This string of words has been rearing its head sporadically over the past few months. It is in the main, unpacked to attack and criticize its usage. Without apology for the lack of my decorum. It pisses me off. Big time.
What does it mean?
Well. I’m going to present the words of a straight white male.
Author James McCrae
(extract from the Huffington Post)
Being a straight white male in our society means something, especially in the age of Black Lives Matter, in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, and during the racist undertones of the Donald Trump campaign. The questions is what does it mean? In the eyes of some, the straight white male signifies the norm, the status quo, and the American ideal. To the billions of disenfranchised groups around the world, the straight white male signifies the oppressor, the occupier, and a system of governance that is both outdated and dangerous…
Being a straight white male has absolutely given me huge advantages, and more benefits than I have the awareness to acknowledge, and too often I take this luck for granted. I rarely think about race, gender, or sexuality, and maybe that’s part of the problem.
And then there’s how I see things. The woman.
When the girls in school were sketching out what their future husbands might look like and what they did, I was dreaming about a VW camper van that I would spray FLOWER POWER on and travel around the world and meet interesting people and draw them. Then I would take to the stage and act out plays that I had written. I was told over and over and over again that I was a ridiculous specimen. To get real. So, I decided on carpentry. I can still hear the laughter. Carpentry they said was for straight white males.
I met straight white males who wore religious collars who had impregnated women and screeched from the pulpit about the virtues of not being deflowered. Or at least waiting until you were married.
I heard straight white males discuss with a hint of hysteria where in the hell were they going to find a blonde woman with a good figure wearing a suitable black dress to bring to one of Dr. Tony O’Reilly’s functions. Because the female hanging out of your arm they explained to me reflected your ability to make good choices. And that meant promotion. [and don’t disillusion yourself with ‘that doesn’t happen anymore’].
I have listened to politicians and business men deride each other on public forums only to laugh privately together about how great it was to get the air time. They too were straight white males.
When I had debilitating pain, I attended a Consultant in the Mater Hospital. After examining me and asking a few questions, he suggested I get pregnant to resolve my intestinal issues. He too was a straight white male.
I was flabbergasted over the years hearing how men who didn’t want to be married anymore were able to get annulments from the Vatican only costing a few thousand. But women it seemed had a little more difficulty with their applications.
When poetry was public it was in the hands of straight white males. I think that is why I fell so deeply for Mary Dorcey and The River That Carries Me and how she told us in Trinity College how straight white males used to spit at her walking down Grafton Street for being a lesbian.
When the systemic sexual abuse, supported in silence by His Holiness and the crew, was revealed, I only saw straight white males.
There was no rest from this narrative. Television bombard and dictate on the health of vaginas, but I have yet to see a white penis and STDs being referred to over the airways.
As I grew older I watched straight white males making policy decisions. Financial decisions. Board Room decisions. Legal decisions. Trade Union decisions. Political decisions.
I watched straight white women supporting them. Enabling them. Cheering them on. Quietly assassinating and annihilating the character of those of us who sat uncomfortably within the patriachal system or made them feel threatened in any way.
And the political platform. Well.
I have long held the belief that cronyism and camaraderie have the same designer. Whether people stand on the left or on the right or the far side of either, the human condition gravitates towards the established. The principles of political and social structures are always preceded and led by the innate yearning to belong. And it is in this space that we begin to lose seeing the humanity of others, when we step up to look down, disassociate to preserve our standing within the belonging or distance ourselves to preserve our perceived credibility. Any words that validate our actions are believed. And the breeding ground for corruption, abuse and lack of integrity is born.
The yearning never leaves us, but how we manage it plays a very big role in how we live and engage in the world. And how we engage politically.
In Ireland, several months ago, on Twitter #Repealthe8th and #KnowYourRepealer were trending.
It was without any question a Power Wave of Solidarity. It lifted me. But equally my consciousness was filled with pins and needles with the sheer volume of women who inserted the words,
-I’m not normally political
-I’m not affiliated to any political party
before expressing their support for the removal of how a woman’s body is managed by straight white males from the Irish Constitution. Specifically in relation to abortion.
I had two questions; when did political apologetics enter the equality arena? Why was it easier for women to say publicly that they had had an abortion [which Irish Law deems as criminal] over identifying with a political party or ideology?
Novelist and academic Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written and spoken about the danger of the single story. The single narrative. To capture in a sentence, if you are exposed only to one narrative you begin to believe that is there is only one reality. Has this played a part? Or was it cosy White Feminism spraying themselves with L’eau de Patriarchy that created a nauseous reflex? I don’t know the answer. But just because I don’t know the answer, doesn’t mean the question has left me.
I do understand that sometimes women are not ready to name a thing because subconsciously [or consciously] they are aware that they do not have the capacity to deal with the bigger questions that surround it. That must be respected. But. The danger lies in allowing it to become part of your nature or carrying it as a burden. And failing to use it as tool to assist other women.
Something changed in me last year at the Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam. And that thing was set in concrete when I found a lump shortly afterward. I was not ready to deal with it. I have been here before.
I already had the conversation with my daughter sometime back that if I was diagnosed with cancer I would not seek treatment. And yes, if you have jumped into to believing it has something to do with my mental health diagnosis you are right. But wrong in believing that it is me being fatalistic. Taking antibiotics sends me spiralling into a darkness I have had too much of. The physical pain is easier than the mental battle.
I needed my daughter to be clear why it was I had made that decision. I needed her to know that it was not a measure of how much I love and adore her. She said,
-I support your decision.
As I have always supported hers.
The letter for my appointment at the hospital this week, arrived a few days before Christmas together with information about my High Court case this year. A legal system designed around the diktats of straight white males.
On New Year’s Eve, as I do every year, I wrote down my intentions for the coming year and threw it into flames with a prayer to the Universe. On the first day of January I asked myself this question,
-If this was to be your last year on this earth, what would you do with it, G?
My response was this. To speak with Arrows.
And while I am doing that I will hold on with gratitude to my most treasured compliment,
“You’re a deadly fuckin cunt”
Said Joe. A straight white male without the privilege. A friend who lives on the streets with his girlfriend.
And show the rest of you the palm of my hand when you stand up and debate syntax and semantics while denying the experience of Others or not attempting to inform yourselves.