Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Demonstration of the Weight of the White Male Voice

So, this may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but listen. Guess what the following prominent political pundits who each have their own television/radio shows and/or best-selling books have in common: Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow, Greta Van Susteren, and Nancy Grace.

Lady parts and advanced degrees

Guess what Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Sean Hannity, Al Franken, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, and Shepard Smith have in common.

Man parts and high school diplomas or bachelors degrees.

I'm not pointing this out to be an elitist degree snob. After all, I personally prefer reading blogs by a wide variety of authors, over any of the above-mentioned folks, for political commentary. I love me some Rachel Maddow, but I wonder what she would have to say were she an independent blogger.

Anyway, I do actually think pointing out this disparity in education is important for two reasons. One, unlike for men, having an advanced degree appears to be a minimum qualification for a woman to rise to prominence as a pundit or political "personality." I know that some male political pundits, like Bill O'Reilly, do have advanced degrees that are relevant to politics, but aspiring female pundits should be aware of this unspoken requirement for ladies.

Two, some would undoubtedly argue that these white males have risen to prominence based solely on their talent and that a degree is, therefore, irrelevant. I won't deny that each of these men is a successful entertainer, professional "personality," or performer in their own, um, special way. Yet, I think the fact that each of these men is white and male is a testament to an advantage that perhaps not all people have. Namely, the authority that society automatically grants the white male voice.

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Moore, and Sean Hannity are, actually, college drop-outs. Perhaps that explains why they, to varying degrees, perpetuate anti-intellectualism. Many white guys buy into that. Why attend college or graduate school when pretty much the whole world is centered around the white male perspective that is the inherently objective default point of view. This male "objectivity" enables many men to speak with a confidence that can only be worn by those who are constantly told, in varying ways, that their point of view matters because it is the True and Real One.

For instance, think of the last time you heard a man tell a sexist joke. Now, imagine me, a woman, calling him out for that. Then, imagine a man calling the sexist-joke-teller out. When a woman criticizes a man for telling a sexist joke, she's just being a whiny feminist who has no sense of humor. When a man criticizes another man for telling a sexist joke, the man will likely think twice about it. A man, after all, is imbued with the unique power of objectivity and so if he thinks a joke is sexist, it probably is. (This is also why feminist men are important. Nonfeminist men take men more seriously and are more willing to listen to a man's feminist argument because he can't immediately dismiss him as being an ugly man-hating politically-correct feminazi).

Thus, I wonder if it is possible for a woman's voice, no matter how educated and talented the brain behind it, to carry more weight than a man's when speaking about the same topic. Does a woman have to have an advanced degree just to be able to compete with men, even those who are comparatively less educated? Are there any female college drop-outs who have their own television shows? Generally, men take other men more seriously than they take women, especially in matters pertaining to the public sphere. But, do women also take men more seriously? Is this part of the inherent sexism that we all have?

It's a common refrain among Vagina-Employees that women have to work twice as hard as men to receive half the credit. And, that if a man says something that went ignored when a women said it two minutes before, everyone will think "his" idea is the most brilliant thing to have ever been uttered. Those experiences, while perhaps true, are also anecdotal.

Perhaps the privilege of having The Male Voice is most easily observed by looking at some of our most successful political pundits. Isn't it swell when Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow, Nancy Grace, and Greta Van Susteren collaborate to demonstrate Male Privilege in Action! Girl Power, ya'll!

No comments: