On Privilege

Laurie Ruettimann Diversity, EEO, Laurie Ruettimann

I just read a great book called Bad Feminist: Essays.

Written by Roxane Gay—writer, blogger, professor, feminist—she explores all sorts of funny and interesting stuff from feminism to dating to competitive Scrabble tournaments.

I loved the book, and I especially loved the chapter on privilege.

Privilege is something that rears its ugly head in the world of HR blogging. Some people play the game of Chinese woman versus African American man. Some write about working moms versus working dads. And some people regularly remind us that white men suffer, too.

What I love about Bad Feminist is how eloquently the author talks about being a black woman and a child of immigrants who was raised in a middle-class environment. While acknowledging certain advantages, she also speaks to the challenges of being the only black faculty member in her university’s English department, and a female blogger who writes in the throes of a pretty strong online rape culture.

(I can relate to being a female blogger, for sure.)

Gay writes, “To have privilege in one or more areas does not mean your are wholly privileged. What I remind myself, regularly, is this: the acknowledgement of my privilege is not a denial of the ways I have been and am marginalized, the ways I have suffered.”

So good.

Human Resources bloggers often pit specific experiences against one another in the framework of privilege, not realizing that you’re privileged if you even know what a blog is. Gay writes, “We need to get to a place where we discuss privilege by way of observation and acknowledgement rather than accusation.”

Each of us suffers. We all make choices based on circumstances that are unfair and unfortunate. I think HR bloggers could do better to realize that any time one of us suffers, we all suffer.

Bad Feminist reminds me to follow Gay’s example and acknowledge my privilege without downplaying my own challenges or judging other people. And the book reminds me to continue fighting against mediocre middle-management polices and the status quo.

Go read the book. It’s great.