all 33 comments

[–]sisterinsomnia 19 insightful - 1 fun19 insightful - 0 fun20 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

This is complicated, so my comment will be long..

When the first lists of male privilege and white privilege came out I thought the device was a great tool for introspection, for seeing how different life is for people who are not your sex and/or your race and so on. I saw that as something which would increase understanding and compassion, and contemplating one's privilege looked like a great idea.

But then things changed, and I started seeing the concept used in a different way: To shut people up in conversation, for instance.

That wasn't a good development (because if you take the concept to its very extreme interpretation, everyone else except the most oppressed person on this earth has privilege, and even that most oppressed person might have privilege over all dead people, though we obviously can't tell), but a different development was even worse:

If some people are privileged and others are under-privileged, then NOBODY is currently being treated just right! We no longer even know what fair treatment is!

This is a BIG difference to the older way of thinking about these issues where some groups were seen as under-privileged and the job was to improve their lives until they were treated the same as everyone else.

But if everyone else is now seen as privileged, then we cannot pull others to that level, because then we would all be privileged, and that is impossible. So the obvious consequence of the widespread use of the privilege concept is that for justice to occur it centers the idea that lots of people must be made worse off.

That could be factual (or perhaps not), but it's not the best way to sell being an 'ally' to others, because it centers the losses that will happen to you and yours if you are currently seen as privileged.

I understand the satisfaction that turning the tables this way causes, of course, because it makes, say, the problems of misogyny and sexism something men should largely solve and because it forces the more dominant groups (men everywhere, whites in many countries and so on) to actually think about the ways their lives are made easier by that unearned perk of a group membership. But psychologically the concept is like using vinegar to attract flies.

Another problem with the way the concept is being used has to do with its use in, say, "cis" (sic) privilege:

One axis of privilege is chosen over all the others, and if we are not really careful we start forgetting about the other axes. To give you an example, someone believing in 'cis' privilege might then have to argue that a rich man in Saudi Arabia who truly wants to live as a woman but is not allowed to do so there is less privileged than all the Saudi women who are under lifelong male guardianship and have very limited rights. People who use the privilege terminology seldom use it carefully and seldom note that there are many different privilege axes (if we go with that concept) and that when we compare two people's overall relative privilege we must take all those axes into account. So even if one believed in the label 'cis', cisgender men and cisgender women are not equally privileged, and because of that men who transition may not, in fact, be less privileged, overall, than women who never transition. But that is what is usually argued.

[–]moody_ape[S] 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

But then things changed, and I started seeing the concept used in a different way: To shut people up in conversation, for instance.


it's not the best way to sell being an 'ally' to others, because it centers the losses that will happen to you and yours if you are currently seen as privileged

This is where the performative activism comes into play. People loooooove to show how much they support this and that group, how selfless and righteous they are because they are not only aware of their privilege - they are also willing to relinquish them. And I think it is good when we become aware of our advantages and decide to help people who are doing worse in life and all, but I can't stand all the performance, specially in social media. And what you said about it being vinegar to attract flies just adds to the performative aspect of it, because it shows how selfless one must be to understand another group's struggle.

As for the rest of your comment, I think I agree completely.

[–]Feather 14 insightful - 1 fun14 insightful - 0 fun15 insightful - 1 fun -  (5 children)

I generally dislike it.

I think its common usage is more useful than its academic usage.

Common use: A bonus, whether earned or not. This might apply to a child born into a rich family or the privilege of being allowed to drive your mom's car.

Academic use: being treated with the dignity all humans deserve by merit of being human, while other people are deprived of that.

I think it obscures the real issue. A white lady isn't privileged when cops don't harass her; she's experiencing the default treatment we all deserve. But if we navel-gaze about why she gets that treatment, we're not focusing on what we should actually be doing: making sure other people are not denied the default decency she receives.

It also doesn't leave people with any guidance about what to do. Meditating upon one's privilege 24/7 for a year is worthless when compared to even simple stuff like donating ten bucks to an organization that covers bail for non-violent offenses or donating to a women's shelter.

[–]moody_ape[S] 6 insightful - 1 fun6 insightful - 0 fun7 insightful - 1 fun -  (4 children)

I think its common usage is more useful than its academic usage.

I agree! And that's why people get so defensive when you throw "______ privilege" around. We need to make things understandable to people outside our bubble and I honestly think the word privilege isn't helping. The common use was my idea exactly when I first opposed to the idea that I had any kind of privilege. My friend told me "Well, it's privilege when you compare your situation to someone who doesn't have it". And someone already commented how complicated everything gets because of this. We are all privileged in relation to someone, and they are privileged in relation to someone else and so on.

It also doesn't leave people with any guidance about what to do

Exactly! I mean, I've heard people say that people should give up their privilege. But if their so called "privilge" is just being treated with basic human decency, what does that mean??

what we should actually be doing: making sure other people are not denied the default decency she receives.

This, so much this!

[–]Feather 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

The academic use of privilege is kind of funny, actually. To use their own framework against them:

The academically privileged have colonized the language of the common people and suggested the long-established meanings of the people's words are unacceptable. The unwashed masses must allow the academically privileged to explain our language to us and tell us we are wrong and stupid when we insist on using our language the way we have always used it. When we disagree with the new definitions they force upon us, they attempt to oppress us by superimposing their current definitions upon our pasts and saying we were secretly always wrong about the words we used - only they, the academically privileged, know what's right for us.

As far as, "Give up your privilege," goes yeah, it's ridiculous. It's like if a parent said, "You need to give up eating because there are children starving somewhere else," or made their kids meditate upon how unfair it is that they have food.

Fuck no. It's not unfair that they have food. It's unfair that other people DON'T.

[–]moody_ape[S] 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

Yes! It's like the parent is saying "it's unfair that you have food and they don't" and than the child focuses on "it's unfair that you have food". It's just not helpful.

As for the academically privileged colonization of language, I don't agree completely. I think they do that to some extent, but not 100%. "Privilege" is definitely a case of colonization imo, but there are other terms created inside the academia that got out of it and completely lost their meaning. Someone commented about how social media does that and it makes sene to me. I think both things happen (academics colonizing language of the common people AND common people misuse of an academic term).

[–]Feather 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

When it comes to the academically privileged argument I wrote, I should have put an /s at the end. I wouldn't actually describe what's happening in those terms. I just thought it was funny to phrase it in that sort of academic-ish language. Then again, I was really sleepy when I wrote the comment so it's not surprising that I'm the only one who found it funny.

[–]moody_ape[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

hahahah I honestly thought you were serious But irrespective of that, I think it's a good way to illustrate the dynamics. You used woke language to critique woke language. It's kinda brilliant.

[–]Anna_Nym 7 insightful - 1 fun7 insightful - 0 fun8 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

"Privilege" is in the list of things like "emotional labor," "intersectionality," and "cultural appropriation" that were perfectly good concepts as used in academia by people who spent the time to be grounded in the theory.

Unfortunately, as these phrases went through the equivalent of a game of telephone migrating from academy through blogs, Tumblr, and Twitter into pop culture, they've become phrases used to short circuit thought.

Too often "privilege", in particular, is used as a rhetorical tool to dehumanize and decrease empathy.

[–]moody_ape[S] 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense. I'd add "Empowering" to the list. Someone else commented about how the word "privilege" has different usages for common people x academia and how academics seem to colonize common language, which creates this sort of conflict (or misunderstandings). Maybe there is a little of both things happening: there are terms created in academia that are very useful there, but they lose their original meaning when they leave academia and go into social media activism; and there are common words (like privilege) that have a certain meaning and are used differently in academia, generating confusion.

[–]anfd 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

This article from International Socialism (2014) has some good insights (even though naturally one can guess the conclusion beforehand: Marxism is the best analytical framework):

Basically: privilege talk tends to focus far too much on what individuals do (and which group they're a member of) and disregard the system view. "Check your privileges" comes too easily off as an accusation, and competing claims of privilege make it more difficult to build the solidarity between different social groups (some of which might be legitimately said to have more "privilege" than others) that's necessary to effectively struggle for any systemic change, as opposed to scoring points against individuals in face-to-face situations.

[–]moody_ape[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Thanks for the link. I'll def check it out! I think minotities disregard the system view because they think it's important to "name the opressor" instead of talking about something as intangible as a system. I used to agree with it when I used to tend towards wok culture because I think this idea it has its merit. For example, the headline "husband kills wife out of jealousy" is different from "wife is killed by jealous husband" because in the first one you focus on who did the action and in the second one you focus on who suffered the action. It's important to show that a man commited the crime because male violence is way too present in our society and it's a phenomena that should be adressed. However, focusing on the individual (even as a member of a particular group) doesn't seem to work very well to promote the necessary systemic changes.

[–]anfd 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I think privilege talk and naming the oppressor definetely has merit. It's not hard to agree with that. But whether it works equally well for both clarifying things to yourself and among your peers and for communicating things to outside people whose help you are likely to need is another question.

Here's another link to an article on the "privilege topic" I read some time ago and found useful, by Cedric Johnson (it's really long, sorry!):

The Wages of Roediger: Why Three Decades of Whiteness Studies Has Not Produced the Left We Need

His point:

"Whiteness studies has produced a form of anti-racist politics focused on public therapy rather than public policy, a politics that actually detracts from building social bonds and solidarity in the context of actual organizing campaigns, everyday life, and purposive political action. This political problem is not strictly Roediger’s, but is one that besets the contemporary left more generally and is derived from the cultural turn within Western academe and the U.S. Left since the sixties, the rejection of modernist political projects as irredeemably tarnished by histories of racism and imperialism, and a resulting deep, pervasive suspicion of constituted power." [...]

"Contemporary white self-flagellation over being a “good ally” [...] [imposes] a social hierarchy on political life based on identity claims rather than demonstrated commitment, political acumen, organizing skills and capacity or other criteria that should matter."

Johnson along with Adolph Reed have been said by some to be guilty of class reductionism and thus playing down the effect of racism in the US. I haven't looked into it enough to say whether or not that is the case (I don't live in the US).

[–]jkfinn 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

No, I wouldn't. I wd never give up a perfectly good english word just because it's often misused or used manipulatively. It's not supposed to be a weapon but a description of those who possess more social power than another group or person within that group being referenced. Male privilege, white privilege, class privilege are, for example, perfectly just, convincing, and accurate designations for those belonging to these groups.... only the degree of applicability is different with each member.

[–]Anna_Nym 7 insightful - 1 fun7 insightful - 0 fun8 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I think "class privilege" is useful because there will always be a class that holds privilege over other classes.

But I don't think "male privilege" or "white privilege" are useful because they presuppose the conclusion. Power can shift. Because men historically were privileged along the axis of sex doesn't mean they always will be (although I'm fairly glum about this one!). Because white people were historically privileged in the US along the axis of race/ethnicity doesn't mean they always will be, and with "white privilege" there is the additional complication of not having a clear, coherent definition of which groups count as "white."

I think privilege as an analytical tool is overbroad. I see it as a way to dodge performing a specific, situational understanding of power dynamics. But those specific, nuanced, thought-through analyses are exactly what we need on the left right now. There's too much use of phrases to short-circuit really looking at and seeing how phenomenon are operating. That's what gets us things like "cis privilege."

[–]moody_ape[S] 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

I see. To me the problem is the meaning of the word for people outside the political bubble. Someone commented about the different usage of the word (common and academic) and I think it shows the problem I'm trying to discuss. But I think I understand what you're saying. It's kinda like replacing the word "woman" for something like "people with ovaries".

[–]jkfinn 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I'm glad you understood my point.

[–]Comatoast 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (6 children)

I feel like it's used a lot as an automatic cop-out to shut down any further credibility of an individual. Man, it's weird because I want to argue that blanket statements about any group are bad. When I think about the upper crust of wealth, I can't think of anything but blanket statements and that feels a little bit shitty.

[–]moody_ape[S] 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (4 children)

This is why I want to have this discussion. When I talk about male privilege, I accept the term without blinking. But when someone talks about my privileges, I get defensive (and so do most people). When I think about it, I think it is not adequate to express what is intended.

[–]Comatoast 5 insightful - 1 fun5 insightful - 0 fun6 insightful - 1 fun -  (3 children)

It's a strange thing to talk about. Maybe it's selfish, but I immediately think of talks with my family. I would bring up a problem about being overwhelmed, and I'm deeply upset about things with blah. It's then completely dismissed because of well, things could always be worse, stop complaining, be grateful, so on and so forth. I don't know how to approach that. It's like being shamed for having something, and not being allowed to be anything other than completely happy because of it.

For me privilege always has this secondary underlying meaning of "treat". That person got a treat because he's this or that. Well, I don't know about anyone else here, but there's not too many things we get in life for free. Is privilege or this "treat" something that's paid for down the road or even in advance with something else? If we're aware of it, what are you supposed to do with that information afterwards? Is that where intersectionality is supposed to come into play and you just silently tick off the boxes in your head for poverty bingo and see which ones you match before you allow yourself to be heard again? Do I accept silence as my voice in a society that doesn't think that I'm worthy enough on a whole different spectrum now? Is that the payment for privilege?

As far as female privilege goes: I know that on dates in the past I always paid for my own shit to keep from being obligated to anyone. Having a date paid for was at one point (and still is) considered to be some kind of female privilege (obviously dynamics have changed now ya'll, don't rag me on this part). How would it be a privilege though if I'm expected to be an entertaining date at the minimum or put out at the maximum? It's not a privilege then, it's a trade right?

I've rambled and this probably doesn't make sense, but my brain does handstands trying to suss out different information and figure out what's what. The only thing I've figured out is that I don't know shit, ultimately.

[–]moody_ape[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

It's like being shamed for having something, and not being allowed to be anything other than completely happy because of it.

That's so true and so frustrating! When a friend who has something I don't (like a nice job for example) complains/is depressed about it or about something else they're not happy about, I often catch myself thinking "OMG shut up! You have this thing I wish I had and you're still not happy? FFS, spare me the whining!" and a while later I feel bad because having A also means having to deal with the problems that come with A, and it doesn't cancel other problems like the lack of B or how overwhelming C can be, etc. Sometimes people just need to vent.

How would it be a privilege though if I'm expected to be an entertaining date at the minimum or put out at the maximum? It's not a privilege then, it's a trade right?

Yes! Being treated with kindness because others expect sex (for example) from you isn't a privilege nor a 'treat', it's annoying and objectifying! I want peple to treat me with kindness because they genuinely like me and/or are polite. I think men consider that to be a good thing because most of them would have sex with people they aren't even that interested in because they're desperate to get laid. So if someone is kind to them, that's a bonus. I could be wrong though. I don't know, it's what it seems to me. In general, men and women have different expectations about sex and our culture socializes men to be very sexually active and persue sex as much as they can.

[–]Comatoast 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

Thank you for replying to my posts with well thought out and meaningful responses, making an effort to understand what I'm trying to say. It honestly means a lot.

[–]moody_ape[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

you're welcome! thank you for commenting on my post! :)

[–]CastleHoward 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

It's all tied together. It all comes from a school of thought called Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory. It's a pseudoscience that has completely taken over our Universities. It's a way of thinking that says that identity categories must be embedded and overlayed into all aspects of life. All problems in society must be addressed in an intersectional framework first and foremost. In Critical Theory, it is known that there are different levels of privilege that are based on categories of oppression. It's a house of cards because the different categories of oppressed people are often on a unavoidable course for explosive conflict. This is where we find ourselves. The idea is everyone, at some level, is an awful racists, sexist, transphopes because there is no way to avoid this if you come from a privileged category. This theory has completely saturated our society but if you actually read the academic papers it's a bunch of feelings based nonsense. Critical Theory is in direct opposition to a Classical Liberal free society. It rejects scientific method and it's fucking dangerous. Trans people are the most powerful in this framework because everyone else is living in too much privlidge and must "stay in their lane". Look at what happened at Evergreen College in 2016.

[–]moody_ape[S] 1 insightful - 1 fun1 insightful - 0 fun2 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

Interesting. I didn't know about Critical Theory and its consequences to academic work. Funny how it has the word "critical" in the name, but it doesn't seem to apply critical thinking to itself. I'll check out the video, thanks for the link!

[–]zephyranthes 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (2 children)

"you have _______ privilege" has been rendered meaningless, so much that using it at all makes the audience assume the speaker is woke and place her words in the wrong context. I'm not hung up on words; speech is meant to be understood. (We're fighting for "woman == adult human female" because that's what it means to the vast majority of the population.)

Most sources which don't mock the use of the word assume that: - privilege is based on identity, not reality - the wokes assign identities, both their own and yours - the wokes decide which minority or majority identities are privileged and underprivileged (nevermind that the wokes are college-educated trustafarians) - the wokes can't even agree on a hierarchy of privileged identities and are free to invoke and attack any identity they've assigned to their opponent ("neurotypical" as a last resort, if you aren't stunning and brave enough to unlearn potty training).

Additionally, a significant part of the societal blame for the existence of "male privilege" (sex-based discrimination of women) rests not with the individual man possessing the "privilege" but with the judges above him who unfairly pronounce him superior to a woman, and with the woman's caretakers who suppressed her admirable ("male") qualities and made her into a person subsequently fairly pronounced inferior to a man. When you say "male privilege", a man hears "it's your fault I had a shitty math teacher, I should be your boss even though I'm dumberer".

So when I need to talk about "male privilege", I say "discrimination of women" and give either a statistical example (e.g. studies which show _____ attributed to fake women are ranked worse than the same _____ attributed to fake men) or an example that's obviously sexed and/or sexualized according to the perp. The discourse wokeification treadmill is a fact of life (and, I think, a deliberate strategy of the wokes).

[–]moody_ape[S] 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

the wokes decide which minority or majority identities are privileged and underprivileged

This reminds me of phrases like "this is the thing about pivilege: you don't realize you have it". I think it kinda makes sense, but it also sounds like a bit of a stretch. If I question my own privilege, than it's because I can't see it, which confirms that I have it. It seems legit and bs at the same time. It means I need someone who doesn't know my experience to tell me that I am privileged because they can see that I am treated better than them for being a member of a certain group. So I get to be judged for things I'm not even aware of and I see myself feeling guilty and being held accountable because such privilege isn't fair. It's just weird.

a significant part of the societal blame for the existence of "male privilege" (sex-based discrimination of women) rests not with the individual man possessing the "privilege" but with the judges above him who unfairly pronounce him superior to a woman, and with the woman's caretakers who suppressed her admirable ("male") qualities and made her into a person subsequently fairly pronounced inferior to a man.

This adds to what I wrote in the previous paragraph.

I think the way you deal with the subject when talking to people (using "discrimination of women" instead of "male privilege") is good and I'll probably do the same from now on.

[–]Anna_Nym 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I think the idea that no one can be conscious of privilege is a sign of how watered down and overgeneralized the concept has been. I don't live in a current monarchy, but I'm fairly certain the artistocracy are very aware of their privilege relative to commoners. I am also fairly certain that prior to the feminist revolution, men were very aware of their privilege relative to women. In Jim Crow or apartheid, white people were very aware of their privilege relative to Black people. When there are systems of difference written into law, everyone is aware of those systems of difference.

But in egalitarian systems, we're talking about the gap between the way society is theoretically supposed to function and the way it functions in lived experience. This is a much squishier concept. I think "privilege" becomes used as a way to paper over that squishiness. We should be doing the work to listen to each other and ground our understanding of inequality in site-specific and time-specific systems. What inequality comes from intentional actions? What inequality comes from historical legacies? What inequality comes from demographic numerical differences? What inequality comes from biology? "Privilege" often lets activists skip that analysis.

[–]Realwoman 4 insightful - 1 fun4 insightful - 0 fun5 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

What annoys me to no end is that western privilege or American privilege is rarely acknowledged by those participating in the oppression Olympics. That's the real privilege out there, even if you're middle class or poor by western standards, you're still better off than the majority of people around the world. A white person from a communist country has a much worse life than a black American TiM. But somehow people forget that.

I had an abortion some years ago. It was not a financial burden on me and I realize that I was very lucky and privileged to just be able to get it when I needed it. But what about all the women in the world that can't afford it? So I started donating to international organizations that help underprivileged women around the world with reproductive health, including abortion. I also started donating to doctors without borders. Because they help the actually oppressed people around the world. It just makes me so angry when I'm see people living cushy lives crying about other's privileges.

[–]justradfemthings 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (1 child)

I'm fine with it. The problem is that many men/white people/rich people/etc. completely deny the premise that they have any advantages in life over women/POC/poor people/etc, and I don't think a different word is going to change that.

And in terms of 'male privilege' in particular, I especially don't want to get rid of it because I have 0 interest in making radical feminism more palatable to males. That is how we ended up with libfem BS like the trans movement, 'sex work is work', and porn being considered empowering.

[–]moody_ape[S] 3 insightful - 1 fun3 insightful - 0 fun4 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

Well, to be honest, I don't even think it's possible to make radical feminism more palatable to males, even if we stop using the word privilege. The core of radfem is women's liberation and men's "needs" (things they can perfectly live without, but just don't want to) are an obstacle. But there are other instances (race, class, etc) where the term (privilege) seems to stop conversation altogether when it could be constructive.

[–]grixit 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I hate the use of the term "privilege" to mean "less oppressed" or even "less oppressed in certain situations".

[–]AdultFemaleHuman 2 insightful - 1 fun2 insightful - 0 fun3 insightful - 1 fun -  (0 children)

I don’t like it.