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Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009, 12:44 pm
stoneself: what is privilege?

because i can see we're about to need this.

  1. what is privilege?
    1. the set of unearned advantages a person gets (you get) for some perceived trait a person possesses (you possess).
    2. the set of unwarranted disadvantages you don't suffer under, but other people suffer.
    3. there are "positive" advantages. "positive" meaning they are felt by their presence. not in the sense they are good. though "positive advantage" is a "proper" technical term, but in less technical writing i suggest using "present advantage" (or some other synonym). and then i still recommend explaining what you mean. i'll explain a little later.
    4. there are "negative" advantages. "negative" meaning they are felt by their absence. not in the sense they are bad. though "negative advantage" is a proper technical term, but in less technical writing i suggest using "absent disadvantage" (or some other synonym). and then i still recommend explaining what you mean. i'll explain.
    5. the difference between a "positive" advantage and a "negative" advantage is very important. you can more easily see a positive advantage, and thus these advantages are hard to refute. however, it's very hard to see "negative" advantages - it's hard to see things (disadvantages) that are not there, and this makes it easy to ignore, deny, and erase these parts of privilege.

      it is in the denial of "negative" advantages that a lot of friction arises.
  2. it is privilege that creates its corresponding oppression, and then there is a feedback loop.
    1. male privilege produces sexism, and then sexism feeds back into male privilege.
    2. white privilege produces racism, and then racism feeds back into white privilege.
    3. straight privilege produces homophobia, and then homophobia feeds back into straight privilege.
    4. etc.
  3. privilege (and it's corresponding oppression) are not marked by intention, they are marked by effect.
    1. privilege causes harm
    2. harm you don't see because a lot of it is "negative". more on this later.
  4. partaking in your privilege is to participate in the corresponding oppression.
    1. if you have white privilege, you will be racist.
    2. if you have male privilege, you will do sexist things.
    3. if you have straight privilege, you will contribute to the atmosphere of homophobia
    4. if you are able-bodied, you will say things that exclude and other disabled people.
    5. this is true even if you are anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, etc. you can be against a thing, and still be/do that thing.
  5. there is no escape from your privilege.
    1. you will never be clean of it, but you can always become a better person. you can work to minimize the effect of your privilege.
    2. the thing to understand about this is that there's no point in thinking that you're an irredeemable hopeless case wrt your privilege.
      1. this means dwelling on your own shame or guilt is not productive
      2. and it means you shouldn't think people are calling you irredeemably evil for being racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.
  6. privilege is marked by absences.
    1. privilege is largely about what's not in a privileged person's head.
    2. those absences shape thinking, speech, and action as much what is present.
    3. unconscious and unintentional acts of privilege that arise from an absences truly mystify people with privilege.
    4. without the experience and history of the non-privileged person to inform a privileged person, the privilege person doesn't quite understand why the non-privileged person has been offended.
  7. having privilege is rarely an intentional or conscious act.
    1. privilege is largely about how other people treat you. if they treat you in a privileged way, there's really no way to opt out of it - even if you notice and want to avoid it.
    2. there can be no intention about stuff that's not in your head. you can't plan about stuff you're not even thinking about.
    3. and yet you will act and think from a privileged place.
  8. there are many kinds of privilege
    1. male privilege
    2. white privilege
    3. straight privilege
    4. able-bodied privilege
    5. cis-gender privilege
    6. class privilege
    7. and more
  9. you can suffer under one set of privileges and benefit from another.
    1. just because you're poor doesn't erase your white privilege
    2. just because you're poc doesn't erase your male privilege
    3. just because you're queer doesn't erase your able-body cis-gender male white privilege.
  10. ranking privileges is bad
    1. one privilege does not trump another privilege. that is to say that saying sexism is worse than racism or that racism is worse than sexism is wrong. if you want to understand this, talk to people who live under two oppression - women of color (woc), queers of color, queers in wheelchairs, blind women, or etc.
    2. the systems that produces privileges and causes oppressions are interlocking. sexism supports homophobia supports racism supports etc. most of this mutual support exists as justifying the othering of people for being different.
    3. and attempts to rank privilege turns out to be a way to divide and conquer. separating oppressed people from each other means it's hard to take apart the system of systems of oppression.
    4. there is some fruit to be gathered by comparing and contrasting privileges and oppressions, but much caution is needed because it tends to become a ranking system. if you're new to this all, just don't do it.
  11. living with one kind of oppression doesn't give you automatic understanding of another oppression.
    1. one kind of privilege does not automagically inform you about another, there are many salient differences. your own oppression can help you understand a different oppression, but not as much as you think. trust me, i know this from my experiences as a queer poc. poc get queer issues wrong. and queers get poc issues wrong. and i still get all my other privileges (male, cis-gendered, able-bodied) wrong.

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
holzman

May I repost this in full (with credit, of course) in my LJ?

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
stoneself

sure

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
holzman

Thanks.

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
captain_brad

very, very well put. thanks.

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
redstar826

thank you very much (and you should totally post this in debunkingmale too)

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
pegsioux

This is great, thanks so much.

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC)
mhnicholson

Minor proofing note: #1.4 (switched "positive" for "negative")

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
stoneself

danke

Mon, Mar. 9th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
just_katarin

Thank you for just laying it out like this. This is something that usually takes me so long to explain.

Tue, Mar. 10th, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)
yukie1013

This is AMAZING. Thank you.

Tue, Mar. 10th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
lemurstew

Thank you for posting this. It's concise and has already helped my understanding of a few things.

Tue, Mar. 10th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
seaya

One thing I think that isn't here, but I'm not sure it fits here or not, is that intersections of any of these characteristics can be slightly different. It's different to be male and POC (and different for different ethnicities among that) that male and white. Yes, male POC do have male privilege and can be sexist; however, it manifests differently in the intersection of the two. That's just one example.

But if the point of this is to lay out the basics, then this might not be something you wanted to put in here.

Tue, Mar. 10th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
phoam909

Well put, easy to understand, and I even agree with the vast majority.

Wed, Mar. 11th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
malfeasanceses

I forgot to say in my comment on the debunkingmale post that I like your terms "present advantage" and "absent disadvantage" a lot; they're much more accessible than the technical terms.