Nov 12, 2013

The Ugly Truth of Privilege

Privilege is an ugly word. And it should be. It's the uncomfortable truth that the western world is controlled, by and large, by straight white men. Men like me (but typically with more money) influence every aspect of our lives. Should they? No. But they do, and this is the mess we're left with.

Recently the most volatile articles I've read and shared online have pushed the ugly truth of privilege to the forefront. And they've received some pretty passionate reactions. That's to be expected. If you tell a bunch of straight white guys that they have it easy in life, and that the world is built to service them, no matter how enlightened they like to think themselves, some of those men are going to react badly.

I shy away from many controversial subjects on this blog, but the subject of privilege is not one of them. I do believe that straight white men have an incredible, unfair, advantage, and I agree with assessments that being a straight white man is essentially playing life "on easy mode."

With that, I feel, comes a responsibility to effect change. But that responsibility doesn't have to be exercised in the typical "male" way. I believe the most powerful thing a straight white man can do is shut the hell up and let other people talk. We have all of our society geared towards our desires. We can more than afford a platform for others to get their feelings and desires out, and do so without putting people down for disagreeing with us.

I'm trying to tackle privilege in some of my new books. Lady Raven will deal with sexism and patriarchy, as well as challenging some presumptions about sex and relationships in YA fiction.

My new Carver & McCain novels, a police procedural with monsters, will tackle racism in a supernatural context, and examine people having to live with difficult lifestyle restrictions because of who and what they are.

I don't know if I'll succeed in exposing these issues to the light, but I'm willing to try, and open to hearing from people who think I've missed my mark.

In any case, I have a lot of work to do, and a whole lot more to learn.


  1. It's nice to see so many straight white men tackling this issue honestly :) You did remind me of PC game called Mount and Blade. They actually use gender and class as a difficulty setting. Male noble is easy mode, female commoner is much harder. I really liked that idea. The goal of the game is to unite all the kingdoms under your name and a legitimate option as a woman is to marry a powerful man. I'd love to see more games tackle these issues, but I guess top budget stuff like movies or games etc. don't like to rock the boat. That's one of the great things about novels, no matter how big, most of the control still belongs to the writer.

    1. I hate to be a cliché, but I think it was after my daughters were born that I really started to look hard at myself and how privilege affects the world.

      I want to check out Mount and Blade now, that sounds like a really interesting mechanic. I think there's a problematic issue in fiction, where we either see idealised "men and women are equal" settings, or hard and gritty "this is what life was really like" ones, where male dominance is accepted and never challenged by the creator. Things like what Mount and Blade did allow the issue to be addressed.

    2. Exactly! It would be much harder to get away with in a more modern setting though.