Things You Need to Understand #6 – Male Privilege
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I recently realized that while I have an excellent post on White Privilege, I don’t have one specifically about Male Privilege. While it’s true that most any essay or post dealing with White Privilege can be applied to Male Privilege with a quick copy/paste, it’s always good to highlight each explicitly.
As with the White Privilege post, I must turn to those who’ve already done the work on explaining Male Privilege extremely well.
We live in a culture of male privilege.
Male privilege may be more obvious in other cultures, but in so-called Western culture it’s still ubiquitous. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous that it’s invisible. It is so pervasive as to be normalized, and so normalized as to be visible only in its absence. The vast, vast, vast majority of institutions, spaces, and subcultures privilege male interests, but because male is the default in this culture, such interests are very often considered ungendered. As a result, we only really notice when something privileges female interests.
[…]true gender equality is actually perceived as inequality. A group that is made up of 50% women is perceived as being mostly women. A situation that is perfectly equal between men and women is perceived as being biased in favor of women.
And if you don’t believe me, you’ve never been a married woman who kept her family name. I have had students hold that up as proof of my “sexism.” My own brother told me that he could never marry a woman who kept her name because “everyone would know who ruled that relationship.” Perfect equality – my husband keeps his name and I keep mine – is held as a statement of superiority on my part.
The second result of the invisibility of male privilege is that a lack of male privilege is taken as active oppression, as male-bashing or bias towards women. It is not enough that the mere presence of something which actively aims at women and women’s interests is taken as oppressing men; simply not catering to men’s interests is perceived as oppression. And I mean, by the way, honestly perceived that way.
2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.
17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male heroes were the default.
28. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
32. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
43. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
Since I first compiled [the list]… critics (usually, but not always, male) have pointed out men have disadvantages too – being drafted into the army, being expected to suppress emotions, and so on. These are indeed bad things – but I never claimed that life for men is all ice cream sundaes. Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that sometimes bad things happen to men.
In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society. And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor; who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy’s stick. As Marilyn Frye has argued, while men are harmed by patriarchy, women are oppressed by it.
As before, these are just excerpts. Please go read the articles themselves.
And props to Yonmei for pointing out the first essay.