There is nothing wrong, on the individual level, with getting a job based on a plus. Well, there might be. But for sake of argument, say there isn't.
When things get hairy is when getting jobs based on a plus happens a lot, and for the same group of plus people.
And it is very hard to recognize when that plus comes into play - when the privilege you unintentionally wield influences the events around you.
I have a lot of privilege. That privilege helps me get away with doing a lot of things and saying a lot of things someone who didn't look like me wouldn't get away with. I've always told my friends that I get away with a lot of crap because I act like I'm right; I act like I should get away with, say, yelling at a cop or telling my Old White Guy boss that we need to hire more people who aren't Old White Guys and who won't become Old White Guys as part of our sales force - in those terms. And I'm convinced that is part of it. But the other part, and why I've been conditioned to feel like I have the right to do X or Y, is what I am. I am middle class. I am white. I am small, both in height and in size. And I look like I'm twelve. These things don't help people take me seriously, but it does help me when it comes to getting away with telling people they're idiots.
And I don't think I should get away with something because of any of those factors; but I also don't know when it does and when it doesn't. So I can't really mitigate the effect that has on my life, and what it does for me. And if I weren't annoyingly obsessed with myself, I may never have examined the fact that when everyone says I look like I'm twelve, and that my nicknames at work are "Little Girl" and "Little One", those along with the other aspects give me a certain amount of protection and privilege I otherwise would not have.
Now, some of my privilege will be mitigated by age. Hopefully, when I'm in my mid-forties, no one will be calling me "Little One", although I appreciate the affectionate name now. But I have no way of truly taking that perspective others have of me and dismantling it myself. I have no way of telling a person, "Don't react to me as you would a small child". Because, like the "I'm white, I'm a guy" thing, it would probably not elicit the desired reaction.
Which takes me to this: I listen to Stuff Mom Never Told You, because Molly and Cristen are awesome. The last podcast of theirs I listened to was "Are political quotas bad for women?", and in there a couple of interesting questions were asked.
Cristen posed the question,
Is that at the same time not only dismantling our ideas of equal opportunity and democracy but also almost categorizing women once again into this, like, ind of separate, special little corner that they need to hang out in and, you know, work on their, like child care, etc., types of issues rather than allowing us to, you know, jump in the fray and get in there right beside, um, elbow our way in alongside men?
And I like the question, because it is a good one. Is forcibly making space for women in different arenas the best way to get women into those areas? But I also like the question, because it demonstrates an issue of framing. Same thing with Molly's quandary:
You'd always have to wonder if you were in power because you're a woman, or if you really had something to contribute to government.
The problem I have with how the question is framed is that in the first question, Cristen herself is separating so-called "Women's Issues" like child care and equal pay from societal issues. It is the age-old problem where men are seen to speak universally and women are seen to speak only about women.
And the problem I have with Molly's quandary is that we very rarely reverse that question and look at the invisible privilege held therein. We almost never ask of (white) men, "Are you in power because you're a man, or because you really had something to contribute?" We'll ask if there was some sort of dynasty thing at play (like with Bush the Second), but we rarely ask if a man got the job because he's a man.
So, when Molly is worried about people looking at women in power, is worried about women in power looking at themselves, and wondering if the fact that they are women was the necessary plus to push them into power, she is demonstrating something profound. We worry about whether or not women, or African Americans, or Latinos, or [fill in your minority here] got to where they are because of Political Correctness. Because they had some Plus that pushed them above the deserving White Guy. Very rarely, do we as a society, ponder whether some white guy got to where he is because he is a guy, and white. That is one of the essences of privilege: your plus not factoring into the general consciousness of why you are where you are. And because that is one of the essences of privilege, it is incredibly difficult to recognize it as such, in general and on the individual level. Because unless something egregious happened (or unless the Peter Principle is to blame), a lot of people who have the jobs they have deserve them. And the question then becomes whether or not the plus that pushed them over the edge to jobhood was earned, or was a function of an unearned quotient like gender privilege or racial privilege or even religious privilege.