Cats are stupid.
I find them disagreeable and silly. They just lounge around all day. Though they never have anywhere where to go, they still insist on whining and pawing at the door to go in and out every five minutes. Given that they generally do little more than provide minimum entertainment for their owners, I’m not really sure why anyone would want to keep one around.
Given my general distaste for these animals, the thought of being told that I am in fact one of these feline nuisances is not what I want to hear. So when I recently read an article that referred to us white women (the author and I) as the house cats of society, I was a bit distraught… distraught and also alarmed.
Despite my hesitation to compare myself to these undesirable creatures, I did in fact realize the parallels between us are disturbingly strong.
As a white girl, I can cry (a merit within itself) and the expected result is that someone rewards me with comforting pats on the back. Sounds pretty cat-like to me.
Let’s see, what else… If I make a mistake and don’t feel like crying my way out of it, I can instead just conjure the most innocent face complete with saucer-pan startled eyes, thus immediately relieving myself of all guiltiness in one killer white girl blink. Seriously, don’t ask me how many times I’ve wide-eyed a police officer on the verge of giving me a ticket.
Innocence is so deeply entrenched the way we are perceived, mostly by men. We’re just like those aggressively “adorable” cat pictures that cat owners always insist on showing while murmuring, “look, look, my princess, isn’t she cuuute?!”. Of course what they’re neglecting to also tell you is that the cat sh*ts wherever it wants and that the scratches covering the owner’s hand are indeed from this “cuuute” beast. (Point being, we can all be a bit vicious, mean, and selfish when we feel like it… regardless of our biological make-up.)
And just wait, the cat-white girl parallels only get worse. When my innocent, helpless white girl self ventures outside the confines of my home country, the powerful title of “American” is assumed in my whiteness. When this identity combines with the disgustingly vulnerable, incapable identify as woman, I am granted an immense ability to weasel my way through most tricky travel situations (such as losing four $120 bus tickets or crossing a border with smuggled foods not officially permitted). Being a rich American/guiltless female, I am totally unsuspected of crime and am moreover able to deflect any potential issues with feigned confusion and uselessness.
In this way I’m just like a collared cat permitted free reign of the front yard; I am too cute and too cared for to cause any real damage. However, did you know that cats are something like the number one killer of birds in the U.S. (this could be a Grace Fact, but it’s what I’ve been told). Number one or not, cats kill a lot of animals, but no one does anything about these lethal killers because cats are just so damn accepted in their “household” nature. This is to say, there are a whole lot of things white girls get away with that we shouldn’t.
Indeed, I have been bequeathed with an identity that enables me in way, way too many ways.
It also renders me with the sense of being completely useless in society.
Let’s think of the scenarios here. If I chose to go to Wall Street (not that I personally ever could manage such a feat, but if), then I’m a selfish bitch whose just using the system to stay on top. If I teach at an underserved, minority heavy school, I’m a white colonizer who’s abusing the system. If I sit at home, well, at least I don’t hurt anyone or push my whiteness on anyone. But then I’m literally the human form of a house cat, gross.
Now let’s be honest, this isn’t a real problem. I have absolutely positively nothing to complain about. My biggest complaint is in fact that I have enough knowledge to live in discomfort with my feline privilege. THAT’S NOT A REAL ISSUE.
So what am I going to do? Certainly not sit at home. YOLO… obviously. But as a teacher, I’ve got to be real careful in the way that I teach, in the content that I teach, and in the system with which I align myself (including the current one in which I’m working… which is painfully white). And I’ve also go to be immensely aware of my presence in the world, including in this blog. I am not trying to make the issues that I write about to be bigger than they seem, because woman or not, I’ve got more then enough tools to fight whatever forms of sexism I encounter. And the last thing I want to do is further trivialize my cat-like self.