My Privileged World

I’m tired of this world that I live in.

Not the planet. I love this pale blue dot with a kind of love that is usually reserved for religious fanatics and 12 year olds discovering Justin Bieber.

No, the part of the world that I live in that wearies me is a subset of the human cultural world. It’s the part that insists that this world is perfect just because it is better than it would have been if I was born in the past or in a different part of the planet.

Let me tell you a little about the world I live in. Some of you will recognize it. Some of you will brush it off. Some of you will close the window or back off the page as soon as you realize what I’m talking about. But let me try anyway.

I live in a world where I’ve had to change my work schedule because I was afraid of being alone with a coworker.

I live in a world where I have to (regularly) suddenly find some reason to go back to the lobby because I don’t want some man following me to my hotel room, or grab a random acquaintance to ride the elevator with me.

I live in a world where I have to take a male friend with me through a convention hallway so that I don’t get cornered, alone, in what should be a safely patrolled area. Having another woman doesn’t help. They just try to corner both of us.

I live in a world where I have had to call a professor and tell them I wouldn’t be at their class because my newest follower has been standing outside of the room waiting for me for the past half hour.

I live in the world where I have had the thought, as horrible as it is, that “at least the newest stalker walks with a cane, so I can outrun him”.

I live in a world where the only reason I can use my real name online without fear is because my real address is in no way associated with that name. (And partially because I’ve just said F*** it and decided to be who I am.)

I live in a world where I (and several other women I work with) have strict rules for whether security will even confirm whether we work in our building due to problems with people showing up in the past.

I live in a world where it’s okay to call me a bitch because I won’t drink the random cup you just offered me or sit down at your table or let you touch me.

I live in a world where a former boss thought that it was perfectly okay to tell other women that I am harassed because I dress nicely.

I live in a world where men I’ve dated don’t think it’s a problem that I’ve been touched without permission by other men, and excuse it with “well, he’s just like that”.

I live in a world where I am a statistic, and where I am soundly renounced if I dare raise my voice to be anything but a statistic. If I dare complain that I don’t want to ever be put in the situation where I have to fear for my physical safety simply because I am a woman, or have to rebuild the pieces of a shattered and invaded psyche.

This is the supposedly “post-feminist” world that I am so lucky to be a part of. Where we get to be girly and giggly and sexy and never have to worry because those men are just being men and they really do respect you under the inappropriate touching and the cornering and the verbal intimidation and unwanted advances.

And why should I complain anyway? After all, I’m lucky enough to live in the “post-feminist” world, unlike those poor women in other countries.

Well, guess what?

Those women are fighting too. And one day they will win that fight.

And that day, they will turn around, after having reached the same place as us.

They’ll turn around and they won’t be looking at you with adoration for preventing them from being sold as child brides or mutilated, or for allowing them to work outside the home or drive cars.

No, they’ll be giving you the same strange, quizzical looks that we’re giving you now.

They will be looking at people they thought were allies and wondering how they can be allies if they’re only willing to stand in solidarity up to the point where they’re told to not touch a woman’s hair without her asking.

I wonder if you’ll get it then? When you can’t use the straw man of worse offenses to belittle our own experiences of fear and pain? I wonder if you’ll get it when you can’t hold up the spectre of women being oppressed by religion. I wonder if you’ll get that you’ve become the oppressor?


This post was inspired by the current uproar in the Skeptic community over an incident that Rebecca Watson experienced, and the subsequent attacks. That said, it’s something that has been simmering in my head for a while now. I used to be the kind of person who would brush off inappropriate encounters as ‘just a situation to get through’. Because of that I’ve put myself through and let myself be put through some pretty nasty encounters. The past two years have been a bunch of little incidents that managed to have the correct timing to make me realize this was more of a systematic problem than I had thought. I’m still not entirely sure I’m ready to address these issues head on, and I’m terrified of putting them out in the open, not under a pseudonym. However, that fear is no longer enough to stop me. I have to deal with enough fear in my daily existence as a woman that I’m not going to give in to the fear of whether people will lash out at me because I dare voice those fears any longer.

Some more voices on this subject:
It’s Not Okay by Kiyomi
The Religion Delusion – Welcome to the Feminist Fold, Atheist Women by Dr. Isis
Different Enemies, Same Feminist by The Barefoot Doctoral
The Inhuman Response to Rebecca Watson by John Rennie
A Pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confind space by Josh Rosenau
Jason Thibault’s The Problem with Privilege: Part 1 and Part 2 (Part 2 wins the “best title” award with No, you’re not a racist, misogynist ass, calm down.)
Jen McCreight’s Context Matters and Dawkins is not a Misogynist
And two of my older favorites:
I’ve Never been Very Good at Hiding by Christie Wilcox
How Not To Be An Asshole: a Guide for Men by Chris Clarke

29 thoughts on “My Privileged World

  1. I loved Rebecca’s post and I love yours. I hope there will be many more from many others who feel the same way. Maybe eventually it will make the difference we need.

    from a guy who supports you wholeheartedly.

  2. Thank you. This is very eloquently put. You’ve inspired me to join the debate. The long version is here.

    The short version is that if Richard Dawkins thinks that women in developed nations don’t face violence, then he doesn’t follow the news very closely.

    Yes, the west has made progress, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. No more than a black man in the oval office means we live in a post racial era.

    • “Yes, the west has made progress, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. No more than a black man in the oval office means we live in a post racial era.” – I love the way you put that. Excellent post!

  3. It’s sad when a powerful intellect such as yourself must waste mental energy on such base behavior. Our culture is woefully deficient in respecting our scientists — especially women scientists. Maybe you should ask the next guy who treats you like this what he thinks you could be doing with your brain in the time it takes you to deal with the likes of him.

  4. I wonder if this is cultural – I live in rural Australia, or .. physical – I’m fat and unattractive … but I have never experienced this.

    The cynic in me thinks it’s physical, the idealist hopes it’s cultural.

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