If you’re like me you can get frustrated when trying to talk about privilege. Because what seems like a fairly simple concept at first–you may derive some advantage in life by simply being white/straight/able-bodied/etc.–gets more complicated and nuanced as you examine it. But one way I’m comfortable talking about is to admit that I am tremendously privileged. I am white. I am fairly able-bodied. (I struggle with–at times debilitating anxiety and mild depression, but most of the time they’re pretty under control.) I don’t have to worry about money. I am conventional-looking. I am straight. All these things provide me with a way to navigate the world that leaves me feeling pretty confident, safe and secure. (I firmly believe this is one of the reasons I am extremely confident about telling people I am not a person of faith.)
I’d like to think of myself as a somewhat accomplished artist. I am especially proud of the fact that I am self-taught. But this is where my tremendous privilege comes in. You see, I married someone who was cool with my being a stay-at-home hausfrau. And while I’ve always had to cook and clean and run errands and take care of (5!) pets, I’ve mostly lead a life that was pretty enviable in many ways. Because I had security…I had time. Time to work on my art. Time to develop my skills. So much time I ruined my back, hunching over my computer and tablet, teaching myself to manipulate and paint. This is a tremendous luxury that most people would not have, because they’d be out in the world, working or attending college (or both)!
But admitting this costs me nothing. I’m still exceptionally proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud that my art will featured on the cover of a sci-fi magazine (I’ll let you know when it drops) and I’ll be featured in an upcoming book on alternative pin-up art (I’ll let you know when it drops). I worked my ASS off to get to where I am. But my exceptional privilege allowed me to have the time to do that (often pleasurable) work. I have no problem telling you this, because I’d be delusional if I didn’t admit to my considerable privilege.
In the end, privilege is not as simple a concept as it appears at first glance. I think privilege is situational. For instance, there are many areas where my privilege would get me nothing. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been super-confrontational about GamerGate–all the privilege in the world (for me, a woman) won’t save me from a hive of anonymous image board users from harrassing or doxxing me, as evidenced by the horrible treatment of several high-profile women in the gaming world.
But I’ve tried to think of a situation where being white/straight/male wouldn’t be at least somewhat of an advantage, and I couldn’t think of one. Well, maybe if you’re auditioning for the role of Othello. Nope, probably not even then.