Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Mother's Stepladder

My mother has a stepladder that she keeps in the laundry room. It's roughly ten feet from the fridge.

My mother isn't particularly short. She's of about average height for a woman, at a guesstimate; roughly 5'4"ish.

She needs the stepladder because she can't reach the top shelf in the cupboards. Or the pantry. She can't reach the top of the fridge, let alone those tiny, impossible to reach cupboards above the fridge. She can't change the light bulbs in any of the ceiling fixtures. She can't reach the top of the closets. Although my mother spends far more time in my house than my father does, and although the people who designed the house almost certainly expected that this would be the case, the simple fact is that my mother is a stranger in her own home. The people who designed it simply didn't give a damn about her. The house is sized for a man, and my mother is allowed in as an afterthought.

That's male privilege in a nutshell. It begins with the fact that men tend to be larger and stronger than women. This is a fact of biology and averages. Male privilege is what happens when this happenstance is seized upon and turned into a systematic privilege where none need exist. Imagine a highway system where some people have four-wheel-drive SUVs, and some have Priuses; no one has a choice, that's just the way it is. But then we build the highways and they're all roughly tarred, they ignore the difficulties with rough terrain or steep hills. The highway could be smooth and detour around the worst terrain problems, but the SUV owners are the ones in charge and it usually doesn't occur to them to take Prius owners into account. Until the Prius owners speak up.

To make matters worse, though, the SUV owners are all terrible drivers; they ignore the rules of the road and are very aggressive... Also, they tend to pollute the environment more. Man, ain't it grand how far you can stretch an analogy?
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