I have been reading feminist literature for a fair chunk of my life (and had conversations with feminist friends and generally tried to live a more otherness aware life) and I continue to discover things where I, as a white male, continue to fail. Or perhaps not so much fail, as not quite understood the perspective of others. Sometimes this happens repeatedly…for years…before I manage to get a clue.
The latest one was this:
In tech, a common pattern is for hiring managers to say “I don’t care who you are, just show me your hobby projects on github, or your think-pieces on medium” but a bit of reflection is all it takes to realize that screening based on free-time pursuits gets you more affluent white men than it does underemployed single moms.
Time to do stuff is not equal for everybody. In library circles that can mean time to spend on conference committees, to do volunteer work, to admin elists and so on. For most of my life I was single, white male with a job and seemingly endless amounts of free time. That in turn begs the question of why haven’t I done so much more, which is answered by my sheer, bloody laziness and ability to procrastinate.
However I have continued to say that volunteering requires giving up your own time to do stuff for others. That’s easy when you’re a single, white male. That’s what privilege looks like. I now live with a partner and she has 3 kids. My ability to “give up” time no longer exists, I no longer have privileged control over my time. My time is shared with others. She has given up a lot of time for the kids.
That’s not a complaint about my current situation.
In the old days, I’d come home from work, switch on the TV, or the playstation, perhaps get round to cooking, or heating up a frozen dinner (more likely as I hate cooking), pour myself some wine and so on. These days, we return home, the number for dinner is variable and occasionally unknown, depending on the movement of the kids (15, 18, 21). Post dinner is variable depending on what others are doing…time on the playstation is negotiated. I’m playing skyrim again and I can’t spend entire weeks/months playing it like I could when I was alone. There might be alternative options eg my partner and I are currently watching Once Upon a Time with Ms15, however they sometimes like to watch Nashville together which I’m not interested in.
I seem to have little time to volunteer, or at least I think I have little time and that may be more a reflection that I’m still trying to think in context of my old life while trying to adapt to my new life. Adaption is taking me a long time as I’ve been with my partner fort 4 years and living altogether fulltime for 2 years. I am reminded that as I think these sorts of things, I am still exercising privilege as these sorts of things are not “options” for others, nor having the luxury to ruminate on them.
The assumption that people have time to do extra projects is more classism and ableism then sexism. Because it assumes one has the resources to spend on these projects, that are not needed elsewhere. Like multiple jobs, or recovering from a very stressful, possibly triggering, day. As someone who grew up in poverty (on welfare) I’m very aware how much classism is ignored, and blamed on other problems.
I think it is more a combination of sexism, classism and ableism than one or another. After all, I have very little time to do things on github or medium, and while I do have a decent paying job in a library (classism), I am also part-time due to disability (ableism), and I am the primary carer for my mother, which is far more likely to be done by women than men (sexism). Oh, and I’m studying. My free-time is pretty much non-existent.
It’s basically the privilege that the author is realising that he’s grown up with, and despite talking to feminists and reading feminist literature for years, he has realised that he hasn’t noticed this particular part of it until now. Yay for him realising it, and yay for him admitting that.
I agree. The quote I used referred to “affluent white men” and picked up on that a little but didn’t explore it deeply. Something as simple as how are we able to present in a face to face job interview is contingent on a lot of factors including whether you can get to the interview, can afford public transport, can find clothes that are suitable to the role, have facilities for ironing and cleaning those clothes and so on.
Ableism too is tricky, not just for dealing with the disability (I am hearing impaired which is mild in the spectrum of disabilities), but also in terms of how others perceive it and what stereotypes they have.