Carla M. Lee (carlamlee) wrote,
Carla M. Lee

[books] THE HAPPINESS PROJECT and Privilege

Awhile back, in a Wednesday Reading post, I talked a little bit about Gretchen Rubin's THE HAPPINESS PROJECT (and this applies to the other books in the "series" which include HAPPIER AT HOME and BETTER THAN BEFORE, at least in my opinion, though I'm not entirely sure BTB is actually a sequel). At the time, I said: I generally like Rubin’s writing, but there are so many times I end up rolling my eyes because her perspective is — well, she’s a rich straight white woman, so. There are many things she says in her writing which she doesn’t mean as harm, but they come across as harmful.

I'm actually rereading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT again in 2016 (yes, I realize I just finished it a month ago, but that was so last year), and I found the perfect example of this. When she talks about how hard it was for her to start a blog, and how she was very frustrated with the process (both completely understandable reactions), she tells the reader that in order to make it work, she "put [herself] in jail":

"I'm locked up with nowhere to go and nothing to do except the task in front of me. It doesn't matter how long it takes, I have all the time I want."

Because that's exactly what jail is like. I wish I could say "I can't believe anyone would think that comparison is a good idea" but, unfortunately, I can. Of course it's easy for Rubin to "put herself in jail" in order to trick herself into taking the time she needed to learn to post a blog. She's a cis rich straight white woman. Odds are good that she's never had to worry about ending up in jail in her life, and even if she did, the treatment she would receive would be better than poor people, people of color, queer people, and trans people, particularly where those identities intersect. It's such a casual, throw away thought, and that's part of what bothers me the most. "Oh, I put myself in jail."

No. You did not put yourself in jail, and it's unlikely anyone will ever try to put you in jail, and it's a bullshit, thoughtless metaphor.

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Tags: books

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