I recently came across a post on twitter talking about female privilege and how it doesn’t exist, and almost instinctively I took offense, because the argument put forward was that “If female privilege is only available to some (relatively) good looking, it is not privilege at all.”
And this seemed wrong to me, because I didn’t think male privilege is available to all, for one I didn’t think it was available to me, I always believed it was available to only elites in the society, very rich and powerful men. But if there’s anything I had learnt, it’s that privilege is often invisible to the holder, no matter how enlightened the individual thinks he is, so I contacted a friend of mine, a feminist and asked her to highlight these male privileges that I was swimming in.
The result was a 4 minute Voice note that left me in shock; I was privileged over my female companions, a lot more privileged. I don’t have to worry about being drugged and raped(mostly), I don’t have to worry about being sexually assaulted often, I can care less about what I wear without facing slut shaming, I don’t have to worry about slut shaming. I can aspire to be anything I want without my gender being a hindrance; I don’t have to constantly face misogyny in a very patriarchal system like Nigeria, e.t.c.
It’s not that I didn’t know these things existed, I just saw them as trivial things, and not completely true, for example, I could aspire to be anything without my gender being an hindrance, but class and connections were hindrances, so I couldn’t just be anything I aspired to be. Or while I didn’t need to fear rape, I still can’t walk late at night because I can be mugged and killed.
The thing is that male privilege is the very fact that my gender doesn’t play a role in these things. So while I can’t walk late at night because I have to worry about being mugged and killed, women also have to worry about being mugged, killed AND being raped. Looking at it from a place of privilege I never saw it that way, because that is how privilege works.
The same thing applies to white privilege; a young 15 year old white boy in San Francisco whose father was shot down by the police isn’t going to believe that he has some kind of privilege. Instead he’s going to see so much representation of black people, so much “black pride” and how it’s not ok to have “white pride”. He’s going to come on social media and see people joke about killing and enslaving white people and how he can’t say something like that without being attacked.
He would go to school, work hard and achieve great things and is going to believe that he did it based on his own merit alone. He isn’t going to believe that the reason he got preferred to that black person is because he was better and not because the HR saw him as being more trust worthy because of his skin color.
He isn’t going to consider the ability of being able to wear his hair out without being afraid if being killed by the police for being a thug a privilege. No, he wouldn’t believe how much of a privilege he had that he never has to worry about racists, or how if he was going to be sentenced, he wouldn’t have to worry about being given lengthier sentence just because he’s black.
Privilege more than often blinds it’s recipients to it’s existence, and that’s why you always see that when an issue is raised, these people will talk about “if the roles were reversed”, with the truth being that for the roles to be reverses, there must also be a reverse of socio-political issues, with centuries or millennia of bigotry being reversed and given to your group.
Privilege doesn’t just apply to white people or to men, but even people privileged enough to grow up in conscious environments making them aware of these issues. Many people especially in this country don’t even know what the word “misogyny” means, many of them haven’t even eaten today and many aren’t able to smart enough to break out of how they were raised.
But we’re so often unkind to people telling them to “educate themselves” without even trying, not realizing that many of them don’t have the means to do so and those that do don’t have the intelligence to process these things. While individual responsibility is important we also need to realize that society more than often shapes people into what they become.
The only ways to make this world, to make society a better place is by acknowledging our privileges and try to help those who aren’t as privileged