Steinem Saturday

 “Instead of making a comparison between two discriminated-against groups, try putting the powerful in the place of the powerless. It’s a great reality check. Take language, for instance. Many women feel invisible or aberrant when they are subsumed under a masculine term that is supposed to be universal; yet they are often made to feel trivial and nit-picking if they object. But look at it this way: Would a man feel included in “womankind”? Would he refer to himself as “chairwoman,” “Congresswoman,” or “Mr. Mary Smith”? If a male student earned a “Spinster of Arts” degree, a “Mistress of Science,” or had to apply for a “Sistership,” would he feel equal in academia? If men had grown up seeing god portrayed only as a Mother and She, would they feel an equal godliness within themselves?

The same linguistic concerns hold true for race and religion. If titles like “novelist” and “engineer” were perceived as black unless otherwise stated – if “white novelist” or “white engineer” were necessary qualifiers – would whites feel equal ownership of those professions? If political issues put forward by white male citizens were called “special interest” and those of women and people of color who are the majority were the mainstream, who would feel themselves marginalized? If white people were defined in the negative as “non-black,” or Christians were defined as “non-Jews,” who would see themselves as the norm of society?”

~ excerpt from “Relearning,” in Revolution from Within

  One thought on “Steinem Saturday

  1. January 31, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Timely… I had my eyes cranked open (again) this week after an interview process in which I was pretty clearly eliminated for reasons of age discrimination. Not for hostile or hateful reasons. Just… passive, inertial, presumptuous reasons about what an old white guy would do to the millennial culture of pierced, tattooed, rolled-up pantleg twenty-somethings. All the coded questions about how someone with my “deep background” would adapt to this environment. How it was important to hire people that “protected the culture” when I suggested that true diversity wasn’t finding a gay Latino who has the same tattoo artist and skinny jeans that you do. It was finding people who genuinely thought, believed, and spoke differently from a variety of backgrounds. Even as it was happening, I was thinking “wow, the shoe’s on the other foot here…” and drawing parallels to the French Revolution. As young people have won the economic lottery in this era, they’ve also found themselves put in positions of power and the opportunity to be agents of change. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen thus far is that the lack of experience of life has led to a simplistic worldview that says “equality” and “diversity” are defined as just a different group seizing power and controlling the gates rather than removing the barricades for everyone. Sometimes, it takes turning the tables to really see how the commonly accepted is that way because it takes the perspective of the status quo.

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