It's Not Enough to Recognize Your Privilege, You've Got to Use it

It's no secret that when you're done reading an article that you really loved, you should stay clear of the comment section, otherwise you'll go 0 to 100 real quick because of the ignorance that tends to be rampant there (or is that just me?).

I learned this the hard way the first time I got published. I felt the need to obsess over every comment that I got and it left me feeling like crap. Since then, I've done my best to steer clear of the comment section of most articles that I read. I let the trolls have their playground to themselves and unless I'm tagged in a comment, I never really know what's being said. The sad thing is, comment sections and social media should be platforms for real discussion to take place, even a healthy debate, but usually this is not the case.

I like writing. I want to keep writing and if I spend hours reading negative comments about the subject I've chosen to write about, I'll never write anything again. I have been given an amazing platform to have my thoughts read and to create conversations around topics that are important to me. It is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

So let's talk about privilege, we all have it in some varying form. Usually the focus is on how unfair it is to say someone has privilege when they deal with tough situations too. But that isn't what privilege is about.

While privilege refers to the unearned opportunity one gets simply for being who they are, it does not mean that one with privilege never experiences hardships. However, having privilege comes with a responsibility to use it wisely and better those who do not have the same privilege as you. Choosing to not use your privilege to speak out for those who can't, is problematic.

This week, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams told Mashable, she doesn't speak up for fans who are upset about the mistreatment of women on the show "out of fear of being bashed by women on social media." While I agree that the internet's callout culture is strong, as a feminist who's gotten a nice amount of hate for what I've written, I can't help, but feel like she's missing the point.

Feminism isn't a convenient title that you can put in your Twitter bio or toss around in an interview for good PR. As a white woman who stars in a popular television show, Williams is in a position of privilege. The way I see it, she had two options: 1) give an interview about the scenes her and her fans found problematic and educate people on why they are problematic or 2) give the the interview she gave about being worried about what people on social media would say.

Her worries are valid, but in worrying she missed an awesome opportunity to stand up for what she says she believes in. She also let the sexist trolls win. Racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. want to silence those who believe in equality. They want you to stay seated and silent because it's convenient to do.

But that's not how privilege and activism works. If Deray didn't decide to protest would he have the platform he has now? One that could change the city of Baltimore. What about Amandla Stenberg, she used her privilege to educate young people about cultural appropriation. If she had remained silent, maybe she wouldn't have been recognized by Black Girls Rock! What if Shonda Rhimes would have written her shows the way Hollywood wanted her to, putting white people at the forefront, would she be as prominent and powerful as she is today? She owns an entire night of television during the week. Who else does that?

South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu once said that "If you you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Women aren't benefiting from feminist who choose to stay silent. You can't assume that someone else will come along and do the right thing when you've been given the platform to do so.

That's what privilege is about.

This isn't an attack on Williams or even Game of Thrones, it's a wake up call for those who see bad things happening and choose to do nothing about it.

I know it's hard, but we have to speak up, we have to ignore the trolls, we have to develop tough skin. It's not easy, but it's so important because our silence isn't helping anyone.