PHIL 242 - McIntosh and Bartky
“White Privilege and Male Privilege”
APROMINENT WAY OF THINKINGABOUT SEXISM, RACISM, ETC.
- As a set of forces that hurt, constrain, or otherwise disadvantage some group.
AMORE DIFFICULT THOUGHT:
- That those forces also provide advantages to men, white people, etc.
- Many people seem happy to agree that women (and other disadvantaged groups) fail to get
good jobs because they’ve suffered from unjust forces…
- ...but are very reluctant to think that there is a flipside—that sexism, racism, etc. systematically
provide unfair advantages to some people.
REACTIONS TO OVERREPRESENTATION OF MEN IN CURRICULUM
- Do men occupy a large place art history, history of philosophy, etc. just because of the value of
their work (and because women have been kept out)?…
- ...or because sexist societies provide them with tools that help them?
- “For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to
avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy.”
ACONCEPT FROM BARTKY: MYSTIFICATION
- Mystification is when the real explanation of some phenomenon is hidden or obscured by
misleading results of that phenomenon.
- (Marxist example: ‘intrinsic’value of money.)
BARTKY ON MYSTIFICATION
- The underlying truth of women’s situation is that they are dominated and degraded by others.
- But since in principle everyone accepts that women are equal human beings, it’s easy to
imagine other, misleading causes of the problem: an essential, shameful female nature or
unique, personal flaws.
MYSTIFICATION AND INVISIBILITY
(BACK TO MCINTOSH)
- Political forces can lead us to emphasize and focus on some topics…
- ...and draw our attention away from others…
- ...and make still others seem not like politics but ‘just the way things are’.
- So one job for political philosophy (including feminist philosophy) is to make things that have
been made invisible in this way ‘reappear’.
- Members of privileged groups “are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative,
and average, and also ideal so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which
will allow ‘them’to be more like ‘us’.”
SOME THEMES ON THE LIST
- ...choices about who to interact with...
- ...choices about what cultures to learn about... - ...confidence that others will see you in favourable ways...
- ...treatment as an individual, not a representative...
- ...perceived objectivity with regard to racial issues...
CALL FOR FURTHER ANALYSIS
- “I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these
varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to
be ignorant, arrogant, or destructive.”
- Privilege is not (necessarily) strength—those without privilege will often have insights and
abilities that the privileged do not.
INVISIBLE BACKPACK ANALOGY
- Provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, cl