The concept of privilege enrages some people because they think it means that it is being asserted that they never have any problems or that their life is easy. That isn’t what this term means at all. It simply indicates that you don’t have to deal with certain things or think about certain things that others in a different demographic do have to think about or deal with on a regular basis.
“Privilege, simply put, is societally granted, unearned advantages accorded to some people and not others. Generally, when we talk about privilege, we are referring to systemic or structural advantages that impact people based on identity factors such as race, gender, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexuality, class, and body type. We might also include level of education and other factors of social capital under the umbrella of privilege.
Importantly, privilege, like oppression, is intersectional. Intersectionality refers to the ways aspects of identity intersect to create specific experiences, needs, privileges, and oppressions. This means that one person can experience both privilege and oppression (for example, they may experience racial privilege for being white, but class oppression for being working class). Privilege and oppression can also intersect with one another to create unique experiences of a specific aspect of their identity. For example, a trans woman who is very affluent has a very different experience of transphobia and cissexism than a transwoman who is very poor. She would, for instance, have better access to resources, medical care, and a safe place to live compared to a transwoman who is working class. While both women experience oppression for being trans, their experiences of that oppression are very different due to the presence or absence of class privilege.”
Perhaps the easiest way to defuse this term is to simply make it more concrete and therefore easier to understand. So, in no particular order, here are some examples of different kinds of privilege:
- If you don’t have to worry about reasonable advocacy for your interests being seen as selfish and out of line.
- If you have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of your household.
- If major religions do not teach their congregants that you are an abomination before god.
- If you can generally work comfortably (or walk down a public street) without the fear of sexual harassment.
- If you are walking down the street holding hands with your beloved, it doesn’t jeopardize your safety.
- If no-one mocks your sexual or relationship preferences