Tag Archives: YWCA Niagara

Privilege,

 

WHAT DOES PRIVILEGE MEAN TO YOU?

By Ellen Rodger
I know I’m getting all “pop culture” here, but did anybody follow the Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift Twitter exchange a few weeks ago? It started when Minaj noted that the MTV Video Music Awards nominations video of the year didn’t include her video Anaconda but perhaps would have if Minaj were a different “kind” of artist. What s
he meant is that her video celebrates “thicker” bodies, black bodies, and an overt female sexuality—and giving that a nod would play with the established standards of what is acceptable, lovely, and therefore “normal”.

The tweet wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular (beyond those who enforce and reward normative standards), but Minaj’s friend and fellow musician, Taylor Swift, whose video Bad Blood was nominated, took it as a personal insult. Swift tweeted: I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot. Minaj was taken aback, but responded thusly: “Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this.” The “u should speak on this” is an equivalent to “check your privilege.” In turn, Swift responded, in a sweet (if unknowingly condescending manner): “If I win, please come up with me!! You’re invited to any stage I’m ever on.” This is where Swift missed the boat, because she didn’t see her privilege and particularly didn’t see it fitting her systematically.

To me, this pop culture exchange, carried out on the public gossip arena of social media, is a perfect example of how privilege is intersectional but yet too often, that intersectionality is contested or ignored (as in it is a personal issue and not a systemic or societal issue). Swift is a young, talented, successful, wealthy, white, heterosexual musician. As a woman, she has had t
o work hard to earn respect in her industry. She understands that sexism and oppression affect her directly. What she doesn’t get is that in other areas of her life, she sits in a place of great privilege and her privileges (white, heterosexual, wealthy, etc.) trump others. It may not trump male privilege, but it does give her power.

“For the most part, she uses that power to support other women.”

So yeah, good for her. But the internalized domination is still there. When you assume others share your reality, you act as if your perspective is universal. It makes it difficult to see what someone who does not share your reality sees (or not entirely anyway, Minaj for example, is talented, wealthy successful, heterosexual, and black—her race lens is going to be different than Swift’s).

Minaj is rejecting the internalized oppression of pop culture and society that says thin white bodies are lovely and should be seen and admired in music videos. And she’s asking Swift, who like her, has economic privilege and the ability to say what she wants without being sanctioned, to speak to this—to say there is room for more than one or two standards in video awards nominations. For Swift, like most of us, it is easier to notice the oppression she has personally experienced (“maybe one of the men took your slot”) than the privileges she experiences. Often, those privileges are not recognized as such and are attributed to “hard work”, or talent and perseverance alone.

It is hard to acknowledge privilege. In my own life, I can recognize many of my privileges but it is difficult to see how they shift and how my history plays into a system that isn’t quite monolithic. That’s where intersectionality comes in. I’m a woman. But I am more than that. I am white, heterosexual, gender conforming, and able bodied. I grew up within (and ultimately rejected) an all-encompassing religious structure. That too influences and plays with my privilege. I’m not poor, although I have at various times in my life, struggled with income variances, and this has given me palpable understanding of the fear and anxiety of an insufficient income. I am healthy both physically and mentally but I am aware that these are variables that can and do change privilege—and quickly. I’ve never been a target of racism. I can go out in the street and talk to a stranger and not worry about them judging my sexuality (or fear a possible violent reaction to it). My privilege—my unearned advantages in life, even those that aren’t discriminatory, are many. I hope however, they don’t entirely prevent me from trying to understand power, how I benefit from it, where I have an easier ride.

The tricky part is determining what I can do to erase the systems of oppression that back privilege.

 

 

 

No Fixed Address – A Humbling Ride

Well, what do I say about my first time being involved with No Fixed Address? When I came on as a summer student, I had no idea what I was really in for. I had done research into the YWCA and their signaturKids playing in lote event of course, before beginning, but nothing can really prepare you for actually living it.

Coming into work every day at one of the shelters the YW runs grounded me from day one.

Every morning I walk past the ladies standing outside, talking together and starting their day. I say good morning and smile, stop and chat if they show an interest, before heading up to the loft to start the day. Through the social media management, the meetings, the donor relations, the planning and running around, I always have these ladies in the back of my mind.Niagara Roller Girls Chalk drawing
The day of NFA brought them screaming to the front.

When the sky opened up and soaked me through, I thought of them, and wondered how many had been caught in weather with nowhere to go. Those moments when I felt a little lost because I was aimless, I thought of them and wondered what it must feel like to not belong anywhere. Finally, when it came time to sleep in my car I thought of them.
With the windows open, and loud people around me; with no sense of privacy or personal space, with cramps in my back I thought of them. Then I cried. I sat there in the front seat trying to get comfortable and thought of these women I talk to every day, and the journey that brought them to us.

Please don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun throughout the day. I made new friends, laughed, and danced (badly). I enjoyed the games and the feeling of working together to make a difference. I will absolutely be back next year to help in any way I can.

Ultimately though, this amazing experience humbled me, and I am just so grateful for it.
on stage amount raised

Family Lessons Found at No Fixed Address

Lorraine Snihur is the Charity Support Manager of Trade Bank Canada, the largest            multi-directional barter exchange company in the country, helping not-for-profit organizations cut costs effectively.  She is also one of the many dedicated supporters and participants in the YW No Fixed Address event, sitting as the Chair of the Activities & Entertainment committee since 2013. 

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Born and raised in Vineland, Lorraine says that helping not-for-profits is not only part of her job, but also a great passion of hers.  She believes that we are all put on this earth for a purpose and reminds her two children about the importance of making a difference in the world around them.  Participating in No Fixed Address is one of the ways that the Snihur family has shown their commitment to making a difference in the community.

I had the opportunity to chat with Lorraine about her family’s ongoing support and participation in No Fixed Address.

 

YW: What first caught your attention about No Fixed Address in 2013?

LS: This was an event that stood out from the others, although all fundraisers have their draw, NFA seemed to me to be more of an experience, a commitment and a way that we can help make a difference in our community.

YW: Why did you choose to register as a team with your family, rather than as an individual?

LS: Poverty doesn’t only affect adults…my children have seen signs of poverty at their school when a student doesn’t have a lunch or can’t find the money to participate in a class trip.  They understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and that we all have to work together to make a difference.  If we just turn our heads and look the other way exactly what are we teaching our children?  Poverty is not a choice, it is a massive road block for so many people and families in our community and as part of our community they deserve our respect and our help.

YW: What was your first family experience like at No Fixed Address?  What was it like trying to fit yourself and your children into one car for the night?

LS: The activities held throughout the day really shed some light on what life would be like if we didn’t have the opportunities that we have.  It really opened all of our eyes to the “What if’s”.  Sure, we were able to get out of our vehicle when we wanted, and sure we had food and activities to keep us entertained but this event was different.  NFA2013 065 Part of it was fun for the kids as they were able to sleep in the truck however it wasn’t long before they realized how uncomfortable it really was and how horrible it would be if this was all we had to call our home.  It provided our family the opportunity to openly talk about what life would be like – crammed in in a vehicle with none of the things that we take for granted each and every day.

YW: What are some of the things that you and your children have learned from No Fixed Address?

LS: We have learned that poverty isn’t a word only used to describe the situation in third world countries….it is in our backyard.  We have learned that poverty doesn’t mean that the people affected by it are bums with no jobs and no drive to make a better life…it can happen to anyone at any time…it can be a result of job loss, sickness etc.

YW: How has No Fixed Address changed yours and your family’s perspective on homelessness?

IMG_1005LS: When we see a homeless person now, we are not quick to judge as we have no idea what path their life has taken then to lead them to homelessness.  We have also realized that just because someone seems fine on the outside doesn’t mean that they are not one pay cheque away from losing their home or have to choose between feeding their family and paying for heat.  It has made us become more aware, more grateful and more responsible for what we do have.  It has made us think harder and longer about our time here and how we can make a difference – this was definitely an experience to remember and one that we are grateful for.

 

Do you and your family want to be a part of No Fixed Address this summer?  Register here and begin your journey of creating change in the community.