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So Much For “Young Privilege” November 6, 2010

Posted by FCM in authors picks, books!, entertainment, feminisms, pop culture.
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this is the “car scene” from “fried green tomatoes“.  anyone who has seen the movie probably remembers this.  for anyone who hasnt seen it or doesnt remember it, our protagonist evelyn couch (played by kathy bates) is an extremely unhappy, timid, overweight housewife who becomes empowerfulized over the course of the film, by interacting with octogenerian jessica tandy and reliving scenes from tandys kinda-sorta lesbian past.  (in the flashbacks, the kinda-sorta lesbians, played by mary stuart masterson and mary-louise parker are our protagonists.  jessica tandy may or may not have been one of the kinda-sorta lesbians, that parts not ever made entirely clear, even in the book, as i recall).

this scene documents the beginning of evelyns transformation: after being bullied her entire life, in this one moment, she decides shes had enough, and goes ballistic on two teenaged girls.  notably absent from the film (of course) is evelyn couch going ballistic on any actual men.  or even adult women for that matter.  which is kind of an important point.  i mean really.  teenaged girls, while they can be extremely bitchy and bullying (to other girls and women) are actually a pretty easy target.

now, in thinking about and discussing “intersectionality” there is often made mention of something called “young privilege” (or youth privilege, or age privilege) whereby young women are said to oppress old (or old-er) women with all their youth-related power.  such as…well, being highly fuckable for starters.  and being able-bodied and thin and stuff (you know, except when they arent).  and its true, isnt it, that fuckable young women are kind of regarded with something approaching “favor” in certain situations, by men.  who want to expose said young women to the mens dangerous male sexuality, sooner rather than later, thank you very much.

now, assuming for a second that this kind of “favor” is something thats beneficial to young women (and it is a HUGE assumption, isnt it, and it needs discussing, as dangerous male sexuality is hands-down the greatest threat to ALL women, and perhaps particularly young women who can and do become impregnated by dangerous men) as this scene from “fried green tomatoes” illustrates, being older has certain advantages too.  or at least…up to a point, one womans aging *might* minimize certain vulnerabilities that that one woman was exposed to when she was very young.  such as some women accumulating some amount of wealth, credibility and social status (usually through their interactions with dangerous men who can choose to grant her these things, or not).  or in more concrete terms, as evelyn couch very astutely notes, “i’m older, and i have more insurance.” 

(of course, as jessica tandys predicament illustrates, aging beyond a certain point tends to take much of these accrued benefits away.  she is old, in poor health, and lives in an assisted-living facility with no family to take care of her.  aka.  shes extremely vulnerable.  to dangerous men.  i mean really.  what else is there to be vulnerable to?  the elements?)

this next clip puts the “car scene” in context.  before she became empowerfulized, evelyn couch was bullied assaulted physically and verbally by dangerous men.  or, one dangerous teenaged boy, who can be said to represent all boys and men, when you are a woman, and here, pretty clearly is meant to represent evelyns rather normal routine of being abused by “life”.  because being physically and verbally abused by boys and men *is* just life, when you are female.  and, like, something about a “feminist” bullying her by mentioning masturbation, and offending her delicate ears or something.  i dont know:

anyway, after evelyn “transforms,” even when she was empowerfulized and had some very progressive goals, like taking a vulnerable older woman out of the system and into a loving home (and she had some very regressive goals too, like “making her own money now” by selling fuckability i mean mary kay cosmetics to other women) she still had to bat her eyes at her disgusting tool of a husband to get his permission to do it.  or at least, to get him on board.  i mean, its only fair isnt it?  he lives there too (-oooo!!!111!11)  and as her disgusting tool of a husband very correctly notes actually, taking an old woman out of an assisted-living facility and into your own home is easier said than done.  thanks to the male medical and legal systems that favor blood-relatives over, you know, a non-relative who actually has your best interests at heart.  and who would scrutinize and punish you for it if something went wrong.  like a hundred-year old woman dying, on your watch, if you arent a “professional” caregiver or medical provider.

fortunately for the plot i suppose, jessica tandy dies right after this, and evelyn never has to actually face the reality of male institutions that would have very effectively crushed her empowerfulized fantasy with endless procedural obstacles.

so what we have in these scenes is something kind of interesting, from a privilege-analysis standpoint.  we have women representing three age-groups, who all likely share the same or similar background.  as in, they are all female, white, probably working class, and live in the same community.  the only obvious variable here is age.  are we honestly supposed to believe that the fuckable teenaged girls have all the power here?  i think not.  as evelyn shows with her “tawanda” incantation, it doesnt take much to put these allegedly “young-privileged” teenaged girls back in line, with something almost resembling actual power.  literally, more insurance.  a social and economic safety-net, that thoroughly-unfuckable evelyn has garnered by aging (and aligning herself with dangerous men over time) and which jessica tandy demonstrates is actually very easily lost in the exact same way it was originally gained: by aging, more.

and of course, what stands out in the mind when watching these clips is that the violent, abusive teenaged boy is actually all of these womens greatest threat.  and hes the only one that no one goes after, and the most likely to cause actual, tangible harm to any woman who dares try.  and notably, in the kinda-sorta lesbian flashbacks, the most dangerous character of all is mary-louise parkers violent husband, who nearly kills her a bunch of times, and when kinda-sorta lesbian mary stuart masterson actually kills him (or has him killed) the male legal establishment leaps into action, and very nearly ruins (lets face it, ENDS) her life, and that of big george, the black male servant/friend, who helped her cover it up (or who actually killed the guy himself, another point thats intimated at but not made entirely clear if i recall).*

and the kinda-sorta lesbians were young women too.  and they didnt oppress anyone with their youngness.  not by a long shot.

so…what does all of this illustrate about “young-privilege”?  other than that analyzing it is likely to induce a migraine?  welp…i think whats pretty clearly illustrated here are certain realities that we all live with every day, but that pomo feminism seems unable or unwilling to honestly address.  namely, that men and male institutions are womens greatest threat.  and that “bullying,” when men do it, is actually violent and demonstrably harmful, whereas other kinds of “bullying” only induce hurt feelings.  and that standing up to a “bully” or someone who hurts your feelings in some way, is actually easy and unlikely to induce any lasting change, whereas standing up to actual men and mens institutions is pert-near impossible, and is actually extremely and demonstrably dangerous.

and that “young-privilege” has nothing, really, to do with being young.  and it has nothing to do with “privilege,” either.  so, what does it have to do with, and why are all teh pomos so interested in discussing it?  this is not a rhetorical question.

this is likely to be the first in a series on pomo-privilege logic fails…stay tuned for part 2.

*the bewilderness has reminded me that it was sipsey who killed the abusive husband!  we are lead to believe almost until the very end that it was either msm or big george (or perhaps the local transient) who did it, but in a twist, it turns out that the msm/big george mystery was a false choice.  and that sipsey, the black woman friend/servant had actually killed him with a frying pan.  it probably hurts someones feelings that i forgot that.  and i do apologize for forgetting it.  my bad!