Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Privilege in 3 Parts

I spent the past week in Melbourne, namely for my birthday but also for the footy and the comedy festival, and I got to see my all time favourite comedian: Wil Anderson 

*cue girl-in-red-dress emoji x5* 

I absolutely adore this person. He always makes me laugh myself to the point where I wrestle with the idea of going to the toilet to pee or not, and he is also manages to address various social and political issues in his shows (with a little comedic edge clearly). So in the current show he's doing, he talked about himself as a feminist and a certain observation he made over International Women's Day. On IWD, Anderson tweeted a general 'Happy International Women's Day', to which he received a lot of praise for. Then Anderson looked through his feed and saw women he followed saying exactly the same thing and noticed that their feedback was mostly negative. There was a lot of anti-feminist backlash, but mainly a lot of men angrily tweeting the same words "When's International Men's Day"*.

*If those men had spent the same amount of time typing those tweets into google instead, they would have found out that there is an International Men's Day and it's on the 19th of November. Unofficially it's also on 365 days of the year (a whole extra day if it's a leap year too!!! Yay!!!).

For me this gave me enough fuel to continue Anderson's discussion and address privilege. So what is privilege, why is everyone so defensive over having/not having it, why does its very concept anger/annoy/frustrate certain people? Well let me break it down for you, in 3 easy parts.

What is NOT Privilege?
In this sense privilege is not having a multi-million dollar water-front home, with its own personal jetty and yacht to match. It's not even attending a way-too-overpriced private school. Privilege isn't living in the nice parts of town. Privilege isn't even a stress-free, happy life. Actually, you can even still have privilege if you live in your mama's basement at 32 year of age. You can also still have privilege despite your "started from the bottom now we here" story. With this sort of privilege, it is irrelevant how many bad cards life has dealt you. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to find out if you're eligible for Privilege, carry on to Part 2!

What IS Privilege? 
Privilege is the harsh reality that we all live in. Privilege is the fact that men have more opportunity than women. Privilege is the fact that White people have more opportunity than other racial and ethnic groups. Privilege is the fact that able-bodied people receive more opportunity than those living with disabilities. Privilege is the fact that straight, cis-gendered people never get fired over their sexual identity. Privilege is the fact that Muslims or those of Middle-Eastern appearance are almost guaranteed to be searched at airport security. Privilege is the result of a society that thrives on the hierarchy of race, socio-economic background, gender, sexuality, religion. But it's important to look at it with an intersectional point of view. The best way to explain this would be to look at it this way. A white, cis-gendered (i.e. not transgender), middle-class male has the most privilege, because his description works in favour of society's pre-programmed ideals. A white, cis-gendered, middle-class woman has less privilege than the former as she faces sexism as a draw-back, that the former does not. However, a black, cis-gendered, middle-class woman holds less privilege than both, as she not only faces sexism but racism also. You can continue this pattern, adding in disability, non-binary gender etc. 

Accepting Privilege
Don't fight privilege. Privilege isn't mocking you for how "good you've got it". It's simply telling you how many aspects of the system are working against you, and how many are working for you. Your personal life is irrelevant, when it comes to privilege it's a harsh, straight-forward statistic. If you've got it, then be happy you have it. But use it to your advantage and as an eye-opener. Because if you understand the system, and how you're part of it or where you fit in, then you can make the decision to fight it. 

Some additional material to clarify: 

 "'s impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of other skin colors simply are not afforded. For example:
'I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.'
'When I am told about our national heritage or about 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.'"

"There is the mistaken belief that the only 'privilege' that you can have relates to skin colour. This is not the case. You can be privileged because of your class, educational background, religious background, the fact that you’re able bodied or cis-gendered. A lot of black women can and do have privileges too."

-'Intersectional Feminism'. What the hell is it? (And why should you care)

// Margot Ana

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