So: I never thought I’d be one of those “food jerks” that I wanted to punch in the face. You know the types. Their battle cry is high-pitched and poorly modulated for indoor environs: ”I won’t eat anything that isn’t locally source and non-grass-fed and hasn’t had its chi properly aligned with the goddess and has been exposed to over .5 hours of traditional, oppressive mass media per day…” They are found at shitty, over-spiced and undercooked potlucks everywhere, shoveling gruel into their smug faces and smiling all the while.
Well, okay. My food jerkism is limited to cutting out carbs and sugar in the interest of a) reducing my cancer risk (see: PCOS) without having to take hormonal birth control (see: feminizing effects of) and b) losing some damn weight (see: my body, rampant hatred of). It’s working thus far, which gives me hope for some kind of future that doesn’t involve covering my chest with a towel when I brush my teeth naked. (Okay, the boobs won’t go away entirely, but perhaps they will reduce some).
But that’s not quite the point. The point is: those who closely monitor their food choice often also subscribe to the “check your privilege” movement, a trend that is comprised of a well-intentioned but inherently flawed system that is designed to provoke introspection in those who… Well, are poor at the practice, to say the least. These questioned parties are privy to advantages they are ostensibly unaware of based upon their sex (male), race (white), and class (upper-middle), and use such intrinsic status to their advantage.
The idea of privilege-checking makes sound sense. Those in protected classes should not throw their weight around just because they can, or because they are oblivious to their actions. We are far too advanced as a species for excusing total ignorance of social issues relating to this.
HOWEVER: Is there a built-in check-and-balance of those who nudge others to check themselves? At first blush, it appears that there is. “We must examine ourselves and our thoughts” is a common sentiment. Does it happen, though? And where does food choice come in? And: WHY DO I CARE?
I care because a lot had to happen before I was granted the - yes - privilege to pick and choose what I wish to eat. In 1949, my father was six years old. His family home was a cramped room, shared with at least one other group of people, in a displaced persons camp in Mannheim, Germany. He had never seen an orange, a banana, or eaten an egg. He arrived in the USA in 1950 with a tapeworm in his stomach from consuming minute portions of rotten meat.
It took years for my father to be able to fill his belly. In high school, he lived on a single pretzel stick and a root beer slipped to him by a sympathetic emigre cafeteria worker, and this meal had to sustain him throughout the day and into football practice. After he graduated, he attempted college until the money ran out. And then, as a white, male 21-year-old, he was snapped up into the draft; yes, in addition to these markers of status, he was “uneducated” and poor, which deemed him expendable in the eyes of the US government.
Why the hell am I bringing this up? Because fuck, look at your OWN damn privilege. Really look at it. Your vegetarianism, your organic-only lifestyle, your farm-to-table bent, and your goddamn CSA are a privilege and a half. My no-carbs, no-sugar is, too. And for god’s sake, remember that little boy with the WORM IN HIS GUT. That kid still exists, across many cultures and races and locations. He can be brown and he can be white. He can be your neighbor all grown up, and your assumptions about him, his experiences, and his advantages can cut to the quick in ways you cannot imagine. For the moment, table the fact that this guy can now get ahead because of his sex or race or color. Just for a moment.
Because at one time, this guy COULDN’T FUCKING EAT.