Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recognizing Our Privilege.

image via.
I recent started reading Sarah Bessey's blog (she's the author of "Jesus Feminist" a book I'm currently in transit with), and in one of her more recent posts she discussed a movement of years past, where many christian women were signing petitions stating that they would not let their children see them working on their computers, because of the apparent negative impact that it would have on their children. Sarah refutes this argument in a variety of forms but I found one thing especially interesting in her post. Sarah said: 
I'll also gently point out right here the privilege inherent in the idea 
that we can choose whether or not our children see us work. 
This concept is so interesting to me because I think it is such a symptom of how many typically white, middle-class, often suburban, women (and all humans really) interact with each other. Now admit that I am generalizing here, but I find it so interesting that said women, can so easily look at those who are clearly different than them, who clearly have needs that are not being met (starving women and children in Africa, to use a common yet very real trope) and empathize with them. We (us suburban, white, possibly Jesus loving women) can see the needs of those who are starkly different than us and we go on mission trips, we donate during lent and we help them start their own businesses because we can see that we have more than they do and we have been culturally trained to act in a colonial helper manner ( I am intentionally using an us/them trope here). Yet when it comes to the working women who may be our neighbors, our classmates, even our friends, our vision of our own privilege is not so clear.  In a society of such stark haves and have nots I think we often forget how easy it is to pretend or to burn our way into debt in order to keep up with appearances. There are so many things about our culture that we need to unpack and take apart in this situation--the standard of appearances for example, or perhaps not even that we cannot see the privilege in never having our children see us work but also perhaps that some women may indeed enjoy their work, do it of their own free will and even want to share that with their children. 

I digress... going back to this idea of privilege that I found so striking in Sarah Bessey's post. I think that those in need in our own communities often go unseen and unnoticed (this can indeed be for the best in many situations), as an eighth grader you may not know that your locker mate is on free or reduced lunch for example, or that their Christmas gifts came from the church's food shelf. What I am trying to pull out of this discussion is an awareness. Poverty and privilege take form in a variety of ways and it seems that we all forget this. As a friend who I had lunch with this week reminded me, I can go back to the campus of my beloved alma mater and feel like I am totally poor, not nearly in the same place financially as my former classmates, then I could drive a few miles northeast to the local middle school and look around--giving me an opportunity to realize how much I truly have. Let me sum up, because I suspect that I've been rambling, where I really wanted to go with this post is to create a functional reminder. A sort of  "check yourself before you wreck yourself" moment of recognizing our own privilege, both in large and small ways, everyday. I'm not nearly perfect at remembering to do this everyday, and I don't pretend to know what it might look like in your life, but I think it is an important task that we each do, everyday--remembering what we have and being thankful for it, while not judging the choices others may make, or crafting some kind of over arching golden rule of how every one or every woman or every parent should act--remembering that we do not know their situation, remembering our own privileges.