Unearnt privilege is real. Unearnt privilege is also invisible.
Because privilege is invisible, those of us who have it (hi, straight white male here) can often be unaware of it, even when we’re actively exercising it; and this can lead us to think it isn’t real. This can lead us to insist it isn’t real, particularly when we’re being called out for having (unwittingly or otherwise) profited by it.
But it is real. If you’re in America and society perceives you as male, or white, or straight, or rich, or Christian (to name just a few big ones), then society affords you a latitude, society caters to your preferences and to your comfort, in ways that it simply doesn’t do for people it perceives as not belonging to those privileged groups. It makes life for you easier and makes sure you feel more important. That isn’t to say it makes life easy or makes you feel important, simply easier and more important than would be the case if you belonged to one of the non-privileged groups.
Gear change. I really love this piece in Cosmopolitan calling out Fox News’s Outnumbered for their paternalistic attempt to tell Cosmo to stay in their place and cover issues women should be reading about (fashion and pleasing men in bed, obvs) while leaving politics with the men, where it belongs. In its tone, in its substance, in its perception, the essay is perfect from start to end.
And it got me thinking about the title of the show. Outnumbered. I’m already predisposed to dislike that title, because I don’t appreciate a cable news show appropriating the name of the most hilarious parenting sitcom ever televised.
But if you’re someone who I’ve claimed, up above, that our society gives you unearnt privilege, just for being you, and you’re sitting there thinking that’s a load of bullshit, that what you have, you’ve earnt, and it’s patent liberal hypocrisy of me to use claims of equality in order to give women or racial minorities or LGBTs special treatment, then think about the title of Outnumbered.
This is Fox News’s attempt to get women watching them in the middle of the day, since, after all, the daytime TV market is predominantly female. And yet it’s not called Outnumbering or In the Majority or anything to emphasise the women who comprise most of its panel. Instead it’s called Outnumbered. The producers of this show, in their quest to appeal to women viewers, still take it totally for granted that even in something so fundamental as the show’s title, their audience are by default going to share the perspective of the one male panelist rather than his female colleagues.
That’s not the most pernicious, or pervasive, or harmful manifestation of privilege I could think of, not by a long shot. It’s not even the worst instance of it just in the criticisms of Outnumbered cited in the Cosmopolitan essay. But it’s a tremendously clear one.