Recognizing Privilege by Reducing Invisibility: The Global Feminisms Project as a Pedagogical Tool
As psychologists, feminists, and activists, we must ask who is not here, and how does that affect, shape, comfort, or deﬁ ne those of us in the room.
(Fine, 2002, p. 19)
In the introduction to this collection, Kim Case describes an emotional outburst by a student about people of color being “animals” (Case, this volume). In the instance of Case’s student, the high visibility of people of color as criminals represents a stereotype not easily challenged because of a lack of positive representations of people of color. Invisibility secures privilege because it allows for discrimination against others based on limited information about them. Invisibility differs from absence because privileged group members use invisibility as an exclusionary tool in educational curricula (among other domains). The absence of representations or information about marginalized groups may also be interpreted by privileged persons as a lack of participation, interest, or contribution by marginalized (and invisible) groups. Understanding invisibility as an act of exclusion provides privileged group members with an understanding of the power of representation for all groups of people across political and social domains. Invisibility is either absolute or relative, with absolute invisibility meaning that no representations of a particular group exist, whereas relative invisibility implies limited representation, including misrepresentations and negative representations of a particular group (Fryberg & Townsend, 2008). Additionally, intersectional invisibility renders some groups invisible at intersections of more than one subordinated status (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008), as experienced by Black feminists and documented in the book All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Male, But Some of Us are Brave (Hull, Scott, & Smith, 1982). Groups who see
limited or no representations of their group face the difﬁ cult task of resisting negative stereotypes because of a lack of positive examples with which to identify (Steele, 1997). Without knowledge of positive counter examples, privileged group members may not challenge negative stereotypes about marginalized groups (Hegarty & Pratto, 2001; Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, Phillips, & Denney, 2012). In the worst case, people who do not ﬁ t the implicit prototype of their identity groups, such as women of color or women with disabilities, may be rendered totally invisible in the imagination of students. Asking students to list the names of famous people of color or persons with disabilities often results in a list of mostly men of color and only men with disabilities, indicating gender privilege in both instances.