Usually I stick to online examples of Privilege in Action because I can link and quote and let the people who read it see the full context firsthand. But today I’d like to make a short PiA post that is from my very own life. You see, for the past year I’ve been attending a language school in Japan and working my butt off to learn Japanese (not there yet, but getting better). For a non-safe space I would say that my school is pretty good — the teachers are what I’d consider liberal and, perhaps partly due to the diverse student body, are pretty cool about things.
But over the terms at least once, usually more, I see practice sentences that make me upset. Everything from questions like, “What would you do if you found out your girlfriend was really a man?” to an example conversation where one of the male students in our class was propositioned by a bartender in a gay bar, and, most recently, an example conversation in which a boyfriend commanding his girlfriend to become thinner was supposed to be explained away in a positive way using the grammar we just learned.
I like my teachers, and I have to say that I probably know more than half of them in my program and have been taught by at least one third of them. As with all the others who get highlighted in these posts, I think that they are not trying to be bigoted and, indeed, when these matters are pointed out to them they are overall apologetic. But, even if they apologize for a particular example, it happens again with another non-privileged group of which they typically aren’t a part of. Or another teacher does the same thing and the cycle starts over.
Privilege is not needing to consider how non-privileged groups feel about the way you paint them.
My teachers don’t create these hurtful things because they want to keep non-privileged groups down. They don’t create them with any intent to do harm or to upset the students. They create them because they assume that everyone else is like them and thinks like them and because their group has created the dominant (and therefore default) discourse which says that it’s perfectly okay and normal to say those kinds of things.