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Is This White Culture?

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Recently, a friend of mine from high school announced to the world that he was now a she, and that we should refer to her as Brenda instead of Brandon (names changed). 

I invited Brenda over one night for a general catch-up and also to teach her about the new world of MAKEUP. As we were talking, she told me the story of the years of struggle with her gender dysphoria and how her announcement had opened up channels of intolerance (though the positive responses were 10-1 for every negative remark). We then started discussing something I thought of on the spot:

straight and cisgender privilege.

We started feverishly talking about the topic at hand and it exploded into a philosophical and cultural diatribe amongst a sea of eyeshadow and cat hair. Our conversation drifted from white privilege in general to white privilege as it serves males, and what changes Brenda noticed since transitioning from M to F.

See, Brenda used to be a white male, and during that time never experienced any sort of prejudiced attitudes against her. Is this not common among white culture?

Frequently, we see examples of white privilege: it’s an instance of more white women reported missing on the news that their non-white counterparts; or this woman who conducted a social experiment during her job hunt; or the fact that white males are likely to earn more than any other demographic in the workforce. Whether we like it or not, white privilege is a long-standing social construct that, despite our attempts to disassemble its existence, is not going away anytime soon.

Of our “social ladder”, the white male is at the very top.

According to this construct, he is immune to certain grievances imposed upon those who do not share his social and cultural privileges.

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I asked friends for opinions on straight and cisgender privilege and whether a man’s gender or sexual orientation would affect the potency of how he is served by his white- and straight/cis-ness. The consensus was that…

yes, straight privilege IS a thing.

While the straight white male is virtually untouchable, his sexual or gender orientations may negate some of the “benefits” of his whiteness. A longtime family friend said that straight and cis privilege is undeniable when we have stories like this. And don’t even get me started on this all-too-frequent incident.

Though we discussed white privilege specifically, this type of violence and intolerance extends into every community, city, and family around the WORLD.

Humans are humans– let’s just be RESPECTFUL of the dignity and pride we all have in ourselves.

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xo,

NASEEM نسیم
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  1. naseem joon, brenda is very lucky to have you for a friend. but all the forms of privilege you have described; straight, white, male, etc… they don’t exist.

    human resources departments aren’t exclusively staffed by cruel people who’s sole purpose is to enforce their strict code of discrimination against minorities. you know why straight white males seem to have the upper hand in the workforce? because they were the nerds in high school you weren’t friends with. you know, the ones who sat in the library at lunch and read books and studied and did their homework.

    this theory of privilege is extremely dangerous, it’s already forced some employers to have quotas for gender and racial equality… think about it, do we really want a society, anywhere in the world, where people have to be forced by law to employ people from alleged minorities? i suspect that i have personally benefited in terms of employment because of my background and because i grew up speaking persian at home (check boxes on application papers), and it sickens me to think that maybe, just maybe, some ultra-liberal somewhere in hr looked at my cv and thought “quota gold” and tossed the rest. i really hope i was picked because of my education and experience, because the workplace ought to be a meritocracy, not a pseudo social welfare agency.

    people do suffer discrimination in life, i did so quite savagely when 9/11 happened, so i’m not saying discrimination is this fictitious thing invented by obama’s dream team, but let’s hold off on drinking the kool-aid and begin to consider that business cannot afford to be racist, sexist and anti-whatever in a world where the only thing that matters are dollars and cents.

    i’m gonna go out on a very dangerous limb here; the lgbtiq persons of western nations are rather well looked after by their own community, their supporters and the government. how about a little online activism for our brothers and sisters in iran dangling in the streets?

    sincerely,

    mercury

    • Mercury,

      Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts! Let me lay out my answers to you per topic:

      First, I must disagree with you on the idea of privilege not existing. Also, this is just in response to your first, short paragraph. I do believe privilege exists everywhere, but it changes forms depending on culture or country. Allow me to draw on one example: some of my Iranian friends and family who practice the Baha’i Faith were/are denied higher education in Iran or are/were even arrested or otherwise imprisoned for their religious beliefs. The privilege at play here is Muslim privilege. Bahai’s are the largest religious minority in Iran and are very much treated like second-class citizens IN GENERAL by the majority of the population and religious/political figures and communities.

      Regarding your next paragraph (and it kind of ties into your third one), I do agree with you that on a business level, businesses these days cannot afford to discriminate, but that doesn’t mean they do so under the table. Take Chik-fil-a who’s known for being anti-gay, or else Abercrombie and Fitch CEO saying his apparel is only made for the thin and popular (you’ll not see XL sizes and beyond in their stores). I also TOTALLY agree with you about the filling quota pool. I would hope that every person everywhere who gets hired for a job was sought for the qualifications and capabilities, and not because the company had to add another woman/black person/differently abled person/you get the idea to their company in order to seem more “diverse”. Like, if ALL the qualified people happen to be white males or Native American women, you definitely want the best people for the job.

      Lastly, I think you are right again in your statement about the relative ease with which persons of different persuasions or ethnic backgrounds even have it in Western nations, and that yes, in general, to be against the norm in most other parts of the world that aren’t the West is probably a hell of a lot more scary. But what it should really come down to is this: we all need to be activists for each other. It may be easier to be gay in the US than in Iran (Reza Farahan, are you reading this? Can you answer?), but that also doesn’t negate certain struggles and even horrors people might encounter here in just being their genuine selves. The struggle is real, it is everywhere, and much like my opinion of privilege as stated above, it changes shape and form from culture to culture.

      Thanks again for reading and sharing!

      -Naseem

      • thank you for replying to my comments naseem. having only recently found joonies.com i plan on sticking around for a while as i don’t have many persian friends whom i can expound with on matters of more material significance. i too will reply to your comments by topic.

        i respect that you disagree with me on the idea of privilege not existing, but you have not, however, provided a valid example to back up your claim that privilege does exist. your article was primarily about straight white male privilege with regard to employment, to compare that to perceived “muslim privilege” against baha’is is like comparing pomegranates and grenades. they sound like they’re similar, but they’re really not.

        i also respect that dan cathy (chief operating officer of chick-fil-a) is anti-same-sex marriage. america is a free country that constitutionally protects the right to free speech and america is also a free market where individuals can choose where to buy their chicken if a chicken selling chief operating officers opinion is so abhorrent to them. i do not personally agree with his world view on who should have the legal right to marry another, but i do think it would be best that you have your facts about him correct before making assertions like, “take chik-fil-a (sic) who’s known for being anti-gay”. it’s one thing to oppose same-sex marriage, it’s another thing entirely to be anti-gay.

        i also respect that mike jeffries (chief executive officer of abercrombie & fitch) has the right to lead his company in whatever direction he thinks is best suited to turning a profit for the company and stakeholders. if abercrombie & fitch is geared towards people with the “hollywood look”, then good for them. it’s a very risky business model, excluding plus sized persons, especially in america, but that said, no one becries the fat privilege (did i just break my own argument?) demonstrated by stores like simplybe.com, torrid.com and avenue.com with their exclusive plus-size only clothing.

        i’m very, very open to being proved wrong, that privilege exists and here is my irrefutable argument, etc, but until then, i will sign off with the words of a man much wiser than i;

        “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” ― Benjamin Franklin

        sincerely,

        mercury

  2. Straight privilege? Yes. White privilege? Yes. Male privilege? It’s a lot more murky – there are significant male privileges, but there are also significant female privileges/male disadvantages. You can’t make the statement anymore that being male is a clear privilege.

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