Last week I watched this feature on Campbell Live, about mothers in Levin demanding free water from cafes. I was mad. Some at JC for subjecting us to what seemed like a waste of time, and at the horrid woman for whom I had very little sympathy and told Vincent should Just Stay Home. Then in the weekend I read this (via Musings of an Inappropriate Woman), and it changed everything. I thought about the Levin woman, and why I'd had such a violent reaction to her. She was bolshy. She was charmless. She was unattractive (I'm really ashamed to admit this made a difference but I'm afraid it probably did. Although to be fair to myself, sometimes I hate people more for being good-looking, too, in spite of being an activist for discrimination against the pretty). But how was that her fault? We're born with a face, with or without charm, and into a family that has money, or hasn't. I don't think hers did. She has lived her entire life without the privileges that come with these things, and she feels powerless, disenfranchised, and angry. I thought about a better-dressed woman with a middle-class accent asking for water. I imagine, without the anger, she would actually ask and that her delivery would be more pleasant. But I don't think there would be an issue. I'm almost certain the cafe would give her the water, and not worry about overheads, or make judgements about her capability as a mother. I thought about private-schoolgirls who come into my shop. They can be quiet or loud, but they all possess a confidence that I only see in people with money; an assumption that they have the right to ask, and that their request will be granted (and it usually is; and why not?).
This woman has never had that. I can't imagine her ever having something given to her unless someone wanted something back. I'm not saying I agree with how she is going about getting what she wants, but I understand why. Looks, money and charm open doors - and when we often make assumptions about people's merits based on these things, it's no wonder someone without them gets angry and tries another tack. I'm always ranting about born privilege and fuming over the capitalist assumption that everyone is born with the same opportunities. From now on, I'm going to try a bit harder, and challenge myself a bit more about assumptions I make about the way people act and what they might or might not deserve.
Thanks JC. Amen.