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Things You Need to Understand #6 – Male Privilege

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.

When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege by Lucy Gillam

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.

The Male Privilege Checklist by B. Deutsch

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.

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39 comments to Things You Need to Understand #6 – Male Privilege

  • Ceanji

    I agree with with pretty much all that you are saying. especially the intimate crimes. Which unfortunately mostly happen to women that know their attacker. The one thing that I notice that men do which grind my gears the most is on the subway, (I live in nyc) Men spread their legs to take half of the adjoining seats limiting seating space as if the packages are a frabarage (sp?) egg. Let a person sit dammit!
    I cannot nor will ever speak for all men however, In my life, I do notice that in my life most of the women that I encounter do that liberties of their sex and some even ignoring common courtesy. Such as I am holding a heavy package they do not even think of holding the door open for me much less attempt to acknowledge my presence as they walk into my direction as if I should move out of my way. I know you saw me and we had eye contact so why steamroll your way towards me and get upset if I brush into you. Inertia dictates the packages will fall on you if I stop.
    If I say good morning say good morning back. I am not trying to hit on you I assure you.
    Just say good morning back like a normal person. Bad day or not manners are still manners.
    Don’t get mad if I am not giving up my seat because youare a woman. I worked a very long ass day and standing up so you can sit down when I have a 1 1/2 commute is illogical EXCEPT if youa re pregnant or elderly which the elderly part goes with both sexes.
    I don’t think men and woman or equal. that makes no sense. there are thing , many thing that woman can and will be better at then men and vice verse. Believe it or not women make better pilots and snipe than men due to a higher development of spacial actualization. Women are better at multi-tasking. far better than men. I realize this and accept this. One fo the things that I find wrong and dangerous is lowering the standards of acceptance into certain civil work.such as the fire department. If a man can’t get the job because he can’t hold the hose properly why should a woman. I also find it waaay messed up that women get paid less for the same job that a man does. If women get maternity leave then so should a man. I wanna be there for the early stages for my daughter as well. I also would rather be a stay at home dad. I believe if certain “privileges that women have that men don’t are pushed to have their equivalent for men I feel that many men will be more open to doing the same. We should stop trying to get “ours” and amek sure everybody get theirs.

    P.S. sorry for the typos.

  • Tom

    Thank you for posting these things. I am working to pound some sense into my own head, and it is very helpful that a few people are sharing the information I need.

  • Men need to get a grip. If a man is so weak minded that a woman keeping her maiden name after marriage feels “oppressive” to him then the woman needs to rethink the marriage.

    Regarding male privilege: It is a fact that men rule. Whoever rules the money – rules! In particular White men. Statistics and reports ad nauseam prove this.

  • Emmakat

    Hey, these are awesome links/articles. I particularly liked #9 – “If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.” (which you didn’t post here) for what are most likely personal reasons, and because I felt many of these serve as reminders that the male privilege isn’t reinforced only by men, but also by women, and it’s everywhere. It’s amazing to go down the list and think about half of those are things that I feel or have to deal with in some way over the course of a given day…basical regardless of if I have to deal with men directly or not..or anyone for that matter.

    Also, re:#30 (also not posted): “I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern.” Here in Seattle we just had a campus shooting (at the very same building I just attended classes in and graduation less than a year ago, eek.) that was basically written off as domestic violence and that makes everything fine, end of story. They don’t intend to do anything about building security, even though it was one of the least secure campus buildings I’ve ever been in. And the are apparently still giving women requesting protection from violent ex-boyfriends a hard time & very little help. I was shocked to hear that they did away with their escort program two years ago due to lack of interest & funds. It’s frightening to think of this happening on campuses across the country.
    Link to article about UW campus security:
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=223484

  • Ceanji

    As far as last names. there are ALOT of men that will hyphenate their names together or take her name. The last name deal I never saw as a big deal. Personally I do not believe in marriage. I believe in handfasting….lok it up.

  • Sonja

    For some reason I can’t get the link to the privilege list to work.

    And wow, I remember when Lucy Gillam posted that essay and the whiny guys came in from everywhere – it was fascinating.

    I remind myself of that discussion every time someone talks about white privilege and I don’t really “get it”. As a woman, I experience male privilege. As a white person, I don’t really notice white privilege. It’s something I’m working on.

  • Carpoe

    Carmin, I could not agree more.

    I work in a very male dominated industry, and one of my coworkers asked me if I would take my husband’s name if I got married. He was asking because he’s all upset and demanding this his finacee take his name, she doesn’t want to. I said no way, and some of the kids are going to have my last name too, and he flipped out! What was I supposed to say–”You’re right. This woman should have no say in what she’s going to be called from now on. Your wishes should dictate something that affects her but really doesn’t affect you at all,” why does he ever care!

    Another thing that aggravates me, another one of my coworkers told me that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t hire women (we’re sailors and spend about 8 mmonths out of the year at sea), because they’re just going to end up having kids and quitting. The reality is, most guys and women both only do this only for a while and then leave, because very few people really want to spend 8 months out at sea year after year after year after they have kids. Yes, there are some lifers, but already most of the guys I graduated from maritime academy with have taken land jobs, we have 90% male employees and every month people leave and we have to hire new people, but it’s only for us that it’s failing, quitting, giving up, whatever.

  • There are folks who say that some men (they know) don’t fit this mold of having and exercising male privilege. That’s fine to think that, but I think those folks are wrong.

    You know why?

    I am a trans-man, but I pass really well because my trans-ness is in my genes, and I look, was raised to and act pretty much like a man when I need to.

    By nature I’m pretty supportive, pretty humble. I like to support my partner when she’s performing or doing things, being the public face of our partnership, being glamorous, all of her strengths. In that way and many others (my upbringing, my orientation, my political, personal, social identities), I’m not typical and I don’t really fit this mold of the kind of guy who has/exercises male privilege.

    But I also know that if I need to or want to or even if I’m not paying attention, and this happens a thousand times a day even though I am (told I am) the best sort of gentleman a feminist woman should ever want, I can and do exercise male privilege.

    Sometimes I do it through chivalry, holding doors open so others may go through, which can disguise my own insecurity about leading. Sometimes I do it by taking precedence in a crowded hall, sometimes I do it by taking precedence in a line I want to get through quickly, sometimes I do it just by being treated by default better than a woman, by allowing it to happen, marginal as the difference may be, and sometimes I don’t even see it.

    And yet still, I have a minor in Women’s Studies, am a lifelong Feminist (2nd, then 3rd wave, primarily). I am heavily trained in Processing (co-counselling, transactional analysis, active listening, assertiveness training, etc.). I am trained to and mostly (when paying attention), _know_ what kinds of privilege is going on around me, what kinds of privilege I am currently consufming.

    But the fact remains that I’ve got male privilege, and sometimes even without thinking, I use it.

    So, thinking about that, really deconstructing that in my own life/social life, I keep wondering how it can be that men I know who are a whole lot less careful about what’s going on around them than I am, at lot less intentionally perceptive of those currents can really said to be truly outside of the system so much so that they don’t have male privilege.

  • Malcolm: Wow. Awesome post!

  • Random

    I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I’ve added it to my bookmarks and it – and the links from it – have become my current insomnia reading of choice.
    This is a great resource for those of us new to the concept of privilege because we’ve been raised not to see it, especially as you deal with more than one sort, so thank you again, and I expect I’ll be directing quite a few people in this direction soon.

  • Stay Brent

    I’ll admit it: I am privileged. Mainly because I have never really worried too much about being raped.

    I first noticed when I was in Jr High, I’d walk home from drama practice at night and girls would tell me, “No, you can’t do that; some psycho is going to kidnap you and force you into his van and slit your throat!” I didn’t worry too much about it, though; I grew up in a little country town where you really didn’t have to worry too much about crime or anything.

    Now I’m in college, though, and I’m noticing that the tone has changed: I mention I went to the arboretum around midnight and the girls say “Yeah, I wouldn’t do that, ‘cuz, well, I don’t want to be raped.” I mean, again, I’m going to college in a town only slightly bigger, slightly less safe than where i grew up. But one night I was going to walk home from a friend’s house off-campus and insisted I get a ride because they were afraid what would happen to me when I was passing by the frat houses.

    I tend to do a lot of walking at night; I jog a lot on the track near my dorm after midnight or go for long walks around the college grounds or even once or twice up to Wal-Mart (two-mile walk)…and I don’t worry too much, and nothing has ever happened to me. I mean, it might, and then I’ll have totally have been bitten in the ass by my lack of care. But…god, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have THAT MUCH fear about being out by yourself, even at like, 11 at night.

  • If you are interested, I posted my counterpoint to this on my blog – the Female Privilege List. Here is the start:

    Female Privilege List
    Privileges I have as a woman, that “others” – mostly men – don’t have.

    1. I’m allowed to avoid stress and competition, so I can enjoy an additional 5 years of life
    2. I can choose professions that are less lucrative, and not be called a loser.
    3. If I don’t rise to the top of my profession, it’s OK – people won’t judge me the less for it.
    4. I’m entitled to the benefits of a safe, orderly society, but no one expects me to risk my personal safety to maintain it.

  • Ico

    Haven’t read your whole list, but the problem with the ones here is that they’re all actually not privileges — they’re part of the problem.

    1. It’s more like “trained from birth” to avoid stress and competition — to be docile and submissive, in other words — all the qualities that also prevent women from achieving the same power and status as men. Also the qualities men use as excuses for why women make better caretakers than CEOs, better loving mothers than leaders, etc.

    2. Many of those professions are less lucrative *because* they are female-dominated. Men can choose professions that are male dominated, *and* very lucrative.

    3. This is because people’s expectations of women are lower. I don’t see the “privilege” here. It’s like saying, “we don’t expect much of you anyway…”

    4. The society is not “safe” and “orderly” for women — it’s far more dangerous in many respects to women than to men — and in all likelihood sex-related crimes like rape and domestic violence will not be stopped until more women actually are out there maintaining it.

    What you label as privileges, I see as more of the problem. Which isn’t to say that men aren’t underprivileged in ways, also. It is absolutely true that men’s rights are infringed on by patriarchy in some ways — especially w/ regards to child care and custody. But these things you see as benefits? Not benefits. Burdens, and ones I am constantly trying to shake off in my own life. Speaking as a woman, I can tell you — I want no part of these “privileges.” You can have them.

  • Sweating, I just read your “Female Privilege List”…

    You don’t know a lot of Black women, do you?

  • Ico

    Angel, I’m curious. Enlighten the clueless white girl, would you please? Why do you say that? I’d love to hear your thoughts. <3

  • Ico,

    I use privilege in the sense that was meant in the Male Privilege List – not intended to convey a completely unmixed blessing, something with no downside for anyone

    1. If the grain of society makes it easier for a person, should they be so disposed, to avoid stress and competition, there is a general benefit. Woman do live 5 years longer than men, and I think social pressures explain some of that.

    2. Gender is not the primary determinate of the pay of professionals. Anyway, there is a benefit in not having expectations drive me into professions I don’t want.

    4. “The society is not “safe” and “orderly” for women ” I wasn’t saying that it was – just that there is physical risk in maintaining any safety we do have, and, in general society expects that risk to be handled by men, and that many men don’t want to be placed in that situation.

    “Speaking as a woman, I can tell you — I want no part of these ‘privileges.’ You can have them.” Exactly the way I feel about the Male Privilege List

  • Angel – you guessed correctly.

  • Ico

    Sweating, every single one of my responses still stands. I really don’t feel like counting off each one of them again so I’ll just say this: the “benefit” or “not completely unmixed blessing” that you see to each of these points is so HEAVILY outweighed by the disadvantages connected to them that calling them privileges is ridiculous.

    You wrote, “Exactly the way I feel about the Male Privilege List”

    Splendid. What field are you in? I’m sure there are many things you can do that would help promote equality. Why not start by talking with some feminists in your field?

  • “Splendid. What field are you in? I’m sure there are many things you can do that would help promote equality. Why not start by talking with some feminists in your field?”

    Personally, I have far more influence on my wife and children, so in efforts to promote equality I don’t look to my job as my primary area of influence in the world. I don’t see my job as an area of great personal influence.

    I have female coworkers and female competitors. I treat both with respect and fairness. When I win over a competitor I try and be magnanimous. When I lose, I try and learn from someone who beat me.

  • Hi Ico! Sorry it took me so long!

    Sweating, here’s what tipped your hat:

    1. I’m allowed to avoid stress and competition, so I can enjoy an additional 5 years of life

    Many Black women,including myself, were taught at a very early age that we would have to work twice as hard as our White counterparts because the first thing someone would see is the color of our skin, and there are many people out there who would try to use their prejudices against us. In fact, “Black women who pointed to racism as a source of stress in their lives, the researchers found, developed more plaque in their carotid arteries — an early sign of heart disease — than black women who didn’t.” The Boston Globe

    Actually, all your items in your list show how little your recognize your own male privilege, as well your White privilege.

    And this one is just hilarious:

    11. If I commit a crime, I get less jail time than others would get for the exact same crime.

    Do you know any non-Whites at all?

  • Angel.

    1. Are you denying that woman in Western societies live longer than men? Are you claiming that additional years of life couldn’t possibly be considered a privilege?

    11. I didn’t think that was the funniest privilege in the list, and I have no idea why you think I’m trying to make points or say anything about race.

  • Wow. Way to completely miss the miss the point.

    If women do in fact live longer than men, it’s not because we are “allowing ourselves to avoid stress and competition.” Women in general have many stressors that men don’t have to face, including childbirth (or – for the CFers out there, explaining to people who think it’s their business why you choose *not* to have a child), sexual harassment (in the workplace, on the street, and even online), having our rights dictated throughout history and even in the present by a patriarchal society, and competition in the workplace…which brings me to my next point.

    You may not have wanted to say anything about race, but your list said plenty for you because it’s obvious that you didn’t consider the racial aspects.

    When you read the original post, did you even know that the Male Privilege Checklist was based on the White Privilege List? You’re basing your own counterargument on something you’ve yet to comprehend.

  • “If women do in fact live longer than men, it’s not because we are. . .” The do in fact live longer. What is your explanation for this, and do you see any benefit to living longer?

    “You may not have wanted to say anything about race, but your list said plenty for you because it’s obvious. . .” Yes – totally obvious I didn’t consider race, nor was I trying.

    “When you read the original post, did you even know…”
    Yes I did, and it is completely unrelated to the point I was making.

  • Ico

    Angel — thank you for the explanation! :) I totally see that now.

    Sweating — part of the problem with “not considering” race is that what that really translates to is “only writing about white people,” as if white is somehow universal. And as Angel points out, that very omission is a manifestation of white privilege.

    Regarding the longevity of women, it’s telling that you assume it’s due to some kind of leisurely, low-stress lifestyle. Have you ever heard the term “the feminization of poverty”? Do you realize how many women globally are oppressed, struggling at the margins, raising families alone (yet still living longer than men)? How is that low stress? Right there your male privilege shows. Women live longer so you assume they must have an easier time of things.

    Bullsh*t. Do a little research on the status of women’s health in the world. Do women live longer? Absolutely. But don’t you *dare* presume to tell me it’s because we have a low-stress lifestyle.

  • I notice you didn’t hazard a guess as to an alternative explanation. If you have one that is credible, I’ll be happy to revise the list and include that as the cause of the additional five years of life.

    I’ also dare you to learn to read. I did not use the word leisurely. I did not use the words “low stress.” i used the words “less stressful” which does not imply no stress, and in no sense implies leisure. It means less stressful than others, exactly what I said, and exactly what you fail to even consider. I also did not say “easier time of things”

    Nevertheless, I dare you to gran as privilege number 1 the plain, well-known fact – “I live 5 years longer than others”

  • actually I didn’t even use “less stressful” I used the more accurate “allowed to avoid stress and competition” which I stand by as the explanation”

  • Ico

    ““allowed to avoid stress and competition” which I stand by as the explanation””

    What nonsense! I don’t have to “guess” an alternative explanation. I can google it and come up with one in five minutes. What shows the sheer willful blindness of your male privilege is the fact that multiple women offer you reasons why your explanation is wrong and you *still* don’t bother to look for evidence to support yourself. Idiocy.

    First, a few statistics from the United Nations on what it means to “avoid stress and competition,” just so you know:

    “Of the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70 per cent are women.” But I guess poverty isn’t stressful, hm?

    “In most countries, women work approximately twice the unpaid time men do.” Again, more work = lower stress, right?

    “In nearly every country, women work longer hours than men, but are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty.” Well clearly, working more = less stress! And the poorer, the better.

    “Women outlive men in almost every country.” Obviously due to their being allowed to avoid stress and competition by, oh… working harder and being poor.

    So please get rid of that stupid line. It’s offensive because it ignores the fact that women globally live under much more stressful, difficult conditions than men (i.e. work harder and are poorer). If you don’t believe me, take it up with the UN!

    Now, do I grant the privilege that women live longer? Yes, I do. That is a basic biological fact. We DO live longer. And by the miracle of the internet I found a dozen sources that all give essentially the same reason. Biologically, we are more fit to survive. Simple as that. Chimps and other animals display the same disparity in male/female longevity. It’s a quirk of evolution; females live longer due to reasons connected to child birth and child rearing, males live less long due to high-risk behaviors associated with mating, and also due to simple lower health (longevity is not as important for males where the passing on of genes is concerned, so they didn’t evolve to live as long as females).

    I’ll even give you a couple of sources to save you the few minutes it took me to find them. Harvard and Scientific American.

    http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=000D074B-6C66-112F-A89A83414B7F4945&catID=3&chanID=sa005

    http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/1998/10.01/WhyWomenLiveLon.html

  • “Well clearly, working more = less stress! And the poorer, the better.”

    I didn’t make any claims about labor, wealth or poverty in my list.

    “So please get rid of that stupid line. It’s offensive. . .” i won;t remove it just because you think it ignores other facts hat are important to you.

    “females live longer due to reasons connected to child birth and child rearing, males live less long due to high-risk behaviors associated with mating, and also due to simple lower health”

    i read the references you cited, as well as others, and I spent more than 5 minutes looking into this. Your summary is somewhat accurate, but not totally. War and homicide are factors, and “simple lower health” is usually characterized as a combination of higher rates of smoking, alcohol use and addiction.

    What is clear is that I could choose better words to make the point I intended. So:

    1. I’m under less pressure than others to engage in risky, dangerous and unhealthy behaviors – one of the reasons I get to live longer than they do.

  • well actually I don’t see any evidence for your assertion, Swating. You’ve given an explanation for women’s longer health that isn’t, as far as we know, backed up by anything but your own mind. Are there scientific studies that show that longer life for women is due to less stress? Or at least some doctors somewhere that have put forth this hypothesis?

    Also, by not considering race in this list, you’re leaving out a lot, as others have already pointed out. What’s the breakdown for living longer than men race-wise? Do black women live longer than black men? Latinas longer than latinos? Asians? Bueller?

    And where di you get this statistic from? Did the study that came up with this marvelous number have many non-white date-points (studies often don’t, unless their mandate is to study non-white people specifically)? Did they take into account the number of men killed that has nothing to do with their “stress level”, like those who are killed because of dangerous activity (being in the mob, frex?) or because they are in prison? How many men, on average, die from diseases women don’t get, like prostate cancer? Are they counted in the “women live longer than men” tally? Wouldn’t it be fairer to only compare women and men who don’t die from gender-specific diseases?

    I could go on.

    My guess as to why women live longer than men? Willpower. not less stress. in fact, more stress because women know if they die men will fall the fuck apart and no one will take care of anything.

    Okay, that was flip and also an unfair generalization. But I do think it has to do with willpower – staying alive to take care of what needs to be done.

    I ‘ve heard several times that men who are *married* tend to have shorter lives than women, but men who are unmarried have longer lives that women (who are unmarried, I assume). Maybe unmarried women are like “Gee, I don’t have to take care of anyone! Thank GOD, I can die peacefully.”

    Also, women are SO not allowed to avoid stress and competition. It may not be the same stress you go through as a man, and it may be the kind of competition you don’t even notice because you’re a man, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Ah, Male Privilege, you never fail to entertain.

  • Ico

    Sweating said: “I didn’t make any claims about labor, wealth or poverty in my list.”

    No. You just ignore the fact that women work harder and live in greater poverty, while still claiming they’re “allowed to avoid stress and competition.” Two ideas which directly contradict each other, unless you have VERY strange ideas of what avoiding stress means. How hard is it, really, to admit that you were wrong, and that #1 as you had written it is the exact opposite of reality?

    Also, everything ABW said. :D

  • “How hard is it, really, to admit that you were wrong, and that #1 as you had written it is the exact opposite of reality?”

    I admit being wrong lots of times – being able to do that is the only way to arrive at the truth. So I considered what people said and developed a better way to make my point.

  • J. Wiley

    I agree with every bit of the article you’ve shared.

    I was especially struck by the points made about how absolute equality is often seen as ‘inequality’ by the privileged group (as is the case with race relations, as well). I truly can’t take men seriously when they complain about how ‘easy’ women have it just because we don’t have to get drafted and can cry in public; quite honestly, I take this sort of male whining about as well as I take white complaints about ‘reverse racism’ and affirmative action – with a great deal of eye-rolling.
    Of course, I’m not claiming that men don’t have any difficulties whatsoever; on the whole, though, women have been getting the short end of the stick for too damn long, and I’m sick of people who turn a blind eye to it.

  • Ico

    “I was especially struck by the points made about how absolute equality is often seen as ‘inequality’ by the privileged group (as is the case with race relations, as well)”

    This is so true. I see it a lot in fiction. I’ll write a story with a mostly female cast, and people will point out the lack of men and suggest I add some. They will stress this as if it is a serious flaw. But I read literally DOZENS of stories that have only male characters (not a single female), and when I point this out as a problem I’m seen as being a politically correct nuisance. The double standard drives me friggin CRAZY.

    And it definitely applies to race, too. I remember reading a question an interviewer asked Toni Morrison once:

    Interviewer: “You don’t think you will ever change and write books that incorporate white lives into them substantially?”

    Morrison: “You can’t understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you? Because you could never ask a white author, ‘When are you going to write about black people?’ … Even the inquiry comes from the position of being in the center … and saying, ‘Is it ever possible that you will enter the mainstream?’ It’s inconceivable that where I already am is the mainstream.”

    Her answer is perfect. True of both racism and sexism. Ah, white male privilege…

  • EinsteinSmiling

    I have an opinion. Just an opinion. Based on my experiences and education.
    I’m sorry if the wording and structure of this isn’t as succinct as some on here but I feel it important enough to mention.

    I’m a white male. I don’t own a big car, I don’t run a company, and I haven’t exploited anyone for financial, sexual or emotional gain. I have never been accused of being racist or sexist. And more importantly, I never asked to be a white male. I’m aware that I may have done some of these things unintentionally and thus, cannot remember when, why, where or whom I was being sexist or racist but I feel nearly all of us have done something that may have been treated as sexist or racist at some point. Maybe by mistake or ignorance.

    It seemed this article and subsequent posts by others ended up as being some kind of competition to see who has been more wronged by “society” and “The Man”. And I feel that misses the point. Especially because the moment an average white male starts talking about issues regarding races and genders different from his own, the opinion is taken to mean less and less by those he is trying to understand. It seems the male has to show his colours by claiming his strong feminist roots before being able to be taken wholly seriously. yet many on here have done exactly the same thing when looking at the male section of society.

    I guess, depending on gender and race, we as individuals are more sensitive to seeing bias in outside opinions on our particular pigeon-hole in society. So whilst I agree that stereotyping females, and people of different races from our own is bad, I find it strange that some have forgotten this, and actively stereotype and look down upon white males and the opinions they offer.

    I’m not saying all men are good and kind and wholesome, but I’m also not saying that all men are bad, exploitative and ignorant of sexism either: just like I cannot say for a fact that all women are harder workers than men. So maybe the point of this article and subsequent posts was to highlight sexism in terms that a white male could understand by being inflammatory, and at times, sexist. A “taste of your own medicine” kind of thing.

    I understand that I may have missed the point a little like others before me on this page but I hope you will at least read this with the knowledge that I’m not looking for an argument, I just wish to clarify a few points that I’m unsure about.

    For example, in today’s world, I do worry about whether the female and ethnic groups at work believe that I got my job today because I’m a white male. Because I cannot be certain that they haven’t developed opinions and stereotypes of white males that actively influence their opinion on my worth as a fellow employee. yet i feel just mentioning that might offend.

    The main problem I have with understanding all of the points about white/ male privilege is that I have encountered statistics that tell another side to the story. Whilst I don’t wish to anger anyone who has been a victim of intrusive and sexual violence, there are other crimes out there which males are far more likely to be a victim of.

    “Because of time restraints I will just post the links to the statistics and quote directly from them.

    “DURHAM, N.H. — A 32-nation study of violence against dating partners by university partners found that about a third had been violent, and most incidents of partner violence involve violence by both the man and woman, according to Murray Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. The second largest category was couples where the female partner was the only one to carry about physical attacks, not the male partner.”

    http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2006/may/em_060519male.cfm?type=n 2006

    But an important point to note is that the violence inflicted by women causes lower amounts of injury. yet it also does point out that women are committing assaults on their domestic partners too, apparently more than men.

    “Males were almost 4 times more likely than females to be murdered in 2005.”

    “Males were almost 10 times more likely than females to commit murder in 2005.”

    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm

    I just feel that if the murder rates are so much higher than of females that maybe there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and that some privileges held (maybe unintentionally) by males may have far more sinister undertones that we may realise.

    “Women are seven to 14 times more likely than men to report suffering severe physical assaults from an intimate partner.”

    http://www.endabuse.org/resources/facts/

    An interesting and horrifying statistic, which either highlights the fact that women have a higher probability to encounter severe physical assaults from their partner, or that men who do suffer at the hands of their partners do not feel it wise to report that crime to the authorities.

    “Males experienced higher victimization rates than females for all types of violent crime except rape/sexual assault.”
    Trends in violent victimization by gender, 1973-2005
    http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/cvict_v.htm

    I don’t want these studies and statistics to be treated as argumentative; I just want to be aware of the full and complete picture, rather than just half. Is it a male privilege to know that I’m far more likely to suffer every type of violent crime apart from sexual assaults and rape? Again, please don’t think for one moment that I think that the crimes a male might be a victim of are worse than that which women might suffer from, but I do think there at least as important in this context.

    As you can see if you look at these links, I have ignored several statistics highlighting the victim rates of women, only because I feel they have been mentioned enough in the above articles and posts. Yet I encountered very few statistics pointing the other way in these articles, even though I know of their existence.

    I know the whole idea of reverse-sexism/ reverse-racism that many white males call forth is an insult to the suffering of many who have experienced racism and sexism in its extreme. Yet I don’t feel I got the whole story from these articles on male and white privilege because it seems so selective. So I can’t work out whether the idea that white/male privilege is now getting closer and closer to being a thing of the past or whether I’ve just found the wrong statistics and studies. I’m not trying to argue that males suffer just as much as females; I’m just trying to work out where these statistics fit into the feminist stance on this subject. So if anyone could help me clarify this it would be much appreciated.

  • What I’ve learned is that some feminists do take them into account, acknowledging them under the category that Patriarchy Hurts Men Too.

    Men’s suffering is considered less important and not their primary concern, because such suffering is usually at the hands of other men. I struggled with that a bit, but I take the point.

  • Ico

    Re: domestic violence and abuse against men, tangential, but connected.

    Mike Lew has a nice chapter in his book “Victims No Longer” (a book for and about male survivors of sexual abuse) on the feminist movement. He writes:

    “I believe that men recovering from sexual abuse have no greater ally than the feminist movement…. Society at large (including mental health professionals) finds it less stressful to look the other way [from sexual abuse]. Proponents of feminist criticism haven’t permitted this ostrichlike denial. They continue to insist that we deal with the realities of many important life issues, including child abuse. They forced recognition of these issues in the face of resistance and misunderstanding. It is no accident that only recently has the sexual abuse of boys and girls become a topic of widespread public discussion. Years of struggle by feminists set the stage.” (pgs36-37)

    The idea that men can be victims of domestic violence, of sexual violence, of abuse, is slowly being recognized because the feminist movement has forced society to reexamine traditional gender constructions and the nature and existence of abuse. Feminism is good for men and for women, and I think it is important to remember that some of the statistics you bring up (the concept of men as victims of domestic violence, for instance) would be laughed off as nonsense were it not for the efforts of the feminist movement.

    As for your statistics — yes men are victims. Men are also largely the perpetrators, and I think it’s important to show THAT side as well. This makes the equation pretty simple for women. In violence against women, the perpetrators are almost always male. The reverse is almost never true. There is clearly one privileged class here, one oppressed class. The oppressed class is the one getting killed, raped, abused. Obviously, in male/female interactions of violence, there is a general trend. Men have power and privilege.

    When you have statistics about men doing violence to men, those do not in any way negate the privileged status of men in their interactions with women. You see?

    Re: Domestic violence, yes there are some studies that show equal percentages of violent incidents. Many of these incidents are minor, however (pushing, shoving, slapping). Yet when you look at statistics about extreme violence (murder, rape, hospitalization), you’ll see there is a severe gender imbalance. Men are nearly always perpetrators and women are frequently murdered by a spouse.

  • 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.

    How does this confer a benefit on a man? In fact most men have to earn their way to the top. We don’t benefit from affirmative action or preferential hiring or admission to a university. So I’d say that as long as women demand these preferential treatments and men are denied them it is clear that this is a clear + on the female side. And as long as those preferential treatments exist it is a valid question–did she get here because she’s a woman?

    By the way I have lost my job to a woman. Even though I was an excellent employee with a superior work record and experience my boss told me he was letting me go to make room for a woman with no experience and who proved to be inadequate to the task I was doing.

    Unlike a woman I didn’t get to claim discrimination. I had to find another job. And just for the record, I was 23 years old and had moved 4000 miles to get that job. I was also homeless at the time and living in a tent. But my situation was irrelevant because it was more important to give a woman who had a nice home and clothes and food on the table my job so she wouldn’t feel oppressed.

    Two weeks later she got drunk at a party and didn’t show up for work the next day. By then I had moved once again to find work.

    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.

    Rape is serious but you also forgot murder, assault, and a host of other violent crimes that men suffer 2 to 3 times more of. And while you skirt this issue, men in prison make up 2 thirds of all rape victims in the U.S. These men are raped repeatedly and cannot escape their assailants. Unlike women who have rape crisis and counseling men are forced to live in fear of the next attack and have little resources let alone counseling. Imagine if a woman was forced to live with her rapist? What if that rapist had aids?

    Furthermore, most comparisons of rape between the sexes are inherently flawed. Male disposability forced on men through socialization requires that men not report rapes and other violent crimes against him. Should he report them then everyone knows he can’t hack it. Women receive no such socialization.

    11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.

    If a man has children and his wife leaves him she can take those children from him and deny him access and a court will do nothing to prevent that alienation.

    So perhaps if a man provides primary care and lots of love for his children he should be recognized for taking an extraordinary emotional risk that his woman won’t leave at some point and have the court strip him of his children because he was born with a penis.

    And for the record we have over 50% divorce rate in the U.S.
    70% of all divorces are filed by women.
    Over 80% of all child custody goes to the mother.

    BTW when a woman does a marginally competent job in a traditionally male field she is lauded with praise and approval. For instance I saw an ad on Yahoo! about a WNBA player who dunked the ball. Apparently she is the second professional women’s basketball player to dunk the ball. Huh?

    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.

    Most male “heroes” reinforce and promote protection of women, obedience to authority, acceptance and glorification of male disposability, and a rejection of the full range of human emotion.

    Show me a positive role model where a young man avoids military service and becomes a ballerina? Show me a positive role model where a young man gets married and has a woman support him for the rest of his life while he stays home and does housework and takes care of children?

    Male role models deny us choice and flexibility and force us into rigid life choices where our value is measured by our disposability and our ability to make money and our willingness to give that money to women.

    28. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

    Compare Brad Pitt and George Clooney with Steve Bsucemi and Paul Giamatti. The latter are widely considered to be superior actors. The former make the most money. The fact is that if a man is ugly or short it may not affect his ability to get employment, but it’s almost a certainty that that employment will not be glamorous or high paying unless he goes through extraordinary efforts to achieve.

    The ability of a good looking man to find love, companionship and a partner to reproduce with is much greater than an ugly man or a short man. Yeah. Try being short and male and find love.

    For the record, even the most unattractive woman can reproduce. She need only go to a sperm bank. Can the most unattractive man reproduce? Maybe. But he actually has to bust a$$ to do so.

    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.

    This stereotype isn’t reinforced by men but by women. So the next time you see a woman on trial for murdering her husband and claiming, PMS, Menopause, or a host of other female centric maladies or when a woman in the army claims PMS to get out of guard duty you should point it out and denounce her.

    It’s sick how some women will use their femininity to escape responsibility while others claim it causes them to be discriminated against.

    43. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

    You’ve failed to outline any substantive privilege and if it wouldn’t be deleted I’d outline a host of female privileges that are bestowed by birth as well as legislation.

    In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money;

    Isn’t it funny how 85% percent of homeless are men but we make more money? Making money isn’t power or privilege.–it’s hard work. Privilege is in the spending and women control 80% of domestic spending. One need only go shopping to see that 70% of gender specific retail floor space is devoted to women. If women aren’t making that money as you just claim then how are they spending that money? Well the answer of course is Female Privilege not Male Privilege.

    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.

    Actually women hold half the wealth in the United States. And while women may not hold as many political positions they tend to win more positions when they run. In nearly every political race there is at least one man running. So by a simple law of averages there SHOULD be more men in public office. When every race has a woman running you will see parity in public office. But if that happens women won’t be able to blame men if things don’t go their way. Oh wait that’s silly. It’s always men’s fault. That’s part of the bigotry of feminism to make scapegoats of men.

    As for powerful corporate positions there is a clear reason why there aren’t as many women. Women choose mates who do not support them at home. They want the most powerful and “alpha male” mate. He’s not going to stay home with baby and play house while she climbs the corporate ladder. Don’t blame him though. He is what he is because that’s what she wanted him to be. When a man climbs the corporate ladder he most often chooses a mate who will support him at home. Tend to his dry cleaning, clean and prepare the food, take care of the kids.

    Here’s a statistic to chew on: 61% of women at the top of the corporate ladder are childless. The demands of being an executive preclude the privilege of reproduction.

    Of course these women could have found a nice little man who likes to shop and cook and change diapers and who will enjoy spending your money and living in the house you paid for. (I can already hear the collective female cringe upon reading that last statement) So I guess you have your answer.

    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.

    Actually women initiate domestic violence more than men do. Unlike most men, women are more likely to bring knives, guns, and other weapons as well as use ambush and surprise to even the odds.

    30% of those hospitalized are men. Yet a disproportionate number of those charged and imprisoned are men. So then, there is a double standard here. Women can beat their husbands and expect preferential treatment. In fact, women can murder their husband and expect to get away with it. Often the better looking the woman the more lenient her punishment.

    I wonder if you feminists think men don’t suffer emotional scarring just because they healed from their physical scars?

    When women see violence against women on TV they know it’s bad and everyone feels that it is wrong.

    When women commit violence against men on TV we laugh and think it’s funny.

    100 men might die in a movie comedy. But if one woman dies it’s drama.

    1.2 million men have died fighting for this country. Most of those were conscripts who were forced into service. I bet more people know who Susan B. Anthony is than know that statistic.

    Are women more likely to be poor? No. In fact divorced women with children have a higher net worth than their ex-husbands. Why? Because while the man makes more he’s obligated by patriarchy and the courts to give more of his money to his ex-wife. Interesting how when patriarchy confers a definite benefit to women ya’ll get real quiet about it.

    Tell me; if retail merchants are willing to devote 70% of their floor space to female specific merchandise how is it that women are more poor than men?

    What’s more is that women are not as likely to fall completely through the cracks to the bottom. 85% of homeless are men. Isn’t that a funny bit of irony? Fewer women work and many make less money yet many more men are homeless.

    Women also haven’t been legally forced from their homes and conscripted into service. Then shipped far away to fight, kill, and die so that others may enjoy the fruits of democracy. And then when they return denied adequate medical and psychological treatment to heal from their wounds.

    Women aren’t oppressed by patriarchy? Take an objective look at the male physical form and the female physical form.

    And then ask yourself these questions:
    1. Which body was bred for 1000′s of years to do hard labor?
    2. Which body was bred to fight and die and suffer hardship and deprivations?
    3. Which body is most likely to wear clothing for leisure rather than work?
    4. Which body is more likely to be bathed in fine fragrances and enjoy a spa treatment?
    5. Which body is most likely to belong to a coal miner, garbage collector, sewer worker, or convicted criminal?
    6. Which body would you more likely expect to die to protect you?
    7. Which body is more likely to reproduce?
    8. Which body is more likely to have a court deny him/her access to his/her children?
    9. Which body is more likely to be relegated to the status of “financial slave”?
    10. If both bodies committed the same crime under the same circumstances which body is more likely to be convicted and receive a harsher punishment?

  • [...] why it doesn’t work for others.” (from Blind Privilege) • (just added) ABW’s Male Privilege and White Privilege [...]

  • [...] and the perceived injustices they suffer when this power imbalance is corrected. When you lose the privilege (<— link) you have of belonging to a certain group you are going to have to give things up [...]