What is privilege?

While it was written over 25 years ago, the Bell Hooks piece on the concept of privilege within feminist communities is strikingly contemporary.  Feminists of privilege often naively assume that all women are united by their womanhood and ignore the fact that race, sexual orientation, class, etc. factor into each woman’s experience.  Hooks states that a sort of universal “sisterhood” can be forged if women of all races unite not on the auspices of their shared oppression, but “on the basis of our political commitment to a a feminist movement that aims to end sexist oppression” (Hooks 129).  What Hooks ignores is that “sexist oppression” can mean different things for different women.  For example, in Michelle Obama’s 2012 DNC speech she stated that her most important job was as “mom-in-chief,” much to the public chagrin of many white feminists.  However, Tami Winfrey Harris argued in a blog post that black women have not historically had the luxury of identifying solely as mothers and being seen as good mothers.  In this way, it’s actually radical that Michelle Obama is framing herself as a strong, maternal figure.  Thus, while I agree that women of all races can unite with shared feminist goals, I think that we also need to remember that privilege can result in different types of women having different goals.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women” (1986).


This entry was posted in Big Question Reflection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What is privilege?

  1. eric132 says:

    I think you have a very interesting valid point here. Generalizing based on gender alone may often lead to inaccurate representations of women and what they are fighting for; Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC is an great, relevant example of this. As you stated, sexual orientation in women may lead to very different prejudices and in turn different interpretations of what they perceive as equality than your average heterosexual female. For instance, being a good mother (such as in Obama’s speech) might also be an important statement for lesbian mothers to make since homosexuals have received societal backlash when trying to raise a child in anything but a hetero-normative household. The word marriage might also have a different meaning for homosexual women who cannot be married in 44 states. Whereas for a heterosexual women, marriage is not a right that has yet to be earned but rather has many stereotypical gender roles often associated with the word (from mostly always men proposing marriage to women to the associations made with the word “housewife”). I would agree that women have goals based on many other factors besides solely gender.

What do you have to say about this?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s