Why privilege is not about you, it’s about us

In recent discussions I’ve been involved in, I’ve used the one word that, for a long time, even upset me. I’m talking about privilege. It didn’t upset me because I thought it didn’t exist, but it mainly upset me because across feminist blogs and articles the word was used so much that it was mistaken to mean something almost completely different from what I believe it should mean, or does mean.

For those who might not follow feminist blogs, you might not see something like “White male privilege” being used, a lot. Or, you might see “privilege” being used a lot in all sorts of cases. (I’ve lost my bearings on what others hear and see.) Unfortunately, people read that word and think “This means that the writer thinks I am a privileged person. I am not, I was raised poor, had a shitty life…”

When someone uses the term privilege, it is not measured on a person-to-person basis. Well, it is and it isn’t, but I’ll explain that more in a bit. Privilege references the average, the masses, what happens to groups of people, to wholes, and does not mean “you sure are privileged, Bob Smith of Little Rock, to be white” only.

Let’s break it down by comparing groups of Americans. (I will not even venture into the rest of the world. The shit they go through makes us Americans look like giant, whining assholes on average.)

Sick Americans vs. Healthy Americans.

Disabled Americans vs. Non-Disabled Americans.

Americans with Dark Skin vs. Americans with Light Skin.

Native Americans vs. Non-Native Americans.

Female Americans vs. Male Americans.

Gay Americans vs. Straight Americans.

I can go on and on and on and on, I can talk about transgendered Americans, poor Americans, and on and on and on, filling in the blanks, comparing all sorts of groups of Americans. Yes, within each one of those groups there will be individuals who were treated poorly, or better than the others, some who grew up rich and some who didn’t…so each group does have its variables. Just like dogs or car styles…there are always exceptions.

But those exceptions do not do away with the more common greater mass of people.

So, yes, you can be a rich white girl and still have many, many issues. This is common sense. But what many people need to understand is that even if we took each invidual American and got their story, figured out how much they made, and somehow could magically know (beyond their experiences only) when they might have felt like victims of some sort of prejudice or actually were the victims of prejudice, there is a group that will almost always come out on top: white male Americans.

I literally have proof, and you can see it with your own eyes:

How many black presidents have there been?

How many female presidents have there been?

How many laws have been passed to bar white males from public spaces?

How many laws have been passed to bar non-white Americans (and non-male) from public spaces?

How many Senators or Congresspeople are male and white?

How many major corporation CEOs are white and male?

How many of those CEOs are female, non-white female, gay or non-white male?

Again, I can go on and on and on and on and on and on. The default that always comes out on top, IN GENERAL, ON AVERAGE, is the white male American.

Now, here’s where it gets dicey for a lot of people. “So, what then? I’m supposed to feel bad because I am white and male and was lucky enough to be born in the US? Fuck you! I have it bad!

That’s not what I am saying. If you decide that your upbringing or current situation was/is bad enough to warrant not caring that these OTHER people have had it that bad, if not much much worse, then so be it. You can decide whatever you want because, as I pointed out, you have been born in the US. In fact, you can feel whatever you want and no one should tell you otherwise. Deal with your shit, let others deal with theirs…I get it, trust me.

But do me and a favor and step out of the way, because despite the fact that I was not exactly raised with a silver spoon in MY mouth (7 kids, father lost his job and we had bad financial times for the rest of my childhood, could not afford college until I was grown…) I am still concerned that I, as a straight white male, DO have an advantage over many people.

Not all. Notice, for the love of all things holy, that I did not say ALL. There are people who are doing much better than me, and are not white, straight, male or anything I am. Remember, though, that when we are talking about an issue in society, we are not talking about those few…we are talking about the many. If you need proof, I gave you some points to think on earlier. If you are not satisfied that white, straight, and male give you some sort of advantage — a privilege — as a group then I can do nothing for you. You might avoid turning on the TV, because you would have to ignore the rest of the world as well.

See, the point is that we can always find some exception to the rule. Always. But white male privilege — or we can break it down several layers into male privilege, or white privilege and on and on — is not that hard to understand. Shit, there are still LAWS on the books that prove what I am saying, and now some elected members actually want to pass NEW laws that prohibit people who are not white, male, straight, etc. from doing certain things that do not harm anyone, like being married, deciding what to do with their bodies, etc.

So, yes, despite the fact that there are plenty of poor white males out there, there is a default in this country. That default has, for a very long time, been white men. Is this really a mystery to people, especially in gaming? I mean, all of this recent hubbub over E3 shows that the issue, at the very LEAST, still EXISTS. Does anyone honestly think that the issue does not?

I talked to so many people over these last few days about privilege and gaming culture. I get that some people just do not get it, simply because they do not experience it. And I am talking about females AND males.

But, I do not experience droughts that ruin my crops and that kill my cattle, but do I deny that it happens to millions and millions of people around the world? Of course not. So, this comes down to empathy. Either you know it exists and want to work to see it change, or you continue to live your life while ignoring it. Again, that’s fine, it’s your choice.

I work in gaming, and gaming reminds me on a daily basis how lucky I am to be white, male and straight. I know it might not remind YOU of that, but please don’t try to convince me that the issue does not exist…especially while you try to convince me your booth babes are something else but cheap advertising to draw attention to your booth; advertising that leaves out entire groups of players. At least just plainly say “We got these girls because we didn’t think our game would attract people enough, so we just skipped the general public and people who do not want a pic with a booth babe, and we went for horny male gamers. Then, once they’re there taking a pic with the girls, we ask them if they want to hear about our game.” JUST. ADMIT. IT.

Anyway, I probably did not explain it very well, but I think we all know what I am talking about. If you don’t think it exists, just please step aside while the rest of us at least attempt to correct the situation.

 

Beau