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#1 Edited by Raven_Sword (3447 posts) -

So, I have now heard this phrase thrown around more times than I care to and I still don't really know what it means or the point people are trying to get across when stating it. Is that if I'm a white heterosexual male I should be feel guilty if I do well? Or what. Cause I've heard a few explanations given. Is it a weird feminist thing? Please, can someone explain this to me.

#2 Edited by SubwayD (529 posts) -

It's a snarky way of suggesting that a person view an issue from an alternative point of view. To see things from a perspective if they didn't have all the privileges afforded to what ever race, sex, class or whatever is supposedly at fault.

Sadly, whenever the phrase it whipped out, it usually just completes the Idiot Ouroboros and shuts down intelligent conversation as well.

#4 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3844 posts) -

If these links are to be believed, it means feminists focusing on their own disadvantages in life, and invalidating everyone else's.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/mark-saunders/2014/04/18-things-females-seem-to-not-understand-because-female-privilege/

http://thoughtcatalog.com/isla-sofia/2014/04/18-reasons-why-the-concept-of-female-privilege-is-insane/

Seriously though, it's a thought exercise to put yourself in the place of another, and understand the situations where you are advantaged. And actually, if you read both of these lists, both authors make several good points.

Sadly, the concept of privilege is often used to silence opposing thought in race and gender discussions, essentially suggesting that your debate opponent must be incapable of basic human empathy because they disagree with you.

#5 Posted by Corevi (4032 posts) -

It's a tumblr thing, don't worry about it. It's basically a joke at this point.

#6 Posted by Danteveli (1201 posts) -

If you are white, educated, heterosexual and male everything bad that happened in history is your fault and you have no right to discuss any topic. You can only nod your head.

People from the west have this thing where they believe that you are the worst because your opinions are sometimes not in line with some "social justice warriors" so by using that phrase you are labeled as person that has no right to speak on the topic.

Of course this does apply only to actions of certain people and I base stuff I have written on few friends that had pretty much super "progresive" opinion on every topic and hated anything that could be considered conservative in the west.

I repeat it only appears in the west

#7 Posted by Corvak (1128 posts) -

Generally a term levelled at employed white males by members of another group referring to the implication that they are at the top of the food chain, and that many aspects of life are easier for them.

While in many cases this is true, the term has come to be used as a means of passive agressive snark against someone in this group who has a differing opinion. Seeing an argument from the viewpoint of another social group is valuable in any debate, but in every case i've seen the term used, it's as a veiled personal attack, which in my opinion, derails any chance for intelligent debate.

#8 Posted by supermike6 (3593 posts) -

It means consider the privileges and advantages you have in life based on your sex, class, race, age, etc. and understand that not everyone has the same advantages as you. It is used to try to incite empathy, but generally the person being told takes it as a personal offence and just retreats farther into their own bubble. Then again, a lot of times it is just used for the sake of being snarky to people who are innocently ignorant of certain issues, instead of actually engaging them. Other times, it is just a joke people say on Tumblr as a sort of self-mockery of Tumblr's progressive equality-based attitude.

#9 Posted by Corevi (4032 posts) -
#10 Posted by HeyGuys (552 posts) -

It's an unhelpful way of saying consider your perspective and where it might be coming from. Remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, understanding privilege as an idea is important even if the language has been co-opted by people who are off putting.

#11 Posted by ervonymous (1297 posts) -

Last call.

#12 Edited by TruthTellah (9363 posts) -

@raven_sword: This thread won't go well for almost anyone, but before it goes into the crapper, I'll try to give you a quick, decent explanation.

In general, "check your privilege" is a kind of terse way to say "give some more consideration to the factors which help form your perspective", usually with the suggestion that you are not fully considering all of those factors. Privilege is a concept based on "normal" for many people actually being a privileged position vs that of others. You can refer to it as general advantages, or simply the idea that there are certain things you don't have to worry about which others do. Privilege doesn't mean that anyone's life will be inherently better or even overall easier than another's, but it helps frame the different problems which people face from being different.

For example, an area of privilege for a man may be the ability to more easily feel safe at night when out and about. Women are often encouraged to not go out alone at night, because there is greater concern over them being attacked. While men obviously still have considerations for their own safety, our culture acknowledges that women generally must worry about this threat more often than men. To feel safe shouldn't need to be a "privilege", but from the position of someone who feels unsafe, it is a privilege.

Or as another example, a straight woman may have some level of privilege which a gay woman does not. There is still prejudice against homosexuals, and while being treated decently as a fellow human being shouldn't be a privilege, it is for some. That's part of what's so difficult about the concept of privilege, because usually, it's what someone might just consider "normal". From a disadvantaged position, though, being able to not worry about things less than that normal appears to be a privilege.

When someone mentions privilege, it is usually in bringing up the factors which may make someone care more or less about something. So, someone may be bothered by something, and another person says they are not bothered by it and the other person shouldn't be bothered by it either. The first person may then mention how privilege can make the issues of others murkier, as there is an understanding gap, and they may ask for the other person to "check your privilege", aka. "reconsider the factors which may lead you to dismissing my concerns". It's natural for you to feel differently and have a different perspective on things, and considering one's privileges is a way of better understanding why you feel as you do and what may lead others to feel differently. If someone is bothered by something you may not feel is so bad, it may be an issue of privilege and not simply a difference of opinion.

As an additional note, a lot of people get tired of dealing with the daily repercussions of privilege in their lives, and so, they may express frustration when faced with it. So, instead of engaging in a conversation to hopefully get someone to better understand how various factors in their life likely influenced their perspective on an issue, they may just respond angrily. Frankly, I think we have all known frustration, and regardless of how helpful it is, it's natural for people to respond with a bit of anger sometimes.

As a relatively mild-mannered person, it took me an especially long time to better understand and accept this, but I can accept that others express themselves differently than I do. And that's okay. They may have more reason for getting upset or angry about something than I do. So, please don't take it too rough if someone tersely states "check your privilege" instead of something more like "With all due respect, I think some potential differences in our situations have led you to misunderstand the issue. This is important to me, and I would ask that you please reevaluate why it is you may not be treating the issue with due consideration."

The point is understanding. Understanding why you may feel as you do. Understanding why you may not share a concern which someone else has. Understanding ways in which you may be able to help eliminate privilege, allowing for more and more people to know "normal" as an unprivileged position. A lot of people prickle at the term "privilege", because they think someone believes they haven't known hardship. Obviously no one can know whether you've had great difficulties in your life. All most people are trying to explain is the general issues within different cultures which do not equally impact every individual. Understanding these issues can allow for greater compassion and action to improve forums, sites, conversations, countries, etc. which a wide variety of people care about.

#13 Posted by Salarn (465 posts) -

@raven_sword: You shouldn't ever feel guilty for who you are. If you are the same race, gender, orientation, etc... that matches that of those in power you have a privilege to varying degrees.

This happens at both a micro and macro level. At a micro level if you were to go to a part of town that has a population skewed to one ethnic group that you were part of there are better odds that you would be trusted and your presence would be unquestioned. At a macro level you get things like how it most cases no one would question a strait marriage but still many states in the USA are against gay marriage.

It's not about guilt, it's about understanding.

#14 Posted by CaLe (4023 posts) -

Anyone who isn't bald needs to check their damned privilege.

#15 Posted by TruthTellah (9363 posts) -
@cale said:

Anyone who isn't bald needs to check their damned privilege.

True! It would be nice to see more compassion for those facing baldness. Having hair is often a kind of privilege.

#16 Posted by Karkarov (3196 posts) -

Love these explanations.

What it really means is this. The person who just said "check your privilege" is admitting to being an idiot.

If you want to legitimately discuss issues of racial, social, or economic advantage there are about 50 billion ways to do so that don't involve sounding like a self righteous twat and using that phrase. So people who want legitimate discussions of these issues probably never going to use the words "check your privilege".

#17 Edited by TruthTellah (9363 posts) -

@karkarov said:

Love these explanations.

What it really means is this. The person who just said "check your privilege" is admitting to being an idiot.

If you want to legitimately discuss issues of racial, social, or economic advantage there are about 50 billion ways to do so that don't involve sounding like a self righteous twat and using that phrase. So people who want legitimate discussions of these issues probably never going to use the words "check your privilege".

I don't think it means they're automatically an idiot. It may just mean they're in a bad mood or especially frustrated by something. If the topic of privilege is coming up at all, there's a decent chance a touchy subject may be getting discussed, and that could certainly push some people to respond more discourteously. Not to mention, sometimes people expressing great ignorance or malice aren't worth much manners. It isn't always someone's job to be endlessly merciful with someone else acting like a jerk or bigot.

I may agree that it's ruder than necessarily helpful, but let's not jump too far to them automatically being an idiot not interested in discussion. When having conversations on heated subjects, most people can be a bit more testy than usual.

#18 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3844 posts) -

@truthtellah said:
@cale said:

Anyone who isn't bald needs to check their damned privilege.

True! It would be nice to see more compassion for those facing baldness. Having hair is often a kind of privilege.

Interestingly enough, this is another example of both male and female privilege.

It's arguably much worse when a woman is going bald, but they also have more of an advantage when it comes to covering it up. I work with a woman who slowly was losing her hair, until one day she started wearing a wig, and the only reason I could tell is because I'd seen her before.

I think it's also far more acceptable for a woman to wear a wig, than for a man to wear a toupee. Often, bald guys with a hair piece are the targets of ridicule, and this is especially true in movies and television.

On the other hand, some guys can be seen as good looking when bald, while a completely shaved head isn't generally considered a good look on a woman.

Or for any Breaking Bad fans, what's good for Walter and Hank wouldn't quite work for Skyler and Marie.

#19 Posted by TruthTellah (9363 posts) -

@truthtellah said:
@cale said:

Anyone who isn't bald needs to check their damned privilege.

True! It would be nice to see more compassion for those facing baldness. Having hair is often a kind of privilege.

Interestingly enough, this is another example of both male and female privilege.

It's arguably much worse when a woman is going bald, but they also have more of an advantage when it comes to covering it up. I work with a woman who slowly was losing her hair, until one day she started wearing a wig, and the only reason I could tell is because I'd seen her before.

I think it's also far more acceptable for a woman to wear a wig, than for a man to wear a toupee. Often, bald guys with a hair piece are the targets of ridicule, and this is especially true in movies and television.

On the other hand, some guys can be seen as good looking when bald, while a completely shaved head isn't generally considered a good look on a woman.

Or for any Breaking Bad fans, what's good for Walter and Hank wouldn't quite work for Skyler and Marie.

True, and part of that is how men can generally pull off simply being bald better than women in a similar situation. A lot of men have historically looked quite good bald and received respect as such(Captain Picard♥), but outside of a few examples, women often can't embrace baldness as an option. Thus some cultural understanding that women wearing wigs is more acceptable than men wearing wigs. It's more acceptable and actually somewhat expected if a woman faces baldness.

It's certainly an interesting situation where men and women have different privileges regarding their hair or lack thereof.

#20 Posted by marchismo (71 posts) -

@cale said:

Anyone who isn't bald needs to check their damned privilege.

True! It would be nice to see more compassion for those facing baldness. Having hair is often a kind of privilege.

#21 Edited by EpicSteve (6494 posts) -

It's a good phrase that's really just used to be an asshole and shuts out any real conversation. I'm also willing to bet every single time that phrase is used, it's coming from a person of privilege. Maybe not the most privilege, but if you live in the western world and have access to Internet, you have little right to make someone feel bad about their privilege. I'm speaking very generally.

#22 Edited by Karkarov (3196 posts) -

@epicsteve: Damn Straight. People bitching about privilege on the internet are likely to be hypocrites. Also privilege is bullshit anyway. Just because someone is white doesn't mean they haven't had a hard life. Just because they are male doesn't mean they haven't been singled out by their boss for the shit list. Just because their parents were well off doesn't mean they didn't also earn what they have on their own merits. Just because they are female doesn't mean they got their job by sleeping with the boss. Just because they are a minority doesn't mean they got promoted to fill a political correctness quota.

To borrow an old wise man phrase "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."

#23 Posted by ripelivejam (4368 posts) -

if your privilege is inflamed or throbbing you should probably have it checked by a doctor.

#24 Posted by JasonR86 (9746 posts) -

If you have an enlarged privilege for more than four hours go to the hospital.

#25 Posted by AlisterCat (5644 posts) -

@ripelivejam said:

if your privilege is inflamed or throbbing you should probably have it checked by a doctor.

Only if...

@jasonr86 said:

If you have an enlarged privilege for more than four hours go to the hospital.

Damn. Beat me to it.

#26 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1625 posts) -

I hope all this privileged shit will stop someday.

#27 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

It's a snarky comeback to undermine whatever point you're trying to make. It's basically for stupid people to assault who you are instead of what you're saying. So its what stupid people say.

#28 Edited by Generic_username (631 posts) -

@karkarov: I don't agree that privilege itself is bullshit. You can have a hard life and still acknowledge the fact that because of the circumstances you were born in that are completely beyond your control, you still get certain benefits. I myself am a burn victim, I feel like I can say I've had a pretty rough life, but I can still see how being born a white male in America has given me plenty of advantages in my life.

That said, this phrase seems like a shortcut to getting a point across as opposed to actually having a rational discussion, it comes off as lazy and doesn't help anyone. In some cases, you can see people are clearly spoiled by their circumstances in life, but saying "check your privilege" isn't going to help them in any way at all whatsoever. It seems to me like an intentionally hurtful comment thrown out by white kids who think they're "progressive" (when in reality, the use of a phrase like this proves they're just an asshole like everyone else) towards white kids who either don't know any better or don't care to.

#29 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4856 posts) -

The thing that irks me about all of this privilege talk is that most of what these people are talking about aren't privileges, they're society working as intended.

It's always seemed odd to me that these people want to focus on how "privileged" you are when they should be pointing out the inequality that some other people face. Pointing out that black men are often profiled as drug dealing gang bangers does a far better job of illustrating the point than passive aggressively dismissing someone by saying "check your privilege." Then again, if that were the case then it wouldn't be about how guilty these upper middle class white people feel and instead be about the ones who fall through the cracks in society.

Christ knows we can't have that.

#30 Posted by Ekami (266 posts) -

Considering how many people in this thread are all "I'M SORRY I'M WHITE OK" defensive over it, it seems like it's a very effective phrase. I like it!

#31 Posted by EveretteScott (1522 posts) -

I appreciate how this thread turned out. It could have gown super bad. Lot of good opinions on the subject.

#32 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

It's generally said before somebody wrecks their privilege.

#33 Edited by Party (110 posts) -

Hell, I'm Indian and people tell me to "check my privilege"..

#34 Posted by Milkman (17071 posts) -

A lot of people seem to think that calling someone "privileged" is an insult when it really isn't at all. People get super defensive about it but there's nothing wrong with having privilege. Recognizing it is the important part and realizing that it may be hard sometimes to understand a the problems of an underprivileged person when you're looking at things from a privileged position. That's when you need to "check it." But the phrase has been so hijacked and mocked to this point that it pretty much means nothing.

#35 Posted by YukoAsho (2079 posts) -

@karkarov said:

@epicsteve: Damn Straight. People bitching about privilege on the internet are likely to be hypocrites. Also privilege is bullshit anyway. Just because someone is white doesn't mean they haven't had a hard life. Just because they are male doesn't mean they haven't been singled out by their boss for the shit list. Just because their parents were well off doesn't mean they didn't also earn what they have on their own merits. Just because they are female doesn't mean they got their job by sleeping with the boss. Just because they are a minority doesn't mean they got promoted to fill a political correctness quota.

To borrow an old wise man phrase "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."

Pretty much. The assumption that every non-Hispanic white straight male lives an easy life off the backs of minorities and women is the sort of narrow worldview reserved for low-rent RPG plots.

As to the phrase "check your privilege," while there are people who'll say that sincerely, 99% of the time it comes from people with the aforementioned worldview.

#36 Edited by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

This guy just got some bad news from his privilege doctor, his privilege was has a black mass on it and apparently is about to expire, the only chance at saving his life is a privilege removal as soon as possible but unfortunately that removal will cost upwards of forty thousand dollhairs. Once that privilege is removed this man will be in debt up to his eyeballs. Hi, my name is NMC and I was born without a privilege........

Ya know, I can take this into an even dumber direction but I will stop here. To answer your question OP, it means absolutely nothing.

#37 Posted by ManMadeGod (1578 posts) -

@milkman said:

A lot of people seem to think that calling someone "privileged" is an insult when it really isn't at all. People get super defensive about it but there's nothing wrong with having privilege. Recognizing it is the important part and realizing that it may be hard sometimes to understand a the problems of an underprivileged person when you're looking at things from a privileged position. That's when you need to "check it." But the phrase has been so hijacked and mocked to this point that it pretty much means nothing.

If the overwhelming majority of people that get told to "check their privileged" feel that they are being insulted then it is an insult. You can say "I didn't mean it to be take that way", but I don't think that changes how others feel.

There are (at least) two ways to look at a social issue. For example you can say:

1. Black men are more likely to be arrested under false pretense.

2. White men are less likely to be arrested under false pretense.

Both can educated and illustrate a point, but often times when people take approach number 2 they do it in way that sounds accusatory, even if that's not what they want to do.

As a side note I have seen people use this term is rather abrasive ways. For example I was told by a Hispanic friend that the only reason I would get a job after college was because of my white privilege. It came off as a way to devalue my work while creating an excuse for the lack of her own accomplishments. I understand that most people don't use the term in this manor, but it does happen.

#38 Posted by kishinfoulux (2413 posts) -

It means if you are a straight, white male you are an awful human being and could have never faced any hardships and could never be a good person.

#39 Posted by dudeglove (8037 posts) -

So we're in that pre-E3 slump again huh.

#40 Posted by Wilshere (330 posts) -

Remember to check it before you wreck it.

#41 Edited by SmithCommaJohn (144 posts) -

To say that straight white males don't enjoy a privileged place in American society is simply delusional.

This DOES NOT mean that if you're a straight white male, you're a bad person, that you've never had to work for anything, or that you've never faced personal hardship. I get the impression that a lot of people here think that's what "privilege" means, which could not be farther from the truth.

Basically, "check your privilege" is a snarky way of saying that you're approaching an issue with a certain set of assumptions that are based on life experiences that not everybody shares, and asking you to try and see the issue from a different point of view.

I'm a straight white male, and I know it's hard not to take it personally when somebody talks about "white privilege", but it's not usually meant as a personal attack.

#42 Posted by Dr_Monocle (116 posts) -

I'm really curious as to how moronic phrases like this get started and spread around through the ol' internet. New words and phrases are formed every day and I just have to wonder what the hell language will look like in 200 years.

I'm grumpy about language, you guys.

#43 Edited by Milkman (17071 posts) -

@manmadegod: I don't doubt that people do use it in shitty ways and I don't think I've ever genuinely told someone to "check your privilege." I'm just saying privilege doesn't have to be a bad thing.

#44 Edited by GiantLizardKing (492 posts) -

It means you may be conversing with Arthur Gies and need to back away from the keyboard.

#45 Edited by Concise (28 posts) -

Seems some of y'all need to check your ignorance as well. Stop beating on this strawman version of feminism spread by internet idiots butthurt by Sarkeesian. The phrase clearly isn't meant to invalidate your personal successes (or struggles) as a straight white male; it just asks you to remember that statistically people like you face fewer obstacles and that others might have to work harder than you to get the same piece of the pie. And, in fact, most of us could be asked to check our privilege regardless of our gender, race, or sexuality; we're likely to be cosmically lucky if we get to spend the middle of our day posting our opinions of message boards--not dying, enslaved, imprisoned, or exploited--and we should recognize that fact. If you feel that somebody is using the phrase as a weapon to invalidate your opinion, then tell them so and then educate them about what the phrase actually means rather than getting defensive. Peace.

#46 Posted by Marokai (3078 posts) -

I think what upsets me most about the term is that it's primarily used by people who are referring to gender issues as opposed to anything else. Income inequality is an issue that is actively getting worse, and gets very little play. Caring about your financial privilege and working to help the disadvantaged is much less sexy (and takes more actual effort) than talking about how we all need to be nicer to women.

#47 Posted by Veektarius (4932 posts) -

It means your fly is open

#48 Edited by SmithCommaJohn (144 posts) -

It's kind of ironic that the people complaining about this phrase are coming from a somewhat conservative perspective, because when the meaning of the phrase is explained, they often respond with something like "well, I took it as an insult, so therefore it is an insult."

That's the exact same line of thinking that they accuse "PC liberals" of using when they're offended by something. Basically what both groups are saying is "it doesn't matter what you were actually trying to say. All that matters is how it made ME feel. Therefore, I have no responsibility to understand what was being said before I respond, but you're obligated to confirm your language to my feelings."

I'm not calling out anyone in particular, it's just something I see people do all the time.

#49 Edited by GiantLizardKing (492 posts) -

@smithcommajohn: I'm not so sure about that. I align left of center politically but I still find the phrase annoying for the assumptions it makes about its intended audience. Nothing wrong with the phrase inherently, but it is too often used a cudgel to silence people that aren't PC enough for the user of the phrase. Fighting what they interpret to be unfair generalizations with their own unfair generalization.

As an aside, I am really sick of hearing about sexism on gaming sites. Sure there is scumbaggery in comment threads, but it's not like that is unique to game boards. It should be dealt with, either by moderators, or by you leaving the site that has that kind of garbage going on. And if it is so prevalent in the games we play themselves, can somebody just specifically call out those games so they can be dealt with and this can go away please? The games I played most last year were Rogue Legacy, X-Com, Civ V, FTL, and Skyrim, so where I'm sitting at I'm not seeing anything like sexism. We really must need a better crop of games so we can shift the conversation to something else. I'm really not sure why the gaming enthusiast community has latched onto this particular pervasive social issue du jour so firmly. Did the model train set enthusiasts already corner the market on human trafficking?

#50 Posted by leebmx (2247 posts) -

@karkarov said:

To borrow an old wise man phrase "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."

I think 'check your privilege' is just a very crude way of saying exactly the above. Its about understanding your background and status in society and how this affects you. Obviously everyone goes through shitty experiences, its not supposed to deny that, just promote the same empathy sought by your quote. If you like that quote so much, and believe in it, thinking about privilege and how others have to live is something you should do a lot.

I get that sometimes you might get annoyed with how the sentiment of 'check your privilege' (it is a dumb cliche now) is put across but you can't endorse that quote and not agree with its meaning.