Neurotypical Privilege

Guest post by Mike Blejer, a comedian living in New York with a degree in philosophy and 98 degrees in his mouth. He has worked as a humor consultant for the Air Force and Microsoft, two institutions known for their urbane ribaldry.

by Christine Denewith for Everyday Feminism (click the image to read the full cartoon)

I totally agree with the content of the cartoon in this article, but something about the use of the word privilege in the headline rubs me the wrong way. Currently trying to figure out if there’s any good reason for that or if I’m being silly.

On the one hand, of course it is a privilege to not experience the kinds of mental anguish and cultural stigmatization that people with schizophrenia experience.

On the other hand, the use of the word privilege as a suffix for every identifier you could put in front of someone’s name seems a bit overwhelming, and to paint all these subjects in the same light. The kind of privilege I experience as a male seems really different to me than the kind of privilege I experience as a white person, and this is doubly so for the “privileges” of having two legs, or a neurotypical experience of the world. It also seems weird to me to use the same word to group say blacks and people with schizophrenia. One makes you suffer as the result of a societal disease (racism), the other actually is a disease, and I assume that most of the people who experience it don’t want to have it whereas I don’t think most black people are wishing they could be white, I think they wish that the world would stop being so shitty to them, but it’s the world they want to change, not themselves—not that schizophrenic people don’t want the world to stop being shitty to them, but I gotta think that’s 2nd on the list after “wish I didn’t have schizophrenia. I mean I’m not schizophrenic, but I have experienced some mental health stuff in the past and I had a broken arm for four years as a kid as a result of a hollow bone and became obese for a time, but while I did hate the way people were shitty to me, I actually also wanted to not suffer from the things I had. It seems weird to me to use that same language then for things like race or gender. Women, to my knowledge usually want men to stop being such shits to them, they don’t just want to not be women. If they want to not be women, then they can not be women and deal with a whole different privilege situation.

I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m not articulating what rubs me the wrong way about the use of the word privilege. But if anyone has any elucidating thoughts that don’t involve being needlessly shitty to either me or to people with mental health issues, I’d be happy to hear them.