We’re always picking on “privileged” groups to do something about their privilege. Men should be feminists, white people should support Black Lives Matter. It is important to use your privilege, but it’s rare to see intersectionality ever considered in the topic. Privilege isn’t binary; there are so many layers. How is it fair to call out white men to “use their privilege” when we aren’t using our own?
Look, if you’re reading this, chances are that you have some sort of privilege in SOME aspect of your life. Even being in post-secondary is a privilege. Not everyone has access to education! I’m a woman, a person of color, and an international student — a lot of times these things are considered a disadvantage in the society I live in. But I am able to live with a relatively high standard of living — that’s my privilege. I find myself in a position of privilege over the 33,000 homeless in Edmonton. I’m cisgender and straight — I have privilege. While it is completely valid to call out Meninists or All Lives Matter, we should strive to practice the same values.
How is it fair to call out white men to “use their privilege” when we aren’t using our own?
I am writing this halfway through Jack Summit 2017, a mental health conference in Toronto. Attending workshops on privilege and intersectionality has given me insight into the privilege I have in areas of religion, economic class and to some extent, race and ethnicity. As someone from India, I recognize that I have some privilege over some groups in terms of racism. As long as I hold this privilege, I will go out of my way to support the fundamental values of equality and movements like Black Lives Matter. As long as Muslims face oppression because of their religion, I (a non-Muslim) will support and stand up for their rights whenever I can. As long as people like Mike Pence hold positions of power, I will support Pride Week.
Firstly, this does not mean I don’t support equality in other areas. I’m a feminist and pro-equality of all sorts. I just mean to address the issue of privilege specifically. We should care just as much about issues that we don’t face as we do for issues we do face. For example, it is so impactful when men talk about feminism. Sometimes these “privileged” groups reach audiences that can’t be reached by the voice of the oppressed.
We can use our position of power to pass the mic onto someone that needs to be heard, or even just stand up for them.
Secondly, I am by no means condoning people becoming the voice of marginalized groups. It is important for us to amplify the voices of the marginalized, but it is harmful for us to attempt to BE that voice. Lived experience is crucial and we cannot speak for someone else’s experience; however, we can use our position of power to pass the mic onto someone that needs to be heard, or even just stand up for them.
Thirdly, I don’t mean to say that the groups I mentioned (Muslim, LGBTQ+, women, etc.) face discrimination in all contexts. Privilege and power are not static. For example, even men need feminism — we should stand up for men who are ridiculed for crying just as we stand up for women who are paid less because they are women.
What I’m trying to say is, find your area of privilege and use it. Just like we expect men to be feminists, we should use our privilege in areas like sex and gender, sexual orientation, religion, race and ethnicity, and social/economic class to stand up for those who do not have the same privilege. Actively calling out certain groups while remaining passive about our own privilege will only act as a catalyst for the formation of groups like Straight Pride and All Lives Matter.
And we all know the world doesn’t need any more of those.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.