Your hot friend has privilegePosted: December 14, 2011
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to have constructive discussions about privilege and bias and how to make it easier for people to examine their own issues and be better allies. I’ve come to the conclusion over time that the most effective way for me to do this is with an example that people won’t immediately take as a personal attack, but that is also not so abstract that the point becomes obscure or academic.
Here’s what I’ve got: your hot friend.
For my example, your hot friend will be a girl. What I’m going to say is totally true about the really hot guy you’re friends with too. I’m just tired of the masculine generic.
Your hot friend.
You know how you have that one friend who’s really hot? Like, really, really hot, and doesn’t really know it? Your friend who walks through life with people opening doors and slipping her extra fries and smiling at her? Your friend who everyone is really nice to because she’s pretty, and who thinks that people are just all really nice because that’s her experience and she doesn’t see how differently they treat you, or your other friend who is unbelievably awesome but totally average-looking?
Your friend gets to think everyone is nice and gives stuff away and is just sweet as pie all the time because that’s how they are with her. Your friend doesn’t see that she has opportunities you don’t have, because she can take them for granted – she’s always had them and doesn’t see why you wouldn’t have them too. When you try to explain to her that she’s getting special treatment that you don’t get, she is confused: she sees her flaws, and your beauty. She doesn’t see the special treatment because the essence of it is in other people’s investment in making it look like they’re just really nice, and like they’re not trying to hit on her.
She can’t see it because it’s literally all around her like insulation, and the one thing it does not give her is insight. She does not see the privilege because it’s part of her daily existence, something she doesn’t know how to look for. She’s immersed in it and sees everything through that lens. Further, it’s hard for her to effectively ask people about this privilege, because most of the people who are invested in answering her are invested in reassuring her that no, they’re just really nice and not trying to sleep with her or anything, and would she like to talk about it over drinks on Friday?
Your friend can’t help being hot. She can work on bursting that bubble of privilege and taking you seriously when you say things aren’t the same for you.
Sometimes you’re going to be the hot friend and not understand what someone else’s experience is without working on it.