I decided to read some random blogs with a focus on social justice and equality issues. Most of them, of course, come from people in one or more minority groups (minority of power, that is): women, racial minorities, gay or lesbian, trans or genderqueer, etc. For once, I didn’t check out any blogs specifically focused on disability. I also decided to check several privilege checklists. To balance my overfocus on minority status, here is a list of privileges I possess. As a side note, I notice that some of my language can be seen as “politically correct”, and I may not have used the same sort of language if I’d been writing about minorities I belong to. Then again, I am aware that some people will be offended by what I’d consider a light-hearted comment about their minority. As a person with privilege, however, I do not feel that I have the right to judge what language is and is not acceptable to people not privileged in the ways that I am. So, if you don’t like my language, it’s fine if you point it out, but if you are yourself privileged in the respect you object to, don’t expect me to take your word at face value.
- White privilege: we don’t have the classic racial divides in the Netherlands that the U.S. has, but we certainly have racism. However, it is hard to tell for me (as a person privileged in all these areas), how this possibly intersects with xenophobia and islamophobia. I, for one, hold the possibly misguided belief that most people in racial minorities here are also either first- or second-generation immigrants or muslims, so I tend to presume intersections here. I cannot remember “pure” racism myself, but one of the realities of white privilege is not knowing about it unless it makes it into the mainstream media.
- Natural-born Dutch privilege: there is a lot of discrimination against allochthonous people, ie. people who either themselves or whose one or both parents come from another country. In fact, if you were born in another country, even if you’ve lived in the Netherlands for decades, speak fluent Dutch, and have absorbed many aspects of Dutch culture, recent legislation (as in, a few years old) still may require you to take language and “civilization” (yes, that sounds horribly xenophobic, but really I couldn’t think of any better translation) lessons and pass an exam. As a side note, I barely passed an adapted, onlien version of the Dutch “civilization” exam for immigrants, and I know many natural-born Dutchmen who don’t. None of them will be looked upon with any suspicion for being “un-Dutch”, let alone that they will be told to leave the country.
- Non-religious privilege: I was raised pretty much atheist. While that makes me part of a minority not raised with any religion, identifying as non-religious puts me in the mainstream. In most respects, being non-religious makes me privileged. I am not associated with any controversial views or practices for the mere reason of being non-religious (maybe I would’ve been if I’d been openly atheist, I don’t know). I am never associated with fundamentalism, extremism or terrorism even in jokes, and I know this makes me privileged because I have made these jokes to professing muslims myself; so far, the times I’ve said such things, the muslims I directed them at, took the joke.
- Middle class privilege: Even though I am now on disability, I was raised in an upper middle class family, and in fact I have it better financially speaking than most people my age (although this will change as I get older). I am also more educated than many people on benefits, which my class privilege has contributed to: had my parents been of a lower socio-economic class, it would’ve been much more difficult for them to get me the education I got now, if they even wanted me to (the high school I went to, even though it’s public, is pretty much exclusively attended by middle and upper class kids). I fight the worst of classist stereotyping when I encounter it, but I must say I feed on stereotypes myself, especially towards white, poor people (which is implicitly racist, in the sense that apparently it’s not a problem to be poor if you’re non-white).
- Straight privilege: although I don’t like to identify as straight, I am privileged for having a partner of the opposite sex. Even though there is anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians and gay marriage has been legal since I think 2002, you can still be discriminated quite badly on the basis of “religious freedom”. There is also still a lot of gay stereotyping. I tend to blame the stereotypical gays who make it onto television, but then again they are not the ones hiring themselves and asking them to participate in gay-stereotyping shows. Besides, it is not their responsibility to fight stereotypes they didn’t create. Off the top of my head, by the way, I cannot remember any lesbian well-known on Dutch TV. Of course, as someone who used to identify as lesbian (note: please don’t call me a “former lesbian”), I have other sources of information besides what makes it onto TV, but even when I was still involved with gay culture online, I still had prejudice about gay culture in real life.
- Cis privilege: I have known about the existence of trans people for a while, and first read about genderqueer people in a book sometime in 2008. However, I took these realities, including the discrimination from medical professionals involved in transitioning etc., as theories without realizing there are actually people out there who experience them. Since coming across meloukhia of This ain’t livin’ and Genderbitch, I have read up a bit about trans issues. At first, I had horrible stereotypes to the point of pretty bad transphobia. The worst example is that I actually used to wonder whether “trans girls” were male-to-female or female-to-male tanssexuals (yes, I am aware now that these terms are considered offensive), despite how obvious it should’ve been now that I know. I am pretty sure I still hold stereotypes, and, of course, even if I don’t discriminate in my writing, I might still do it in my real-life actions. As for non-binary people, even though I do my best to make sure not to misgender people in my writing, I have a hard time not to gender them in my mind.
- Non-fat privilege: this one is really nice to have in the care system. Fat people – especially men, but that may be cause the fat women I know, focus a lot on weight loss, while the fat men are more laid-back -, are constantly reminded of their body shape and weight, patronized for every snack or candy they take, etc. And note, it isn’t just staff doing this; the worst fat patronizing comes from non-fat patients. I am sort of privileged for not appearing as heavy as I am (probably cause people think I’m taller than I am). This cuts me some slack when I stand on the scale (which is located in the living room, so all patients can enjoy the latest on each others’ weights) and notice that I’m on the upper edge of normal weight. As a side note on public reprimanding of overweight people, I have witnessed pretty bad anti-fat lecturing from nurses, apparently purposefully in public; I can see that, as a nurse, you’d feel responsible to educate a fat person about the health risks of obesity (yes, I know some people in the fat community dispute these, but that will not change the state of medicine), but i have absolutely no understanding why you need to tell a person how ugly they look with all that fat on their abdomen in front of other patients.
- Adult privilege: this was one I only came across today, via a privilege checklist by Anji from Shut Up, Sit Down. To be honest, I don’t possess all that much adult privilege due to the intersection with disabilities and being institutionalized. However, in another respect, I can’t stand children, and I am rather unfriendly to them.
And there are possibly others, but I cannot think of them now.