Intros are easily the worst part of writing these blogs for me. I’ve always been bad at intros, like in real life meeting new people and hitting all the social norms is tough for me, but definitely in my writing it is the hardest thing to get started. Most of my high school assignments I wrote my intros using Pink Floyd songs, then in college I used either System of a Down songs or made a Lord of the Rings tie-in. So, watch out for new random intros as I’m all out of clever ideas to start things off. No suave segue here today, let’s talk about privilege.
Privilege low-key comes up in therapy a lot, but rarely do I use that phrase, and it usually isn’t just a topic people want to jump in with. But therapy is kind of this weird safe space where people can just think their thoughts, and then like look at them, kind of tinker and pull them apart. So, privilege comes up often in a deconstructing sort of way, like, why do we think the way that we do? Or where did a certain thought or feeling come from? And for a lot of people, this is really fascinating and can be kind of empowering, but for some folks it is really scary and disorienting. And like, that’s true of any kind of self-analysis, but I would say when we hit on a topic related to privilege it often skews more towards scary and disorienting. Privilege as a general concept just means any sort of societal advantage people have, and we often look at in terms of socioeconomic status. Straight, white, and male tend to be the obvious privileges most people are aware of, and I would definitely throw economic status in there as well for pretty significant privilege. Nothing inherently bad or wrong about any of this, just acknowledging that these traits create a specific advantage in society that not everyone has. Some people freak out and want to get super defensive, and act like because they didn’t experience every privilege that they didn’t get any privilege. And hey, I was there once upon a time, I get that initial reaction. I grew up pretty poor, so I bristled at some of the privilege talk when I was first presented with it. Being white or male never seemed to get me as far ahead as being rich, but it’s a false dichotomy, these traits are not mutually exclusive. And like, these “woke” concepts are now fodder for societal talking points, but again, no one is out here saying you need to feel bad for having privilege. But not acknowledging privilege is harmful to people who don’t have the same privilege.
And that’s really the point, like the whole woke thing isn’t that complicated, we can’t have a more equitable society if there isn’t active work to make things actually equitable. We can’t work toward equity if people who have advantages don’t talk about the advantages, and don’t work on ways to share those advantages. Some privileges are external, so like, wage inequality is a problem that is external. We need policies and procedures in place as a society to make sure people are compensated equitably, not that one group (historically, males) is paid more than another group for no reason (having a penis doesn’t mean you should get paid extra). Some privileges aren’t external though, like gender or race, and so the conversation is not how to make it more equitable, but calling out the inequality as being bad and not based on anything. And that is scary for people, having an advantage evened out can feel like you are losing out on something, even if in actuality it is just creating a balance. So, it might be scary, but research shows that equitable societies function much better for much longer, and having a society that works well for a lot of people is better than one that only works well for a few people. It’s just kind of the golden rule, it’s weird that religious types are so opposed to it. But yeah, I listed the obvious privileges, but there are a whole bunch of other privileged spaces in our society. Being able bodied, neurotypical, monogamous, and religious are all privileges. Whatever society considers to be attractive also makes a pretty big difference, like literally in the first 10 seconds of meeting someone we make a bunch of assumptions about them based solely on appearance (a form of the halo effect cognitive bias).
So, I don’t know, challenge your privilege? Be aware of it? I’m not sure what I wanted to super say on the topic, other than it isn’t scary to work towards a more equitable society. I promise working through biases and privileges isn’t scary at the end of the process, it’s super rewarding and great. If it’s scary right now, talk to a mental health professional! And like, if they’re not helpful, find one who has less privilege or has worked on their own privilege more!