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Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh Essay (Critical Writing)


The present article dwells upon the role of race and gender in the American society. The author argues that there is a privileged group in the USA. One of the major findings of the author is that everyone (contrasted to minorities) is affected by disproportions which exist in the society.

Peggy McIntosh points out that she, just like any other white individual, i.e. representative of the class of privileged, was taught to enjoy the privileges without even noticing it (79). The author draws a parallel between the privileged position and wearing a special “knapsack” which contains everything the privileged individual might need (79).

Interestingly, the author also notes that privileged people also live in terms of certain morality which presupposes that these people live “ideal” lives or at least “morally neutral” lives while trying to benefit others which is regarded as attempts to “allow” others “to be more like” those privileged individuals (McIntosh 80).

Thus, having acknowledged this disproportion the author attempts to realize what it means to be in the other camp. The author points out particular everyday situations where the disproportion is manifested.

Therefore, McIntosh concludes that in spite of the fact that the American society is regarded as democratic, it is overwhelmed with various kinds of inequality and oppression. Interestingly, the author does not simply reveal the problem. McIntosh also suggests a particular solution.

Thus, the author claims that even though she is in the class of privileged, when it comes to race, she is, at the same time, in the class of oppressed since she is a woman living in the men’s world. This enables the author to draw certain parallels and come up with a particular decision.

Thus, McIntosh claims that it is possible to diminish the disproportion when the privileged class lessens their privileges. Admittedly, the present article can help to address the problem as the first step to its solving is in-depth analysis of the roots of the problem. McIntosh manages to provide insights into the issue concerning race and gender.

It goes without saying that issues concerning equality, race and identity have been discussed throughout decades. For instance, Nakayama also pays much attention to constraints that Asian people have to endure in the American society (32). Gonzalez and Willis-Riviera also focus on ethnic identity while considering peculiarities of Hispanic people’s lives in the USA (245).

Gordon also deals with issues concerning identity when it comes to Hispanic people (261). These four works focus on similar issues, i.e. they dwell upon constraints ethnic minorities face in the American society. However, McIntosh reveals quite close ties between two types of oppression, the one based on ethnicity and the other one based on gender.

McIntosh also suggests a particular solution to the problem providing strong arguments to support her conclusions. Admittedly, these sources contribute greatly to the discourse which is analyzed in Communication Studies as these sources reveal constraints that exist in the American society.

Admittedly, to analyze the origins of these cross-cultural constraints is one of the major objectives to address for those who are involved in the field of Communication Studies.

Discussion Question

Based on McIntosh’s conclusions, do you think privileged people will be able to lessen their privileges? What can be done to make these people lessen their privileges?

Works Cited

Gonzalez, Alberto and Jennifer Willis-Rivera. “Hispanic Heritage Month: Not for Members Only.” Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication. Eds. Alberto Gonzalez, Marsha Houston, and Victoria Chen. New York, NY: Roxbury Publishing Company, 2011. 243-248. Print.

Gordon, Dexter D. “Identity and Struggle in Jamaican Talk.” Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication. Eds. Alberto Gonzalez, Marsha Houston, and Victoria Chen. New York, NY: Roxbury Publishing Company, 2011. 259-264. Print.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” The Kaleidoscope of Gender: Prisms, Patterns, and Possibilities. Eds. Joan Z. Spade and Catherine Valentine. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004. 79-82. Print.

Nakayama, Thomas. “Dis/orienting Identities: Asian Americans, History, and Intercultural Communication.” Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication. Eds. Alberto Gonzalez, Marsha Houston, and Victoria Chen. New York, NY: Roxbury Publishing Company, 2011. 31-36. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 28). Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/critical-response-white-privilege-and-male-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-by-peggy-mcintosh-critical-writing/

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"Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh." IvyPanda, 28 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/critical-response-white-privilege-and-male-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-by-peggy-mcintosh-critical-writing/.

1. IvyPanda. "Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh." May 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/critical-response-white-privilege-and-male-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-by-peggy-mcintosh-critical-writing/.


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IvyPanda. "Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh." May 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/critical-response-white-privilege-and-male-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-by-peggy-mcintosh-critical-writing/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh." May 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/critical-response-white-privilege-and-male-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-by-peggy-mcintosh-critical-writing/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Critical Response: “White Privilege and Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh'. 28 May.

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