White Privilege and Male Privilege: a personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women’s studies
By: Peggy McIntosh
• Peggy has noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged in the curriculum.
• Denials accumulate to taboos and these denials protect male privilege from being fully recognized.
• Since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there should also be white privilege.
• Peggy thinks whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, just like men are not taught to see male privilege.
• This paper is her observations of white privilege and she thinks that white privilege is an ”invisible package of unearned assets that she can
count on to cash each day, but also meant to remain oblivious”.
• Peggy saw parallels with men’s reluctance to acknowledge male privilege they only acknowledge rarely.
• Layout of paper: review types of denial at work at protecting/preventing awareness about enriched male privilege, then draw personal
parallels of white privilege, then say 46 ways she has white privilege in social and political frameworks.
• Women’s studies ask men to give up male power, but how can you ask white person to give up their power?
• How do men denial their overprivileged state?
• Men are important because they have done most of what is important/distinctive in life/civilization.
• Certain individual thinkers are blindly male-oriented but deny that there is any systemic tendency to over empower men.
• Those men who do grant that male privilege takes institutionalized and embodied forms still will deny how male
hegemony has opened doors for them.
• All men deny that male over reward alone can explain men’s centrality in all the inner sanctums of our most powerful
• Those who acknowledge that male privilege systems have over empowered them usually end up doubting that we could
dismantle these privilege systems. They will want to help increase women’s status, but not decrease men’s.
• Some say that male domination is natural and follows inevitably from evolutionary pressures.
• Others say experience, religion or social responsibility, wishing and dreaming.
• Peggy learned that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious.
• Then she learned the ways she enjoyed unearned skin privilege and that she has been conditioned into oblivious about its existence of how it
put white people ahead of others but also it is paradoxically damaging.
• Her school did not let her see herself as an oppressor and she had to see it for herself.
• Her schooling has followed the pattern of Elizabeth Minnich that says: “whites 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 that will allow them to be more like us”. This
attitude is seen in men and it is annoying.
• She has come up with a list of daily effects of white privilege in her life that she has not earned but have been made to feel are hers since
birth, by citizenship and by virtue of a citizen. This list attaches somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to other factors.
• The rest of the page is her list.
• This page is her list.
• For Peggy, white privilege has been an elusive and fugitive project. The pressure to avoid it is great, as if you face it you must give up the
myth of the meritocracy, you must realise that there is no such thing as a free country, one’s life is not what one makes of it, and that moral
conditions are not what had been let to believe.
• The paralysis of nerves come from 3 literary silences protecting privilege
1. Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream: she wrote about walking toward black kids on the street, knowing they would step in a gutter.
2. Margret Andersen’s/ Mamie Fields Lemon Swamps: they wrote about going on trips with a car full of supplies.
3. Adrienne Rich: wrote about daily experiences of privilege.
• Author thinks white women’s writing in this area is to much on systemic racism than daily lives as white women.
• Author does not think of any of these conditions on her list is bad for white people but thinks there needs to be a more finely
differentiated taxonomy of privilege. • These examples: make her feel at home, escape dangers, escape fear, anxiety, prevent her from hiding or be in disguise or being an
outsider. Most keep her from having to be angry.
• The author sees a pattern in white privilege a pattern of assumptions which have been passed on from white person to white.
• Author says “My skin colour was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make”. use to her advantage.
• Peggy said she received daily signals and indications that white people encountered, and that others either didn’t exist or must be trying, not
very successfully, to be like people of my race.
• White people were being made as confident, comfortable and oblivious while other groups were made to be the opposite.
• Thus, the word privilege is misleading. Its connotations are too positive to fit the conditions and behaviours privilege systems approve. We
think privilege is favoured, earned or give by birth or luck, something everyone must want. Yet the conditions described work to
systematically over empower certain groups, and this privilege confers dominance, and gives power to control. Thus privilege should not
continue to be used as a desirable attribute.
• Though privilege may confer power, it does not confer (award) moral strength and those who do not depend on conferred dominance have
traits which may never develop like those who do. But in some groups, those dominated have actually become strong through not having all
of these unearned advantages and this gives them a great deal to teach others.
• What is the difference between earned strength and unearned power conferred systematically?
• Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate.
• What are positive advantages which we can work to spread, to the point where they are not advantages at all but simply part of the
normal civic and social fabric, and negative types of advantage which unless rejected will reinforce our present hierarchies?
• Ex: Positive privilege of belonging fosters development and should not be seen as privilege for a few. It should be an unearned
entitlement but it is an unearned advantage to those who currently have it.
• Ex: Negative privilege which gave her cultural permission not to take darker skinned people seriously can be seen as arbitrarily