Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Instersectional Oppression, Intersectional Privilege: White Female Privilege

The existence of white female privilege is being debated. (See the comments here, or just read Renee's take on the whole thing). I see the debate as an example of the continued failure of white feminists to grasp intersectionality.

As I wrote here,
The universal human being is not just male. He is heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, middle-class, and - in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand - white. We tend to conceptualize every deviation from the default atomistically, even though this does not reflect individual identities or experiences. So, for example, the experiences of a disabled woman of colour do not amount to the experiences of a white able-bodied woman + an able-bodied man of colour + a white disabled man. Her experiences are those of a disabledwomanofcolour. The different aspects of her identity cannot be separated out from each other.

As such, I do not just experience marginalization as a woman. I experience marginalization as a white woman (among many other aspects of my identity).

By the same token, I do not just have privilege as a white person. I have privilege as a white woman. I have white female privilege.

That is, there are assumptions made and expectations placed on me that, vis-a-vis my interactions with white men, rather suck. But vis-a-vis my interactions with people of colour - particularly women of colour - those same assumptions and expectations privilege me.

This is not contradictory. It's about relative power in the kyriarchy. This is intersectionality.


  1. You might appreciate this, then...I rarely pimp my own blog, but I was SO annoyed yesterday that I actually put it into youtube. *blush* That said, the message is important:

    White female privilege is something I live inside, too...and it's such a strange beast. People say things to you they otherwise might not, and I've written about it before (with a bit of annoyance, but try to find a way to laugh anyway). *sigh*

  2. That image sums things up brilliantly. Yay PDG!

  3. Thank you, this is a really great post! A lot of the comments at Feministe and Racialicious were shocking and I'm glad that you addressed the hierarchy within privilege.

  4. Well said, it seems to be so hard for people to understand the idea of privilege being a relative thing and that there are layers of privilege and oppression. People find it hard to accept that you can have privilege and be oppressed at the same time.

    Thank you very much for writing this .

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