Privilege

"a poem for men who don't understand when we say they have it"

by D. A. Clarke, published by Banshee in 1981

privilege is simple:
going for a pleasant stroll after dark,
not checking the back of your car as you get in, sleeping soundly,
speaking without interruption, and not remembering
dreams of rape that follow you all day, that wake you up crying, and
privilege
is not seeing your stripped, humiliated body
plastered in celebration across every magazine rack, privilege
is going to the movies and not seeing yourself
terrorized, defamed, battered, butchered
seeing something else

privilege is
riding your bicycle through town without being screamed at or
run off the road, not needing an abortion, taking off your shirt
on a hot day in a crowd, not wishing you could type better
just in case -- not shaving your legs, having a good job and
expecting to keep it, not feeling the boss's hand up your crotch,
dozing off on late-night buses, privilege
is being the hero in the T.V. show, not the dumb broad,
living where your genitals are totemized not denied,
knowing your doctor won't rape you

privilege is being
smiled at all day by nice, helpful women, it is
the way you pass judgement on their appearance with magesterial authority,
the way you face a judge of your own sex in court and
are overrepresented in Congress and are not assaulted by the police
or used as a dart board by your friendly mechanic, privilege
is seeing your bearded face echo through the history texts
not only of your high school days but all your life, not being
relegated to a paragraph
every other chapter, the way you occupy
entire poetry books and more than your share of the couch unchallenged,
it is your mouthing smug, atrocious insults at women
who blink and change the subject -- politely -- privilege
is how seldom the rapist's name appears in the paper
and the way you smirk over your "Playboy"

it's simple really, privilege
means someone else's pain, your wealth
is my terror, your uniform
is a woman raped to death here or in Cambodia or wherever
wherever your obscene privilege
writes your name in my blood, it's that simple,
you've always had it, that's why it doesn't
seem to make you sick at the stomach,
you have it, we pay for it, now
do you understand

End
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