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Essay on My Identity Definition

Our different identities define who we are and shape how we experience the world. Some identities you are born into and others are shaped by life experiences. Identities may give you a leg up in the world or just the opposite; you have to prove yourself twice as hard. I am a white, cisgender, upper middle class, abled, and pansexual woman. I was born into a white upper middle class home, but some of my identities developed as I grew, and some are still in flux. These identities define who I am and how I experience life. With some of my identities I am privileged over others, while with other aspectsI am dis- privileged.

Privileging one category of a group over others affects every aspect of life including socially, politically, and economically. Privilege can be defined as “advantages people have by virtue of their status or position in society. ” (Shaw & Lee, 2012, p. 54) The consequences of privilege maintain inequality and lead to discrimination, stereotypes, and violence. In the United States the “norm” is seen as an able, white, heterosexual, cisgender man. Since this is what is defined as “normal” anyone who deviates is seen as an “other” or “not normal”. My identities fall both in the normal and the not normal.

My identities ntersect one another and in some aspects I experience privilege, but it others I am dis-privileged. As a woman and as identifying as pansexual I am dis- privileged. The United States is patriarchal in that men hold most of the power. This means that men are ranked above women and characteristics associated with being a man are privileged over characteristics associated with being a woman. Examples of male dominance are seen everywhere from the number of seats in congress to shows on television. Woman are constantly objectified, belittled, and wrongly represented.

Women earn less than men and minority women earn less than hite women. Another issue women struggle with in the United States is illusion of a post-feminist era by presenting powerful women in media. However these women usually conform to the societal standards by being conventionally attractive and white. Douglas mentions in Enlightened Sexism that in media, “insist that purchasing power and sexual power are much more gratifying than political and economic power. ” (Douglas, 2010, p. 284) These different representations have a devastating effect on women and girls.

Women are pressured to be thin, beautiful, and docile. Woman and girls strive to be that “ideal” woman hey see in media with devastating consequences. When I was a freshman in high school I felt that pressure. I starved myself. I ended up losing twenty pounds in a short period of time, but even though I was thin, I was sick. I could not climb stairs too fast and ended up in the clinic multiple times for almost passing out doing physical activity. I did not feel beautiful and also self- harmed and of course that was accompanied with low self- esteem and depression.

To compare to male body consciousness, in a study done by Samantha Kwan she asked men about getting ready for an event with the response that “- hey desired to look good, they expressed very little body consciousness and rarely did they speak of extreme appearance management. ” (pg179) My story is not unique as many girls go through this and strive to be that “ideal” woman regardless of the effect on their mental or physical health. This experience is not what we want for our girls and women. This “ideal” woman is embedded in the systems and institutions of privilege that places men above women.

Another one of my identities in which I am dis-privileged comes with being pansexual. Systems of privilege exist in every aspect including sexuality. The United States is ruled under an idea of heteronormativity. Heteronormativity can be defined as the “assumption of heterosexuality as the norm or normative behavior in any given setting that regulates at the level of social policy. ” (Douglas, 2010, p. 316) Not being heterosexual comes with anxiety, discrimination, and violence. People who identify as gay, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, asexual, or anything other than heterosexual have a pressure to “come out” to the world.

This means letting the world know that they are not heterosexual. The idea of coming out is also an effect of heteronormativity. You have to let everyone know that you deviate from the norm and the process of coming out is often stressful and a major cause of anxiety. The heteronormativity in society is a system of privilege that places heterosexual people above people who are queer. This encourages people to view queer individuals as “other” making it easier to objectify them and discriminate against them.

Despite the fact that I experience dis-privilege I experience more privilege than dis-privilege. My privileges include being white, upper middle class, cisgender, and abled. Race is a huge system of privilege in the United States that is enforced socially, olitically, and economically. White people hold majority of the power and enforce racial inequality. I will never experience racial violence and nor will I ever speak for my entire race. If I sent in a job application with the same qualifications as a black woman, I would be picked over her simply because I am white.

I am able to ignore the struggles of minorities. Once I was scrolling through social media and saw an article about a black man being gun downed by police. It had been a long and tiring day so I scrolled past it without thinking twice. Later, however, I thought about how if I was an African American I would not be ble to just look the other way and scroll past. That article is not just an article; it is a snapshot of life as a black man. My whiteness is an identity and that tends to get forgotten in the United States since it is seen as the default or “normal” race.

In an article, White Privilege and Male Privilege, Peggy Mclntosh writes “I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systematic racism for their own daily physical protection. ” (Mclntosh, 1989, p. 89) This issue has come up again in the main news outlets with protesters and the emersion of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a white woman this is omething I will never experience or could even imagine. I will never have to sit my children down and talk to them about racism in police forces or even systematic racism. I have that privilege of knowing that I will be protected by authority.

My hair style, hair color, smell, or body shape will never be attributed to my race. If I apply for a job, I will never have to worry if my name is presumed to be a certain race and therefore not taken seriously. My race or ethnicity will never make people wonder if I am a legal citizen of the United States or not. My racial privilege not only gives me a leg up in the world, but also I am not always ware of my own racial identity. I am able to walk outside without thinking”l am white” and the consequences of it. Not only am I privileged in my race, but I am also privileged in my class status and my abled status.

I was born into an upper middle class household. From middle school I knew I was going to college and I never had to worry about how I was going to pay for it. Now that I am in college I am even more aware of how my class status has privileged me. I do not have a job because my family is able to pay for my bills, my college tuition, and my food needs. This allows me to focus on my studies and ives me more time to study and excel at school. One thing that made me more aware of my class status privilege was seeing my long term boyfriend struggle to pay for his college.

He worked long hours at a job he disliked just to make his bills and college tuition. This gave him less time to study, unlike me. I will always have that financial cushion of my class; knowing I can always ask my family for money. I never had to worry if I would get made fun of for my clothes being out of style or tattered. This is privilege rarely spoken in society where class and money is a taboo subject. However, they must be mentioned. For one it is easier for me to be upper middle class due to my race and no one wants to talk about the poor unless it is to stereotype them.

As a society we call the lower class “white trash”, “ghetto”, and use adjectives like “classy” in positive contexts. Classism is very real and ties into other systems of privilege like race and gender. Additionally I am privileged as being able bodied. Disabled people in our society are seen as asexual, incomplete, sad, and in constant need of help. We exclude then and alienate them. As a result we have created a world for abled men which only isolated disabled people more. Our society sees disability, for lack of a better word, as a horrible thing to be avoided at all costs.

We stigmatize disability, ignore the person, and see them as their disability. This is an issue that is very close to me. My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was child and as I got older her illness affected her more and more. I do not want to go into the details, but she committed suicide two years ago. Right before she died she was having trouble going up the stairs, could barely sleep because of the pain, and took multiple naps every day. She never wanted to be disabled and lways saw it as a burden on her family.

After she died I found out that prognosis showed she was going to be paralyzed on her left side in less than two years. I wish society would not label disability as such a hated thing and provide better access for disabled people. Recognizing privilege is essential to creating a more “equal” society. Privilege goes beyond everyday slurs; it runs deep. Privilege is embedded in every aspect of society from the political to the domestic. Being able to recognize the ways in which your identities give you a step up (or step down) allow you to have more realistic view of the world.

It allows you to let go to stereotypes and ignorant prejudice. Since I have been able to see how the world may favor me has allowed me to dig deeper in injustices and the ways in which society favor some over others. My identities fall both in the normal category and the not normal category. My identities intersect one another and in some aspects I experience privilege, but it others I am dis- privileged. However, my identities are not separate identities. They intersect and overlap each other. I am not white and a woman, but I am a white woman. Identities are also not necessarily stable entities, but they flux and change over time.

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