Friday, July 15, 2011

Privilege: denied

Hey! I just got hurled a YPIS! (Here's the full thread, responding to my recent post on how hard it is to own five yachts.)

To the YPISers and would-be YPISers who might be reading this, I do wonder when, precisely, privilege was denied. So let me explain "the hair comment" that seems to be giving folks so much trouble. Obviously, in the States especially, if you're not black, that's a form of privilege. However, if you're of an ethnicity that plays down its "ethnic" appearance - rhino-what? eyelids, huh? - then you, too, are marginalized, even if you're not as marginalized. But there are totally, totally hair politics when it comes to even white/"white"/not getting into that discussion b/c on my way out the door Ashkenazi Jews.


Anonymous said...

I fail to see anything in your post that remotely implies your denial or even ignorance of the fact that Ashkenazi Jews are privileged in their whiteness. Of course we are; how exactly does that undermine any of the claims you develop?

Britta said...

I am wondering why all the outrage about the hair? That some Jewish women have curly hair is a "petty and often inaccurate stereotype"?

Sigivald said...

Hair privilege?

Sorry, am I honestly expected to take these people seriously at any level?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I don't think the thread is operating at a very sophisticated level. Someone there is saying that even though I don't say that all pro-Palestinian support is anti-Semitic, merely voicing these two terms in the same post is suspect. ("Overall, while this article does a better job than most I've seen of anti-semitism in liberalism, it's far from perfect. It's good in that it at least doesn't make some explicity claim that being pro-Palestine is being anti-semitic. However, at the same time, it seems to lump people who are being anti-semitic, with people who are just advocating for freedom for Palestine. Being pro-Palestine is not at all the same thing as being anti-semitic, and I don't think article quite draws a line between the two concepts. Rather, to its detriment, it discusses them both together.") Also, responding to my having written, "Jewish Israeli's aren't all that white" (yes, yes, there was a typo...) this person writes, "Umm. Forgive me for being a bit skeptical about this claim." Umm, maybe this person hasn't heard of Mizrachim/Ethiopian Jews/Ashkenazi Jews who are very, very dark (such as, for example, some of my closest family members - I just got the pallor gene.) Someone else thinks I said that Jews are "not capable of racism"!

But this, geez: "I'll join the chorus of people side-eyeing this article. The line about frizzy hair REALLY rubbed me the wrong way and seemed to verge on the appropriative. I also think that the homogenising of Jewish people is incredibly problematic PLUS the conflation between being pro-Palestine and anti-semitism. That accusation in particular always makes me angry." Well, that's a good amount of generic self-righteous angst (extra points for use of "problematic"), but none of it responding to anything I, you know, wrote.

I almost feel bad picking on it, because it's a thread I found because of my Sitemeter, not some kind of known quantity beyond that. This could well be a bunch of high school students.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


"Hair privilege" is actually a thing, although I'm not a great fan of using the term "privilege" to describe things of that nature. (I.e. things much less significant than general socioeconomic status, health, abuse or lack thereof, etc.) I'd say, maybe, "hair politics." But if that's what you saw wrong with that thread, I suggest you look at it once more.

But since there's some confusion... The "hair" issue can be summed up as follows: all people, but esp. women, will find this or that wrong with their hair. For unhyphenated-white-folk types, the complaints have no real political/historical content. It'll be something like, 'my hair's too greasy and I have to shampoo it twice a day' or 'I have a cowlick.' For black women, the political issues... are not mine to explain, but they're there. For Jewish women, meanwhile, it's a similar situation, with the caveat that, and I will "shout" this for those missing it, a stylistic choice I do not typically employ... JEWS IN AMERICA HAVE NOT HAD IT AS BAD AS BLACKS IN AMERICA. NO ONE SENSIBLE THINKS THAT.

OK, that established, when a woman who's a member of a marginalized ethnic group notices "flaws" in her appearance, she will frequently notice them in terms of her looking "too" whichever thing it is. So if another white woman has frizzy hair, it's just frizzy hair. If a Jewish woman does, it can become a "Jewfro" and some physical evidence of not-quite-whiteness. If another white woman has a big nose, sure, she might get a nose job, but a Jewish woman whose nose isn't even all that remarkable may see a slight bump and fixate, for that same reason. This is significant because, well, (pale-skinned) Jews are white by contemporary American constructions, but do not fully (note, skimmers, that I said not FULLY, not not at all) enjoy "white privilege," because white privilege is about not having to feel unattractive because of your race. If Jews still, even after having acknowledged and owned and all that their/our "whiteness," feel ashamed of "Jewish" physical features - whether or not Jews are more likely to have all of said features - then that's a sign that some marginalization is operating. NONE OF THAT NEGATES THE EXISTENCE OF OTHER FORMS OF PRIVILEGE HELD BY THOSE CONSIDERED, FOR THE MOST PART, WHITE.

Are we clear?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Oh, and, and! The Livejournal copy-and-paste skipped that there was a link to an article explaining frizz politics at that part of my post. This could well have contributed to the confusion.