The ‘P’ Word

Today I am going to talk about “the ‘P’ word”:

Privilege

This is a word that really causes people to get defensive. They exclaim “I’m not privileged, I’m [insert unprivileged group here]! How DARE you call me privileged!”

In all honesty, there’s really no way to sugar coat the term or the concept of “privilege”. There’s no way to say “society favours certain people over others” without making the other person out to be some sort of villain. There’s one thing that I really want to stress about privilege, and that is:

Having privilege does not make you a bad person.

If you belong to any of these (non-exhaustive) categories:

 

White

Male

Cisgender

Able-bodied

Heterosexual

Christian

Rich/Middle Class

Educated

 

You are privileged.

And you know what? It doesn’t make you or me or anyone a bad person. For the most part, you can’t change the fact that you are privileged in some ways, nor does having privilege mean that you automatically have it easy, because of….

Intersectionality

Put simply, intersectionality is the reason some straight white men fall on hard times and one of my professors (a woman of colour and all around awesome prof.) was able to study at Harvard. Okay, that’s a little simplistic, but my point is that most people are privileged in some ways and not privileged in others. Privilege is on an axis, not a continuum, and no, privileges and not privileges don’t cancel each other out, so my being disabled, a lesbian, and a non-Christian doesn’t mean I don’t still benefit from white privilege,  cis privilege, and class privilege. It’s important not to confuse the word “privilege” with the phrase “easy street” because that’s not how it works.

I’m tired, so if you need more info on this topic, here is an awesome (and extensive) article on privilege: http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

and here is an article on privilege specifically geared towards gamers: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

 

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8 thoughts on “The ‘P’ Word

  1. So… I am a white female who was born to a lower class family with nothing to their name. I earned my education by trading my life service to the military for several years. Thus I am privileged? The only thing I am privileged with is the brain and intellect I used to further myself in life. >.>

    1. The whole point of her post is that the answer to your question is “yes, you are.” All else being equal, a lower-class white person is better off than a lower-class person of color.

      1. Her list of what makes you privileged can apply to the majority of Americans, regardless of the color in many cases. Either way, I was pointing out that only two of those things she listed apply to me personally yet I somehow got a head start? Ok. Tell that to me again when I couldn’t get any scholarships for school because I was white. Tell that to me when I was actively passed over for promotion or hiring because I was white.

        Discrimination in ANY form is bad no matter which way it goes. Yes a white male from an upper class or wealthy background is privileged. I know plenty of white men who were middle class or lower class who don’t amount to shit… It’s about your work ethic and your desire to succeed and honestly, how smart you are because at the end of the day, if you are dumber than a box of rocks, it doesn’t matter where you start out at.

    2. You were also able-bodied enough to be able to offer service to the military (and have them accept it), heterosexual (or closeted) so that you weren’t kicked out under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and cisgender so that you didn’t have to pretend to be the gender that you’re not or attempt to pass and risk exposure.

    3. Yes, that does mean you are privileged, you can be privileged in one way and not-privileged in others, it’s not an either/or thing, and another thing is that privilege is invisible. There are many things that white people take for granted that don’t affect people of colour in the same way (like being able to walk down the street in a group without anyone assuming that you mean trouble, not being typecast in movies, seeing people with your skin colour all over various forms of media).

      My point in making that list *was* to say that most Americans (and Canadians) are privileged in *some* way (even if it’s only in two ways). There’s no question that when I go to use the washroom, I know exactly which one to use (and no one’s going to question me about it) some trans* folks can’t use the washroom of their choice for fear that someone will call the cops over the “pervert” that’s using the “wrong” washroom. On the other hand, I’m also physically disabled, and I have to deal with things that just aren’t issues for able-bodied people. I lost count of the many times professionals would direct questions to the person I was with instead of me (when the conversation directly affects me) because people assume that disabled = stupid.

  2. I would also add “extroverted” to the major list of privilege. I can’t count the number of careers that list “outgoing” as a requirement.

  3. Between the Chik-fil-a debacle and some of the more egregious things being said about certain Olympic athletes, there’s definitely a lot of privilege on display at the moment. Thanks for the post.

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