Acknowledging My Privilege

In order for me to feel good about launching The Back-Up Parent, there are some truths I need to address. The whole goal of me launching this blog is to offer a perspective that is not widely discussed: Enforced gender norms have created a world where mom can’t be the back-up parent and dad can’t be the default parent. Where men are still not expected to share parenting responsibilities equally — because it’s a woman’s job. Where children are being labeled by us before they’re even born, and how it can have a negative impact on their lives.

But, before I go too much further, I first have to acknowledge that my perspective comes from a place of privilege. And while I think it’s important to launch this blog and I believe my voice can have a positive impact, it is also very important of me to be a decent human being. To treat people well. And to stand up for what’s fair — or not fair.

And in this case, that involves me acknowledging my privilege.

First and foremost, I need to acknowledge that I am white, and therefore have white privilege. (Yes, determining if you have white privilege is as simple as that.) To me, the best explanation of what white privilege is and is not comes from Teaching Tolerance:

White privilege is—perhaps most notably in this era of uncivil discourse—a concept that has fallen victim to its own connotations. The two-word term packs a double whammy that inspires pushback. 1) The word white creates discomfort among those who are not used to being defined or described by their race. And 2) the word privilege, especially for poor and rural white people, sounds like a word that doesn’t belong to them—like a word that suggests they have never struggled.

This defensiveness derails the conversation, which means, unfortunately, that defining white privilege must often begin with defining what it’s not. Otherwise, only the choir listens; the people you actually want to reach check out. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled. Many white people do not enjoy the privileges that come with relative affluence, such as food security. Many do not experience the privileges that come with access, such as nearby hospitals.

And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.

“What is White Privilege, Really?” by Cory Collins for Teaching Tolerance

Secondly, I need to acknowledge my marital privilege. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that a husband won’t be asked to testify against his wife in a court of law. Marital privilege has been defined as “the unearned and mostly unacknowledged advantages of married people.” You can read more about it in this Truthout article. But for the purposes of this blog, I’m here to acknowledge that as a mom, I can be the back-up parent only because I have a partner who is willing to be the default parent. Single parents obviously don’t have that ability.

Being straight gives me privilege, too. At first, I debated whether or not to include this one because I thought to myself: “Gay and lesbian couples raising children have progressed past these role imbalances that straight couples experience. This is largely a male vs. female issue.” And while that may be true, it doesn’t erase the privilege. For starters, gay and lesbian couples have to work a lot harder to become parents in the first place. A night of drunken passion isn’t ever going to lead to a child. Sperm donors, egg donors/surrogates or adoption are always going to be in the cards.

There are other types of privilege I benefit from, too, like being from the United States and speaking English. Are you interested in learning more about your own privilege? This article from Everyday Feminism is a great place to start, as is this one from Global Citizen.

Now that I’ve acknowledged my privilege, I hope you have a better understanding of where my perspective comes from. If you’d like to chat about this further, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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