Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

The Perils of The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage by Phoebe Maltz Bovy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Perils of Privilege is a deep study into the current culture's obsession with privilege, and more than that, the obsession over everyone deciding that when any argument arises, we must acknowledge our own privilege or out someone else's privileged stance to support or refute an argument.

This book does a good job as covering all aspects of what society now claims as being privileged, beyond economics and including privileges of race, gender, education, cultural status and more. But with any of these types of books, what happens is one problem is split into dozens of different angles, with no real proposed solution to tackling any of it. Most readers may not even know what side the author stands on until the very end, when she lists a number of possible ways to back off of the privilege pointing towards others and squash this new cultural norm, but I'm not sure a lot of readers will make it to this point in the book. The main reason? There are three major sources where the author quotes from to make points throughout the book: anonymous comments on online articles, random Twitter feeds and essays that, while coming from reputable publications, don't seem like anything that would be read by those without somewhat elevated levels of privilege in their lives. I think many readers will have a similar reaction to what I did—getting angry every few pages, while nodding in agreement while reading the next few.

The other aspect of this book is that it's existence is a privilege within itself, which may turn off some people from reading it. The author does a decent job of acknowledging the areas of her life which may be deemed 'privileged' and led her to the place she is now with a book all about privilege, but the idea that she had to acknowledge this is the first place negates some of her points in the book, especially the argument that so many face when writing memoirs or essays of immediately acknowledging how privileged they are (or had been during childhood) to explain to readers how well they understand or fail to understand the subject they chose to write about.

After reading this book, I'm still not sure what I think about the whole idea that this privilege shaming we all seem to give as good as we get is ever going to fade away. In fact, it's probably only going to get stronger because now the idea that you have privilege for others to shame is quickly becoming a status symbol in itself, whether you truly embody any type of privilege or not. It's a complicated topic and needs continued discussion.

*Book provided by NetGalley

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