Types of Privilege – Part One

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Privilege rears its head in many forms and places. It is crucial to remember that those who are privileged in one form may be under privileged in another. And for that reason, we must always reassess the roles we play in the narratives of privilege and discrimination.

Heterosexual Privilege: I have a love/hate relationship with Coming Out videos. I love that these are stories of courage and self-love. But I hate that the heterosexual privilege within our society assumes that everyone is heterosexual until they “come-out” as otherwise. For this reason, it saddens me to watch queer-identified individuals undergo this “coming-out” process in their daily lives while straight people bring home girlfriends and boyfriends openly and without judgement.

Gender Privilege: This includes both patriarchy and cis-gender privilege. Our male-dominated society has perpetuated a patriarchal narrative in our politics, films, and video games. I’ve written about this before: Chick Flicks are always about these sad women trying to get their groves back after finding out the love of their life has cheated on them. Then, of course, they realize that they are strong and independent and happy on their own. Still, even after this realization these plots never die. When I watch an Action Film, I see a strong male lead who cares for nothing but his mission. The male perspective and their narratives are embedded in our society’s workings: Males are leaders, women are mothers.

Cisgender privilege refers to the advantages given to those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Here are some examples of cis-gender privilege:

  1. “Your validity as a man/woman/human is not based on how much surgery you’ve had or how well you “pass” as non-transgender.”
  2. “Use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.”
  3. “You have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend-in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of your gender expression.”
  4. “You have the ability to flirt, engage in courtship, or form a relationship and not fear that your biological status may be cause for rejection or attack, nor will it cause your partner to question their sexual orientation.”
  5. “You have the ability to not be profiled on the street as a sex worker because of your gender expression.”
  6. “You are not required to undergo an extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.”

See more at: It’s Pronounced Metrosexual

Passing Privilege: The ability for an individual to pass as belonging to another group. I had a friend who was of mixed-race but was white-passing, as in her skin was light enough for her to be considered a white woman. A particular issue I had with her was how quickly she’d flip the coin when she was dating a different man. When dating an Indian man she would identify as mixed, but when dating a white man she would identify as white. Sometimes, of course this would vary, but I quickly realized it was done to reap the benefits of whichever situation, especially since the white man she was dating was a racist.

White Privilege aka Racial Privilege: in the Western World and North America power, money and status are often equated to Caucasians. White people become the baseline to which other races are compared. With white people as the baseline we can now understand how passing becomes a tangible privilege for those who’d like to reap the benefits of whiteness. Naturally Institutionalized Racism and White Privilege go hand in hand as it caters to white people over others. If you think you’ve never seen White Privilege before consider the following:

  • “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”
  • “When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”
  • “If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.”

If any/all of these statements are true you are experiencing White Privilege. See also Peggy McIntosh’s Essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. 

I do not have White or Male Privilege.

But, I do have Cis-Gender and Heterosexual Privilege.

Check your privilege.

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