The Privileges of Being a Hindu, Upper Caste and Elite Class, Male in India

21 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016

Date Written: February 10, 2016


When Peggy McIntosh referred to the term 'White Male Privilege' she describes conditions that systematically 'overempower certain groups' and 'confers dominance, gives permission to control, because of one's race or sex', in a Western society. These privileges according to her are unjust and unearned. She stated that, "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group". Similarly, in a conservative, patriarchal, stratified, casteist, hierarchical, unequal modern Indian society, the undeserved 'Male Privileges' besides the unwarranted advantage of being a 'Hindu' hailing from an 'Upper Caste' and 'Elite Class' plays a significant role in defining the social status of a person which accordingly confers him the voice, the dominant position, the decision making authority and the power to exercise control over others. These socially sanctioned prerogatives conferred to a person operate together to legitimize his superior and authoritative position, on the basis of which he may tend to subjugate others including poor, women, minorities and those from lower caste or deprived classes. Also, a particular episode of violence that occurs because of such unbalanced power equation is often seen in its micro context without realizing the undesirable systemic macro-structure in which it happens. McIntosh in her paper argued that in 'the same way men are not taught to acknowledge the ways in which they enjoy the benefits of being a male, similarly whites are conferred with privileges that they are taught not to recognize'. Likewise, in the present Indian society, these systematic structured unearned privileges of being a Hindu, a male, hailing from an upper caste and an elite class operate unjustifiably, invisibly and visibly, knowingly or unknowingly, where those privileged are neither taught to recognize the plight of 'others' nor the prerogatives conferred to them. These matrixes of privileges are inter-related, interconnected, intersecting, interlocked and operates together in a manner to reiterates, and strengthens the structures of oppression. Thus, patriarchy, religious hegemony, casteism and wealth inequalities, all operate together to reinforce the culture of domination in an unconscious and invisible manner though the Constitution of India as well as the legal system is premised on the principles of equality, substantive equality and social justice. This essay looks at these systemic oppressions or the set of privileges which are structural, inbuilt, institutional and often remain hidden or unnoticed and unrecognized in social, political or legal debates relating to marginalization of subaltern groups. It is accordingly suggested to recognize, acknowledge and work around these privileges in order to comprehend the unarticulated darkness surrounding it and to gain a holistic perception of the prevalent structural and systemic exploitation with the aim to reconstruct the egalitarian society where social structure is free from conditions that favours a few at the cost of majority of 'Others'.

Keywords: India, women, male, patriarchy, inequalities, discrimination, privileges, elite, caste, Hindu, society

Suggested Citation

Nigam, Shalu, The Privileges of Being a Hindu, Upper Caste and Elite Class, Male in India (February 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Shalu Nigam (Contact Author)

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