Perhaps the greatest asset that unearned privilege conveys is the sense that public spaces “belong” to you. If you are — like James Holmes last week, or Charles Whitman, who killed 16 people on the University of Texas, Austin campus in 1966 — an American-born, college-educated white man from a prosperous family, you don’t have a sense that any place worth being is off-limits to the likes of you. White men from upper middle-class backgrounds expect to be both welcomed and heard wherever they go. When that sense of entitlement gets frustrated, as it can for a host of complex psychological reasons, it is those same hyper-privileged men who are the most likely to react with violent, rage-filled indignation. For white male murderers from “nice” families, the fact that they chose public spaces like schools, university campuses, or movie theaters as their targets suggests that they saw these places as legitimately theirs.
Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men. You’re supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that’s not how it works. The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt. Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt. They think you don’t have any place on the road at all. And if you do get hurt by a car, everyone makes excuses that it’s your fault.