How’s this for dark irony: throughout 2015, ‘white male privilege’ was the buzzphrase on every rad tweeter and liberal hack’s lips, as they fumed against the easy, pampered lives allegedly enjoyed by human beings who had the fortune to be born with a penis and pale skin. Railing against ‘white men’ and their cushy existences has become the stock-in-trade of many feminists.
Yet towards the end of 2015 it was revealed that there’s a social group in Britain more derided and less successful than pretty much every other social group. Guess who? Yep, young white men. Especially young working-class white men. A large sector of the group that the new identity-politics mob loves to ridicule for sailing through life unmolested and unchallenged is actually having a rough time.
Consider this: 18-year-old women are 35 percent more likely to attend university than 18-year-old men; and where 37 percent of black school-leavers go to university, only 28 percent of white school-leavers do. These stats were unveiled by UCAS in December, leading its chief executive to wonder if it isn’t time to initiate ‘outreach’ projects designed to get more white blokes into college.
Also in December, a YouGov analysis of 48 surveys of public attitudes found that young white men are viewed as ‘the worst ethnic, gender [and] age group’. They are ‘the most derided ethnic group in Britain’. YouGov’s number-crunchers confessed to being surprised by ‘the lousy reputation of young white men’, who are seen as drunken, promiscuous, prone to drug-taking, work-shy and impolite (even as other surveys reveal that today’s yoof actually drink less and do fewer drugs than earlier generations did).
What’s more, young women now earn more than young men: £1,111 a year more, to be precise. Between the ages of 22 and 29, women in general — covering all races — out-earn guys; by the time women hit their thirties, however, their pay falls below men’s. Those young, opinionated new media feminists who get handsome advances to write books spluttering about ‘white male privilege’ are far more privileged than many of the white males they splutter about — especially the ones who empty their bins or sweep their roads. It’s almost Orwellian in its topsy-turviness — the most well-connected, middle-class women denouncing the alleged privileges of some of the most derided people in society.
Partly this is just bad science: feminists, leftists and others see that parliament and the boardroom still have a hefty number of white men in them and they extrapolate from this to argue that all white men must have lovely lives. Hence they always use the ridiculously sweeping terms ‘white men’ or ‘male privilege’, as if whiteness and maleness were inherently beneficial. As if loads of white men aren’t dirt poor and awfully underprivileged. It’s like seeing the Queen and thinking: ‘Wow, white women in Britain have it good, don’t they?’
But there’s something else going on too, something more pernicious: the way the politics of identity elbows aside anything to do with class. Unlike radicals of old, the new identitarians — from feminists to shouty students — do not see the world in terms of the haves and have nots, or the ruling class and the working class; in terms of work or wealth or clout. No, to them it’s all about biology, race, gender: fixed traits, which they think define us as individuals and determine our destinies.
Such ugly, racial determinism is why they can use the blanket, dehumanising term ‘white people’ to refer to a vast group that contains all sorts of social classes and people: rich, poor, middling, left, right, good, bad, happy, sad, etc. The idea that all white men have a certain kind of life or outlook is as dumb, and foul, as saying all black men are criminals.
Identity politics doesn’t totally smother class considerations, however; it helps to facilitate a new, PC version of class hatred. The bile spat by feminists and others at certain white men — the uncouth, most derided ones — is really old-fashioned loathing for the lower orders dolled up as a radical stand against ‘male privilege’. When university students or media-based identity obsessives crow about drinking ‘white male tears’, they behave like modern-day Marie Antoinettes, laughing in the face of the less fortunate who will never experience the privileges enjoyed by these fashionable railers against privilege. ‘White male privilege’ is simply a myth.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.