WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Privilege Is: (a) Commonplace, (b) Misunderstood or (c) Frowned Upon

Further reading:

From a book review in an academic journal, Teaching Sociology:
There are numerous academic readers available for sociology classes that deal with issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. As textbook prices continue to rise in proportion to student complaints about costs, I worry about requiring lengthy and expensive readers where I assign only half of the articles or fewer. This second edition of Privilege: A Reader has been pared down by more than 100 pages and its price has been reduced to $35, making it less than half the cost of some popular readers from larger publishing companies.

The text Privilege stands out from many other anthologies in another way. Most of its articles consist of personal narratives of authors from one or more privileged social statuses deconstructing their own privilege and discussing it within a larger social context of systems of privilege and domination. Rather than focusing, like many texts do, on the various ways that different subordinate social groups and individuals are oppressed, this reader focuses on how individuals from superordinate groups are privileged.


Mcintosh’s “White Privilege and Male Privilege” is widely used in college classrooms because it concretely and personally reveals the invisible knapsack of unearned advantages and conferred dominance that members of privileged groups carry around with them. This reading, like many others in this strong collection, helps students to go beyond an individualistic analysis

  • NYT: “privilege” keyword — you have to do some weeding
  • Privilege via Tumblr
  • Privilege via the OED — sense #2 seems to apply, but etymological echoes abound
  • Privilege: Know your meme
  • The way we talked about it in class: the privilege concept — especially its check-your-privilege meme context — asks us to be aware that some of us have unearned advantages based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or socio-economic status — but is not designed to inspire guilt, shame, etc. Awareness seems to be the goal, which can be a good thing, but note how quickly it can become polarizing. If there’s consensus on that meaning, then it is possible to do more focused inquires, such as into social-justice contexts, where some activists ask us to move from awareness to action.
  • Your entry here: send me one if you can find a credible source that attempts to put “privilege” into some explanatory or truth-seeking context. It’s easy to find advocacy positions; we should try to find contextual and analytic pieces. Send me a link!