Privilege: The word is killing every part of me.
In the past month, I’ve been told I have “thin privilege,” “boyfriend privilege,” and “woman privilege.”
"What the fuck does that mean?" you may be asking. Or maybe I was the only one who asked that. I’m gonna answer my ideas on it below either way.
I first needed to make sure I had a passable grasp on the word, so I went to a dictionary:
*privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
HOORAY! I’m invincible…apparently? The world’s fatty foods, every man ever, and whatever the world rewards you just for being a woman is at my fingertips!
Except it’s not.
In order to cleanse the immense guilt and ugliness I feel after hearing these things, I have to delve in, and sift through each term.
1. Thin Privilege:
According to the definition of the word “privilege,” this term implies that I am immune to gaining weight. That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Unless you have a tapeworm or zero metabolism, no one is immune to gaining or losing weight. I can gain 3 pounds if I stare long enough at a croissant. To say that I have “thin privilege” is your kind way of saying, “I topped a frozen pizza with extra cheese and vegetables that had started going bad in my fridge, and then ate the entire thing and now I feel guilty about it and so should you, but instead of saying that (because it shows vulnerability), I’m instead going to inadvertently make you feel badly about yourself because I do.” Here’s the thing, though - I didn’t feel badly until you said that. And now, not only do I feel badly because I think there is something wrong with my weight, I’m also starting to worry that I am acting like a gluttonous stereotype. I’ll bet several feral cats, starving homeless people, and hungry children could’ve shared that pizza, and here I went and ate the entire thing myself. You’re right - I’m disgusting - for that. I am not disgusting, however, because I am “thin,” and I won’t let myself start believing that I should feel guilty because of it, just as no one should be making anyone feel badly because they are not “thin.” I am the same as anyone: I have insecurities, I have doubts, I can sit in front of a mirror right now and find at least twenty things I’d want to improve, but my casing is not who I am. It’s not who anyone is. It may be cheesy and glittery-unicorn to still believe, “It’s what’s inside that counts,” but I was raised hearing that, and try to practice it every day. We cannot control what bodies we were born into, but we can control how we treat each other inside those bodies, so don’t be the asshole that draws someone’s weight (thin or not-as-thin) into their already enormous list of anxieties. We have too many other things to worry about.
2. Boyfriend Privilege:
When someone said this to me, I thought they were making fun of the word “privilege” and were using it ironically, so I immediately burst out laughing. I spit their actual feelings right in their face, and they (understandably) felt badly, and then I felt badly, and then (in trying to understand) I made the shitty comment, “You mean you actually believe that I am a person that can just go out and get a boyfriend any time I want because I currently have one at this current time? Like, they’re lined up like fruit at a grocery store and I just go squeeze them and smell them and just pick out whichever avocado I want and put him in a cart and bring him home? You actually believe…that I am a person…who has the RIGHT to a boyfriend, like people have the right to freedom and education and voting?” That comment did nothing but make the other person feel completely stupid, and in turn, I felt like a raw C-bag, which did nothing but sent us into a spiral of “I’m sorry”s and “I didn’t mean it that way”s.
Here’s the deal: everyone has the ability to love and be loved. It doesn’t always work that way. I am capable of loving, yes. I also believe I am someone (on top of all my faults) that deserves to be loved. We all are. But I don’t have a boyfriend because it’s my right - I have a boyfriend because I met someone who makes me laugh, makes me think, and doesn’t hate that I sometimes forget to shower. I am lucky, yes, to have that, and I tell that dude daily that I feel that way (just as I make it a point to tell my friends and family the same). I know people that really truly long for a romantic connection. I grew up around people wanting so badly for any certain someone to love them (and then they’d be happy). I’d see people change what they wore, change things they “liked” to make themselves more marketable as a partner. I, personally, would even do things I hated, then get comfortable enough to admit that I hate Kings of Leon, and actually I dislike all music of that variety, so no…I don’t want to be the person that attends those concerts. Then, I would stay home from those concerts and be completely jealous and miserable. Like when you’re a child, and your mom asks if you want to go to Food 4 Less with everyone, and you’re on a ROLL in the middle of the Metropolis Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and why would you want to go to some dumb grocery store? But, you slowly start thinking about how it IS Saturday, which means there are lots of samples you could be missing out on, and that your step-dad always gives you 50 cents, and that means there is one gumball and one piece of plastic gold jewelry in your future, but now it’s too late. That silver Honda has set sail, and you’re standing in the front yard crying like an idiot, while the neighbors coolly water their shrubs and shit. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. Mom turns around and drives by again, and you think for a moment, ‘hey, maybe they’re coming to pick me up,’ but really they just want to get a good look at you throwing a fit like the child you are, and all burst out laughing at what an idiot you’re making of yourself. So you vow to make them jealous and miserable, and that’s all coming back now in this whole concert thing, and why didn’t you just go suffer through that terrible music? Instead, you make your partner jealous and miserable, because you’re jealous and miserable. You call them repeatedly to ask where your whisk is, or you give them the cold shoulder when they come home - and for what? You didn’t want to go in the first place! Then you realize - I don’t actually have anything in common with this person - WHY DID I WANT TO DATE THEM? Because I was single and lonely. But…instead of breaking up with them, you continue to stay there because it’s better than being single and lonely. This is when people end up cheating, and other people end up feeling sorry for themselves and eat an entire frozen pizza with added cheese and rotting veggies.
If anyone wants to call that shit “privilege,” be my guest.
It wasn’t until the second I gave up trying that I found a person that I could be with, and who liked me for who I really was. It took a lot of failed attempts, a lot of heartache, and lot of money for a divorce. Love yourself and love will come to you. In the end, we’re all we have.
3. Woman Privilege:
I assume this means I have the privilege of being harassed by co-workers or homeless men when I’m not smiling, have curled my hair, or simply exist.
I assume this means I have the privilege of being told I need to look and act a certain way (men like to tell me I need to cook dinner in a dress and heels, and women like to tell me I’m conforming to societal pressures when I actually love to cook dinner in a dress and heels - but only for someone who doesn’t expect me to).
I honestly assume this person has absolutely no clue what they’re talking about when they think women have it so super easy. Ignorance cannot be reasoned with, no matter how hard we try (and I am a person that will calmly try and try again). This person will continue to think I have an easier chance of getting hired because I have a vagina, and will ignore that I am constantly afraid of walking down the street at night because I have a vagina. This person doesn’t understand that both sexes get special treatment depending on the person who is dealing the treatment. Though I will admit that men don’t get enough bar specials. You never see “Men’s Night! Men’s Night Specials! Men get in free! Men get $2 canned beer paired with pizza rolls!*”
*That is a broad generalization against men - not all men like beer, just as all women don’t like cosmos, so please stop putting them on special. I’ve never even seen an episode of Sex In the City.
The ego feels the need to classify and label. It causes “mom” to feel empty once her children leave the nest. It makes “provider” insecure when the job market slows. It creates feelings of inadequacy when “comedian” isn’t getting laughs. It creates labels that you and others around you decide are true or not. It puts pressure on your success based on how accurately you’re fulfilling those labels. So when you call me “thin” or “woman,” you’re saying to me you have your own idea of what those things are, and I’m meeting those ideas (in your opinion). In all actuality, I have a very different idea of what is “mom” “comedian” “thin” and “woman.” For example, a man who has transitioned to “woman” or anyone who calls herself a “woman” is a “woman” (to me). Not everyone believes that. Once someone told me I “must not really feel like a woman” because I can’t have children. HA! We, as a society, can’t even get on the same page of what a “woman” is? Then why am I putting so much pressure on myself to be something as completely relative as “thin” (I understand someone can be so thin that everyone agrees, “That person is thin and needs to eat because they look like they might shatter if they step on the sidewalk too hard,” but you will find - between most people - that thin can be very, very relative)? Why am I allowing “thin privilege” to hurt me more than that idiot person who pointed out my barren uterus?
Because they’re implying I don’t care, and I’m abusing my situation. They’re implying that I am completely aware that I’m considered “thin” (in their eyes), and I’m just going to run around and eat handfuls of Crisco in front of the starving masses just to be a bitch. I’ve also been told I have “white privilege” which really hurt my feelings, because it made me feel that I don’t even try to understand or empathize with the struggles of minorities (also, I’m half Hispanic, which no one acknowledges, regardless of how much more I relate to that culture, or how quickly I can grow a mustache). I can agree that I don’t understand fully what others may go through, but I care, and I do my best to live a life that’s actively pushing and educating toward equality. In telling someone they have “privilege” you’re kindly saying to them that they don’t understand or even try to understand what you may go through. I do believe there are people who don’t - there are assholes every day who skate through life without a care or ounce of empathy for the world - those people suck and should be avoided at all times. They can live in their tiny bubbles and near the tiny bubbles of other sucky people that might possibly find them tolerable, and maybe one day all those tiny sucky bubbles will just float away. But that’s the glittery-unicorn talking.
BUT. Not everyone sucks, and not everyone acts that way. It’s the people who abuse it or are completely unaware of it that make a bad name for everyone else. Imagine if someone posted a picture of their baby, and I commented, “Baby privilege - must be nice to have a functional uterus and not a lump of cells just sloshing around above your vagina.” I’m 99% certain people aren’t posting baby pictures to make people without babies feel badly, just as people who were born into the world as a “man,” “not-as-thin” or happen to currently have a boyfriend probably aren’t trying to either.
Ani DiFranco said it beautifully (I think):
"god help you if you are an ugly girl
‘course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room
and god help you if you are a phoenix
and you dare to rise up from the ash
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying back”
We’re 32 flavors and then some. Why not we all be nice about it?