Note: A version of this comic without the word ‘fuck’ can be found here.
Another note: a poster of this comic can be purchased here.
Another another note: A Swedish version of this comic can be found here.
Oh my, another long one. When I was writing this one out I just kept thinking of all the times I have been a real jerk because I didn’t understand the structural way that privilege is reenforced. I’ve found that in areas where I hold privilege, that structural power is sort of like the infrastructure of life – it works to give me advantage and normalcy, and unless I actively examine it I don’t notice it at all. But when you’re on the other side of that equation, you notice it all the time, you’re living in it and it’s a constant pressure of micro and macro aggressions and boxes.
As I get older I feel so much more responsible for how I contribute to this with my privilege; I wish I could go back 10 years and tell myself not to be so willfully ignorant and stupid about some of these things. But I’m trying to be better these days; these rules help me a lot.
Privilege refers to the uneven distribution of power within a society. Privilege exists when that aspect of your life is seamlessly accepted into the world without scrutiny or suspicion. Personal privilege is the possession of these unearned attributes that dictate the ease and influence one will have within society.
Privilege is a fact, not an insult! You can’t help it if you have it, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Privilege is not absolute. Most people occupy multiple social positions with multiple levels of privilege or disadvantage.
Take me for example!
While I am mentally ill, queer, and currently occupy a non-normative internal gender identity, I occupy several positions of privilege as well:
I pass as a cisgender woman
I am able-bodied and without cognitive or intellectual impairments
My weight and height are within the boundaries of what is considered ‘acceptable’
(this list is not exhaustive!)
Here’s how I try to be responsible in the areas in which I hold privilege:
1. I Shut the Fuck Up: I recognize that the privileged groups that I belong to historically (and currently) are the ones who have dominated discussions, created knowledge, and dictated the language, environments, and modes of conversations. I recognize that I do not always need to be heard all the time, and by insisting on my inclusion, I risk inadvertently reenforcing harmful power dynamics. If I do participate, I will carefully monitor myself to make sure I don’t hijack the conversation.
2. I Listen: I recognize that my experiences in privilege are considered normal, and that the experiences of people who do not belong to a privileged group are often silenced or ignored. I try to listen to those experiences, even if it’s hard or I don’t like what’s being said. The ability to ignore and dismiss is part of my privilege, and I will not contribute to that legacy.
3. I Educate Myself: I seek out resources, authorities, dissenting opinions, and alternate viewpoints on topics in which I hold privilege. I do not require members of disadvantaged groups to be responsible for educating me. When I have a question, I will make sure I ask it at an appropriate time and that I am not making someone uncomfortable or upset. I will not ask overly personal or intimate questions unless I know for sure that that is ok.
RH: Hey, when you were talking back there, I heard you use a term to identify yourself that I hadn’t heard before. Can I ask you a little more about that?
4. I Use It for Good: Because social power dynamics have made my voice more important than others, I will use that voice for good. I will speak up in my peer group when someone tells a racist joke or when I hear a slur. I will not tolerate discriminatory and disempowering behaviour from the people around me. I will consider how the organizations and groups that I belong to treat people who are not privileged, and I will make responsible decisions about whether to associate with them. I will opt-in or opt-out where it matters. I will always be careful to not speak FOR people, but I will stand up with them wherever I can.
RH: look, you’re my friend. I know you’re a smart, kind woman, but the jokes you make and the words you use when someone mentions immigration are really not cool. Can we talk about that?
5. I Will Learn from Fucking Up: My privilege has been internalized and reenforced for my entire life. I will fuck up sometimes; I will be thoughtless, misinformed, aggressive, or unkind. I will listen when people call me out on it, and figure out how I can avoid fucking up again.
These personal guidelines help me make sure that the privilege I hold does more good than harm.
(person) but whenever I try to talk, someone yells ‘privilege’ at me!
Some people may use the term to bully or silence, but I would gently suggest that this happens less than people would like. When I feel attacked, I try to reflect on whether there’s some truth behind it (even if the person could have been nicer about it). Sometimes the call-out is disingenuous, but it never hurts to be a little self-critical!