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Privilege

I've had two major reasons to think about the topic of privilege during the last couple days.  The first was when one of my friends posted a Facebook status about Mormons being Christian.  He had a good point--Christianity had been defined for a couple thousand years by the time Mormonism came along.  Then Mormons come along and make quite a few changes--that God and Jesus are two separate beings being one of the most notable ones.  Christians would rightly feel affronted by this and want to distance themselves from the emerging religion.

This is an example of a privileged class feeling their privilege being taken away.  That is, they've defined what Christianity meant for so long that they feel they are entitled to do so.  Then, when someone else comes along and wants to do the same thing--that is, to put themselves on a level playing ground--the privileged group feels attacked because they shouldn't be equal than others, they should be better.

The second, and much more pronounced way in which this subject was brought up was last night.  I am at Dragon Con and there was a panel entitled "Sex in videogames", so naturally I was interested.  He talked about how one of the reasons why there is still sexism in videogames is because of privilege. The speaker was a writer for BioWare.  He has worked on several games that have had gay characters, and other non-traditional romance stories, including a transexual character.  On one of the forums that he regularly visits, one fan posted how outraged he was about all of this progressiveness.  He said (I'm paraphrasing) "You need to worry more about what us straight male gamers want.  What's funny is that a few years ago I wouldn't even have to say 'straight male gamers' I'd only have to say 'fans'."  The speaker showed us the quote and then said how he couldn't possibly have asked for a better example of the privilege phenomenon.

The video game that was in question was Dragon Age.  In that game, there are four possible romances. Whether you play as a male or a female character, there is one male and one female non-player character that you can flirt with and become romantically involved with.  So, really, everyone's on a level playing field.  The straight fan that wrote that on the forum is feeling his privilege being taken away.  Video games are no longer written strictly for straight men.  Some are being targeted to gay people and to women.  (In fact, 40% of gamers are women, so targeting them isn't a bad idea.)  He can't stand the idea of his privilege being taken away.  He doesn't want to be equal with other people, he wants to be better than other people.  His feelings become more important than other people's.

And so it is the same with the subject of gay marriage in real life.  Straight people have been privileged for centuries--certainly as long as this country has existed.  They have been able to marry as they please.  Now gay people are asking for the same right--not to be placed above straight people, not to have extra privileges, just to be equal--and it is interpreted as an attack on straight people because it is an attack on their privilege.  We seek to level the playing field.  We want gay people to have the same right as straight people--to marry the person of their choice.  Straight people don't want that.  They think that marriage belongs to them.  They are above us.  They perceive their loss of privilege as a loss of rights.  They feel that making everyone equal would somehow make them the oppressed group.

This is the effect of being privileged.  You get used to the privilege and then you feel under attack when your privilege is taken away.  Instead of perceiving equality as equality, it is perceived as "reverse discrimination".  The fact that women can vote and blacks are considered people is (or at least was) an affront to white men because they lost their privilege.  When in reality, all that is wanted is for everyone to be treated the same.

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