This in our inbox yesterday, from reader “Saga Silkesmo” (email@example.com):
You know, if that “privilege” is such a horrible, oppressive thing to live with, I’d be more than happy to beat the living daylights out of you if it makes you feel better. I’d be more than happy to make fun of you, to stare at you, to shun and despise you. I’d be more than happy to stalk you so you’ll constantly fear a knife in the back if you so much as dare to venture outside. I would gladly ruin your life in a thousand petty, sadistic ways, if that is what you want.
Don’t talk about privilege as if it is some kind of fucking burden. If you knew how fucking lucky you are, you wouldn’t be so disgustingly whiny. You make me want to vomit, you ungrateful piece of shit.
And our (slightly edited) response:
Relax, we know exactly how lucky we are. And we think we made that clear in the comic. The point of “Sick” isn’t to whine about how privilege is a “burden”; it’s to point out that privilege is a violent & oppressive force, & that privileged people should be responsible for that. That’s so self-evident in the word “privilege” that it feels redundant to even have to point it out, here or in my comics.
We are all locked into a system that turns some of us into agents of evil in other people’s lives just by the fact of our indulgence in privilege. So how do we address that? Maybe could have just drawn a comic that went on about how lucky & grateful we privileged people feel to have white skin or a dick or education; but that would make for one shitty, useless comic. Yeah, privilege is great. We get it: having nice things is nice. Not living in fear is wonderful. Being born on the winning side of 800 years of genocide & slavery is spectacularly fortunate. No one’s arguing that.
But that people could be content with the fruits of this privilege without ever examining its source, or its effects on others — that’s what makes us want to vomit. With that comic we’re trying to lead the reader past the obvious to examine how privileged people create & maintain injustice, ignorance & evil. Maybe it fails at that, who knows — but to call it “ungrateful” is to suggest that privilege is just, and that the evil it causes is out of our control.
What we’re saying is: it’s pretty dim to accept privilege at face value. That’s a very basic, non-controversial thing to say. Acceptance of privilege is what allows it to keep inequality in place. And feeling content — much less “grateful” — about that would be fucking ghoulish.
Thanks for the input. And the death threats!
And with this, we now instate an indefinite moratorium on the word “privilege” on the Playhouse blog.
In related news: we’re presently on a carpal-crushing photoshop marathon in the hopes of meeting our Halloween deadline for turning in the book version of “Sick” (working title) to our publisher. It’s a finished, polished, and much-honed improvement on the web version (which we won’t be linking here to save bandwidth), sure to utterly destroy any chances of us having a “career in art,” much less a social life. Who knows, it could even get us a “knife in the back” someday! Check back here for developments as they happen.