Monday, March 08, 2010

I love the smell of privilege in the morning

In a work discussion about shaking hands with customers, a co-worker of mine (lets call him "Duke") complained about respecting cultures that frown on touching. There was also a bit of flailing about "sue-happy" people and "OMG, I might get accused of sexual harassment and that would be the worstest-worst thing that could ever happen to meeeeeee! Whatever would I doooooooooo!" "Why don't they respect MY culture!" blah blah blah...oppressions of white cis US males...blah blah blah..."oversensitive women"...blah blah.."respect mah authoritah"...blah..."and by authoritah I mean my white cis penis." blah.

My favorite definition of "oppression" is the one that ACTUALLY means "I'm not the center of the universe?! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! NO FAIR!

Your culture is DOM-I-NANT, asshole. And that is a global dominance, for the record. Thanks to advertising, globalization, colonialism and imperialism, the entire world is aware of your culture. It is so pervasive that you don't even have to be aware that you have one in the first place. You can blithely assume that your culture is globally understood as "just how it is." You can even ignore the the ways in which your concept of "American" culture excludes anyone in America who isn't EXACTLY LIKE YOU, and it would be no skin of your nose.

Also, beyond cultural differences, some people just don't like being touched. In my experience, they are people who tend to have bodies that are constructed in your precious white, het, cis male-dominated culture as public property by virtue of not being white, and/or het and/or cis and/or male. Ever been groped in public, Duke? Ever had unwanted touching of your genitals? Ever been threatened with physical violence for resisting? Ever been attacked violently for not meeting expected standards of what your body "should" be? Ever been told that violations of your body, be they groping, rape, assault and/or attempted/completed murder were justified because of your precious...fucking...culture?


Yeah, didn't think so.

You know what is also no skin off your nose? Not being an asshole. Its amazing how much time you'll save! You could take a poetry class!
Or you could use that time to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and try to gain a little bit of awareness of how those of us not like you experience your culture.

Now Duke (and anyone like you who might read this,) you may be at this point, "Its just a handshake! Jeez! Its a sign of respect, and its not like I force it on anyone!" While it is likely true that you actually believe this, your argument that respecting someone else's boundaries is oppressive to you necessitates you forcing it on someone. Yes, it is just a handshake to you.

It isn't the handshake that is the problem.

Its your attitude, your entitlement and your arrogant blindness.

That is the point, and the problem.


  1. Nicely put, Dori, thank you.
    I linked to your article on Twitter, I hope you don't mind.

  2. I recently had a conversation with someone who said she favored racial profiling because she wants to be able to put her sun-tan lotion in her carry-on luggage. I mean what's a little treating non-white people like criminals and strip-searching them because of skin-color if it means people like her can keep their pasty white skin from burning without having to check luggage?

    I have no doubt she and Duke would make a lovely couple.

  3. @Skreee Sure thing. Thanks for the linkage!

    @Jay I love how her idea completely glosses over the terrorism that white dudes in the US are responsible for. Tim McVeigh was a white USian dude IIRC

  4. Anonymous7:44 PM

    @Jay it's like, my god, she wants to oppress people of color so she doesn't have to pay the extra dollar to buy the same fucking suntan lotion in the gift shop when she gets to her destination? Priorities, people.