This happened on a site that you probably don’t have access to. I wasn’t the only respondent, but I liked what I’d written and would like to reproduce it here. I should note that the questioner was a Californian, so my answer is from a US perspective.
How can I explain white male privilege to my white male boyfriend? We had a big fight about this the other day, sparked by a misogynistic commercial that he refused to admit was a problem. I can has ideas pls?
Below are some suggestions and thought processes that have worked for me. As a side note, sometimes I spend so much time in my feminism talking to women about women that I forget all about white men!
Did he live in an mostly white neighborhood? Odds are pretty good that he did; many white people grow up with few people of color around. Look up de facto segregation in neighborhoods in your area, and in schools. Look up the differences in funding in your schools. Surely he remembers a school in his neighborhood being known as the “rich” school or the “poor” school. What were the differences in the education that students in poor neighborhoods received from those in rich neighborhoods/schools? Ask him what effect this might have had on their lives. What effect did his school quality have on his life? Share the effect that it had on yours.
Get out his movie collection, or his music library. Go through and figure out how many acting leads are men, or white, or both. How many directors? How many singers? How many executives of television studios or record labels? How old is the oldest man, and how old is the oldest woman? How fat is the fattest man, and how fat is the fattest woman? Odds are REALLY good that his movie and music libraries are HUGELY disproportionate. (If he reads, this is going to be true for his books as well.) Remind him that women make up more than half of the population, and white people are quite the global minority–if he objects that most of his music is from the united states, or that most people around the globe “don’t make music/movies” ask him WHY. Plus, his library is still very likely to be disproportionately white from US demographics anyway. If he objects that women “don’t make music/movies” in the genres he likes, ask him WHY.
Ask him: WHERE are the women and people of color in the music/movie/lit industries? WHY are they missing from his library? Suggest that seeing almost all men and white people on the screen or as the makers of music he likes normalizes white male people for him. Suggest that it does this for EVERYONE.
If he starts to feel like you’re accusing him of doing something wrong, explain that even if he didn’t buy any movies or music, or never went to school, the bad proportions would still exist in the industry. Emphasize that in this way privilege is systemic Neither the problems nor the solutions can ever arise from individual action, but only from collective action. It doesn’t come down to him–it’s the people who do the hiring, who make the art, who market it. Suggest that normalizing white maleness is a societywide effort.
THAT’S why the commercial is such a problem. It’s part of the societywide effort to denigrate women. Talk about the commercial as a REMINDER of all the ways that, throughout your life, whiteness and maleness have been normalized, and that this has marginalized YOU.
He SHOULD care that you have been hurt by society’s privileging of men. That should be the important thing. He should be mad that there’s a societywide effort to hurt and marginalize all women.