Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today
Posted on October 18, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi 495 Comments
Today I don’t have to think about those who hear “terrorist” when I speak my faith.
Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no.
Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in.
Today I don’t have to think about how I’m going to hail a cab past midnight.
Today I don’t have to think about whether store security is tailing me.
Today I don’t have to think about the look on the face of the person about to sit next to me on a plane.
Today I don’t have to think about eyes going to my chest first.
Today I don’t have to think about what people might think if they knew the medicines I took.
Today I don’t have to think about getting kicked out of a mall when I kiss my beloved hello.
Today I don’t have to think about if it’s safe to hold my beloved’s hand.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being pulled over for anything other than speeding.
Today I don’t have to think about being classified as one of “those people.”
Today I don’t have to think about making less than someone else for the same job at the same place.
Today I don’t have to think about the people who stare, or the people who pretend I don’t exist.
Today I don’t have to think about managing pain that never goes away.
Today I don’t have to think about whether a stranger’s opinion of me would change if I showed them a picture of who I love.
Today I don’t have to think about the chance a store salesmen will ignore me to help someone else.
Today I don’t have to think about the people who’d consider torching my house of prayer a patriotic act.
Today I don’t have to think about a pharmacist telling me his conscience keeps him from filling my prescription.
Today I don’t have to think about being asked if I’m bleeding when I’m just having a bad day.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the one drug that lets me live my life will be taken off the market.
Today I don’t have to think about the odds of getting jumped at the bar I like to go to.
Today I don’t have to think about “vote fraud” theater showing up at my poll station.
Today I don’t have to think about turning on the news to see people planning to burn my holy book.
Today I don’t have to think about others demanding I apologize for hateful people who have nothing to do with me.
Today I don’t have to think about my child being seen as a detriment to my career.
Today I don’t have to think about the irony of people thinking I’m lucky because I can park close to the door.
Today I don’t have to think about memories of being bullied in high school.
Today I don’t have to think about being told to relax, it was just a joke.
Today I don’t have to think about whether someone thinks I’m in this country illegally.
Today I don’t have to think about those who believe that freedom of religion ends with mine.
Today I don’t have to think about how a half-starved 23-year-old being a cultural ideal affects my life.
Today I don’t have to think about how much my life is circumscribed by my body.
Today I don’t have to think about people wanting me cured of loving who I love.
Today I don’t have to think about those who view me an unfit parent because of who I love.
Today I don’t have to think about being told my kind don’t assimilate.
Today I don’t have to think about people blind to the intolerance of their belief lecturing me about my own.
Today I don’t have to think about my body as a political football.
Today I don’t have to think about how much my own needs wear on those I love.
Today I don’t have to think about explaining to others “what happened to me.”
Today I don’t have to think about politicians saying bigoted things about me to win votes.
Today I don’t have to think about those worried that one day people like me will be the majority.
Today I don’t have to think about someone using the name of my religion as a slur.
Today I don’t have to think about so many of the words for me controlling my own life being negatives.
Today I don’t have to think about still not being equal.
Today I don’t have to think about what it takes to keep going.
Today I don’t have to think about how much I still have to hide.
Today I don’t have to think about how much prejudice keeps hold.
Today I don’t have to think about how I’m meant to be grateful that people tolerate my kind.
Today I don’t have to think about all the things I don’t have to think about.
But today I will.
Wow, Just how many ways can people discriminate? It’s awful, the battle for equality goes on every day, I hope one day we can get there.
now how am I going to keep the tears out of my eyes tonight!
Thanks for the beautiful words.
Thank you. You really get it.
Today I don’t have to worry about people judging the groceries I buy because I get them with food stamps.
Today I don’t have to wonder if the guy walking behind me is just going home or planning to attack me.
Today I don’t have to explain to my kids why nobody on TV looks like us or lives like us.
I meant to make this a first post, but then was distracted by the dog, so now it’s down the comment thread a few. Nevertheless, some quick notes on potential rebuttal comments, which you should read.
Finding fault with this list generally or in its particulars is of course fine, and if you do, feel free to leave a comment. That said:
1. I realize the temptation for some folks to make sarcastic “Today I don’t have to think about” parodies in the comment thread, but ask yourself if you’re really clever enough to pull it off, because I will and you may not like my answer;
2. Doing a point-by-point rebuttal of some large percentage of the entry (or all of it) is likely to be a) clueless in a tiresome way, b) too long to read in any event;
3. This is a personal list of things I don’t have to think about; your own list may be different.
Otherwise, keep comments polite to other commenters; the Mallet of Loving Correction may tap you if you do not.
Today I don’t have to think about whether someone believes my illness is real
Today I don’t have to think about whether someone believes my illness deserves treatment
Today I don’t have to think about others scorning my favourite things
Today I don’t have to think about being told I can’t do something that I know I can, or shouldn’t do something that i want to do
(Well I do, you don’t)
That’s me, female with mental illness. Each time I read this list something else applies to me, my family or my friends. It’s sad that these people outnumber the people who really don’t have to think about any of it.
THANK YOU. You have no idea how good it is to read this.
Today I don’t have to think about people saying that the Constitution shouldn’t apply to me.
There are days that you post, I think to myself if I didn’t love my husband so much, I take on Krissy for you :) She’d beat me down, but I’d try.
Spot on. The essence of privilege isn’t wearing a top hat and cackling yar har har while lighting expensive cigars with $100 bills. The essence of privilege is not having to worry about the crap that the unprivileged do.
Kinda makes you think, huh?
-Barb in Austin
@ #10 Patrick: Amen. And thanks, Mr. Scalzi, for this.
Today, I do have to think how to spread this message far and wide. It is a good day for this. Every day is a good day for this.
Thank you, so very very much.
I can’t remember where I saw it (probably Slate) but it reminds me of an essay noting that between the lousy economy and the dispiriting electoral politics this is probably one of the most demoralizing years ever; and that’s with no great personal burdens to dwell upon.
John @5: I meant to make this a first post, but then was distracted by the dog, so now it’s down the comment thread a few.
Today you have to think about your new dog Daisy, and what a great source of unconditional love she is and will be.
I was just coming here to mention how amazing I thought this post was, when I did something I always try to avoid doing: read the comments. (You know how that usually ends up.)
Between your original post and your ‘cutting them off at the pass’ comment above- if it wouldn’t wake the entire house, I’d be applauding loudly.
Then, I read Musereader’s comment and wanted to cry. That is one area of privilege most people leave out.
Thanks. And how great to have a comment stream that is not hurtful after such a great and thought provoking post.
I followed a random twitter link to find my way here, and so had no idea whose writing I was cheering on out loud as I read this blog entry. I cheered even louder when I read your comment underneath. As an advocate for many of the groups that you spoke of above, you can bet that I will be sharing this link with many people, but that’s not the reason that I’m posting this comment here.
I’m quite used to, in this internet age of TMI, stumbling across unfortunate discoveries about the personal lives, politics, or philosophies of writers, musicians or actors that–justifiably or not– diminish my enjoyment of their work.
Imagine my pleasant surprise to discover that this piece that brightened my morning turned out to be written by one of my favourite authors, allowing me to root happily not only for the books he writes, but for the author himself. What a delightful, unexpected first read of the morning.
Thank you for making my day,
Thank you John and PNH.
Bravo. This is something that ought to go viral and, alas, probably won’t. I did have to think for a moment about what you meant with “Today I don’t have to think about being asked if I’m bleeding when I’m just having a bad day.”
And for those still contemplating an attempt at cleverness as mentioned in John’s point 1, remember something else Mr. Scalzi pointed out to the world a few months ago: The failure state of clever is asshole.
@DemetriosX, I still don’t know what that one means.
“Today I don’t have to think about a pharmacist telling me his conscience keeps him from filling my prescription.” That hasn’t happened to me personally yet, but it easily could as it has happened to others taking the same thing as me despite me taking the medicine for pain and not contraception.
Reading several of them I realise they can apply more than one way to more than one group like this one “Today I don’t have to think about how much my life is circumscribed by my body.”
One I would add:
“Today I don’t have to think about how I would survive if my job were outsourced.”
@ Patrick Nielsen Hayden: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’m a Colorado resident… so I’ve unfortunately had to think a lot lately about how my body is a political football. Thanks, Amendment 62.
What a fantastic piece to read first thing this morning. I wish being able to see the ways in which others are discriminated against were more common. I’m going to spread this around to some folks whose eyes need opening.
@DemetriosX, @Musereader, I read that as, John doesn’t have to think about people assuming he’s on his period anytime he’s grouchy.
Today, I don’t have to think about people acting like I don’t speak English.
Today I don’t have to think about people demanding that I do.
Today, I don’t have to think about people wanting my assurance that they’re not racist.
Today I don’t have to think about people using my disability as a euphemism for ignorance.
Today I don’t have to think about people trying to “cure” the way I see the world.
Today I don’t have to think about whether people will take my word for it when I tell them I need a seat on the train.
Thank you. Your words touched me deeply.
Just a small technical note for commenters:
If your comment is just the words “good post” or something else similarly complimentary and brief, there’s a chance it’ll be automatically marked as spam — because spammers like to leave “good post!” comments, along with a spammy URL.
If that happens, don’t panic — I’ll come along and free the comment at some point. But I do want to be sure you know why that comment might not immediately appear.
Y’know, I didn’t really see the dramatic potential (does that wording make sense?) of repetition until I read this site.
VT @27: For no particular reason I was thinking about the difference between sympathy and empathy yesterday. Sympathy can be good, but empathy is more meaningful.
And both seem to be sorely lacking these days.
This is right up there with “Being Poor”.
Thank you so much for this.
I heartily support this post, although I’m curious – did something specific happen to bring this on or is this a general rant at the current silly season / election?
John Scalzi @31: Which explains why my response to VT @27 should have been @28…
Wow. Not just a most excellent post, but four hours in, a string of comments that add to the rockitude. I don’t know how active the Mallet of Loving Correction has been, but I’d like to think “not much”.. and if so? It gives me hope for the world.
I agree. This needs to go viral. Time to help.
There was no proximate cause. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
No Malleting yet. However, it’s also 10am on the first day the piece is out. My own experience is that the mallet-worthy comments will come later, after a piece like this has time to filter out a bit on the Net. Regular commenters here are generally polite even when they disagree with a post, and the first several comments on any post tend to be positive ones. We’ll likely see more contentious postings the longer the thread gets. It’s the nature of these things.
Today I don’t have to think about people boycotting a major food-producing company because it is making a line of canned soups that meet my religion’s dietary restrictions.
@Annalee, 29 – probably shoud have got that one then, my brother does that to me all the time.
@Rachael, what’s amenment 62?
The way I said that seems off somehow. What I was trying to say was that I really liked this essay (is it an essay?) that you wrote, and I like the way you use repetition to… (what’s the word?) increase the emotion (that makes no sense).
I understand what you’re saying, Matt. Thank you.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the restaurant will serve food I can eat.
Today I don’t have to think about people referring to the food that I can’t eat as “real” to distinguish it from the food I can.
After seeing several things that apply to me, the one that finally burst the dam holding back the tears was “Today I don’t have to think about the irony of people thinking I’m lucky because I can park close to the door.”
Seriously – perfectly nice, ordinary people have used the term “rock star parking” in my presence. I always say “I’ll give you my condition, then you can have my parking!” They seem to think it’s part of the joke and give a chuckling “No thanks!”
Marc @43: I hear you, man. I don’t know what your dietary restrictions are, but I’m vegetarian, and good lord I hate trying to explain to people, no, beef broth in the soup/hambone in the greens/fried in lard means it’s not vegetarian. (I live in the south, where vegetables often aren’t vegetarian.)
John, thank you for this post, and thank you for Getting It.
This is really about empathy, a faculty that a few people I know personally not only lack but quite literally don’t even understand. I recently read a rant on Facebook about the public reaction to the Chilean miners story. The poster was annoyed that so many were “pretending to care” about people they don’t even know and an event that had no impact on their own lives. And even more discouraging were the number of ‘likes’ and comments of agreement his post received. I felt very depressed after reading that started to wonder if this sort of cynicism was becoming the norm.
Later that same day, I saw Joel Burns’ ‘It Gets Better’ speech and I cried harder than I had in years. That video, like this blog post (as well as Being Poor, come to think of it) are all excellent examples of genuine human empathy and further evidence that it exists in spite of all the cynicism and self-centeredness. Thanks John.
John, you really understand privilege. I’ve thought about it a lot in the past few years – privilege, I mean. I know it’s easy for me to say, “I don’t worry about what other people think about me.” But I’ve always been privileged in our society. I might have grown up poor and mistreated by an abusive father, but I still don’t have a daily baggage of worry weighing me down. It’s not liberal guilt to recognize that other people have to think about things and worry for their safety or be held back due to unequal perceptions, it’s simply reality. Being aware goes a long way toward changes that reality a person at a time.
Glenn S @37: When John wields the MoLC he usually replaces the offending comment with a note as to why it’s no longer available for viewing. You might see a comment or three immediately after responding to the original ass-hattery without the “benefit” of context.
In other words, you’ll be able to tell when he lowers the boom…
Clarification of @48: The context of the offending comment…
“Today I don’t have to think about others scorning my favourite things”
Hmm. I’m not convinced that not having yoru favourite things scorned is a human right.
Some of my favourite things are minority tastes. Not everyone likes ’em- I live with it.
Hmmmm…And here I thought you were going to end the whole thing with “because I’m a middle-aged white guy”.
Thank you, John and commenters.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the people I admire are going to say something hurtful.
Brilliant post, John. Thank you. Off to amplify the signal.
When I tell some people i like SF&F i frequently get “oh, that’s not real” and “that’s not proper reading at all” despite the 200 books i read in a year. I get shut out of conversations and experiences, and ridiculed for experessing a preferance for a certain type of thing – I feel people should not be discriminated against for liking things, you don’t have to like what I like, just don’t discriminate. It’s a human right to let people enjoy what they want to, no harm done.
My restrictions are pretty minimal, but I know people with restrictions from kosher and vegetarian to IBS and celiac. Sometimes in combination!
Nothing to add but my own continued admiration. Good stuff, Scalzi — and everyone adding on.
(Matt@41: You’re making perfect sense. “Repetition” is what it is and increasing the effect is what it does, so you’re good. BTW, the fancy-pants rhetorical term for this kind of repetition is “anaphora,” and a more precise term than “essay” might be “declamation,” but, you know… :-D)
Today, I wish I knew what I could do to open a mind.
Today, I wish I knew how to inspire someone.
I sent a link to this to a local radio talk show host, one of the smarter and more decent of his breed. I hope you don’t mind. He is the sort that would contact you before reading it on the air.
Very nicely done, John, thanks.
All of your entries related to very common (and deplorable) discrimination-stereotypes in our culture, to the point where you didn’t even need to specifically identify any of them. With a very few exceptions (at least a couple of which were mentioned by others) which required a little thought, nearly all were immediately identifiable (admittedly by assumption).
Given your writing skills, as I got down towards the end I half-expected you to take advantage of the assumptions and wrap up with a closing denouement (sp?) along the lines of “Ha! You assumed I meant A when I was really referring to B” for each of the examples. Did anyone else get that same red-herring feeling while reading the opening post?
I certainly hope this goes viral. I’m boosting the signal. What a powerful post. Thank you.
Matt @41 I would say that this is a poem. And it is beautiful.
Chris B @ 46: While I was very pleased to hear that the rescue succeeded and impressed by the method (and awestruck at the way the miners seem to have handled themselves), I admit that I have mixed feelings about the media focus on it. To whatever extent there’s actual empathy for fellow human beings, that’s great, of course. But sometimes it’s hard to distinguish that kind of healthy empathy from a unhealthy form of voyeurism.
When people gawk at traffic accidents, how much of it is empathy for the people involved, and how much is morbid curiosity? My empathy causes me to look away from accident scenes, because — putting myself in their situation — I wouldn’t want people staring at me as emergency personnel were trying to keep me alive.
If empathy doesn’t lead to action, what’s the point? Sure, there’s not much I can do for the Chilean miners, but there probably is something small I can do to maybe help improve working conditions for miners here in the US. For that matter, there’s no shortage of people near me trapped in figurative holes, who might be able to get out with a little help.
Empathy for people on the TV — people I don’t know in circumstances I can imperfectly imagine in a place I’ve never been to — is all well and good, but the truth is, that sort of empathy is easy.
Mike @59 – no, not really. Probably because Scalzi’s point was not about belonging to Specific Group A, but about privilege, and being aware of one’s own privilege. Much less was it about playing “gotcha”.
For another very-well-said about privilege and being aware of it, I’d recommend Susan Straight’s article about traveling with her family (her ex-husband and the father of her daughters is black, she’s white).
John, thank you, and sad but entirely necessarily that you had to put in @5 to catch all the whiny “Oh yeah? Well you think it’s HARD being special?!” yammering that’s bound to follow. One could practically make a drinking game out of it.
Why can’t we elect people like John Scalzi instead of $ANY_POLITICIAN?
I was elected! As president of SFWA. Anything else is not likely to happen as Krissy has no desire for that sort of life. And for that matter it doesn’t seem all that appealing to me, either.
Today, I am thinking about a particular set of friends who has have several of these items happen. Through it all, it seems only to have intensified their thankfulness to have the somewhat limited blessings they do have and their drive to make sure everyone can share them.
They are far stronger people than I am. It’s a damn shame people still have to go through these trials, but there is a certain type of person who finds their temper in that forge.
Thank you for
“Today I don’t have to think about what people might think if they knew the medicines I took.”
Today I don’t have to think about hiding my condition, for concern about what others would think.
“Today, I don’t have to think about people acting like I don’t speak English.
Today I don’t have to think about people demanding that I do.”
When I lived in Japan, I studied like hell so I could address natives of the country in Japanese. It was basic courtesy, I thought. I understand how frustrating it must be to have people assume you can’t speak English, but when living in an English-speaking country is it so unreasonable that they should expect you to try? I don’t understand.
Today I don’t have to wonder if there is anyone out there with a shred of decency left.
Well, that was pretty good. We got a couple of dozen good comments before the rock got kicked over.
Thank you. Just…thank you.
Musereader, as a woman in a similar position, I am going to add one that I haven’t seen in the comment thread yet:
“Today I do not have to deal with people asking me if I have taken my meds (or if I’m becoming manic) when I express anger or outrage over something that deserves my anger or outrage.”
Thank you, John.
This is wonderful. It needs to be read aloud.
Marc @55 – I can’t imagine trying to keep strictly kosher or gluten free and eating out, ever. It’s hard enough being vegetarian!
Thankfully I don’t have any food allergies or celiac. (I’ve been tested, thanks to a still-ongoing mystery ailment, which may turn out to be variant migraine, which presents food issues of its own, since a lot of people have food triggers for migraine. Like MSG, or aged cheese, or nitrates, or sulfites.)
And regarding the being kicked out of a mall in John’s original post, have you heard about the lesbian couple here in Raleigh who were kicked out of a mall just 3 days ago for a quick peck on the cheek?
“when living in an English-speaking country is it so unreasonable that they should expect you to try?”
The United States actually has no official language.
There are those who are outraged whenever anyone choose to speak a language other than English, even in casual conversation. Freedom of speech does include the right to speak in whatever language one chooses.
Also, Shirley @44? I was once in a staff meeting where a (very young) fellow staffer commented that she wished she had a blue placard that would allow her to park her car near the front door and ignore the two hour time limits. While I pondered what to say that would be at all polite, my boss said “You may want the placard, but you seriously do not want to deal with what she has to to *get* the placard. Having a placard is not a good thing.” I was grateful.
In any case, CJ’s comment was irrelevant to the quoted text – which is about people assuming that you don’t speak English, presumably because you “look foreign”. As predicted in @5, CJ chose to take a comment about people who speak fluent English to launch off on a tiresome, pre-canned rant about people who don’t. One can see why the Japanese didn’t keep him very long.
JDDrew @66, yay on being aware of one’s friends going through this, but I wince at the ‘temper in the forge’ analogy – I know you mean this as praise, but it’s a kissing cousin of Suffering Makes You Noble and the idea that people who stoically bear their burdens are much more laudable than those who are angry about them (especially loud and angry). I’m sure you didn’t mean it in that sense, but those echoes are present.
I guess I misunderstood the context. I thought it meant that others should have to be able to speak the same language that you do. Sorry if it sounded like I disapproved of anyone speaking their native language. I didn’t mean it that way – we often speak Japanese in public.
“One can see why the Japanese didn’t keep him very long.”
You don’t have to go for the personal dig, Mythago. This is the sort of comment thread where the extra effort for civility will go a long way.
mythago @76. No, that was not what I meant. I studied Japanese for 10 years, incidentally. I enjoy foreign languages, and like hearing them, even if I don’t understand them. Please don’t assume that you know my history from one misspoken statement.
There were two statements quoted, if you noticed. I fully sympathize with the first. I didn’t understand the second and was trying to see why it was a problem.
John – thanks for writing that. I’ve copied, pasted to word and printed out ten sheets. I don’t know what I’ll do with the ten copies. Maybe I’ll hand them out, or maybe I’ll tape them up somewhere, but this needs to be shared with everyone.
Bravo, John. Bravo.
For those wondering what else they might not be thinking about, this is a good place to start:
I note that it includes a link to John’s excellent “Being Poor Is” post from 2005.
Thanks, and yes, folks, do feel free to share however you choose (on a non-commercial basis, he added, hastily).
John Scalzi @ 74;
Damn, you’re only the second person I’ve seen make that point other than myself.
I want a bumper sticker that says “Support Freedom of Speech” … in Spanish.
(And as for the yahoo who might be tempted to point out that speaking in Spanish — or Arabic or Haitian or whatever — isn’t political speech, my response is, “In the US? Are you kidding me? I wish it wasn’t, but it is.”)
I suspect, _pace_ someoneorother, that this will go viral, and many hundreds of people will add items to the list. I hope so, even though the multiple reclensions will be hellishly difficult to combine without duplications, because I’d like to collect the /e/n/t/i/r/e/ most complete set.
Yet I also plan to go through your original and select one thing for each category (what the categories are is yet to be established) — there isn’t space on the wall above my desk for much more Memorable Stuff, or enough time to re-read long items every day. And yes, I think this deserves & is going to get both of those treatments.
Shirley (44): Today, I don’t have to worry about the able-bodied person who parked in the handicapped space because “It’s okay! I’ll just be a minute!” (But last year, I did.)
Oh, and thank you, Mr Scalzi. Yes, it should go viral. I’ll help.
Patgreen@71: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
As someone with bipolar syndrome if I had a dollar for every time my opinion was completely dismissed with that attitude my husband wouldn’t have to scramble to try to find work before his unemployment ran out.
Thank you, also John for the list above. It was beautiful.
Today, I don’t have to think about the police coming to my home and wanting to know where me and my family were last night when something bad happened on the other end of town.
Today, I don’t have to think about how the election results may determine whether I’m allowed to marry, to go to church, to afford insurance, to keep my unemployment, to seek legal medical treatment, to remain in the United States. I don’t have to think about the number of candidates who lead in the polls based on their popular promises to prevent me and mine from doing those things.
Today, I don’t have to think about police approaching me with their guns drawn and calling me hateful names. In fact, I’m pretty confident that any police I encounter will address me as “sir”.
Today I don’t have to think about being reported to the authorities as a “suspicious person” while I’m minding my own business in a public place. Even if it’s the middle of the day, I don’t have to think about someone yelling “Get a job!” as they drive by.
Today I don’t have to think about being asked to show cash or credit cards before being seated in a restaurant.
Today I don’t have to think about whether to buy groceries, prescription meds, or pay the utilities, and which of those I’ll have to do without.
Today, I don’t have to think about being asked if I need someone to escort me home after dark. I don’t have to think about asking someone for an escort home after dark.
Today I don’t have to think about whether my efforts to be polite in required conversation will be interpreted as sexual interest.
Today I don’t have to think about people glaring at me because I’m allowed to take up space in the same places they go to.
Today I don’t have to think about my child being shunned or bullied in school.
Today I don’t have to think about a neighborhood association taking up a petition to have me barred from moving into the neighborhood.
Today, I don’t have to think about being ordered to get off of the park bench, the bus, the train, and to “move along”
Ditto #68. Good way to phrase it. :)
Thank you for this. I’m going to share it on my Facebook feed, and however else I can think to do so.
Thank you. That was beautiful.
Regarding people who envy your “rock star parking”, you may be doing more good than you realize by being nice about it. I cannot count the number of times that I have said something offensively ignorant, gotten a 1% tart, 99% sweet response back, and 10 minutes later said with horror, “Oh wait! Just then, I was an ass.”
For me, at least, that works better than something that has a lot of English on it, because then I don’t have a whole cycle of foolish, reflexive self-justification to go through to get to the truth. Luckily I’ve never said that particular dumb thing, but I still appreciate your kindness in the face of idiocy.
Thank you — just awesome!
I know what you mean about “that stuff”- we have few enough readers that it’s a shame if anyone worries about *what* you’re reading.
But essentially, there’s no point fretting if people don’t share your taste- if you have the missionary instinct, try giving them something subtle to read, otherwise just let it go. I’m sure they like something you find pointless or childish, and so on.
And when we talk about respecting someone’s choices, remember what Mencken said:
“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the same sense and to the same extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”
Well there’s always tomorrow!
in the spirit of the theme…
Today I dont have to think of friends being shot, stabbed, blown up, burned, captured or beheaded.
But like everyday I know I will, because I am here safe, and not there.
Today I don’t have a really horrific reminder of why there are so few people *like me* in F/SF fandom
Today, no federally elected member of Congress is come out on national TV and say I’m unfit to supervise children.
Today, in the city in which I live, if I do nothing more than quietly wear more orthodox examples of my family’s faith, I won’t have people call me a terrorist.
Today, if a major food producer decides to make food approved by my faith’s standards, I won’t have to worry about them being told they support a religious takeover by my religion, and are supporting terrorists. (No kidding)
Today, I don’t have to worry that I literally have no country in the entire continent in which I was born that does not treat my people like filthy thieves who should be rounded up and deported.
Today, I don’t have to worry that police will ask me to prove my citizenship because by looking like my ethnicity, I’m worth checking on for violating immigration laws. I can safely assume that “papers please” ended with my family fleeing Europe to safer shores.
Today I don’t have to worry that people assume that I live in an insignificant nowhere place, called “flyover country” (I’m going to try an edit that out of my vocabulary)
Today I don’t have to worry about editing words out of my vocabulary.
Today I don’t have to worry about being called “politically correct” every time I stand up for myself.
But I will.
Thanks for this, John. You’re a true mensch.
I really like this. Even though you don’t have to think about any or all of that, thanks for choosing to do so and for sharing it with us.
If I had the skill I would want to make this into a YouTube video, with participants from all conditions in life, each contributing one line, with “But today I will” done as a mass chorus.
I think the comment “Today, I don’t have to think about people acting like I don’t speak English.” was rather about people pretending one doesn’t speak English because they speak it with an accent (accent that isn’t deemed proper by some idiots).
The idea being : if one speaks a foreign language, it’s considered wrong, but it’s also wrong if they speak English with an accent. Basically there’s no winning for the person in question.
Today, I don’t have to worry whether or not my gender identity or presentation is “inappropriate”, or put me in physical danger.
John, this is wonderful. Thank you!
This is absolutely wonderful. A number of them resonated with me because I *do* have to think about them – and an equal number resonated because I don’t.
Here’s a few more:
Today I don’t have to think about whether I “pass” as my own gender.
Today I don’t have to think about strangers staring at me, trying to figure out whether I’m a man or a woman.
Today I don’t have to think about which bathroom it would be safer to use.
Today I don’t have to think about the reaction when someone asks to see my driver’s license and sees the letter next to the word “sex.”
Today I don’t have to think about how much more money I will have to save up before I can have a body that reflects who I am inside.
One from a friend of mine:
Today I don’t have to answer invasive questions about my genitals to prove my gender.
Today I don’t have to think about being grilled by the pharmacist when I go to fill my prescription.
Today I don’t have to think about the pharmacist phoning my doctor before filling my prescription, just to make sure that it’s legitimate.
Today I don’t have to think about being told that I “think wrong.”
Today I don’t have to think about being told “oh, you just misunderstood me *smirk*”
Today I don’t have to think about being arrested and prosecuted for asserting my right to bodily autonomy.
Today I don’t have to think about being told that I just need to try harder.
Today I don’t have to think about being called lazy just because my mental or emotional state isn’t up to dealing with the day.
Today I don’t have to think about explaining to the welfare office that no, my disability hasn’t magically gone away, and yes, I do still need my pension.
Bearpaw @ 62 I get what you are saying. Caring alone is not helping in situations like the mine in Chile. But someone who doesn’t care at all, like the Facebook ranter, wouldn’t help even if he could. My point is, the people who are the offending party in each of the situations that John refers to above would change their attitudes if they could even vaguely imagine themselves in the shoes of those they’re offending. Empathy is an antidote to bigotry, discrimination, ambivalence; caring is helping. Isn’t that the value of thinking about all these things that we don’t have to?
Great piece, John. I think this would make a great spoken word piece. I would add the following (from great personal experience):
I don’t have to worry about how to afford life-preserving treatment and medication for my child and my partner.
@John Wouldn’t dream of it. It’s hanging on my cubical wall now. :)
If I may:
Today I don’t have to think about defending myself if someone tells me I’m in the wrong bathroom.
Today I don’t have to think about answering people who believe it’s okay to ask how my beloved and I have sex.
Today I don’t have to think about whether what I do consensually with my beloved in our bedroom is illegal in my state.
Today, I have a reason to feel hopeful and happy, rather than angry and baffled, with my fellow humans.
Thanks, John, for this post and this place.
I wish I could say that I’ll spend the day thinking about all of these expressions.
I wish I could say that I’ll spend the day thinking about just a few of them.
However, reality is that I will go on about my day, working and thinking about the commute home, about making dinner, about trying to cram 30 hours into a 24 hour day. It isn’t that I don’t care or don’t have problems or know people that are affected/repressed/discriminated against. I do.
At some point though, something will bubble up in the right circumstance and I’ll remember and it will change the way I do something or what I say. It will make me a better person for having read this.
For that (and other things), my thanks, John.
300baud (#91) — I understand why the sweet comments might sink in more easily for you, but remember that for some folks, your unintentionally ignorant comment might be the tenth or twentieth such comment they’ve dealt with that week. There’s a point at which even the nicest people get sick of suffering foolishness gladly.
John @78: fair enough. I don’t have a lot of patience for the ‘gosh, but don’t you think there’s a good reason the people on the receiving end of this bullshit deserve it? JUST ASKING’ routine, but you’re right that civility + Mallet are likely more productive means of dealing with it.
CJ @79: in addition to what John and others have pointed out, ‘is it so unreasonable that they expect you should try?’ implies that the only reason somebody isn’t speaking English is that they can’t and they won’t even try. That makes a lot of (dare I say privileged) assumptions about everything from age to ability to opportunity and puts an ugly moral gloss on it. And that’s why I went into snark mode at your comment.
300baud @91: if you have the patience for it (occasionally, I do) one means of dealing with this is a form of ‘active listening’: repeating back what the other person said to make sure that what you heard and what they meant are the same. Sometimes, if a person has made a particularly idiotic statement, simply hearing it outside of their own head from somebody else is enough to make them think, especially if you say it straight instead of with sarcasm. e.g., “Daisy, I think what I just heard you say is that you wished you had cerebral palsy, too, so that you would qualify for a handicapped permit and could park closer – is that right?”
An hour ago I was reading deeply about yet another PrivilegeFail incident, wondering how many other middle-aged white SF authors like myself might even be reading such posts — trying to decide if I was clever enough to write some of my feelings in a way which might impress some to understand that privilege isn’t just one side carping about another.
Then I starting reading this post… and it didn’t seem to stop. It went on and on, and I was loving and hating it. Loving that someone had taken the time to innumerate this list — and hating that we have to stop and even think about it, instead of embracing our differences.
It seems to me that a lot of the political asshattery/asshatery going on right now is being done in very public forums — while individuals and families are having to deal with these issues in a very personal and private way.
Sorry I’m still muttering here, not quite getting the words out the way I want — but thank you, John, for starting this.
I think this is truly the definition of privilege. And I think it goes a long way towards why so many people don’t realize that they’re thinking from a position of privilege (attitudes subtly racist / sexist / ablist / etc, in ways they don’t see). Everybody who’s privileged has attitudes like this — it’s ingrained in the culture and unavoidable.
But that last line, that’s how we start to fight it. Might never get rid of it entirely, but we can each make it a little bit better, starting by thinking about all the things we’re privileged to not have to think about.
This post is wonderful. Thank you.
A few of my own:
Today I don’t have to think about whether the water I drink is safe.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I will eat.
Today I don’t have to think about how to pay my bills.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I can afford to be sick.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I will be hurt for practicing my religion.
Today I don’t have to think about answering questions about my engagement ring.
Today I don`t have to think about whether or not I can afford the hearing aids, wheelchair, glasses or operations I need but are not covered by my insurance.
I’m brown, queer, female, have kids, have been very ill (and not visibly so). Most of the list applies to me, or has at one point or another, and for a moment, reading it, it was actually almost exhausting just being reminded of what I mostly cope with by trying not to think about it.
But I do have class privilege, which helps tremendously in all sorts of situations; it often trumps the other issues. (I.e., I am brown in department stores, but I can afford to dress/groom upper-middle-class, and am treated as such, rather than treated as brown.)
Today, I do not have to literally dodge my landlord in the street, wondering desperately why three months of ardent job-hunting have resulted in absolutely nothing, despite a college degree and a strong work history.
Today, I can be confident that I can afford to purchase and/or cook a well-balanced meal.
*That* was a miserable summer, when neither of those was true for me. Am so glad it was fifteen years ago for me, and only a summer. So sorry those conditions apply right now, to so many.
Today I do not have to think about whether my disabilities/gender/race/background will prevent me from being promoted.
I believe that this could be expanded to be about that prejudice and bigotry by removing letters.
In the interest of conciseness, I give you the solution to every single one of mankind’s problems:
“Today I don’t have to think, but I will.”
Empathy – it does a world of good.
At the risk of sounding somewhat insensitive to those people living high up in the Malthusian Pyramid (being, for lack of a better term, ‘rich’ people), how about a though for the rather large majority of humans who don’t get to worry about anything on this list because they do not have access to clean water every day or even know where their next meal is coming from. Or, heaven forbid, they have no access to teh interwebs to post how awful their lives are. (Or the threat of fatal physical violence for residents of Central Africa and SW Asia.)
To be clear, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with Mr. Scalzi’s list (it is a fine list, indeed). I am just suggesting that before you get too wrapped up in being ‘different’ from ‘most people’ (where different = anything in this post and most people = everyone who is staring at or mistreating you) that you consider the rest of mankind is just trying to survive until tomorrow.
I know it’s already been said, but what a powerful post. I think about how so many of those things apply to me and how so many of them don’t. How sometimes I ignore those things that don’t apply, because I’m so swept in what does apply to me.
This reminds me to think. Hopefully I will get to the point where I don’t have to think about, but I will.
mythago@113: Thanks for your point about speaking English. My mother-in-law, who is not a native speaker of English, although she does speak three other languages, does not speak English comfortably at all, despite having taken ESL classes, and citizenship classes, and having lived in this country now for over 20 years.
My own personal loss of privilege as I age is so minor compared to what is so eloquently expressed in the original list, but one thing I do worry about is whether I will ever be employable again when my children have left home, or whether I will be dismissed out of hand because I will be over 60 by that time. Youth. A form of privilege almost everyone takes for granted, but that no one will retain for long.
Thank you, John, for a beautiful post.
Great and amazing post. Thank you so much for writing it.
I only clutched my heart in pain at “Today I don’t have to think about being told that my child is a detriment to my career.”
Your perceptiveness is a gift.
“At the risk of sounding somewhat insensitive”
Not insensitive, just someone who wants to make the conversation about what you want it to be about, and isn’t shy about the attempt.
This sort of “think about the global perspective” comment cropped up when I did the “Being Poor” piece as well, and my comment here is what my comment there was: It’s not a competition, nor does every essay have to be about everything. This one is quite obviously focused on the context and culture in which I live. I’ve written about the larger global perspective before (you can find one of those essays in this), but this essay’s not about that.
Today I don’t have to worry about being assaulted if I go outside without my head covered.
Today I don’t have to worry about being assaulted if I go outside with my head covered.
Today I apparently do have to worry about looking like an idiot.
thank you. so much.
this is by far, one of the most powerful things i’ve read in too long.
Very eloquent post.
I hope it becomes as much of a landmark blog entry as “Being Poor”.
Also, 128 posts and no trolls yet. Well done all!
Thank you for this post.
I can’t add anything that hasn’t been said by others ahead of me on the comment queue, but I have posted a link in my LJ.
As someone who has many of the ‘things you don’t have to think about’ going on, I am grateful that, small though the numbers may be, there are a few people in this insane world who do ‘get it’ and try to educate the willfully stupid. I suspect, however, the task you have chosen is akin to plugging up a hole in a dam with a wad of chewing gum.
Quite a few years ago, back when I drove taxi weekends, I ran into a weird case of one-up-manship. My passenger was elderly and semi-ambulatory (required a walker) and going shopping at the local mall, and I pulled into a “rockstar” space to drop her off as close to the entrance as possible. While doing so, a car with a proper sticker pulled up and started cussing me out for taking “his” space, even though my passenger was by then out of the car and clearly visible to him, plus I was pretty obviously about to pull back out.
Today I don’t have to think about those less fortunate than myself trying to establish a hierarchy among themselves.
I love this. I’m posting it on my office door, where it will doubtless annoy some people, but I hope others will read it and think about it. Thank you.
Thanks, John. I hope this does go viral, off to do my bit.
Is it just me, or is anyone else getting depressed as all hell reading that list? It’s like a “humans are cruel, selfish, ignorant bastards” highlight reel. And dammit, every last one of them is true, and we’re all guilty of at least a few of these ourselves.
Today I don’t have to worry about being attacked or harassed because I “appear” to be using a bathroom for a gender it’s assumed I don’t identify as.
Apologies for going off-topic. My bad.
I think you’ve captured the essence perfectly here. Reviewing the comments thus far gives us plenty of examples of morons opening their mouths merely to insert feet (not the posters, obviously; the persons in each incident that buzzkill someone’s day) at least in the cases not involving institutional discrimination.
How much better would life be if we all did as the hardly-ever-at-a-loss-for-words Wil Wheaton has said, “Don’t be a dick.”
Thank you, John.
Today I won’t have to think about about my invisible handicaps.
Today I won’t have to think about everyone else being only temporarily able-bodied.
Wonderful post and a fabulous thread throughout. I agree that while it may seem depressing because it’s so true, it’s also empowering. I found myself nodding in assent all the way through.
John, you’ve created an amazing community here. Kudos! I’m so glad I found your site.
Today I don’t have to think about being denied insurance payments to my doctors for necessary treatment because of my gender.
Today I don’t have to worry about being turned away from the E.R. because of my gender.
Today I don’t have to think about the odds of someone murdering me because of my gender.
Today I don’t have to think about being misgendered.
Today I don’t have to think about being stared at while visiting a night club.
Today I don’t have to think about somone else explaining to me about how my gender is wrong.
Today I don’t have to think about someone telling me I’m delusional because my gender does not match my assigned birth sex.
Today I don’t have to worry about being rejected because of who I am.
Bravo,Bravo!! This post says so much more then is on the page.To bad you can’t send it to all those jackasses in Washington D.C. and every other political arena. This one ,to me at least, hits almost as deep as “Being Poor”. That one still makes me cry just thinking about it. It felt like you were sitting on my shoulder. But today I don’t have to think about the narrow minded bigots who passed judgment on me. I know they were wrong.
For this, today, thank you. And I’ll be doing my part to see that it goes viral…
I was just working myself up for a good bout of self pity this morning. I was dwelling on a number of things that are going south for me at the moment, but the reality is that none of them are truly more than inconveniences; at least that is what I concluded after reading this post. Thanks for giving this particular person some much needed perspective.
Today I don’t have to think about the likelihood that I’ll be asked my religion as soon as I say where I’m from.
Today I don’t have to think about being told what my country needs by people who have never been to it.
Great post. Love the additional ones folks have offered.
Just to clarify my comment @29, I was talking about two different things.
1. No one looks at me and assumes right off the bat that I don’t speak English, or hears my accent and assumes I don’t speak English well enough to understand them. I’m not treated to native English-speakers speaking to me very slowly, using small words.
2. When I’m out in public, I can speak to my friends in whatever language I please without some random stranger coming up to me and demanding that I learn English.
Also, CJ, you might want to think about comparing your experiences as an English-speaking traveler to the experiences of people who immigrate to English-speaking countries. The two situations are not equivalent. You and I have privileges that most immigrants don’t. You don’t know that someone isn’t trying just because you don’t understand them. All you know is that they’re not succeeding yet.
spirit03 @122: Lacking access to clean water doesn’t protect you, if you’re a member of a minority religion, from a bunch of “patriots” from burning down your house of worship. In some countries, those “patriots” might not only be acting within the law, but in the pay of the government. “Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no” is an even larger problem for people in poor communities where the victims of those men face everything from banishment to execution.
In other words, scolding people to think of the poor starving children in Africa doesn’t counter Scalzi’s point; it strengthens it.
This isn’t about being “different” from “most people” – a particularly silly argument when you realize that in many cases, the group of people who don’t have to think about [problem] may be in the numerical minority. It’s not about the worst thing in your life being a rude shopkeeper. It’s about privilege, and how having it means not only avoiding indignity and abuse, but not having to think about that privilege.
And that knows no borders.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the wedding I’ve been invited to will be attacked by a drone.
Today I don’t have to think about what my family has gone through over the past few years as I spend yet another day in the custody of people who refuse to put me on trial.
I’ve been working on this for a bit, but I’m still new at understanding, but as a white American woman, I’m both privileged and underprivileged. I’m shocked when people who aren’t me are treated worse than I am. I’m confused and hurt when I know I’m being talked down to or overlooked, but I don’t know why.
So, I’d like to point out to the people who are using the words “stereotype” and “discrimination,” that you’re talking about something different from “privilege.” The difference is that if you’re in the privileged position, you often cannot see it, NOR can you put it down in the same way you can stop behaving in a discriminatory fashion. For example, no matter how sympathetic I am to the disproportionate number of black men who are harassed and jailed by the police, it will not change what the cop sees or how he responds when he stops ME.
Where I’ve gotten so far is that we should be as aware of our privilege as possible in order not to abuse it.
If I’m saying something foolish and obvious, I apologize, but it was revelatory to me.
Here’s a little bit from something that happened to my wife that I use to remind me about the level of privilege we have.
“Today I don’t need to worry about finding a foreign tank parked on the street in front of my house when I get home from visiting my grandmother.”
Today, I don’t have to think about my lifestyle as a motive for someone I’ve never met coming at me with murderous intent.
There’s been such a slew of arrests for bomb plots on this side of the ocean and elsewhere against churches and governmental officials, and I’m happy to live in a very tolerant state.
I discovered while traveling this weekend that I did not have my driver’s license with me, and in fact had no idea where it was. [I did find it once I returned home.] So, I have actually been thinking about this one:
Today, I don’t have to be worried about getting arrested for not having ID, if stopped by the police.
Today I don’t need to think about what to say if I’m asked ‘where are your children from?’
Today I don’t need to think about being asked ‘are you lost? Why are you here?’ when parking in my neighbourhood.
Today I don’t need to think about having all the technical questions about my work addressed to my colleague instead of me.
Today I don’t have to think about whether passers-by will keep on passing by without acknowledging my existence when I ask for someone to check the brake on my wheelchair.
(Five days ago. But I’m still trying to get my head around the guy thanking me and then telling me that several people had completely blanked him.)
Today, with your permission, I’m sharing a link to this list with the teacher of my white privilege class.
Go ahead, Catherine. Although, in a general sense, sharing a link isn’t something you need my permission for. Just go ahead and do it.
One from my mom’s experience, one from my wife’s:
Today I don’t have to think about whether the guy I’m trying to buy a car from will talk to my husband instead of to me.
Today I don’t have to think about someone saying “you don’t look like a physicist” because of my gender.
@93 ChickPea I’m not being clear, It’s not that i want people to like what i like, it’s the people (sometimes absolute strangers) who go out of their way to tell me that what I am reading is rubbish and should be thrown away and I should read something real. The people who lecture me for 5 minutes why I need to grow a brain and stop reading mush without letting me speak, Its’s the people who accost me on the street, on the bus in the bookshop to randomly demand me to get rid of my current book without knowing who I am and why I’m reading it. I usually respond with a whatever and walk away but I would like the freedom to walk around in clothes I like, listening to music I like and reading the books I like without the preconcived judgements please. It happens to me at least once a month and sometimes its people I know and I have to defend my choice of reading matter because saying simply that I like it is not enough for them to stop telling me its stupid trash. I LIKE IT should be reason enough.
Today I don’t have to think up a polite answer for a question that no one should ask.
Today I don’t have to worry about being considered selfish because I choose not to bear children.
Today I don’t have to watch others silently judge every bite I put in my mouth because of what I look like.
Today I don’t have to think about how many times I will be told that refusing to participate in someone else’s religious tradition counts as oppressing that religion.
Today I don’t have to wonder if there will be a checkbox that applies to me.
Today I don’t have to listen to others say hateful things and hope they don’t realize they’re talking about me.
Wonderful idea! I think I can make that happen. You’ll get credit for the idea, and Scalzi, you’ll of course get credit for the list. Both of you feel free to contact me via the blog link (you can hijack the post pointing at this one and leave a comment) if you have questions/concerns/want in on the making. Having helped make a couple YouTube vids and having an absolute blast doing it, this oughta be a lot of fun.
Thanks for thinking about these things.
I don’t have to worry about my brand new marriage being declared invalid by referendum.
I don’t have to worry about people who think I’m surprisingly articulate or well-read despite my heritage.
I don’t have to worry about the cop that pulls up next to my car.
I don’t have to worry about the lack of girls who look like me in books and art.
I don’t have to worry about people using my sexual orientation as a perjorative.
I don’t have to worry about my access to buildings or people tying up the elevator.
I don’t have to worry about people co-opting my religious artifacts for fashion.
I don’t have to worry about my diet choices being held up to scrutiny.
I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or how long I can keep my roof over my head.
I don’t have to worry about my next of kin being allowed to visit me in the hospital.
I don’t have to worry about a lot of things….but I’ll do my best to keep in mind that a lot of other folks do have things to worry about, and that I can help provide a society where these things are changed.
I do sincerely hope that publication on a blog is adequate for use in a National Forensics League presentation, because this will shine.
Thank you, John. Beautiful.
Well I knew you were a good fiction writer, but I didn’t know you were a poet, dude.
Depressing? Sobering, perhaps. Yes, we all remain humans who treat others inhumanely, but this piece is also a call to be better. Some of them I have done, some of them I have been subjected to. But having awareness makes me careful in the future.
Right. I’ll link freely in the future. Thank you.
RE: The language thing brought up by CJ – If my husband (ack! Still getting used to typing that!) and I speak to each in our very bad pidgeon Deutsch (which to most English-only folks is just as incomprehensible as perfect hoch Deutsch) nobody will give us dirty looks or make loud comments about how we should speak English. Ditto our equally poor French, Russian, and Spanish. We’re white. If we speak “funny” we’re considered educated, well-travelled, whatever. If my PoC friends speak anything but English–OMG! The dirty looks, the judgeyness, the sneering all start making appearances. There’s definitely racial privilege at work there. I can study and practise foreign languages in public til the cows come home and garner nary the response other folks will get.
Probably one of the best and most thought provoking things I’ve ever read. Thank you!
Most people who think about discrimination forget about the disabled. It does you tremendous credit that you did not forget us.
scyllacat @ 150:
Yes, that’s a start. But there are also times when those of us with privilege can use it against itself. See upthread the story of the boss who didn’t wait for the differently-abled person to take advantage of the teachable moment, but took it on themselves.
Sexism isn’t just a women’s issue. Racism isn’t just an issue for people of color. Heterosexism isn’t just an issue for GLBTs. And so on. As a white male, part of my privilege is being generally taken more seriously than a woman and/or a person of color. Okay, fine. That means that in the right circumstances, I can use that white-boy power to point out examples of racism and sexism and have a slightly better chance of being taken seriously.
Sure, sometimes that gets me dismissed as a bleeding-heart PC hippie liberal naive pussy-whipped race traitor. But, you know, that doesn’t even register on my outrage-o-meter when it’s set to logarithmic scale.
Wish I had the budget to run this as a full-page ad in the Washington Post. One sentence at a time.
Thank you, John, for saying this out loud.
That was amazing, and almost made me cry. In fact, my throat hurts a little from holding back tears. Thank you for expressing something so big and important in such a succinct and poignant manner.
@Chickpea regarding #159 Rereading that post makes me think it’s a little extreme because it’s not usually a stridentout of the blue demand that the strangers make (though that happened once regarding an item of jewellery I wore – a celtic knot) – it’s more conversational than that, people ask what you are reading and what it’s about and when you explain or they realise that it is SF&F they proceed to tell you thier opinion of SF&F which is hardly ever complimentary, ending with what you should read because SF&F is not a valid choice of genre despite the fact that they have never usually read any. And they go away satisfied that you agree with them and will change your errant ways – they think they did a good thing by disparaging my favourite thing to my face. Or you argue with them and they get huffy and its like a brick wall because they won’t let up. Even family, coworkers and friends all seem to think that it is perfectly ok to override my opinion with theirs.
The amount of people that i have met who think that the only things that are good are things they like and if they don’t like something nobody should and they try to force you to agree with them and adopt thier preferances, especially since i’m a fairly intelligent woman who should know better than the “spotty nerdy trekkie in their parents basement” – maybe I get this a lot because I don’t conform to the image of someone who likes SFF and so can be converted away unlike someone who is obviously a geek who wouldn’t know better but try telling these people what the SFF fans who i know are really like and they refuse to listen.
I could go on forever about how annoying and horrible people who disapprove of my reading matter are but i think i’ve been clear now.
Today I don’t have to make a link to this entry as my Facebook status.
Nicely done, sir. This is very reminiscent of Peggy McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack, which you should check out if you aren’t already aware of it.
this said it all. I am deeply affected and appreciative for the wisdom.
@175 that’s a really good link, it will be useful next time my brother insists that he hasn’t got any priviledge because he is poor despite being a white male.
This was terrific… a lot of that applies to me and I was just feeling sorry for myself when I read this and realized how much *doesn’t*… and thus I should be grateful for.
Today, I don’t have to worry that a teacher will tell me I can’t go into a certain profession because of my gender.
But my grandmother did.
Today, I don’t have to hide my ethnic background because I am afraid of what others will think of me if they knew.
But my husband’s grandmother did.
Today, I don’t have to watch others vote on issues that affect me, while I have no voice.
It helps to think of how far we’ve come, sometimes.
Hey, rude people are rude, and I think it’s appalling that you’ve had these interactions. I’ve had a few of them too (ah, being interested in pop-culture or not really supporting the artificial high-culture/low-culture dichotomy), and it’s not fun, so you have my sympathy.
That said, I don’t have a lot of patience for the idea I think I’m seeing you put forward here, which is that genre fans are somehow oppressed. Being into stuff that people are rude about, or don’t get, or don’t value in the same way that you do, really, really isn’t the same as being queer, living with a disability, being a PoC, or otherwise a member of a marginalized group.
I think the “nerd oppression!” argument does a lot of damage to efforts in our community to make things better for more people, and that the stuff you’re discussing really is digressive from the very often life and death issues surrounding the types of privileges illuminated in the original post.
I have to agree. I get that it can feel lonely being a genre fan… but it’s not as bad as much else that’s being discussed. It really isn’t.
Can it add to other loneliness? Sure. If you’re already queer or disabled or what-have-you, if no one else in that sort of group cares about what you do, that’s hard. But I’d say the problem is more about being non-priveleged, period, regardless of what you read or don’t read.
I’ve actually found SF&F to be a great equalizer, a way to come together with people. It doesn’t matter who looks like or can do what when you’re all discussing nerdy things. At least, in my experience.
I did not know I could like you more. Thanks!
This is a fantastic post and well worth sharing (I have, in fact).
One observation is that this post will get accolades (deserved, mind) while women feminist bloggers (for example) who regularly write about privilege are derided as “looking for stuff to get mad about” or are “humorless” and aren’t taken as seriously as this post will be/has been. It’s an interesting dynamic in how conversations about privilege work.
Just linked this on facebook – I think it’s a must-read for everyone.
Oh, and Cyranetta, that youtube idea is AWESOME. I’m visualizing a bunch of people, one after the other, saying a line, one after the other….
Bearpaw @ 62 said:
“When people gawk at traffic accidents, how much of it is empathy for the people involved, and how much is morbid curiosity?”
It’s actually a survival tactic, not gawking.
From Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” p. 357:
We watch attentively because our survival requires us to learn about things that may hurt us. That’s why we slow down at the scene of a terrible traffic accident.
I don’t have the rest of the quotation because I don’t have the book with me, and that’s all amazon would show.
“Today I don’t have to think about being asked if I’m bleeding when I’m just having a bad day.”
This one threw me, despite being a woman. I don’t tend to think of being on my period as ‘bleeding.’
John, you continue to amaze me. Thank you so much.
Thank you. Just thank you.
I fit into two or three of the categories. If I go to Texas, the number grows. But I do believe that even white males in this country are pigeon-holed as well unless they have money or power or both. As a white male, you will be judged if you are a stay at home dad, small in stature, not as scholastically intelligent (even if you make the effort, girls are allowed to appear dumber than you and get away with it), or extremely scholastically intelligent (which often negates an interest in sports, a double whammy). More prejudices exist but those are things that affect white males in this country everyday and lead to much of the bullying that people are now recognizing as pervasive. Those are things that I never have to think about.
Thank you, John, for thinking about those things, and thanks for helping me to think about them today, too.
Not all men who look white are wholly white, either. And perhaps they are disabled, or queer. I think only a very few people never have to think about *any* sort of prejudice, and those who don’t probably aren’t thinking terribly hard.
Ironically, when as a stay-at-home dad I found it viewed as a positive, i.e., my clients admired that I stayed at home and watched my daughter while my wife worked outside the home, rather more than I suspect they would have admired me, had I been a woman, doing the same thing.
That said, I was also working from home, as opposed to having my wife be sole income-earner, and that may have made a difference in how I was perceived as well.
I’m going to go back up and read through all the comments, but before I do anything else, I want to say thank you. I read your post aloud to my 24 year old son, and we both had tears in our eyes when I was done. I think this will be perfect for me to share with the extended family when we gather for our Thanksgiving meal.
179 Racheline and 180 Arielle – Being scorned because of SFF, clothing and music choices feels just as annoying to me as being marginalised for being a bisexual woman with mental illness (yes thats me) but I guess it’s not the same thing. The point I was trying to make is that i’d like to be me without having pressure to change to fit the norm and its easier for me to call them out on being predjudiced towards the SFF then the Sexism.
DP @186: You may notice that nowhere in the original post is the phrase “white males” used. You may also notice that one can be white, and male, and yet lack privilege in other areas. For example, there are disabled white males; gay white males; white males taking medication with a social stigma; white males who belong to stigmatized religions; and so on.
Kindly go back and read Scalzi’s comment @5.
Another brilliant insight, Mr. Scalzi. I think I will print out a copy to hang on my bulletin board in my home office and remind me how fortunate I am.
praisegod barebones @127 — brava!
scyllacaton @ 150 — Whoever you are, wherever you are, however far ahead you can see or can’t see, the only step you can take is the next one. Go, you!
allochthon @ 184:
From which we learn that it’s counter-survival to drive head-on into a tree?
Maybe the context of the quote makes a reasonable argument for this speculation, but I’m dubious.
Today I don’t have to worry about the way others misrepresent God’s love for ALL.
Today I don’t have to worry about getting slammed for being evangelical, a Christian, and not supporting people with whom those are the only two things I have in common.
Today I don’t have to bristle when hear my Savior’s name used as an expletive.
Today I don’t have to worry about being called intolerant when I say I’m not cool with that – or with other behaviors I don’t condone.
Today I don’t have to worry when I point out that someone is just as intolerant as I am when we disagree.
Today I don’t have to worry about being beheaded because I helped the “wrong” tribe dig a well or plant a church or feed their hungry.
Today I don’t have to worry worry when I say that we all have trials and tribulations and discriminations, but the our humanity is graduated against what we do unto others – not what we whine about.
I will think about these things, just not for very long. There’s work to be done while I’m here.
Today I don’t have to worry about where my soul will rest for eternity.
And I never will, because I have faith.
@179 Racheline and 180 Arielle – Re 191 I also feel the same when someone says I shouldn’t like SFF as when someone says I shouldn’t like women – annoyed that they are presuming to tell me what I can and can’t like.
I want to like what I like without anybody questioning me about it or disparaging it – SFF is a single instance of that – I get the same thing with metal music, Rock puck clothing, sexual fetishes and choices, food, TV, job, religion etc My life is what my life is and nobody gets to chose it for me or impose thier choices on me SFF is just a way to exemplify that – it’s not “nerd oppression” at all.
But then the choice in religion and orientation is not the same thing as choice in entertainment, no?
Beautifully written and crafted.
Succinct and powerful.
Simply, I love it. However, I don’t love that you’ve experienced all these things and I especially don’t like that they’re common place in your life.
“Society” disgusts me.
Regarding “Don’t have to worry about eyes going to center of my chest” –
As I described this to a female friend recently, around 12 years old, adolescent boys brains reorganize around the central and massively overriding concept of “BOOBS”, which then occupies their attention for the rest of their lives.*
They then spend the next decade pushing it back far enough to be able to socialize with and treat women as human beings properly.
This does not excuse anyone who fails to succeed at managing that impulse; but that part truly starts out seriously biological.
* I understand from gay friends that there are a couple of related / similar issues within that community, but not the exact same one.
Actually, I’ve experienced none of them. That’s why I don’t have to think about them. Others have, and do.
Much of civilization is comprised of behaviors that show we’ve mastered our biological compulsions.
Thank you for writing this, John. It’s been one of those days where I needed a reminder that humanity has a place in the world still. I’ll do my part to get this viral.
It’s easier for me to call them out on the sexism (or whatever other “ism” is involved… I fall in the same boat as you do), maybe because of what I learned growing up. Girls can do anything boys can, and so on. And those don’t annoy me, they anger me. Being told I can’t do x or y because of who I am or what my brain chemistry works like is more than annoying.
Not fitting in, though… it happens. Everyone has to change to fit some norm, somewhere, often different norms for different social groups. Does it suck? Yes. I’ve always had a hard time fitting in wherever I go because I’m very intelligent (in a math and science sort of way.) Does that constitute lack of privilege? Hardly.
There’s one point I’ll note, though, though it’s becoming something less prevalent: back in the day, being a female SF or fantasy fan (or a female video gamer!) was lonely territory. You got looked at like you were some strange animal, mostly by the guys who were into those things too. It went hand in hand with the assumption that women shouldn’t/couldn’t be in math and science because we’re not “good at it.” (I still get those looks sometimes! Augh.)
But that assumption–that women just aren’t interested in X thing–is an extension of gender discrimination, period. It applies to male things like sports and cars (which I like) and female things like, oh, sappy romantic movies (which my husband adores). It might not be life-or-death, but it’s a symptom of the same problems, and it applies in a lot of places, not just gender issues.
I guess I’m saying I see judgements of what people wear/read/watch/like more as commentary on deeper prejudices than prejudice against the genre itself.
Good stuff, Scalzi. Good stuff.
This is brilliant and beautiful.
I have two things on that list… which completely shocked me when I saw them. I haven’t earned them (yes, I know it’s not a competition, but still).
That tiny sliver of “Hey wait, I DO think about that.” made me appreciate all the other entries all the more.
“Today I will” indeed.
I have to second this. Christians are not oppressed in North America; no matter how many pundits tell you so, it just ain’t true.
As for the original post, thank you John. Well said.
Yeah. Really. It’s pretty awesome.
I think it’s ungenerous to criticize the post.
But there is a difference between modern America and Rome 1st Century AD and the PRC pre 1990s.
Today I don’t have to think about lipreading something someone only said because didn’t realise I could.
Today I don’t have to think about someone becoming physically confrontational because they assumed I was ignoring them.
Today I don’t have to think about people how people’s expressions change the moment I open my mouth.
Today I don’t have to think about people assuming I’m mentally impaired because of the way I speak.
Today I don’t have to think about how many times I’ll be told “Never mind” when I ask someone to repeat something.
Today I don’t have to think about people finding it funny/brushing me off when I ask them to repeat a notice read out over a speaker system.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being an anchor around the neck of my friends when they want to go to the cinema/talk about music.
Today I don’t have to think about being told how sign language is a “substitute” for “real” language.
Today I don’t have to think about being told my condition isn’t a “real” disability.
Today I don’t have to think about being scorned for taking benefits I’m entitled to.
Today I don’t have to think about whether a potential employer is willing to “take a chance” on me, despite being fully qualified for the role.
Today I don’t have to think about being patronised.
That’s what I’d like.
GWH @200: I am pretty sure that this is not the first time your female friend has heard “evolution made me do it” as an excuse for demeaning behavior. It’s not a particularly good excuse from a scientific perspective, either; finding breasts uniquely enthralling is cultural, not biological (as a brief review of history and anthropology reveal). And when was the last time you saw a teenage boy unable to make eye contact with his mother or his Great-Aunt Prudence because he was struggling against his biological imperative to ogle her bosom?
“Heterosexism isn’t just an issue for GLBTs.”
To help clarify a privilege point: heterosexism is only part of the issue for transgender people. Genderism is a larger issue for Ts. Not to mention the tendency so many people have to sweep trans issues under the BLG rug and think they have them covered by using the letter. Not saying you did so much as noting that it’s a common error. Many popular gay rights organizations can’t handle trans issues well at all and don’t bother trying.
Or to put it in John’s phraseology:
Today I don’t have to think about whether the organization that claims to support my rights really does.
Today I don’t have to wonder if the spokesman who claims to speak for me will ignore or insult me instead.
As a bisexual, I run into that sort of thing as well, but not as often as transfolk do. Many bisexual and transgender folks are scorning Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign because he bullies both groups on a frequent basis, for one example.
I think it’s ungenerous to criticize the post.
Yeah, it was.
I apologize for having done so.
@cofax 207: Well, technically, since Ronin Randy seems to be implying that he is a Christian and since Christianity IS a majority religion, it’s actually probably true that he doesn’t have to worry about it.
But it does seem to co-opt the experiences folks from less major religions (and atheism) experience on a much greater basis and imply that Christians have it just as bad. At the very least, he’s moved from a general implication to a very specific one. If I say “Today I don’t have to worry about my religion being slandered in the news” that’s a shade different than “Today I don’t have to worry about people spreading lies about this specific religion, which incidentally, is the true one.” The first is a statement that your religion may not suffer from the same bias as others, the other is a judgement about your religion. (And that’s kind of what RR did with his first statement. His view of god is apparently the only right view of god.)
Also RR commits a huge logical fallacy with: Today I don’t have to worry when I point out that someone is just as intolerant as I am when we disagree. HUGE. Disagreement = / = intolerance.
boy, that mad men season finale really got you thinking, huh?
Today I do not have to think about whether I will lose another job because my mental illness made a brief appearance.
Today, I don’t have to think about being called names for parking in the handicapped spaces, because people feel I don’t “look” disabled enough, despite my plates.
Today, I don’t have to deal with strangers thinking it’s okay to touch my stomach and ask intrusive questions, simply because I’m pregnant.
On the topic of “rock star” parking, I’ve always assumed it was the best available spots that weren’t otherwise designated; just celebrating the rare coup of finding a close parking spot at a crowded place. I didn’t realize some people used the handicapped spots for that, which is both missing the point entirely and horribly rude.
@196: Today I don’t have to worry about being called intolerant when I say I’m not cool with that – or with other behaviors I don’t condone. — Why say it at all? Being called intolerant for voicing your opinion isn’t the same as being called terrible things for who you are as a person. You have the right to voice your opinion; other people have the right to voice their opinion of your opinion. Free speech is grand.
You seem to be taking this as “I made an excuse of” – this was a generic discussion point, and she commented later that I apparently had that well under control, by which I assume that I do at least as well as is expected in general of people in public on that account.
As John said, lots of stuff starts out biological. Society only works if we control those things well enough.
There’s somewhat of a cultural “forbidden fruit” effect in the US with our nudity taboo complicating things there, but I know anthropologists who have been all around the world (both male and female) and report that the underlying urge is alive and well in Europe (with its casual nude beaches and generally lower nudity taboo issues than the US), cultures in Africa where women generally or universally don’t wear tops, etc. Open exposure doesn’t make it go away, it just relaxes the monomaniacal focus on it.
The underlying point – that women need to be treated like human beings – is the important part.
@ Cofax 213:
Apology accepted. I don’t think enough people say that on the ‘net.
@ Pixelfish 214:
No implication intended. I am Christian. Being part of the winning team doesn’t preclude these types of experiences. I can be just as persecuted or offended as the next person. Words and actions can be hurtful no matter the target. Bless you for pointing out the logical fallacy in a single statement that I was trying to share with a community that seemed to be engaging in that activity regardless of creed. I hope you find peace and I’ll pray that you do so.
@ Relly 217:
That’s an awesome point. I think I’ll remove that one from the ol’ vernacular.
Today I don’t have to think about my best friend being buried while some church uses it as a publicity stunt.
But I will, and I have, every day since March 6th 2007, and I will every day for the rest of my life.
George @218: Why else bring it up? Why make the point that you were telling a female friend about this phenomenon – as if women don’t also find other human beings, often of the opposite sex, pleasing to the eye? So yes, when you explain a cultural behavior that’s an expression of a combination of entitlement, dominance and cluelessness by casting it as a biological urge that must be fought down, it comes across as pretty excuse-y, whether or not you intended it that way.
After all, the urge to fear ‘the other’ and to struggle for social status and power are also universal throughout human cultures (and partly biological); yet nobody is offering that as a ‘natural’ explanation for, say, shunning the disabled or people of minority faiths.
So really: what was your point? To tell everybody who’s ever had a stirring of libido that, hey, some people notice the secondary sexual characteristics of the gender(s) to which they’re attracted?
I have to think about rather too many of those.
But — today I don’t have to think about where tomorrow’s meals or next week’s rent are coming from.
And today I don’t have to think about whether those who love me will still do so if I tell them who I am and/or who I love.
Well, *I’m* late getting in here. ;)
Powerful writing, John. I won’t try to add to it – I think anyone reading it will get the point. I’ll definitely be linking to this to show other people, though.
Today, I have to worry about being represented publically by people like Ronin_Randy. Some things you simply can’t apologize for.
Today, I have to worry about being lumped in with a whole segment of the population who believe that, since the world will be ending soon, it doesn’t matter how they treat other people.
Today, I have to worry that the language I use has too much semantic baggage to be of any use, but I may have no other option.
Today, I have to worry about the cultural karmic debt my son and his generation may soon face.
Today, I have to worry that my perception of things like love and empathy are ultimately flawed and shallow, and of little use for or effect on others.
I can be just as persecuted or offended as the next person.
Except, this isn’t a post about being offended. It’s a post about privilege. The two are VERY different things.
Self-Evident Pretzel Logic: with a post and responses like these, it seems impossible that we’re at exactly this spot in American history.
It makes me think of Adlai Stevenson’s rejoinder about thoughtful people and votes: “Thank you, madam, but we need a majority.”
Today, I don’t have to worry that people think I’m incompetent because I’m pretty.
Today, I don’t have to prove that I’m better than the guys.
Today, I won’t be labeled a bitch for asking someone to do their job correctly.
Today, I won’t be told “English Literature is not a REAL Major.”
Today, I won’t be told that going for a doctorate is too hard and I should teach kindergarten instead.
Today I don’t have to think about how I will be $20,000+ in debt because of student loans.
I’m not entirely convinced the discussion a few posts up is going to lead somewhere fruitful.
This struck me as mostly a list of things that white heterosexual able-bodied christian men don’t have to think about, but I noticed one that seems like it would apply a lot more universally:
“Today I don’t have to think about memories of being bullied in high school.”
Well, I guess you don’t HAVE to think about it (who does, after high school?) but weren’t you ever bullied in high school?
John @229: sorry, could you repeat that? I was staring at that photo of you in your Viable Paradise T-shirt and I totally missed what you were saying…..
Rosy @230, probably so, but I don’t think that’s the point, and why John wisely didn’t refer to any specific group in his post. It’s a gentle reminder to be more mindful of the advantages we have and how we often don’t think of those advantages, or how others lack them, in everyday life.
Pixelfish @ 214
Alas, there are many in our culture who think that disagreement = intolerance. They’re just always on the other side of the argument.
No, I wasn’t. Occasionally older kids were jerks, but it didn’t rise to the level of bullying. Generally speaking I had a very pleasant high school experience.
Rosy @230, probably so, but I don’t think that’s the point, and why John wisely didn’t refer to any specific group in his post. It’s a gentle reminder to be more mindful of the advantages we have and how we often don’t think of those advantages, or how others lack them, in everyday life.
Yeah, I guess. Its just that out of the whole list, that’s the only one that didn’t make any sense to me — because I *was* bullied in high school but I don’t see it as any particular disadvantage now, nor something I have to think about. If I were writing that I might say I don’t have to worry about going to school and getting bullied today, because that time is over — but I don’t really see long-past memories of high school as something on par with the rest of the list, which seems mostly related to worry and fear of being oppressed here and now.
Today I don’t have to worry about all this focus on empathy making people think worse of me because of my condition.
Today I don’t have to worry about people ignoring their inability to empathise with me because it doesn’t have a diagnostic label attached.
Today I don’t have to worry about people using the name of my condition as a description of people who choose not to do something I have difficulty with.
its going to bug me if I don’t ask; what’s the drug that is life-changing but could be taken off the market …
All I could think of was my patients who are stuck with out-dated pain-killers since vioxx was taken off the market
Thank you for writing this; and thank you for thinking of all of those that are not getting the same respect as others.
Ingrid @ 236:
I’m someone for whom Vioxx was perfect; I’d gladly sign an I-know-I-could-die-of-heart-trouble-years-earlier-than-the-family-genetics-indicate informed consent form. Took it for a couple of years, before they took it away. Didn’t realize quite how much it helped until it was gone. Can’t have Celebrex ’cause it’s a sulfa derivitave, or so they tell me. Naproxen helped much less, and caused unbearable tinnitus, which I’ve still got. Ibuprofen gives me maybe 10% of the pain/inflammation relief that Vioxx did. Also has digestive tract side effects, for which I have to take two additional medications.
John, I want to thank you again for this, especially for these two:
Today I don’t have to think about what people might think if they knew the medicines I took.
Today I don’t have to think about managing pain that never goes away.
That second one? That’s… in the background, all the time, but somehow I try not to think about the fact that I’m trying not to show much of it to the rest of the world, except for a couple/few very close friends who are in similar situations, so I know they’re safe to vent to, I know they get it and won’t think I’m just whining too much and should just suck it up.
@Rosy: some people are bullied badly enough in high school that they do think about it. If not every day, still too often. And it affects their life, and how they interact with others, and how they think about themselves. It’s not just long past memories. Some people deal with painful memories better than others.
today is not a day I have to think about being bullied in high school. But some days are, so this point, like so many others on John’s list, resonates with me.
One of the things that makes this list (and all the additions in the comments) so powerful, imho, is that there are so many things I don’t think about daily (or sometimes at all) here. I’m hoping that I will start being more aware of my privilege by having read this.
Ingrid @236, I think that over at Making Light, TNH has blogged about a specific drug in this category, and it’s very on-topic that I don’t, personally, have to know what that drug is or keep tabs on its availability. But that said, drugs are a product, subject to the demands of the market, and conflicting priorities in groups like the FDA that oversee them. Perhaps Drug A was developed to treat Condition B but is wonderfully effective for Condition C, for which it’s prescribed off-label. If that drug kills a lot of people with Condition B, if the market for Condition C patients is very small, if other drugs for Condition B are cheaper so that it’s no longer profitable to make Drug A anymore….well, the patients who rely on that medicine can be in a tough situation.
‘ “vote fraud” theater’? That seems a rather presumptive turn of phrase. Someone in your district might be worried about some hooligan with a USB drive, after all.
Ingrid: There’s lots of drugs that can fall into that category.
– One example: Cylert, which was originally prescribed for ADHD kids, but which often helped narcoleptics, was taken off the market a few years ago after a cry went up about “for the kids” since it was often over-prescribed.
– HPV vaccinations for girls probably falls into this realm, since folks are lobbying to get it removed from the market by claiming it promotes sex. (Ditto most forms of birth control and the morning after pills.)
The first example is an example of a medication that helped maintain quality of life, while the second prevents specific life-altering circumstances from occuring. In the first instance folks weren’t thinking about non-neurotypical folks who needed the medication, while in the second women were being targeted for their sexual choices.
Mireldis @160’s last two really hit home for me.
As did a lot of the mental illness/medication related ones. I specifically haven’t told very many people what I’m on to avoid the “it isn’t real” discussion and to head off people using it as a reason for any behavior/opinion of mine.
And one more:
Today I don’t have to worry about being in a country where people are “disappeared” for their beliefs. (but my parents and their friends do)
@Mythago: You and I must’ve been recalling the same conversation: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007140.html
I guess I’m saying I see judgements of what people wear/read/watch/like more as commentary on deeper prejudices than prejudice against the genre itself. that makes lots of sense. And i agree with the rest of your post, we sound somewhat alike – good at maths/science, a gamer too and stick out like a sore thumb in all those groups. But i react to the suface predjudice and not the underlying one, i need think about this.
You’d think, as a semi-employed pharmacist, I’d be up on which drugs are being reviewed. The only one I know about is a colon cancer drug that was tried in breast cancer, with little extra effect. But they’re only considering pulling the breast cancer indication, not pulling it entirely.
But then, the last time I worked was about 2 months ago.
Aaaaand that’s the one I knew someone would kvetch about.
Two points here:
1. The idea that anyone is in the least bit concerned about voter fraud in the incredibly-safe Republican district of OH-8 is laughable in the extreme;
2. This is the full extent of the conversation I’m going to have on voter fraud in this particular comment thread, since I see no way that it doesn’t lead away from the actual topic at hand. Heed my words on this one, please. Trust me, it’s a subject that will come up again here. Save your fire until then. Thanks.
Please add sizeism for those of us who, no matter what, have never been skinnier than a size 12.
I’m probably healthier than most people I know. My lab results are great. My muscle tone is awesome. I eat about 1500 calories a day. But you wouldn’t believe the comments I get from people who look at me and assume that just because I’m fat I must be a smelly slob with low self-esteem who eats like a starving pig. Sure, there are fat people who are those things – but there are also thin people who are those things too.
I love you, Mr Scalzi. In a totally non-stalkery way, with overtones of gratitude and admiration.
@248 Sarah G
Today i don’t have to think about what a stranger thinks I should or shouldn’t eat.
Today I don’t have to think about whether a stranger thinks I do enough exercise.
Research has shown that being fat is not a problem untill you are grossly obese (over 30 bmi), infact between 20 and 25 BMI (overweight category) live the longest – but good luck getting people to believe you because apparently you can make science support anything. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/06June/Pages/illness-obesity-body-fat-myth.aspx or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10999978
The ideal body weight aimed for today is almost entirley a cultural perception. Beauty has never demanded thiness before – take a look at any are produced before the late 19th century, the women aren’t that thin.
To echo Sarah G:
Today I don’t have to worry about what the cashier thinks when I buy enough food to last two weeks – because I went shopping yesterday.
Bearpaw @ 195
Here is the quotation in its entirety:
Silly and alarming news promos are of more than a passing interest to me because understanding how they work is central to understanding how fear works in our culture. We watch attentively because our survival requires us to learn about things that may hurt us. That’s why we slow down at the scene of a terrible traffic accident. It isn’t out of some unnatural perversion; it is to learn. Most times, we draw a lesson: “He was probably drunk”; “They must have tried to pass”; “Those little sports cars are sure dangerous”; “That intersection is blind.” Our theory is stored away, perhaps to save our lives another day.
Gavin de Becker, “The Gift of Fear” Dell Publishing, 1997, p. 357-8
But, this is off topic, so I shall not add to this. The book is well worth reading.
My apologies for the thread hijack, John.
Lysana @ 212: Many bisexual and transgender folks are scorning Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign because he bullies both groups on a frequent basis, for one example.
Hmm. Have an example handy? I’d like to see that myself. It seems weird and out of character.
Pixelfish: “I don’t have to worry about people co-opting my religious artifacts for fashion.”
I can’t think of any living religions that fit this (except by members of said religion), but clearly there is at least one, so… which is that?
Pixelfish: “I don’t have to worry about the cop that pulls up next to my car.”
You don’t? I guess you’re referring to a more severe form of worry, but I don’t know anyone who’s really legitimately cucumber cool with being pulled over. Random cop can be bad cop. Being in any one of several other categories makes the odds worse, to be sure.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I will have access to the books I need for school, because they may not be available in a form I can use.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I can use the web sites everybody else uses to socialize, make purchases, be informed, apply for services I need.
Today I don’t have to think about whether somebody will mock my request for equal access and information because they think it’s funny.
(Thank you for your list John)
Luke @253: I can’t think of any living religions that fit this (except by members of said religion), but clearly there is at least one, so… which is that?
“Tribal chic” or whatever, with hipsters dressing in faux-Native American designs, including elements of sacred regalia. It’s the new thing.
And yes, Native American religion is, in fact, living.
Another fat isn’t bad article http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2006/11/obesity-paradox-1.html
@253 Like – I figured that Pixelfish was referring to either Native American or Pagan religion (there are practitioners despite some people thinking they aren’t real), but Christian symbols do also get a lot of fashion useage and the Kabbalah is fashionable because of maddona and The Eat Pray Love movie is making Buddhism fasion popular IIRC
Theres another one
Today I don’t have to think about whether other people think my religion is real or not
@ Luke 253
“Pixelfish: “I don’t have to worry about people co-opting my religious artifacts for fashion.”
I can’t think of any living religions that fit this (except by members of said religion), but clearly there is at least one, so… which is that?”
Native Americans face this on a regular basis. People seem to think that Native American faiths and practices are dead or historical. While the truth of it is, many Native faiths are alive and vibrant and a part of people’s daily lives. Also of note, there is no one Native faith. Native faiths and practices depend on which nation/tribe you belong to.
Thank you for a great post. Thank you commenters for a great thread.
Excellent writing. It applies to me in so many ways on both sides. Thought provoking as always.
John…this post is stunningly beautiful. My adds:
Today I don’t have to fear soldiers will break into my home and sexually assault me as a war tactic.
Today I don’t have to hide my religious artifacts because my government outlaws my faith.
Today I don’t have to lie alone in a nursing home and wonder why my family has forgotten me.
Bullied some in grade school until I gave one of the bullies a bloody nose, and that pretty much ended it. The teasing about the auxiliary nipple continued until I was about thirty. I don’t think much about either unless something like this conversation stirs the memories.
People who were severely bullied, or are victims of an assault, can have a form of PTSD, and they pretty much do have to think about it, until they’re successfully treated for it. Then they’re still at risk, of course, but are much better able to handle it. Until they are, they are unlikely to “bury the memory”.
Thank you for this terrific post. I read it this morning and was saddened by how many of these my family and close friends have to worry about. But I’m also heartened by how many we don’t and by the number of people commenting who get it.
RE drugs in danger of vanishing – I take Diamox for intractable intracranial pressure post meningitis and it periodically goes away until the manufacturer decides it’s profitable to make it again. It used to be the drug of choice for an eye disease but now there are newer meds so it is mostly marketed to mountain climbers or anyone else trying to avoid air or mountain sickness. I guess that’s not a big enough market to warrant steady production.
As a gay, disabled, Unitarian, busty, childfree, pro-choice young woman who happens to be on opioid painkillers and in recovery from bulimia – THANK YOU so much for this post. I really appreciate you using your visibility in the community to make it, and that you even thought about doing it. There are so many men in a similar position to you in the SF community who wouldn’t consider this that this is a breath of fresh air – and it’s sad that that is the case, but thank you for being “one of the good guys”.
Thank you, John. There’s SO much I could say, but I’ll just leave it at “thank you.”
Luke@253: I probably could have been more explicit, but I didn’t mean pulled over by a cop, but merely having a cop pace me, checking out my car to see if it matches his preconceptions and risk assessment, AKA driving while black. (Also where I grew up, I had neighbour connections with six cops, so until I moved away from my childhood neighbourhood, I had NO negative cop experiences to relate. But again, I’m a white girl. There’s a lot of privilege there. I had no idea for the longest time about the disproportionate penalties folks of other races faced in every interaction with the law.)
Thank you, John. This is… yeah. Thank you. Also thank you to people who added to the list. I was bearing up pretty well until #210, when I hit these:
“Today I don’t have to think about lipreading something someone only said because didn’t realise I could.
Today I don’t have to think about someone becoming physically confrontational because they assumed I was ignoring them.
Today I don’t have to think about how many times I’ll be told “Never mind” when I ask someone to repeat something.
Today I don’t have to think about people finding it funny/brushing me off when I ask them to repeat a notice read out over a speaker system.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being an anchor around the neck of my friends when they want to go to the cinema/talk about music.
Today I don’t have to think about whether a potential employer is willing to “take a chance” on me, despite being fully qualified for the role.
Today I don’t have to think about being patronised.”
Yeah. That’s pretty much when I started thinking, “Damn. I wasn’t going to cry today. Damn.” Those aren’t the only ones that apply to me by a long shot, but they’re the ones that a lot of pain is going on around, just now, for me.
Here’s a couple more things, phrased in the “Today I don’t have to think about…” way, but they are things I DO have to think about, and that I am bone-weary of having to think about:
Today I don’t have to think about someone assuming that I am disagreeing with their statement when I ask them to repeat it because I did not hear it.
Today I don’t have to decide whether asking for one more repetition will push this friendship over the edge.
Today I don’t have to worry about whether what I can’t hear will get me killed.
Today I don’t have to worry about whether asking someone to repeat something will get a dumbed-down rephrase to fit my presumed reduced mental capacities.
Today I don’t have to worry about someone turning and walking away in the middle of beginning a conversation when I tell them I am hearing impaired and ask them to face me so I can read their lips.
Today I don’t have to go to the classroom/panel/concert/speech/meeting an hour or more in advance so I can scope out the lip-reading seats and try to get one before they’re all taken. (Usually at conventions I go to the panel before the one I want to attend, so I can move up to a front row seat when it ends and have a chance of hearing/lip-reading the panel I actually want to see. Huge praise to Convergence in MN for making that unnecessary — and for providing transcription people not just for the panels I was on, but for the ones I attended. Seriously, I was blown away — it was, you know, like going to a convention and doing what I wanted to do and being able to really participate.)
Today I don’t have to read/hear people talking about how the Internet is terribly distancing and is taking people away from “real” social interactions, and know that they are dissing the technology that gave me back the ability to participate in group conversation, which is impossible in face-to-face life for me any more.
Anyhow, yeah. Thank you. And thank you even more for the ones that I actually don’t have to think about, because now I will be thinking about them.
You think good.
You write good.
You reacquaint me with the fundamental truth articulated by every great moral philosopher and religious leader but best expressed by the great Hillel:
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”(For ‘Torah’ substitute any text on ethics that compels you.)
Bryon@175, thanks for the link.
What a great community you have built here Mr. Scalzi.
Savage has directly made transphobic jokes and been very much unapologetic for it. Google should make finding the information easy.
Just for today . . . I don’t have to worry. But I do. Thanks for a great post and wonderful comments.
Came late to this and perhaps it’s already been said – but my first thought on reading this wasn’t “well-written” (although it is) or “about time” (although many others could say that with a lot more credibility than I could). It wasn’t even “how perceptive”, although I would never have thought of a lot of these observations.
It was “look at the bloody length of this, all of these things that others have to deal with and you’re oblivious to”.
How much we miss.
@250 Musereader – why is it your concern whether my BMI is 25 or 45? What makes my health any of your business? You’re saying, “well of course it’s okay to be a little chubby, but those obese folks are just gross and wrong.” I’m a person and I deserve to be treated like one whether I’m a size 2 or a size 32. And hey, maybe if I am a big fat fatty, it’s because I have one of those invisible disabilities that you have so much respect for. You don’t know anything about what weight may be ideal for my body, and it’s nobody’s business but mine how I choose to deal with my body – size, weight, health, muscle tone, diet, and everything else.
You would think that being part of the non-privileged crowd in one area (in my case, being an atheist) would make me more sensitive to matters of privilege and would help me notice all the areas in which I have it (essentially all the others, but we’ll start with white, male, straight, and in good health).
Sadly, it doesn’t. It takes posts like this to remind me that when a cop pulls me over because my license plates are actually someone else’s and the numbers don’t match my vehicle and he’s totally polite and says “I’m sure that you didn’t do this out of any attempt to defraud” and gives me a fixit ticket and sends me on my way that, you know, that’s not the way it works for everyone.
So, thanks for that.
Er, sorry, that was a little more aggressive than I intended it to be. But my point stands.
I am gay and transgendered. I didn’t used to have to think about a lot of these. I tried to. I tried to be a good ally to the LGBTQ movement.
Now, it’s personal and it’s been an eye-opening experience. The world can be scary place when you’re a minority.
Thank you for posting this.
I’m in the UK reading this.
And today is already tomorrow.
# Luke Allisonon
Hmmmm…And here I thought you were going to end the whole thing with “because I’m a middle-aged white guy”.
“Today, I don’t have to think about how just because I am a middle-aged white guy, this must mean that I know nothing about discrimination because every one knows middle-aged white guys suffer no oppression in any way and thus all get together, each and every one, to oppress anyone who isn’t. Any everybody knows that age, skin color, and sex are the only reasons anyone ever, ever, ever, suffers from discrimination, EVER.
I’m not sure that much sarcasm was required.
Today I don’t have to worry about my regional accent causing people to make assumptions about my intelligence, religious fervor, or education.
Today I don’t have to worry about being told that, despite a critical shortage, the Red Cross won’t take my blood (despite my perfect health) because of a demographic group I belong to.
Have you read a book called “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price”, by Warren Blumenfeld? It’s been years since I read it, but there’s some good shit in there about the connection between homophobia and sexism (which I take to be different from but related to genderism).
I hear you on that.
I remember hearing about a LGB group — I forget which — in the Boston area which considered adding the T and decided not to. Not because they didn’t want to be inclusive but because they knew they weren’t. So they got up to speed on trans issues and then they added the T.
Adding my voice to the thank yous for this post. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi.
May I please have your permission to use this in my high school English class as a text? If so, if I might beg a word (or pdf) copy from you in an email as permission that would be lovely.
Thank you either way.
Adding my voice to the thank yous for this post. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi.
(Apologies if this comes through twice, cookies on my browser are being weird.)
John: This post is beautiful and awesome. Thank you for thinking of these things.
#210: Today I don’t have to think about being told my condition isn’t a “real” disability.
Oh yes, this certainly.
I’ve already given approval for general non commercial sharing, so go right ahead. Just cut and paste it into a Word doc and it should be fine.
check one two……. is that regular mail or other kind?
K its working…
TODAY, I don’t have to think about where I work.
Today I don’t have to think about if I was perfectly color coordinated.
Today I don’t have to think about how even this line sounds…(literate, not so lit.)
Today, I don’t have to think about cooking another meal.
Today I don’t have to think about who is or is not making it to heaven…just be the light that I am all the time…
Today I don’t have to think about weather my neighbors like me or not.
Today I don’t have to think about if I please this that or the other person, down there past the one friend…cause I won’t be seeing her, and what she thinks of me TRULY does not matter–as much as what I think of my true self.
Today I don’t have to think about if my one big main dream will come true or not, just I’ll keep pursuing it and believing one day it will!!
That is what I don’t have to think about today, ahhhh liked that. Did I get most or some of that right?…was that the idea?…K…hope sort of so..
You are not only a fine author, but a human being I admire very, very much for writing this and saying this. Mad props, sir.
Given all the things that I do have to think about today (that other people have listed, thanks guys!), it’s awesome to be shown the focus to think about the things I don’t have to think about:
Today, I don’t have to think about how to afford dinner, or how to cook it. (I don’t even have to think about it at all in order to have some.)
Today, I don’t have to think about how I’m going to afford my medication.
Today, I don’t have to think about someone assuming I’m a drug addict or an alcoholic.
Today, I don’t have to think about strangers talking loudly about how people like me are nuisance and lazy.
Today, I don’t have to think about people who think I’m not really “from” my home country.
Today, I don’t have to think about people who think my illness isn’t real.
Today, I don’t have to think about people who think snide comments about my appearance will help me look more like they think I should.
Today, I don’t have to think about people who think I’m stupid because I’m active in my faith.
One question son: how old does that make me if they are calling you Mr. Scalzi? I love you and all but when did you get OLD? Mom
-and for a moment, however fleeting it may be, the world is just a little bit better place.
You are clearly a good writer, but items like this lead me to suspect that you are also a good man.
-which, I suspect, we’d both agree is far more important.
Today, I don’t have to worry about whether the only bathroom stall that I can use is going to be occupied by someone who could have used a narrower stall.
@287, Cheryl: I see where you’re going with yours — self-acceptance is good! But that isn’t really the theme the rest of them had going. Let me see if I can explain this better for you, okay?
Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no.
I’m sure you’ll realize that a lot of women have to think about this; a lot of men don’t. It may never even occur to most men that women do have to think about it.
Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.
People who are disabled have to think about this; those who aren’t, don’t.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in.
I have been married seven years today, and my marriage is fully accepted and legitimate in the eyes of the law and all of my family, no matter what jurisdiction I’m in. If my partner were the same gender as me, I wouldn’t be able to say that.
We all have blind spots. Those are sometimes called ‘privilege.’ All ‘privilege’ means is the luxury to not think about those things. I don’t have to think about where my next meal comes from, but someone else does. I don’t have to fear being pulled over for ‘driving while black,’ but someone else does.
They’d like to not think about it, too, but that’s not the world we live in. So today we’re trying to think about the things we don’t have to think about, and how life is for people in those situations.
Does that help?
While this is great — it’s an awesome outpouring of empathy that shows considerable understanding of the plighty of others, I’m a little disappointed about some of the response.
It’s not bad to tell Scalzi about things he didn’t include on the list, but there’s more to take out of this than that Scalzi is privilaged and feels sorry for you.
Each of us can make lists of things we don’t have to worry about, things other people worry about every day. Don’t just help Scalzi, emulate him.
If you can’t make such a list, you are an ignorant self-absorbed whiner. Nobody is a member of every underprivileged class, and even those classes with privilege lack some of the privileges of others.
Today I do have to worry about whether I can get close-up parking, but that’s just temporary; a couple of days ago I fought the laws of gravity and angular momentum, and the law won. And I have to worry that tomorrow I might get shipped back to Canada (where I’m not from) or stuck in the airport in Kansas because my papers aren’t in order, or jailed because of the prescription medicines in my bag that keep me healthy and not in pain, but at least I don’t have to worry about it much, or anywhere near as much as a lot of people.
But you know – I *do* have to worry about friends, and other people I meet in the science fiction community, and even liberals, mocking the religious values that are important to me, and using really offensive language about people that I love because they think it’s funny, because my religion is the one that it’s *okay* to mock. No, not Scientology. You know, the other one that it’s socially acceptable to mock … Christianity? I’m fine with people disagreeing with and criticizing it, and there are lots of good reasons to do so, but [many religious words that I don’t actually use this way deleted], the constant insults get really old, and the “imaginary friend” stuff isn’t worth more than funny-once, especially from people who smugly call themselves “brights”.
Not to take away from your really excellent post, but is this a touch of what being non-privileged feels like? It’s really uncivilized that people get treated like that, and far worse, in what’s supposed to be a civilized society.
John and everyone who added to this list, Thank You! You all “get it”. It gives me hope for the world.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the people around me will consider me a ‘legitimate’ woman or will de-gender me.
Relly, and John…….yes.
It does more.
I must say, throughout the day, to not have to think about where my next meal comes from…HOPEFULLY daily I’m thankful I don’t but am mindful of those that do…
The color of my skin…for 2 yrs I did have to think about my height and color of skin was so different..these years, I don’t have to think about that, and its nice.
Coming up to the next sign…I am able to read, and am so glad I don’t have to think about fretting over what the sign will say…
Probably the largest one today…that I was actually sharing with a friend earlier…is: Today, I don’t have to worry that I’m not PLEASING my mother…(I’m in my 30’s now…) somehow she wanted me to be somewhat crippled, and she threw all this NEEDLESS sympathy on me that DIDN’T help my independence – in the adult world…but to my point here…I don’t have to think about WHAT she thinks of me -I know who I am and what I am capable of. – and that alone feels great. (I still want to show her honor and respect…just she was off in a couple areas…and I don’t have to think about that…)Thanks all you guys…and
Today I don’t have to think about where my next meal will come from.
Today I don’t have to think about what could be in the water I drink.
Today I don’t have to worry about deciding between paying the electricity bill or feeding the kids.
Today I don’t have to think about that last check I wrote bouncing.
Today I don’t have to think about how quickly I can get to my pepper spray.
Today I don’t have to worry that the police will show up at my door checking out “the usual suspects.”
Today I don’t have to think about changing my dosage to keep up with my life.
Today, I don’t have to think about what my family would think of me if they knew the truth.
Today I don’t have to worry that somebody will want to pray for my soul because of who I am.
Today I don’t have to worry about not doing the right assignment because my assigned seat put me someplace I can’t read my professor’s lips.
Thank you for this, Mr. Scalzi.
Today, I don’t have to think about my leg going numb before I made it to my office, bank, store, or house. In the past, I have had to.
Today, I don’t have to think about being seen as a potential victim because my husband just died, but I have had to think about that in the past.
Today, I didn’t have to think about being poor as my employer is doing well financially.
Today, I didn’t have to think about where the grocery money was coming from.
On the other hand…
Today, I did have to think about someone parking in a handicap spot they weren’t entitled to and I did spend time (standing up mind you) talking to security, but at least I didn’t have to park in a non-handicap space like last week. Nor did my leg go numb.
Today, like every day, I did have to worry about eating food that was safe for me and my longevity, as I am celiac. Too many times, people think it’s just discomfort; in the long run, like diabetes, it’s life threatening.
John (and all commenters),
Thank you, more than I can say, for this list. I’ve been trying to explain to my class what privilege is and many of my students are not getting it. This list should hit them where they live, and get the point across in ways I haven’t yet been able to.
Thanks a million, and doing my part to make this go viral. It should be a part of every ethnic studies and sociology text out there.
@253 et al, along with Native American faiths, add Buddhism, Zen or otherwise, and Hinduism, and other “exotic” religions not dominant in the US, Canada, or Europe. How many college students have a “cute” Buddha statue in their first apartments, or a trippy poster with a pot leaf and some bastardization of Ganesh on it? Or the Wiccan pentagram, in a similar way? (yes, Hot Topic and Spencer’s Gifts, I’m looking at you – thanks for teaching 2 generations of teenagers exactly HOW to rebel and WHAT to wear/put on their walls while doing so).
@ original post – this is a gorgeous self-check of my own privilege, because while I don’t have many of the privileges listed as a queer non-white minority, I’ve got tons of other privileges that a post like this brings home.
My mother fought a lot of battles so I wouldn’t have to…
Today I don’t have to have my husband tell the bank it’s ok if I write a check
Today I don’t have to sit on the side while my friends defend my country
Today I don’t have to demand I be allowed to attend college
Today I don’t have to demand my co-workers take me seriously
Today I don’t have to wear high heels because that’s the *only* thing women are allowed to wear
Today I don’t have to burn my bra to make a point.
I will remember those who had to do all that – thanks, mom.
There are so many more things I will never have to do – and thanks for reminding us that if we can make a difference, we should :>.
For the couple of people who have asked about Dan Savage’s transphobia, etc, here’s a link:
And as pretty much everyone else has already said, this is a fantastic post.
Just splicing out a couple lines lets me apply it fully to myself, since I enjoy many privileges even in the midst of facing some others.
Today I don’t have to realize that the books on living with disabilities are shelved where a person in a wheelchair cannot reach them.
Today I don’t have to know where every hiding place in the house is.
Today I don’t have to keep track of which shelter is open on which days.
Today I dont have to think about where to get clean safe drinking water.
@270 chickwithmonkey. Not concerned with your BMI at all, just stating what the articles say and how the ‘ideal’ is wrong – in fact the articles also say that the “fattest of the fat” live longer than the “thinnest of the thin”
Mortality rate was lowest among men and women with BMIs from 25.0 through 27.4 kg/m(2) The graphed relationship between BMI and mortality in younger patients was hyperbolic, with increased death rates at the lowest and highest BMI rankings. On the contrary, the older patients showed an increased death rate at the lowest BMIs with only a slight elevation at the highest BMIs (>35 kg/m(2)).
and these links are really good too http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2009/06/paradoxes-compel-us-to-think-part-two.html
Just trying to challenge the assumption that a thin size 8 is best. I’m a UK size 14 BTW.
That is a very powerful statement, doesn’t half make me think about how much I take for granted! It has opened my eyes a little bit more, as I hope it does to others!
Today, I don’t have to worry that the waitstaff will think that my food allergy is not real.
I’m not really sure what way I’m supposed to feel about my accidental privilege.
Should I feel:
It feels like there is an undercurrent of apology for circumstance here. Obviously we should attempt to avoid many of the empathetic minefields you outline, but at the end of the day, people say and do hurtful things without meaning to be hurtful…we’re human after all.
For me, recognizing my own privilege means I can better realize when someone without the same privilege is being mistreated, and use my privilege for good by speaking up about it. Not to mention trying not to mistreat them myself.
And no, I don’t succeed all the time, but the awareness makes it possible.
luke@253 – while getting pulled over is not going to be pleasant for anyone, some people are going to have a lot more things they potentially need to worry about than others.
Last winter I was pulled over for bull$%^& reasons by a cop in a very wealthy, very white suburb. He ran my license and reg and let me off with a verbal warning for alleged speeding, acting like he expected me to be suprised and grateful about it, even though we both knew the whole thing was bs. As soon as he started talking to me I was pretty confident that as long as I said more or less the right thing I knew what the outcome would be. Spent the next day being comically irate about it about it until one of my friends said something that made me realize just how much privilege I had in that situation that I could laugh it off as a minor annoyance.
When I was pulled over I knew, without having to think about it, that everything about the way that I look, talk, and behave was only going to help me, not be a potential liability. (I was a little bit calculating – the first thing I did after pulling over was unzip my jacket to show my scrub top and hospital ID in case that got me any brownie points) The only thing I had to worry about was why I got pulled over. I didn’t have to worry what assumptions the cop might make based on my appearance, whether I could stay calm, whether I could hear and understand his questions, whether I could read the social cues well enough to play my expected role in the encounter, or any number of other things that could make the outcome less predictable. Until someone called me on it I took all that for granted.
Proof once more of the adage that those who want the job should be banned, and those who would bring good don’t want it …
Will Krissy hurt me badly if I write you in?
Not unless enough of you do it in aggregate to get me elected to something.
A friend sent me a link to this post and I am going to post a link on Facebook. Your posts are almost always thought-provoking, but this one hit it out of the park. As one other reader said, Beautiful, but sad. I wish we did not have such a long list of things used to discriminate against others. For me, it made me reconsider an action I took this morning and regret it, so thank you even more for that.
Doug @311: What you shouldn’t feel is vaguely resentful that you are thinking about those things today, and angry that Scalzi or anyone else made you feel that way.
But you might consider feeling both thankful that you don’t have to think about those things, and determined to try to make the world a place where nobody has to think about those things.
“We’re only human” is a fair explanation for past mistakes. It’s not an excuse, and it’s not a justification for continuing to do the same dumb thing over and over.
I do not feel vaguely resentful that I’m thinking about these things. Oh, and I’m not angry at anyone, well not in relation to this post anyway. Of all the feelings I listed, thankful is the most descriptive of how I feel. I do however resent the undercurrent of apology or guilt, real or perceived.
Human beings make mistakes and it doesn’t make them bad people. That is not an excuse, or a justification, it’s fact.
“I do however resent the undercurrent of apology or guilt, real or perceived.”
It’s probably best not to worry over how other people are processing the entry and focus on what it means to you.
I’ve only met a few published SF/F authors. Some of those, I would never touch their books after hearing them talk or reading their non-fiction ideas. Then there is Mr. Scalzi. I’ve never actually met him or been at a convention where he spoke, but I found his blog before I read his fiction. And it’s posts like this that encouraged me to go out and buy his books — happily supporting a man who is a a great story teller and obviously more intelligent than the majority of elected politicians and political pundits.
Thank you, sir, for both entertaining us and for making us think. Your compassion forces us to look in the mirror at our own attitudes and prejudices. And we so desperately need that. So much energy gets diverted from Good into hate. Thank you, for standing up against that trend.
“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness. Our enemies would dance with joy if only they knew how they were worrying us, lacerating us, and getting even with us! Our hate is not hurting them at all, but our hate is turning our own days and nights into a hellish turmoil.” -Dale Carnegie
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” -Yoda
Oh hilarious, “the Mallet of Loving Correction.” Thanks for the great suggestions for today; today I’m not going to think about the people who won’t wait on me in public places until I ask for what I want.
Doug @318: if the ‘undercurrent of guilt’ is something that exists only in your perception, who exactly are you resenting?
I wish i don’t have to think about how my life is expected by the yactions of others of my belief. My favourite part was the politicians bad mouthing my belief to earn votes and that’s exactly whats happening in our world. BUt it’s not just fault of those politicians it’s fault of those of my belief that how can they do those things, but am I to suffer for it through out my life, suffer for doings of others. Please don’t vote a politician because of his hatespeeches against a belief. Danke Schon!
Thanks, John. This one needs a separate link on the homepage next to the “Being Poor” link.
A really good post- reminds me somewhat of a prayer or maybe the beatitudes in form.
I do have to take exception to one of the commentors toward the top that felt compelled to whine about the lack of sympathy (empathy?) for his vegetarianism.
That my friend IS a choice and not one that should be accommodated everywhere for you because you demand it. To equate your personal choice of eating habits to prejudice against gays, women, minorities, the physically challenged, etc. might inflate your personal sense of righteous indignation, but ultimately demeans the very real daily challenges these people face on a daily basis. You are not a protected class because you choose to eat vegetables instead of meat. Sorry- no sympathy there.
I’m not sure it’s worth starting a fight about vegetarianism in this thread.
That’s a very good way to present the point. Elegantly done!
I don’t want to start that fight either. It’s not really about vegetarianism, though. Not everything that people take exception to is discrimination. There is very real discrimination going on in the US today, seemingly more than in the past few decades. We shouldn’t dilute it or demean it by complaining when our personal choices are unable to be accommodated.
There is a vast difference between a person being unable to find something to eat on the menu and when a physically disabled person is unable to get into a restaurant or an African-American person is turned away at the door or a gay couple is kicked out for holding hands.
Bill Stewart @ 295:
I sympathize with the way you are sometimes treated, and admit that I have a history of that sort of thing myself. FWIW, it’s one of the things I’m working on. (I know some of why I do it, but reasons are not an excuse.)
That said, I have to say that some of your coreligionists — especially certain very highly politicized ones here in the US — irritate the shit out of me when they talk about how terribly downtrodden Christians are in the US.
Please. Not convinced, not even in the slightest.
(Remainder of my original post omitted because I don’t think it was in the spirit of the discussion.)
This reminds me so much of “First they came…” Thank you for speaking up when you didn’t have to. And thank you for instigating/mediating constructive discussion between strangers.
dave78981 @ 325:
Isn’t religion a choice? For that matter, whether or not to follow religiously-based dietary laws is a choice. (Heck, for some people, vegetarianism is an expression of their spiritual beliefs.)
How about the folks for whom choice plays some role in how (or whether) they express their sexual orientation?
I’m not sure choice vs not-a-choice is an important factor in how serious a particular type discrimination is.
Posts like these make me so very grateful, that none of us standing up and speaking are alone in doing so. We may be trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon… but some days it’s enough to be aware that there are a lot of other teaspoons out there helping. *appreciation*
As a Christian, one of my main concerns about the non-religious was their lack of a specific firm foundation from which to build personal rules of morality. Putting aside the widespread hypocrisy of people claiming to be Christian (pretty please), following the teachings of Jesus is supposed to lead one toward a life dedicated to aiding the less fortunate and empathizing with the downtrodden.
I find it very heartening to see that same ideal of empathy outside of a religious context. I was drawn to the church because it often felt like those ideals existed nowhere else; but I feel the weight on my soul lightened on days like today when I see the same level of morality explained in purely secular terms.
Sentiments like these are put forward publicly so rarely in our country, and I especially like the way you found common ground amongst all the different groups facing hardships. It is likely that your readers will personally share at least one of the worries on your list. And that enables us to take the feelings we accord with that idea, and empathize with all the groups that face the other problems you identify. A good portion of the problems on your list are ideas that have never even crossed my mind before, but hopefully thinking about this posting will allow each of those fears to carve out a little niche in my brain that will light up when I come across an individual facing that problem.
Good work John. This was a real public service.
Today, I don’t have to think about being oinked at or cheered on by passers-by if I decide to go running. I can run and be mostly left alone.
Today, I don’t have to think about being able to find reasonably priced clothing in current styles that fit my body.
Today, I don’t have to think about my doctor not listening to me because the number on a scale tells hir all zie thinks zie needs to know.
dave78981 — there are people who think being gay is a choice. Being in an inter-racial couple is a choice, as is following a certain religion.
So, yes, being a vegetarian is a choice (though sometimes culture/religion-related and, as mentioned above, similar issues from people with food allergies). And they are not a protected class, but they should be allowed reasonable accommodations, i.e. requests are fine, demands are not. Like everything else, just because you’re being discriminated against doesn’t mean you should be a jerk about it.
I do agree with your point on the varying levels of discrimination going on — menu options vs. being able to live life without offending the general population by merely existing — but seeing as this post was about tolerance, I don’t see a problem with the original comment bringing this up as an issue.
@Matthew in Austin #333:
“As a Christian, one of my main concerns about the non-religious was their lack of a specific firm foundation from which to build personal rules of morality.”
i want to preface this by saying that i’m not attacking matt. he made an educated and thoughtful comment that included a common sentiment i have ongoing issues with.
as someone who grew up in a christian household and no longer ascribes to any faith, the idea that being non-religious means you have no moral foundation is VERY aggravating. when people find out that you’re no longer a christian, they tend to assume that you’ve rejected all aspects of the faith, including all of the parts about being a good person. i have friends who grew up entirely non-religious and, here in the south, they get looked at like heathens from deepest, darkest africa. people forget that humans had ways of interacting civilly and ethically long before organized religion came around.
one of the biggest problems that i have with organized religion is this setup where people are taught to follow rules, rather than think through morality themselves. i know that this isn’t the case for every person who follows a particular faith, but it’s common enough to cause problems. when you DON’T have a particular faith and don’t rely on god or some church elder to tell you what’s right, it’s my opinion that you’re more likely to come up with the answer that is right AND understand why it’s right. being forced to think about what’s good for you vs what’s good for others and understand how those two play off of one another, instead of having a list you can check off, makes a person a better member of society, in my opinion.
again, i know that not every religious person blindly follows their faith without ever thinking about it. but this “but how will you teach your children about morality?!” question has been thrown at me SOOOOO many times, and, personally, ALWAYS by christians (again, i live in the south. there are a LOT of them.), so i just wanted to put forth my opinion on why this is a total logical fallacy.
Also, thank you John Scalzi for giving me something to teach yesterday. I passed the link along to several colleagues, too.
Spirit03’s comment is an example of what’s called “the Oppression Olympics”
It isn’t *always* a choice though. I have a friend who maintains a gluten-free vegan diet because he has Celiac Disease, anaphylactic allergies to milk protein and eggs, and eating meat severely instigates his Crohn’s Disease. Meet is difficult to digest and takes quite a while to do so, meaning the pain of Crohn’s is longer-lasting and sharper after meals which include meat.
Bra-burning is a myth. And sadly, those things you don’t have to do? They weren’t cured in your mothers’ generation. Though as to high heels…the field I’m in, high heels would be seen as “proof” that I’m “too girly” / “not manly enough” to do the job. I also know a teenage girl whose father refuses to send her to college, because that’s not what girls do.
Never heard of Christian Privilege, eh? Let me link you to the Christian Privilege Checklist. Dressing in a conservatively Christian manner (like many Mormons or those who attend Christian Schools do, or nuns in habits, or Mennonites with bonnets) gets a very different reception than dressing in a conservatively Muslim manner, for example. That is, women who cover their hair with a habit or a hat or a bonnet are obviously good, pious, women choosing to dress as they believe their deity prefers, meanwhile Muslim women with hijab are obviously being forced to dress like that and hiding a bomb under their scarf.
Thank you to Mosca for adding in transgender issues.
@336 Good points, no offense taken. And what I really meant was that I didn’t know how I personally would find a moral foundation. I’ve sunken to some pretty low places throughout my life. That hard part isn’t knowing right and wrong when the choice is easy, it is doing the right thing when it hurts you. Too many people, religious or not, lose their ethics as soon as it gets convenient.
Anyway, I’m going to get the mallet for being off topic if I continue down that line anymore, and I would be interested in hearing from John some more about how he built his own sense of right and wrong. Between this essay and “Being Poor” and his generally level-headed writing on political issues, it is pretty clear that he isn’t winging it and has some solid moral worldview constructed around him. I don’t think that comes to most people naturally. To me, church is essentially a school that helps me build an understanding that I am not the center of the universe, and my needs aren’t the most important. John learned the same thing, but he went to a different school. I’d like to know what district its in.
Lyonside: “How many college students have a “cute” Buddha statue in their first apartments, or a trippy poster with a pot leaf and some bastardization of Ganesh on it?”
All of the buddha statues I know of owned by non-buddhists are held at least in respect for the man and the religion, not as fashion items; but if it’s become fashion, fie on that.
Similarly, the native american appropriations I had seen were principally-to-entirely (hard to tell in some cases) people who thought they were doing the religion. They were doing it *really badly*, but again not a fashion item. And again, it’s saddening to hear that. Makes another good entry.
Today I don’t need to think about people superficially mimicking my religion while getting it horribly wrong, and in all seriousness thinking they’re doing it right.
As far as Wicca is concerned… it’s a DIY revival of an ancient religion. No one’s really getting it right, so that last one doesn’t apply so simply, but the ‘fashion’ one does.
Incidentally, would something like this:
trigger any alarms, assuming that “Death 999” is not of a relevant religion?
As for getting pulled over:
aj: “I didn’t have to worry what assumptions the cop might make based on my appearance, whether I could stay calm, whether I could hear and understand his questions, whether I could read the social cues well enough to play my expected role in the encounter, or any number of other things that could make the outcome less predictable. Until someone called me on it I took all that for granted.”
That would be food for several other things we don’t need to think about, examples below. I was just saying that the one presented wasn’t well aimed — it’s best to keep these strictly and truly things some people don’t need to think about under relevant circumstances.
I don’t need to think about whether that police car up ahead is going to pull me over for no legitimate reason.
I don’t need to think about whether the cop who just pulled me over is going to escalate the situation on account of things I can’t control.
Today, I didn’t have to hang up the phone in tears, because the abuse counselor I spoke to didn’t think “emotional abuse” was real.
Today, I didn’t have to be afraid to go to school. I didn’t have to worry about being mocked, teased, laughed at, tripped, or spat on, because of disabilities beyond my control.
Today, I don’t have to think about getting fired because my employer didn’t like making accomodations for my disabilities.
Today, I don’t have to think about resigning from my last job because I can no longer keep up in a “competitive work environment” (assuming I ever could…).
Today, I don’t have to think about expending the huge mental effort involved in doing “mental gymnastics”, so that I don’t offend my narcissistic (and I mean that in the clinical sense) mother.
Today, I don’t have to wonder if my mother is right when she says “You’re such a stupid, selfish, evil, terrible, ungrateful b****! It’s no wonder you can’t find/keep a boyfriend! It’s no wonder you can’t find a husband! We only put up with you because we have to, we’re related to you! Nobody else would want you!”
Today, I don’t have to wonder whether I will ever find a life partner willing to overlook my disabilities.
Today, I don’t have to worry about any of those things. I no longer speak to my biological family. I have a husband and inlaws who love me unconditionally–until a few years ago, I always thought that term was a euphemism. My MIL’s large extended family have accepted me as one of their own.
Today, and forever always, I am grateful I no longer have to think about those things. Yet my heart breaks regardless, because I know far too many people aren’t so fortunate.
On Christian privilege:
When I was in college, I wore Quaker plain dress part of the time. Bonnet, long sleeves, full-length skirts, the works.
If you ever want a completely hassle-free experience with airport security, it is yours for the low, low cost of a bonnet. No joke.
People who wear other kinds of religious dress definitely do not get treated like that.
Today I don’t have to think about freaking people out with words of more than three syllables. ::SIGH::
@339 Matt in Austin:
hoping to avoid the mallet myself here. :)
thanks for understanding what i was getting at. i’m the first to admit that my religion, at the time, was both the cause and the liferaft during my most heinous bout of self-hate. and yes, there are many people who go morals-free when things get rough. but maud-almighty if i don’t get sick of the super-religious folks here in our great state (dallas!) assuming i’m a free-floater in the world of heathenry because i no longer ascribe to their set of beliefs.
and, not that i’m hoping you lose your faith, because that sucks, let me tell you, but you seem to be a person who HAS thought about his own beliefs and continues to think about them. so, if you did, my bet would be that you’d find your ground again.
Mr Scalzi, I find that post disingenuous. You write “Today I don’t have to worry about…”, but how often *do* you have to worry about any of those things you list? It would be more accurate (assuming you never had to worry about the things in that list) to state that instead of hiding behind a “Today” smokescreen.
Empathy requires the existence of mirror neurons in the brain. Recent studies have linked the appreciation of art, humor, love and caring to those neurons which, further studies have indicated, most Republicans do not possess.
Matthew in Austin:
Posting a comment entirely comprised of “really?” isn’t helpful.
The use of the word “today” is not meant not imply that I had to think about these things yesterday or at any particular point in the past; it notes that I don’t have to think about them on that particular day. It would of course be true on any particular day I might choose to write. The use of “today” isn’t a smokescreen; rather a literary device that pays off in the final line. Most folks seem to understand its use well enough.
Cite? Otherwise that looks like a cheap shot that doesn’t offer much for the thread.
Sorry, it was indeed not helpful. But I really was curious if he was seriously making that accusation, or just offering some tongue-in-cheek troll bait. I half-expected him to reply, “Nah, just kidding”.
Why do we call it a “privilege” to be able to go through a day without getting harrased by others?
Many of the comments talk about privileges of race, religion, gender, health, class, etc. I don’t understand why we use that term. My understanding of the word “privilege” is to describe a special advantage or benefit that is not available to everyone and which can be revoked in some cases.
But being treated with courtesy and respect shouldn’t be considered “special treatment”, it should be the basine expectation for any human interaction. So why do we use language that reinforces the idea that different classes of people can expect to be treated differently, when that mindset seems the antithesis of what we want?
We should be calling prejudice, rudeness, and thoughtlessness what they are. This is America, we are all equal under the law. And in this spirit, we should treat everyone equally with respect and decency. Anything less should be called out as such. We don’t need to understand “privilege” in this country–we need to understand civility!
We should absolutely feel EMPATHY for those who may be different from ourselves, and I think John’s essay really brings this home. But that empathy should spring from the likes of the golden rule (“treat others as you would like them to treat you”), and not some “noblesse oblige” of the lucky, privileged majority.
That’s my two cents, anyway.
“We don’t need to understand ‘privilege’ in this country–we need to understand civility!”
I’m not sure why you think it’s an either/or situation.
Thanks for making us all stop and think. Your words are very inspirational.
Privilege is unusual, even in ideal. This is ideally universal.
#338 Mackenzie — actually, there were bra (and draft card) burnings. Mostly old bras and expired draft cards, but they were waved about, flaming. Didn’t do that, but did take photos and did radio interviews of the participants, then and there. I haven’t heard about pantie raids in a long time, either, and those also happened. Oh! and “PDA-in”s, where students would violate the no-touch rulesin the dorm lounges.
“Privilege is unusual”
There’s nothing inherent in privilege as a concept that suggests it has to be unusual; it’s an advantage some have that others do not. That “some” may very easily be a majority, rather than a minority.
Re: # John Scalzion 18 Oct 2010 at 5:09 pm
“Ironically, when as a stay-at-home dad …
… I was also working from home … and that may have made a difference in how I was perceived as well.”
Possibly not, some women are still looked down on, even if they do work from home. As an example, I was recently pigeonholed by our bank as a “Homemaker” (I do not, and have never made homes. Don’t have the carpentry skills.) on a loan application, because I work out of our home, making too variable an income to count on the application, so that our children do not go to before and after school care. I suppose there was no little box that could encompass my professions.
Today, I will not wonder how to reply when asked, “So, what do you do?”
“Privileges” can be contrasted as a concept with “rights”. As you say, a privilege describes “a special advantage or benefit that is not available to everyone and which can be revoked in some cases.”
Now, let’s look at some of the some of the axes of privilege with regards to some items on the list.
“Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being pulled over for anything other than speeding.” From a legal perspective, everyone has the same RIGHTS in this situation. But some people have a special advantage. Their PRIVILEGE is not having to wonder whether their rights are being violated for the sake of someone else’s prejudice. They know they aren’t.
“Today I don’t have to think about if it’s safe to hold my beloved’s hand.” Where I live, I have the RIGHT to hold my beloved’s hand without harassment. But I don’t have the PRIVILEGE of never having to think about it. I have been harassed. Other people do have that privilege. And when your right is not legally upheld, well, it gets worse.
“Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.” I have to think about this every day. My RIGHT is to be accommodated, but that means very little when I’m facing a set of steps. Again. The PRIVILEGE of others dictated that when those stairs were made and placed with no ramp or elevator in sight, they could think only about how their bodies move, not about mine.
The problem with invoking “civility” when discussing privilege and oppression, is that there are people who think they are being perfectly civil as they oppose same-sex marriage or equal access policies. There are opponents of feminism who argue that they love and respect women. There are racists who pride themselves on their good manners. And those stairs I mentioned earlier? Mere courtesy won’t morph them into a ramp.
You are right– of course, civility and privilige are not either/ors.
But as you say, privileges are something that some people have and others do not.
If being treated civilly is something we think everyone should enjoy, then we should stop calling it a privilege.
I used “expectation”, but whatever word we use should not have built-in connotations of exclusivity or permission, for those concepts run counter to the spirit of equality we are aiming for.
Whirlwitch has cogently discussed your point directly above your latest response, so I would encourage you to read that.
Beyond this I’d note that trying to rebrand what privilege I have here and now is not likely to change the fact I have it, and others don’t.
‘There’s nothing inherent in privilege as a concept that suggests it has to be unusual; it’s an advantage some have that others do not.’
Absolutely – being 20 is being privileged in a way that an 80 year old understands, but the 20 year is unable to understand.
Thanks for your response. I understand the points you are making.
What I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t be a “privilege” to know you aren’t being pulled over for your race.
It shouldn’t BE a privilege to hold your beloved’s hand without worrying about harrasment.
It shouldn’t BE a privilege to “not” have to think about any of the things on John’s list.
This isn’t to say that this isn’t the way the world works now. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not denying the reality of the world we live in.
And maybe civility isn’t the right word, either, but as I replied to John, those of us who want equality for everyone should use language that reinforces the idea of equality. “Privilege” denotes a system of intentionally unequal treatment for “some”, and I just think that’s a wrongfooted way to talk about something we want enveryone to enjoy.
GHW I was 9 when I acquired said BOOBS. As is now not outside the norm for girls in the US, btw. So I don’t really give up fuck what you claim biology was making them do, I expect boys that are three years older than me to have the decency to not make me feel like a freak or incredibly threatened. As I said elsewheres on the internets recently, they are much more capable of curbing such impulses at age 12 than I was at dealing with being on the receiving end of such crap at the same age, much less when I was even younger.
And thank you ever so much for prompting this addition to the list /sarcasm
Today, I don’t have to worry that the assault and harassment I experienced as a child – at the hands of both adults and children – is going to be blamed on biology.
Or, rather, apparently I do.
Scalzi – apologies for continuing a conversation you said to stop, it just drives me batshit crazy when people try to excuse boys bad behavour on their lack of years, as if emphasizing the “boys” part doesn’t still mean “boys will be boys”
I’m curious as to what you are referring to exactly. Mostly because I’m afraid that since I’m not sure, I may be causing others this kind of pain myself. If you feel like it, would you mind elaborating?
I’m staggered by this. The post, and (most of) the comments here are amazing. Will be sending all of the mighty tens of readers of my blog here, hopefully to help spread this around some more.
One last thought. I guess this reveals my own “privileges”, but whenever I hear the word “privilege” I think of the DMV’s warning that “driving is a privilege, not a right.”
I just don’t think that “equality” (or whatever we call it) should be thought of in terms of something that we need permission to receive.
I didn’t mean to raise controversy with my comments, or to deny or belittle the reality of others’ situations.
“Today I don’t have to realize that the books on living with disabilities are shelved where a person in a wheelchair cannot reach them.”
Oh, Elise, I am so checking that at the library that I work at asap. Thanks.
A beautiful list. Very nice.
Today I will not have to think about being considered immoral because of what I don’t believe.
Today I will not have to be afraid of losing my carreer if they find out which person I love.
Today I will not have to worry that the country that asked me to fight for it refuses to help me now that I can’t fight any more.
Today I will not have to worry that the people I get my information from have been corrupted by those who don’t care for me and mean me harm.
Today I will not have to worry about dying from diarrhea, cholera, or other easily preventable diseases.
But most of all, today I do not have to think about sustainabiltity, overpopulation, climate change, or poverty. But I NEED to. We all need to.
@John – Thank you, this was an excellent post.
@#350, JB – It is important to talk about privilege to see how society is set up in a particular way to make things unfair in a systematic fashion. Consider the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men for the same job at the same level. This shows that being a man gains you an advantage in your pain. Consider the problem with being pulled over for DWB; if a person wasn’t dark skinned they wouldn’t encounter this, thus showing an advantage based off of skin tone. If you’re straight you can marry and gain all the benefits, societal and legal, of that status but if you’re homosexual then you don’t get those benes, thus being straight gets you some privileges.
I am civil and polite and empathetic towards most people but that does not change that the system, without any direct influence from me, unfairly gives me the advantage in many ways because I’m white, male, and married to a woman.
Does that help?
I love this honest and creatively written post. It really touched me. It saddens me that a huge chunk of this list applies to my life. Thanks for allowing others to share this, I saw that you mentioned that to Diana, because I would like to mention this on my blog.
I appreciate your candor though I feel slightly sad right now, for a moment.
Rosy: now you know another example of someone who thinks about/had to think about/was affected by the bullying in school after he left.
I was 25, I guess, before a day went by where I didn’t think about something from that time.
Between 28 and 33, it was impossible for me to hold a job requiring concentration because of the aftereffects of that time. I’m a computer programmer, by the way.
While it stopped being daily in school, I was about 20 before a week went by where I didn’t have to make the choice about whether today should be my last day alive; I never had a month go by without that thought until The Treatment That Worked. Even after that, it still comes back, occasionally.
And because of privilege that I have, I didn’t have to think about how to afford the Treatment That Worked, or what has to go to pay it back *today* – or whether today should be my last day alive, because I can’t pay it back and eat.
Even today, I have to be careful about what I eat, drink, and do to make sure that it doesn’t come back. And as recently as Saturday, I misinterpreted what someone said, and caused a problem as a result. Simple, stupid, easily rectifiable, and rectified. But I spent most of the next 30 hours trying to figure out how to apologise for it, and whether it was safe to, and whether the other person will ever talk to me again, anyway. They’ve already forgotten it.
It happens, and for most (but not all) it’s survivable. For some, there’s even a time when it stops haunting their daily lives. But not all.
On the original note, but a different tack, prompted by another discussion:
Today I do not have to think about whether it is safe to go home.
Today I do not have to decide whether it is safer to stay on the street than to go home.
Today I do not have to decide, knowing it is not safe to go home, whether it it better that I do anyway, because otherwise what will happen to me will be added to what will happen to my mother, sister, son, brother, daughter, father, or wife.
Today I do not have to wonder if what my friend will learn if we play at my house will mean that he will not be allowed to play with me again.
Also, ‘privilege’ is not John’s word. It has a specific history in the equality movements. For instance, see
Bill Stewarton @ 295
Being mocked for your religion does not mean you do not have Christian privilege.
I have been mocked, and insulted, and threatened for being white here in the US. That does NOT mean I don’t have white privilege.
Any time I wanted, I could have gone to a community where white was the ‘norm.’
In my circle of friends, I’m unusual for being straight. Sometimes, I get mocked for it. That does not mean I don’t have Het Privilege. Any time I want, I can go to a community where being straight is the ‘norm.’
Do you see the difference?
#JB: You may well be showing your own privilege in questioning the term “privilege”.
The first thing for you to consider is that the concept and use of “privilege” in the context we’re discussing was developed by people who don’t have it, who are fighting for equality from the position of being oppressed. A lot of thought went into the development of that language, and you’ve seen for yourself how widespread it is. If the term had been proposed and then found to be unhelpful or counter-productive, it would not still be in use.
So if your question wasn’t being informed by a certain amount of your own privilege, you could have answered your own question of “does this work?” with “evidently, yes”. Centering your own theory over other people’s lived experience is a manifestation of privilege.
Which brings me to answer another aspect of your question. You see privilege as being used to describe something that “something we want everyone to enjoy.” But here is a form of privilege that is something no one should enjoy. Nobody should feel entitled to place their opinion above other people’s experience. Another manifestation of privilege is using words without thinking of their impact on others. The solution is not to extend this privilege but to abolish it.
Yet another form of privilege from the list: “Today I don’t have to think about managing pain that never goes away.” I don’t have that privilege. Every moment I’m conscious, I’m in pain. We can’t extend this privilege to me, and it’s neither reasonable nor ethical to try to take it away from others. So the privilege remains,and the solution, if there is one, is mindful awareness, so that when my pain and I are out in the world, we meet fewer barriers and more comprehension.
So privilege is being used to talk about unearned advantages, regardless of what the best course of action is in dealing with each one, which gives us a broader scope than if we just focused on “things everyone should have and doesn’t.”
Thank you for the Christian Privilege link.
Thanks for your response. I do “get” what you and others are saying (or at least I think I do), and I appreciate you all taking the time to post.
All I’m suggesting is that using the term “privileges” implies that being treated decently is a special favor, and not something everyone should expect.
Let me use one of your examples:
“Consider the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men for the same job at the same level. This shows that being a man gains you an advantage…”
Or, it shows that being a man gives you no advantage but being a woman gives you a DISadvantage.
If men get paid $10.00/hour for a job, and woman gets paid $7.00/hour for that same job, who is receiving differential treatment? If the base pay is supposed to be $7/hour but men get paid “above’ that, then yes, they are enjoying a privilege or advantage. But if the base pay is supposed to be $10/hour, then the men are getting fair treatment and the woman is getting UNFAIR treatment. It shouldn’t be considered a “privilege” to get paid fairly. It should be considered “discrimination” to get paid unfairly.
See the difference? By calling non-harrasment or non-discrimination a “privilege”, we are implying the baseline expecation is to be harrassed and discriminated against. Only the “special circumstances” of one’s race, gender, whatever exempts them from ill treatment.
I think this is the wrong approach, because it implies that the excluded class wants the “special treatment”, too.
Politically speaking, here in California, the gay community argues for “equal rights, not special rights”. I think this is ultimately the more successful strategy, because it denies the previous attempts to paint gays as clamoring for “special” treatment.
If we set the baseline at equal treatment for all, then it’s no longer a “privilege” to be unharrased, it’s the expectation, and those who fail to treat others equally should be called out for failing to meet that expectation.
Does this make sense? Or am I just showing my ass here?
Again, I thank everyone for their responses.
I just don’t think that “equality” (or whatever we call it) should be thought of in terms of something that we need permission to receive.
“Equality” is generally though of in terms of laws; privilege is more thought of in terms of attitudes. Someone “with privilege” gets a free pass where someone else does not, and in neither case is it always breaking a LAW. For example, a cop can legally pull anyone over and claim whatever s/he wants, but it rarely happens for NO reason. “Driving While ____” is a “reason” in the cop’s mind but not illegal. So “equality” (under the law) doesn’t stop the privilege that keeps someone from needing to worry about this situation.
Something along these lines (being pulled and treatment from cops) I once read is that you should not have political or “controversial” (gay rights or abortion, either pro/con) bumper stickers on your car, because a cop who disagrees with the viewpoint you’re espousing may decide to “take you down a notch” by pulling you over–in other words “Driving while holding a particular political opinion”. Again, the “privilege” in this case would be having the SAME views as the cop, who might even let a minor infraction go but would give a ticket to someone on “the other side”. Obviously, political display, let alone opinion, is a choice and a protected one, but that doesn’t mean anything if someone who disagrees with you decides to “get back at you” for your views.
I know this isn’t “privilege” in the traditional sense, but it’s more an illustration of how someone in power (whether a cop, boss, landlord, lawmaker, etc) might choose to go one direction or the other in a way that affects someone, solely based on personal prejudices. That it is typically “minorities” (in a broad sense) who are on the receiving end of the more unpleasant repercussions that can result from this personal prejudice means that the “majority” have the “privilege” of not ever having to worry about said repercussion, and very often not even realizing such a thing goes on. That “lightbulb” realization is exactly what the original list has done for many of us, because we are ALL a “majority” of some sort.
You’re wrong about one thing, John:
My eyes always go to your chest first.
Allochon, Whirlwitch, others:
Thank you for the link and the discussion.
The “invisible knapsack” essay has a line which encapsulates what I’ve been trying to say:
‘Some [privileges], like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society.”
Clearly, there are other ‘privileges’, like living pain-free, which do not fit neatly into this “normative” model.
Things I don’t have to worry about today: That I won’t be permitted to be involved with my future child’s extra curricular activities because of my sexual orientation.
“using the term ‘privileges’ implies that being treated decently is a special favor”
Well, no. Privilege implies you have advantages; whether these are seen as a special favor or simply something you get as a matter of course without someone else actively conferring them on you is an entirely separate thing.
I’m not a regular reader, but a friend who is pointed me back over here to see this, and, well, thanks.
Thanks because I do think (and think is a mild word, sometimes) every day about some of those things. Doesn’t matter which (well, it matters to me, but never mind.)
And thanks because I could use to be reminded of the rest of those things, the ones I don’t have to think about, and should remember them as well. The ones that sit on my chest are hard to forget. The rest… again, thanks.
Discrimination comes in all forms. Great post! Really moving.
John, Whirlwitch, others: You’re right that the word privilege does not strictly denote something special and restricted. In common usage, it does. That’s why the DMV has to go out of its way to remind people, as mentioned above.
The ‘it works’ argument… well, where did the term originate? Where has it worked? Where is it used? Has anyone actually tried to gauge its effectiveness relative to other terms? (These are serious questions, not rhetorical)
There’s one thing going for it that I can think of, which is that it DOES sound wrong, and that that dissonance attracts attention. Someone hearing that could say, ‘That’s not a privilege…’ and think harder about it. Which is why I’m not going on about it like JB…. no really solid information on how it actually works ‘in the wild’.
Great post. I’ll try to think of my own things today, although I doubt I’ll have the wherewithal to write them out. Kudos.
A discussion on the origin and worth of using the term ‘Privilege’ is beyond me, but it has been in use, in this context, since at least the mid-1970’s:
Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege: 1976
So maybe its beyond the scope of this thread, too.
Thank you for this, Mr Scalzi. There have been many great comments as well.
I would like to add:
Today I don’t have to think about the man that didn’t listen when I said no.
Today I don’t have to think about taking the meds that help me stay alive.
Today I don’t have to think about how parts of my past have hurt me.
But I will….
Again, Thank you Mr Scalzi. <3
Today, I don’t have to think about how others think I’m immoral, evil, or going to hell because I don’t believe in any god at all.
Today, I don’t have to think about how atheists are trusted less than muslims. (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/edgell/home/Strib%20Atheist%20Faith%20and%20Values.html)
Today, I don’t have to think about how if one publicly proclaims that they don’t believe in a god, they have automatically destroyed their chance at any public office.
Today, I don’t have to think about how irritated I am that my homosexual friend wants to bury his head in the sand when I bring up sexism.
Today, I don’t have to think about how people think that a job is your identify, and that if you don’t have a job, you’re a nobody.
Today I don’t have to worry that people will think I’m anti-feminist just because I follow the tenents of my religion.
Today I don’t have to worry about having my responsibility level judged based on my race.
Today I don’t have to wonder if my beloved will hurt me again.
I do have to think and worry about a lot of things on that list, though, and as someone who does to someone who doesn’t… thank you. I cried. Thank you so much.
Today I don’t have to think about whether articles about executives who look like me will focus on their fashion sense instead of the skills and talents that they bring to their job.
Today I don’t have to think about how my teacher is pulling strings for somebody else to be valedictorian because of their skin color.
Today I don’t have to think about how things I do reflect on everyone who looks like me.
Is it just me, or are a lot of the people adding there own contributions missing the point. I don’t know anything about these posters, but I get the vibe that they are posting things that they DO have to worry about. Scalzi’s post was about the things he doesn’t have to worry about.
@388: Presumably. In my case, those are all things I don’t have to think about. They are, however, things that friends and loved ones have to think about, or have had to in the past.
Today, I don’t have to worry about being thought less intelligent because of how I speak.
Today, I don’t have to worry about being spoken of in the third person.
Today, I don’t have to worry about being unable to follow the dialogue in a TV show because I’m not reliant on spotty/haphazard close-captioning.
Today, I don’t have to worry about following the action on a TV show because I can see what’s going on and don’t have to rely on a relative or friend to describe it to me.
jennygadget @362: People with autistic spectrum disorders get mistreated that way a lot. The thing is, people with them tend to be able to understand each other fine, whereas people without them have a really hard time understanding people with ASDs because not only are the differences big, but they’ve not spent a lifetime trying to figure out how to deal with everyone else.
No one was or ever shall be created in an absolute equal. Equality lies only in the eyes of some lords. Humans are still primative animals and as such seek to dominate to exist
Wow. Powerful and thought-provoking. Thank you.
This was very beautiful. Thank you.
You sure made me think about a lot. Thanks
Great! Simply wonderful. You could summarize these as:
“Today I don’t have to think of who I’m going to demonize in order to distract attention from my own failings.”
Thanks so much for replying. I thought that may be what you were referring to, but I wasn’t sure.
“Is it just me, or are a lot of the people adding there own contributions missing the point.”
I don’t see how, seeing as how discouraging people from adding what they do have to think about, but others don’t, essentially encourages silence from people that are marginalized. I’m not sure how THAT is supposed to further the goals of the list.
“Today I don’t have to think about how things I do reflect on everyone who looks like me.”
As a partially paralyzed black man with PTSD in an interracial relationship, living in the rural suburbs as a stay-at-home with my biracial children while my common-law wife works, I can relate to this whole list in the most ridiculous way.
I won’t even list what “I don’t have to think about” because it would be as long as the original post even if it just pertained to me specifically.
I really appreciate all that you’ve written, and I hope it opens someone’s eyes to what everyone else goes through. I say everyone else because ALL of us are ailed by something that the rest of the world may not see or understand.
Empathy and acceptance… It certainly seems that we all need a bit of that right now.
We need cookies.
I will be doing this slightly edited and with a few additions as a spoken word piece if that is acceptable. My edits would be primarily to make it true for me and not include things that I do have to worry about in the main part, I will likely post this to youtube if it gets recorded and I’ll certainly post a link here if it does and there is interest.
Thank you for this eye opening post.
I hope it makes a difference to readers – both in minority groups and without ‘things to think about’.
As someone who does have to think about a number of these things, I really appreciate your words. Thank you for writing this.
I wanted to add something about using ‘Privilege’ in this context, instead of advantaged / disadvantaged.
As someone with white privilege, if I am honest about wanting to end racism, I will have to *give up* some of my unearned privilege. I will have to give up, for instance:
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
(From the “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack essay”).
It won’t be long until Caucasians are not the majority here in the US. To give up my privilege, I have to be perfectly comfortable moving into a neighborhood which is mostly made up of people of color. I have to be perfectly comfortable being in crowds that aren’t primarily Caucasian most of the time.
That isn’t a matter of making racial minorities *more* advantaged. Instead, I have to accept being in the same position the racial minorities have always been in.
This is a weak example, but it’s one that applies directly to me. Please extrapolate to your situation. What privilege will you (general you) have to give up to get rid of inequality?
‘…simply something you get as a matter of course without someone else actively conferring them on you is an entirely separate thing’
Like youth – the young have no idea what being old is like. A fact about as as old at the human race, and yet a truth that anyone who grows older understands – without being able to actually share that experience with either their younger selves, or those who are young now.
The privilege of the young, however, is a cliche among the old, and ignored by the young. However, in this case, thinking about it won’t matter – the young get older, and it doesn’t make any difference to how things work.
Today I do not have to worry that someone will treat me like I’m have my age and talk to me like a child.
Today I do not have to sit on the sidelines while my classmates enjoy their field trip.
Working with children with special needs has taught me a lot. Look aren’t everything. They are intelligent people who do not want to talk about the weather and their pretty dress.
Today I discover that I’m grateful to the point of tears to find nos. 9, 13-16, 22, 34, 39-41, 45, 47-48, and 50 in the list. If you’ll let me swap “get a seat on the subway” for “park near the door,” I’ll throw no. 28 as well.
Today, you don’t have to worry whether your doctor thinks you’re boring.
Today, I don’t have to worry whether I can afford my prescriptions.
I look upon this as a Wish List — as in “I wish everyone in the world could say all of these things (or at least all that are applicable to them) with reasonable confidence”. *sigh*
Not to trivialize (_I_ don’t think they’re trivial), or raise objections of potential abuse (which the second one might), but:
Today I won’t have to worry about being accused of attacking someone because I have objected vigorously to something that person has done.
Today I won’t have to worry about being accused of attacking a Group to which some person belongs, just because I have attacked either something that person has done or that person.
(Mind you, I _do_ sometimes attack or disparage whole groups of people — mostly the kind of news commentators and media figures I categorize as “Professional A**holes”, but it sure would be nice if people would pay closer attention and avoid unwarranted assumptions.)
Thank you for sharing this list; it’s a good reminder that my experiences do not encompass the Human Experience.
I have added my own contribution to your list (in reverse person):
Today, I don’t have to think about whether others are aware that my particular gender even exists.
Today I don’t have to worry about a war being fought on my body.
Wow, this is beautiful. I wish I could read all the comments, but if I did I’d never get any homework done tonight! But even moreso I wish everyone could think about all these things, those that do and don’t apply to them, and maybe the people that have to think about them won’t have to do it as much.
John, what you’ve done is wonderful. Thank you.
Great list, John.
The first one is a testament to the importance of free speech:
Yeah! I would probably find your faith offensive, but you absolutely have a right to express it.
This one doesn’t seem to fit, though:
If you did see that, why should you care? So long as they’re burning their own property, and not one they’ve gained illegally, of course.
This is especially confusing when you made a point (quoted above) that you want to make your own free expression; why do you not want to think about seeing others having public free expression?
After all, it’s only when someone finds another’s expression offensive that it needs protection as free speech.
Bearpaw@329, thanks. And as far as my coreligionists who irritate the shit out of you go, they irritate the shit out of me too, and since they’re my coreligionists, I’m expected to feel responsible for how irritating they are in addition to being irritated by them :-)
Mackenzie@338 and Allochthon@370, I interpret “privilege” as the concept that “because you’re in group X, people will treat you like you and they are both civilized, while if you’re not in group X, you can expect lots of people to treat you as if they are not civilized and you are not valuable, so if you are in group X you should be conscious of the fact that other people aren’t always treated like you.” So yes, I’m well aware of Christian privilege. I wasn’t talking about that; that’s something to talk to primarily Christian audiences about so they can look at their lives.
I was talking about how people in this community, who consider ourselves to be civilized and concerned about privilege, have our own problems and ought to be aware of them. It may be that it’s only a mote in our eye and a log in the other folks’ eyes, but it’s certainly a sharp pointy one.
People often have the Constitutional right to do hateful things. It doesn’t make those things less hateful and insulting to the people at whom the act is targeted, nor does it mean the act is not meant to demean and marginalize others.
WOW. Thanks for this.
This is a wonderful poem, and I’m lucky I don’t have to think about the majority of those things. The one I didn’t get though – perhaps due to my own naivety – was the “pharmacist saying his conscience prevents him from filling out my prescription” one.
As for the “remembering bullying in high school” one, in some small way (and in some not-so-small-ways) getting in the mind of a character as realistic, well-written, confident and tough as Zoe helped me deal with my own bullying, so thanks. :)
This is beautiful. Thank you.
Today I don’t have to worry that when I come home someone will have gotten rid of some of my things without my consent.
Today I won’t have to worry about someone who supposedly loves me doing things that hurt and make me feel creepy just because they don’t like my looks–and thinking they have the right to do it just because they feed me.
Today I won’t have to worry about having to move from a region I feel at home in, to a distant and lonely place, with no sure chance of return, just because the people who feed me and shelter me decided to go there, dragging me along like a dog in a crate.
But I once did, and so did other kids.
Today I will try not to do that to anyone, however small they are.
Add my thanks to all the others.
I can’t wait to take your words and put my own artistic efforts behind them, and then hang them up on the wall, with your name proudly placed at the bottom. Hey, maybe I’ll even find an occasion to get a signature! Anyway, Thank You for this beautiful post; Once these empathic tears dry up I’m looking forward to getting to some paper or canvas.
With regards to how bullying can affect some people, my bf/husband was beaten into unconsciousness in third grade for being the wrong religion. Ever since then he has not been able to have faith in anything or anyone. He’s making progress now, but it’s been difficult and it will always remain a scar on his psyche. One aspect of privilege that many people overlook is the privilege that allows people to see the word “bullying” and think only of mild teasing and occasional name-calling or minor pranks, instead of the relentless and serious abuse faced by many children.
Here’s my list for people who aren’t me:
Today I won’t have to worry that my odd behavior and obvious anxiety will be assumed to be racial prejudice or homophobia.
Today I won’t have to worry about being laughed at because of the things I am phobic about.
Today I won’t have to feel ashamed and impolite because my dietary restrictions or odd behavior are an imposition on the people I am visiting.
Today I won’t have to see parents rushing their children away from me because of the way I look.
Today I won’t have to worry about how to explain my marital status when people ask about my ring.
Today I won’t have to worry about people telling me my relationship is unhealthy.
Today I won’t have to listen to people telling me I don’t need to count calories because I “look great”, not realizing that I count calories to make sure I eat enough, not to help me eat less.
Today I won’t have to explain how I can be part of a religious ethnic group but not be part of that religion.
Today I won’t be judged negatively for which languages I choose to study.
Today I won’t have to make a contingency plan for what to do if I have a panic attack on the job.
Today I won’t have to spend hours agonizing in self-doubt about whether or not my invisible disabilities are real or I really am just a lazy hypochondriac like everyone says.
Today I won’t have to wonder what my friends say about my issues behind my back.
Today I won’t have to wonder where I will stay if my home becomes too dangerous.
Today I don’t have to think about the fact that if I am honest about my gender identity to a doctor, I might be sent to a psychiatrist.
Today I don’t have to think about checking a little box or filling in a drop down menu with a lie because people like me don’t exist.
Today I don’t have to think about endangering my own health in hopes of being recognized as something resembling myself.
Today I don’t have to think about justifying my own identity to folks that believe people like me don’t exist.
This is me as a genderqueer individual. With bad lungs from faulty binding and anger issues. Thank you for this wonderful post – I’m saving it.
It’s really hard to read that list and wish I could say those things don’t apply to me.
Today I don’t have to think about any of these things. Many of them apply to me, but I’ve decided not to worry about them. I used to. But when people make a scene when I fall hurt because my hip gave out AGAIN, I don’t care. When people say I shouldn’t be with my husband and shouldn’t have had children with him because he’s schizophrenic, I don’t care. When people see me dressed funny and make jokes, I don’t care. When people stare while I help my mom get groceries, and act like she’s in the way because she’s in a wheelchair, I don’t care. When businesses don’t reply to my messages now that my last name is a minority race, I don’t care. When people assume I’m lying about my son’s age because he’s so big, I don’t care. When people make fun of me behind my back for my awkwardness, I don’t care.
I don’t want those people and their negativity. All I see is my loving husband, my good job, my son that is developing 4 or 5 months ahead to match his size, the happiness and completeness my religion has brought me, the pride of having my husband’s last name and the blessings I’ve received from him and because of his encouragement. I’m not perfect, and I’m not the norm. I exercise every morning to help with the pain, and go for walks every day. I work hard and have set up quite the happy life. That’s what I’m thinking about today.
John, thanks for the response.
I disagree (I think you’re wrong to identify with any book, or to get offended when someone burns their copy of it), but I won’t bang on about it in your weblog.
You’ve explained what you meant, so thanks.
@417 Marlon – Some very religious people see birth control pills as pre-emptive abortion, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7404786/Pharmacist-refuses-to-issue-pill-because-of-her-religion.html and http://www.topix.com/forum/world/australia/T10VLJTJKQCAQR0MN. Though the pill is often prescribed for it’s side effects like reducing heavy periods (menorrhagia), reducing pain during periods (edemetriosis and menorrhagia) and I was prescribed one specific form because of it’s use in treating Acne.
Other pharmacists won’t give out the morning after pill because that basically is abortion to them.
Other pills may be denied because the pharmacist can insist that the pill is ineffective or harmful or the illness doesn’t exist.
Just how paranoid can one person be?
Lovely. And would be equally as lovely if international charities would use the format outside of a Western/US-centric view to make their own list to highlight injustices in developing nations.
Today I don’t have to think about whether to $2 I earned today is enough to feed my family
Today I don’t have to think about where my next meal comes from
Today I don’t have to think about if the water I drink will make me sick
Today I don’t have to think whether my child will live past infancy
Today I don’t have to think about sacrificing my body for my husband’s life
Today I don’t have to think about whether my beliefs will get me arrested
Today I don’t have to think about whether my actions will get me sentenced to death
Today I don’t have to think about working an 18-hour shift
Today I don’t have to think about affording basic amenities
Today I don’t have to think about scavenging landfill to make money
Today I don’t have to think about hearing a knock on my door in the dead of night
Today I don’t have to think about disappearing without trace
Today I don’t have to think about whether the mine dust will give me cancer
Today I don’t have to think about my children working so we can afford food
Today I don’t have to think that rising grain costs means I can’t eat
Today I don’t have to think that I could die from an easily treatable disease
Today I don’t have to think about my home being raided from my own government’s soldiers
Today I don’t have to think about if my asylum application has been rejected
Today I don’t have to think about whether my love can cost me my life
Today I don’t have to think about having to marry against my will
Today I don’t have to think about being killed to restore my family’s honour
Today I don’t have to think that the difference between life and death could be a simple mosquito net.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I will live to see my children grow up
Today I don’t have to think about the fact that slavery still exists
Today I don’t have to think about where the rebels acquired their AK-47s, and why they are only children, and what they are capable of.
I know people who have gone through horrendous things in life and have come out the other side of it with an understanding of the importance of the meaning of forgiveness and standing in a personal state of grace.
They are some of the most compasionate and caring folks i know. And i like being around them because being in the presence of someone who has suffered massive injustice and still lives in a state of grace serves as an instructive lesson in how i could live my life in response to whatever inconvenience that’s bothering me and is something minor compared to the sorts of things they’ve suffered.
To see people living in the face of horrendous circumstances with a sense of peace and calm and grace and resolve inspires me to want to be a better person in my circumstances.
I feel inspired by them. And i get that by pure luck i was not put through the ordeals they went through.
Whenever people are talking about adversity and someone starts throwing around the term ‘privilege’, my own personal response to it is almost always the complete opposite of the grace, thankfulness, inspiration, and resolve i feel when around the friends i mentioned above.
I can read scalzis list and feel a sense of thankfulness that i don’t have to think about those things everyday. I feel a sense of duty to try and fix it so no one else has to either.
But when someone starts telling me i have “privilege” they don’t occur to.me as someone i want to be like, someone who inspires me to be a better person, somene who is living life as an inspiration to others, someone who gets the difference between leading people by example.
I think in the end its about having the serenity to accept the things that can’t be changed, the courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference
When i am around those various friends of mine, they occur to me as serene, courageuos, and wise.
The people using the term ‘privilege’ usually don’t occur to me as any of those. Or at least that’s not the feelings they inspire in me.
Greg: Uh, so wait. The purpose of my life, as a disabled person, is to make you feel better with a transcendent serenity?
I don’t have PTSD to make other people feel better about themselves. I will go so far as to say no oppressed person is oppressed to make you feel better.
You’re right: I’m not serene, courageous, or wise. I’m just fucking tired, and sick, and struggling to deal with my life and accomplish the stuff I want to do. My goal in life — believe it or not — is not to make you feel better about yourself.
From correspondence with others, who do have to think about this stuff:
Today I don’t have to think about the things I do to keep the nightmares at bay.
Today I don’t have to think about what happens if they fail.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the people with the power to hurt me are in a bad mood.
Today I don’t have to think about whether the people who want to hurt me might find me.
Today I don’t have to think about what might show up in my mailbox.
Today I don’t have to dread the phone ringing.
Shit. Now I have to think (again) about sixteen of those. It would be nineteen if I lived in the US. I hope I can get around to feeling thankful about the rest soon.
Even so — thank you. It’s good to remember that people don’t have to share your circumstances to know that you *have* circumstances.
Ben, if you’re not looking to get other people to change their behavior, then you can safely ignore my post.
If you ARE looking to get other people to change their behaviour, then you can either lead from where you want them to be (be the change you want to see in the world), or try to guilt-trip or browbeat or some other approach, them into changing. (the beating will continue until morale improves).
I never said the purpose of your life is to inspire me. I was trying to say that IF someone happens to want to get people to change (And I’m pretty sure that at least SOME people using the term “privilege” do in fact want other people to change), then at least for me, leading by example gets me to change, guiltbatting me doesn’t.
That’s just for me, though. it might be interesting if one could somehow study various movements on a large scale and compare “inspiring” approaches versus “you’re the problem” approaches. Maybe guiltbatting is more effective, statistically speaking, than inspirational/lead-by-example approaches. I don’t know.
If someone was trying to change the world, make the world a better place, then knowing what makes people change would be useful information.
If someone is NOT actually interested in changing other people’s behaviours, well, then it doesn’t matter what they do, or how people react to their behaviour.
Thanks for this, Scalzi.
Guiltbatting works as long as the subject fears that the bat might hurt. Inspiration works as long as the subject feels, and isn’t much influenced by bats.
Or something like that.
Please google the term “tone argument”
Bill Stewart @295
“my religion is the one that it’s *okay* to mock.”
So, you’re talking about Islam? No, wait, Judaism. Voudou? Wicca?
Oh, you meant Christianity. I’m gonna ignore the ~poor oppressed Christians~ issue, since others have addressed it, and ask you if you REALLY think yours is the ONLY religion that people can get away with mocking. I mean, really?
EPW, I am a little confused. My point was that someone guiltbatting me with ‘privilege’ or any other similar approach genrally fails to enroll me to their cause.
You reply by saying i am making the ‘tone argument’.
I don’t know what your goal was, but the result you produced is that i am STILL not enrolled when someone tries to guiltbat me into their position with ‘privilege’ arguments.
Was i supposed to magicaly transform into someone who likes being hit with the guiltbat? Or are you trying to tell me that my experience of being guiltbatted is not valid? Even when the person says that guilt is their goal?
I am fairly certain that the conversation currently taking place is not going to go anywhere I think everyone else in this particular thread needs to go, so I will ask Greg and EPW to take it to e-mail where they may figure it out amongst the two of them.
Greg, part of the issue here is that “privilege” used in this context is sociological jargon – using a familiar word in a technically specific and not quite directly-correlative sense to that normal English usage.
Treating it like a “guiltbat” is fundamentally misunderstanding the usage of the word. In the context of this sort of discussion it’s not useful to argue the semantics of general english usage vs the jargon-specific meaning. Without speaking from common definitions, there’s no common ground to be had.
So from the perspective of the jargon-speakers, yes, you’re presenting a tone argument, while they’re presenting you with emotionally loaded language (whereas it’s a technical term to them).
My apologies, John (was writing my post before your last post was up)
No worries, Evil. Crossposting happens sometimes.
Since no one has their emails showing, i’ll point to my blog here
if anyone wants to continue the sub thread.
Today I don’t have to think about whether or not it is safe to walk to the grocery store.
Today I don’t have to think about bombs exploding in my child’s school.
Today I don’t have to think about where I will find clean water.
Today I don’t have to think about whether my imprisoned loved ones are being torture or raped.
I hope these don’t sound hyperbolic because they are a reality for a huge number of people.
I’ve just stumble onto your blog via a friend of mine, who linked to this post, and I would just like to say: THANK YOU.
Thank you for saying all these things, and thank you for thinking about them.
I can’t express how much it means, and how deeply it’s appreciated.
Wow, what an inspiring list. So many of those things — both in the original post and in the comments — are things I truly don’t have to think about on a daily basis, and it’s very humbling to realize that.
For others of you…
Today I don’t have to think about the guy who assumed I was a victim because my orientation “isn’t real.”
Today I don’t have to think about how my family calling me “heartless” because of my reproductive choices.
Today I don’t have to think about doctors telling me “I’ll change my mind” or I’m “too young” when I ask for surgery that helps me be who I want to be.
Today I don’t have to think about the way people look at me when my reproductive choices become known.
Today I don’t have to think about whether it’s safe to walk to the store at night.
Today I don’t have to think about whether people see my body as something they have a say in (or control over).
Today I don’t have to think about whether the person asking me out will turn violent or begin stalking me when I say “no.”
All of these are true for me today… because I haven’t left the house yet.
didn’t actually have a post to move the discussion to. Wrote something this morning…
Today, I don’t have to worry if people question my patriotism because of the way I dress.
A friend sent me this link. I’ve never read your work. I will be doing so now, if for no other reason than the respect you’ve earned by writing this.
I missed the cultural reference on getting kicked out of a mall for kissing your beloved. Where, when did this happen?
Oh man, i didnt hear about that one. At least it sounds like the mall owners are triying to make amends for the actions of their blockhead security guy.
But that empathy should spring from the likes of the golden rule (“treat others as you would like them to treat you”)
This is problematic when sometimes, “how we would like others to treat us” is not actually “how others would like to be treated.” For instance, the way that white people often are “colorblind” when dealing with people of color is frustrating to people of color. Many white people, because they are only familiar with other white people, treat all people like they treat white people. People of color have a lot of good reasons why they don’t want to be treated like white people, starting with the fact that they aren’t white people. Treating them like white people just makes the problem worse.
“Privilege” denotes a system of intentionally unequal treatment for “some”, and I just think that’s a wrongfooted way to talk about something we want everyone to enjoy.
“Privilege” does denote that system of intentionally unequal treatment for some. Why talk about the broken system, rather than the system we want? Well, in order to change the system, we first have to recognize that the system we have now is broken. It’s important to be able to have a word for that broken system in order to be able to talk about the system we have now. If we only use language that focuses on the system we want, we are not going to be able to discuss the fact that the system we have now is not the system we want, and the fact that the system we have now stops us from getting the system we want.
It’s important to have a word for the system we have now, too, as well as the individual actions that make up the system (homophobia, ablism, sexism, racial and religious discrimination, transphobia, etc.). Without seeing these things as part of a system, we are tempted to tackle each on their own, and view each as stemming from separate causes. When we can name the system we currently live in, we can work against it as a system as well as against individual causes, and see the commonalities between them.
By calling non-harrasment or non-discrimination a “privilege”, we are implying the baseline expecation is to be harrassed and discriminated against.
Well, for most people, that baseline expectation of discrimination is correct. Women will be discriminated against in terms of pay. People of color will be discriminated against in terms of culture/skin color. Queer people will be discriminated against by having people be offended or scared by their genders/sexualities. People with disabilities will be discriminated against when they can’t get their medications or get into a restaurant.
Should people of all sorts be treated without hatred or discrimination? Yes.
Are they? No.
You’re asking us to talk only about the first scenario, where all people are treated fairly, in order to bring that scenario about. We’re telling you that we’re still living in the second scenario, and talking as if we are all living in the first scenario won’t actually make us stop living in the second scenario. In order to get to the first scenario, where people are treated without discrimination or hatred, we will have to be able to discuss how and why we are still living in the second scenario, here and now.
“Today I don’t have to worry that when I come home someone will have gotten rid of some of my things without my consent.
Today I won’t have to worry about someone who supposedly loves me doing things that hurt and make me feel creepy just because they don’t like my looks–and thinking they have the right to do it just because they feed me.”
Oh, thank you, thank you.
“Today I don’t have to think about justifying my own identity to folks that believe people like me don’t exist.”
Thank you. So true.
Today I don’t have to think about the mortars coming over the wall.
Today I don’t have to think about all the problems waiting for me half a world away.
Today I don’t have to think about if today is the day I will be shot.
Today I don’t have to think about if people will look at my funeral as a chance to protest.
Today I don’t have to think about what it is that I truly do.
Today I don’t need to think about getting the medication I need to get through life
Today I don’t need to think about balancing having fun one evening with getting through the next day without collapsing
Today I don’t need to think about reminding every person I speak to of my gender
Today I don’t need to think about selling my most precious possessions to pay for the rest of my education
Today I don’t need to think about whether I’ll fail an exam because I can’t write as well in my second language as everyone else can in their first.
Today I don’t need to think about living in the wrong body
Today I don’t need to think about what people will think if I wear the clothes appropriate my gender
Today I don’t need to think about what people will think if I wear short sleeves
Today I don’t need to think about whether it’s better to have homophobic insults yelled at me in the street, or to be thought of as straight because they don’t recognize my gender
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’d be better off dead.
Today I don’t have to listen to my family telling me people like me don’t/shouldn’t exist.
(Today I wonder what I can do about the fact that my closest friends do)
Today I don’t believe that I have no friends.
Today I don’t believe that my identity doesn’t count.
Today I don’t believe that no one can love me.
Today I don’t believe that I am broken.
Today I don’t believe that I have no future.
Today I don’t believe that I don’t matter.
(Today I wonder how I can convince the people I love that they don’t have to believe those things either.)
All I have to say — all I CAN say, for so, so many of these thoughts — is: thank you.
Thank you for thinking and not thinking these things.
— one big chested, depression-medication-taking white chick
Today I don’t have to think about being sold in the child sex slave market.
Today I don’t have to think about being asked if I’m bleeding when I’m just having a bad day.
I had this urge to copy pasta this (with link) into my blog, and then cross off the half or more on your list that I *do* have to think about. I’m not going to…but the fact I wanted to tells me that your point was made well. Thanks for posting this.