This is the the transcript of the League of Badass Women Podcast Episode 5: Introduction to Unpacking Power & Privilege. You can listen to all the episodes on Soundcloud.
Episode 5: Introduction to Unpacking Power & Privilege
Valerie: Welcome to the League of Badass Women Podcast and to Power Talks Series Part 2: Unpacking Privilege and Power. I’m your host, Valerie Orth. If you haven’t listened yet, go back and listen to the episodes on Part 1 to hear from some amazing and brave badasses on the internalized misogynist. This episode gives an overview of Part 2, plus takeaways from the very first Power Talk on this topic in the world, which took place in Edmonton, Canada. For those planning or interested in organizing a Power Talk in your town we will also hear a few tips from expert host Trina Cooper on how to make your discussions transformative and impactful, specifically when unpacking privileges and power, which can get pretty intense.
So why did the League of Badass Women choose this topic?
Trina: In order for us to proceed as leaders in our workplace, in our community, we need to be able to recognize the privileges that we have because that is a vehicle for us to empower others to achieve their own personal goals and their own greatness in finding their voice. Also, to find the common ground with people that you don’t necessarily know. Privilege is a very intense… it can be a wonderful thing if it’s used correctly and we need to be open and accepting of the ones that we have and the ones that we can share with others, so that we can really change the dynamic in the workplace.
Jacqueline: I am Jacqueline Jackson. I am super excited about being a part of the League of Badass Women. Everything about it excites me.
Valerie: Jacqueline is a proud Canadian, avid traveler, sassy aunty, and passionate feminist. This was the first Power Talk that she had attended.
Jacqueline: Being a part of a movement that creates a space for women to discuss issues that are important to us.
Valerie: Power Talks are those safe spaces to have curated conversations by the League. They are in person, they’re hosted by and for our members and psst you can host too! It’s easy. Here’s Trina Cooper who hosted the Edmonton Power Talk and brought Jacqueline into our movement.
Trina: The Power and Privilege topic really and truly was one that was impactful and I know that I said that it was so impactful when we did the internalized misogyny — but this really is that next step. We’ve discussed our privileges from a perspective of individual, and then collectively.
Valerie: Jacqueline’s take on privilege…
Jacqueline: Privilege is the topic that has become, in some circles, a bit of a bad word. Much like how feminism was. I think a lot of people conceive of it as casting blame or something that people should be ashamed of and that moves away from the whole point of talking about privilege. To me privilege is about the things that we take for granted in our worlds. We often have access to power we’re not necessarily always aware of. It’s about self exploration and partnership and how we can be allies with people.
Trina: We did the list of privileges. I separated 10 post-it notes per person, all in the same color. I tried to do the same color pens and each individual was given 10 minutes to — on these post-it notes — write out any privileges that they wished that they had, and privileges that they had.
Jacqueline: The whole cisgender aspect of things for me… I was born a woman in a body that I feel like a female, like a woman and that’s not something as a place of privilege that I often think about and it was through the exercise of looking at my privilege that it kind of came to me and I thought Wow! That’s a position of privilege that I really rarely think about when I think about all the different ways that I am privileged: I’m educated, I live in a first world nation that I don’t want to live in just any first world nation, that I live in Canada that has universal health care and education is paid for, you know. That really was a big one for me. LGBTQ issues are something that I try to keep myself current on but not a place that I live all the time.
The other day I was talking to a coworker — here we give blood through the Red cross — and I hadn’t given blood for a long time and it’s a great idea and he had said “I don’t give blood” and I said “oh why is that?” Red Cross doesn’t allow homosexual men, particularily, to give blood because of the AIDS crisis in the 80s and there was a situation with the Red Cross some blood was tainted with AIDS and as a result don’t allow homosexual men to donate blood. I just thought oh my gosh, like I had completely forgotten about it. I was very much aware of that but it just seemed like so long ago that it wasn’t something that was current to me. That exercise took me back to that conversation and made me realize that is not somewhere I live all the time. It’s something I definitely need to put more work into being cognizant of and it really made me rethink my position on Red Cross, like is that an organization that I want to support by identifying my privilege and opening up opportunities for myself to put myself in other people’s shoes and be a better ally. The best way to make connections between people is to walk a mile in their shoes. There is a lot of work to be done on a lot of different levels. I always want to make sure I’m giving time and space for other people.
Valerie: And as for the listing privileges activity…
Jacqueline: It went really smooth for the first 5. At the end I was kind of struggling, but the challenge for me was I knew there were a lot of places that I had privilege, but I wasn’t so cognizant of it. I challenged myself to keep working through and in the end I came up with 10 and I probably could have come up with more. If the exercise was to ask for 5 none of us would have kind of dug in and were able to kind of come up with areas that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of.
Trina: Once everyone wrote out all of their privileges we spread them out over a coffee table and we started grouping them together. So we essentially had 70 privileges written out and we compiled them in groups and I think that the real takeaway from that was although we all see our privileges quite different a lot of them we’ve got that commonality, we just word them in a different way. So what I loved about the activity was that really was that catalyst to roll into the conversation.
Jacqueline: I loved that part of the exercise because it showed that we were more alike than we were not alike. That as a group, diverse as we may have been, a lot of us named similar things or the same things. Most of the people there I was meeting for the first time and on first pass I would have guessed that we lived in very different worlds and very different spheres, but the exercise really brought home that we’re not really all that different as we think. It was something that resonated with me for days afterwards. I’m bi-racial and, you know, one thing that I had written down was I have good hair and I have light skin and realizing the privileges associated with that. It’s not about being embarrassed or about feeling shame around your privilege and I think the moment that we start categorizing it that way or making others feel that way we’re really losing the point which is to think critically about where we are lucky to be in these positions of power and then to be able to figure out ways we can utilize that for good.
Valerie: I was surprised to hear from Jacqui that there wasn’t much embarrassment or tension. What tips would you give a host to keep it in a positive matter that you were able to keep it?
Trina: We always have our ground rules. Essentially we are all here to learn from each other. I always ask that everyone keeps an open mind. We are all different. We are all coming from different backgrounds, but at the end of the day we are all wanting the same thing and that is to empower each other and so as long as that is in the forefront of people’s minds and they’re working through the activity I think that it keeps it very positive and, to be honest with you, as you sort of go through the whole process I think that commonality that we all share really is amplified.
Valerie: Jacqueline recognized how her own privilege plays out when managing employees at work, who are of a different culture than herself.
Jacqueline: You two go work this out and have a conversation and then it’ll be resolved, but people within that culture that’s not how things are resolved so it’s really forced me to recognize that’s what’s accepted in the culture that I grew up in. That’s not a natural way of handling a situation in all cultures. The way you do things or you prescribe as normal isn’t that way for everyone so normal can be such a dangerous word. What it really says is the way I think things are or the way it should be. That’s really the heart of privilege isn’t it? Where you’re not recognizing that it might not be the case for everyone. I had to take a step back and come up with a new solution that’s a little bit more respectful of the fact that they are coming at this issue with their own set of cultural values and norms.
Valerie: And here’s a related quote from Brittany Packnett’s article in The Cut called “How to Spend Your Privilege.”
Jacqueline: “The most important step is this: Train yourself toward solidarity and not charity. You are no-one’s savior. You are a mutual partner in the pursuit of freedom.”
Valerie: The article will be linked below this episode on Soundcloud. And here are some final hosting tips from Jacqueline and Trina.
Jacqueline: I think this would be really fun to host. One thing I want to be mindful of is how important it is to have all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, because that diversity in our dialogue just makes it so much richer of a tapestry. So often in our society, but even within feminism or feminist discussions, we discount young people and their lack of experience. Some of the strongest voices as of late have really been younger women. It’s really important for us to make sure we’re saving space for young people to continue these conversations and listening to what everyone has to say. At the end of the day it’s all about different degrees of privilege for everyone, but we can’t all evaluate that if we’re all coming from the exact same perspective.
Trina: We’re all super busy and so really ensuring that people have that opportunity to review the content as they’re getting settled in. Making sure that everyone is introduced and for those that are not familiar with the group really making sure that they feel welcomed and just fostering that whole attitude of empowerment and that we are all here on the same page. The biggest thing that I would add is just really embrace the activity. I completely went over the timeframe but it really helped frame our discussion and it really made a big impact because we started the discussion essentially from the same place.
Valerie: I can’t wait to hear how all the Power Talks on Privilege go! Email email@example.com to tell us about them and be featured on our Podcast.
(don’t worry, it’s easy!)
Thanks for listening to the League of Badass Women Podcast. Produced by and music by Valerie Orth. Mix and mastered by Dizmix. For more info visit us at leagueofbadasswomen.org. E-mail your questions and comments to Podcast@leagueofbadasswomen.org. Thanks again to our featured badasses of today’s episode and thank you for being a badass.