All posts filed under: Privilege

“Privilege,” “Lived Experience,” and Other Words I Use Without Thinking

One of my most memorable lovers’ quarrels was about the controversial sociologist Alice Goffman. Go figure. “A privileged white woman who went to Princeton shouldn’t write about disadvantaged black men in West Philly!” I insisted, confidently dropping my favorite rhetorical trump card — “privilege.” “You haven’t even read her book,” my partner deadpanned, calling me out for shamelessly parroting someone else’s thoughts on Goffman. “How do you know she doesn’t have something worth saying about those communities just because she’s white?” (What a smart guy, right?) Discerning reader, you read this and probably thought something like, “Oh, she tried that whole thing.” What’s that “thing” you know I was trying to do, but are short on words for? *** “Privilege” can be a helpful term to describe systemic socioeconomic advantages that make life easier for some than others. It can help us identify what justice looks like, and what it doesn’t look like. I’ll be the first to admit, though: its ubiquity seems to make it easy and safe to use, almost without thinking. It’s what …

Feminism Blinds Students to the Truth About Men

As a student at Barnard, a women’s college in NYC, feminism pervades all aspects of the curriculum. As students, we’re awash in the pervasive narrative that women are always on the losing side of the gender wars. This is ridiculous. At a school where acknowledging intersectionality is de rigueur, one would expect to encounter dialogue about issues that men face too.  However, after two years here, I have never witnessed students or professors broach the topic in a positive way. What’s more alarming is how often female peers display conspiratorial glee when they make fun of and delegitimize men’s issues. Last week for example, a classmate posted a video featuring the scholar Christina Hoff Sommers to the Barnard 2018 class Facebook page. The video had legitimate talking points about male academic underachievement. However, in a  vicious effort to delegitimize the video’s claim that “male underachievement is everyone’s concern,” a fellow student sanctimoniously wrote that the concern is “not [her’s],” followed with an acronym that denoted laughter. This outright delegitimization of male issues was met with …

Now that I have checked my male privilege…

As a graduate student, I have been checking my male privilege for several years. As a man I am more likely to run governments and corporations due to my gender, and I have the privilege of not seeing much of that privilege. Overlapping dimensions such as race, sexual orientation, and sex/gender can shape my male privilege in a variety of ways. However, as of late I have been deeply intrigued by dissent on the topic, including Emma C. Williams’s article suggesting that making someone “check their privilege” has become a polemic bludgeon against freedom of thought, which could promote resentment from powerless groups. There is a tendency for many feminists to essentialize gender victimization into simplistic binary camps – of good and evil – even though privilege is an under-developed concept. The flagship thinking on male privilege is the male privilege checklist, a revised version of Peggy McIntosh’s brilliant White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. McIntosh discusses how privilege enjoyed by white people is invisible to them. The male privilege checklist simply substitutes “white” for …