I went to a college where 70% of the student population was female. I was exposed to a lot of passionate feminism and for a while, I didn’t know how to process it. I know what it feels like to get tossed into file cabinet; when you’re in there, you look around and see you’ve been placed with social oppressors and ignorant idiots. You feel miscategorized. You don’t belong there. So naturally, you get defensive.
“I know what it’s like to be sexually objectified too… Not all guys are like that! I am NOT like that! I’m a gay man–homophobia stems from misogyny!”
When I’ve been actively trying to be the best person I can be, that kind of misjudgment stung. And it was all because I was…born male? And not only that, but somehow all the shit life threw my way and my entire human experience didn’t seem to count.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t miscategorized and neither were you. Has anyone ever tried to call you out on your privilege? Were you offended? Maybe you ironically felt a little socially oppressed. Don’t take it personally. It’s really not a misjudgment and it’s really not about your individual life experience nor is it a read on your character; it’s about the broader human experience. Zoom out. It’s about everyone on the planet and the roles society forced us into.
A good friend of mine is on the top of the pyramid–straight, white, male, buff, tall, attractive, fully bearded and tatted. He served in Afghanistan, he saw some crazy shit, he lost his leg and he struggled with intense PTSD for who knows how many years. My best friend, a black transgender woman, has a truly fabulous life. Though the hard parts of her life are totally incomparable to the horrors my war vet friend had suffered through, the worst of my best friend’s experiences were directly correlated to her racial and gender identity while my vet friend’s experiences weren’t correlated with his race, gender or sexual orientation.
Regardless of if your life was more difficult than someone else’s, having privilege simply means you were born with certain advantages that provides you with a little extra protection from certain harm that others are more vulnerable to. It’s the shit life throws your way because of your identity; shit you have to navigate around that ranges from inconvenient nuisances to potentially life-threatening situations while the privileged have peace of mind because the odds are always in their favor.
Growing up Asian in America while brewing in a closet for two decades in self-hate, shame and insecurity was painful. But being born a cis-man has never ever caused me problems. I see that in how differently I was raised from my sister. I was free to explore the world while my sister’s wings were clipped at a young age. All those times I’ve been sexually objectified, I’ve never once felt the threat of rape. People take me seriously. People listen to me. I believe in myself and I have the confidence to tackle anything, and I have my genitals to thank for that…? Does the fact that our private parts heavily dictate our upbringing not sound weird to you?
I can’t stress enough, the argument isn’t about which of us had the harder life, its about the way our world works.
If you truly want to disassociate yourself from the ignorance and the oppressors in your privileged category, you have to learn to take control of your ego before it takes control of you. The ego stunts growth. The world is unfair because the majority of the population does not understand any of this. You can be better and smarter than the rest simply by being conscious. If you are born with certain privileges, be aware of it, be grateful for it, and most importantly, fight for those who don’t have it.
If someone points out your privilege, it simply means you can interact with law enforcement without worrying about getting bullets in your chest, or walk alone at night and know a random stranger probably wouldn’t try to rip your clothes off and trespass your body. Or that you have a better chance at a job over someone else. Or an easier time finding companionship. Hopefully the next time someone points out your privilege, you won’t take it personally and look like a fool like I once did.