Let me tell you about Privilege.
The idea of privilege confused me at first. Its something that social activists and/or people on the internet go on about a lot.
The concept is actually pretty simple, and altogether reasonable. Privilege is something you have if you are not a minority. If you are white, you have white privilege. If you are not Trans, you have cisgender privilege. If you are not disabled, able privilege. Male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc etc.
Privilege essentially means, you don’t have an opinion on the topic.
Everyone has some form of privilege. Everyone. If you have never been sexually abused: you have privilege. If you don’t live in a third world country: privilege.
If you’re in a situation involving people and/or the subject over which you have privilege, it means that you have be aware of said privilege and therefore your inherent ignorance in this situation. You have to be aware that anything you say could, and probably will, be offensive to the minority you have privilege over. You have to accept your privilege. You have to be humbled by your privilege. You have to basically learn to live with the fact that you are privileged scum and know nothing about anything. You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know.
Below is an episode of the Youtube cartoon Foamy The Squirrel, in which Foamy and his human Germaine are exercising their white, heterosexual privilege.
Many white and/or heterosexual people may be familiar and sympathise with the complaint of ‘Why are black/gay people allowed to make fun of us?’. This is example of a situation in which you need to check your privilege, my friend.
In all seriousness, black and gay people have been oppressed for hundreds of years. Gay people have been considered the epitome of evil in almost every form of civilisation across the world. Black people were freaking slaves. It’s pretty fair to assume that white, heterosexual people do not have a full understanding of what those particular forms of oppression are like. If comedians occasionally ripping on you is all you have to worry about, be thankful. You don’t have to come face to face with discrimination everyday. You don’t turn on the TV, see 90% white, heterosexual people, and only see representatives of yourself in token characters, or obscene stereotypes. If someone is being particularly offensive, or outwardly threatening towards you, call them out on it, sure. But check your privilege, dude. White, heterosexual people aren’t so great that you can’t take a hit about not being able to dance properly or having a dull sex life. Take a joke.
On the other hand, I will admit as a gay person, that some behaviour towards straight people is ridiculous. Many minorities outwardly hate people with privilege, and treat every single one of them as an oppressor. These people are out of line. If someone starts yelling or typing in all caps, don’t get defensive. Take a moment to think, am I doing something to offend them. Ask them, did I offend you somehow. Apologise for your lack of understanding, thank them for their patience. If they’re just being an offensive dick to you, leave it. Some people have a lot of hate, or too little trust, and they use privilege as a reason to act out. Try and be the bigger person. And for the love of god, don’t claim that you ‘can’t be racist/homophobic, I have a black/gay friend!’ Coz that means nothing, and just makes even more of a ‘privileged scumbag’.
In this next cultural reference, I present some screenshots from the web comic Homestuck, in which Kankri is giving his relative Karkat a lecture on privilege.
An extreme, but oddly accurate, parody of the angry, high-and-mighty, over-obsessive with political correctness, social justice warriors of the Internet – in particular, Tumblr. Funnily enough, he shortly after is sexist towards female characters, then denies his own male privilege. I will yet again, press that y’all should go read Homestuck.
Some opinions I personally have on the case of privilege:
1) Equality is the most important thing.
If there’s anything else you want, it’s probably wrong (in my opinion). If you’re the kind of person to say something alike to ‘I don’t want equality, I want to treated better’, you’re part of the problem. You know, in my opinion.
2) Say it loud, Say it proud.
Saying that equality is the target, equality is not easy, and getting an oppressed minority to become ‘equal’ to society takes huge steps. A lot of people – straight and gay – complain about things like gay pride and pro-gay campaigns, complaining its making too much of a big deal about it all. One person once told me that ‘hey, gay people, we are over it. Why don’t you get over it?’ What these people don’t realise is a) there are an enormous amount of people who won’t be over it by a long margin, b) how much putting the issues out there means to some people, and c) telling us to pick up our business, sweep it under the carpet and get on with our lives is highly insulting. All minorities need to make a noise, gain themselves attention and spread the knowledge because until we/they have the same kinds of acceptance and rights as everyone else, how can we be just another part of society? And how else compete with things that have been accepted as the norm for centuries? Not by being quiet and reserved about it, that’s for sure.
3) Live Your Life
In my opinion, there are two kinda of minority individuals. The first is the kind that wants to fight. That sees all the oppression and privilege in the world and wants to fight it. They start by taking anything that applies directly to them and fight for that, using their own everyday experiences as ammo for hate and anger towards oppressive forces. Sometimes they may actively choose to deny the structures set by society and oppressive forces: whether it’s their financial situation, living situation, sexuality, sexual expression, gender, gender expression etc. They don’t feel like they personally fit in with the ‘normal’, heteronormative, gendernormative, societal values, and wish to defy and deconstruct them. These are their feelings and this is their lives.
The other kind are those who need to fight. Those that are born a minority – whether its race, class, gender, sexuality, etc etc. and experience oppression as part of their lives, experience pain and distress caused by said minority trait. These people don’t see oppression everywhere they go. They don’t deconstruct society. It’s highly likely that they still support equality, disagree strongly with racism and misogyny etc etc, but they haven’t dedicated their lives to it. But, life has dedicated it to them. So they fight for their rights. They fight to be considered equal. They want to gain help and support where needed to live their lives free from pain, stress, depression and oppression. They just want to get on with their lives.
4) But don’t live a life led purely by anger.
Anger is not a bad thing. Anger pushes us and encourages us to act and fight. But it’s not a positive thing either. Anger is the root of hate. Hate is the root of evil. ~IN MY OPINION~
5) Hate the Game, Not the Player.
Hate Male Privilege, not males. Hate White Privilege, not white people. Hate Heterosexual Privilege, not heterosexual people. Etc, etc. Many people will disagree with me, but fighting hate with hate is not the answer. Plus, believing that, for example, a man is a man therefore he must belittle and objectify women, is the same form of stereotyping, prejudice and ignorance that exists in misogyny, homophobia, racism… Etc etc etc.
I hope you’ve all learnt something today.