On waking up to my privilege and the desire to do something about it
All my life I have been coasting along in the first class carriage of white male privilege. I imagine I could continue that journey for as long as I like and it would probably work out alright. Heck! Who am I kidding, it would work out better than alright. But in 2016 something stirred within me and didn’t sit right.
Throughout the events of last year issues of inequality were consistently highlighted and as a result the privilege of the white, middle class man is clear for all to see. So clear that even those endowed with it might now be able to see it (though some will still choose to coast along with the carriage door to standard class firmly closed).
It’s a privilege that, until recently, I failed to truly recognise. Any successes that I’ve had in my life I’ve unashamedly taken full credit for as a result of my hard work ethic. That’s not quite the full story though. It’s time to accept that some of the credit of my success thus far is to be attributed to being handed a winning lottery ticket in the form of a penis and skin pigment that is susceptible to burning after more than ten minutes in direct sunlight.
Think you’re different? As you settle into your desk after the Christmas break, take a look around your office. Are you surrounded by other white males just like you? Do you really think that when you were hired you were the best candidate on the market? Or were you simply the whitest male in a pool of other mediocre talent, snapped up thanks to unconscious gender bias?
I worry that this all sounds like I’m expecting a medal for my wokeness and that by publicly recognising this I’m merely attempting to assuage my guilty conscience via a few likes. I assure you that this is not the case. Rather, I intend for this to be a note for myself and a call to action for other white males who, following the events of 2016, also feel something not sitting right within them. If 2016 was the year of awakening, then 2017 should be the year for action.
I’m at the very start of my journey. At present, I can barely perceive the privilege bestowed upon me. In order to see it, it will take time and questioning to unravel a society that has gender bias and an outdated model of masculinity woven into its fabric.
Grayson Perry’s The Descent of Man felt like a great starting point for questioning this inequality. It’s an insightful and somewhat uncomfortable book. In it Perry suggests that through a new and improved version of masculinity men could not only feel like they belong in an equal society (their current fear being that with more women having a seat at the table they might have to give up theirs) but even be happier as a result.
I for one welcome this happier version of masculinity, as I’m sure families affected by male suicide would too. However, The Man Code 2.0 is not easily defined, as Perry outlines, it’s not quite as simple as re-writing the current rules of masculinity. Though small revolutions may happen, ultimately it will take slow evolution through generations to see real change, but that’s no excuse for not taking action today.