Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feminism : Privilege

Aoife posting at Consider the Tea Cosy asks :-

How about you? What do you think about allyhood, about callout culture, about tone-trolling, about navigating intersections of privilege and oppression in our activism(s)?   [link]

Feminism and lefty politics are fairly new to me so these posts are me thinking about loud.

Privilege "is a concept used in anti-racist, anti-sexist, and similar anti-oppression movements. Anti-oppressionists use "privilege" to describe a set of perceived advantages (or lack of disadvantages) enjoyed by a majority group, who are usually unaware of the privilege they possess. It is a term of art that may not align particularly well with the general-use word "privilege" or the programming term "privilege".

A privileged person is not necessarily prejudiced (sexist, racist, etc) as an individual, but may be part of a broader pattern of *-ism even though unaware of it." (via Geek Feminism Wiki)

As the above definition makes clear, an important element of privilege is that people are unaware of it's existence because it's so ingrained into society and our norms.  Men, then, become hostile and angry and refuse to acknowledge the existence of privilege when feminists 'call them out'. This hostility is viewed as denial and an attempt to defend the current privilege men have over women through dismissal or aggression.

The concept is similar to the early days of psychoanalysis prior to Carl Rogers, when analysts  had the delusion of knowing more than the client about her own life.

Attempt to explain and you are accused of rationalizing; argue and you are intellectualizing; refuse the assertion and you are in denial. Anger  is viewed as sidetracking the debate and of confirming the existence of privilege; ignore them and it's passive aggression.  Every well is poisoned. The debate goes nowhere. 

How can privilege be falsified?  Is it even a useful concept?
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