The other night I went over to a friend’s place and was introduced to someone new. It turns out that we had worked for the same company, and he mentioned the owner’s name. I said he was a sweet man, and he asked if I was joking, saying the man had no heart. I said I found him to be excellent and that he spoiled me for Christmas when I worked there.
Someone else piped up that it was because I was a woman, and it left me with this heavy feeling of hurt and disappointment and awareness. As a woman, I do have privilege. Men and women treat me differently than they’d treat a male counterpart. Men, especially older men in managerial positions, have always been exceptionally kind to me.
Now, firstly, I’m a nice person. I enjoy talking to people, especially about issues and literature, and I have an easier time talking to older men. Older women I’ve spent time around often talk about their home life – family, cooking, children, houses – none of the things that I particularly am interested in. The older men I’ve spent talking to often have hobbies and interests that are more in line with mine, such as books and movies.
I didn’t have that in common with the owner of this company, though. I just liked that he brought me and the rest of the office staff tea and coffee, that he remembered my orders, that he’d order extra catering to feed us. The office staff was mostly women, where as the ‘blue collar’ workers were almost exclusively men. I know they didn’t get the same perks we did, but they were often working out in the field. It didn’t really occur to me that he might be treating them differently.
But all of my reasoning wasn’t relevant. I have been treated differently because I’m a woman, and I enjoy privileges because of my gender, but it is hard as fuck to be called on that. It’s not fun to admit your privilege, or to have others think that you were only able to attain what you have in life because of that privilege. It’s a hard pill to swallow that perhaps you only got that promotion or job because of your gender, or race, or class. It is, after all, not something we chose in life. And we likely worked hard for what we’ve had to attain and hate for people to ‘belittle’ us like that.
But it is something that molds our experiences, and while it’s not fun to have to admit it, it’s better to be cognizant of it. Once we can admit to our privileges and recognize them for what they are, we become more aware of our world and how our biases and preconceived notions and privileges shape our lives.
From there, we’re better equipped to improve the lives of others, and ourselves.
If you liked this, check out these related posts!:
White Privilege and Fiction - I’ve grappled in the past with my privilege while writing.
Racism in Scifi/Fantasy - Racism in Science Fiction and Fantasy requires us to really understand what we’re presenting to the readers.
Drow Society - Drow are a fantasy race that have a matriarchal society, but how much of the writer’s backgrounds are influencing their culture?