Freedom vs. Privilege

In America, freedom are rights given to use naturally and protected by law. Most importantly is freedom of speech. It could be said that this right/freedom allows people like Tristan Taormino to do the work that she does or Bell Hooks to write/teach what she does. Feminists are protected by the freedom of speech and have been trying to change the status of women for years, yet, not much has changed since first wave feminism. Even Jean Kilbourne noted in her video, Killing Us Softly 4, that, despite all her lectures on the wrongs of ad campaigns, nothing had really changed. If this freedom is so important and powerful, why has change halted? I cannot help but think it is not freedom that is important in this country but privilege. The privilege and dominance of the white male socially, politically, and economically is still as powerful as it always has been. So minorities may have the freedom to speak out against the wrongs done to them or that they see in society but they do not have the privilege of making these changes a reality. We live in a country where the fate of women politically is in the hands of the government, the majority of which is white men. These men have the privilege to control us and make decisions on abortion, pay rates, and many other issues affecting us and there is nothing we can do because they have privilege and political power. The inability of feminism to change anything is, in my opinion, a proof that freedom, in this country, is nothing without privilege. Freedom may give you the ability to do and say as you please but privilege is what makes people listen and allows you to change things.

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2 Responses to Freedom vs. Privilege

  1. sabinas10 says:

    I’d like to comment specifically on your statement about feminism. Like the previous person stated, I think that feminism is working despite having what you describe as “privilege.” This is because the movement is based on swaying the minds of those that have the privilege to make a mass alter to the “rules” of society. That’s where the problem is. The movement seems to be dying out because of the fact that now, advocates have to figure out a way to infiltrate the political scene and make a big enough fuss to actually cause the people in charge to notice their issues. And even then, after the issue is noticed it has to go through all the hoops and loops that define the way the government works.

    Having said this, it is safe to say that I cannot completely agree with your statement about change halting. It has not halted. But, it has become slower compared to the massive movements that took place in the 20th century. Much like my reasoning above, this is because society has settled into its “groove” and now all changes have to go through the main people in the government – the people with the privilege. It is harder to have your voice heard in a place where not everyone sees the same problems as you and where your battles are quoted as being archaic. So, the progression of change has simply slowed down because of how difficult it is to sway those in power.

  2. ctr0605 says:

    Thanks, MaddyZaleski for writing this. When I read this, I immediately went back to our Bordo reading, where she discusses male control over female desire. She begins on page 205, by saying “that throughout dominant Western religious and philosophical tra’ ditions, the capacity for self-management is decisively coded as male.” She continues on page 206 with “the emotions seen as needful of containment and control …coded female.” She concludes on the same page “that in a phallocentric society “Women’s desires are by their very nature excessive, irrational, threatening to erupt and challenge the patriarchal order.”

    I then read over your statements: “The inability of feminism to change anything is, in my opinion, a proof that freedom, in this country, is nothing without privilege.” Freedom may give you the ability to do and say as you please but privilege is what makes people listen and allows you to change things.” I disagree with your first statement and agree with your second statement.

    I believe that feminism without privilege is working, albeit slowly in some areas, but it is working. The situation is difficult. Women are challenging a well-constructed patriarchal order, with some challenges coming from within our own gender. Can you imagine the implications of overturning this? Not just to men, but also to women? First, some women view feminism as unnecessary and believe in the traditional male and female roles. Second, you’d have to convince both genders that being emotional, and irrational are indeed shared traits between males and females. Now, after all that you face a male dominated Western culture that touts “men don’t cry”, and are rewarded for this stoicism with power and privilege and the identity of the responsible provider.

    I agree with your comparison between freedom and privilege in our country, and that privilege is key. But in order to obtain both, I believe we have to change the imbedded idea that women are irrational, emotional and something that requires management.

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