Glamour Magazine’s 2019 college women of the year checked every box on progressive’s diversity list. Each woman was undeniably impressive and accomplished. But it was no accident that they also represented an array of ethnicities and were advancing abortion rights, gun control, climate change solutions, and a political platform similar to Alexandria Ocasia Cortez’s.
One sizable minority group–representing about 30 percent of American women–was left completely out: That’s women who identify as conservative.
This isn’t new: Glamour’s 2018 women of the year were similarly lopsided, including eleven identifiable Democratic or progressive activists and zero Republicans. Vogue just ran an effusive piece about five Democratic women running to unseat Trump. Women’s magazines routinely include elegant airbrushed photos of female Democratic senators or representatives, their story told as a triumph over hardship and victory for the cause of progress and justice. Conservatives never make the cut. It’s not just women’s magazines: From morning talk shows to late night comedy to your average Netflix drama, progressive values are showcased as normal and morally superior, while conservatives are ignored or belittled.
There’s a word for this phenomenon: privilege.
For decades, academics have raised awareness about how, even as explicit discrimination decreased, whites, males, Christians and heterosexuals enjoyed a privileged status in our culture. They dominated our textbooks, advertisements, and entertainment. Their traditions and perspective were depicted as normal and good, while others were aberrant or ignored. Woke to this subtle but still harmful form of discrimination, cultural institutions have worked to reverse it and include people who represent a diversity of ethnicities, cultures and sexualities.
But the desire for diversity only goes so far. Cultural leaders today make sure to feature people with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, but somehow never manage to consider political or ideological diversity. In fact, as everything from the coffee we drink to the shoes we buy has become politicized, our culture has become more conformist in depicting one ideology as good, and the other as not.
No one was really surprised when Nike caved to progressive pressure to pull their flag-emblemed shoes. The surprise was that they considered creating such sneakers in the first place. Gillette, Audi, Secret, Patagonia, and Bud Lite, all created advertising campaigns specifically to flaunt their affinity for progressive causes. Taylor Swift, who once avoided politics, now unironically sings about “calming down” and lamenting discrimination, while perpetuating crude stereotypes about white, overall-wearing, illiterate, homophobic tailerpark dwellers.
Our educational system is the biggest bastions of progressive privilege. A university consisting of 90 percent white, Christian, male professors would rightly be pilloried for lacking role models and offering a too limited perspective. Yet a study conducted by The National Association of Scholars of 8,688 tenure-track professors at 51 top ranked liberal arts colleges found more than 10 registered Democrats for every one Republican professor. Nearly 40 percent had no registered Republicans, and the study’s author reported not finding “a single Republican with an exclusive appointment to fields like gender studies.”
Democrats used to hearing conservatives whine about liberal media bias may be tempted to dismiss the concept of progressive privilege. But progressive privilege isn’t just hurting conservatives. It makes our entire political culture more divisive.
Conservatives tired of seeing their ideas snubbed in mainstream newspapers and on TV have naturally turned toward alternative information sources friendly to their ideas. Millions of conservatives were frustrated by leaders resigned to being the butt of progressive jokes and being stereotyped as callous bigots. They wanted someone to fight back, and found that in Trump.
Progressives seem to assume that they can write off anyone who doesn’t embrace the social justice worldview. They end up surprised when that turns out to be a sizable share of voters.
Becoming woke to progressive privilege would benefit them, and create a fairer, more inclusive society. And isn’t that what we want?