September 19, 2009

My Privilege in Social Work

Ever since I started on the road to becoming a social worker, I have been told how lucky I am being a male, as well as how I'll progress farther up the ladder faster than the female's in my cohort. I went along in my studies knowing this, and accepting it, but never really experiencing it. I never felt favored or that I was the center of attention (other than usually being the only male in the classroom), and thought that maybe, just maybe, it didn't apply to me. I hoped for that because I'm quite uncomfortable with it. I want to be judged on my abilities and experience, not my skin color or gender.

However, I've come to the point where I have now very much experienced my privilege in social work. When I entered my practicum, I was told that there were many opportunities for group work, and then the path to doing this group work was explained to me. We were to observe a bit, co-facilitate one portion, and then after doing that, we could facilitate another, apparently more advanced portion. As we went along, we found out that even co-facilitation opportunities were probably going to be rare, and we were all mostly upset.

Then, I was approached by a program supervisor. Not only did they want me involved in groups, they wanted me to start by co-facilitating the "advanced" portion. I meekly accepted and tried to keep it quiet. I know I wasn't picked because I was the best potential facilitator, or because I have rockin' experience, or the most to offer. It was plain and simply because of my gender.

I'm really still working on this, but it still leaves me uncomfortable. What could I do? I wanted the opportunity, was qualified for it, and need the learning. But the way it was done didn't feel great. I need to work with this and figure out what I'm feeling about it. I don't want to be one that uses my privilege to run rampant, but I don't think it's beneficial to push away opportunities, either.

Sigh. I just don't know...


oregonamy1972 said...

Wow! Very insightful! I realize that I was fortunate to grow up in the family that I did. I didn't choose that family and all of the opportunities it afforded me in my life. I seriously doubt I would be on the path I am now without those opportunities. I think sometimes it helps to just accept the fact that our opportunities sometimes come from no other source than the luck of our birth. So, sometimes you just have to be grateful for what is given to you and make the most of it.

sarah said...

follow your heart. It will never steer you wrong. Sarah

Hazel said...

Hi! I'm just getting into the social work blogs and social work in general. Hope you don't mind me reading.

I've heard this a lot in my few weeks of class as well. I'm interested to see how it'll play out with the males in our cohort.
The opportunity was given to you, I say take it!

antiSWer said...

Hi Hazel,

Yes, please do read! And comment and everything. To really immerse yourself in the social work blog community, visit They have tons of them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jacqueline Novet said...

Yes, insightful... AND an opportunity to develop even more insight... You seem to be troubled about the ethics of benefiting from an unjust system, and I am encouraged by that. In many cases privilege has been conferred upon certain individuals in exchange for their loyalty to maintaining the status quo. Male privilege is parallel to White or heterosexual or TAB (temporarily able-bodied) privilege. Can you use your discomfort to fuel further reading on the topic and creatively exploit your privileged status to speak out for social justice? I can guarantee this further your ability to help those you come in contact with in your social work practice.

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