Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Check your Privilege

I was reading a few posts, on a sharing site I'm on, about 'checking your privilege' and it's made me think a lot about the stereotypes we use, even sub-consciously, and why.

A Privilege is defined as "A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a person or group beyond the advantages of most."

Privileges include: Class privilege, Educational privilege, Gender privilege, Age privilege, Able-bodied privilege, Religious privilege and Sexuality privilege.

Basically this means that generally people of higher education or class tend to look down on or mock under-educated people. Men often get more business advantages than women. Certain advantages and allowances are made available based on your age. Able-bodied people often get more advantages even if a non-able-bodied person is more qualified. Sub-standard religious groups get mocked or shunned by more dominant groups. Straight couples get more benefits than same-sex couples in most countries or cases.

The phrase 'Check your privilege' reminds you to think about where you fit in before judging others.

Some extended examples in the post I read included a reference to some vegans or vegetarians turning up their nose at people who eat meat products. Eating that way doesn't mean you care more about the environment or the planet than other people, it means you can afford more restrictive food and have the time to prepare it.

I find that in a way this also relates to how we view parents and parenting styles 'from across the room'.
I've been guilty, numerous times, of quietly smirking or criticizing when I see someone trying to corral a tantruming toddler. I've wrinkled my nose at the single moms who congregate in front of local businesses.
It's easy to say "Well I would have done it like this" when you're not in that situation.

Maybe it's hard to relate that to 'privilege', but in some ways you can.
Sneer all you want at the mom who feeds their kid non-organic food - but maybe they can't afford it.
Shake your head sadly at the parent who can't keep their kid under control in Wal-mart - but maybe they're all hungry and haven't been sleeping well because of their neighbours.
Whisper behind your hands about the assumed promiscuity of the single mom - but maybe it wasn't her choice, or maybe it WAS, for the safety of her family.

My eyes have certainly been opened the last few years in regards to who I thought I'd be as a parent and who I am. They've been opened with regards to how I look at single parents. They've been opened to how many/few wheelchair accessible buildings and businesses there are (from the stroller pushing years). They've been opened to how difficult it is to listen to you child cry all day and not be able to do anything about it, and how easy it can be to loose your temper in public because all you want to do is go home and sleep.

Being loved is a human right, but living in a house with a loving family is a privilege.
Don't turn away from people because they can't afford what you have, but don't act like a saviour to them either.
Don't pity the single parent, lend a supporting arm and treat them as an equal.
We are all raising children. We all know what poopy diapers and lost sleep and endless crying can do to a person. We are all trying to do what's best, without a clue what we are doing.
And at the end of the day, we are all human.

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