Can you help me with this debate?(5 Posts)
Thank you all for your replies. I have tried various ways of explaining my views to this individual, but he won't have it!
In a way, perhaps we are playing a sort of "Privilege Top Trumps" whereby he feels that being (his words) working class was much more of a barrier to his advancement professionally than being female is to mine.
Tried pointing out that access to good jobs isn't the only way that women are less privileged than men but perhaps I'm not seeing his point because I am blind to my own middle class privilege. But, at least I'm open to that possibility I suppose.
I think privilege is really difficult for people to see if they have it (its only visible to those that don't).
The best way I find, is to look for that kind of 'sweet spot' of receptivity. For example, if they are a younger child in their family, they'll have seen how their older sibling just assumes they are entitled to everything (all younger children tend to expect are hand-me-downs and last dibs), or if they are from Scotland, speak about the comparative privilege of the English. So basically, look at any way that individual you are speaking to deviates from those that are in power:
White, male, posh, public-school educated, able-bodied, Southern, first-born (interestingly enough), etc. There will be that persons 'sweet spot' for understanding privilege/disadvantage in the male/female context by analogy- i.e.- how the ease of living without the barriers that women face is imperceptible to them, but still gives them advantage.
It will also explain how it feels to be 'other', 'irrelevant', 'overlooked', 'undermined', 'over-burdened', etc, etc, and all the other joyous attributes of the various barriers constituting a 'class' disadvantage.
Well if his argument is that class is the real barrier perhaps you could point out how very much more likely it is that women will either find it more difficult to move out of their lower class status in the first place or are more likely to suffer falling into a lower class when they are older. The resons for this are myriad, but you could begin with the economic reasons for this. For example, the cutbacks are hitting women hardest because they are hitting those reliant on the public sector, on public transport, on benefits and on childcare provisions and, as women rely on these services more than men, the cutbacks are affecting women more than men and are therfore discrimanatory. Women are also more likely to face poverty/ lower class status becuase domestic work and bringing up their own children is not given an economic value in our society so if a woman takes time out to bring up children she will receive no payment for this meaning her wages on return to paid work will be lower than men of her age. She will also be particularly vulnerable should she lose any other household income - such as her husband dying or leaving her for a younger, still earning woman. Due to this vulnerability many women stay in unhappy or even abusive relatiosnhips.........and on and on it goes. But very few men will accept that the cutbacks are discriminatory. Frustrating, isn't it?
Perhaps you could try to explain the benefits to men as well as women of having a more equal society (re gender, obvs) ?
I hope you can
I often have trouble explaining the concept of male privilege to men. Many just don't see it; "sigh, things are equal now, etc". So when I came across this metaphor about the lowest difficulty setting I decided to send it to some male friends to see what they thought.
One (a colleague in late 40s) has responded with a very "yeah yeah, we know that men have the top jobs, it is getting better but more can be done. But... social class is the real barrier for people now, statistics show that middle class women do much better than working class men."
He's entitled to his opinion of course, but I think he's not thinking about it hard enough (for a start, privilege isn't just about who's got a good job). Unfortunately, he's also become very offended that I "accused him" of having a similar perspective to other men who can't see their own privilege.
So, either I can just apologise for causing offence (I didn't intend to) and leave it there or find a way to keep debating in a way that is constructive.
What does the MN Feminist jury think?
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