I think there’s an aspect of privilege that a lot of people haven’t really paid attention to: there are at least two kinds of it.
I see some people in the social justice community saying things like, “cis people benefit from transphobia.” But the thing is, they really, really don’t. Everything cis people have that trans people don’t– from the low chance of being murdered to the ability to have people respect their pronouns– is something that cis people are going to have come the Tranny Revolution. Like, literally, I have sat here for five minutes attempting to figure out every benefit that cis people get from transphobia, and the list looks like this:
- Does not have to remember weird pronouns.
- Is allowed to laugh at Ace Ventura Pet Detective.
And Ace Ventura Pet Detective isn’t that funny of a movie anyway.
Now, I’m not saying that privileged people never get any sort of benefit from privilege whatsoever. My clothes are cheaper than they would have been if the nice workers in China had been paid a living wage, and that’s my class and country privilege acting up. In a Social Justice Utopia, my clothes would probably be more expensive.
But I do think that privilege is best understood as a two-tiered system. There are some people, and some types of privilege,for which you got benefits you didn’t have to earn and in a perfect world wouldn’t have– think about the thankfully-no-longer-existent right of men to have sex with their wives whenever they liked, without the wives having to consent. That kind of privilege deserves to disappear and should be given up or used for the benefit of greater equality, as much as is possible, by those who have it.
And there are the types of privilege for which you just don’t have to put up with the shit other people do or have the basic human rights that they don’t. The right to not get pulled over for driving while black. The right to get married to the person you love. The right to choose what will happen to your own body. That kind of privilege doesn’t need to be given up, obviously. It needs to be extended to everyone.
I wonder if people would be more willing to accept the concept of privilege if it were presented less as “you have advantages other people don’t” and more as “other people have disadvantages you have escaped.”