The thing about privilege is that, if you have it, you likely don’t notice it. Privilege is when you gain benefits in society for being part of the dominant group. Privilege is easier to notice when absent. When you are the dominant position, the world is defined by your group. You might not have the distance to see the world through the eyes of people on the outside.
The pervasiveness of male dominance, for example, suffuses our society. Think of the English language. The strength of a team is defined by manpower. The honorable athletes amongst us are noted for their sportsmanship. Our species or our civilization, alternately, are poetically described as all mankind. Sure, you might consider these but linguistic quirks. But, in each of those terms, the position of man is central. In other words, everyone else is defined as “not” man. Think for a moment about how it feels to be in the “not” position—to define yourself as being in opposition to something. Your existence is contingent on their existence, yet their existence is self-defined. So as a man, even the English language puts you at the center and you need to strain to see out to the edges.
But, once you see those edges, what happens next? When you see your privileges, what do you do with them? Privilege is a power position. You have access to situations that those not in power don’t. Will you maintain the structure as it is for fear of change? Or will you act on the side of equity, and bring more people to the center with you?
Bringing more people to the center, or redistributing the structure of power, can be daunting. I mean, am I asking you to change the world? Yes, I am. But, I am not leaving you the work alone. This whole post came out the wonderful work nikhil trivedi does about equity. I have had the pleasure to know him for a while. He shares his empathy and compassion in everything he does. He is inspired by and works in concert with all the women, femme, and gender nonconforming people who came before him. But, he is not just an emotive dreamer; he is a doer. He models the way that men can be advocates and actors in the fight for equity. He offers many tips for men to change the power structure in his upcoming post and Museopunks podcast. Also, if you want to rid your language of these sorts of gendered phrases, here is a good list.