Privilege – The Mental Health Issue No One Talks About

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I’ve been having trouble verbalizing my thoughts on a recent incident; an incident that has sparked another national discussion on gun control, domestic violence, mental illness, and one of the most important trending hashtags on Twitter. Usually my blog posts are easily inspired and are written quickly after an event in the media or an overwhelming idea compels me to write. But I haven’t found inspiration in this occurrence. Though I am angry, which usually fuels my writing, I find myself speechless because I am overwhelmed with sadness.

Last Friday, a college student went on a shooting spree, killing six and injuring thirteen, all due to the neglect he felt from women and the lack of attention he believed he deserved from them.

If there is a silver lining to this situation, it is the #YesAllWomen. And it is not a silver lining because of its content, because the declarations and confessions are quite upsetting, but because the trend is igniting a dialogue centered on the naturalized ways women are oppressed and unsafe. It is highlighting the completely obscene ways our society works in terms of domestic violence and sexual assault. It is broadcasting the fault in the fact that women apologize for saying no. That when a woman says no it is not the end of a conversation, but the beginning of a negotiation, as one tweet suggested. We apologize for not being interested as if it is a fault in us. It’s a shame that national tragedies such as these have to happen in order for people to discuss a horrible, natural circumstance, but I hope this one doesn’t get swept under the rug. Because things need to change.

But that is nothing new. People know that things are not good for women and that things need to change. But still little is done. So instead I want to focus on a new conversation. A new thought around this issue. In an article for Salon, Brittney Cooper proposed this interesting idea: “What Rodger perceived as a denial was at the very worst a delay. Our society is fundamentally premised on making sure that straight, middle-class (upper class in Rodger’s case) white men have access to power, money and women…We cannot understand Elliot Rodger’s clear mental health issues and view of himself as the supremely forsaken victim here outside a context of racism, white supremacy and patriarchy. I’m also saying that white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue, because it allows these dudes to move through the world believing that their happiness, pleasure and well-being matters more than the death and suffering of others.”

I stopped in my tracks when I read this because I was shocked I hadn’t come across this idea before because to me, it makes perfect sense. Is white, male privilege really a mental health issue? Are white supremacy and patriarchy so naturalized in our society that some feel owed the right to power and privilege, so much so that they will kill for it? And maybe not kill, but rape for it? Assault for it? At the end of the day, are these not the true intentions behind attacks on women? The attackers feel that what they are entitled to is in jeopardy or being denied, so they react accordingly.

I think Brittney Cooper’s idea is more than worthy of being discussed further in the mainstream, and not just in light of recent incidents. The only time mental illness seems to be discussed on a large scale in this country is when a mass killing occurs and I don’t think I need to explain how backwards that is. Privilege, supremacy, mental illness – maybe they are all linked and we’re just now connecting the dots. I just hope that these conversations don’t slowly fade away. I hope that we keep moving forward in terms of protecting women, but also in teaching our boys to be respectful of women and their bodies. And most importantly, I hope those victims don’t die in vain. I hope that we honor their memory through change. I hope they know how sorry I am that we failed them. And I hope that they rest in the sweetest peace.

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