Cancel that privilege before lecturing the rest of us about how bad we are, by Brendan O’Neill.
It strikes me that one of the most unfortunate consequences of identity politics has been its hollowing-out of the word privilege and the way this has made it impossible to have a serious debate about where power and authority really lie in 21st-century Western society.
This was brought home to me while watching Mona Eltahawy’s excruciating appearance on the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night. I cringed so hard as I watched Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American feminist and author, spout the F-word and boast about being uncivil. It was all so adolescent. I can’t believe someone over the age of 14 thinks it’s cool to say f..k.
But even more striking than that was how try-hard it felt. It came across as extraordinarily performative. It felt like an act.
Then it struck me. Eltahawy is playing at being oppressed. She’s donning the garb of the downtrodden to distract attention from the fact she has had a very nice, comfortable and, dare I say it, privileged life. …
She said: “I do not have the luxury or the privilege to sit there and be civil with people who do not acknowledge my full humanity.”
In short, she’s a member of the non-privileged. And therefore she is good and you must listen to her.
There’s only one problem with this: it isn’t true.
Eltahawy has had a privileged life. And I’m using the word privilege in its true sense here. She grew up in a middle-class family in Egypt. Her parents had PhDs. They worked in medicine. They even got government grants to study and work overseas, including in Britain and Saudi Arabia.
A third of Egyptians live in extreme poverty. In contrast to them, Eltahawy grew up in great comfort. And that’s an inconvenient fact for someone who’s super keen to be a member of the woke, where being oppressed gives you moral power and social influence. So Woke Mona must pose as someone who lacks “luxury or privilege” and who cannot be expected to be polite to her detractors.
Indeed, Eltahawy insisted on Q&A that words such as civility and respectfulness were invented by white men for the benefit of other white men. Which white men? Rich, powerful white men such as Donald Trump? White men such as my father, an immigrant to Britain who worked on building sites his whole life? The white men who fix the plumbing in Eltahawy’s no doubt lovely apartment block in New York City?
The woke elite’s sweeping, dehumanising category of “white men” erases everything to do with class and wealth. It views all white men, whether dirt poor or filthy rich, as culturally problematic.
So Eltahawy, from her lovely, privileged background, is oppressed while white men, including the ones who have no money or power, are privileged. This is morally perverse and historically illiterate.
Another privilege: Mona Eltahawy and her like are allowed on the government media, while non-left people are either banned completely or ridiculed.