I want to because some people are confusing the kind of feminism that was discussed and assumed at Women in Secularism 2 with difference feminism, and with postmodernist feminism more broadly. That is completely wrong. Nothing that was said in talks or on panels had anything to do with difference feminism, much less postmodernism. Nothing.
The word “privilege” is not code for epistemic relativism. It’s not.
I will admit that I don’t use the word in this context myself. It puts people’s backs up, and it’s never been part of my vocabulary anyway, so I don’t use it. I don’t bark “check your privilege” at people. But then, who does? Not many people that I know.
But I at least get what’s meant by it, and I understand that it’s not sinister. It doesn’t mean that what Privileged Person knows is untrue because privilege. It doesn’t mean all knowledge is relative to privilege. it doesn’t mean there is no truth, there is only situation. It doesn’t mean the Enlightenment was a big mistake because it forgot to do feminism, or that we should do the opposite of everything the Enlightenment did because the Enlightenment forgot to do feminism. It doesn’t mean science sucks because privilege. It doesn’t mean anything like that. It simply means that if your privilege insulates you from a particular kind of experience that a non-privileged person has, then you probably don’t have a good understanding of that particular kind of experience.
There, that’s not so scary, is it?
It applies to all of us, doesn’t it. Nobody knows every kind of lack-of-privilege there is. We’re sealed into our own heads, and we can be dense about that which happens in someone else’s head. We’re all the more dense if their circumstances are radically different from ours. The good news, though, is that we can learn.
Is that really such a terrifying insight?
I’ll repost Difference Feminism in a new post.
Update: Coincidentally, Jason was writing a much more thorough post at the same time. Read it.