Ok, I'll bite.
I want to introduce the concept of Kyriarchy into the frothing screaming discourse on privilege and various "ism"s in the Fatosphere.
Kyriarchy is a new word introduced by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, although the concept had evolved before that, mostly through discourse by WOC and others with stacking or intersected levels of privilege and non-privilege.
Essentially it refers to a complex social structure in the form of a pyramid. There are many overlapping and intersecting parts, where various groups gain and lose ground in their posession of and quest for social power.
For instance: If I were to say that men have social power over women, and white people have social power over black people, that's a very simplistic way of stating something that's easy to poke holes in. Kyriarchy says that a person's privilege and social power is more complicated than that. Barack Obama is a black man who has more social power than I do as a white woman. That does not negate or dismiss the fact that I have more social power than some black men in other circumstances and social structures, or that there are certain situations and social structures where I have significantly less. Et Cetera for gender, race, ability, weight, height, age, etc. They all intersect and interact in complex ways.
It is much easier to simply say that JD has more privilege than I do because he's a man. It is more accurate to say that in certain circumstances, JD's male privilege will dominate and show a clear advantage, while in others it will not help him at all.
Here's the scenario to illustrate the Kyriarchy concept:
We go out to a restaurant. JD is male, so the waitstaff may automatically assume he's paying for the meal. The food is terrible. JD's male privilege means that if he complains to the management, he's more likely to be taken seriously and get compensation. Then we both get food poisoning. my socioeconomic privilege now trumps his male privilege. I have excellent insurance and am able to expect good care and be seen the same day. JD has terrible insurance, and his only real option is emergency room or to call all around town trying to find an urgent care facility that takes his insurance. Once we're in to see our respective doctors, his (relative) thin privilege gives him an advantage because the doctor is more likely to take him seriously and treat his illness instead of blaming it on his weight and telling him he wouldn't be nauseous if he didn't stuff his face. BUT, JD is in therapy, therefore in the mental health system. In this case, my current mental health privilege may mean I will get better care because my doctor won't ask me condescendingly if I've been feeling a lot of stress lately and conclude that my illness is psychosomatic.
See the layers of privilege intersecting like that? By the way, every single one of those examples has happened to us.
The polarity conscious reactive thinking around privilege, race, gender and fat ignores the fact that our privilege is more or less apparent depending on who we're with and the social construct we're working within at the moment. Privilege doesn't change, but it's effect DOES.
If you need another example, I suggest you read this. Here we have a successful white man, whom we would think would top the privilege hierarchy in almost any situation. BUT you put him in a situation where the perception of him is that he's homeless and the talent that made him famous is not enough to get people to even make eye contact. He is suddenly labeled as "sick" and "dangerous" because the homeless are so stigmatized that his gender and race privilege does him no good whatsoever (except maybe to make him seem even more of a threat).
The point is not whether he has lost privilege. The point is DEFINITELY not to minimize those who are the victims of the various power structures or their experiences. The point is that if we want to discuss "ism"s, we need to make sure that we're taking into account the experiences of everyone who has experienced discrimination based on something not in their control. We want to make sure that in the quest for Fat Acceptance or feminism we don't step on the heads of others on the way up, we don't try to argue whether "my lack of privilege is worse than yours", or other similar red herrings, and we work to elevate, not drag others down kicking and screaming. That's no way to make allies. And face it, no social movement succeeds without allies.
Still Here, Still Fat, Still Awesome - Hey y’all! I’ve got a few lovely messages this week from people asking me if I’m OK, as I haven’t blogged in a while. So first up, yeah I’m good, thank ...
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