Male Privilege & On The Courage To Be A Black Girl In Racist HollyWood
As a younger woman, McIntosh said, she often wondered why male faculty at Wellesley — “very nice men” — were so dismissive of the idea of including women’s studies or women’s history in the college’s first-year curriculum.
“White privilege is like a bank account I was given,” McIntosh said. “I didn’t ask for it, but I can spend it down. And because it’s white privilege, it’ll keep refilling.”
Both quotes taken from The Harvard Gazette: “Using privilege helpfully”
“I profoundly disagree with the language of “privilege”. The discourse seems inadequate to the complex realities of racial, gender, and national inequalities for example. It also tends, in concrete politics, toward an unhelpfully moralistic language – checking your privilege, and so on. However, I don’t think one should be afraid of it. Not just for macho reasons – though it’s true that I am quite a big boy now, and can stand to hear things I disagree with”
“It would be grotesque to say that enabling the perpetuation of rape thereby preserves or protects any “privilege” for men. But clearly the gendered tropes that are pressed into the service of rape culture are bound up with the ostensible compensations of “maleness”, this “psychological wage” as Du Bois put it in a different context. Of course, these compensations are not simply “psychological”. They are an iteration at the level of ideology of various realities – the wage gap, male household dominance, the orientation of mass culture toward encouraging women to be “man-pleasing”, and so on. In the total, longer-term view, all of these realities actually cost men.”
Last night, FAMILY GUY creator Seth MacFarlane was the host of the 2013 Academy Awards (the Oscars). From one perspective, he made several harmless jokes. From those with a different angle, MacFarlane crossed the line. The groups who felt the brunt of MacFarlane’s humor were his usual targets, racial minorities, women, and the GLBTQ community, those on the margins of American society. In his introduction at the very beginning, he openned with, of all things, a joke about Chris Brown and Rihanna: a safe pick for a basically all white audience; don’t wanna bring up Charlie Sheen and his violent past! MacFarlane spoke* of Quevenzhane Wallis, not as a NINE-YEAR OLD ACTRESS, but as potential sex partner for George Clooney. Quevenzhane Wallis is a black girl, has not even reached puberty, but the first thing that the white male host had to say about her was pertaining to her capacity to please another white male. The racist stereotype of black women as simply body parts to be used (bootylicious Venus Hottentot’s remains unchallenged in U.S. American society saturated by rape cultural practices.
MacFarlane has his defenders, of course, not too unexpected. He’s being “cutting edge,” putting excitement back into the Oscars unlike the Wonderbread hosts from last year. But is he really being edgy when he is just recycling racist tropes we inherited from chattel slavery? Seth MacFarlane is completely safe to continue to spread his racist and sexist humor only because HollyWhite, sorry, HollyWood, continues to practice white hegemony and the exclusion of racial minorities. Seth MacFarlane’s Misogyny does matter because his works are the opiate that keep the masses from resisting the white racist practices that the so-called “progressive” HollyWhite elite wants to remain unchallenged and unquestioned.
The freedom to produce banal humor at the expense of women and racial minorities is a given right when it comes to freedom of speech. In a world where racism and sexism is edgy, this is not freedom, that’s privilege: freedom to continue to oppress others who have less power than you do. Privilege is not something that is “psychological” or just some “perceived” reality like what Richard Seymour was arguing. My very own male privilege is a bank account, and I can always be free to make withdrawals, by challenging the social “taboo” of women’s human dignity by making sexist remarks. My male privilege allows me freedom to oppress women in my speech and actions, as a set of practices that society tolerates as “normal,” as “satire.” My male privilege allows me to dictate what is the norm, say, like the notion that the name Annie is more normal than Quevenzhene.
The other example of Quevenzhane’s sexualization in the media last night was the “satirical” journalism of the Onion, which referred to Ms. Wallis in an offensive manor. But it’s just a joke, right? It was just satire. No, its not just a joke. Its a comment bound up in a large number of practices by racist HollyWhite elites. After being chastized for two hours at the least, The Onion offered an apology and deleted the tweet, but the scars are still there. The history is still here. The Academy does not want you to know that 94% of the voters are white, and 77% of the voters are male. These numbers are not even close to representing the census.
The fact that that the Onion can get away with such a comment relatively unscathed, simply by issuing an apology is proof that they in a position of privilege. The Academy, in its selection of Seth MacFarlane, made it clear that people of color such as Quevenzhane Wallis and Denzel Washington would be invited, but their presence would not be welcome. Privilege is more than ideology; privilege is about the historical arrangement of particular bodies, and the real, concrete advantages that some bodies have over other bodies. It is in this sense that privilege is very real. And when it comes to the lives of black girls, dismantling privilege wherever it rears its ugly head, matters.
Also Recommended reading: A Love Letter To Quvenzhane Wallis from CFC
*post has been editted to reflect the chronology of events.
- Onion Calls Quevenzhane Wallis A C*nt (4umf.com)
- Who Is the Oscar-Nominated Actress, Quevenzhane Wallis? (on.aol.com)
- “Beasts” star Quevenzhane Wallis: Fearless (cbsnews.com)
- Why Seth MacFarlane’s Misogyny Matters (vulture.com)
- Swimming in the Deep End of White Male Privilege: It’s just all for fun!! (skydancingblog.com)
- The Onion’s Racist Treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis At The 2013 Oscars (torontonannyblog.com)