“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”
Privilege is a short hand for a concept known better these days as Dominant Class Privilege.
It is the antithesis of Stigma, the obverse of it.
As such, it is not a visible privilege, and not something granted by some governmental authority.
It is not being born to a wealthy family or the lap of luxury in the common sense that we speak about normally when we talk about someone coming from privilege in most uses.
The sort of privilege we are talking about is very loosely related to those things, yet it is not those things that is being talked about.
It is a form of entitlement and immunity to stigma, yet cannot by earned by actions that you take – it is conferred entirely by your existence, and based solely on the ways in which you are alike to others who have, to some degree or other, social power as a result of being the dominant class of persons in that cultural milieu.
This kind of privilege we are talking about is more formally known as Dominant Class Privilege, and is an unearned thing.
You do not have to do anything to get it, and you receive it whether you want it or not. You benefit from it, by your membership, and it is unseen and unrecognized by you when you have it, unless it is exposed to you in some way, or you lose access to it.
A good example of this is the grocery store analogy.
You go to the same grocery store for five years. Although they change the end caps from time to time, the things you want and that you know how to get are always there, and you can find odds and ends and you can expect that the manager is going to be a person who’s skin is pale, and is a man.
Over that same five years, a large ethnic population moves into the area, and they start shopping there, and the grocery store makes room on the shelves for the things they want. But the process of doing so means they move things around dramatically, and suddenly that 10 minute shopping trip you were taking takes 45 minutes, because now they’ve moved everything around in the store and it is harder for you to find the things you like, you want, and if you are like the overwhelming majority of people (which you will claim not to be, even though odds are you are), you will develop a subtle sense of resentment about it. They have a sense of strangeness about the store that they may or may not notice, but ultimately, many of them will go and find another store.
Now, a lot of people right now are saying, “no, I don’t do that” and yet, most of them do.
That sense of strangeness is what happens when your privilege vanishes — is blocked .
Privilege is not sexism, not racism, not Cissexism or Ciscentrism.
Privilege is not discrimination, in and of itself.
It can accompany it, and it can underlie it, and discrimination is derived from it in part, but it is very subtle, very nuanced, and is not about those who are in a position of powerlessness and more about those who are in a position of power.
People speak of “dog whistles”: words and statements that are seemingly innocuous, but are intentionally phrased so as to suggest something other than the seeming innocence. A good example of a more blatant dog whistle is the Bathroom Meme “They will allow men into the women’s restroom!”
On the surface, this is fairly innocuous. Men go into the women’s room surprisingly often (I walked in on a guy waiting for his daughter yesterday at the grocery store and he was far more embarrassed than I was). But the idea that was dog whistled there is that letting men go into bathrooms is dangerous for women. And I *did* indeed feel some concern about having a man in the bathroom there — because as a part of society, I am expected to see men as predatory culturally, and therefore I should fear this man helping his daughter learn how to use the toilet. Not because of what he was doing, but because of what he was and therefore what he represented.
Privilege is like that. It’s subtle, it exists under the awareness level. It is, to an oppressed person, a screaming siren, and to those with privilege — that unearned Dominant Privilege — it is a silent agreement, a tacit understanding, and unspoken agreement that they are not even aware of having made.
System of Privilege
Privilege has three aspects that are fundamentally present:
Innocence: I am not looked to as the cause of problems in a social group.
Worthiness: I am presumed worthy of a social group’s trust and wealth.
Competence: I am expected to be skillful, successful, and autonomous.
All of those are things we all think about ourselves in general. Indeed, all three of those are things that LGBT+ people are fighting to achieve in the social group that is the culture of the United States.
Two really good examples of privilege as it’s been used by gay men against trans people recently include :
I don’t have privilege.
This one is an assertion of innocence. When one says this, one is saying that they are not the cause of the problem, when, in fact, it is rather useful at pointing out that they are, in fact, a part of the problem.
I can’t be oppressing you if I’m pro trans.
This one deals in the worthiness of the individual. When something like this is said, it is staking a claim to being worthy of that trust and wealth (and, in this case, that wealth is a metaphorical sort, such as information, esteem, knowledge, etc. linking it as well to the question of their own competence). It denies the unearned privilege the writer has not on the basis of the unearned privilege, but on the basis of their unrelated stance. This is similar to the argument “well, I have gay friends and they think you shouldn’t get married too”, or the “I know a lot of trans people and they like that movie.”
In both cases, the individual is asserting their privilege — you should listen to them because they are more worthy than you are and they support it by citing people that they know in the oppressed class as evidence that they aren’t part of oppression.
These are, for the most part, trans specific examples of privilege in action, stripped of something important to understand, and that’s context. We’ll get to that in a few moments.
These are examples, as well, of the defensive posture that is taken when people are confronted with their privilege. This is a universal constant — people with privilege that is unseen and unrecognized always deny their privilege.
This is why calling people out on their privilege is important. This is why people do it, as well — it isn’t to say that you are somehow a bad person, it is to tell you to stop thinking of yourself as infallible in comparison to them.,
Loss Of Privilege That unearned privilege is very hard to lose. To lose it, you have to suddenly be stripped of your status. You have to affected by some form of stigma that reduces your ability to do this.
Closeted gay folks are often perceived as heterosexual, and as a result are seen to gain the unearned privileges of heterosexual privilege.
They do not actually have it, however. Nor can they — they are not members of that dominant class, and so cannot fundamentally have that privilege, though they can sorta “steal” from it by minimizing the degree of stigma through a bargain they engage in that requires them to sacrifice some aspect of themselves.
The same applies to light skinned people of color, and pretty much in any context where the term “passing” is applied — passing itself is a term of art that describes the effect of privilege and stigma and is part of the bargain that is made, much like even the most extreme of feminists must wear heels, hose, and makeup if she is going to succeed in the Fortune 500 companies as an Executive.
When they come out, they lose that perceived unearned privilege.
One of the most glaring experiences of a trans woman, however, happens frequently enough that’s it’s also a trope — a sort of fully expected and normal experience that’s very, very common.
That is the apparent loss of male privilege.
The most subtle form of it is often described as how when they were perceived as men they would be in a meeting and if they spoke, people stopped and listened to them. They gave their attention, and often would even stop what they were doing to allow the person to speak. Then they encounter a similar situation as a woman, and are ignored.
Their ideas — even if it is the same idea they may have expressed when perceived as a man —are suddenly less valuable, and have less merit and are lacking in worthiness.
This is the effect of privilege when it is used: it puts someone in their place.
It is, in and of itself, a form of oppression, and people are typically utterly unaware that they are doing so. Even a very supportive and dedicated person working on behalf of a particular oppressed group will do this and not realize it until they have it pointed out to them.
Privilege is Ciscentric
One of the interesting quirks to the notion of Trans people actually having privilege is that it isn’t possible. They can benefit from it, but they cannot actually have it.
It resides only so long as they are not known to be trans – which removes them from the group of men in the US culture at present, even if they are trans men. That knowledge changing things is why they don’t have that privilege.
The closest comparative, and one I draw on from personal experience, is the way that light skinned Black people are sometimes conferred temporary benefit to white Privilege. That exchange happens as an error on the part of the broader, dominant culture, and so when it is lost (through the discovery) the penalty for such is often extremely severe, up to and including accusation of “theft”, through fraud, and the infamous trans double bind of “fooling”.
The most common way of demonstrating someone’s privilege in simple and reducible form is via a checklist. This is derived from the short form of the paper cited earlier.
Privilege checklists are often interpreted as being “individual specific”, and as having a uniformity to them. That is, when people see a privilege checklist, they often expect all of those things to apply to them.
This is an incorrect reading and a lack of understanding.
Here is a five step test to see if privilege is in play:
Membership: I am a member of a social group that is dominant through no action of my own, nor through being mistaken for a member of that social group.
Stigma: I do not have stigma attached to me along that axis of oppression
Innocence: I am not looked to as the cause of problems in a social group.
Worthiness: I am presumed worthy of a social group’s trust and wealth.
Competence: I am expected to be skillful, successful, and autonomous.
Being mistaken for something does not make one actually that thing.
Privilege is not lost: it is denied, it is taken, it is blocked. One cannot lose it, one is simply denied access to it, and that denial can only happen when one is removed from ones cultural milieu (thus changing who gets what privilege) or by not actually being a member of that social group that is privileged.
Privilege is not something one has over; privilege is always something one can do that someone else cannot without facing stigma for it. Privilege is not absolute, and it underlies the foundations of understanding intersectionality.
Benefiting from privilege is not the same thing as possessing that privilege.
This is why trans women cannot have male privilege, why bi people cannot have straight privilege, and why cis people (both men and women) do.
This is how privilege works; it is the antithesis of stigma. To understand privilege, you must understand stigma.
So a few people have been wondering why it is that I go after the idea of gender abolition.
There are many reasons, but the chief one is that it is used as a tool by people who do not actually care about it to attack, defame, and justify violence against trans people while seeming “decent” despite their hate speech.
Which will strike some folks as pretty sad, given that it is also many other really nasty things.
Nevertheless, Let’s look at these claims regarding gender abolition and why it is so wrong.
They are not trying to Abolish Gender
They aren’t. They admit it, as well, but they do not realize they are admitting it.
When confronted, what they mean when they say gender abolition is the abolition of Gender Roles (and sometimes Gender Behaviors and Gender Expressions). You have to wheedle this out of them, because they will describe these three distinct parts of gender as if they are all one thing.
They are not the same thing, nor are they one thing. They are parts of gender, so what they really want to get rid of are parts of gender.
They do not want to get rid of the language issues. They do not want to get rid of the way we gender objects by declaring them male or female (the action of saying that something is “male” or “female” is an act of applying a gendered concept, and therefore using gender).
Now, the argument they will often use in defense of their statements is that they are arguing it from a feminist perspective. In this perspective, it explicitly excludes biological aspects – so referencing any sort of social construction relating to biology (such as saying that then only sex would be left) is in direct contravention to this idea, since the social constructions themselves are part of the social conventions and structures that are part of Gender.
I have already pointed out on several occasions that they do not understand what a social construct is, and that they do not understand what Gender is,so I won’t go into more depth on that at this time – unless I get a wild hair and decide to make another combo post.
But their not realizing that Gender is composed of multiple, distinct parts is part of the flaw int heir thinking, and is a holdover from a very ciscentric and limited way of thought that is influenced by their hostility towards trans people.
If you are going to Abolish Gender, you need to abolish all of it, otherwise, you are not going to achieve your goal, since all of these parts – language, “biology”, expressions, behaviors, etc –are all interdependent.
They treat it as an academic exercise without consequence
Inevitably, they use the phrasing and idea in order to gain credibility among their in-group, without consideration for what it really is. When they do consider it, they apply it as a kind of mental exercise that is purely academic, without regards to the harm it would cause – their focus is on the outcome, and not the way they would achieve it.
The outcome they invariably arrive at is that the world would be a better place, so that the exercise really looks like this:
Say we will abolish gender.
The world is better!
If you don’t believe me, ask them how they plan to achieve that stuff in the middle.
For them, this is little more than an academic exercise, not something they honestly expect to ever achieve, so it becomes strictly a rhetorical tool by which they further the oppression and harm of trans people.
Occasionally one of them will say that they would hope that people would see the benefit and change for the better peacefully – which is mighty naive and incredibly juvenile of them to think, akin to the way they often criticize pageant contestants and the “world peace” answer.
How would you convince them?
Are you going to use the culture you live in which has only the most superficial connections to their cultural ways of seeing gender?
How are you going to deal with cultures where gender is defined by what you do, instead of your anatomy?
and so forth.
In the end, this brings us to the next problem:
The idea is based on Western concepts of Gender
The arguments around the value and benefit of getting rid of gender all surround a couple of different aspects. The most overtly hostile to trans people one is the one they use to make it seem like they are being supportive: without gender, you wouldn’t have to transition!
It sounds best if you say it in a breathy, child like voice.
But the more serious aspects of it are that it is based on western concepts of gender and the way that gender in western society is structured around genitals and secondary sex characteristics.
This classification of people is not a universal one for gender. THere are some that classify someone’s gender entirely on what they do (the interests and activities they enjoy), and some do it using a blended form of both the physical and the activity.
By which I mean that they choices you are allowed later in your life through the socialization of you as a person into that culture are going to be based on what you enjoy, on your gentials (as they are in the US) or on a combination of both.
Western gender roles proceed from the designation, whereas other systems designate sex according to the gender roles. It is the reverse, much like how most Americans find the Japanese system of house numbering to be incredibly confusing.
And all of which ignores that gender is a suppositional concept – it is based on the implication of genitalia, and signified in multiple ways that are entirely based on the cultural norms of that society.
To achieve their goal, they must destroy other cultures
Getting back to that question mark, they seem to think that somehow this one thing will overcome all the other social aspects of differing culturals and varying identities, and magically change the world for the better. Yet if you say to them they are engaging in magical thinking (literally) then they get defensive and deny it, and so you have to take them at face value if you are acting in good faith and that means they are willing to engage in the western notion of manifest destiny and righteous propriety and actively colonize and override and in the end force entire other groups of people who have very different ideas of gender and propriety and destroy those cultures.
If family is the building block of a society, then gender is the building block of family. That is how deep it lies within a given culture – at the root, as they note and claim, and what that means is that in attacking it, the ripples throughout that culture and society will, ultimately, destroy it.
It will no longer be the culture and society that it was. There are real world parallels for this activity, most notably in the treatment of the indigenous populations of many different nations. I live just off a main street named Indian School Road, and the connotations to me as a Lakota, and to the people here who are Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and more and who were stripped out of their homes in order to teach them a new way of thinking has had incredibly consequences on their cultures.
This is why the idea is racist, colonialist, imperialist, and white supremacist. It is especially anti-Black, anti-Asian and Pacific Islander, and Anti-Indigenous.
and that leads us to the next point, which, thankfully, is…
They cannot achieve their goal
The biggest issue is that gender is a social construct, and there has, in all of human history, never been an abolishment of a social construct. That is not to say that it isn’t possible, but it is meant to indicate that doing so is so unlikely and improbably as to be outside the range of thinking.
Social constructs can be diluted, changed, warped, altered, reduced in import, raised in import, and assorted other thing, but ending them, abolishing them, has never happened, nor is it likely to happen given the nature of human social systems and the depth within cultural systems at which gender systems exist.
So that is why gender abolition is a pile of manure being sold to the gullible and the uninformed.
Emotional abuse can be found in any kind of relationship. In this context relationship covers everything from work relationship, family, friendship, to actually dating someone.
Emotional abuse has many different facets and not all of them need to be present for it to be abuse. A lot of these behaviors may not be considered abuse in ‘moderation’- but even in small doses they are unhealthy and should not be tolerated.
-Gaslighting. (Which is an intentional process to make the abusee feel like they’re crazy. telling them that something didn’t happen- or that it did, blaming their mental illness for their 'skewed perception of events’ things like that.)
-Controlling. (What you wear, who you see, what you say, what you’re allowed to do.) Especially in the form of isolating the abusee.
-Invalidating the abusee’s thoughts, feelings, religious practices/personal choices/ethics and things like that.
-threatening financial safety/ to kick you out if you displease them/ to take away the children if you have them.
- Blaming you for their abusive actions.
- Manipulation in the forms of silent treatments and crying to get their way.
- Explosive anger even at minor mistakes.
A lot of times those who have been through emotional abuse will wave it off because it isn’t physical abuse and thus 'doesn’t count’ or that they should just 'let it roll of their back’. Abuse is abuse and it is not okay for someone to treat you like an inferior.