Where’s My Extra Piece of the Pie?

Privilege is not:

- an extra piece of cake after dinner
- life handed to you on a silver platter
- getting everything you ever wanted, including a pony and a new pair of skates

I just wanted to get that out of the way before anyone decided that’s what I’m about to write.

Feminism talks a lot about ‘male privilege’ and I think it’s something that many people misunderstand. I can get that – the word privilege reminds me of my parents letting my brother stay up late because he was the older one, and that if I was just good enough I’d get an extra helping of ice cream. It reminds me of being told “driving is a privilege, not a right”. No wonder it gets people’s hackles up.

The problem at that point is that they don’t want to listen to what is meant by using the word.

So, I’m going to define it using something else. I’m going to talk about heterosexual privilege instead, and then use *that* as the gateway into what feminists really mean when they say ‘male privilege’.

Things Life Does Not Guarantee You Just Because You’re Hetero

- A relationship with a member of the opposite gender
- A *happy* relationship with a member of the opposite gender
- Marriage
- Kids
- Extra butter on your popcorn at the movie theatre

Things that you get just because you *are* hetero:

When you feel like listening to music, the vast majority of love songs will be about your type of relationship – from “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” to “She’s in love with the Boy” to “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. It’s the “default”. I can think of a couple of love songs that could be considered lesbian songs (Melissa Etheridge is the only thing coming to mind right now, although “I Kissed A Girl” keeps running through my head). I can’t think of any that would be for gay men.

If you’re able to think of any, may I point out they’re the exceptions?

When you feel like watching a movie, the vast majority of romantic movies will be about your type of relationship – “When Harry Met Sally”, “The English Patient”, “The Riverhouse”. If I think about it, I can think of one gay romance that made the medium screen *as a romance* - Mambo Italiano. (I haven’t seen it.) I think there’s been a couple of lesbian romances that have made the big screen, but I can’t think of the titles.

If you’re able to think of any, may I point out they’re the exceptions?

When you walk down the street and look at advertisements, you’re going to primarily see advertisements depicting your type of relationship – the de Beers diamond ads, advertisements for romantic restaurants.

When you talk about being “in a relationship” – unless people know you’re gay – they’re going to assume you’re talking about a hetero relationship.

Purchasing valentine’s day cards – “To my wonderful husband, from your loving wife”.

If you get married, your marriage will be acknowledged by the vast majority of governments in the world. Off hand, I can’t think of any that won’t.

If you’re in a relationship, you can walk hand in hand down the street with little fear of attack. You can kiss your partner in the street without fear of attack. People will not think you’re doing it to make a political statement, to offend their children, or to titillate them.

No one will ever accuse of you being a HUG = Hetero Until Graduation.

Being heterosexual is considered the default. It’s not that you get any guarantees in life, it’s that you’re invisible. You don’t stand out because you’re just assumed to exist. No one is doing an “ex-het” movement. No one is telling your parents that you’re hetero because you were abused as a child. Whereas some families may have issues because of who you’re involved, it will be based on who that person is, not what gender they are. And while many families won’t turn their back on a child who is gay, there are still families that do.

No one will stand outside of your wedding, or your funeral, holding up a sign saying “God Hates Hets”.

That’s what heterosexual privilege is.

When feminists talk about privilege, they aren’t talking about how men/whites/heterosexuals/middle-classed/Westerners have charmed existences. They’re saying that men/whites/heterosexuals/middle-classed/Westerners are considered the “default setting”. They’re considered normal. They pass.

Being that I’m at least three, if not four, of those things, I really wish it did mean an extra bowl of ice cream every day. Instead, it just means that I can walk down the street and not notice how the world is designed with me in mind.

2 Responses to “Where’s My Extra Piece of the Pie?”

  1. Jo Says:

    I wish I’d had the wherewithal to look this up yesterday when my parents were here. My father cited ‘reverse discrimination’ as a problem (admittedly, it was on my mom’s behalf, a white woman who works at a predominantly black school, and has a hard time of it) — and it really got my hackles up.

    I could have used this definition of privilege, if I’d been bold enough to begin a discussion.

    If/when that discussion happens, though, I’m going to start with “there’s no such thing as ‘reverse discrimination’. It’s discrimination or it’s not. Saying it’s ‘reverse discrimination’ is like saying discriminating against blacks is the way it’s supposed to be.”

    *sigh* It’s always hardest with the ones we love the most.

  2. An Anthology of Privilege Checklists | MetaFilter Says:

    […] Criticism and essays: victim privilege, “Point of Privilege”, “We can’t be equal while … “, “Where’s My Extra Piece of the Pie?”. And, lest this become too serious: pirate privilege and lolcat privilege (the latter via). […]