Even though I’m not part of the 1% that’s being bandied about of late… I come from a decent amount of privilege. I’m a white male. I’m interested in women. I come from a middle-class lifestyle. I happen to be pretty good at a subject that allows me to work in a job where I can make a decent amount of money. And I try to understand this is largely about privilege that I have been born into, not entirely something I’ve earned.
In a lot of ways, I’m bad about trying to put myself in other people’s shoes. This is why I’ve been accused of being self-centered or insensitive. The problem is that the thoughts of how a person outside the situation would perceive things take a little bit longer to work their way through my brain. So I’m not a sociopth, it’s just that I realize about thirty seconds too late how something sounds and that I said something really grossly insensitive. I usually sound a bit better when I take the time to write something down.
Now, as a big white guy, I don’t have too many real ways I can screw up where it will be my fault unless I leave the country. If I get mugged in a bad neighborhood, it’s the neighborhood’s fault for being a bad neighborhood. People don’t give me little pointers about what I shouldn’t do if I don’t want to get raped.
I have seen the way that we tell women that they shouldn’t dress too attractively if they want to walk around in the city after dark. How it’s OK to suggest that a woman not get drunk in the company of a bunch of drunken men because it would be her fault if something happens. The women call it ‘Blame-The-Victim’ when they are being kind or just reference a ‘Rape Society’ when they aren’t. And I would never in a million years dream of telling somebody they were full of it, because I can see it clear as day myself.
But I don’t think I necessarily understood the visceral rage that blame-the-victim mentalities cause until I started biking.
I like to research things. So I did a lot of research into what actually contributes to cyclist safety and how cyclists actually get hit. Something akin to facts, although I’m still fairly skeptical about some of them. And then I get people, often non-cyclists, telling me their opinions on bike safety. Sometimes I get yelled at to get off the roads by irate drivers. But sometimes I get a driver telling me with all sincerity and concern that the streets are dangerous and I should stick to the sidewalks.
Even though biking on the sidewalk is a great way to get yourself killed. Statistically speaking.
Much in the same way that most women get raped by somebody they thought they could trust, not some random nutter on the streets. Yet every college hands out every freshman girl a rape whistle.
And I understand that, if I do get into an accident, it’s guaranteed that people will vaguely suggest that it was my fault for being where I ‘shouldn’t’ be. For not biking around wearing a lit-up green spandex bodysuit with built-in airbags.
And it gives me this visceral feeling of rage. But it’s not necessarily a rage that I’m fully entitled to. See, you might view my cycling as a choice, whereas a person who is black doesn’t choose to be born black and therefore it is not a choice for them to be treated with suspicion by every convenience store clerk out there. And that’s a pretty crappy comparison… but nonetheless, I could buy a car and drive. And I don’t want to be this egocentric person who puts my problems above other people’s problems. So I’ll consider these things as being on two very different levels.
But when a newspaper writes about a woman who got raped at a party and you know the author is a fairly square white guy who tries to vaguely suggest that if the girl had kept to the straight and narrow that none of this would have happen… or when a presidential candidate suggests that a woman who is raped needs to make lemonade out of her lemons if she gets raped…
Well, sometimes I wake up and wonder why certain groups of people aren’t pissed off and violent in the way that I would be if I were in their shoes.