Understanding Your Privilege: How To Recognize It And What To Do With It

Understanding Your Privilege: How To Recognize It And What To Do With It

It's more important than you think.
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Everyone has heard it at least once: “Check your privilege.” This saying tends to get brushed off as soon as it’s spoken, simply because it is just misunderstood. But I think that, instead of brushing it off, we should be giving it the utmost consideration, as it is highly important to understand what privilege is and how to identify it. When you can do this, you will be better able to empathize with and support people who don’t have it.

So what is privilege?

There are several definitions, but the one most pertinent to this situation is, “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.” In the case of societal privilege, the benefits aren’t necessarily given out, but rather exist as a result of the conditions a person is born into. It doesn’t take much for a person to be underprivileged, but, as lack of privilege often leads to a seemingly insurmountable mountain of closed doors and limited opportunities, it can be exceedingly difficult to overcome. And while it is true that we all have struggles, the types of challenges and the amount of quality resources available to help combat them differs greatly depending on the amount of privilege each person has.

So how do I know what my privileges are?

Now that you know what privilege is, the next step is to identify what privileges you do and do not have. I am going to ask a series of yes or no questions pertaining to the some of the criteria for privilege in America. (This list is not all encompassing; it is merely a sampling.) The more times you answer “yes,” the more privilege you have. Here we go:

Are you white? Are you male? Are you straight? Do you identify as cisgender? Are you financially stable? Are you an American citizen? Are you Christian? Do you have a college education? Are you physically healthy? Are you mentally able?

So what should I do with the privilege I have?

The first thing you should do is understand that it’s okay to have privilege. You didn’t choose to have privilege any more than the person next to you chose to not have it. Your possession of privilege is simply your lot in life, and you certainly have the right to feel grateful for it. However, it also gives you the opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and imagine what hoops people have to jump through to be successful if they have to answer “no” to all those questions. It means that they are more looked down on in society and less highly valued as individuals, simply because of their gender, the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation. This is where more privileged people come in. The more privileges you have, the more likely you are to be listened to and taken seriously, so you should use what you have to fight for the rights of the more marginalized, less privileged people. Because after all, more rights for others doesn’t mean fewer rights for you.

This is what it means when you are told to “check your privilege.” You are being told to consider where you fit on the privilege scale in relation to those around you and to care about those who are less fortunate. It is also a call to remember that these privilege hierarchies don’t have to be permanently embedded in the bedrock of society because you have the power to bring in the tide of change.

Cover Image Credit: Global Citizen

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I Blame My Dad For My High Expectations

Dad, it's all your fault.
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I always tell my dad that no matter who I date, he's always my number one guy. Sometimes I say it as more of a routine thing. However, the meaning behind it is all too real. For as long as I can remember my dad has been my one true love, and it's going to be hard to find someone who can top him.

My dad loves me when I am difficult. He knows how to keep the perfect distance on the days when I'm in a mood, how to hold me on the days that are tough, and how to stand by me on the days that are good.

He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

My dad also knows when to give tough love. He knows how to make me respect him without having to ask for it or enforce it. He knows how to make me want to be a better person just to make him proud. He has molded me into who I am today without ever pushing me too hard. He knew the exact times I needed to be reminded who I was.

Dad, you have my respect, trust, but most of all my heart. You have impacted my life most of all, and for that, I can never repay you. Without you, I wouldn't know what I to look for when I finally begin to search for who I want to spend the rest of my life with, but it might take some time to find someone who measures up to you.

To my future husband, I'm sorry. You have some huge shoes to fill, and most of all, I hope you can cook.

Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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Being A Lesbian Sucks

To women who say they wish they were a lesbian; you don't.

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My girlfriend is not a man, obviously so because she is my girlfriend, emphasis on girl. Society has been conditioned with men holding the power. In a world dominated by men being a lesbian has more problems than just homophobia.

There is an automatic assumption that because we are not with a man we are single. Without the dominating presence of a man other men feel safe to come on to women in lesbian relationships, whether they know we are together or not. We aren't always in a safe situation to say we are together so if he doesn't pick up on the social cues it only gives us two options: politely laugh and attempt to remove ourselves from the situation or say we aren't interested. Both options are equal in undesirability and saying we are uninterested can lead to them just pushing harder. The boyfriend card usually works, but lying about our relationship makes us feel terrible.

The fetishizing of lesbian couples and threesomes are a problem because of media and porn. They hyper-sexualize lesbian relationships until they are nothing but sex. From this the winning question, "Do you want to have a threesome?" With the assumption both or one woman in the relationship is a lesbian and not bisexual, pansexual, or etc. A threesome with a man is completely out of the question. The thing about lesbians is that we like women not men, a threesome with a man goes against our identity as a lesbian and makes no sense. And even if both women are bisexual a normal man wouldn't walk up to a straight couple and pop the question of a threesome. So don't do it to us.

We also find ourselves being disrespected as a customer in a professional setting. Men in job positions belittle women who are at the mechanic, the lawyer, the doctors offices, and the bank, for just a few examples. They assume we don't know anything and are ignorant, so they treat us with no respect. They attempt to manipulate us for this and that to achieve their own personal gain. Without a man lesbian couples are even more subject to this because we don't get any respect. A man will be immediately respected and in a healthy relationship he can establish a power balance with his woman partner to the person in charge. Lesbians, (and other single women) don't have these short cuts. We have to establish ourselves then and there for having worth and show we deserve to be treated like full grown adults. Hopefully we also have the knowledge to not suffer from manipulation.

The difference in skill sets is something that can be a problem for everyone in this sexist society. We associate pink with girls and boys with blue. Girls with cooking and guys with tools. Most of us were taught different things and learned different skill sets. Most women I know, including me, don't know how to change a tire. How many young men go off to college having never done laundry in their life? With lesbians we usually don't know an important skill that was specifically taught to men. We might not know cars, or tools, or how to tile a floor. We are set back in our development as fully functional people in a unit. We lack key skill sets that were predetermined for men, unlike straight couples where there is usually a balance of skill sets.

The problems that arise from lesbian relationships are problems associated with a male dominating society and the gender division we face along with it. To abolish these we have to achieve equality and work on teaching the generations to follow that women are just as good as men. It's tough being a woman and a lesbian even harder.

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