Lighten Up

Photo Source unknown and found on several websites.  Please contact me if you know it's origin.

  I am not lacking in a sense of humor.  It, in fact, waxes very dark and satirical/sarcastic from time to time.  Recently, however, I have been in several discussions or privy to postings or articles that have slandered/subjugated/made comments at the expense of women or minorities- sometimes even on a national stage.  When I (or anyone else) commented about it or pointed out how sexist or racist it was, we were told to "Lighten up".  We were told that we "couldn't take a joke" or "didn't embrace his humor" or "that was satire. Don't you understand the whole point of satire?"  

Our social system is made up of a well established hierarchy constructed on privilege (for today we aren't even going to talk about the rape culture in this country.  We'll just stick to the privilege discussion).  This privilege can be based on sex or race or social status (wealth), but make no mistake, it is alive and well.  Those that are at the top of that hierarchy will either tell you that yes it's somewhat unfair, but not very much anymore.  Or they will tell you that things are all fair (why wouldn't they think it was fair?  Life is grand with opportunity.  We now have a black president, after all).  They will say that there is most certainly equality and that we have worked hard to abolish all of the inequalities that plagued us decades ago.  I, in all of my naivete, actually argued that ridiculous point about a decade ago.  I argued that of course the education system was fair and minorities received equal opportunities.  If I could talk to that self of mine a decade ago, I would have whispered in her ear to stop embarrassing herself about how little she knew about privilege and equal opportunity from her white middle class view of education.  Alas perspective is reality.

What is more disturbing for me is that we perpetuate all of this by remaining silent or worse yet, try to say that we have never benefited from any privilege.  Just an FYI that if you are white and think you haven't benefited from any privilege in your life, chances are you are the privileged.  I have been brought up in a society to believe that while there is indeed a glass ceiling, you need to use the gifts that you have at your disposal to make your way.  I have been told that we will never change this system and we might as well figure out how to navigate it.  I have been pretty successful at doing that.  I can maneuver a male dominated boys club with the best of them.  I am now sick and tired of doing that and I am going to go ahead and call shenanigans here.  I currently face the option of "Play by our rules or find a new game" and I am sitting in the middle of resenting the hell out of that.  The game is rigged. The cards are stacked.  The odds are fixed, friends.

There is a quote from Ashley Judd that has always struck a chord with me.  You may or may not be a fan of hers, it makes no difference.  The quote is right on the money in my book and can also include racism or class-ism very easily in our collective buy-in as oppressors.  

“Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges...the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.  We have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

I have helped create this reality for myself by remaining silent and playing the game as the rules currently stand.  I have consented to being considered second class in subtle and sophisticated ways and allowed others to be treated as second class because that was just "the way it is".   Decisions have been made for me, not by me (for something as basic as my reproductive rights) and I have sat by and watched so as not to upset the apple cart.  I am now finished with that.  I don't want to shrug my shoulders anymore and ask, "What are you gonna do?  It is what it is".

When someone is offended by remarks or comments made, you- the un-oppressed privileged- don't get to tell those being made fun of or oppressed to "Lighten Up".  You don't get to tell a group of women that are being reduced to a crotch shot under the hood of a car by an international company in a Facebook feed that they "can't take a joke" and that to point out the sexism associated with it that they are "being hysterical" and to "just calm down".  You don't get to say to the thousands of comments about calling a 9 year old girl a "cunt" in a Twitter feed that it's OK and we just "don't understand the satire" and to "pick our battles".  You don't get to bully a middle school girl into silence when she is trying to fight for equal rights for an LGBT community in her school because you are uncomfortable with it.  You don't get to make the rules and decisions for the rest of us because you are a white man.   I am now going to call you on it every chance I get.  I am going to make you uncomfortable.  I am going to add my voice to the millions calling for the sea change that is most certainly coming.  And one day I am going to be able to look at my niece and know that I don't need to feel relief because she is smart and pretty, I only need to feel relief because she is smart, fierce and independent.  She doesn't ever need to feel like it is hopeless and shouldn't speak up when she is invalidated and reduced because of her sex (or color) or afraid or ashamed or can't have a seat at the table because she has a uterus.  

I am indeed picking my battles. This is one I'm choosing to fight. 

"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."

Rebecca West

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  1. I hear ya! There is that inside voice when I hear something and it goes off. I call it the bull sh*! Meter....... Because my immediate inside voice says exactly that. At that point I can choose to walk away or call you on it. This depends on how far the meter has tipped and at what speed. Now that I approach 60 I almost never walk away unless I am really really tired. I don't have time to tip toe around anymore and you know I can't think of one time I regretted my actions.