Coming to Grips with my own Privilege

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I was recently in a meeting with six others talking through plans for an upcoming event and brainstorming some ideas on how it should work and what would be effective.

It became obvious that three of the six were much more experienced in these areas then I was. They had been there and done it before, I was new to this process, The other three I am going to be generous to myself and say that they were on the same level of experience as I was, though I am probably discounting their experience a bit because they just didn't say much in the meeting.

The meeting had the usual throwing out ideas, debating and adopting or discarding those ideas, interrupting others to get our own ideas into the mix.

But something that I noticed in the meeting that I had to process for a while afterwards was the observation of how much my input was valued and validated. When I spoke up, everyone seemed to pay more attention, nobody interrupted me as I spoke and they gave me all the time I wanted to explain my idea. Not once did they shoot down any of my ideas but instead if they weren’t good enough they would be affirmed and then modified and built on.

This wasn’t the case with other people's ideas, If they weren’t deemed good enough then they were questioned or just plain shot down. I watched as some of them interrupted or talked over others in the meeting, not in a mean way, but just a normal debating of ideas. But for some reason they didn’t do this when I talked.

Now, I would like to believe that it was the quality of my ideas, and the compelling way that I presented them that gained me such a hearing and respect. This is my natural ego centric way of thinking, but the reality is not quite that simple. For me to believe that, I would have to overlook a significant and obvious dynamic in the room.

All six of the others in the room were women.

Six women listened intently as I talked

Six women valued and validated my ideas

Six women didn't interrupt or talk over me as I talked

Six women complimented me and my ideas even as they improved them.

They didn’t have this level of deference with each others ideas and input, again not that they were mean or obnoxious in any way, they were just particularly deferential to me and my ideas.

So, Maybe I can claim a hint of credit for the quality of ideas and compelling presentation, and in the past I would have taken all the credit, but I think I would be mistaken to not understand and respect the dynamic in the room.

Understanding my own privilege is hard because it's the air I breathe.

The way I am treated or should I say not mistreated is normal for me as the air I breathe. It’s how I grew up, it’s how the world should be, right? I mean it just so normal.

I honestly don’t think I would have noticed the dynamic in the room if it wasn’t made as clear because of the six to one ratio. I’m sorry to say that if there had been just one or two women I would have probably overlooked this dynamic entirely.

Which goes to show just how much I have missed, because this dynamic has probably been in many of the meetings that I have been in, but I was oblivious to it.

Sure, understanding and coming to grips with my own privilege is hard, but not as hard as living without the privilege that I take for granted.

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