Privilege vs. Privilege


In an excerpt from her book The Shelf, Phyllis Rose illustrates the systematic dismissal of women writers through the imagined figure of Prospero’s Daughter: wealthy and educated yet burdened by the demands of a family life whose quotidian challenges, having monopolized her time, become central concerns in her work. Her assumed privilege garners little sympathy from male readers, while her subject matter fails to win their esteem:

One common way of suppressing respect for women writers is to accuse them of privilege. What should we call this? False populism? Bait-and-switch class warfare? Women, who might well be considered a class in themselves, are attacked for belonging to the middle class—or, even worse, the upper class—by male critics who are themselves usually middle class but speak as though they were working a 12-hour shift in a steel mill.

Roxie Pell is a student at Wesleyan University, where she writes for Wesleying and The Argus and tweets hilarious nuggets of pure wisdom @jonathnfranzen. More from this author →