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"White Privilege"

(21 Posts)
ButWhyIsTheGinGone Wed 05-Oct-11 19:14:55

Was thinking about my PGCE training today, and a particularly awful module we had to do called "Embracing Diversity." It really was the most patronising, smug, set of workshops I've ever had to attend. I remember having to take part in a role play with the leader playing a non English speaker parent whose kid was late home from a trip...I was made to knock up improvised signs and basically TALK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY. Awful.

Anyway. Was thinking about a session we had to do all about "white privilege" - the implications of this by the end of the workshop being: the automatic assumption we could see people in authority who were of our own colour, there being silent "kinship" with people of our own "race, "etc, etc. I don't remember too much as the woman who delivered the workshop was (pardon French) the biggest fuckwit I've ever met. I KNOW the point she was trying to make, but it really was awful - she kept using the only non-white woman in the room for examples of everything!

So, I was thinking today - surely it would be equally valid to argue there's such a thing a "male privilege." Example: Males have the advantage of being naturally assumed to be in authority, rather than having to assert themselves. I don't know quite where I'm gonig with this, but if anyone has any comments I can mull over with my wien and Waterloo Road I would love to read them.
Cheers all!

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 05-Oct-11 20:21:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ButWhyIsTheGinGone Wed 05-Oct-11 20:38:08

Thanks Stewie - it was probs a rather naive comparison! (Still new to the world of feminist thinking!)
I think what got me with this was that rather than the BLATANT examples of sexism we see, e.g. "Can I speak to the MAN about upgrading my PC, please?" there can be so many subtle layers of sexism which I'm only just beginning to realise. Naturally, now Ive had some (a lot) of wine, I cannot think of recent examples that have infuriated me... but I shall!

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 05-Oct-11 20:58:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Smellslikecatpee Wed 05-Oct-11 21:03:49

Like this you mean.
Happened a lot in my previous role

Can I speak to the man in charge?
There is no man in charge I am in charge
Well that’s what I meant.

So why did you ask for the MAN??

(Bigger bitch was it was in a role that is seem as been a traditional female role, but still assumed that a MAN would be in charge)

Apparently I was ‘difficult’


KRITIQ Wed 05-Oct-11 21:07:09

Whether your talking about gender privilege, racial privilege, able-bodied privilege, class privilege or heterosexual privilege, it's not always the more overt examples of prejudice that are hard to deal with. The problem can be what seems to be more subtle things, stuff that just "is" by tradition and isn't often questioned for its validity.

But, it can be like nailing jelly to the wall because it's much easier to wriggle out of indirect discrimination, because there are more avenues for rationalising, justifying and excusing why it's not discrimination at all.

And, sometimes, you can benefit from privilege without actually wanting to, or even noticing. For example, when I used to late in an office in East London, I would sometimes hail a cab to get home to North London rather than wait yonks for a bus. I suggested to a Black colleague that she do this when she said she was likely to be working late. She just laughed and said that she'd be more likely to get a bus on an hourly service than get a cab driver to pick her up late at night. What I just took for granted was actually a privilege not extended to many Black people.

leafgreen Wed 05-Oct-11 21:09:58

I remember reading some clear introductions to these ideas. There's this

male privilege checklist

based on this

white privilege checklist

based on this

article by a white woman on white privilege

which came from her thinking about male privilege.

Pretty much what you did Gin, in reverse!

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 05-Oct-11 21:12:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

messyisthenewtidy Wed 05-Oct-11 21:19:03

OP, IMO the whole problem with privilege is that those that have it can't see that they have it and don't think it's very important.

I think that the point that you made about getting used to seeing people of our own kind in positions of authority is very relevant. I've tried to explain to male friends how this affects your self-image but they don't seem to see it as a problem. It's very hard for someone to appreciate that luxury and how it seeps into your consciousness.

Similarly I'm ashamed of the the views that I held as a young adult. I thought because I had made it to university and then into a well paid job that anyone could do it if they just tried, regardless of social environment. I'm glad to say that feminism rid me of that idea.

Smellslikecatpee Wed 05-Oct-11 21:22:20

Oh and whenever I would have a male student shadowing me (nursing btw) colleagues would automatically talk to him over me, around me, through me.

Colleagues, both male and female, who knew I was the senior Nurse on the ward. (Though it was also a good way to see what a student was really like.)

Male doctors who insisted being called as Dr.XXX but called the Nurse by their first name.

If they called me Smells I called them by their first name, one insisted on been called Dr, so I insisted on been called Ward Sister Catspee.

(None of this was ever done in a way that ever comprised patient safety, in fact encouraging all of the team seeing each other as equals meant that questioning was natural and we all listened to each other’s opinions. Better informed Health Care professionals = safer Patients)

Smellslikecatpee Wed 05-Oct-11 21:25:06

Yes yes messyisthenewtidy, 'the whole problem with privilege is that those that have it can't see that they have it and don't think it's very important.'

That is so it!

It was only male colleagues who thought I was odd to push back when asked re: Man in Charge

messyisthenewtidy Wed 05-Oct-11 21:32:46

Just to add to KRITIQ's moment of revelation re. taxi...

I was talking to my friend a while ago re. the joys/pitfalls of being pregnant. I said that I loved how people in public places would look at your belly and give you a smile, or offer you a seat on a bus. I expected her to nod in agreement but instead she said that she'd experienced the opposite; people had given her looks of disdain and no one had stopped to offer her a seat. We just looked at each other and I said lamely "oh" whilst the penny dropped that this was likely due to our difference in skin color.

NotJustClassic Wed 05-Oct-11 21:37:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ButWhyIsTheGinGone Wed 05-Oct-11 21:45:16

Thanks so much for the links - see what you mean, leafgreen. I can see this is big can of worms which I'd like to read a lot more on. (I seem to focus on reading stuff that makes me angry! Why?)

messyisthenewtidy Wed 05-Oct-11 21:49:07

Smells, you have me on a roll here! When me and the DParents get drunk together my DM sometimes likes to bring up the topic of "how things have changed for women since my day", god bless her latent feminist soul!

She'll tell my Dad how terrible the "Miss World" beauty pageants/cattle markets were. My Dad will say "But, Mum of Messy, why get worked up about it? On the grand scale of things it's such a trivial thing to worry about" and I'll be like "Grrrrr... it's trivial to YOU!! because it didn't affect YOU!"

That's a privileged male not seeing his own male privilege.

I seriously have to stop drinking with my P's....

KRITIQ Wed 05-Oct-11 21:56:46

Ah, BWITGG, it can take courage to look at stuff that makes you angry, or upset, or embarrassed or frightened, let it percolate in and process it and realise that though scary, the knowledge won't destroy you. Then, you can make better sense of stuff, feel more confident about why you believe what you believe, then be in a stronger position to actually do something about it!

(or something like that! smile )

NotJustClassic Wed 05-Oct-11 23:36:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blonderedhead Thu 06-Oct-11 00:16:32

I do think it's important for those of us who are interested or aware of our privilege to state it when possible; for example while I do not have male/wealthy privilege I do have White/middle-class/able-bodied/hetero/cis privilege, and these can inform my arguments. Realising and stating this can add weight to a debate and force me to consider new viewpoints within my own context.

KRITIQ Thu 06-Oct-11 00:18:38

NJC, I want that on a tee shirt! grin

jamma111 Thu 06-Oct-11 09:56:49

Julian Real's website ("A Radical Pro-feminist") is a good source for such discussions, though I have a horrible feeling the entire site is a subtle spoof (after reading the Comments Rules.

Spoof or otherwise it does cover the subjects pretty well, using genuine material, and a few articles that are relevant for Britain.

You might end up a bit boggle-eyed though at the end; there is, at least in the US, a pretty defined pecking-order as to who has a right to comment on what and how, based on sex, color, sexual orientation and social class. The effort is to provide a weighting system to reverse the perceived abuses of the past by placing those deemed to be at the top-of-the-pile at the bottom. So 'privilaged' white middle-class heterosexual males are at the bottom. That though is only half the story; white heterosexual females are down there with them, and actually might be even lower if they reckon they want to promote change. Then we move up through this hierarchy, crisscrossing through sex, color, class and sexuality, until we reach the pinnacle, which is black female, working class and lesbian (other non-whites don't quite reach these lofty heights).

A little of this hierarchical view of who is allowed to make decision, express thought and vote on policies is present in the UK but certainly not to the same degree. A disturbing feature I notice in lots of the postings is that say statistics indicate that black working-class males are more prone to unemployment and poverty than white working-class males - the response isn't - okay lets ensure resources are appropriately delivered in amounts that reflect those figures. Rather it seems to mean, ignore the white working-class unemployed in poverty and concentrate solely on the black males.

The other key element is that in effect if you belong to a particular sex, of a certain color, sexuality and degree-of-privilage, your opinions are valid only if you stay within the close confines of what is expected from you in that position. Step-out-of-line, perhaps with an alternate viewpoint or perhaps by adopting the perspective of another group and BANG! Expect flaming, banning from posting, accusations of collusion, pandering and betrayal of your sex, color, sexuality etc.

I;ve worked in such an environment (in the US) in the past, and I swear that a woman living in Georgian England would have had a better comprehension of how to deal with each social rule to be observed.

jamma111 Thu 06-Oct-11 12:17:53

'Whiteness studies' is a focus of the study of white privilege, though its validity as a genuine academic discipline is subjet to doubt.

Athough Wikipedia isn't a trusted source of information, its page on the subject, and the associated discussion page apears quite comprehensive;

Whiteness Studies

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