Thoughts on privilege

The first rule of Privilege Club is: You do not know you’re a member of Privilege Club.

The second rule of Privilege Club is: Even if you know you’re a member of Privilege Club, you don’t know how far your membership goes.

The third rule of Privilege Club is: The second rule of Privilege Club applies even if you try to take it into consideration.

The fourth rule of Privilege Club is: You do not talk about Privilege Club, except to deny its existence.

Just what we need: more proclamations from a straight white man

This is my third attempt at writing this post. The reasons I’ve found it hard to write are the same reasons I think it’s important for me to write it. Its purpose is mostly to help me organize (and record) my own thoughts; a secondary purpose is to effectively raise my hand and say “I believe privilege exists” to punctuate the silence from many privileged people. I believe that the more people who openly acknowledge privilege, the easier it will be to defeat, and this post is just one way of acknowledging it.

I recognize that there’s a risk that this post will come across as mansplaining privilege. “Listen dear, I know you think you know about privilege, what with being sexually harassed, talked over in meetings, received less recognition and compensation for your work and so on – but hush now: man talking. Let me tell you what privilege really is.” Recognizing the danger isn’t the same as avoiding it, and I may fall into the pit anyway. Please call me on it if I do.

How does privilege affect me?

I’m a straight, white, cis-gendered, married, middle-class Christian male living in the UK. I could go on with things that have given me advantages, but that’s probably enough to start with.

That means:

  • I can sit here thinking about privilege instead of working a second job or trying to find a job. If I lose my current job, I can be reasonably confident of finding another one before I go hungry.
  • There’s a referendum tomorrow: I can vote freely, and I’m confident the vote won’t be rigged.
  • I can write this post and be pretty confident I won’t be abused for it. (When I messed up an earlier post in a few ways, I was called on it by a writer I admire. It stung, but the criticism was all measured, polite, and useful. No threats, nothing ad hominem. Compare that with the comments on the average feminist article…)
  • I can walk across the local park to the shops without fear of sexual harassment. (If I walk across at 10pm and there’s a group of teenagers hanging around, I get nervous. I don’t know how rational that is though.)
  • I can show affection to my wife in public and not receive abuse.
  • I can practise my religion without persecution. (I’ve received more abusive comments from other Christians for things like my stance on homosexuality than I’ve received about my other religious beliefs.)
  • Although I tend to talk quite a lot in meetings, I’ve rarely been cricitized for it. I suspect a woman talking the same amount would be seen as “overly opinionated” or somesuch.
  • I’ve never been denied service for how I look. Compare this with the #AirBnbWhileBlack situation which originally prompted this post, and which horrified me when I heard about it. It horrified and surprised me due to rule two.
  • If someone buys me a drink, I’m happy for them to bring it to the table, without worrying about whether or not it’s spiked.

Now none of this is what I might have termed “privilege” a couple of years ago. It’s just “normal life, the way it should be” – because everyone is equal, right? I would have used the word “privilege” for things like blatant nepotism, or inheriting millions. (The deposit my parents gave me for my first house? No, not privilege, of course not. Being lucky to have hard-working, generous parents? Sure, I can acknowledge that – but calling it privilege would break rule one.)

Living in different worlds

I’m not hopelessly naive – I haven’t just woken up and discovered that sexism, racism and homophobia exist. But I’ve become more aware of the extent of them, and how they can make it feel like you and I may be living in entirely different worlds. We could walk down the same street, minutes apart, and experience very different journeys – not just tinkering round the edges, but aspects that change the decisions we make, the state in which we arrive at our destination, our outlook for the rest of the day, and so on.

That’s an easy idea to shrug off, and I suspect I’d have dismissed it at least partially a while ago. No-one could have proved it to me, in that I can’t live in someone else’s skin. Sure, you could have shown me a video of the two experiences, but that’s not the same as feeling it, and living it – not just for five minutes, but for a lifetime. So instead of looking for proof, I go by what others say about how they find the world around them, basically – and it feels like reading books like Everyday Sexism has opened my eyes, at least partially. (Girls Will Be Girls helped a lot here too, particularly descriptions of structure vs agency.)

I still have to fight myself on this – privilege is apparently really hard to shake off. It’s so easy to fall into Privilege Denying Dude mode, fundamentally assuming that the world really does work the same way for everyone, and that those unfortunate people that bad things just seem to happen to would be so much happier if they’d just make better life choices. It would be lovely to think I always catch myself before going into that mode these days, but it seems unlikely… and how could I know?

Aside: eyes wide (?) open

This morning I read a wonderful piece called “10 ways to be a better male feminist” by Aaminah Khan. It includes this line:

And once you start doing this, you can’t just stop, because even if you want to, you won’t be able to shut your eyes to reality once you’ve had them opened.

For a couple of months now, I’ve been realizing that being a feminist isn’t making me happy. I didn’t really expect it to, but when I first ordered a few books a couple of years ago, I don’t think I’d expected how sad and angry I might become… and yes, that’s obviously within the privileged position of only having to learn about the injustices rather than live them. No sympathy requested or expected. The only way I expect to become less sad or angry about this is for the world to change.

Debatable privilege

There’s one aspect of privilege which isn’t directly related to my gender, race, sexuality or anything like that – but more my experience.

For those coming to this post from a non-software-engineering background, I’m a micro-celebrity on a Q&A site called Stack Overflow. People ask questions about how to solve programming problems, and other people provide answers – I mostly provide answers, and I’m pretty good at it. This in turn has led to me speaking at quite a few conferences. It’s fun, and the attendees seem to enjoy my talks.

Now, when a conference opens its Call for Speakers, the organizers often email me directly to ask me if I’d like to speak. Sometimes they’ll put me in the agenda before we’ve even worked out what I’m going to talk about, let alone written a full abstract.

Is that privilege? Most of the other speakers will have had to find topics which are new and cool, hone abstracts, carefully craft bios to sound impressive but not arrogant… all work I haven’t had to do. I’ve taken a shortcut. Does it count as “not privilege” due to “earning” the shortcut with previous talks and Stack Overflow answers? I honestly don’t know. Sometimes I feel guilty about it; usually I don’t.

Conclusion (aka darn it, this time I’m going to hit “post”)

I don’t want to come across as wearing too much of a hair shirt. I didn’t “opt” to be in a privileged position, and I don’t feel guilty for being a man, or being white. (And no-one is asking me to feel guilty for that, either.) But there’s no excuse for not recognizing the privileges which give me unfair advantages every day. I hope that busting the rules of Privilege Club is the first step in dismantling it entirely. I hope I’m able to help open my sons’ eyes to privilege earlier than I opened mine. I hope there’ll be less and less to open our eyes to over time.

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jonskeet

Mad props to @arcaderage for the "Princess Rescue" image - see https://toggl.com/programming-princess for the full original

41 thoughts on “Thoughts on privilege”

  1. To be honest, I struggle a LOT with feminist language and communication strategy, maybe because language can be, sometimes, such a poor tool. The central topic here is the word “privilege”.

    Privilege means: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. In this sense, when we talk about “dismantling the privilege” it means “dismantling the fact that a right applies ONLY to a given group” but the initial reaction by a lot of men is “dropping the right itself”.

    I do not know if this, in itself, it’s a reflection of the patriarchy or a defect in communication, but I know it happens. For me, it is really interesting (and sad too) to realise how I have to fight against my own preconceptions and biases every time I read a feminist article. This can be because it attacks my privileges (I doubt it, but it could be), but I believe it is because (for whatever the cause, including education) the communication channel sometimes fails us, and while the speaker is saying one thing, I’m understanding a different thing… and getting defensive.

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    1. Yes, I meant to touch on this in the post – that’s been one of my reactions to the word “privilege” too. I’d never considered that it was a “privilege” to not be harassed – I’d just considered it an awful thing that not everyone was in the same situation.

      Then I decided that with all the real pain in the world, the least I could do is meet people where they are: the activist world has coalesced around the word privilege (as far as I can see) and I’d rather fight the problems than the wording. That sounds ever so simple, but it took me a long time (far too long) to get there.

      And yes, a big +1 to sometimes our communication channels fail us. See also: “not all men…”

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Is this a cry for help? It uses a lot of words to say precisely nothing. Among all the jargon, you don’t even define what privilege is. It sounds like fairness that has metastised into a pathology. As for the naval gazing about your professional success, I don’t know you but I know the esteem is earned; well earned. It makes no sense to regard it as illegitimate: you are asked because you produce answers and talks that people admire. If you needed an operation would you prefer a surgeon who had done it before or ask someone who never had the chance to go to medical school because, privilege?

    As for unearned privilege, Christians have a word for it: grace. Nobody can earn their own salvation except through grace. Is this privilege? Sure, but so what? When your relationships are well ordered, such as the parents who help with a deposit or the spouse who sacrifices something, it is entirely natural to will the best for the other. The notion that we need to discern where we stand in the hidden power structures, like slaves in a Roman household, is Marxist nonsense. Let it go.

    Give up trying to save the world, it makes a lot of people unhappy. Get your relationships right, be fair to everyone. There is no more you can do.

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    1. I doubt that either of us is going to convince the other. Where I see inequality, I will continue to do the little I can against it. I will keep trying to be part of changing the world for the better. History has plenty of examples of communities who have not given up, and have made a meaningful difference. I’d rather be in that number than in the set of people who have shrugged their shoulders.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “Give up trying to save the world, it makes a lot of people unhappy” which translates to “don’t make me feel uncomfortable just because you’re trying to get the same rights for women that men already have”. Boy, ALL rights have been achieved over centuries by making people unhappy, precisely by making people WITH the privilege unhappy.

        Slavery, Racism, Worker rights, etc. It is quite easy to say that when YOU ARE ONE OF THE “HAPPY” PEOPLE, that is exactly what “privilege” is about, the fact that you’re one of those happy people and you don’t even realize there’re some that are NOT for the mere act of not being an heterosexual male (I’m speaking generically here, don’t know about your particular sexual orientation).

        And by the way, you’re falling into rule 4, to the letter. Grace does have little to do with this. You’re just trying to DENY the problem, be it because you don’t understand the problem, because you don’t think the problem exists or because you feel threatened by talking about it.

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      2. So wait a minute, is inequality the same as privilege? These terms are so slippery. It’s not even clear to me what you think privilege is, let alone if it’s an injustice.

        I promise you I am open to convincing. But when you interchange inequality and privilege I don’t know what you are saying.

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        1. I’m not going to claim one “correct” definition, or that I can put my own thoughts into words very precisely – but inequality is a good starting point. I’d say a rich person has privilege compared with a poor person – they have unequal opportunities. That may or may not be unjust, but it’s an inequality and a privilege. In that sense, I wouldn’t be looking to tear down all inequality… I’m fine with “people who run faster” being the ones who win races, for example.

          But rather than focus on definitions and dance with words, why don’t we try to agree on specific examples?

          • I believe black people are discriminated against on AirBnb by racist hosts
          • I believe women are discriminated against in the workplace, both consciously and unconsciously. (For example, if you ask people after a meeting who talked more, studies show an overestimation of how much women have talked.)
          • I believe women are treated appallingly in terms of sexual harassment, from catcalling to rape, and that most men don’t know what that’s like (or what the potential for it is like)

          Those are just three examples where I’d like to make a difference if I can. Apparently you think that me trying to improve the world like this makes people unhappy – and on that, I think we’ll have to disagree.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Just want to say I think you may have taken one bit of Aidan’s comment the wrong way. He’s saying that trying to save the world just makes the person trying to do it unhappy, because it can’t be done that way. Not that it makes other people unhappy.

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          2. If that’s what was intended, it wasn’t very clearly expressed :) But I don’t think it’s trying to save the world that makes people unhappy – I think it’s recognizing that there’s so much brokenness to start with. Once you’ve recognized that, sitting on your hands isn’t going to make you any happier…

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          3. “Those are just three examples where I’d like to make a difference if I can.” Beyond the obvious (recognizing these things as truth, not doing these things yourself, teaching your children the same – i.e. basic decency) what are your plans for making a difference? I wouldn’t even know where to start and I’m not sure the help is even wanted.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Well I think that was very well said. It seems that the other replies so far are equating your position with giving up or being indifferent. But the other thing that goes with your comments is that sometimes one finds that treating everyone equally and setting a good example will do as much to change the people around you as telling them about inequality ever does.

      Your last paragraph reminds me of the tone that Derek Sivers always gives off in his writing, or even Vonnegut. Changing the world is a sisyphean struggle, being a good example to the world is a start, and sometimes as that example spreads you may just find the world starting to change a little bit with you.

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    3. I think Aidan missed the rationale behind the article and what it meant for.

      Aidan is also completely mistaken about not trying to save the world. Jon, go on and keep talking about it.

      Aiden we, including you, live in the current world only because of people who tried to improve it. The rejection of ‘get on with it’ is the engine of human advancement. This goes for technical and all other aspects of our existence.

      Kudos to John for posting his thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Humans are very unequal in many regards. I wonder how to properly differentiate between an unfair privilege such as being male and a normal one such as being born with a high IQ. Both are not earned.

    Experience is earned but you need a certain IQ to earn it. There are things in between, for example great sports players need both talent and hard work to earn their wealth.

    So what’s the definition for a privilege you rightfully have (e.g. through hard work) and one that should not exist (male, white, …)?

    Is it just arbitrary rules decided by society through some social process?

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    1. I agree it’s not simple. Even leaving IQ out of it, if one person happens to be really good at something that is in high demand, is it fair that they earn more than someone equally skilled at something there isn’t as much demand for? Basically – is the market itself “unfair”?

      Wiser people than me can debate that – but in the meantime, I believe there’s plenty of inequality which is more blatantly unfair that can and must be tackled.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. @Aidan – I utterly disagree, re. the grace point. Something tells me that Christ would not have stood quiet and said that this is the natural order – indeed he was quite explicit about that. (Harder for a rich man etc.)

    I am not a Christian, but was raised one and have read the Bible cover to cover (indeed that was a major factor in my becoming an atheist). It strikes me that this idea of “grace” is something organised religions do to maintain their privilege.

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  5. I’m still not sure I understand exactly what feminists mean by privilege. That being said, I think you’ve earned your reputation through experience, even if some of that experience in theory (and most probably, in reality) was boosted by privilege. I don’t think feminists are trying to attack merit-based advantage. I think they are trying to level the playing field.

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  6. We’re all privileged in some way.

    Every single human being is privileged over other living beings by not having to live in a constant fight for survival.

    Every single living thing is privileged over the vast majority of potential life which never came to be, by the fact that they are alive and capable of experiencing consciousness.

    What makes people feel bad about privilege, is not privilege in itself, but our failure to use it to make the world a better place. Yes, you’re privileged, just by existing. The human condition is just a subclass of that. Take your privilege and go do unashamedly great things.

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  7. Jon, if you haven’t found it already, you might enjoy the Everyday Feminism website (everydayfeminism.com). I’m in many of the same positions of privilege as you are, and we need all the info we can get, even when it overwhelms a bit. Thanks for putting the energy into learning this and I hope you can ignore the haters.

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  8. In my experience, these discussions around privilege circle around a couple of themes:
    1. “social” inequality – an example from Jon’s post is people frown when women talk for too long. A year ago the example was air conditioning in office building :). Women wear skirts and men wear pants so it’s not fair to set air conditioning for people who wear pants because women will be cold. If we are debating this level of inequality I think society advanced tremendously and there is just not that much left to improve. It will never be perfect – air conditioning will not work for women wearing skirts and for men wearing pants. But you can choose to spend the rest of your life improving this inequality couple of inches.
    2. “material” inequality. This is the rub for me. I don’t know how it is in the UK, but in America standard of living decreased tremendously since I came to US 17 years ago. Now someone is privileged if someone does not live a miserable life (“you are not crushed by student debt because of your parents”, “you don’t have to work two jobs because your parents made you study hard and now you have a good job”). The other day I had to listen to a parent (a doctor) at the day care half-apologizing to a day care worker because she (the parent) lives in a nice part of town. The logical solution is to increase the standard of living for every one – so people do not have dehabilitating student debt, so all parts of the town are nice, so people do not have to work two jobs. Unfortunately this discussion about privilege takes the focus away from the logical solution, makes up people who still have a comfortable life feel guilty about their life, and makes people who live miserable lives “take it out” on the other people.

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  9. Huh? You talk about privilege and in this and the other post but you only talk about white male privilege.

    2 examples. Black people in America can get accepted with lower scores then a white person
    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=693

    When women make up 60%, or more, of university graduates it’s seen as oppressing women to have affirmative action in roles dominated by women but not when it’s taking them from men.
    http://www.thelocal.se/20100112/24330 Example is Sweden removing affirmative action after it started locking out women for men. And on a side note the women sued the education system and won in court for sexual discrimination. Does this mean men can start suing companies and groups that exclude them too?

    As a woman you have the right to opt out of being a parent either through abortion or putting the child up for adoption depending on where you live. however should a man who didn’t want a child accidentally get a woman pregnant and she chooses to keep the child he is required by law to pay support for the rest of his life even if he hardly gets to see the child and by refusing or even being unable to pay the support he can end up in jail.

    As a woman all i need is to express fear, genuine or not, of a man to have a restraining order placed against him even without probable cause.

    As a white man i have the privilege of people assuming i have privilege based on the color of my skin without knowing where i live, have lived or what i do because apparently there are no working white class families who struggle to put food on the table for their children it’s only other races that could possibly face these issues.

    “I can walk across the local park to the shops without being fear of sexual harassment” while this is an opinion you are, as a man, more likely to be the victim of physical assault then a woman is of being a victim of sexual harassment. add assault, murder, rape and harassment all together and compare the genders and men are far more likely to experience 1 of these 4 then a woman going by Americans FBI statistics.

    “I believe women are treated appallingly in terms of sexual harassment, from catcalling to rape, and that most men don’t know what that’s like” men can’t even come forward about claims of sexual harassment or rape without having women and men say “they must have wanted it”. The sadist part is that this is what feminists go crazy about when there is even the slightest amount of blame put on a woman by simply asking her to provide evidence. 48yo Cheerleader admitted to buying alcohol, getting him drunk and raping a 15 yo boy who was calling it rape and she received every 2nd weekend jail time for 2 years…
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/08/21/former-ravens-cheerleader-sentenced-to-48-weekends-in-jail-for-raping-15-year-old-boy/

    Also as a man i have the “privilege” of carrying the label rapist around.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s pretty clear we’re going to disagree and continue to disagree, so I won’t rebut your points one by one. I’m basically just leaving this comment to let you know that I’ve read your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Probably I missed something, but you haven’t mentioned native English proficiency, that gives a lot of privilege particularly in software engineering industry. Also UK citizenship, that makes it much easy to move around the world, than for someone with second/third world country citizenship.

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  11. Jon, well done and please, don’t lose heart.

    As soon as you post about privilege you get it in the neck from all directions.
    You’re told “privilege is an illusion” , others say it “of course it exists but you’ve gone too far”, others shout “you haven’t gone far enough!”.

    Well done for sticking your head above the parapet mate, these are conversations that need to be had.

    I was introduced to the concept of privilege a couple of years ago, and like everyone I denied it at first. Once they’ve accepted it, one mistake people make is to try to identify all the kinds and flavours of privilege there are, and label people with their privilege.
    There’s no better way to tie yourself in knots than to look at someone else and guess their privilege e.g. the poor hardworking pale skinned guy with hungry kids has privilege a dark skinned guy doesn’t have. But both have privilege a woman doesn’t have, even if she is a wealthy, hardworking business woman, but what about . . . etc

    It’s not about cataloging or classifying different types of privilege, really, you can only recognise your own privilege.

    The first step to fixing a problem is recognising it’s there and communicating its existence, then introduce your peer group to the concept of it, and maybe help them see their own privilege.

    Also I might be able to help with a definition for “privilege”, for me it’s as simple as “benefiting from a societal inequality”.

    All of this is – of course – my own personal opinion.

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  12. Can you clarify what privilege means compared to advantage?

    My take is that the concept of privilege is the same as advantage with an additional guilt/shame on you and someone with a motivation of getting something from you (often by force).
    The latter part is worth mentioning, because it implies a legal theory where you can be guilty of an apparently punishable crime through no fault of your own and no action against the supposed victims., which I find that very disturbing.
    I suspect this implication is the reason for people being reluctant to discuss or admit valid facts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I definitely wouldn’t include guilt/shame or any hint of force.
      As I say, I don’t feel guilty for being white or male, and any advantage I receive isn’t asked for… but I need to try to recognize it. (And when I’m the one that might confer an advantage, e.g. in performance reviews, I need to try hard not to bestow unearned privilege on others. Does that make sense?

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    2. Honestly, just to clarify on this because there seem to be a focus here on what “privilege” means compared to “advantage” or “skill” or whatever that I think derails the main intent of the message (in fact Jon, I think it is probably better to just remove that though about your stackoverflow rep altogether as it confuses thing).

      Privilege in the context of feminism is those “right, advantage, or immunity” that you have BECAUSE you are a man as opposed to being a woman, that is, for the mere fact of being a men. To be more precise, it would be the ones you have BECAUSE you’re an heterosexual man as opposed to being a woman or a non straight man or woman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteropatriarchy).

      In this sense, we DON’T want to explore the philosophical implications of what privilege is or means in a broad sense, this is a feminist article and thus it talks about privilege from that point of view. It’s intent is not (and shall not be) discussing the exact meaning of privilege in a general sense but to recognise the existence and predominance of it from the feminist point of view (see paragraph 2). Any other thing just derails the conversation AWAY from the feminism issue.

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      1. I take your point – and thanks for making it – but I’ll leave the Stack Overflow bit in at the moment, as it’s definitely part of my thought process, which is part of what I’m trying to record. That and that I don’t like revisionism.

        What I might do is add a “You might find it simpler to skip this section…” note though…

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      2. “Privilege in the context of feminism is those “right, advantage, or immunity” that you have BECAUSE you are a man as opposed to being a woman”

        Thanks for clarifying. I, for one, find this asymmetry of feminism (rather than a focus on equality) disturbing. This sadly seems to be representative of feminism from what I’ve seen (although some occasional feminist insist it’s really about equality).

        This asymmetric focus of feminism assumes that one group having most or all advantages (and so does Jon’s notion of privilege club, btw). But as another commentator pointed out privilege is multi-dimensional and complex. Men have some advantages, while women have others (which feminists tend to skip over, I suppose Jon’s fourth rule applies?).

        As a side note, it seems to me that focusing on self-knowledge (as Jon did in part of his post) and universalizable principles would be more productive for those worried about privilege and feminists in particular to build sympathy and goodwill.

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        1. But Julian, “. . . asymmetric focus of feminism assumes that one group having most or all advantages”.
          But from a feminist point of view, society gives “men” many more advantages than “women”. Men aren’t sexually harassed, men aren’t underpaid, men aren’t talked over, men aren’t assumed to be physically weak, men can do maths/computers/engineering etc (please insert lots of generallys there, these are all gross generalisations), however the trend is there, and this asymmetry exists, why shouldn’t feminists point out the asymmetry?

          Also “This sadly seems to be representative of feminism from what I’ve seen (although some occasional feminist insist it’s really about equality)”
          But it is “all about equality”, if people aren’t aware of the unconscious bias FOR men and AGAINST women, how are they going to do something about it?

          Educating people about the bias, about the inherent privilege half of the people get because of their gender, is the first step of actually getting equality.

          “This asymmetric focus of feminism assumes that one group having most or all advantages. . . . as another commentator pointed out privilege is multi-dimensional and complex”.

          Yes, yes it is, but as I’ve said previously, if you try to categorise it and decide who has it and who doesn’t then you’ll go insane.
          Should a pale skinned person be aware of their privilege? Absolutely
          Should you be aware that your well spoken upper/middle class accent has a privilege over a person with a “common” accent? Absolutely

          Feminism and the inequality of the sexes isn’t the only social imbalance in the world, but it is a BIG problem, and if we don’t tackle it nothing will be done about it (does that mean we shouldn’t be aware of, and work on other social imbalances? Of course not).

          Like Jon I’m trying to teach my sons that pink isn’t just for girls, nor are dresses, cooking etc and science, sport and strength isn’t just for boys (my boys are quite small but as they’re getting older the lessons are getting more complex).

          The only way we can redress any social imbalance is through education, but before we can do that, we have to be able to see the problem.
          One of the ways in which we see and explain the problem is through the concept of privilege.

          Privilege makes some people uncomfortable, and I think that’s ok, your privilege should make you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable which is one of the reasons I try to be aware of it, and do something about it in the way I behave and the language I use.

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        2. Every single intersectional feminist ever acknowledges that there are many intersecting, overlapping and conflicting forms of oppression and (unearned) privilege.

          There should be an inalienable right for every person to walk down the street minding their own business without getting killed by police (and even if they were doing something criminal, there isn’t supposed to be an instant death penalty for that). Yet so far this year, 105 Black people have been killed by police in the US. I think that referring to walking down the street without fear as a privilege has confused matters – but as Jon said above, rather than argue about the terminology, let’s deal with the reality of the unfairness.

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  13. Prioritizing (rich white) Feminism over economic inequality (for the first 20 years of anyone’s life) is the same as prioritizing Youtube over Google search.

    Feminism politics, Feminism media, Feminism institutions forcing it down everyone’s throat and making any contrarian post invisible on Quora, FB not after mass bullying by moderators firsthand. Make the well off in this country even richer. F the poor. Wait we won’t even address them, who cares that they live in overcrowded tiny places and buy cheap unhealthy foods because it’s cheaper to afford. Feminism for the few is definitely more important than the poverty of many.

    It never concerns anyone in Silicon Valley the rent is 4x (much) higher than what the average or medium non-engineer can pay. Feminism is all about the unfortunate rich female software engineer who lives in a large posh apartment by herself in mid downtown. Why hasn’t she set a goal for herself of becoming CEO already? Forget about the Mexican lady (what about her career goals? who cares she’s not white and not at a female engineer’s salary level) who buses 2 hrs round trip to her Walmart job, she’s not important only white than maybe, maybe some select black women. Whitewashing female Asians is acceptable and cool, but lets spew white heroines to star in every show to demonstrate white Feminism power, cough cough I mean Feminism power.

    Prioritize rich white Feminism because it makes already well off women strives to earn CEO salaries (forget about the women and men who you earn 4x more every month) and become a corrupt af President. It’s not good enough to drive an expensive luxury car, eat at expensive restaurants and have a nice downtown condo. Forget about the majority of poor women and men here because they are invisible and you don’t care, you only care about the minority rich software engineers and how they need to be earning 10x 20x more money for herself. Feminism caring about the rich women, and not giving af bout poor women and men in the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jon, when you said: “The only way I expect to become less sad or angry about this is for the world to change” I thought: You will be a lot more effective if you focus more on what you can DO and less on how you FEEL. If you can’t do anything about a particular situation, drop that issue and do something else useful. Emotions are just signals, like lights on a dashboard. They do not ‘mean’ anything.
    The whole reason that all of this inequity and even violence occurs is because people are run by their feelings instead of realizing their fundamental position: we are hairless apes with a bit of self-awareness and lots of varying abilities. Our biggest enemy is our own ego-centric view of life. Kill that off, and 99% of all these problems will vanish, leaving people happier and more productive.
    Begin with oneself. Master ego.
    I appreciate your effort to begin the process with your awareness on these thoughts, and trying to get others to begin the process as well. Regards –

    Like

  15. This is a great post and I respect you for posting it. Thank you for hitting submit.

    (I’m white and a male too.)

    I haven’t read the comments, but I’m surprised you answer them – I don’t think a lot can come out of a discussion on this topic under a blog post.

    I know that you weren’t aiming for a complete list of examples of “when it is harder” when you’re not the member of the privileged group but just wanted to point out two important privilege clubs that are often omitted.

    The first is the smart club. Work is extremely important, no doubt here, but some are smarter than others. While it feels good to be smart so we should mot take too much credit here – it’s pure luck.

    The second is the healthy club. One could argue it’s the same club as the smart club, but I believe it deserve a separate mention. Mental health issues are a silent killer of people’s opportunities.

    When it comes to feminist issues clothing must be mentioned. A man can wear 3 similar shirts for years and that will not severely impact how they’re perceived, on average. More generally, there is far less grooming required for a man to go all the way up.

    Thanks again for your thoughts on this very important topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being soft-spoken I’be been constantly talked over in meetings by the boys in the boys club. Bosses from the same club tend to try to force their values on me, alluding, laughing at me being different now and then. I’ve been told twice, in private discussions by the executives that they prefer that I was “quiet”. All while being constantly recognized when there was a need for me to go and fix something, me being the most senior developer on the staff.

      My fault? I’m a 45 yo straight white male who never got into the boys club. I’m thinking for myself rather than follow the crowd.

      And the irony here is that I’m bundled together somehow with the perpetrators and can never speak out since I am by my external appearance part of the problem. I’ve been numerous time part of the conversations where people assume because of the color of my skin that I am privileged.

      My ancestors, up to my great grand father were Eastern European serfs for centuries. I grew up during communist rule. I’ve worked my ass off for 25+ years with many jobs in parallel to feed my family.

      And both the bullies and on the other side the society at large tell people like me that we need to keep quiet. That we’re privileged. Period. We’re not allowed to defend ourselves. Others speak for us. And my daughters go to school learning their father is privileged and part of the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

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