Image: Diagram labelled ‘Wheel of Power/Privilege’ showing the different degrees to which a person can be marginalised or have power over others in society based on their characteristics.
In the centre is the word “power”, and on the outside of the wheel is the word “marginalised”. The categories are:
- Body size, with large on the margins, and slim in the centre;
- Mental health, with vulnerable on the margins and robust in the centre;
- Neurodiversity, with significant neurodivergence on the margins, and neurotypical in the centre;
- Sexuality with lesbian, bi, pan, asexual on the margins, and heterosexual in the centre;
- Ability with significant disability on the margins, and able-bodied in the centre;
- Formal education with elementary education on the margins and post secondary in the centre;
- Skin colour with dark on the margins, and white in the centre;
- Citizenship with undocumented on the margins, and citizen in the centre;
- Gender with trans, intersex and non-binary on the margins and cisgender in the centre;
- Language with non-English monolingual on the margins and English in the centre;
- Wealth with poor on the margins and rich in the centre;
- Housing with homeless on the margins and owns property in the centre.
The Wheel of Privilege shows how the different parts of your identity can give you power over others in society as well as lead you to being marginalised/excluded.
There are a lot of stories of inequality and injustice in the news at the moment, so it seemed like a good time to share this wheel of privilege! I want to invite you to spend a few moments considering the wheel of privilege, if you can, and identify and check your own privileges. Recognise them. Know that they shape your worldview.
To be clear, it’s OK to be you, no one else is called or made to be that. However, this ”youness” comes with baggage that we each need to identify in order to be able to engage with topics that aren’t our experience.
So for example, my experience of life is through the lens of being a disabled, neurodiverse, well educated, white, cisgender, English woman – among other things – and not necessarily in that order. This shapes the way I see the world. Your lens will be different from mine and that is OK.
I think that my wheel of privilege is quite spikey – there are areas in which I am more oppressed, and areas in which I hold power – I wonder what your wheel is like?
I can only speak authentically about my own story. I cannot genuinely and authentically speak on behalf of people who are not me, or pretend to know what life is like. However, I can start from a place of understanding and openness and empathy. Starting from this place of open-listening can help other people to reclaim their agency and power too. I hope that the work of the York Disability Rights Forum can encourage and help disabled people to do this.
Whilst we are all experiencing oppression because of our disability, we need to acknowledge our individual privileges in order to be able to take those lenses off too. This means we are free to really listen to other people’s experiences. We can find out more about other people’s experiences from the people themselves, for example through the media, social media, books and blogs. It is also important to remember that we need to enable people to speak for themselves, instead of us speaking for them, especially in situations where we have more privilege.
So, let’s start from a place of love, openness and honesty. Let’s not start from a place of assuming we know it all. My experience of being a disabled person in York will be vastly different from that of anyone else, but we can come together to make a real difference.