My Problem with Privilege

Disclaimer: This is my opinion and perspective only. I am not trying to tell other people what to think and I am not looking for a debate/argument. I’m actually doing pretty bad lately and really don’t want to deal with a giant backlash. I’m not trying to speak badly about anyone and honestly I’m pretty scared of potential backlash but I wanted to publish this to reference. Please, don’t hurt me.

Opression by Narnia • http://flic.kr/p/bn92FL

Opression by Narnia • http://flic.kr/p/bn92FL

Life is hard.

Regardless of where you are from, your race/gender/height/weight/ability, or any other factor, I would like to propose that we all have, at some point, had challenges or difficulties to face. I repeat, life is hard.

Relating this to social justice, and anti-oppression work, I think the term privilege is often used to encourage people to be more conscious and reflect upon their attitudes and ideas towards others. …An effort to decrease judgement and create understanding. In practice however, I think the use of the term privilege creates many assumptions and judgements against others. For example…

Jazmin Singer recently published an article describing her experiences as both a (to use her words) fat person and a thin person. In her article she referenced the “privilege” of being thin. I think I could argue equally for the “privilege” of being fat. I am not trying to say being fat is easy, because as mentioned, LIFE IS HARD. But being thin has its own challenges. As a child I was very small for my age and was often bullied for my size. People would call me anorexic, bulimic, and on a few occasions some other girls took me to the bathroom and tried to force me to throw up. Some people might not agree with me. Perhaps my struggle and pain as a thin person is not great enough to validate pointing out the privilege of other sizes. But I’d like to propose, it is not a contest of who is worse off. We all have the ability to suffer, to feel pain (physical or emotional) and hardship in some capacity. What might be a step to one person is a mountain to someone else. Some people might have more challenges to overcome than others. That doesn’t make any struggle less of a struggle.

In another case I read an article that said, “White people aren’t told that the colour of their skin is a problem very often.” – for me, this was not the case. Growing up in a mixed Canadian community I was part of a white minority in a primarily South Asian population. I was bullied at school, there were certain expectations of how I would act because of my race, I was often excluded from social events and was definably not a part of what my classmates called “brown pride”.

I am not ashamed to have lived as a thin, white, middle-class female from North America. Believe it or not, life has been hard for me too. I get stopped at the border and asked about drugs, I get physically searched down almost every time I get on a plane. There have been times when food was not available to me and the prospect of homelessness loomed. LIFE IS HARD.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for oppression. I think it is wrong to discriminate against others based on any number of factors including but not limited to their: gender, race, size, ability, appearance, religion, or species. But I think often in activist work to stop this discrimination, other people, perceived to be more “normal” or better off  or “privileged” are denied the benefit of the doubt.

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