A privileged person’s guide to privilege…

I will never understand why the concept of privilege is so offensive to so many people. Mostly, let it be said, privileged people. It is beyond me why it frightens people to look at the privilege in their life & say yes, that has helped me and no, I did nothing to earn that aid. ‘Owning your privilege’ is merely acknowledging your good fortune. Privilege does not make you bad a person. However, refusing to countenance it’s existence makes you a bit of a dick. Since no one wants to be one of those, let’s go through this together.

If you belong to a group who hold power in society, you have privilege. If you belong to a group that is considered the default in society, you too have privilege. The fact that you do not face institutionalised discrimination just for being who you are is a huge advantage. Being born white, straight, cis, able bodied are all privileges. You will not face prejudice or disadvantages for merely existing in your body. Life is not a level playing field; some of us are sprinting before the starter’s pistol sounds.

Part of this kind of privilege is the fact that you did nothing to earn your advantage. Thus, many people will rail against the notion that they should have to apologise for holding it. Well, no one is asking you to. You are not responsible for the fact that you are white or male or cis gendered. No one is critising you for being any of these (or any other privileged) things. The problem comes when you refuse to own the benefits you have gained from life’s lottery. When some people have to struggle just to reach the starting line, ignoring that becomes offensive. We do not choose what privilege we come into this world with, but we do choose what we do with it. Acknowledge the factors beyond your control that eased your path. Then use your position to clear space for those without your advantages. 

Some of you may be thinking I have one of those privileges you speak of & my life is hard, so I don’t feel ahead of the game. Privilege is not a guarantee of fabulous life. You could be a straight, white, cis, able bodied man & still have terrible things happen to you. The privilege comes in the fact that they did not happen because you were straight or white or cis or able bodied or male. No matter your situation the abscence of the barriers that come with being a minority are still always advantageous. 

It’s also important to remember that it is possible to have privilege in one area & none in another. For example I am white, from a comfortable back ground, well educated, cis gendered & straight passing. I am fully of aware of the advantages my parents have given me and of the discrimination I have never had to face. I hold a lot of privilege. However, I am also disabled, I’m female & I’m fat; all of which incur significant hardships. My daily life is a slog. I do face discrimination & I am discredited, but I’m still lapping my trans, BAME, LGBTQ, impoverished (& so many more) brothers & sisters in the race of life. 

So, privilege isn’t always cut & dry. It does not translate to a perfect life. Nevertheless, it’s a head start. It is a whole bunch of problems you’ll never have to even consider. Privilege is being able to dismiss that the premise is even real. 

In keeping with my entreaty that you use whatever privilege you have to help dismantle the current societal hegemony I would encourage to read these voices on the topic.

Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Strong in broken places

Taking up too much space 

That crazy crippled chick

The Second City

There is a crack in everything….

So, here I am apologising for my absence again. I’ve had an iffy few weeks. To begin with there was bad health news, which left me struggling to keep my mood boyant. Then there was a new medication that makes me nauseous 24/7 & vom almost everything I eat. Finally, there is the Trump debacle & that’s hit me even harder than I thought it would. 

For a bleeding heart leftie like me the current political climate is an anathma. I don’t want to write another horrified how did this happen piece, but I don’t feel able to say nothing. I perhaps sounds naive, but I really do believe in governing for the greater good. Sometimes that involves sacrifices & I am happy to make some to ensure the basic well being of everyone. I am utterly disgusted by the rise of the politic of fear & hate. I have watched with growing dismay as we slip further to the right & minds slide closed. I’m tired of hearing about downtrodden people voting against the establishment. There is no excuse for supporting racism, misogyny, homophobia & all manner of vile prejudice. Raising the privileged & corrupt is not only wrong, it’s incredibly stupid. As already witnessed in the UK, those who already have the least lose the most. 

With far right parties gaining popularity across Europe; I fear the worst is yet to come. Marine Le Pen is already talking about creating a new world. That world is not one that I care to live in. For the first time in my life I am scared of the direction society is being pushed. I say that in the full knowledge that I live in a progressive country & hold privileges many don’t. I cannot even begin to imagine the terror others must be feeling. 

So, forgive me if I am lack inspiration & my words are ineloquent. It feels as though decent people have received a damaging blow. I know we must stay in the fight & I intend to keep my fists up.  I hope you will be with me. 

On the plus side…

Fatigue is getting the best of me this week. I am out of spoons, but I don’t want to be out of words on this blog. Hence, I wil be sharing some short pieces I have written for other publications. I hope you find them as absorbing as my usual content.
First up a piece on how body shaming & fat stigma makes plus size infertility an even bigger challenge.
Infertility is  heart breaking affair for anyone who wants to have a child. With the NHS now reporting that 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, infertility is more common that we realise. Thankfully most people in UK will be able to access fertility treatment via the NHS. However, some people are not deemed suitable for treatment. One of the groups who may be denied access are those categorised as clinically obese.
Women with a BMI over 30 are routinely refused fertility treatment. Drs advise them lose weight before they can be referred to a specialist. There are a number of issues with this policy and some  are tied in with the way society as a whole views fat people. Let’s begin with index used to measure if a person is obese. Body Mass Index (BMI) has been widely discredited. The index has a number of problems including the fact that BMI does not differentiate between muscle & fat. Hence, people who are fit & have healthy body fat can be classified as obese. Another issue is that BMI does not recognise difference in body shape. It is well established that those who carry their weight around the middle (sometimes known as apple shaped) are at much higher risk of health complications than those who carry excess fat around their hips (pear shaped) [1].Thus women with very different shapes & risk factors can be labelled with the same BMI. Perhaps the biggest failing is that BMI  does not always change with lifestyle alterations. A person may make significant changes to their health without necessarily losing large amounts of weight. Partaking in regular exercise and switching to a healthy (but not calorie focused) diet will have a huge impact of a person’s wellbeing. Sadly, BMI would not recognise these positive changes unless there is also weight loss. This can put women in the position of focusing on how much they weigh rather than how healthy their lifestyle is.
Of course, there are also questions to be asked outside the clinical failings of BMI. It is important to note that there is no official policy on women who are under weight. Despite the fact that being too thin can have a bigger impact on a woman’s fertility than being too big. The medical community appear to jump to the conclusion that fat is always bad. A notion that is reflected in society & that causes plus sized women to face wide spread discrimination. It is estimated that half of pregnancies in the UK have obese mothers. Yet studies show that only 5% of admissions to neonatal units and 4% of preterm births could be avoided if all pregnant women had a ‘normal’ BMI at the start of pregnancy [2].The implications is clear, overweight woman are regularly having healthy pregnancies & deliveries. Still the overwhelming message from the medical community is that obese women automatically have  high risk pregnancies.
The most worrying part of this protocol is that women are often not even referred to a fertility specialist until the capitulate on the weight loss issue. This means that women who have specific medical problems interfering with conception are forced to delay interventions that could solve their problems. The bottom line is that women who are classified as obese get a raw deal. Underlying prejudices seem to be making an already distressing issue much harder of plus size women. Infertility can make women feel powerless and incompetent. When you are fat, those feelings are increased by the prevailing impression that your weight is to blame.
1 Mayo Clinic
2 Public Health England, Maternity obesity and pregnancy outcomes.

You should see my scars… 

Today is self injury awareness day. I’ll be honest I’m fairly jaded about awareness days. Especially those of the mental health variety. Too often they seem to me to be highlighting the wrong things. Today hasn’t broken the mold. Almost everything I have read in relation to self injury awareness day (SIAD) has focused on the usual stereotypes. Some have just missed the point entirely. So, I have decided to share a little of what goes on in the head of a person who is hurting themselves Specifically, this person. 

I don’t fit the stereotypes. I didn’t hurt myself as a teen. I wasn’t bullied & had a picture perfect childhood. I was never desirous of attention or seeking care in the form of dressings & kind medical professionals (ha!). I’m not stupid or dangerous or crazy. I have fought this battle as an articulate, independent adult. I’ve hidden wounds & scars through university & work alike. I kept a secret shrouded in stigma. Constantly confronted with the idea that my problem was one that should only face little girls. Shamed by the opinion that I am an incompetent drama queen. 
I am none of the above. Rather, I am woman who suffered trauma that altered my life. In the depths of anguish I stumbled upon a solution; a maladaptive survival technique. An act sought out to gain control when I felt powerless. Lamentably, my source of control rapidly overtook me & established dominion. Self harm is so complicated. It’s scope is different for each individual. For me, it become all encompassing. My daily thoughts circled around if/when I would cut. Being proficient was paramount. Every cut had to be ‘better’ than the last; I sought deeper wounds, more blood, more damage, more more. Self harm entangled itself into my identity. 

Admitting that & asking for help felt like relinquishing part of my self. Not only was I facing the loss of self harm, but also the strong, capable parts of myself that made me feel worthy. Admitting that I could no longer cope was the most vulnerable I have ever been. Believe me when I say that to face stigma & prejudice in that state is crushing. To gather all your courage to tell a therapist the ugly truth & be faced with a ‘just stop’ attitude is soul destroying. Equally dragging your blood soaked self to a&e only to be treated with disgust can break a person. That the is the problem I & many others most need addressed. 

I believe SIAD should be about acknowledging the complexity of the issue. We should be focusing on changing the attitudes within the medical profession. Yes, let’s educate our communities about mental illness, but let’s also change the entrenched attitudes within the institutions that have the power to destroy lives. The worst stigma I have faced has been from dr’s & nurses who ought to have known better. Stigma is never positive, but I’ll take a hundred ignorant strangers over one cruel dr. Being unable to safely access treatment can kill. We need to take the fight to that front line.