Look at me, what do you see? I am white young and a girl. That’s often what people will say, but that’s not really the right question. I am not a what, but a who. I am a person, someone not so easily defined by these words. A question with “who” is far more difficult to answer and not too many people bother to ask it in the first place. But the question remains, who am I? Is the world correct in thinking that I am a white young girl? Or are the right answers something much less obvious? I feel like these words, “white young girl,” are a noose around my throat restricting my breath. Is that really who I am? Moreover, is that really all that I am?
Let’s break this down, what is white for me? Well my pigment comes from an English, Scottish, and Portuguese background. However, these words don’t really mean anything to me. My family is completely westernized, and I don’t know what my “heritage” really means. However, I do recognize “white”. It’s that box I check on applications, that skin tone I see in the mirror and it’s the only racial slur I have heard directed to me. Personally hearing the “white” slur come from a person of color, that statement doesn’t really bother me. It’s more like a “duh”, you’re just stating the obvious so why care? I’m sure if I had a strong sense of culture then this story would be different, but that is not the case. However, coming from another seemingly white person, this slur significantly bothers me. It’s like that person is saying it to make them seem superior to myself; which in my case, will not fly. Unless that person knows me personally, I do not tolerate being spoken to like an underling. But why is being called “white” by another “white” such an insult?
People generally assume that I have money. I dress well, I have nice things, my language is often grammatically correct; these are all attributes that I have that people see, and assume from that that I come from money. These people would be right, but the comment usually comes across as “oh did daddy buy that for you?” To answer that point blank “no, daddy did not buy that for me.” My parents are considerably well-off and are highly supportive of me; but I have been self-employed for three years, since I was nineteen. I also have been living on my own since I was nineteen. On the contrary though that is not what is assumed. People will generally just write me off as being “white” and privileged, and that that is why I am the way that I am.
I am white, I am privileged. People look at me and think I can do no wrong, or better yet that I haven’t done wrong. I often will joke with my friends, “who are they going to believe?” Usually this is in reference to a male I just came into controversy with instead of a person of color; however, I am still joking like that because of what I appear to be. I can’t get into trouble; I am just a little young white girl. What on earth am I capable of doing? Who are they going to believe?
Also, as previously stated, I am young. That’s something that is made exponentially clear to me by society. This is also something I hate. It’s that superior tone that older persons tend to have when talking to me. Being young has a tendency to cause people to assume that I have not experienced anything significant; aside from benefiting from a lack of wrinkles, having good health, and being without worry. Although those privileges are mostly true, I do not feel that I relate to most persons my age. I had to grow up rather quickly, because my year and a half younger brother Daniel has autism. Autism in the early 90’s didn’t have very much information available on the mental disorder nor were there very many resources for it. So my family and I did what we could, including making me a third parent of the house.
My considerable knack for taking on responsibilities and challenges was something that was made abundantly clear to my family when I was only six years old. As the story goes, I was babbling on like all kids do at that age and made the point that “when I go to college and Daniel comes with me-.” Freeze! What did I mean? I meant that when I go to college that I would have to take my brother with me, because my parents would be too old to take care of him. That did not hold up to how I thought it would go, but still that is a startlingly intense realization I had at such a young age. People often will look at me and see someone who comes from a well-off family and has a perfect life, but they don’t seem to ever consider what it’s like having someone so close to you but yet being so far away at the same time. My brother and I are extremely close, as close as we can ever be, but I will never know what he thinks of me or how he feels about me. I will never hear those magic three little words from him, “I love you.”
However, being around special needs practically my whole life has given me a great privilege. I have a significant ability to work with, understand, handle, and communicate with individuals who struggle with special needs. This is also why I am going into the field of special needs. Within this field that I am currently working in and working towards at a higher professional level, I have been told countless times what a natural ability I have with my clients. However, because I am so young I have been dismissed numerous times by my colleagues as if I cannot provide any degree of insight. In fact one of my families asked me if I could help their child’s physical therapist to understand him better. During this session, whenever I spoke to the therapist she would shake her head while I was talking and just completely ignored me. This of course infuriated me; I was there because my client who I have been working with for two years hates working with her so much he won’t let her inside the house! How dense can you be to not see that?! …But I am privileged and it is my job being in the special needs community, to educate my peers when their understanding is lacking.
I get called a “girl” pretty frequently; which is interesting because I do not identify with being a girl. I am not a lesbian, if that’s what came to mind just then; no, but I am a woman. There are numerous differences between being a girl and being a woman in my opinion. For me, I feel that a woman is her own person and can’t be placed into an overly feminine idea of what a girl should be; meaning, that I do not cry during romantic movies. I don’t like romantic movies, I actually find them rather embarrassing and insulting. It’s like do people really think that I need chocolate to solve my problems, or better yet my best gal pal to straighten me out and get me back with that asshole? No, that is not something I require. However, that doesn’t mean that all women don’t cry during romantic movies. It just means that we have the choice, because we are adults and we are not all the same.
Being of the female gender brings on a lot of discriminatory perspectives from outside parties. One major quarrel I have within myself is with the idea of what a man is, and what a woman is in our society. My main issue lies within sexual interactions. I am a fan of the beast with two backs, and I am extremely comfortable with who I am as a sexual being. However, because I am a girl I am not allowed to be public with my affairs or to even be sexual behind closed doors. I have been called many names, anything from slut or a whore to a sperm dumpster. Many colorful devices in language to depict that my sexual behavior is wrong. But how is it wrong? I am not religious nor is my family so I’m not breaking any spiritual guidelines there. I am well educated, and I know how to practice safe sex. So how is that wrong? The answer is somewhat simple really. It’s solely because I am a girl, and girls are not allowed to be a part of the “boys club”. Apparently, they are the only ones who are allowed and encouraged to enjoy sex.
Girls however, do have a substantial privilege that I think is highly disregarded by many. It goes back to my favorite saying, who are they going to believe? Or better yet for this case, who are they going to expect more from? I am clearly a delicate, fragile creature; there is no way that I am capable of performing like a man. Just look at me, I got those water balloons on my chest and a snapper in my pants; how on earth can I be expected to work like this! Simply put, it’s not expected. Many men have looked at me and assume that I am not a threat. This is great fun, not only do I not have to try if I don’t want to but if I do then I am completely worshiped for my ability to do work right. I try and not take advantage of this privilege, I have standards and an extremely well pronounced work ethic, but still the privilege is there.
Also, men have a tendency to believe that I am incapable of fending for myself and protecting myself. This means that if shots are fired I will probably have five human shields. Although I don’t mind the over the top protection in this case, I do mind it when I am perceived as defenseless. This is where the term girl really irritates me again. The word for me essentially sounds like another word for being weak. I love being underestimated, but I hate being viewed as weak. I am a rather aggressive person, and I know what my physical capabilities are; I am capable of taking punches, hair pulling, kicking, pinching, hitting, head butting, and biting. But that ability is not something that people tend to see in me. People still don’t seem to have a vast understanding that growing up with a sibling with autism has the potential to be extremely difficult, with or without having rich parents. Society really doesn’t seem to realize that a home with autism often experiences violence; moreover, that this particular violence doesn’t allow for anything to be done without sending that son or brother away. I am not a weak person and I can be physical with a male if it is necessary for my safety or his.
Look at me, what do you see? I am white young and a girl, but that’s not who I am that is answering what I am. So who am I? I am a person with a superiority complex, clearly. I am well educated and hard working for everything that I have. I am sarcastic, and have a kind of dark sense of humor. I am driven for a cause and I take my work seriously. I am feminine and I am masculine and that is fine by me. I am not fearful for being who I am and I am not ashamed of my flaws or my quirks. I am strong. I am privileged and I am oppressed. I am white I am young and I am a girl. But I am me, and if people don’t want to see that then fuck them. Why should I care when they are just one what in a world of eight billion whose.
Recognizing how you are privilege and how you are oppressed is important, clearly. It also can reveal how some language and behaviors you exude are discriminatory as well. Basically all behavior should come back to what we learned in preschool, treat others how you would like to be treated. That’s the take away and know you all know a little more about me as well :-).