I want to start with the fact that if you are living in North America right now, you are living a privileged life. PERIOD. Compared to the rest of the world, even America's poorest live in luxury. If you doubt this in the least, check out this article. Look at the difference in the amount of food in America versus India, or Mali, or Chad (and the number of people it's supposed to feed). Something a lot of experts are noticing is that Americans in particular and first world countries in general tend to have poor people with a lot of luxury goods (sodas, cell phones, internet, pre-packaged and processed foods). In America, I have personally heard teens complain that they have to walk 3 blocks to school in warm boots, jackets, and mittens, which I then have to compare to children in Mali who have to walk several miles barefoot in blazing heat just to get water.
In short, if you're reading this, you're on a computer, and you're already privileged. Internalize that. I'll wait...
I live a privileged life. I live in a large home with adequate heat, a comfortable bed, hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, a fridge, and not one but TWO freezers that are full of food. I have internet, a Netflix account, and I have the luxury of working as a minister (I say luxury because the method that I apply in my ministry brings very little money into the family, and often tends to evacuate it instead, and my family supports me in this because it is The Right Thing To Do for me).
I'm also an odd duck. I am pagan in my personal beliefs, polyamorous, bisexual... I belong to several niches that paint me into a corner of non-privilege. You know what? I'm still privileged. Period.
There's a term out there, "check your privilege," and while it once was a useful thing I'm no longer convinced it has relevance. See, the term came into being as a gentle reminder to those of us who live in first world countries to think beyond our world bubble. In that sense, it's actually a wonderful thing. We need to be reminded of that. Frequently. But in turning into a meme, it has become almost useless. It is used almost as a bludgeon, as a way of attempting to quiet people from sharing, from openly communicating about ideas. If someone on the internet doesn't like what you have to say about gun control, abortion, local government, or fracking, for instance, they'll tell you to check your privilege. It's meant to shut down the conversation, implying rather heavily that the person doing the talking is invalid simply because they speak from a position of privilege.
Remember when I said above that if you're reading this, you're already privileged? I reference you to that once more. We're all privileged, here in North America. The more we begin to understand this, the better off we'll be.
Don't get me wrong - I feel sorry for the single mom working three jobs to support her family, and I wish that I could fix all the ills of society and government. However, the fact that I can't fix it doesn't mean I can't sympathize... or empathize. The fact that I'm a member of a stable family of 5 who have been together for over a decade doesn't invalidate my opinions, either. I put it blandly, though, that the single mom working three jobs HAS three jobs to help her support her family.
If you look at women in other countries, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Brazil, you find that women like her would likely be begging "for a living" because they wouldn't be permitted to work. Or it's possible that they'd be working three jobs, caring for their family, and working a farm on top of it in order to keep the family fed. We may not have it EASY... but at least we have the means.
We have, as Americans, created special groups of people. We've created something akin to a privileged underclass with our immigrants, our blacks, our women, and our children (not an exhaustive list, by the way). When we set up special groups to have special privileges regardless of skill or knowledge, we create that underclass and populate it... and I dare say we expose ourselves as racists and bigots. It's a frightening thing to realize about one's country, and one's self.
For a long time, I supported these special groups. I thought they did a good thing. I still think they DID a good thing, at one point. I don't believe they are now. In what way is our economy and our populace benefited when we hire a person based on skin color, gender, or race, rather than on merit? Is that not the very racism we wanted to bring to an end? Is it not wrong to hire someone to "fill a quota" rather than to get the job done in the best way possible?
The latest earbug I hear is about women getting equal pay. It's said that today, women make only 77 cents for every male dollar. However, the statistic is not entirely as presented. Still, even if it were, if we were to compare apples to apples and looked at salaries between men and women at, say, computer companies, we'd likely see a wage gap. Why is that? It's because women don't ask for as much money. My partner often comments about how he hated interviewing women for positions, even if they were excellent programmers, because when it came to asking them how much they expected to make, their suggestions were so low as to be ludicrous. He often had to lead them to ask for a reasonable amount, something at least close to what their male peers were making. Of course, that was in the 80s and 90s.
Today, I think we can use logic to dispel that one bit of apparent male privilege. When we "check" that particular privilege, that men make more than women, the argument sort of falls apart. Think about it - you're the CEO of a company and you have to hire someone to do a job. You want to get the most bang for your buck. Who are you going to hire? If women truly are making that much less than men in equal positions, why aren't these companies (often described as unethical, cut throat, and conniving) hiring more women? They would get the same (or sometimes better) work out of women, for 30 cents less on their dollar!
So I would like to suggest that we all drop the idea of privilege. None of us can speak from a position of "not-privilege" because of the very places we live and work. None of us is immune to the clarion call of privilege. White, black, yellow, or green with pink spots, if you live in North America you're living a privileged life. Whether you're male or female, or even if you're transgendered or gender fluid, you're still living a privileged life. If you don't believe me, hold up the harassment that most transgendered get in North America (which, by the by, I am NOT supporting in the least... wrong is wrong) against the instant death by stoning it gets you in some parts of the Middle East, or in the bowels of Africa. I posit that if you can argue it on a computer, if you have the luxury of the time to complain about it, then you're already exercising a healthy privilege.
Rather than denying it, let's use our privilege to help others get it. Hmm?