So I’ve been doing this feature a little over a month now and I haven’t written much about what it is really about. Sure I told you all when I announced I would be doing regular features that this would be about privilege but what does that even mean? After an exchange on Tumblr about the phrase “die cis scum” (one that I would never use, but cannot be upset at others for doing so) I posted this explanation of why cis people should not whine about it. Afterward, I felt very motivated to examine privilege further and try to explain it those who have not been exposed to the topic much.
Privilege is knowing that you face no special obstacle simply for being you. A person enjoying white privilege faces no obstacles for being white (despite what some white supremacists claim), so they enjoy white privilege. A straight person faces no obstacles for being straight, so enjoys hetero privilege. A man faces no obstacles because he is a man, so he enjoys male privilege, and so on. Straight, white, cis male, by the way is the brass ring of privilege. The above link to my Tumblr blog, if you did not click-through before, does a good run down of a few of the most egregious examples of cis privilege. Go to Tumblr and follow the privilege tag and you can find some other great lists like that (as well as some justifiably angry screeds and privileged little trolls.)
Just to be clear, asking someone to check their privilege isn’t about punishing them, it is about making them aware and even helping them to not do things to make things worse for those that do not enjoy their privilege. Telling a trans* woman not to get angry because someone outed her is asking for a privilege check, even if you would never out her yourself. Checking our privilege is about giving power to those who do not have it. Yes in a way it is taking power from those that do have it, the power to oppress others, but that power is one without legitimate claim.
Most people enjoy some privilege. I enjoy white privilege, and as a trans* woman who cannot often afford to pass the way she would like, I do enjoy male privilege, even if it is one I am in the process of giving up. I will always enjoy a certain amount of male privilege if for no other reason than I will never have to worry about another deciding what is best for my reproductive health. It does not make me a bad person, but I have to acknowledge it, and if you want to be a good person, a good ally, so should you.