8½ Rules of Privilege

As many beautifully-snarky people have pointed out in recent years, it’s getting harder and harder to be White, male, heterosexual, and/or cisgender in this country these days without having to occasionally think about one or more of these identities in ways that might make us uncomfortable. (Full disclosure: I am all of those things listed in the previous sentence.) I have the utmost faith that we can handle it, though, and that we will emerge better for it.

I only recently (i.e. in the past 4-5 years) came to understand the extent to which I do not have to consider how my race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. affect my daily life. Other people do not have that luxury.

I’m not talking about any great epiphany that I had. Really, the most important thing that I have come to understand and accept is this: with respect to people whose lives are not like mine, I don’t understand their daily reality, and I will never fully understand. To put it another way, I get that I don’t get it.

I’ve had numerous discussions on social media and in real life (yes, IRL conversations do still happen, even with people who live glued to a computer like me) recently about how to recognize and understand our various forms of privilege, and how it can be difficult because of the way our society tends to view most of my attributes (White, male, etc.) as the “default” setting.

As a sort of confession, I used to be of the mindset that racism, sexism, etc. were not my fault, because I never owned slaves, I hadn’t even been born when Mad Men took place, and so on. It’s a seductive view for someone who wants to be on the right side of history while keeping a perfectly clear conscience, but it’s not true. Continue reading


Secondhand America


In America, class lines run parallel to racial lines. At the very bottom are people of color. The Caucasian equivalent is me—an Appalachian. As a male Caucasian in America, I am supposed to have an inherent advantage in every possible way. It’s true. I can pass more easily in society. I have better access to education, health care, and employment. But if I insist on behaving like a poor white person—shopping at secondhand shops and eating mullet—I not only earn the epithet of “trash,” I somehow deserve it.

The term “white trash” is class disparagement due to economics. Polite society regards me as stupid, lazy, ignorant, violent and untrustworthy.

I am trash because of where I’m from.

I am trash because of where I shop.

I am trash because of what I eat.

– Chris Offut, “Trash Food,” Oxford American, April 10, 2015


Politics Are Everywhere (Even Games)


Gamers only call something politics when it challenges the politics they themselves hold so deeply they don’t realize it’s already a political view. Games are meant to challenge dexterity and spatial awareness, not morality or politics: any games that do so are “pushing” politics or an agenda. These gamers never stop to think the politics they hold are themselves being “forced” on the rest of us for most of our lives. And we think games can do better and show more.

And this is a cycle:

Why is it not an “agenda” that the game industry’s view of white men is grim-faced, gun-holding, gravelly-voiced hetero dudes? That looks nothing like most of my friends. Why is it not an agenda?

Well, it fits. It’s comforting. It’s traditional.

Consider how including – merely including – gay people, black people, etc., is often considered “pushing” an agenda. There’s nothing wrong with pushing an agenda: for example, an agenda of “these people exist on the same world as you, please acknowledge them” seems like a good one. I’d argue “all white men are grim and heterosexual and monogamous” isn’t a very good agenda. [Emphasis added.]

– Tauriq Moosa, “Let’s own up to our politics in gaming culture” (see also)


What I’m Reading, January 5, 2015

On Nerd Entitlement, Laurie Penny, New Statesman, December 29, 2014

These are curious times. Gender and privilege and power and technology are changing and changing each other. We’ve also had a major and specific reversal of social fortunes in the past 30 years. Two generations of boys who grew up at the lower end of the violent hierarchy of toxic masculinity – the losers, the nerds, the ones who were afraid of being creeps – have reached adulthood and found the polarity reversed. Suddenly they’re the ones with the power and the social status. Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so. But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women, and to a certain otherwise very intelligent sub-set of nerdy men, the category “woman” is defined primarily as “person who might or might not deny me sex, love and affection”.


Heterosexuality is fucked up right now because whilst we’ve taken steps towards respecting women as autonomous agents, we can’t quite let the old rules go. We have an expectation for, a craving for of a sexual freedom that our rhetoric, our rituals and our sexual socialisation have not prepared us for. And unfortunately for men, they have largely been socialised – yes, even the feminist-identified ones – to see women as less than fully human. Men, particularly nerdy men, are socialised to blame women – usually their peers and/or the women they find sexually desirable for the trauma and shame they experienced growing up. If only women had given them a chance, if only women had taken pity, if only done the one thing they had spent their own formative years been shamed and harassed and tormented into not doing. If only they had said yes, or made an approach.

This, incidentally, is why we’re not living in a sexual utopia of freedom and enthusiastic consent yet despite having had the technological capacity to create such a utopia for at least 60 years. Men are shamed for not having sex; women are shamed for having it. Men are punished and made to feel bad for their desires, made to resent and fear women for having denied them the sex they crave and the intimacy they’re not allowed to get elsewhere. Meanwhile, women are punished and made to feel bad for their perfectly normal desires and taught to resist all advances, even Eventually, a significant minority of men learn that they can ‘get’ what they want by means of violence and manipulation, and a significant minority of women give in, because violence and manipulation can be rather effective. (Note: accepting the advances of an awful man does not make these people bad women who are conspiring to ‘make life hell for shy nerds’. I’ve heard that sort of thing come out of the mouths of my feminist-identified male nerd friends far too often.)

And so we arrive at an impasse: men must demand sex and women must refuse, except not too much because then we’re evil friendzoning bitches. The impasse continues until one or both parties grows up enough or plumps up the courage to state their desires honestly and openly, without pressure or resentment, respecting the consent and agency of one another.

Why Idris Elba Can’t Play James Bond, Phil Nobile Jr., Badass Digest, December 29, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 11, 2014

Fox and Friends had a sad over the DOJ mentioning white privilege at Ferguson talk, Robyn Pennacchia, Death and Taxes, December 9, 2014

Co-host Brian Kilmeade felt that by even acknowledging the fact that white privilege exists, the Department of Justice was “taking sides,” when it was supposed to be neutral. And the neutral position is that white privilege does not exist. At least for the co-hosts of Fox and Friends. Who are all–by sheer coincidence, I’m sure–white people.


How is it taking sides to discuss the very real fact of white privilege? There are sides in this? How are there sides?

It’s like a small child closing their eyes and telling everyone “You can’t see me now! I’m invisible!”

You know, this, and the way they talk about “pulling the race card” and “race baiting”–it’s as though they’re thinking “We simply cannot let black people find out about racism, or they are gonna be so pissed.” or “Maybe if we pretend racism and white privilege don’t exist, all the black people will think they’re just imagining it, and then we can all pretend that everything is just fine.”

[Emphasis in original.]

One University Found a New, Awful Way to Talk About Jennifer Lawrence’s Nude Photo Leak, Jordan Valinsky, Mic, December 9, 2014 Continue reading


At Long Last, Guys Who Play Video Games Have a Voice!!!

Lack of self-awareness at this level is just…….well, you can’t make this stuff up.

This is usually the part where most bloggers note that they haven’t written much about this GamerGate thing for one reason or another. I keep wanting to write about it, but then something new happens and it gets even stranger, and so far I’ve just ended up with an ever-growing list of links that I might one day make into an outline or history or something. The #NotYourScapegoat thing just seems too rich to pass up, though.

Here’s a bit of context, sort of:

For additional bits of awesomeness, see this Clickhole piece:

And this:


What I’m Reading, May 26, 2014

Why the ’90s are literally disappearing from history, Andrew Leonard, Salon, May 17, 2014

So what do we keep, and what do we let go? Much is made in Silicon Valley today of the notion that access is replacing ownership. We don’t need to own cars in the age of ride-sharing. The “cloud” will take care of all our computing needs. We don’t even have to employ full-time workers, we just grab them from TaskRabbit. We rent, we share, we outsource — this is the millennial way. Owning is just so feudal.

Much of this is rhetorical bullshit aimed at justifying $10 billion market valuations for the likes of Airbnb and Uber. But there is grist to it that can’t be dismissed.

Men and Feminism, The Belle Jar, May 19, 2014

Continue reading


What I’m Reading, May 23, 2014

By User Magnus Manske on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAnti-Choicers Desperately Insist You See Things That Are Clearly Not There, Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check, May 12, 2014

To hear the lurid descriptions of what anti-choicers imagine abortion to be, it seems that they imagine someone killing an actual baby. Upending that narrative and reminding people, through incontrovertible visual proof, that during a first-trimester abortion the embryo is so small as to barely register as a potential baby, much less an actual baby, might be the most threatening part of the Letts video. Her stomach is flat. The abortion is quite obviously a quick gynecological procedure. If she had stayed pregnant, eventually there would be a baby. But it’s clear as could be, watching the video, that only fantasists have the ability to see “baby” where realists see nothing more than the beginning of a long process known as “pregnancy.” It’s no more a baby than a seed is a tree.

While the debate over abortion is really about sexuality and women’s rights, the official line from anti-choicers is that they’re against killing “babies,” and so this probably is pretty embarrassing for them, because it reveals that their cover story is perhaps even sillier than their fears about female sexuality. So, their effort to save face involves multiple variations of “Don’t believe your lying eyes! Just because you can’t see a baby doesn’t mean there isn’t a baby there!”

The Myth Of White, Heterosexual Christian Entitlement, Manny Schewitz, Forward Progressives, May 12, 2014 Continue reading


Privilege and “Guilt” (UPDATED)

Over the past couple of days, I have participated in several heated discussions on Facebook regarding white privilege, largely inspired by these two articles:

Some people are politely skeptical of the idea, while other are very actively hostile towards it. All I’m really trying to say is that as a white person, there’s a lot I don’t know, and we should all try listening now and then. Maybe I’m still stuck in Stage 3 as described in nance’s article, or maybe not. I’m just going to reprint some of my comments from Facebook below without any further editing, in case I need to bring them up again.


No one is saying that people with privilege should feel guilty. In fact, the only people who routinely mention “guilt” are the privileged people insisting that they refuse to feel guilty about the circumstances of their lives, which makes me think they doth protest too much.

You are focusing on your intent, which might not be in any way malicious–but that doesn’t mean that well-meaning people with privilege can’t cause harm. (In fact, the well-meaning can often cause great deals of harm.) You have to look at it from the point of view of a person being harmed. Would you care if the person actively harming you was being malicious or not? Probably not–I know I’d want the harm to stop first, and maybe then we could all chat about it.

————————– Continue reading


Your Life Can Still Suck Even If You Have Privilege

One of the most difficult concepts for me in coming to understand my own privilege (PDF file) is the idea that you can have privilege in society and still be miserable. I don’t even have much of anything to complain about from society’s standpoint—I was born a white, mid-to-upper-middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, reasonably-conventionally-attractive male. (I had never even heard the word “cisgender” until about two years ago, and my iPhone autocorrect still doesn’t seem to know it.) The only areas where I might lack privilege (atheism and mental health) are not immediately apparent to people who don’t know me, and haven’t seriously impacted my life (mostly because of the areas where I am privileged).

Whatever struggles I have had in my life, I’ve always had the benefit of financial support, access to good health care, and everything else that comes with the various categories I listed above. I’m not saying this to brag, but rather to say that I’m very, very lucky, and to illustrate that the challenge for me and others like me, when it comes to privilege, is understanding and acknowledging all the ways it has helped me while doing what I can to make things better (or at least not make them worse.) This mostly involves shutting up and listening.

A blog post by Gina Crosley-Corcoran entitled “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person…” (h/t Elizabeth) captures the seeming conflict between white privilege and actual lived experience: Continue reading