Thursday, January 2, 2014


When it comes to discussing race, I always became uneasy in a classroom. Not because I am afraid of the topic or don't think it is irrelevant but because I always felt that I might offend someone. However, in a classroom discussion of Women's issues, rights or Feminist thought, I felt very comfortable and open about speaking from experiences or talking about my thoughts. I think it's because although I was in a class room of racial, economic and cultural backgrounds — we could all agree that women were oppressed. My relationship with Gender Studies and Feminist thought is one that is incredibly personal because see it everyday. I witness life through a women's lens. While I am educated and informed of race and ethnicity, my relationship is different because I experience life being white and having a privilege I don't even notice most days. 

I was first introduced to the topic of white privilege while in college taking a class called 'Race and Ethnic Relations', the professor created a comfortable and open atmosphere. Many topics were discussed but I did the majority of my learning by reading articles by authors such as Peggy McIntosh to Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins. If there is any sociology or gender studies readers, you know that those are very big names. These women and men introduced me to world of explaining how race, gender, and class meet and create a world of privilege. While I am an educated white female, I had no idea about my white privilege until I stepped outside of the classroom and articles. 

I would be lying if I told you I never saw race. I don't believe in being "color blind". Race and ethnicity does not define a person's character however I do believe we must celebrate cultural and racial differences instead of turning a blind eye. I can understand that many could consider that to be radical or not make sense, but I think political, cultural and racial differences is what provides us with a rich and vibrant society. The hardest part about my explaining my beliefs or thinking is how I don't see my skin color. I don't notice myself as being white. Does this make me ignorant after all of the reading and studying I have done on this topic? I bring this up because I never noticed my skin color until it was used against me in a very personal way.

While I have been seeing a black male for some time now, it recently came to my attention how much our race, culture and class has created a divide between us. While I have been trying to assimilate into his culture, I have learned that he has become insecure of our relationship because of these differences. A black, educated, athletic male doesn't believe he should be with me because he is an "embarrassment" based on where he is from, the color of his skin and his cultural background. Two things immediately popped into my head. Have I been living in a world where I don't even notice my own privilege while I parade around discussing women's issues? How do I go about comforting someone on race?

Suddenly there I was again, in front of a classroom having to discuss all those racial topics I always felt uncomfortable talking about. I neglected to look at my own position of power when racism is involved. I felt stupid, for lack of better words. The only explanation I had for him was that I had fallen for all the pieces of him. This included his race, economical position and all his little quirks that I didn't find to be quirky at all. I never wanted and still don't want him to believe he is any less of a man because we look different and we come from different backgrounds. My question I pose is, how do I go about accepting my whitness and yet comforting him in our differences?

I leave you with this from Peggy McIntosh

" my racial group was being make confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made confident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color.

For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex."

Monday, July 16, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

When I heard that my group of close friends was reading 50 Shades of Grey, I knew it was my time to join in on this discussion. When I first heard about the series of books, I downloaded the first book to my Kindle, as an option. It wasn't at the top of my summer reading list, but I knew the day would come that I would want to embark on the tale of Christian Grey and Anna Steele.

Now, before I add my commentary, I think it’s important to understand that although I would label my friends as feminist. None of them chose to use the label the way that I chose too. Most of them don’t vocalize the problems they have with gender norms or patriarchy the way that I seem too. And most of them have taken the “F-Word” out of their vocabulary, while I have chose to say it loud and proud. I am the feminist of the group. I am not shy to say it.

Before I started the book, I couldn’t help but think this was a great step in recognizing women’s sexuality. The book, which is known for its passionate and detailed sex scenes, is selling fast off of shelves; being downloaded on to kindles, and is creating hype in the media and for women. I mean, you would think in 2012, it would be more acceptable for women to talk more openly about their sex lives. However, after this Rush Limbaugh incident of 2012, I think it’s safe to say our society still labels women who speak openly about how sexually active they are. The response this book was receiving not only had me questioning how the media was going to portray why women wanted to read this book, but also made me hope maybe this was a step forward. “Memes” surfaced on my Facebook page discussing how this was a great year to be a woman because of the movie, “Magic Mike” and the growing following of 50 Shades of Gray. All of my hopes crash and burned once I started reading.

Maybe I went in with too much hope and anticipation. Maybe I am reading with a feminist lens. But as a woman, I keep cringing as I am reading this book. For anyone who plans on reading this series – you may want to skip this next paragraph or so. For those of you who have made it this far into my rant – I congratulate you and I have complied a list of what has been running through my head as I have been reading…

Okay a brief disclosure- (Is that what this is? What’s the right term for it?). I have to admit I enjoy a good sex scene as much as the next gal. I am not knocking the fantasy behind it, I just want to point out the problems I have with it.

1.     Fantasy books/ Erotica has long existed before 50 Shades of Grey. And guess what? They will exist long after 50 Shades of Grey. It is not news that women like when a book to takes them into a world they couldn’t imagine on there own or maybe have fantasized about before. It’s not news that women watch porn or read trashy sexy novels. Flip to the back of Cosmopolitan magazine every month, and say hello to a short erotica story.  So why is it the media is portraying us as a bunch of horny broads who cannot get enough of Christian Grey?
2.     Dude, isn’t this a form of prostitution? Do I have to be the one to say it aloud? I’ve read countless articles stating how we should be happy that this book is taking erotica to a new level and allowing women to be open about there sexual needs. DID YOU ALL FORGET THE PART WHERE HE IS PAYING FOR EVERYTHING? OR THE CONTRACT? Hello? She surrenders herself over to him and she’s being rewarded as long as she pleases him. How is that pleasure when it’s like a job? She receives an allowance for clothing, beauty products/supplies, a personal trainer, and for food. He also pays for travel, and houses her Friday thru Sunday. And all of this is stated in a contract.
3.     Women have been fighting patriarchy since the beginning of the women’s movement. How is it we are condoning the acts of being submissive to men? Isn’t this what our sisters fought for? I mean, I get it, there’s nothing like being seduced by a man like Christian Grey, expect there is. A guy that would allow acting how you would like in the bedroom, and wouldn’t be so abusive. How is yelling about her diet, her exercise regiment, and wardrobe attractive? And healthy? Aren’t these the signs we are looking for in abusive relationships? We have been fighting patriarchy and the dominant male culture for decades, why isn’t this issue being discussed in the magazine articles, newspapers, and talk shows? This book falls into a never-ending category of stories that are about a dominant male and a submissive female.

I think this idea of bringing women’s sexuality to the mainstream is beautiful. And it does show a step in the right direction. However, I think it could have been done differently. I think a better book could have been chosen, or this affordable health care act could have  showcased women’s sexuality differently. I just think it’s important as women reading these novels and discussing them with our girlfriends that we don’t get swept up in the fantasy and forget about the respect we deserve and the problems we face as woman in the 21st century.

*** The one great aspect of the book I forgot to mention is Mr. Grey stops to wear protection and asks for Ms. Steele to be placed on the pill.  Save sex is great sex!