I breathed a sigh of relief Sunday night. Leonardo DiCaprio has officially received his Oscar. You may have seen the deluge of memes, gifs, and video compilations all protesting his lack of Academy recognition. I have never seen the Internet collectively want something so badly. “Please God,” I said, eyes skyward, “let this be the last I hear about how mean the Academy has been to little Leo.”
Don’t get me wrong, I think DiCaprio is a brilliant actor, but in a year that the Oscars have been boycotted for being unapologetically and overwhelmingly white, all the fanfare surrounding one white dude left a bad taste in my mouth. Now that we can all sleep soundly knowing Leo has finally made his parents proud, the time has come to stop praising white guys for things that the rest of us do without fanfare. Here to help is my list of five places to start:
1) Winning awards
Yeah, we get it. White guys are good at being awarded stuff. When almost everyone winning an award looks pretty much the same, why are we still excited over a predictable result? Things may be looking up; I take solace in the fact that the proposed scholarship intended for white heterosexual people at the University of Western and the University of Windsor was struck down by the Ontario Superior Court last week. Progress.
2) Stay at home dads
Or for that matter, Dads who help with parenting at all. You do not get brownie points for doing things that women have been obliged to do for centuries. Frankly, I don’t care if you are overcoming gender stigma to be an effective parent, because you are not the only one doing so (see also: single mothers). Dads who change diapers are not heroes for dealing with the same crap we do.
3) Embracing their dad bods
Look, I am all for body positivity. Regardless of who you are, you deserve to feel happy in your skin. However, I am pissed that when people of color and women accept (or even dare to celebrate) their appearances it is considered egotistical and vain, while when white dads do it, it is amusing and charming. Congratulations on inviting yourselves to the feminist body positivity party, just don’t expect me to be ecstatic when you are praised for arriving late and partying harder than we do.
4) Not being sexist/racist/etc.
I’m looking at you Matt McGorry. If this list were in any meaningful order, this would be number one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen men praised for simply not being the-biggest-douche-to-ever-douche. I absolutely refuse to praise you for not using that racist word, I won’t give you kudos for not committing sexual assault, you are not my personal Jesus for using someone’s correct pronouns. Recognizing your privilege and working to overcome it makes you a half-decent human being. Welcome to the club.
5) Teaching us stuff
I’m really happy that you read that article or saw that documentary, but please stop trying to teach people how they are oppressed. As someone who has had firsthand experience with sexism, I’m not going to be impressed when you try and tell me about the intricacies of the wage gap. This by the way is not a dude-exclusive problem; white feminists have a long history of lecturing down to, or “teaching” people of color about racism. Rule of thumb: teach those who need to hear it most, i.e. other people with your privileges who refuse to recognize there is a problem. I promise you will get significantly less praise than you do preaching to the choir, but instead you will potentially make a difference.
In the end, making that difference is exactly what this comes down to. Would you rather enact change by addressing your own privilege? Or be angry at this article for stereotyping all white men? It is difficult to reject what you have been told your entire life — that you have earned every one of your victories without an unearned advantage. If you do manage to do the right thing, just know I’m not lining up to thank you for your decency.