Marilyn Frye on the Privilege of Being Normal

block-9-may-2016One of the privileges of being normal and ordinary is a certain unconsciousness. When one is that which is taken as the norm in one’s social environment, one does not have to think about it. Often, in discussions about prejudice and discrimination I hear statements like these: “I don’t think of myself as heterosexual”; “I don’t think of myself as white”; “I don’t think of myself as a man”; “I’m just a person, I just think of myself as a person.” If one is the norm, one does not have to know what one is. If one is marginal, one does not have the privilege of not noticing what one is.

This absence of privilege is a presence of knowledge. As such, it can be a great resource, given only that the marginal person does not scorn the knowledge and lust for inclusion in the mainstream, for the unconsciousness of normalcy. I do not say this casually or callously; I know the longing for normalcy and the burden of knowledge. But the knowledge, and the marginality, can be embraced. The alternative to embracing them is erasing the meaning of one’s own experience in order to blend in as normal–pretending that one’s difference is nothing, really, nothing more significant than a preference for foreign cars, bourbon or western-cut clothes.”

~Marilyn Frye, “Lesbian Feminism and the Gay Rights Movement: Another View of Male Supremacy, Another Separatism” in The Politics of Reality: essays in feminist theory (Crossing Press, 1983)

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