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Posts Tagged ‘Privilege’

This past Thursday people in the U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving, that holiday where you stuff yourself silly while sitting with your family and friends, watch a football game while shouting at the TV, and pass out on the sofa at 4 in the afternoon in a turkey-induced coma.

At least, if you’re lucky, you get to do those things. If you’re privileged enough to have enough money to throw an expensive banquet, or have relatives who do have money. I’m lucky enough to have an overabundance of family wanting to throw Thanksgiving feasts. I usually go to three or four every year, between in-laws and divorced parents. This year, I barely managed lunch down the hall at my mom’s thanks to a particularly horrendous stomach bug. It was probably the first Thanksgiving where I lost five pounds instead of gaining it.

But lying in bed with stomach cramps gives you lots of time to think, partly about what I could have possibly eaten in the past ten years that could make me feel this bad. I also thought a lot about what I’m thankful for every day, and what I take for granted because of my skin color or my age or my physical ability.

I’m grateful to be able to afford my bills at the moment, something I’ve been struggling with pretty much since I turned 18. I’m grateful for the help of my friends and especially my family, who’ve managed to keep us from living on someone’s sofa through sheer force of will sometimes. I’m grateful for my healthy, intelligent, beautiful son, who amazes me every day just by existing. Then he wakes up and it’s even more awesome. I’m grateful for my own health, physical and mental, especially after the help I’ve received on the mental health front this year.

I’m grateful for the understanding of my family, but especially my husband, who has been through so much with me this year, including that mental health crisis and me finally coming out as a lesbian. He’s my best friend.

Some things I take for granted.

I take for granted being able to pass as straight, for one thing. It’s a hell of a lot easier for me, especially because I’m currently married to a man, to pass. I don’t even have to think about it, 95% of the time. I take for granted being seen as intelligent, because I’m white and dress well and had access to the best high school in my city because of where my mother could afford to live. I take for granted being seen as a responsible mother because I’m white and good looking.

I take for granted being able to get out of bed in the morning without assistance because I’m able-bodied. I take for granted being able to ask for and get assistance from my government in times of need because I’m white and a legal citizen and able to vote. I take for granted being able to vote. I take for granted being able to read because I had access to a free education. I take for granted having access to free books through my library system. I take for granted feeling safe walking down the street. I take for granted the ability to say how and who and when someone else has access to my body.

There are a million things a day that I don’t even think about, that other people have to strive and fight for every day. I can’t even begin to name them all. I can only try to even things out as best I can, by talking about those issues, by supporting others in my community, and by acknowledging my privilege.

I’m thankful for so much in my life, but probably not for enough of it. What have you learned to be grateful for? What have you taken for granted recently?

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Where to begin.

Eat, Pray, Love is an autobiographical account of Liz Gilbert’s one-year journey to find herself, god, and balance. After suffering an excruciating divorce and a spectacularly failed rebound relationship, she goes on a year long trip around the world to Italy, India, and Indonesia to basically reboot. Spending four months in each place, the book tells the story of the healing, enjoyment, and of course, food, that she experiences.

And I could care less. The author is just so boo-hoo pathetic, it made my skin itch. I got tired of hearing about her breakdowns and crying jags about 15 pages in. I have absolutely every sympathy for people who suffer from depression, but very little for those who suffer from, oh, pity poor me. I was also slightly bothered by the notebook she writes in, where she talks to herself, and claims it is god writing back.

I am not a religious person. I wouldn’t even say I’m spiritual. Down to Earth, practical, academic, these are the terms that come to mind when I try to picture a religion for myself. Perhaps that’s part of the problem I had with this book. The word “pray” is in the title, and pray she does. She cries to god, she moans to god, she throws herself on a few bathroom floors for god. And I feel that it is somehow insincere, that she is in love with the idea of “God” rather than really religious. She loves having a Guru, she loves feeling devout and closeting herself in an Ashram in India for four months, she loves being able to say she meditates every morning and every evening. She is in love with faith. I was so tired of hearing about Liz Gilbert by the end of the book, and reading the blurb at the back about her “new book coming in 2009 about her unexpected second marriage” made me want to gag.

It must be nice for her, to be able to drop her old life and responsibilities and go out and find whatever it is she thinks she needs. I’d personally love to globe-trot, myself, but I don’t have the time or the money or the round-the-clock childcare it would take for me to do that. I sometimes feel that she is saying, to be balanced and whole as a person, you should be able to travel to Italy, India, Indonesia, and wherever the hell else you want if the mood strikes. It’s very classist, in my opinion, and also seems extremely privileged. Many of the people she meets and writes about are similarly white and upper-class, not to mention very well-educated. I feel like, if she hadn’t been blond, thin, white, and beautiful, she wouldn’t have been able to take this trip and write this whiny book.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed reading about the people she met. I do feel that many of her encounters may have been embellished or added through “artistic license” but they were still interesting characters. I cared more for reading about the people around her then I did for reading about Liz Gilbert, the main character. If only she would write about other people besides herself all the time I would love her. But as it is, I will not be picking up her second book.

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All I can think when I watch this, is that I wish someone like her had been there for me at my birth.

A Doula Story

Produced by Danny Alpert

A Doula Story documents one African American woman’s fierce commitment to empower pregnant teenagers with the skills and knowledge they need to become confident, nurturing mothers. Produced by The Kindling Group, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, this powerful film follows Loretha Weisinger back to the same disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood where she once struggled as a teen mom. Loretha uses patience, compassion and humor to teach “her girls” about everything from the importance of breastfeeding and reading to their babies, to communicating effectively with health care professionals.

Most people wouldn’t consider these girls lucky. Their situations are dire, they’re caught in a cycle of poverty and teenage motherhood and ignorance. They have terrible home lives, the boys that got them pregnant have run for the hills in most cases, and they are well on their way to falling between the cracks and raising children in the same poverty and ignorance they grew up in.

Loretha is trying to change that. I was incredibly touched by this documentary, because but for a couple of years, I would have been a girl very similar to them. I was only twenty when my son was born, and I had barely a clue as to what I was doing. I know that if I had the support those girls have, I probably wouldn’t have had a c-section. We would have been much closer to a successful breastfeeding relationship.

I’m not envious of them, because I am blessed with so much more privilege and at least low-middle-classdom, and I have a husband who loves me and has been there for me in everything I’ve done, but I am looking at doulas in a whole new way now. Stillmog, while a loving person, had less of a clue than I did about birth, babies and all that comes with those. We have acknowledged that he could have done more and so could I, and we are focused on educating ourselves for the next hypothetical birth. But there is a secret niggling part of me that is afraid he won’t be enough support for what I need.

I always thought doulas where superfluous in many cases, kind of an extra expense just to be able to say, “I had a homebirth with my midwife and a doula. See how progressive and freespirited I am?” But now I’m reconsidering. I have met a few really nice doulas, but neither of them seem to be a good fit. It might be a good idea to look around and consider my options. It would be nice to have someone like Loretha Weisinger helping me out.

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