The elephant in the room: Understanding privilege

Last Updated on


Brittany North |

By definition, privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. Being privileged means that you do not have to go through, or sometimes even worry about discriminatory acts or implications of today’s society. Translated into our culture, people with white skin, high socio-economical statuses, those of able-body, heterosexual orientation, and those who are male are born with the most privilege. I’m sure many of you who are male, white, rich are reading this and thinking things like, “I’ve never been given anything in my life for free, how do I have privilege?” or “There are plenty of women who have more money and power than me. Being a man doesn’t affect me that much!” Well, my dears, allow me to explain.

I’ll start with gender-based privilege. If you are a man and it is dark outside as you are walking to your car, the thought that you might be attacked or raped usually does not pop into your mind. However, if you are a woman, the possible of being assaulted is very prevalent in your life. One in three women experience assault compared to one in ten men. Another example of male privilege can be found in the work place. Men who show traits of leadership in the work place are looked at as a valuable member to the team and someone who is worthy of praise. When women take charge, they may be looked at as being bossy or a “bitch”. Because of this and many other reasons, women are not given the same job opportunities or pay. More examples of gender-based privilege can be found here:

Another form of privilege in our society is cisgender privilege. If you are cisgender, that means you identify with the gender you were assigned to at birth. Being transgender mean you identify as the opposite. An example of cisgender privilege would be being able to go to the bathroom or locker room without stares. Transgender, or any other forms gender identity besides cis are not usually on forms, applications, etc.

Next we will discuss race related privilege. In the United States white people have many advantages. In school, students are taught the history of white men in positions of power who dominate other races, in which they are then celebrated for their “accomplishments”. If you look at the U.S.’s currency, there are only white men on every single dollar and coin. When you are white, your skin color does not work against you in terms of how people perceive your job performance, financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills, etc. Racial discrimination still exists in our society. If you want more information on systematic racism watch this YouTube video:

There are many different types of privilege relevant in our society. If you find yourself on the advantageous side of some of these situations, don’t take this article as an insult. You cannot help who you are born as. What I am advocating for is that people who are privileged actually recognize it and do not perpetuate it. As college students, we are supposed to be educated about the issues in our society so we can do something about it.