The Paternalistic Academic-Industrial-Complex of Feminism

Here are some excerpts from Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, edited by Jessica Yee. (Excerpts via Racialicious):

Jessica Yee: “Introduction”

[W]e’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism” so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a woman based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, and not your own. We are not equal when initatives to support gender equality have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become it’s own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it?

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Affluent people should not give money-management advice without acknowledging class privilege.

In Why You Pay for Shit Twice in the Hood., Renina of New Model Minority writes:

How do people pay for shit twice in the hood. Poverty is lucrative. People who own businesses in the hood make money charging incredible prices for the day to day things needed to survive.

The first example that comes to mind is a New York times article where Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the “ghetto tax” and how being poor is expensive. She writes,

  • “Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts..”
  • .”..low-income car buyers…pay more for car loans than more affluent buyers.”
  • “Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance.”
  • “They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses.”
  • “They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive…convenient stores.”

When you add that all up, you really get a sense of how when you live in the hood you pay more for services and products, just because you live in the hood.

The example of how poverty is expensive is Rafi and Dallas’ video Check Mate. Checkmate analyzes why people in the hood use check cashing places rather than banks, why there are arguably no banks in the hood and how check cashing spots,  pawn shops and gold chain shops operate to seperate the people who don’t have a lot of money from the little bit of bread that they do have.

In Spending, Priorities, and Class Divides, s.e. smith of this ain’t livin’ writes:

Financial planning seems like a quaint luxury to a lot of people because, functionally, it is. It should not be, but it is, and refusing to talk about this fact means that conversations about money, concentration of wealth, fighting your way to get ahead in this culture, end up fundamentally skirting over a pretty critical issue. If you start a financial planning discussion with the ground assumption that everyone has money to spare and can trim the budget to make more, you’re pretty much telling a big chunk of your readership to just not even bother.

In Are You Better Off Buying $200 Shoes?, Gwen Sharp of Sociological Images writes:

Further, advice such as that given here present this as simply a matter of being economically smart, rather than as a class issue: unless you’re looking for the type of trendy shoes that you’ll only want to wear briefly anyway, you shouldn’t waste your time at H&M.  Similarly, in grad school I was once told I was “dumb” to rent rather than buy a house, in a town where they cost $150,000+. In both cases, the opportunities provided by economic advantage are perceived as economic common sense, obvious choices for anyone who is smart and has decent taste. Combined with the invisibility of people who can’t afford to spend that much money, accepting these class assumptions allows us to gaze disdainfully at people in “cheap” shoes, confident that they, too, are simply “cheap.”

From Microaggressions:

  • Upper-class activist:: Why don’t you have a cell phone? That’s ridiculous!
  • Me:: I come from a poor family.
  • Upper-class activist:: I guess some people just choose to spend their resources differently.
  • Me:: No, I can’t afford one.
  • Upper-class activist:: You just don’t spend your money well enough.

People perceive upper-middle class white men to be smarter than they are.

In On Being Good at Seeming Smart, Eric Schwitzgebel writes (bold emphasis mine):

[A]fter a colloquium at which the student had asked a question, one faculty member expressed to me how impressive the student was. I was struck by that remark because I had thought the student’s question had actually been pretty poor. But it occurred to me that the question had seemed, superficially, to be smart. That is, if you didn’t think too much about the content but rather just about the tone and delivery, you probably would get a strong impression of smartness. In fact, my overall view of this student was that he was about average — neither particularly good nor particularly bad — but that he was a master of seeming smart: He had the confidence, the delivery, the style, all the paraphernalia of smartness, without an especially large dose of the actual thing.

Since then, I have been collecting anecdotal data on seeming smart. One thing I’ve noticed is what sort of person tends spontaneously to be described, in my presence, as “seeming smart”. A very striking pattern emerges: In every case I have noted the smart-seeming person has been a young white male. Now my sample size is small and philosophy is about 75% white male anyway, so I want to be cautious in this inference. […]

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Male IT geeks tend to think they are “low status” males.

Why are male IT geeks less successful in attracting women than other males, on average? Why are there few women in IT?

Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources.

the average person in the United States with an IT career makes $0.13. the average American household makes $0.096.

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“My class privilege score is wrong!”

Q: The class privilege checklist doesn’t return an accurate score of my class privilege relative to others who took the test. Why do people take it seriously if it’s such a poor assessment of wealth?

A: The checklist is not meant to be a diagnostic test that measures how much money you have. Rather, each item on the list is an instance of privilege.

Class privilege is not just how much money you have, but also includes things like access to education, access to technology, the knowledge gained from travelling, and the cultural capital gained from visiting museums and art galleries.

Money can be used to buy material luxuries, but money can also be used to buy access to education and technology. Sometimes a person who has little money has access to education and technology. The checklist is not meant to suggest that the person has money because she has access to education and technology. The checklist would merely indicate that the person has privileges in education and technology. These are still called ‘class’ privileges.

Q: Why is access to education and technology considered ‘class’ privilege?

A: Access to education and technology are class privileges because they are things that can be bought. If you are rich, you can buy education and buy technology. (However, if you have education or technology, it does not follow that you are rich.)

Other privileges cannot be bought, such as white privilege. A non-white person can be a billionaire, but he will never gain enough money to buy white privilege (assuming that we will not have the technology to alter one’s race). However, the non-white billionaire can still buy access to education and technology. Thus, class privilege (which includes educational and technological privileges) can be distinguished from other types of privilege.

Update 1: Fixed the first question and answer of this post after some thinking about the privilege checklist as a privilege walk.

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What is the meaning of the class privilege checklist?

Q: What is the meaning of the class privilege checklist? Is it meant to make people feel guilty? If not, what is the point?

A: No, the class privilege checklist is not meant to make people feel guilty. The point of the exercise is to recognize one’s privilege. Essentially, recognizing one’s privilege is an act of learning/gaining knowledge.

Q: How is the class privilege checklist insightful?

A: Ideally, as the privileged person checks off the items of privilege in the list, she will realize that many things that she has taken for granted are not things that everyone else has. If you are in university, there are fellow undergraduates at your university that made it to university without having the advantages you had.

If you had previously believed that the obstacles you have overcome to get into university are the same as that of all your fellow undergraduates, you should reevaluate that belief. If you believe that the problems you are dealing with right now as an undergraduate are basically the same for all other undergraduates, you should reconsider. In addition to coursework and relationship problems, other students also have to deal with financial difficulties.

Are you stressed about your math problem sets? Other people in your class have additional “problem sets” that they have to stress over and solve in addition to the assigned ones. Both problem sets (mathematical and financial) take time and have time restrictions. Both mathematical and financial problem sets may not yield solutions, not matter how much time you put into it or how hard you work at them.

Understanding the meaning of the checklist requires thinking about the connections between the items in the list and their cause-and-effect relationships in terms of growing up. The deepness of the exercise comes from recognizing the multidimensional factors of privilege. Class privilege is not just rich versus poor, or even a continuum from the the richest person on earth to the poorest person on earth. Class privilege affects things like access to education, access to technology, seeing other worlds, and whether or not you are a “sophisticated” person.

The class privilege checklist is not meant to be exhaustive, as even each item of the checklist can be studied extensively through discourse and empirical studies. The checklist is meant to promote divergent thinking instead of convergent thinking. Other than recognizing one’s privilege, there is no overarching theme. Each item on the list can be (or are) research topics that have interesting ramifications in social relations.