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The oppression of privilege 
24th-Apr-2009 04:41 pm

This video, produced by the intelligence behind the Waking Up blog, is a great factual rebuttal of the kinds of stories being put about by NOM and the tactics being used there. It was linked to by Slacktivist  in his fantastic post The Burkha-logic of NOM (and for bringing that to my attention, H/T to Andrew Hickey).

This points to the key confusion of the persecuted hegemons. They are unable to distinguish between challenges to their hegemony -- to their privilege -- and threats to their faith itself. This is a spiritually perilous confusion, particularly so for Christians who claim to follow a crucified outcast.

The word I'm stretching for here, Stanley Hauerwas would say, is "constantinianism" -- the inversion and perversion of Christianity that occurred when a religion of slaves and women and the poor became a religion of emperors and empires. Constantinian faith requires and assumes the establishment of an official, privileged religion. It comes to believe, in the language of the First Amendment, that its own free exercise depends on such an establishment -- that its free exercise is incompatible with the free exercise of any other religion (or of no religion at all).

We've illustrated this before with the religious practice of wearing burkhas -- or, more accurately, the religious practice of requiring the women one controls to wear burkhas. That practice is intrinsically hegemonic, intrinsically constantinian. It cannot be left as a matter of individual freedom or conscience. It's not sufficient for those who believe in that practice for only the women of their household or congregation or sect to be clad in burkhas. That still leaves open the possibility that one might be exposed to the immodest displays of the wrists and ankles of other women in the market or the public square. The logic of the burkha requires that all women -- every woman that every man might see -- is fully sheathed so as not to assault the eyes of the faithful.

One of the reasons that this explanation (I wanted to put explanation into quotes, but I'm not exactly sure why) of the opposition to equal marriage is so convincing to me that I see it happening everytime I have a discussion which involves challenging the privilege of one of the parties in the discussion.

There are a few pressure groups that focus on the rights of an already privileged groups: some more obviously problematic than others; the BNP, for example, won't stay out of the news and has a large number of supporters who are all keen to claim they're not racist, they just want to protect the 'rights' of native Britons, and by 'native', they mean 'white'. Men's rights groups sometimes have a not about the unfair treatment of fathers, but they do so love to add in how oppressive it is not to allow them to dictate what a woman does with her body. "Radical feminists" are particularly galling to me when they demand the right to exclude transpeople as part of the struggle for gender equality, something I view as intensely hypocritical.

Beyond these groups, though, is a underlying feeling of entitlement that comes with privilege, and I'm going to be upfront and admit I've been like this in the past; I've asked myself "well, what about me, and my right to..." [insert abuse of white/cisgender/class/able bodied privilege here]. It's only recently I've really begun to answer myself "well, what about you? Get over yourself."

What I'm talking about comes in layers of subtlety, and I've actually decided not to go into all the examples, for worry about too much discussion about "actually that's not the same!", and also I'm very tired today. All I wanted to say, what I took from the Slacktivist post is that if you're in a position of privilege and oppression, it's easy to confuse threats to that privilege with threats to your rights, and really we should stop that.
 - This really was going to be a longer post, but I'm very tired and science has happened today.

P.S. The comments to the Slacktivist post were derailed in a good way, into conversation about the outlawing of burquas in French public schools, which is also worth a read.
24th-Apr-2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
Slacktivist is my fave, yo. :D

Or, Fred. Or whatever I'm supposed to call him.
28th-Apr-2009 06:03 am (UTC)
NOM actually refers to itself as a Rainbow Coalition?? Seriously, that might just replace the textbook definition of "mixed signals".

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