Sunday, February 08, 2009

What the fuck is privilege?

Since I have been blogging, I have been really introduced to the term "privilege" in a way that I had not previously encountered it. It is used to isolate, condemn and dismiss. Don't get me wrong, I don't deny that privilege exists. I just think it is exactly as ludicrous to describe a white male as privileged as it is to describe a black female as worthless.

There is extreme privilege, it is extended to the few. Those few are mostly white males. But few white males receive it.

Then there is mild privilege, but that is countered in many ways. To be rejected by the Powers That Be, is to have a freedom that those who are accepted will never have. I am only female, it is the only "non-privilege" I have. Apparently this excludes me from understanding or relating to anyone who has more "non-privilege points" than me. But it also allows me to ignore female stereotypes, to be whatever I want and to have the support of the people in general. My sons will not be likely to enjoy that freedom.

It is not the notion of privilege that I object to, it is its usage. "Don't you know how privileged that sounds?" Everyone suffers for who they are. Almost no-one meets the criteria to truly be privileged. Well, except that we all do in comparison with people who just want enough to eat.

And I get a bad feeling in my stomach when I hear the "But what about teh menz" dismissal. There may well be many men who deserve that, but what about those who don't? What about those who stand well outside the male stereotype. The ones who are demeaned by men and women alike?

The status quo sets a narrow band for who everyone must be. It provides an archetype for white men and white women, and ignores or ridicules everyone else. It is true that if your nature puts you inside the white archetype, you win. For all the rest of us, it seems to have turned into a shit fight about how much you are screwed. I reject that.

The notion of privilege, at its best, can make us think about things in a whole new light (and disability is one I am currently pondering - thinking about the Fillijonk "A disabled body is not just a broken able one" deeply), at its worst (and I feel most common) it is divisive and dismissive.

I challenge you to look a 6 year old boy in the face who has already been told that "boys don't cry", "boys marrying boys is evil", "pink is only for girls" (when pink is his favourite colour), "boys don't dance", "boys don't talk to girls" and "boys don't like school" and tell him he is privileged. Maybe, if they break him, he will be privileged.

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