First, a brief disclaimer, for this post, I want to be clear, I am talking about Western society… specifically, Europe (including Russia), USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Dynamics are quite different in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. They also very by region within all of these, so yes, I will be speaking in generalities. I will also only be discussing privilege on a 2 Axis model (Gender, and Race. I will briefly touch on Class, and Sexual Orientation/Identification) I’ll be using D&D as my example, as it makes the most sense to me, and I will endevour to explain things so anyone who plays any other games will also understand.
Now, on to those generalities. I’ll get it out of the way right off… it took me a long time to come to terms and properly understand Privilege. Part of that I believe has to do with who was doing the teaching, and part had to do with my rather upbringing/mental issues.
To begin, One of the first things you pick in D&D is a class. No matter what the books say, not all classes are created equal, fair, or balanced. I’ll be sticking to the “core” (or basic) classes for this discussion.
The top of the heap in our society is still the White Male. In game terms, this is a Druid. Being a druid doesn’t mean the character is immune to hardships, won’t have struggles, defeats, and setbacks… but Druid is considered the “strongest” base class for a reason. It has the most options. Likewise, while being a white guy doesn’t magically open unseen doors, it does remove potential obstacles from your path. The odds of missing a promotion because of a sexist or racist boss is much lower (it happens, but not as often as for other groups.) Like the mighty druid, if something bad comes up, they have a variety of tools and abilities to get around, over, under, or through the challenge. Tools others do not.
Slightly behind (below?) the Druid comes the Sorcerer. The White Female of our society. Those familiar with D&D already know that the sorcerer lacks much of the same power as the druid… but where it seriously falls behind is in Defense. A sorcerers spells can match the druids, but where a druid finds strength in numbers with his animal companion, and sorcerer has only a familiar.. usually, a small, frail, animal like a rat, or a raven. They also cannot wear armour while a druid can. In much this way, society fails to protect women from the dangers men are armoured against. We are taught not only that its ok to defend ourselves, but HOW to do so. We grow up and its ok to mock, tease, and insult each other, and our skin thickens against it.
Next down the list comes our Minority Males. I am not about to start debating which minority has it worst, as that can very town to town, hell in some places Male Trumps Minority, and they can move up to Sorcerers…… but again, in general, we have Minority Males playing the parts of the Bards in the party of the western world (an no, this isnt a Rap Analogy). Bards lack the pure power of the first two classes. They have some options, but not nearly as many, and are often reduced to support roles. Some people hate the bard, but the real “threat” they face is being marginalized. While the bard can help, few and far between are those who turn the tide,or become the central focus of a group. For evidence of this, just look at this picture of the USA Congress.
Finally, the last group I’ll talk about today is the Minority Female. These are our Monks. For those who dont know, a viable monk is damn near impossible, as they pretty much need to have insanely high stats in EVERYTHING if they want to get ahead. The deck is so heavily against them, the best they can hope for is a lucky loot roll, and that one of the top levels likes them and uses some of their power to crank them up. Simply by being a minority woman, you have succeeded in angering sexists, racists, and xenophobic idiots everywhere. Now, you might be thinking “But I’m a minority woman, and I’ve worked hard, succeeded, and am now fabulously wealthy”… well to you I say DAMMIT OPRAH STOP READING MY BLOG!
Now, as I said, I would briefly touch on Economic Class. E. Class is basically your starting level. In a D&D game, you can (usually) start anywhere from level 1-20. The Game Master then sets the difficulty to match that level. However, our world is stagnant. The Difficulty doesnt change. For the purpose of this analogy, lets say the world is set to level 10 Difficulty. This means its meant to challenge those at level 10.
If you grew up below the poverty line? Congrats. You’re level 1. I hope your a damn good player, really smart, or find a lot of sheep to murder, because otherwise, the world is going to cornhole you raw.
Your parents made 50-100K per year? Awesome, you’re now level 5. It’s still going to be a little rough going, but so long as you work hard, and pay attention, you should be fine.
Oh? You say you were in a 101-250K household? Well, now your level 10. The world is still a dangerous place, but you’ve started out with some good armour, and a decent amount of offensive abilities. You should be able to hold your own against what the world throws at you.
251-500K a year gets you up to level 15. Teamwork might not be as important now as you have some (very) significant advantages. You have great armour, your choice of weapons, and ride the finest whores… I mean horse… I meant to say HORSE!
500-1million dollars puts you at level 20. Congrats, the world should be a walk in the park. There are no significant threats to you except perhaps, yourself, and other level 20s out to get you.
Over a Million a Year? Awesome for you, you started at Epic Levels. You are now as Gods among Men.So long as you have an IQ higher than you can count on your fingers, you should be able to just skate on through to a successful career as a software tycoon, oil baron, or (if you fail/are too stupid for those jobs), President of the United States.
Moving on, the last thing I want to touch on is Sexuality/Gender Identification. This on is really simple. Are you Straight? If the answer is no, move down one step. (gay white men are sorcerers, gay black men are Monks… you get the idea)
Are you Trans, or do not self identify with your biological sex? Move down 1 E.Class Category.
So, maybe this helps make a bit more sense to some of us who, like me, had a lot of issues understanding the concept and application of Privilege. You could be a Level 1 druid, and life is still going to be tough. Its not a free pass. It’s a bigger tool belt.