I’ve heard a lot of people express frustration within various communities lately because people aren’t “checking their privilege.” For example, cis-gender, white, able-bodied women on the small end of the plus size spectrum are trying to speak for everybody within body positive circles. They’re making broad generalizations about the movement that are harmful and exclusionary of trans babes, the disabled, fat people, people of color, and those who don’t conform to gender binaries. This kind of behavior is transforming the movement into something ugly that a lot of people don’t want to identify with any longer.
So, how do you keep online spaces (like Instagram or Facebook) healthy while making minorities and other underrepresented people feel heard and welcome? Let’s talk about how you can be a voice in a community, while being sure to check your own privilege within that particular space…
There’s nothing wrong with having privilege
Let me start out by saying that there’s nothing wrong with having privilege. Everyone has some degree of privilege in some spaces, and that’s A-okay! What matters is what you decide to do with that privilege, and whether or not you are taking up too much space in a community in which you have lots of it — thereby trampling over marginalized voices that deserve to be heard.
Let’s break it down with an example
I always give this example when trying to help people determine how much privilege they have within a space:
I’m disabled. I have a permanently immobile wrist due to a bone disease, and I have autism. While I’m a part of the disabled community, I don’t feel that my voice should be the loudest within that space, or that I have a right to speak for everyone, because I recognize that I’m mostly able-bodied. The people who should have the most voice are the ones that are least represented. While I can totally add valuable insight to conversations in disabled spaces, I’m so careful not to speak for anyone else or be the loudest voice in that group.
Your voice is valuable
Your voice deserves to be heard. However, this doesn’t mean that you should stomp all over minorities by speaking over them, or making broad, exclusionary statements about the community. Intersectionality is vitally important to the health and strength of any community. We need to hear from minority voices. We need to hear from underrepresented people.
Respect is the name of the game, and by checking our privilege within a space, and deferring to people with less privilege than us when appropriate, we can all make our communities more positive, healthy online spaces for everybody!
Who else has good, easily-understandable tips on how to check your privilege?