What Is Privilege?

White woman speaking while asian woman is silenced

What is privilege?

Privilege is when a person has unearned advantages simply because of their social identity. Some examples include race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and socioeconomic status (there are many more). Having advantages does not mean that you never struggle. It does mean that people with certain identities face barriers and difficulties that you will never face.

Recognize It

Recognizing your privilege is the first step. Remember that this does not mean that your struggles are not valid. What it does mean, is that you have the ability to use your privilege to make space for those who do not. There are certain things you never have to worry about when you are privileged. Here are some examples:
  • You feel comfortable enough at work to disclose your sexuality and talk about your partner.
  • You don’t worry about being pulled over by the police because of your race.
  • You may earn more money just because of your gender.
  • You never worry about which washroom to use because you are cisgender (your gender corresponds with your birth sex).
  • You can go to college or university because you can afford it.
  • You do not worry about how to get in and out of a building because you are able-bodied.

Use It For Good

Start conversations with people who don’t have the same privileges as you. But be respectful and do your research before you do. In order to do good, you need to find out the challenges others face. Look for opportunities to ask questions, speak out, and raise awareness of issues that don’t affect you personally. Follow people who are not entitled to your privilege on social media and find out how you can help. This could be as simple as giving praise to a colleague who is often overlooked because of their race, financially supporting a cause, or speaking out about genderless washrooms at work. It can also be more. It can be physically laying your body on the line to stand up for others. Understanding your privilege gives you an opportunity to try and create a more level playing field. It means putting others before yourself.

Don’t Be Ignorant

Privilege often goes unnoticed because it blends into our everyday social norms. You may not notice it because you are not personally affected. You also may consider yourself a racist, for example. Ignorance is a big part of the issue here. Even if you do not purposefully discriminate against anyone, you probably do so subconsciously. In fact, even those with unprivileged identities can share these subconscious ideals. They are so embedded within our society that we need to know that they exist.

Common Ground

Be a good human. Ask questions. Ask them respectfully. Education is the only way we will learn to help one another and get better as humans. If we can all agree that being a good person is most important, then you already have found common ground. Expand your thinking, challenge the world, and be better!

Think about this…how are you privileged? How can you use your privilege for good?

Emily is the founding editor of Happy Daughter, a body positive online community for women. She is a body image expert, who is passionate about promoting positive body image, media awareness, and healthy relationships. Emily is getting ready to release her book, Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body in January 2021.

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