People really don’t like to be called “privileged.” We’ve had a small number of readers who’ve felt compelled to leave comments rejecting the term. Most of these fit into one of three categories:
- “I am really offended that you would assume I’m a racist, because I’m not.”
- “I am really offended that you would assume that I am rich, because I’m not.”
- “I am really offended that you would assume that my life has always been easy, because it hasn’t.”
These comments speak to three of the most common misconceptions/misinterpretations of the meaning of the concept of privilege. Namely:
- Having privilege implies bad moral character.
- Having privilege implies some degree of monetary wealth.
- Having privilege implies that you have never known struggle, and that nothing bad or unfair has ever happened to you.
These three things are categorically untrue. But it’s hard for some people to see a more nuanced vision of the word’s meaning. It conjures up visions of sneering 1980s rich-jock villains with cashmere sweaters tied around their necks. The kind of people named ~ C h e t ~ or ~ T i n s l e y ~. That is an idea with which, very understandably, no one wishes to align themselves!
Both history and fiction are filled with privileged people of strong moral character who undergo extreme setbacks and losses. And privileged characters can make amazing heroes. There’s nothing at all about their privileges that excludes them from being admirably brave, loyal, clever, compassionate, fearsome, ambitious, or generally fascinating.
Now, this is Bitches Get Riches. If we need an example of an awesome intersectional-yet-privileged hero, we’ll obviously go straight to a G-rated 90s film that no one remembers.