Michael Kimmel: On Gender (Clip)

privilege is invisible to those who have it
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most men dont know that gender is as important in our lives as women understand it is in theirs I mean if you teach a course called something like psychology of womens sociology of women you get 95% women teach a course called psychology of gender sociology of gender you get 90% women most men dont think that gender is about them and this is political so let me talk a little bit about how I think this is political and why we need to do this let me tell you my own story about this how I first became aware of some of these 25 years ago I was finishing my PhD and and I was teaching at a local university not far away from from my graduate school and you know how new faculty and graduate students get we get you know we new ideas come along and we get all this so exciting lets talk about him and so one day we were sitting around a bunch of

my friends and I were sitting around saying there is a theres an explosion of writing and thinking in feminist theory but theres no courses yet so we did what graduate students and new faculty typically do in that situation we say lets have a study group well get together once a week well read a text well talk about it well have a potluck so each week 11 women in me got together we would read some text and feminist theory and talk about it and during one of our meetings I witnessed a conversation between two of the women that changed how I saw this forever one of the women was white and one was black the white woman said now this is the part thats going to sound really 25 years old now the white woman said all women have the same experience as women all women face the same oppression as women all women are similarly situated in patriarchy and therefore she said all women have a kind

of intuitive solidarity or sisterhood the black woman said Im not so sure let me ask you a question so the black woman says to the white woman when you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror what do you see and the white woman said I see a woman and the black woman said you see thats the problem because when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror she said I see a black woman to me race is visible but to you its invisible you dont see it and then she said something really startling she said thats how privilege works privilege is invisible to those who have it it is a luxury I would say to the white people sitting in this room not to have to think about race every split second of your life thats what privilege is about privilege is invisible to those who have it now youll remember I was the only man in this group

so when I witnessed this I kind of put my head in my hand and groanin Oh somebody said well what was that reaction and I said well when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror I see a human being Im kind of the generic person you know Im a middle class white man I have no race no class no gender Im universally generalizable so I like to think that was the moment I became a middle-class white man that class and race and gender were not about other people but they were about me I had to think about them and it had been privileged and kept them invisible to me for such a long time now Id love to tell you that thats the end of this story but I was reminded of it just last semester I have a colleague at Stony Brook where I teach and she and I both teach the sociology of gender course so when its my turn

to teach it she always comes to give a guest lecture for me when its her turn I go to give a guest lecture for her so I go to give the get a guest lecture in her class 300 students in the room and as I walk in the door one of the students looks up and says oh finally an objective opinion all that semester every time my colleague opened her mouth what my students saw and heard was a woman surely if you were to stand up in front of my students and say there is structural inequality based on gender in the United States they would say well of course youd say that youre a woman youre biased when I say it they go wow thats interesting is that going to be on the test how do you spell structural so I want you to know I hope you all in the back and see this this is what objectivity looks like disembodied Western rationality Here I am

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