Finding out that you're not the Rebel Alliance, you're actually part of the Empire and have been all along

Laurie Penny weighs in with an important addition to the discussion about privilege and pain, making the important point that privilege is not the absence of pain, discrimination or hellish conditions -- but that doesn't mean that the nerds who suffered through school bullying are without it.

Privilege is a complicated question. There's a tension between the intersectional analysis that grounds the struggle for justice in identity and circumstances of birth, and the class analysis that holds that racial, gender and other injustices are manifestations of class war and economic oppression. It's clear to me some people have to struggle harder than others, all other things being equal -- for example, the net worth of black households in the US halved in the past decade, another addition to the long history of racial economic inequality as an especially brutal expression of overall American wealth inequality.

But as Steven Brust writes, the goal shouldn't be to lift black workers to the level of oppression of white workers (or any less-privileged group to the level of some more-privileged group that nonetheless lives in conditions of exploitation and oppression) -- that's the danger focusing on privilege instead of economics. But the danger of economic thinking is that it erases the experience of people who have faced all the oppression of the more-privileged, and then more, and deprives those people of dignity and the movement of its much-needed diversity.

Penny strikes a good balance here, but it's a hard question, still.

Hi there, shy, nerdy boys. Your suffering was and is real. I really fucking hope that it got better, or at least is getting better, At the same time, I want you to understand that that very real suffering does not cancel out male privilege, or make it somehow alright. Privilege doesn't mean you don't suffer, which, I know, totally blows.

Women generally don't get to think of men as less than human, not because we're inherently better people, not because our magical feminine energy makes us more empathetic, but because patriarchy doesn't let us. We're really not allowed to just not consider men's feelings, or to suppose for an instant that a man's main or only relevance to us might be his prospects as a sexual partner. That's just not the way this culture expects us to think about men. Men get to be whole people at all times. Women get to be objects, or symbols, or alluring aliens whose responses you have to game to "get" what you want.

This is why Silicon Valley Sexism. This is why Pick Up Artists. This is why Rape Culture.

Scott, imagine what it's like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that. Or how about a triple whammy: you have to go through your entire school years again but this time you're a lonely nerd who also faces sexism and racism. This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it's built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least. People whose received trauma makes them disinclined to listen to pleas from people whose trauma was compounded by structural oppression. People who don't want to hear that there is anyone more oppressed than them, who definitely don't want to hear that maybe women and people of colour had to go through the hell of nerd puberty as well, because they haven't recovered from their own appalling nerdolescence. People who definitely don’t want to hear that, smart as they are, there might be basic things about society that they haven’t understood, because they have been prevented from understanding by the very forces that caused them such pain as children.


On Nerd Entitlement [Laurie Penny/New Stateman]