My mother is an immigrant!!

March 3, 2009

Okay, so this post at Shakesville has prompted the weirdest epiphany ever: my mother is an immigrant.

My mum was born and raised in Canada, and she moved to the U.S. in the 80s to study Computer Science. She has acquired U.S. citizenship, but her original citizenship is Canadian. Which makes her an immigrant, obviously.

So why have I never heard her, or anyone else like her, called an immigrant?

I already know the answer to that question. It’s because she’s a Canadian immigrant, meaning she’s a white lady with a pleasant English accent, and it’s because she’s not doing immigrant work, and is instead a professor (and now Department Head), meaning she already had money when she got here. So, you know, she’s not one those immigrants.

Good thing Barack Obama has eliminated all racism! (And classism, I guess, since that’s at play here, too!) Isn’t our post-racial, economically-equal society wonderful?

Birth control everywhere!

March 2, 2009

I was looking in my glove compartment for my car cellphone charger before I drove in to school today, and in with the Advil and cellphone wires and DS wires and batteries and extra headphones (I’m that kind of person), I found a case of my birth control. Which means I have been storing my birth control in five places– in my glove compartment, in my apartment, in the “pills” drawer in my parents’ kitchen, in my sock drawer in my room in my parents’ house, plus several extras in my purse. In other words: hello, privilege!

I take Lybrel birth control, which has absolutely no “placeholder” pills, ever, which means I not only don’t ovulate (something that is true for all hormonal BC), but also don’t bleed. Ever. This is a good thing, because for me, bleeding (even “pill periods”) is preceded by sharp pains throughout my lower half, accompanied by throbbing pain throughout my entire body (plus vomiting!), and followed by lingering aches. So it’s a week of PMS, a week of agony, a week of painful recovery, one week off!, and then back to the cycle.

I pay upwards of $50 a month to not go through this. Honestly, if I had to, I would cut out almost all my other expenses before I stopped buying my Lybrel– the first $50 of every paycheck would go straight to BC. But I don’t have to. In fact, the cost fazes me so little that I don’t even put any effort into remembering where, exactly, all of my fifty-dollar containers of medicine are, or how many I have at any point in time. I just locate the nearest pill and take it, every night at 6:00 Central exactly (since PMS will visit me within hours of a missed pill) and if I finish a package, I make a note to get some more.

I know the blogosphere doesn’t really need any more privileged-rich-chick navel-gazing, but, well, it’s too late now. My navel: let me show you it! It’s not sensitive to touch or extreme temperatures, because this privileged-rich-chick is taking good care of it, as only she can.

Internet Musings: Economic Class and Class Mobility

February 25, 2009

Welcome to what’s turning out to be a series:  Gender Goggles IM conversations.  Clearly thirsty for intense feminist real-time discourse, Eloriane and I will tend to have these really great discussions (we’ll also chat about casual stuff, but we’re not going to show you those – much less interesting!).  So this post is a little bit of  the IM’ing that she and I were doing during my lunch break yesterday. What follows is a kind of thinking aloud/processing that ended up being about economic class and other oppressions, and how they might intersect. Both Eloriane and I recognize that we might be missing something in this discussion – we are, after all, both white. While she may have grown up with more economic privilege than I, I still feel somewhat new to the analysis of economic oppression. Airing our musings can be problematic as it will show everyone our blind spots, but I think it’s a really valuable exercise as a form of consciousness raising.

Crowfoot: I had been reading some monster thread somewhere and had noticed that several people didn’t seem to understand what “being socialized” meant – they didn’t seem to understand that it’s not something we can escape? That we’re bathed in our culture every day since birth and it forms our world view in a really basic sort of way. Which is not to say that we can’t teach ourselves new things, just that there isn’t anyone who grew up in this culture and hasn’t been affected by it.

Eloriane: Yeah, yeah. I mean, just last night my mom offered to write a guest post (to keep me from whining) about how the patriarchy totally doesn’t apply to her. And I wanted to say, yes it does, you’ve just made things work anyway.

E: She is an aggressive leader in a male-dominated field but she still spends all the time she wants with her kids and wears pretty clothes.

E: So, win!

C: heeh

E: Except… people always assume that the “Dr. Lastname” who is head is my dad, not her.

C: Right!

E: I mean, she has to INSIST upon “Dr.” instead of “Mrs.”

C: She may have overcome things, but it doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist in the first place.

E: Yeah!

E: And the people who haven’t sort of had their minds changed by her, will still think about her the same way. Like, she’s proven herself to her current faculty, but that doesn’t mean visitors don’t assume things.

C: Exactly.

E: And even the fact that she HAD to prove herself is meaningful.

E: I’m still crazy proud of her, though. She’s getting exactly what she wants out of her life. Like, she’s always spent a lot of time with my brothers and I, but she still gets to do really cool stuff at work.

C: And you should be proud 🙂 and so should she.

E: But that’s kind of class privilege helping her out… we’ve always had someone working for us to do the cooking, cleaning, and household chores.

C: Ooooh. Indeed! Class privilege.

E: Like crazy!

E: But just because she has made it work doesn’t mean somehow she grew up in a different society.

C: Exactly! And as usual, money seems to solve a lot of problems for women :-/ (well, up to a point obviously)

E: Class privilege can compensate for most other forms of oppression…?

E: Like, historically, there have always been at least a few POC who get accepted into white society because of their insane wealth. But it doesn’t erase the racism, it just supersedes it.

C: Exactly!

C: Well, I meant that having money can help a woman escape an abusive situation, get a better education, be able to leave a toxic work environment etc. Though it doesn’t stop sexism in any way of course, or racism or homophobia.

E: I wonder why that is? Maybe because class is an even more constructed barrier…?

C: Why which is? We chatting over each other again! :p

E: It needs more reinforcement?

E: Oh, why class can supersedes other oppressions! Like, why you would accept someone you would usually exclude, based purely on their money?

C: With many accents not being tooo noticeable, it might be easier to move between economic classes?

E: I’m thinking of, like, Moorish traders in old Europe…

C: It’s an interesting question.

E: It doesn’t ultimately challenge white/male/straight superiority, because it’s still clear you’re only in because of your money. But it is interesting that the exception is made.

C: Do you think it supersedes other oppressions or rather… lubricates social interaction more so that the other oppressions can become easier to get around or evade (somewhat)?

E: That might be it?

E: It certainly avoids the more systemic ill effects– i.e., lack of resources. The stuff you mentioned, leaving abusive relationships, getting an education for your children, and so on.

C: It sounds like it ties into tokenism – ie a black lesbian might be accepted (sort of accepted?) if she has a lot of money because she’s proven that she’s different then “those other people” by having one thing that the Top Dogs in society have, money?

E: Maybe?

C: So having money is useful for personally navigating oppressions, but not revolutionary.

So what do you think? Is there something to what Eloriane and I were discussing? Moving between classes/groups is difficult, but with economic class it is the one group that’s not based or connected to a physical attribute. Except… whiteness? At least in the US/Canada/Northern Europe? Economic class is definitely completely socially constructed, as Eloriane pointed out, but I think there’s still genetic markers attached to it. As it gives rank to members of society in a white male supremacy that ranking gets associated with the ruling class: white people. So maybe this was a blind spot for us? That how wealth is coded as white wasn’t immediately apparent?

I think, too, that in Britain there is a physical marker of class: one’s accent. Even a super rich cockney is still from working class roots. New money and all that. While we have regional accents here in N. America it’s much less pronounced. But in Canada, like Britain, I don’t recall hearing anyone with a “regional” accent on the CBC or BBC. Everyone speaks either Toronto/Ottawa english or Queen’s english.

What do you think? Socialist Feminists speak up! 🙂

What a day.

January 20, 2009

Also known as, Mixed Feelings.

So, today has been a bizarre day for me, doubly so because the Inauguration happened right in the middle of it.

This morning I had to get up early before class, because I’d left my textbook in my apartment, but I’d slept in my family’s house. I’m still in the middle of moving; last night was supposed to be my official first night on my own, but, as I discovered when I brought all my stuff over yesterday, the electricity wasn’t on! I’d called the power company a few days ago, but it seems I didn’t actually pay at that time, probably since I couldn’t do it with the customer service rep I’d been talking to.

So last night I tried to use their phone system to make a payment. At first it didn’t think my account existed, but eventually it listened to me. I had to keep starting over, since it would ask me for something I didn’t know, and I’d take too long to look it up, and it’d hang up on me. (I also hit the wrong button a few times). I made it through my 11-digit account number, my 10-digit contact phone numer, my 5-digit zip code, the amount I wanted to pay, and half of the credit card number when I fumbled the phone and accidentally hung up. I called in again, got all the way to the amount to pay when it informed me that I’d accessed the account too many times, and couldn’t use the phone or internet systems again.

Anyway, at this point yesterday, business hours were closing so I just brought the cheese and tofu to my parents’ house to refrigerate it, and called it a day. My mom said she’d try the system again in the morning (since the thought it’d reset by then, probably), and I played video games with the boys.

Which brings us to this morning, with me driving to my apartment with my gloves on because of the cold, and running into my dark apartment to find my books. I managed to make it to class on time, which honestly kind of surprised me, and then we had a quiz and I did well, which also kind of surprised me, and then I headed to the CSCE building to talk to my mom, and as I jogged in out of the cold, I spotted in the corner of my eye a crowd of people around a television.

A black woman with a huge, adorable bow on her hat was singing, and I could almost feel my heart begin to race when I realized it was Obama’s inauguration. I saw Biden sworn in, and I listened to the musicians after (desperately trying (and failing) to blog via my phone!), and then I saw Obama sworn in and nearly lost it right there, and then he gave his speech, and he acknowledged that some Americans are Muslim, and some are even non-believers, and yeah, I teared up! Just a bit!

I was just absolutely unable to keep from grinning and only sort of able to keep from crying; I don’t know how many other students were just standing around in the lobby, because I was just absolutely transfixed. I have some pretty serious doubts about Obama, but every time I hear him speak, I come away feeling so hopeful. And there’s a part of me that wants to resist that because usually what he says doesn’t actually address my concerns, but there’s also a part of me that just wants to say, fuck that! It’s so nice to have, for the first time, a president who doesn’t make me feel embarassed when he speaks.

And it IS the first time, for me. George Bush was the first president I can remember. Oh, sure I was alive during other presidencies, but it wasn’t until after Bush was elected that I looked at my history book list of presidents and asked, “Who is my president now?”

And the answer, for me, has always been Bush. I wonder if that might not be part of Obama’s draw with us first-time voters– we’re eighteen, which means we were ten when Bush was elected, which means Bush has been our president forever, in that teenage “defined by my own memory” way, which is factually incorrect, but emotionally so, so true.

So yeah, I cried, when I looked at Barack Obama, and said to myself, he is my president now. And I think this is going to be my moment, my “I remember where I was when…,” since I don’t remember where I was for 9/11, or any of the other events that have changed the lives of the people around me. My parents remember the moon landing, and the Berlin wall, and any number of other things which, no matter how much they tell me about them, will never have the same emotional intensity for me. But now, I have Obama. And that’s a good feeling.

And then, after what felt like a nearly transcendant moment, I was back in my life again, with the Arabic homework and the electricity payments. I talked to my mom, and guess how long I’ve been locked out of the phone and online payment options? No, really, guess!

One month.

Despite the fact that NOT ONCE had I actually made it through to make a payment, I apparently used their system so much that I can’t be allowed to use it again for a month.

Since it’s my first month, and I don’t have a bill yet, I can’t just mail the money in. (No idea why, but they won’t let me.) And none of the four customer service call centers I ended up talking to could let me make the payment through them. So instead, I had to drive down to Mountain Man Supplies & Pawn!

I felt really, really weird going to a pawn shop to pay my electricity bill. I’d only learned the week before that apparently people sell stolen goods in pawn shops (?) and, never having been to one, somehow Pawn Shops had started to represent, in my head, everything that’s scary and Other about people who (unlike me) have to look at prices when they shop. (I mean, I’ll check, sometimes, but it’s a habit I’m still in the process of learning.) It’s an impulse I am fighting against, but I’ve grown up with a lot of privilege and somehow a whole pile of that unexamined privilege ended up looming at me from the prospect of A Pawn Shop.

I found myself immediately cataloguing everything expensive on my person, and I gave in to the impulse to hide the laptop, GPS, TI-83 calculator, and gameboy that were all hanging out on my passenger seat. When I first entered the shop, I was terrified, possibly because there were an alarming number of guns for sale, but all I did was say I was there to pay my bill, and a friendly woman came up to help, and it all went completely smoothly. It wasn’t some kind of hive of scum and villainy, or whatever it was I was expecting. It actually smelled really nice, like freshly-cut wood. One of my favourite oldies songs was on the radio.

When the woman helping me went on to say “when you pay here every month…” I did have a moment where I bristled, like, “How dare you take me for the sort of person who pays her electricity bill at A Pawn Shop!” but then I was like, “WTF, eloriane. That makes no sense,” and overall, it wasn’t bad. I’m really curious to find out (next month) how easy the website is to use; if it’s no bother, then it’s probably not worth the gas to drive to save the $1 fee, but if it’s as contorted and terrible as the phone system, well…I might continue to pay my bills at A Pawn Shop.

All in all, then, a weird day. Stress, transcendent hope, and a battle with my own privilege. Honestly, not a bad way to start out on a new presidency.

So, here’s to Number Forty-Four! Hurray!