So, the National Stuttering Association’s one-day conference was nearly two weeks ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. There were so many gems over the course of 5 hours.
I’m rarely around such a large group of stutterers and it was so liberating and refreshing to speak in front of the crowd knowing that we all have something so personal in common.
During Gabe and Spring’s workshop, there was a lot of discussion and differing view points, one of which I discussed in last week’s blog post (go read it!) I wasn’t ready for one specific topic though.
Spring asked our room of stutterers if we felt as though privilege exists in the stuttering community.
This caught me off guard. What kind of privilege could exist among a group of people who all possess stutterers with varying degrees of severity?
It hit me suddenly. And I raised my hand.
“I wouldn’t say privilege exists within the stuttering community, but I think there can be a sense of competitiveness,” I began. “We live in a society where we are told what is normal, what is the standard — complete fluency. And, in turn, that’s what we aspire to. We aspire to fluency.”
“I’ll admit. I have found myself comparing my speech to that of my peers. Subconsciously, I’d feel a little inferior to people who speak ‘better than’ I do. Or more fluently than I do.”
With that, my dear friend Roisin and I were whisked away to pick up lunch for the some 60 attendants at the conference. And as we stood together in the elevator, Roisin said, “That was really brave of you to say all that.”
So, in short, I confessed to a room of stutterers that I was sometimes “jealous” of those who spoke more fluently than me. And there I was, in an elevator, getting kudos from the one person I had been most envious of.
It’s liberating and healthy to say these things, I think.
As I told Roisin in the elevator, we live in a society of hierarchies. We’re ranked in terms of race, gender, class etc. And we socialize the ideologies that go along with such socializations.
So even within the stuttering community, — yes, the group of people that declare “together we are strong,” — we are socialized to think in terms of privilege. We all stutter, but who stutters the least? Who has the least amount of blocks? Who can say the most words without stuttering?
When that person was me, on the rare occasions that it was, I felt a sense of haughty pride.
But don’t judge me! The first step is admitting it, right?
It has been hard for me to accept that the harshest parts of reality (socialization, hierarchies, privilege) crept into my safe, little stuttering community.
But that just goes to show just how strong socialization is. We’re all human and are therefore subject to feeling things we may not be confident to admit.
Privilege and the negative effects of it are not confined to matters of race and gender. While the disabled are often overlooked in most societal matters, we are not exempt from negative socialization.
But, like I mentioned above, the first step is admitting it, right?