Whiteness as a theoretical concept is central within the discipline of critical whiteness studies. It refers for example to whiteness as a norm and ideology with a basis in theories concerning racial affiliation. Thus, the expression ‘white’ has to do with not only a person’s skin colour as it can also be understood as a globally structuring norm that implies that ‘being white’ brings social, economic and political benefits. Whiteness or having light-coloured skin becomes a status marker that relates to a normative and hierarchically superior position. This position shows how racialisation processes in societies lead to the development of systems for privileges and superordination.
Problematisation of how whiteness is often understood as an ‘invisible norm’ is central in critical whiteness studies. Similar to other normative positions, whiteness is invisible in particular to those who are positioned within the realms of the norm, i.e. those who are ‘white’. Describing whiteness as invisible can in fact be understood as an expression of a whiteness norm in society, since this norm is often highly visible to non-whites.
Whiteness as a category is of central importance to feminism and in the field of gender studies in order to show how also these areas are strongly influenced by the whiteness norm. For example concerning what issues are acceptable to include in feminist struggles, what persons/bodies can participate in these movements, what problems are defined and what concepts are used.