Privilege: In One Story (with Pictures!)

Frequently, some story about some new legislation or rule or initiative to stop this or discourage that or address the horrendo plague that wev has become will elicit from one group or another charges of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. And those charges will in turn elicit charges of hypersensitivity, overreaction, “looking to get offended,” etc. from members of the privileged group so inured to their privilege, they don’t even recognize it.

But along has come the perfect story to demonstrate exactly what privilege really is, in a nutshell. So to speak.

Mr. Carol Broussard, mayor of a Louisiana town called Delcambre, is set to sign into law a new ordinance unanimously passed by the Delcambre town council which will make it a crime to wear trousers that show underwear, punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. When some residents complained that the ordinance was racially-motivated, targeting blacks who wear the baggy trousers “fashionable among hip hop fans,” Broussard dismissed them with the inevitable: “White people wear sagging pants, too.”

Indeed. In fact, my first thought was that it was intended to target women who wear the low-slung jeans fashionable among, uh, the fashionable. And lest you think that Broussard was thinking of white people other than women, he told the AP that people who wear low-slung trousers would be “better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress.” And something tells me Broussard isn’t directing that recommendation at teh boyz.

Ultimately, though, it’s really the timing of the thing that speaks to privilege. You see, it was only after this

…and this

…came on the scene that passing an ordinance against showing off your underpants and/or asscrack to the world become a legislative priority in the town of Delcambre, only after the appearance of black boys’ (and black-emulating white boys’) underpants and girls’ underpants and asscracks did improperly fitting trousers become such a cause for concern among the vapors-and-fainting-couches set. Decades of this

…in offices, and this

…in homes and workplaces, and this

…in public, just never seemed to spawn the same kind of alarmism. I don’t recall having ever heard in all my days a proposal to, for example, require plumbers to wear belts, and not just the tool-hauling kind, or having ever read a hang-wringing editorial on the offensive fashion choices of middle-aged white men. (I do recall a rather amusing SNL sketch though, prominently featuring Dan Aykroyd’s ass.)

Undoubtedly, there’s someone thinking, “But those guys aren’t trying to show off their asscracks,” as if intent is a viable explanation for the difference. Thing is, if the issue were genuinely indecent exposure, and how its routine disregard hurts the whole community, as claim the defenders of this proposal, then it should be worthy of attention even when it isn’t deliberate. Why never a “shirt must past your buttocks” ordinance to have dealt with the many revealed Delcambre asscracks of yore? Because it’s not about white men with plumber’s arse. It’s about condemning expressions of (one facet of) blackness and (one facet of) female sexuality.

In a very real way, that’s privilege: Getting to show your ass in public without officially sanctioned condemnation of it for decades.



Filed under 01_shakespeares_sister

25 responses to “Privilege: In One Story (with Pictures!)

  1. Remember, too, that racism is always strongly tied into a fear of black or brown sexuality. It always seems to come down to white male Americans’ fucked-up sexual attitudes. Women cause arousal, therefore they can’t be trusted. And everyone knows that white men are incapable of raping black or brown women, because black and brown women always “want it,” but black or brown men are always guilty of rape charges because they always “want it” too, especially when “it” is a white woman.

  2. Melissa McEwan

    Remember, too, that racism is always strongly tied into a fear of black or brown sexuality.

    Yes, there’s that, too.

  3. katecontinued

    What an exquisite final sentence . . .

    In a very real way, that’s privilege: Getting to show your ass in public without officially sanctioned condemnation of it for decades.

  4. why not a “just say no to crack” campaign? sherrif joe arpaio (the meanest sherrif in the nation) has film of gang punks trying to run from his deputies in their saggin’ drawers. the stuff falls, trips them and the lawdogs swarm in. sherrif joe then is on camera urging all gang bangers and drug punks to “please wear this style as a public service.”

  5. shen

    “Women cause arousal, therefore they can’t be trusted.”

    that may well be the single most messed up statement ever made.

    not that i am saying you are making it Stephen, i know full well what you are saying, but seriously, that idea is messed up.

    when you think about that, and combine it with the simple observation that many men who think that way in public, when it comes to their private lives, that is the only thing they think women are good for….

    somebody said that “americans can be pretty dumb” in another thread. well american MEN have got that category all locked up. imagine my pride at being a member of said group……

  6. The other MB (minstrel boy) beat me to it: we really must do something about America’s crack problem.

  7. Don’t forget about the beach communities that have banned Speedos because they don’t want teh gays flaunting their stuff in public.

    The Daily Show did a great piece on it once.

    I agree it is about the fear of sexuality — brown, black, female, and gay. Anything that isn’t white, Christian, and male.

  8. sherrif joe arpaio (the meanest sherrif in the nation)

    No kidding. If Giuliani ever became president, Arpaio would be his Secretary of Brutal Fascism.

  9. Chromosome Crawl

    Damn! I guess I’ll have to leave the cheeckless pants I got from Marilyn Manson at home when I visit….oh yeah, Delcambre, LA. Sheesh, I paid a lot for those suckers, too!


  10. Mamasquab

    Yep, privilege is all about whose ass gets to crack without comment. Hilarious post, except that the truth of it makes me want to stand quietly in the corner and weep.

  11. Now I’m really wishing I’d taken a shot of the sweet young thing sitting in a restaurant window table with her back to the window to add to your arsecrack collection. I wonder what the burghers of Delcambre plan to do about low-rise jeans showing plenty of arsecrack but without the dreaded visible underwear?

  12. Dr. Loveless

    Get out of my head, Melissa. Not only is your analysis spot-on, but the very first thing I thought of was that SNL sketch. My friends and I at the time made up a word — “norging” — as a term for showing your ass crack in public. (The Dan Aykroyd character was working on a Norge refrigerator.)

  13. Tom in Iowa

    So, um, if someone doesn’t wear underwear under their pants, then they’re OK under the law?

    Delcambre must be just about perfect if the “City Fathers” have no better legislation to work on.

  14. skywind

    And is it a regional thing that, in my part of the world, a visible ass crack is referred to as a “coin slot”? Which I think is kind of funny, actually….

  15. So, um, if someone doesn’t wear underwear under their pants, then they’re OK under the law?


  16. Damn.

    This post is dead on and killed one of my favorite rants. Though since I lack the power of legislation I can keep bitching about crack without discrimination as to the crack (or pants) being exhibited.

    I am so cross posting this to my LJ.

  17. there are many things about sherrif arpaio that i have trouble with. a great many of his “reforms” are done with the sole purpose of being mean. i have worked closely with him (in person) and his deputies regarding our water stations in the desert. i have found him to be a rational and yes, even a compassionate man when it comes to saving lives within his jurisdiction. there was a bill in the arizona legislature not too long ago which would have outlawed our leaving water in the desert to save the lives of people trying to cross. sherrif joe arpaio stood before a joint session and told them that such a law would never, ever be enforced by his department during the time it took to be struck down by saner heads in the courts.

    also, the times when he has gone to far and been directed to do something different, he has. all in all i find him to be a man i can work with from a basis of mutual respect. that’s rare in today’s society.

  18. Doodle Bean

    Are those last photos of Mr. Shakes?


  19. Melissa McEwan

    Are those last photos of Mr. Shakes?

    No, although I do have a fabulous picture of his plumber’s arse on display when we were stripping wallpaper. I considered posting it, but then I chose life.

  20. MrMtyzptlk

    We all know the harshest crack laws are targeted against minorities.

  21. christen

    Harsh crack laws… hahahaha.

    Personally, I think this is just all quasi-acceptable “fat-ism”… the hot chick with her G-String showing over emaciated hip bones framed by designer jeans is *tsk tsk* ‘naughty’ and people love to gawk; but the husky blue collar guy or dime bag darryl from the student ghetto showing their crack of dawn while too overworked or stressed out to care or perhaps just not caring in a zen-like way, that’s what should be offensive? WTP?

  22. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    This reminds me of my favorite Jeff Foxworthy line:

    “If you see a sign that says ‘Say No To Crack’ and it reminds you to pull your jeans up–you just might be a redneck.” 😀

  23. Pingback: The View From (Ab)Normal Heights » Blog Archive » Friday Recommended Reading

  24. Pingback: Daily Round-Up at Shakesville

  25. Wow. Great post. What’s interesting to me is that I first read about this over at the BlackFolks livejournal community and someone instantly questioned whether this ordinance would apply to women wearing low-cut jeans and thongs. The assumption being no. And the few comments about the dress line all assumed that the Mayor was talking about teh dudes putting on dresses. I thought, “wait a minute, you just said you see *more* women wearing low-cut jeans than men these days. Isn’t it just as likely that this is about female dress?”

    Ultimately, I think it’s a combination of the two, with the appearance of more women wearing low-cut jeans being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Seeing asscrack or some black dude’s boxers may be disgusting, but at least no one (read no man) is gonna get all hot and bothered. It’s like Stephen says about fucked up sexual attitudes, “Women cause arousal, therefore they can’t be trusted.”

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