Identity politics and privilege

 

A chara, – I share Frankie Gaffney’s vision of a fair and equal society where we all enjoy the same rights and opportunities (“Identity politics is utterly ineffective at anything other than dividing people”, Opinion & Analysis, May 19th).

But in order to make that vision a reality, we each must recognise not only the ways in which the current social order hinders us, but also the ways in which it favours us.

In sociological terms, to say that a person is privileged as a straight, white man simply means that he does not experience systematic disadvantage due to his race, gender, or sexual orientation.

It emphatically does not mean that he lives a life of comfort, that he is immune to hardship, or even that he does not experience systematic disadvantage such as can result from disability, immigration status, religion, or social class.

The fact that a person does not choose these attributes does not negate the advantages they bring, just as the fact that a person does not choose their social class does not erase the effect of class on all of our lives. Attacking people who unintentionally cause offence is not the path to unity.

Neither is dismissing the concerns of others as merely a divisive and patronising waste of energy.

Perhaps if we would all really listen to one another, fewer people would resort to shouting in order to be heard. – Is mise,

CADHLA McDONNELL

State College,

Pennsylvania.

Sir, – I am an indigent, white, male, heterosexual, monogamous pensioner who, along with seven siblings, was born on the edge of a bog in Longford.

My mother imbued us with a sense of privilege because we had “a bit of land” and, being Farrells, our ancestors were chieftains and bishops.

Does this condemn me to hated white binary male privilege status? – Yours, etc,

TOM FARRELL,

Swords,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – While Frankie Gaffney makes some interesting points on how the discourse on privilege can be used as a stick to beat people and to end debate, his complete dismissal of privilege misunderstands the real need to address intersectional oppression.

Most people in the world have both privileges and oppressions. I am heterosexual, white, cis gender, middle-class, European woman, and therefore have experienced many privileges, such as access to education, social security, freedom to travel and decent employment opportunities. Yet as a woman, I have had to deal with subtle and overt gender discrimination my whole life.

I cannot claim to understand what it means to be working class and from Ballymun. Yet perhaps Frankie could question what growing up in Ballymun would have meant as a gay man, a person of colour, a woman, or a Traveller to understand that there may be others within his community that have faced even greater struggles?

Finally, we cannot deny that male privilege exists, straight privilege exists and white privilege, particularly, exists. The recent #WeAreIrish Twitter campaign as case in point. If having a full-length feature in Ireland’s most respected newspaper to air your views on the privilege discourse is not privilege, then what is? – Yours, etc,

AISLING WALSH,

Guatemala City,

Guatemala.