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Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

A brilliantly metaphor used to explain the word “privileged” by John Scalzi. Probably even universal to people who have never played a computer game.

Having said that I would like to add, this blog post isn’t easy to comment on. I had a big 2 day discussion with my friends over this topic. A lot of my friends find it hard to believe that white males have any outright advantage over African americans, women, etc. There strong laws to ensure that workplace equality is adhered to.

It is not surprising that white males have a easier time fitting into a society that is pre-dominantly white. I don’t think this relates to Racism, but it surely does speak to basic human nature which is more open to (or, less threatened by) somebody who exhibits similar looks and language.

The author has not specified what exact advantage in life does a white males have and has left it open to interpretation. The topic, therefore, lends itself to a very broad discussion leading into Racism, discrimination, xenophobia, male supremacy, etc as is obvious from the comments section of the blog.
In my view, author is simply pointing out a fact that is true across the world in general. I doubt that his aim is to surface any sort of discrimination or stir up a revolution. I don’t think that anyone will argue with the fact that a child born white is likely to be born in the first world economy and hence will be exposed to lot more opportunities and will in general have a “easier setting” in game of life (as compared to say a child who is born brown/black and is most likely be born in a third world economy).
From a personal story standpoint, I was born ( brown) in India and had very limited choices in terms of career paths. When I compare that to knowledge and opportunities my American friends were exposed to at an early age, it leaves me a bit surprised (to put it mildly). Even when India’s GDP is growing 8% per year and it is hailed as next super power together with China, the ground truth is that there are only a handful of business opportunities (which are present is couple of soul crushingly crowded cities).  These so called business opportunities are outsourced jobs from US/Europe and primarily involve back office horse work which usually leads to dead-end careers and uninspiring workplaces.  Even if you are the rat who got out of the well and ended up in first world economy, you will be constantly limited by the visa/immigration rules and burden. Just to re-emphasize, my rant is just to state the reality and aim is not to call immigration laws unfair. Of course every country has right to protect the interest of its citizens and impose reasonable immigration/visa rules.
So do white guys have it easy is life? Yes absolutely. It is a statistical fact and facts are not up debate (I hope).

621 comments to Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

  • vtj205

    I have to agree that it is easier for straight white male then the rest. Your post actually reminded me of the speaker, Joanne Wilson, mentioning that she only invests in women entrepreneurs because it’s much harder for women to find investors then men. Why is it so much harder for women then men to find investors? Is it because investors fear we may take a leave of absence in case we decide to have children, or is it perhaps the statistics of the average yearly income of a male owned company vs a female owned. According to the stats from The Illusions of Entrepreneurship by Professor Scott A. Shane, the average women-owned business with one employee does $88,000 in sales, vs. $1.8 million for men. So what are the biggest struggles women entrepreneurs have to overcome when starting a business?

  • Sonia "Li"

    I agree completely. Yes, feminism happened in the 70’s, but we still live in a men’s world. I work for a feminist artist who has been working since the 60’s, and to this day she is still being confronted by the reality of the “men helping men out” art world. She once told me the story of how at the first day of orientation at Yale Graduate Art School the dean Jack Tworkov had said that they “did not hire women to be professors.” When she graduated Yale she tried to find a teaching position; one of the interviewer said the reason they would only hire a woman was because of the female nude model drawing sessions, and that because she was a woman she would receive less salary than a man, but still do the same amount of work.

    Think about something that had happened to a male public figure and a female public figure, and think about how the media had treated the situations differently. I am going to come out and say that society is much tougher on women than men. Men have pressures too, but women need to prove to be even better than men to get the same titles, salaries and respect. As a woman who worked in film, I cannot count the many times that I had fallen to the trap of “proving” my self worth just so the directors and cinematographers (who were always men) would show me the respect I deserve as a person. It took me a long time to get over the hump of feeling like I always have to “prove” myself.

    Why is it that women have to “earn” the respect whereas men are automatically treated with respect? I write this with no men-hating intentions; in fact, I love men and women equally as people.

    As someone who worked in the art world, I saw how the gallery owners and museums would favor men artists over women. Men who do mediocre art are glorified over women artists who make amazing and strong artworks. It may be a subjective comment but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a valid one.

  • Erin Finnegan

    I enjoyed this essay, but then, it is preaching to the choir (to use an idiom). That is to say, I already agree with the politics and worldview of the writer. I find in interesting that the essay infuriated the very audience it was meant to “enlighten,” i.e., an audience of straight white males on the internet who (according to the author) do not understand their status of privilege.

    In the metaphor, I might not say the “easiest setting” so much as the “default setting,” and here’s why: Sometime in the 1990’s, when stand-up comedy was in it’s heyday, my little brother pointed out a trend; any comedian who was not a straight white male inevitably had to joke about anything that made them not white or male or straight. Over the years I noticed my brother’s observation proved true. Arabic comics joked about what it’s like to be Arabic in America, lady comics made jokes about being ladies, comics with Down Syndrome joked about the Special Olympics (you get the idea). I got the impression that audience just expects a straight white guy every time, and everyone else has to jokingly half-apologize for not being that thing.

    Like the essayist, I have angered people on the internet from time to time to a flood of comments. Interestingly, commenters expected, by default, that my relatively gender-neutral name meant that I was male. After all, the internet was filled with male users for many years, would it not be statistically likely that I was male?

    I am hesitant to respond to the essay from a point of identity politics, in part because I’m getting sick of identity politics (especially on the internet). It would’ve been easy to begin my response with “I’m a gender/orientation/race and I’ve lived in country/city so I have experience with racism and speak from a place of authority,” but I think this kind of statement (so prevalent on forums and in discourse, even on this blog) denies the possibilities of the internet.

    When my significant other and I started logging into BBS’s (it’s a difficult plural for BBS…) as kids, we were excited by the possibility of being to discuss things without anyone knowing that we were 12, or knowing what gender we were, or what race. Imagine my disappointment, logging into nationwide AOL chat rooms for the first time only to have the first question in any chat be “a/s/l?” (“age/sex/location?”).

    Of course it’s offensive to have someone claim to be able to speak for a group that he or she is not a part of. I cannot possibly pretend to know what it would have been like to grow up in an inner city public housing project as a bisexual Hispanic (for example). However, I don’t think I need to enter every internet conversation by identifying my gender and class and background and anything else we humans use to divide ourselves into groups.

    What ever happened to judging people on the merit of their character before anything else? (“…the content of their character, and not the color of their skin…”.) I once met a gay black lawyer who was horrified to be singled out in his firm’s diversity program. He wanted to be judged on his skill as a lawyer, not his race. (His sexual identity remained a secret.)

  • Kathryn "Adee"

    Yes yes, I think we all agree with the writers message. I think the strait white males that were angered by his post, probably flex their privileged status the most. For the most part (and there are always exceptions to any blanket statement), if someone has an advantage, they capitalize on it. Rich kids, know they are rich, and thats fine, it only gets obnoxious when they think they deserve it, even though they have this advantage in life due to no effort on their part. When I think of the word privilege in this context, I immediately think of the jobs held by my classmates in high school. Most of them would never EVER take a job at McDonalds or any fast food restaurant, a landscaping job, or anything involving manual labor. Some because they did not have to, but there were quite a few that thought it was because they should not have to. Anyone who thinks anything job is “beneath them” needs a good punch in the mouth. I digress…

    I agree with Erin, that it is offensive for someone to speak for a group that they are not a part of. So I will speak about myself. I am a strait white female, who was born into a middle class New York family, in an excellent school district. I am well aware that these circumstances have given me many advantages that are not afforded to most people. The strait and white part is completely out of my control. The fact that I am middle class, and attended a good school growing up is the product of my parents’ and grandparents’ hard work. I have to applaud their sacrifice and determination, but I also have to acknowledge the fact that being white in the North East of the USA is a huge factor.

  • Nancy

    We cannot deny or regret our privilege: our accidents of birth.We can work to make them not such an unfair default in the future.
    How do you think this might happen?
    have you read the other posts on this essay.. it’s been provocative of good conversation.