Friday, January 8, 2010

Status Struggles

An important aspect of all of my projects is a constant awareness of marginalization and privilege and how that plays out internally and in society. As a pagan, I am marginalized and have to deal with a good bit of prejudice and bigotry. There are other aspects of my identity that are also minority or marginalized, and I have been learning to recognize the marginalization and bias that affect my life and the lives of those around me.

Another crucial piece is confronting and acknowledging my own privilege. I have recently been reflecting on my privilege as relates to my attitudes and beliefs about status. Part of my personal privilege is that I have been trained to think of myself as always high status and to avoid status-lowering behaviors. I am coming to understand exactly how much of my time, energy and effort go into maintaining and proving status or negotiating status within personal relationships.

I have recently realized that I think about and interact with people differently based on my perception of our relative status. For people I consider to be of equal or lesser status, I am very compassionate and empathetic. I am eager to share power and hold space for all of us to co-create, to the point of trying to coax socially lesser-status folk into higher status positions and behavior. In short, I try to level the playing field as much as I have the power and resources to do so, even as I try to make sure that my behavior and strategies are personhood-affirming and non-patronizing, and that all interactions are emotionally healthy for me.

For people that I perceive to be of higher status, I am highly critical and much less compassionate. I want to dismantle their power and status, partly by coming up in status myself so that we will be equals, and partly by just tearing them down and challenging them. I am not sure to what degree this is a product of my marginalization versus my privilege, but I do think it is something to be aware of. Many people of "higher status" have a lot to offer a co-creative process and allowing my own status baggage to prevent collaboration is counter to my goals and values.

I recently realized all of this when I found myself post-ritual feeling very critical of members of my pagan community I had previously considered to be mentors. I realized that I would feel much more compassionate and understanding of their quirks and behaviors if I did not feel like I was in any kind of status struggle with them.

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