Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack as a White Woman // Katie Hannah-Fisher

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The Women’s March was a powerful, beautiful display of what can happen when we come together against the injustices we face, and fear to face throughout the Trump administration’s reign. However, if anyone looked closely enough, there were divisions among the marchers. While we came together as one, there are numerous battles that only segments of the population will ever face. Those ignored battles, injustices, or whatever you may choose to call them reminded me of that Invisible Knapsack that Peggy McIntosh unpacked in 1988. As a White woman, I feel it is necessary to reevaluate that knapsack. I have compiled a list of the privileges I can identify in my life based on the intersection of my race and gender, and urge my fellow women to add to this list.

  1. When I have children, people will assume my spouse is involved in their life.
  2. People may assume that my mood is related to the time of the month, but they will never blame it on my race.
  3. I can open any beauty magazine and see women who look like me on nearly every page.
  4. For the most part, the characters I watch on TV have the same values, goals, morals, and cultural norms as me.
  5. When I cry, people take action.
  6. People move over when I try to occupy their space on public transportation, without me even asking for it.
  7. People consider it polite to offer me their seat.
  8. When I complain about pain at the doctor, I am offered pain medications without judgment.
  9. Usually, people do not reach out and touch my body or hair without my permission.
  10. No one has ever credited any of my successes to my race, though at times they probably should have.
  11. Any mistake I make is seen as a discrete, individual issue- not a product of my race.
  12. I have a sense of freedom and belonging everywhere I travel.
  13. When it comes time to celebrate women throughout history, I can expect most of them to look like me.
  14. Products for my hair type are sold in every salon and beauty store I have ever been to.
  15. People believe nearly anything I tell them without question- they assume I am honest.
  16. No one would think twice about giving me a job in which I interact with the public or act as the face of the company.
  17. I have the opportunity to shape people’s opinion of me without them ever making assumptions about me based on my race.
  18. When people fight against sexism, I can be confident that they are fighting for people like me.
  19. When I am out, I drink if I want to without worrying about anyone assuming I have a substance abuse issue.
  20. The new president’s actions will probably not make me question my belonging in this country.  

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