[ETA: the site name referred to in this post is “Blind Privilege”, which was the original name of this site and domain. After this post, I changed both the site and domain name to “What Privilege?”]
Three years ago, I started this site. I’d heard “blinded by privilege” in a few places, and came up with the phrase “blind privilege”. It was available as a domain, so I bought it and started blogging.
Three years ago, I wasn’t very aware of able-bodied privilege, particularly in terms of specifics like ableist language. I mean, I was aware that being able-bodied gave me privileges, but I needed a lot of education on the ways in which society and individuals fail disabled people. I still need a lot of education on it, but I’ve gotten quite a bit since I bought this domain from people like Anna and Tekanji. My education on ableist language began one day when Tekanji objected to one of our posts referring to something stupid as “lame.”
I was content to take her word on it and stop using the term that way, but I also wanted to understand precisely WHY it was ableist, because the more I understand these things, the more likely I am to be able to figure out for myself when there’s something wrong with a term that’s new to me. There’s a great thread at Cerise about all this. Sometimes it’s something buried in the word’s history that gives it ugly baggage, and you couldn’t be expected to know it until you come across that history. Sometimes it’s a context you’re not aware of. Whatever the case, it’s privilege that isolates me from these words and the hurt they can cause, and the least I can do is find other terms.
And, on a side note, it’s true that some of these words are debatable, just like gendered slurs. For example, “bitch.” Does calling a man a “bitch” help neutralize the term’s slurring effect on women? What about proudly calling yourself a bitch because you are assertive and don’t take shit? I think there are valid arguments on both sides in some cases, but at least when you’re blogging for the world at large, get a thesaurus and avoid the problematic words. That’s my take. It takes work, and it’s not easy, but it really is the least privilege people can do.
Here’s what this is all leading to. A week or two ago, I was following links about the Feministing ableist language issue when suddenly it hit me: was “blind privilege” a gross example of ableist language? I decided I needed to research this, then got sick. Then Meg asked that very question just as I was getting well, which was a little uncanny. I did the research, and found the answer was yes, according to this blogger. When I chose this domain name, I was thinking of selective “blindness,” of not “seeing” a thing when it doesn’t convenience you to be aware of it. I didn’t realize there was anything problematic about describing that in terms of “seeing” or “not seeing” privilege. But RMJ is right. So is Chally.
I made a mistake. I didn’t mean to. I had no ugly intentions. But still, my privilege kept me from recognizing that a phrase I’d seen around the internet was problematic. Now I know.
My question to you is: what should I do about it? Changing the name of the blog is easy, and I welcome your suggestions for a new name. Changing the domain name is a good bit more difficult, but it can be done, more or less. Or would leaving the domain name the same but changing the blog name, and prominently linking a page that explains how it all happened be illuminating? Is there another solution I haven’t considered?