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It's The Patriarchy, Stupid.

10/11/2016 14:07
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Privilege is a funny thing because you often don't realise you have it until you lose it. I am privileged enough that I never really understood how discrimination felt until I was an adult. I was aware of the feeling because I'd never felt it before, and this was second-hand discrimination, not even directed at me.

In 2008 I was watching a video of a Hillary Clinton speech in which a man in the audience pops up with a sign that reads 'IRON MY SHIRT' in big letters, and he shouts "IRON MY SHIRT! IRON MY SHIRT!" at her, over and over. Clinton eventually gives up trying to ignore him and says something about the remnants of sexism being alive and well. She confronts him with class but she sounds tired. She's been here before. I found this video strange because, when you remove all context, the words 'iron my shirt' are kind of funny. It's almost Monty Python-esque in its absurdity. It's like someone showing up at a political debate with a sign that reads 'I LIKE DORITOS!' Everyone enjoys a silly sign, they add levity. But the man in the video is not silly. He is not giggling like an imbecilic schoolboy, as I first expected. He is furious. He is fucking livid. He is loudly spitting those words at her. "IRON MY SHIRT! IRON MY SHIRT!" This is weird, I thought. He really means it. Right then my trusty privilege force field slipped for a second and I understood the following:

1) He hates her.
2) The sign indicates he hates her because she isn't ironing his shirt.
3) It's because she's a woman.
4) I am also a woman.

And so I had my first naive experience of feeling misogyny, albeit via Hillary Rodham Clinton. When I had digested those thoughts I landed on this realisation: Oh shit - they hate us. Just by the chance of my gender - something I can't control - I suddenly felt the same helpless, angry, sad and unfair feeling that people with less in-built privilege may well be used to. After a while I stopped thinking about the video but that feeling stayed with me.

I had forgotten about it until about 3am Wednesday morning, when Clinton lost Florida and some pundit on the Beeb said that working class white men in America felt threatened, and that's why many of them support Trump. With all the election noise, for some reason my tiny brain had not connected the Hillary from the video with the presidential nominee. Like everyone else that morning, I was wondering why a significant chunk of the American people feel such bilious loathing towards Hillary Clinton. Just then the angry man and the sign popped into my head and I remembered "IRON MY SHIRT! IRON MY SHIRT!" And I thought; oh yeah. That.

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