and it seems she’s up to it again.  Here’s rainsinger whining about mothers not being the center of attention:

as a mother I often feel out-of-place with other lesbians who are mostly child-free who have some bigoted ideas about mothers-as-a-class.

Now, she brings this up as if it is analogous to black women’s complaints about white women’s racism – because she actually believes in her mind somehow that mothers are oppressed by women who have no children!  And then she further demonstrates her racist-misogynist attitude toward black women by insinuating that because she doesn’t put up a big fight about mothering in lesbian groups that black women shouldn’t say anything about their oppression by white women in so-called feminist groups.

Now, first of all, mothers, especially mothers of sons, are *privileged* over women who have no children, and it is therefore ridiculous in the extreme to refer to child-free women’s objections to their own oppression as “bigoted.”  It follows, then, that this notion that mothers stand in relation to women, especially lesbians, who don’t have children in the same way that black women stand in relation to white women is just absurd. The very fact that male society promotes motherhood as the ideal status for women should suffice to prove that mothers are privileged among women; they are valued over women who do not have children and are rewarded accordingly, at the expense of child-free women, regardless of whether or not motherhood also incurs hardships.  Motherhood is as ideal an aspiration for female people in the white-male dominated hegemony as whiteness is,  and all such women take an air of superiority over women who fail, or refuse, to meet these male standards.

So, if she actually does sit back without rebuttal or hostility when confronted with lesbians’ reactions to their own oppression by mothers, then she’s only doing what’s right.  But to expect that black women will behave as if they are in a privileged position over white women, the way that mothers are over women without children, is, of course, racist-sexism.  This doesn’t surprise me, mind you; I’ve certainly seen it before, from her in particular and from white women in general.  I’m simply describing what I see.

7 Comments
  1. berryblade permalink
    January 2, 2010 3:32 am

    “as a mother I often feel out-of-place with other lesbians who are mostly child-free who have some bigoted ideas about mothers-as-a-class.”

    One can not express just how much this statement disappoints me.

  2. January 2, 2010 2:36 pm

    I feel like this is a common tactic of all oppressors – to claim that they are the oppressed. Men do it to women, claiming that women get ‘special treatment’ and other such nonsense. White women do it to black women, claiming that they’re ‘bullies’ or whatever other racist tropes. Rad fem hetero’s do it to lesbians, claiming that lesbians are ‘lucky’ to never deal in sexual relationships with men. Thin women do it to fat women, saying ‘oh, you don’t have to worry about that sort of thing’ (meaning, looking attractive/femininity). Transwomen do it to fab women, saying we’re privileged to be female. There’s probably hundreds of examples across all arenas of privilege/oppression.

    It’s a powerful tactic, because it plays on our sympathy and plays on calling up our own feelings from situations where we are oppressed, and asks us to empathise, in a way that we would like to be empathised with. That’s a bit twisted. I think women can be quite vulnerable to this.

  3. January 2, 2010 6:41 pm

    It is a very common tactic, TBL. As for this one in particular, some would say it is especially heterosexual women who are susceptible to mothers’ cries of oppression by other women. I think this is why, or at least partly why, she chose to specify that it is supposedly lesbians who are “oppressing” her, although there are certainly het women who also express their dissatisfaction at the privilege mothers gain at the expense of child-free women. By singling out lesbians, though, she stood a chance of rallying the support of lesbian-hating straight women without children, who often make a similar baseless claim of “oppression” by lesbians, as you noted.

  4. Valerie M permalink
    January 2, 2010 9:04 pm

    Yes – here is a perfect example from the comment thread of the latest post at another blog:

    Let’s not have a lot of hetero-phobia going on here. It’s bad enough that heterosexual females have such an incredibly narrow field of acceptable males from which to choose to have a relationship without being told if we do, we’re immoral.

    Hetero-phobia! Hahaha!

  5. berryblade permalink
    January 3, 2010 4:30 am

    @ValerieM

    Yeah the word “heterophobia” is laughable. My dad likes to use it sometimes when he claims that white male heterosexuals are the most discriminated group. *eye roll*

  6. January 4, 2010 5:45 am

    Whenever you point out that het women have the exact same options under male supremacy as lesbians do (not to fuck men, not to get pregnant, not to deck themselves out in feminine drag, etc.), het women start crying “heterophobia.”

    In a similar vein, we once had a conversation here about black women straightening their hair, and it was put forth that white women have the option not to dye their hair blond(er), put serums and conditioners in it, and flat-iron it out to a glossy shine, too – that it’s not just black women who ought not chase white men’s ideal – and a woman actually complained that this was anti-blonde women or something. I mean, did we actually expect her to walk around with mousy brown hair for the cause?

    All you can do is shake your head, really.

  7. January 4, 2010 6:36 pm

    “Whenever you point out that het women have the exact same options under male supremacy as lesbians do (not to fuck men, not to get pregnant, not to deck themselves out in feminine drag, etc.), het women start crying “heterophobia.”

    This is a bunch of BULLSHIT and it NEEDS to stop. Hetero women are the ones with the damn privilege, not lesbian women. The only lesbian women who are praised as lesbians are the ones who encourage male fetishism of lesbianism, and yeah there are some out there. But any woman, whether she calls herself a lesbian or NOT, who has sex with a man is in deed a hetero point blank. There is no damn heterophobia and alleged radfems who adopt the language of men to further oppress lesbian women. It’s disgusting. Hetero women are rewarded for compliance with heteronormativity and patriarchy. Call it like it is.

    “…a woman actually complained that this was anti-blonde women or something. I mean, did we actually expect her to walk around with mousy brown hair for the cause?”

    Utter and complete horseshit! WTF is wrong with people? Oh I know, bad Margie! Bad, bad brutish black woman thinking she has the right to tell women the truth about their foolery. Bad!

    Here is what I know, straightening your hair, coloring it to fit with white male enforced ideals, having cosmetic surgery to make yourself sexually appealing to males, etc is compliance with patriarchy and nothing less. It’s not heterophobia, it’s not anti-blond sentiment, it’s straight up truth.

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