The privilege of straight white men

Earlier this year, Grayson Perry (Turner Prize winning artist) published an article in the New Statesman detailing why he thinks the ‘heterosexual white man’ must be dethroned. Perry makes excellent points within the article and brings up an issue which is often forgotten. The straight white man has become the standard of what is considered ‘normal’ today, as Perry rightly calls them ‘the default man’. We often compare racial minorities and homosexuals to the average man which is almost never referred to directly as the ‘straight white man’.

It is an appreciable thing to see the minority of the population being represented in the media, however we still see them as ‘different’. When Ezra Miller was announced to be cast as The Flash in a Justice League movie, headlines read ‘first openly gay actor to play superhero’. Keira Knightly felt the need to pose nude, uncensored and un-photoshopped, to make a statement about the way women are viewed in society. They have to be highlighted in society and the media as being a particular sex, race or sexual orientation. You rarely ever see an article specifying that a straight white man has done something incredible because you always assume its a straight white man unless stated otherwise.

The only other time the ‘straight white male’ is criticised is in an article written by John Scalzi in 2012. He compares the straight white male to the easiest setting on a game of ‘Life’, where they get advantages within the game. Although none of these men will find life ‘easy’, they often forget to appreciate the opportunities they have in comparison to other minorities. Hard work and intelligence is still required but the article is correct in saying that equal opportunities does not currently exist. In many states it is still completely legal to fire a worker based on their sexual orientation due to personal discrimination against them. Regardless of whether a women really earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, it is undoubtably true that a wage gap still exists. Racial minorities often earn less which is generally seen to be due to their family earnings and financial problems. This is the real life equivalent of being given disadvantages from the beginning of the game and having less chances to succeed.

Straight white men are prominent in politics and generally hold executive positions in firms.  Although Perry focuses on the middle to upper class men, the scale of the problem is much greater. I do not entirely agree with his position to dethrone heterosexual white men but perhaps it is important for them to recognise their privilege in society so that they can use that privilege to support equal opportunities for a fairer and more equal society, taking priority moral ideals rather than taking actions to satisfy their self interest.

Link to John Scalzi’s article (2012): http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

Link to Grayson Perry’s article (2014): http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/10/grayson-perry-rise-and-fall-default-man

Written by: Aim Wonghirundacha

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