Dear White Men,
This letter isn’t a bashing. It’s not a letter to make you feel guilty or bad. It’s to express some of my concerns and thoughts and maybe to provide some enlightenment about a couple of crazy things about privilege. It is also to ask for your help if you aren’t helping already.
First of all, to let you know, I am a white woman. My father is white. As is my grandfather who is still alive and the one who has now passed on. I have guy friends who are white and who I love.
As is obvious, most politicians in this country and most CEOs are white men. They have been speaking out recently in ways that have been disturbing to many women and enacting laws that seem to want to put women backwards.
White men in Wisconsin just overturned a law that allowed for the wage gap between men and women to shrink. A white man, Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman said he doesn’t believe there is a wage gap and that money is more important to men than it is to women. What about single moms or families where the woman is the main breadwinner or how about it’s not fair or just?
All across the nation white men have passed laws that keep women from being able to make decisions for their bodies- this is dangerous when thinking about the many decisions about our bodies we need to be able to make- like what we wear, whether we take medication, whether we have sex or not (rape), whether we are burned with acid, whether we are sold into marriage or sex slavery, and whether we choose to have an abortion or not.
To take our choices away from us dehumanizes us and puts us at greater risk for violence. White men also defunded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which means women are at increasingly greater risk for violence in this society that does not see them as equal and there may not be services enough to help women in the aftermath from that violence.
So, there’s some real craziness going on. It may not look like the Iraq war or Vietnam. It’s a different kind of battle- as all warfare changes. WWII was fought very differently than the Iraq war. Those wars were/are fought very differently than the War On Women. When the laws white men are setting into place lead to more violence, like battering, rape, and murder of women, it’s a war. It could also be argued that this violence against women are strategic tactics of the war.
I’ve been reading a mixture of things from white men lately, comments on blogs, blogs, articles, tweets, Facebook pages… Many white men are upset with what they see in the world right now and are fighting it, standing beside women as allies. Some are completely against the battles women are taking on for their rights and are acting very angry about it. Others see the response to the War On Women as man-bashing. And still others completely deny they have any privilege as white men in this country and world or that women are oppressed.
I want to say something very clearly: There is a system set up that puts you (white men) at the very top. It’s kind of like a pyramid. Everyone below the white man must work to keep the white man on top. Even if individual people don’t believe that, ultimately the system keeps white men in power.
This isn’t your fault. It’s the system’s fault. It gives you privilege even though you didn’t do anything to earn it. And because it’s set up to keep you on top, everything in the system revolves around doing just that. It is so institutionalized and ingrained in everything, that it would be easy for you to ignore and not even see it- that’s the privilege. You are reflected in most all media, the laws and salaries favor you, and you have the power.
If you argue that you are a white man but are poor: that may be the case, but someone gives you a suit jacket and you clean up just like any white man. A man of color puts on a suit jacket. He may have a lot of money, but still he is seen as a man of color and because of the system, less than you. Women are also below you in the triangle, be they white women or women of color. Women of color have even greater discrimination against them than white women- they are discriminated against for being women and also for being people of color. Those two intersectionalities are inseparable.
I know you didn’t ask for this privilege, but with it, you have a greater ability to make change. And understanding your position of privilege, you have a responsibility to work toward change.
I’m writing this specifically to white men for several reasons. One, because the men of color I know have expressed understanding about women’s concerns right now. This certainly does not mean that all men of color get it- they don’t, but the ones I know and the ones who have been writing the comments I have been reading seem to understand somehow overall more than white men.
White men are tired of being pointed at for being bad. Again, not all white men are bad. The system in place is bad and there are a lot of white men right now who are afraid of sharing that power and are fighting to keep the power the system affords them.
The second reason is again, as white men, you have been given the most privilege in the society and therefore have the most power to change things- that’s not to say all the rest of us aren’t going to work on it too, it’s to say- please work on making change for women, for people of color, for equality, for us to have a better nation and a better world.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. Happy Friday.