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Privilege, explained in a way that young, white males can understand


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A couple threads this week got me thinking about privilege and how some people on this site might need to check it.  Also, totally funny :)

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straigh t-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-th ere-is/

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I loved the analogy.

As a white female, I find myself tripping over my privilege when contributing to any discussion about the issues marginalized groups encounter. It is harder and harder to lend support to activist friends without triggering a defensive response to my privilege. I get that I need to acknowledge that I am coming from a position of privilege, and have done my homework to learn Inclusive language.

But man, if you are my friend, and I am actively defending your right to respect and equality, can't it just be taken for face value, without accusing me of "othering" every single time I try to support you in your efforts? I know, I know, my privilege is showing.

That was the biggest waste of time...ever.

It was a page long rant...that white, straight men...have everything handed to them...but gave NO examples of what they are "handed"...it just talked nonsense about video game levels.

Lets play your little game out though...just because I'm bored...

Okay...what has being straight got me that being gay would have prohibited or made more difficult:

  1. A child without adoption expenses but PLUS medical/birthing expenses.
  2. .....

Okay...must be something...lets look at being White...what advantages have I received:

  1. I think it was probably easier to get my first job...because the owners were a little racist.  So lets count that.
  2. Less likely to get sickle cell anemia??

Well...there's GOTTA be a list for being "Male", I mean...that's where the real bonuses are right?

  1. .....damn

Lets see...what if I wasn't a single white male?

  1. Far more likely to get a college scholarship if you're female or a minority.
  2. Better fashion sense and interior decorating abilities if I were gay.
  3. Better dancing skills if I were black
  4. Longer penis if I were black
  5. If female, society accepts role of "homemaker"
  6. Wouldn't have to pay for meals if I were female
  7. Ability to be bisexual if I were female
  8. Ability to get laid as often as I wish if I were female
  9. could go on....but this list could be endless...

You see Ms. Smarty Pants...you and your little Blogicle...makes many, many assumptions that simply are not true for all white, straight males.  You think all white males are rich and in control of everything...and that's not true.  You think that because a man is straight that he has some kind path to happiness that gay males don't.  Yet I know many, many straight men that are lonely, undesired, poor, etc...

So, what advantages specifically do you "think" I receive?  How exactly is my life easier?

and i now have the phrase "so easy, a ccat could do it" running through my head. which isn't a jab, just something that popped in there.

 

heh. "popped in there." that's what she said.

scalzi killed me with his being poor post, years ago*. it is less funny. it is, however, brilliant at articulating what lack of (socioeconomic) privilege means, practically speaking.

a (slightly dated, much problematized) essay by peggy mcintosh called 'the invisible knapsack' (link opens a pdf) approaches racial privilege, maybe that'll work for some.

*as did the replies; worth reading, all.

Original Post by katonick:

I loved the analogy.

As a white female, I find myself tripping over my privilege when contributing to any discussion about the issues marginalized groups encounter. It is harder and harder to lend support to activist friends without triggering a defensive response to my privilege. I get that I need to acknowledge that I am coming from a position of privilege, and have done my homework to learn Inclusive language.

But man, if you are my friend, and I am actively defending your right to respect and equality, can't it just be taken for face value, without accusing me of "othering" every single time I try to support you in your efforts? I know, I know, my privilege is showing.

 am 'white' & 'ethnic' & 1st generation; at different times & places have not been 'white' 'enough' [dispute all those terms btw]. some of those times, my experience of difference had material, and ongoing emotional implications. childhood was one of them, & it marked me for a long while (still sometimes feel it).

(should say i ve also benefitted from positive associations; i look like i could belong to any of 7-8 ethnic groups, and strangers respond to me warmly when they think i m one of 'theirs'.)

i feel i can comfortably present what theories and facts i'm aware of in discussion. but beyond that, my only authority is over my own experience. have discovered parallels in conversation with friends who have really been burned by the categories they've been placed in, but i feel pretty sure life is completely different when there's no 'opt-out' position. & there's no way, i don't think, of understanding it without dealing with it 24/7/365/lifetime.

what do you mean by 'support'?

I've actually thought of life in the same way too, but that's very well put. I hope I don't bore anyone with my long post, but here's a my perspective:

I've been a woman living in a not so civilised part of Europe, with a skin hue which is not rosy white, and features which can be thought of as gypsy (in Europe that's pretty much equivalent to black in notoriety). And I'm not from some third world country, we're still talking Europe here.

And now I live in the multicultural advanced society where I actually feel like the playing field is almost leveled, and society itself seems educated enough not to treat me as "other" or "less".

And you know what? It's like breathing after being underwater. I work hard, I get respected for it. I'm a nice person, people like me. I'm the same person I was back home, but I'm treated completely differently. There are so many pressures that were on me as an individual that here don't exist. I have so much more freedom than I had before. I am so much more appreciated than I was. 

What priviledged people don't understand is that adversities bring you down and sap your energy. If you're treated as "other" or "less" or you're faced with unfair expectations all the time, even the most aware person will be changed by this.

Being unappreciated makes you think you're not worth it. Having options opens doors, which open more doors. You cannot achieve your potential if your mind has to focus on other things. Your mind can only grow with fuel and stimulation. But fuel costs money, and stimulation requires a focused educated cohesive family, good influence from your peers and a society which rewards true worth and hard work.

 

I pride myself from not letting my society shape me, and being aware, but I recognise in myself that I am a product of it. I see it in the little things. Imagine living in a society which places the worth of women heavily on looks. Despite being more relaxed about it, I still feel it is my duty to dress up. If I don't, I get a pavlovian reaction of not feeling good, or like myself. I am routinely the most dressed up person in a group. Of course, if now I went home, men would just ignore me and women would look down on me for being sloppy (it is to the level of personal hygiene). And its not just clothes. The level of beauty that is expected of a person is ridiculous. Back home, all my friends made fun of my nose, and my own mother offered to pay to fix it. Where I am now, people look at me like I dropped from a spaceship if I tell them I'm self conscious about my nose. I've had people stare at it and say they see nothing wrong with it. Why? Because they haven't grown up with the same expectations.

Imagine a society where if you are a woman, you routinely get catcalls, and obscene comments, and even people trying to assault you. Now imagine moving somewhere where that doesn't happen. At all. And imagine a guy simply approaches you to say hi. I still freeze up.

Imagine being told your skin looks dirty. Imagine being 5 years old and a parent taking away a kid who was playing with you because you're a disgusting gypsy. Imagine then now you are told your skin colour is interesting. My first instinct is to feel a stone in the pit of my stomach. Heck, most people can't even see that one degree on colour difference. But I still avoid tanning. I never wore bronzer in my life. Because if I do, and I look in the mirror, I see ugliness. How effed up is that?

That's not to say I have any bad feelings to people who were more fortunate. I am happy for them. Even the luckiest people still have barriers too. But a bit of awareness never hurt anyone. It's not an us. vs. them. It's how can we make it so nobody has to deal with stuff like this or worse.

The author saved me a ton of trouble by his opening line:

"I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them"

I don't typically read articles written by complete strangers purporting to tell me how life works for me. 

I can appreciate Jane's "being poor" reference as it seems to be free of any labels. Anyone can be poor. It is gender and racially non-specific. It may be more prevelant for some but nobody is immune.

Scalzi failed to convince me with facts or sound reasoning that the differences between the populations are clear and outside the noise of the collective data of the circumstances of individuals in society, most particularly the US society.

With me he also failed in his attempt to be funny.

#9  
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Original Post by caloricat:

That was the biggest waste of time...ever.

It was a page long rant...that white, straight men...have everything handed to them...but gave NO examples of what they are "handed"...it just talked nonsense about video game levels.

Lets play your little game out though...just because I'm bored...

Okay...what has being straight got me that being gay would have prohibited or made more difficult:

  1. A child without adoption expenses but PLUS medical/birthing expenses.
  2. .....

Okay...must be something...lets look at being White...what advantages have I received:

  1. I think it was probably easier to get my first job...because the owners were a little racist.  So lets count that.
  2. Less likely to get sickle cell anemia??

Well...there's GOTTA be a list for being "Male", I mean...that's where the real bonuses are right?

  1. .....damn

Lets see...what if I wasn't a single white male?

  1. Far more likely to get a college scholarship if you're female or a minority.
  2. Better fashion sense and interior decorating abilities if I were gay.
  3. Better dancing skills if I were black
  4. Longer penis if I were black
  5. If female, society accepts role of "homemaker"
  6. Wouldn't have to pay for meals if I were female
  7. Ability to be bisexual if I were female
  8. Ability to get laid as often as I wish if I were female
  9. could go on....but this list could be endless...

You see Ms. Smarty Pants...you and your little Blogicle...makes many, many assumptions that simply are not true for all white, straight males.  You think all white males are rich and in control of everything...and that's not true.  You think that because a man is straight that he has some kind path to happiness that gay males don't.  Yet I know many, many straight men that are lonely, undesired, poor, etc...

So, what advantages specifically do you "think" I receive?  How exactly is my life easier?

Wow, CCat.  I'm not surprised, because unlike your sycophants, I don't actually think you're intelligent.  But holy reading comprehension fail!

And seriously, you can't think of any other advantage you have over a gay man?  You're American, right?  Hint: it's a bit of a hot political topic in your country right now.

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:


I can appreciate Jane's "being poor" reference as it seems to be free of any labels. Anyone can be poor. It is gender and racially non-specific. It may be more prevelant for some but nobody is immune.

labelling is the very point of the analogy in the post linked to in the OP...

how offensive, exactly, is the idea that life might not be meritocratic?

Original Post by janelovesjam:

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:


I can appreciate Jane's "being poor" reference as it seems to be free of any labels. Anyone can be poor. It is gender and racially non-specific. It may be more prevelant for some but nobody is immune.

labelling is the very point of the analogy in the post linked to in the OP...

how offensive, exactly, is the idea that life might not be meritocratic?

Like I said, I didn't read the original post. Had you quoted me entirely, everyone would be able to see that.

Now I have to point out that I never said anything was offensive. Never used the word meritocratic and never implied that a non-meritocratic life might be offensve.

FFS I get so tired of being partially quoted so that my words can be bent to something that might serve someone else's agenda.

Original Post by caloricat:

That was the biggest waste of time...ever.

It was a page long rant...that white, straight men...have everything handed to them...but gave NO examples of what they are "handed"...it just talked nonsense about video game levels.

Lets play your little game out though...just because I'm bored...

Okay...what has being straight got me that being gay would have prohibited or made more difficult:

  1. A child without adoption expenses but PLUS medical/birthing expenses.
  2. .....

Okay...must be something...lets look at being White...what advantages have I received:

  1. I think it was probably easier to get my first job...because the owners were a little racist.  So lets count that.
  2. Less likely to get sickle cell anemia??

You must have grown up and still live in a really open and tolerant place. a fairy land, if you will. 

 The Boston area might be tolerant in a lot of ways, but there is a still a lot of racism here. Just a few weeks ago on the train I heard this trashy southie broad talking to two guys about her old neighborhood and how she was glad she moved out because it was "getting pretty dark over there." There was a young black girl on the train with us. i know she heard it. it made me feel sick.  

as a white straight female i've NEVER, ever had to endure something like that. i know i'm privileged that i've never had to.   

You say we believe in fairy tales when it comes to women and their weight, but you obviously also live in a fairy land too if you think you don't have advantages being a white straight male.   

Original Post by jules817:

You must have grown up and still live in a really open and tolerant place. a fairy land, if you will. 

 The Boston area might be tolerant in a lot of ways, but there is a still a lot of racism here. Just a few weeks ago on the train I heard this trashy southie broad talking to two guys about her old neighborhood and how she was glad she moved out because it was "getting pretty dark over there." There was a young black girl on the train with us. i know she heard it. it made me feel sick.  

as a white straight female i've NEVER, ever had to endure something like that. i know i'm privileged that i've never had to.   

You say we believe in fairy tales when it comes to women and their weight, but you obviously also live in a fairy land too if you think you don't have advantages being a white straight male.   

Not to mention that ccats "what if I wasn't a single white male?" list is quite stereotypical.

I'm just saying that if someone posted a thread that implied that as a straight, white, american female, that I had advantages, i'd say "no ****! i know i'm lucky!"

seems pretty obvious.  

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

The author saved me a ton of trouble by his opening line:

"I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them"

I don't typically read articles written by complete strangers purporting to tell me how life works for me. 

I can appreciate Jane's "being poor" reference as it seems to be free of any labels. Anyone can be poor. It is gender and racially non-specific. It may be more prevelant for some but nobody is immune.

He's not telling you how life works for you as an individual, but rather the general way that society functions for the social category that you fall into.  If you would actually read stuff instead of being dismissive of it because of what you assume it says you might learn that.

Original Post by jules817:

I'm just saying that if someone posted a thread that implied that as a straight, white, american female, that I had advantages, i'd say "no ****! i know i'm lucky!"

seems pretty obvious.  


I love honesty and I love this post.

And when I'm thin, I have even more advantages.

Original Post by class_matters:

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

The author saved me a ton of trouble by his opening line:

"I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them"

I don't typically read articles written by complete strangers purporting to tell me how life works for me. 

I can appreciate Jane's "being poor" reference as it seems to be free of any labels. Anyone can be poor. It is gender and racially non-specific. It may be more prevelant for some but nobody is immune.

He's not telling you how life works for you as an individual, but rather the general way that society functions for the social category that you fall into.  If you would actually read stuff instead of being dismissive of it because of what you assume it says you might learn that.

Class, thanks for including my complete quote. I've gone back and read the piece. Fairly well crafted op ed. Framed in a manner in which those of a younger generation can appreciate it. Directed to that same generation of idealists (bless their hearts). Backed by absolutely no hard facts.

He went to great pains to point out that prejudice exists and things are more difficult for certain groups than others. STOP THE PRESSES. I knew that. You owe me 3 minutes of my life back (Pays ccat a dollar) 

Imagine the author's first line had been:

"I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to gay, black, poor women how life works for them"

The author would probably still need to shut off the comments.

Original Post by jules817:

I'm just saying that if someone posted a thread that implied that as a straight, white, american female, that I had advantages, i'd say "no ****! i know i'm lucky!"

seems pretty obvious.  


You left out attractive (and modest):P

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

Original Post by jules817:

I'm just saying that if someone posted a thread that implied that as a straight, white, american female, that I had advantages, i'd say "no ****! i know i'm lucky!"

seems pretty obvious.  


You left out attractive (and modest):P

and tall! and animal-lover!

damn. jules got it all! ;) ;D

Original Post by roxysparkles:

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

Original Post by jules817:

I'm just saying that if someone posted a thread that implied that as a straight, white, american female, that I had advantages, i'd say "no ****! i know i'm lucky!"

seems pretty obvious.  


You left out attractive (and modest):P

and tall! and animal-lover!

damn. jules got it all! ;) ;D

Embarassed

 :P

that reminds me Rox, i thought of you last night, we have a Pom at the shelter right now. he's super handsome!

funny, even in the dog world some are privileged. he's small and pure bred so he'll get adopted way faster than other dogs.

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