What is privilege?

What is privilege?  Is it having enough money to go to a good school and to be able to pay for a college education?  Is it being born into the right family, at the right time, in right area? Is it having the right skin color or gender or ethnicity?

If we focus on gender, right there we can see a lot of privileges afforded to one and not the other.  In school, more is expected from boys.  In the workplace, often men are chosen for jobs over women.  And as children, men were taught to be more aggressive than women, which translated to climbing in the workplace.  So is this a privileged that men are conditioned to excel more than women?

And now we have affirmative action, which applies to women in college and the workplace.  Once, a white Christian boy from a middle class household had all the potential to be the next world leader.  But now with affirmative action, that boy has nothing to go on but his own character.  So is privilege turning its tables? But then again, even with affirmative action diversifying colleges and the workplace, it still seems as though men are rising to executive positions over women.

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One thought on “What is privilege?

  1. ngrabowski

    meyercar, I think there is a lot of potential in your post to have an enlightened conversation about how privilege and affirmative action interact but I can’t help but desire some clarification, expansion, and fact-checking from your post. First, in one of your assertions, “in school, more is expected from boys”, I’m really curious as to what expectations you believe are placed on boys and girls, as there is no mandated gendered curriculum that either gender has to learn and follow. I’m also curious about how you’re quantifying “more”, because there might be different expectations for boys and girls but I would find it hard to objectively state which sex has more or less expectations.

    Second, you stated that “men were taught to be more aggressive than women, which translated to climbing in the workplace”. Although I disagree with your word choice, I do believe that assertiveness and confidence has a positive correlation with career advancement. However, I would challenge your claim that it is due to the fact men were just taught “more aggression” and would instead, show how aggressiveness is a societally deemed “masculine quality”, and therefore, marks unacceptable behavior for a woman who must embody femininity. If you do behave in this way as a woman, it holds negative consequences. This is seen in the classic example of when a woman acts assertive, she gets called a “bitch”.

    Third, you state that because of affirmative action, women are afforded access to college and employment. However, much of this assertion comes from incorrect assumptions on affirmative action. Firstly, the framework of affirmative action in the United States is primarily built on ending racial discrimination, as affirmative action was created under Executive Order 10925 which required employers not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin (eeoc.gov). Although gender is written into affirmative action policies through the Civil Rights Act, it is not the primary concern of affirmative action cases. Secondly, colleges cannot operate their admissions process through affirmative action, as quotas have been deemed unconstitutional. In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the ruling stated that “admissions processes ensure that each applicant is evaluated as individual and not in way that makes applicant’s race or ethnicity the defining feature of his or her application” (Fisher). As you can see through this example, admissions do not operate under affirmative action and emphasizes race not gender.

    Four, I agree with you that women are catching up in terms of college attendance and graduation, but that doesn’t necessarily ‘flip the tables of privilege’ as 1. white men are attending college at greater rates than ever before despite a favored female ratio in college (Gangone) and 2. college statistics don’t paint the entire picture of female empowerment. Women may graduate in greater numbers than men, and enter the workforce at similar rates, but “at every career stage, men are more likely to advance than women” (Ghosh). This is clearly indicative of a male privilege that is engrained in our job market, and is clearly not favoring women.

    Works Cited:
    Gangone, Lynn M. . “College gender ratios and questionable use of the term “affirmative action.” Denver Post 23 July 2013, sec. Opinion: 1. Print.
    Ghosh, Palash. “Why Are More Women Than Man Going to College?.” International Business Times [NYC] 6 Dec. 2011, sec. Opinion: n. pag. International Business Times. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
    Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. 570 U.S. 345. Supreme Court of the United States. 2012. WestlawNext. Web 2 December 2013.
    “Executive Order 10925.” Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. .

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