I was watching a rerun of Frasier online the other day when I heard a piece of dialogue that stuck out. It was one of the many episodes in which Roz, Frasier’s producer, is desperately seeking love, or at least some fulfillment of her carnal desires. She expresses a casual interest in one of the male interns, who is probably nineteen years old. Frasier pesters Roz for being attracted to someone young enough to be her son and Roz boldly challenges the double standards of our society.
She asks Frasier why men who date younger women are more socially acceptable than women who date younger men. Frasier chuckles lightly, and then responds: “I don’t make the rules Roz, I just enjoy them.”
This is not about Frasier. In fact, in the same episode Frasier and Niles express concerns about our society's standards of feminine beauty and the difficulties women face as they age – concerns that typically stem from a feminist point of view. But the piece of this interaction that struck the strongest chord was Frasier’s response to the disparities and discrimination in our society. Though the dialogue served a comedic purpose, in reality, many people respond to social injustice in that very manner, particularly when they are not negatively affected by such injustice.
In this instance a rich, white male expresses apathy toward a societal norm of gender discrimination and double standards. Frasier behaves as if he holds no responsibility in eliminating such injustices, when in fact it is quite the opposite. As a member of the most privileged group in America (educated, wealthy, heterosexual, white, male), Frasier holds more responsibility than most. If one is not actively engaged in opposing the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal patterns of society, then he or she is a part of the problem. In this case you’re either for us or against us.
Being actively anti-racist/sexist/etc. doesn’t necessarily mean participating in protests or rallies. It doesn’t mean putting support stickers on your car, although these are fine ways to express your sentiments. Being actively anti-disparity should manifest itself in your everyday activity. Rather than sitting back and enjoying the advantages you have over the less fortunate (and no matter who you are, especially in America, there are always the less fortunate), you should refuse to accept those advantages, and work towards raising the awareness of those around you.
When you hear someone objectifying a woman, say something. You don’t have to cause a huge argument, but you can voice your concerns in a kind and compassionate manner. If you hear a racist joke, you can simply ask questions. “Do you really mean that?” The response you get will most likely be, “Of course not, I just think it’s funny.” When left unchallenged, people rarely change.
When society thinks humor should depend on the tragic circumstances of others, or condescending to an entire race of people, the state of those people becomes normalized and accepted as reality. You cannot allow yourself to sit back and relax, knowing how many sacrifices other people made for the Lay-Z-Boy chair you so effortlessly occupy. “Be the change.”Powered by Sidelines