Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Interpretation/Shminterpretation

Recently I've been thinking about privileges and rights. My interpretation of privilege is that privilege is an advantage that no one should have such as getting hired for a job over someone else just because you are ______ and they are not.

After looking back at some old posts at the Feminism 101 blog I am reminded that some people tie privilege to power. Specifically meaning that in order for one to have privilege they must have power rigged in their favor.

When people start altering the definition of words things start to get weird. Just like anyone else when I come across someone whose interpretation of a term is different than my own I apply their way to the same situation that I apply my interpretation to. As anyone that has read my thoughts knows one of my favorite tests of privilege is in hiring practices.

Base assumption: I'm sure that anyone reading this will agree that getting hired just because they are ______ or not getting hired just because they are _____ is wrong.

One application of my interpretation of privilege would be a person getting hired over another just because they are _____. Adding power to the equation changes things up a bit. Historically men have had power over women as most people agree. Based on that interpretation hiring a man over a woman just because he is a man is a display of said male's privilege. At the same time though, hiring a woman over a man because she is a woman would not be a display of privilege. Here is where things get murky for me. How does historical advantage mitigate away a person's privilege of falling within an emplyers -ist practices?

If I'm hired just because I am black historical power or lack of historical power has nothing to do with. It means that I fall within the parameters of the employer's racist hiring practices. If I'm not hired because I'm a black historical power has nothing to do with it. It means that do not fall within the parameters of the employer's racist hiring practices.

What I don't see is how having or not having an historical advantage changes whether or not something is a display of privilege. Historical advantage will most certainly affect the odds of which displays of privilege (in this case -ist hiring practices) one will encounter (meaning that it is likely there are more hiring practices that are sexist against women than there are against men) in their career but I don't agree that historical advantage magically alters what is a display of privilege.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your base assumption is correct, but not realistic. Very few employers would hire someone *only* because they are a minority. (And if they did, they would quickly have problems.)

In practice, I think that given two closely matched qualified candidates, they are more likely to choose the minority. And since the other person has been "privileged" all her/his life, than the other person has probably had to work harder to get where s/he is, so it can actually work to the benefit of employers who do this because they end up with harder working people.

And it doesn't mean the person who is hired is privileged. It just "levels the playing field". Except that it doesn't even really do that, because they had to put up with more crap and frustration just to get where they are, and sometimes it just makes you want to give up before you get there.

Danny said...

And since the other person has been "privileged" all her/his life, than the other person has probably had to work harder to get where s/he is, so it can actually work to the benefit of employers who do this because they end up with harder working people.
I think that assumption may be part of what I'm getting at. How is it fair to just assume that someone has or has no been privileged all their life? That assumption could very well lead to an employer picking an entitlement prince/princess that thinks the world owes them something and passing over a hard worker.

Perhaps the thing I'm looking at is not privilege but unfair assumption.

I appreciate your thoughts.

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