I have a confession to make.
I'm a white, middle class, heterosexual male, from a relatively rich developed country.
I'm not proud of any of these things, and I know that I am better off than many others who do not not have the same attributes. Attributes which they do not have through no fault of their own.
All these things provide "privilege" to me.
Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It's about advantages you have that you think are normal. It's about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It's about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf. [Betty, A primer on privilege].
(Disclaimer: I do not not self-identify explicitly as any of these things. This is just how I tend to be perceived by society at large. These are all "inherent" attributes that I get little choice in.)
“White” in this context is generally used to mean someone with light coloured skin, that has little to no pigmentation. Historically “white” people have come from Europe, and the Caucasus (where the term Caucasian comes from).
I can enter most countries without being interrogated, or thought of as a person who might potentially want to stay in the country, or even if I do stay, it doesn't matter. For example I found entering and leaving Switzerland often a matter of simply showing the front-cover of my passport, but a darker skinned, US citizen was interrogated every time.
I can walk around shops without it automatically being assumed that I may steal something.
does it mean "middle class"? It is most often used to
describe an income band, which leads to it meaning very little. I
have also had it argued at me, persuasively, that it is a values
thing. The privileges entailed by being a member of this nebulous
class, are obviously in contrast to those of a "lower"
class. No matter the definition, it is invariably argued that I am a
despite my apparent inability to obtain a credit
card I actually now have one). Again, I do not use the term
ordinarily as a self-descriptor. I find it un-useful sociologically,
and politically. Regardless:
I have shared experiences with much of the rest of society. I am more likely to have greater literacy. I am able to afford to travel, and to purchase goods without having to think too much about the cost. This includes being able to purchase items advertised on TV etc., and small luxuries. In the same vein I can afford food without having to worry about specials or bargains (if I do not feel like it). I invariably have sufficient savings that I can cover for emergencies, or else I can quickly borrow the required money.
(In less developed places, like much of Africa, I would be considered upper class. An income of thousands of dollars a month can buy a heck of a lot when the equivalent of a few dollars can buy enough vegetables for a week.)
(Implicitly included is that I am "cisgendered".)
I don't get assaulted because of my sexuality. I can marry easily virtually everywhere, and thus have my relationship recognised across the world.
I can walk around at night without fear of being raped; indeed, I am unlikely to be raped at all in my life, whether by someone I know, or by a stranger. I am unlikely to face sexual harassment in my day to day life. I am able to have sex without fear of becoming pregnant, nor then what others will think or say if they learn that I aborted a pregnancy.
I have relatively easy and cheap (often free from certain public institutions such as libraries), mostly unfiltered, access to the Internet. I have access to good universities. I have access to cheap and clean water. I have access to good quality medical and dental care if required. I live in an area relatively free of pollution. Moreover, with my passport, I can travel easily to most countries that I would want to travel to.
This confession was meant to be a short list of some obvious (to whom?) ways that I am privileged in my life. Even though none of the reasons were worked for. I will note it does not include all the potential privilege for whichever group is heading a particular section. As I read on the subject of privilege for this piece, I found various other ways that different groups in society obtain benefits, often in ways that disadvantage other groups. Some of these are relevant to me, some of them are not. Some of them I agree are institutionalised problems that require change in a truly just society, some of them are not. I will not list all of the various attributes I have which privilege me, nor other attributes which potentially privilege people, depending on the time and place they are in.
The only other attribute that I will note is age. This one is subject to change at a typically much faster rate than the other attributes. Most of the time the problems associated with age can be "grown out of". I.e., they affect young people, and young people do not stay young forever. Because of this, it is often denied that there is a problem. Or even that young people by virtue of their youth are actually inferior. I disagree with this.
A further comment on all the disadvantages of being whichever of the things mentioned, or the advantages of being another thing (female instead of male, or whatever). Yes there are disadvantages to being male, some of which are institutionalised to greater or lesser degrees. Men are more likely to be sentenced to longer jail terms, or to not receive custody of children after a relationship break-up. However, these do not excuse the institutionalised privilege conferred upon men. As well, the fact that women are more likely to receive custody of children after a relationship break-up is partly, at least, (I'm sure) due to institutionalised sexism regarding the role of women vs men when it comes to children.
One attribute I do have, that I did not mention, is a university education. Partly because it is covered in other areas ("middle-class", and "rich developed country"), partly because it is not an inherent attribute, and partly because, at least where I'm from, anyone can aspire (even if it is the same "aspire" that is talked about with regard to wealth) to a university education. I disagree that being educated does not confer privilege, by simply knowing about things, you can catch references in interviews, and thus maybe more likely to obtain a job.
I'll note that many (even all) of the "privileges" that I have should actually be called "rights". As in, they should be universal. Everyone should be able to have easy access to cheap and clean drinking water, no one should fear being raped. See Maia's Privilege for a further discussion on this.
Finally, it was pointed out to me by a friend that it is dangerous to try and depict all these different privileges and oppressions as having equal weight. Indeed I did not intend to do that, and I wish to explicitly say that they do not have all the same weight. Indeed, as pointed out by the same friend, in different contexts some things are more important than others; some things can be hidden (e.g. sexuality), and some can't, or can't nearly as easily (such as skin colour, or apparent gender).
I had two main reasons for writing this, and for listing the various resources below. One was to examine my own life, and privilege in my own life. The other was to share, and to encourage others to examine their lives. To examine the ways that they have privilege or advantages that come from an innate attribute, rather than anything that they worked for.
Betty (aka "brown_betty"), IBARW: A primer on privilege: what it is and what it isn't. <http://brown-betty.livejournal.com/305643.html>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Maia, Privilege. <http://capitalismbad.blogspot.com/2006/09/privilege.html>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.<http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html>. Accessed 2010/10/09. Originally published in White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies (1988).
Jane Van Galen, Middle Class Privilege. <http://educationandclass.com/2008/05/16/middle-class-privilege/>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
tikae et al., Non-Poor Privilege Checklist<http://community.livejournal.com/feminist/2260055.html>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Will Barratt, Social Class Privilege – Beyond Ethnicity, Gender, and Religion. <http://wbarratt.indstate.edu/socialclass/SocialClassPrivilege.pdf>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Unknown et al., Cisgender privilege. <http://www.t-vox.org/index.php?title=Cisgender_privilege>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Various Unknown, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II Sexual Orientation: Daily effects of straight privilege. <http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Barry Deutsch (aka "Ampersand."), The Male Privilege Checklist, <http://www.amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist/>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
tigtog, FAQ: What is male privilege?. <http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/faq-what-is-male-privilege/>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
(I have no resources at the moment, but I will add them as I find, or are informed of, them.)
Amy Kelly, Able-bodied Privilege : Unpacking the Invisible Knapsacks. <http://www2.edc.org/WomensEquity/edequity/hypermail/1180.html>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
Tish, Untitled. <http://www.fatshadow.com/October2003.htm#e412>. Accessed 2010/10/09.
White privilege, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege>
Male Privilege, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_privilege>
This page is located at http://next-nexus.info/writing/politics/a%20confession.php and was last modified on 2017-06-24.