Have you ever tried explaining to someone that their perspective or experience is different from yours because they’re privileged in a way which you aren’t? Usually, the conversation doesn’t go well after that — it quickly becomes a conversation about how they’re “not privileged because…”
They feel this need to defend themselves; to prove that they’ve dealt with hardships just like everyone else. But everyone goes through hardships. That doesn’t mean that some situations aren’t made easier for you because of your race, gender, or class. So when did being called out for privilege become a bad thing?
Webster’s Dictionary defines privilege as “a special right or advantage.” Why do people get offended when you tell them that they have an advantage other people don’t? Why don’t people want to admit that they got a job because they had an advantage, or that they’re treated differently in the workplace because of their privilege?
There is this false assumption that if a person admits that they are privileged, they’ll lose it.
See, the issue doesn’t lie with the concept of benefiting from privilege, but not wanting to acknowledge it. There is this false assumption that if a person admits that they are privileged, they’ll lose it. Contrary to that belief, society is built and created by privilege and oppression. It isn’t something you can lose because you use it to your benefit or in support of others.
The issue with people who benefit from privilege is when they only use it to their advantage while not using it to help others. When a white person turns their back on a racist situation they are witnessing, that is an issue.
When a man walks away from a woman being harassed, that is an issue. When the 1% are scheming their ways into colleges through fat checks, that is an issue. Allowing someone to suffer because they aren’t privileged, or knowingly using your privilege to negatively affect someone is an issue.
All men benefit from their gender to a certain degree. That is a privilege. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “As a man, I have certain advantages in society, that women don’t.”
The people who walked into the polling booth on November 8, 2016, and voted for Donald Trump “as a joke,” abused their privilege. They didn’t have to fear the consequences that would come if he did win.
But, when a man blindly argues that he doesn’t have an advantage over women, he is choosing to let women face oppression and discrimination in society. He is playing a role and continuing this gendered oppression and discrimination. When a white middle-class woman thinks feminism is “walking into your boss’ office and demanding a raise, and if you aren’t given one, then quit,” that is privilege. This is a reflection of her economic stability and race because it is an unreasonable solution for single mothers, minority women, and those who aren’t economically stable.
The people who walked into the polling booth on November 8, 2016, and voted for Donald Trump “as a joke,” abused their privilege. They didn’t have to fear the consequences that would come if he did win. They didn’t have to worry about losing DACA, their immigration status, being visibly a minority, or everything else Donald Trump’s presidency threatens. They didn’t use their privilege to help others, instead they used it to make life harder for people who don’t benefit from the same advantages.
Not only does someone’s privilege create different situations for them, but it also creates a narrow perspective. The list of examples can go on and on, but these are just a few examples of how privilege plays out in our society.
Bottom line is, the next time someone tells you that you’re privileged, strip the word from its negative connotations. Then, think about how you can help others through your privilege. Because remember, it’s never a bad thing unless you’re the only one benefiting from it. In order to dismantle a homogenous and patriarchal society, we have to use our own personal tools to help the cause as a whole.