In today’s world, we see lots of talk about acceptance. We want people to accept our gender, our size, and our orientation; yet, there are many times when we don’t accept theirs. I believe that misuse of privilege has a good deal to do with this situation. Yes, privilege is real, but should it be used to point out why life isn’t fair? Is privilege as simple as media makes it out to be? Why don’t we try helping the less fortunate instead of judging those with “more” than us?
There was a girl who changed schools a lot, 5 schools before graduation to be exact. She was weird, read books during break, was horrible at school sports, and was bullied most almost every day. People loved to mock her size, how much she ate, and what she looked like among other things. What they didn’t know is she had no friends or siblings and her parents fought all the time. She was basically alone. Time kept going and while she suffers from depression and low self esteem, she is now a much happier person.
Another girl was from an upper middle class family. She lived in nice neighborhoods and got everything she wanted. She was the fastest person on the women’s cross country team and also ran track. Everyone knew who she was and never had to worry about not having friends. She never had to worry about her weight and people thought how much she ate was hysterical for someone so thin.
What not many people knew, was these two girls were the same person. I was bullied until 11th grade, the last time I moved schools. My life has taught me something important, privilege is in the eye of the beholder.
Beauty and Privilege
According to Google: beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another. If you change a few words, this is also the reality of privilege. Most would say that I have thin privilege and that I have had it much better than larger people. When you take off the rose tinted glasses, I’m human, just like everyone else. The grass isn’t really always greener on the other side.
The Greener Grass: An Example
I’m thin, tone, athletic, and can eat about anything I want. Is that a privilege? No, It’s just who I am; and it’s not always positive. Being thin has given me a heart problem that won’t go away unless I have children (gain a good bit of weight) or get my heart cauterized.
I’ve also been mocked for my size, judged for what I’ve eaten, told “real women have curves”, and even “my boobs are to small for a real man.” I spent so long getting mocked about my size, I still have to tell myself that I’m fine the way I am. I’m happy that I can run long distances and I’m glad that I rock climb, but sometimes I still wish I could be like those “real women” I hear so much about.
We need to focus less on what others have that we don’t and more on helping those that have less than us.
Is your grass greener than mine? Is my side greener than yours? Probably not. In reality, we both have dead spots and ant hills. We just choose to only look at the positive of the other while looking at the negative of our own.
Privilege: an Opinion & a Fix
In 1988 a famous book was written, it talked about one white woman’s (Peggy McIntosh) experience with white privilege. Since then, the term has exploded. In 2016, you couldn’t go a day without seeing a new kind of privilege. Now you have privileges based on age, race, income level, sex, gender, and even more. At work, people are being trained on how to “check their privilege” while at home they are bombarded with the term on the news and social media. Privilege has become a weapon.
A Weapon of Division
Privilege is supposed to help people understand the shoes of others. At least that was the original intention of the book published in 1988. Today, the term is used to remind people why they don’t deserve what they have. I’ve been told that the only reason I can rock climb so good is that I can afford better shoes. I’m privileged. An artist get’s judged not by their work, but how “rich their parents must have been” to be able to afford sending them to art school. A stay at home mom is “privileged” because she “obviously has a rich husband” who brings all the money in. Why are we doing this to ourselves? It’s divisive. We’re all human.
The only reason I can rock climb so good is because I can afford better shoes.
A Simple Fix
We need to focus less on what others have that we don’t and more on helping those that have less than us. We should recognize that women get paid less than men and take steps to reverse it. That doesn’t mean we should make the men feel bad for getting paid. We should be aware that black people still have a stigma they don’t deserve and work actively TOGETHER to dismantle it. That doesn’t mean non-black people should feel bad for being born a different color. If we work together as one human race we won’t need the term privilege for very long.
… everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in life … it changes minute by minute, depending on where we are, who we’re seeing, or what we’re required to do.
~ Peggy McIntosh