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what is privilege?

I agree with what the following post says about privilege.


The post does not explain how it all works, it just explains the general shape of it.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
I really like that post. Thank you for linking it!

One thing I might add is that lacking a certain kind of privilege in some ways, or in the degree that some people have it, does not preclude having some kind or amount of it, and being whatever-ist to that extent. I can point to people with more straight privilege than me, but I still have lots of straight privilege, and am still part of the oppression of people who have less than I do. I lack some forms of able-bodied privilege, but I have lots (and lots and lots) of others, and I still frequently have to check my own ableism around those.

But if I were adding that, the other thing I would add is that the existence of nuance and particularity does not dissolve the whole system into meaninglessness. It just means it's a complicated system.
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
Good points.
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
Yes, that's very well put. Thanks.
Mar. 12th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Section four is a bit hard to take in the current form, and lacks nuance. In particular "participate" and "being" don't quite seem right. Maybe "implicitly support" would be better for the former, and I'm not sure what would be better for the latter.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but there is a 'silence equals consent'-ish idea here that is getting lost by polarizing "partaking of x privilege implicitly supports anti-x oppression" into "having x privilege inevitably makes you an anti-x oppressor".

Finally, the last bit of it (4.5) is certainly true, but doesn't follow from the rest of the section. It should be promoted to it's own section.
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
How would you propose to rewrite section 4?

I don't think it's perfect, but I agree with the general gist, which is that you can't ever accurately declare, e.g., "I am white, but nothing about my being white and nothing about my actions ends up furthering oppression of people of color."

I am particularly aware of this in issues of sizism. If a person loses weight for whatever reason -- even illness -- and their weight loss is noticeable, that fact ends up reinforcing fat-negativity, simply because fat-negativity exists and some people make assumptions about what the weight loss means, and have opinions about the weight loss, and so on. They might have no intention whatever to reinforce it, might even be against reinforcing it, but it happens anyway. Insofar as a person can't avoid this effect, it's a form of victimization. But it's a form that might end up also benefitting the victim (because society says that thinner = better).

That doesn't mean "no one should ever lose weight" and it doesn't mean "everyone who loses weight is bad." It means that you can't opt out of affecting other people and reinforcing the system by your existence and actions.
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
It is true that no one can say "even though I am an X, nothing about my being an X and nothing about my actions ends up furthering not-X oppression", but that isn't the same thing as saying "being an X automatically makes you a not-X oppressor".

The fact that losing weight for any reason ends up reinforcing fat negativity does not make the person losing weight sizist, and neither does being thin, which is what section 4 taken as a whole currently says.

Perhaps just the supporting sections need to be rephrased, especially 4.1, which says "if you have white privilege, you will be racist." That could be rewritten as "if you have white privilege, you will contribute to racism."

There is a subtle but important difference between unavoidably contributing to not-x-ism simply due to being an x, and actually being not-x-ist.
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
I prefer not to label people and to maintain a distinction between a person as a whole and their behavior and influence, so I would be inclined to agree with you.

I don't think I understand the concept of privilege as a whole well enough, though, to be telling the writer of the post that they "need" to rephrase a particular section.

I need to actually do some work today (the "racefail" conversations have been eating my life and I'm behind), but if I get some time later I may post a comment there asking if there is a reason for using the "being an X makes you Xist" formulation, especially in the case of racism.
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
re: need
You're right, that was unnecessarily prescriptive of me.
Mar. 12th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
I forgot to say: Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate the dialogue.
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! I should do it more often.
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
I should say that other than the critique I mentioned (and some other minor points where I feel the language is a bit loaded), this is really a really good post. Ranks up there with my previous favorite post on privilege (though not for exactly the same reasons):

Mar. 12th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing that.
Mar. 13th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm physically disabled -- not invisibly so, but not always very obviously, either, so that sometimes to other people it can look like I WON'T do something when in fact it's more that I CAN'T.

Sometimes I get tired of the occasional sigh of impatience because I can't go somewhere or do something (making planning harder), or the assumption some people have made that my disability issue means I can't or don't want to have sex, or the occasional assumption that because I walk funny, I'm stupid or incompetent, people being all weird about the fact that I have to say "maybe" to most social invitations, or any one of a million other assumptions that people make on a daily basis about me that I can't ignore and can't escape.

Many people are great about being "sensitive" until they'll in a hurry or my disability is suddenly inconvenient. It's understandable that people might feel or wonder or do such things, but I get tired of feeling as if I have to shut my mouth about the phenomenon, thus my anonymity here. Some of my friends feel quite comfortable talking with each other in front of me about a different lack of privilege that they share and I don't. Occasionally the irony is deafening.

One of the things that people seem to focus on, when you're disabled, is "how well you cope" and "how strong you are", "managing despite all the obstacles" etc. etc. ad nauseum. (And if someone pulls out the fucking spoon theory, one of the most abused analogies ever, I'm going to scream, grab a fork, and start jabbing wildly. Or shove a spoon up someone's ass. Seriously, yammer blithely about utensils all you like, if you had to use the spoon theory to get it, you actually don't. I know you mean well and you're trying, but shaddup, ok?)

So yeah, the part about no privilege being more important than any other one really hits home for me.

P.S. Goodness, I'm an angry gimp, aren't I? :>
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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