People have been tossing around the term “privilege” for years now, in context of “white privilege” or “male privilege” or my personal favorite, “check your privilege.” Believe it or not, there’s a type of privilege that you wouldn’t even think of, and that’s “skinny privilege.”
That’s right. I said it.
Privilege, by definition is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”
And, by the textbook, Google-given definition, I witnessed this today in an incident that I will not soon forget.
While waiting for the (eternally late) bus at the Pentagon station, I witnessed a woman, walking in three-inch stilettos and wearing an outfit that gratuitously accentuated her shape, blatantly disobeyed the “No Trespassing” sign displayed outside the upper bus terminal. The sign is there so people do not use the exit ramp as a pedestrian walkway so that buses can drive on their merry way.
However, she walked directly one foot to the right of the sign. Police officers, from both the Metro Transit Authority and the Pentagon itself, were stationed in vehicles on the corner of the exit ramp; not 50 yards from where the woman was crossing. They did not make an attempt to stop her and allowed her to trespass.
In previous incidents, I had seen men and women that are close to the size of me (mind you, I do not fall under the category of “petite” and have not probably since I was about 12) been stopped and redirected, often obnoxiously, by members of either police force. I’ve heard megaphones, car horns, and screaming used to redirect errant pedestrians. Not a word was said to this woman.
Mind you, being a woman has its own faults, and I’m not saying women in general have privilege. There are some serious disadvantages of just being a woman that I’ve seen recently as well.
Yesterday afternoon, after I had left the bus, I began walking the half-mile from the bus stop to my front door. It was around 7pm and was still light out. All of a sudden, I saw a maroon SUV drive by me. I thought nothing of it at first. But then, it turned around at the corner and drove back by me.
That was when I began to get suspicious.
My first instinct (as it always is) is to call my mother. It’s not unusual for me to call her during the day, but when I call on my way home it’s generally to tell her I got caught in the rain…again. Yesterday, she could tell I was concerned and I certainly was. Because, there was one more instance the car drove by me.
I noted the make, almost the model, and the state of the license plate. I noticed all of the distinguishing characteristics of the car, including a large U.S. Army sticker on the back windshield that was unique in that it had an American-flag motif.
I vowed that once I walked back in the door, I would put my whistle (that my father bought me when I was first moving into Washington, DC proper) back on and not take it off.
I’ve often joked that it’s a “fashion statement for safety.” In actuality, it’s a rape whistle. It’s a constant reminder that I will never be truly safe, that I always have to be aware. I don’t have the privilege of safety, of ignorance. I have to be aware of everything–including my potential risks.
I’m angry, I’m disappointed. It’s Women’s Equality Day and all I can think of is how much farther women have to go until true “equality” exists.
And I won’t be quiet until it does.