The Offensive Concepts of Patriarchy and White Privilege

We do still live in a world run by men and white people, and whoever is saying the contrary is very much blind – willingly. I’ve heard some saying that progress is now made and so getting offended, expressing even an unapologetic weariness, when topics that revolve around “patriarchy” and “white privilege” are evoked, discussed, reminded.

Before you read any further: as I am myself white, I do not mean to talk for people of colour, neither to fight their fight. I am just very much aware of the world we live in due to my own background and people I grew up with, which actually doesn’t matter, for the reason that anyone can educate themselves and become aware of those issues. This is not my history. But if I can help, and write about what matters, I will. Now, let’s carry on.

Briefly explained with online definitions, patriarchy is: “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” “A society or community organized on patriarchal lines.”

As for white privilege, I chose a quote by Reni Eddo-Lodge, writer of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: “White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.”

Patriarchy and white privilege are words that bristle the hairs of some people as if talking about it was nonsense, or inaccurate, or mostly just very annoyingly disturbing their peace of mind.

Equality only scares away privileged people who picture rights as pieces of an apple pie, thinking that if the same amount is given to the rest of the population, they would get less cake as a result.

Rights are nothing to be attributed that way, and they are mostly not cooked apples and sugar. Your plate is still very full, don’t worry.

If you’re tired of hearing about those issues, imagine having your life impacted by it. How tired would you actually be, then?

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”, that from Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex.

Some of the best people in my life are men and none of them would ever call me a crazy girl or an annoying feminist – my absolute favourite -, or whatever violent and politically unaware talk I hear and see everywhere. Even when I say “men are trash”. Instead, my male friends do agree with me and fight by my sides. Also, you could argue with me if we were equally paid or if I could too live my life the way I intend to without being pointed at for it. If, just like you, I could go back home alone at night without being scared to death and being almost every single time, catcalled, threatened, followed by men.

If feminism scares you off and makes you think that women don’t want to have sex or go on a date with you anymore – as this is a massive concern for some – then… You are 100% right. The slightest misogynistic comment turns me off. It’s exactly like if a person of colour would date a white person having inappropriate comments.

Feminist men are not being emasculated, all the contrary. Personally, they’re all I am into. Breaking news: being socially intelligent and respectful is a massive turn on. Who would have thought?

Not so long ago, I was maybe eighteen or nineteen, I witnessed absolute cruelty. One of my best friends, who’s mixed race, had taken a shower and changed clothes in the middle of the day. About that, someone told her: ‘Why do you go to the shower so often, uh? You’re trying to take off your dirty black skin? Well, this doesn’t go away, but you can keep on trying to rub it off!”

I am not joking.

Every day, everywhere, women suffer from sexism and patriarchal values. Every day, everywhere, people of colour get discriminated. Often, it is not obvious. It is not loud. These things are like snakes choking up a passive and submissive society that struggles to recognise things that are wrong. We grew up with it. We become our gender and our race.

Yes, having Barak Obama as the president of the United States was beautiful and historical. No, it didn’t mean that racism and white privilege (or should I say supremacy?) were now out of the picture.

Yes, having Greta Thunberg leading ecologist movements is incredible. No, it doesn’t mean that women and especially young girls are taken more seriously – strangely, the majority of the people who dislike Greta are middle-aged men.

Yes, it’s amazing that Viola Davis is the first black woman who won an Emmy for best actress. Also, let me repeat it: the first.

We are far, far away from equality and a fair world for women and people of colour. So far away from it. Being politically aware does not make you annoying, it makes you better, it makes you kinder. Being aware of your privileges doesn’t mean to take yourself down, it just means what it means: to recognise the chances you were born with.

Talking about patriarchy and white privilege is only offensive to the insecure and uneducated people. Those inequalities are still omnipresent and acknowledging them doesn’t mean to deny the recent progress that was made, but conceding that we still have a long way to go.

Thereby, if you were born privileged, please, listen. Just listen. Let people talk about it, being angry, fight for what is right. Listen and learn. Ask questions. If you are told to be mistaken, accept that the people concerned by those issues may be right, and you may not. This is not offending. This is education and empathy.

Stop fearing to have a tinier piece of cake.

This world is full of limitless resources called rights, respect and opportunities. Then, we are not here to steal anything from you but here to take what should have been ours from the start.

Maëlle Leggiadro

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