Another one inspired by the comment thread of doom.
The hardest thing about explaining privilege to members of dominant groups is that, usually, the fact that you’re advantaged in certain ways doesn’t mean you’re not disadvantaged in many other ways. So when we’re talking about gender and a man is told that he’s privileged–or when we’re talking about race and a white person is told that they’re privileged, or whatever–their immediate response is often, “What privilege? Look at all the ways my life has been unfair!”
To be clear, this argument is not always made in good faith*. However, for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend that it is, because there are important points to be made about this.
Privilege is best understood as a system of interacting benefits (or disadvantages). When people in a feminist space talk about “privilege,” they often just mean male privilege. All other things being equal–this is the important part–if you are a man, you are at an advantage relative to a woman.
Of course, that’s only useful theoretically. In practice, gender isn’t the only thing that matters. Race, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, (dis)ability, religion, skin color (within race), class, weight, attractiveness, immigration status–all these things make a difference. (This is what feminists refer to as “intersectionality.”)
Say you’re a man but you lack privilege in another area–say you’re a man of color. Are you more privileged than a white, upper-class, straight, able-bodied, Christian woman? Probably not. Are you more privileged than a lower-middle-class, queer Latina woman? Probably. And your being male is only one of many ways in which you are more privileged than this hypothetical woman.
Many men have trouble understanding or accepting the concept of privilege because they do not feel that they have much of it. On one hand, this is true–men can be poor, men can be disabled, men can be non-white, men can be queer. On the other hand, privilege often remains unchallenged because it is invisible. If you are white, you don’t spend much time thinking about the fact that you never (or almost never) get stopped by the cops for absolutely no reason, searched, and subjected to harsh questions. If you are a man of color, this is something that’s almost certainly happened to you, and a problem of which you are very much aware. Likewise, if you’re a man–unless you’re very visibly gender-nonconforming–you don’t have to worry every time you go out alone at night that someone will harass you, that someone will rub up against you on the subway platform and make disgusting sounds, that someone will follow you down the street yelling at you to come back to him. All of these things have happened to me and most other women.
But this probably isn’t something you think about all the time. It’s natural that you’d think more about the ways your life can be challenging, not about how lucky you are to not get followed down the street by strange men all the time. The injustices in your life are probably more salient to you than all the myriad ways in which things work as they should. So it would make sense that, overall, you feel like you lack privilege rather than feeling like you have it.
Another way of looking at it is that a man can very much have a really difficult life that’s almost devoid of any privileges. But if, hypothetically, this same man with these same circumstances had instead been born a woman, her life would be even more difficult and even more devoid of privilege.
This is why privilege is best used as a theoretical concept and not taken too literally. It’s impossible to “measure” it. It’s impossible to know, for instance, whether a hypothetical man necessarily has more total privilege than me, or whether I have more than him.
This is also why, when discussing privilege with folks who aren’t very familiar with intersectionality, it’s best to be as specific as possible. “You just don’t get this because you’re privileged” or “Check your privilege” is never going to work if the person you’re talking to actually lacks privilege along every axis other than the one you’re talking about (well, or if they don’t know what the hell privilege even means). If I–a white, able-bodied, cisgender, middle-class woman–yell at a poor, queer man of color to “check his privilege” because he said something sexist, he would (and should) laugh in my face. Because he’ll probably immediately think of his class, race, and sexual orientation and wonder how, exactly, he’s so privileged.
When this comes up, it’s vital to remind people that the disadvantages they face in life are not a product of the fact that they’re male (or white, or whatever). If I tell you that being a woman means I have to worry about people harassing me on the street and you tell me that, well, being a queer man means you get harassed on the street too, you’re missing the point a little. It’s not being a man that gets you harassed. It’s being queer, because we have a society that’s unjust toward queer people.
Some have tried to get around this hurdle when educating about privilege by creating metaphors in which you get a certain number of “points” in different domains. If you’re white, you get more “points” than if you’re not white. If you’re male, you get more points than if you’re not male. If you’re straight…you get the idea. Then the total points you have is your privilege, and you can see that getting few points in one category doesn’t mean you can’t get many points in another category. (John Scalzi made a similar metaphor brilliantly here.)
Such metaphors are fraught with complications (should being male give you more points than being white?), they’re useful for showing that you can’t just look at one axis. It’s not just about being male. It’s not just about being white. It’s everything.
Privilege is a theory, a framework that can be used to explain how our social world works. Like all theories, it has weaknesses and blind spots. Some try to make up for these by continually inventing new forms of privilege–vanilla privilege and couple privilege are a few that I’ve heard relatively recently–but in reality, the problem with taking privilege too literally is that there are just too damn many variables that shape our circumstances and what we are able to achieve. It is completely possible to be a straight white cis able-bodied middle-class Christian mentally/physically healthy English-speaking American plain-ol-vanilla-white-bread man and still have your life completely destroyed and fucked over by circumstances beyond your control.
That does not mean that you do not have privilege.
All it means is that privilege is just a theory, useful for explaining many but not all things, and that you, my friend, were really unlucky and that legitimately sucks.
*Examples: “Male privilege? But women never answer my OkCupid messages!” and “White privilege? But [insert story about how you got rejected from a job/college because some Totally Unqualified Black Person got it instead].”
181 thoughts on “"But I'm a man and I don't feel like I have any privilege."”
D just got one of these guys on her FB feed the other day, actually. (On a completely unrelated note, I’m getting warnings about possible malicious scripts on here when I go to post; possibly that should be looked into).
Oy. If you could screencap, that’d be great; I’m afraid I can’t do much without that.
Those on top of the pile never notice the weight. Those on the bottom feel it all the time.
Those on the bottom aren’t asking the top to switch places. They’re asking that everyone carry their own weight.
Well, ok, not exactly. Or yes, I don’t disagree with most of what you say here, but I also submit that the privilege thing doesn’t really work outside of very specific academic parameters. Beyond that, it’s pretty obviously flawed. This is mostly an anecdotal conclusion I’ve reached from reading dozens of feminist blogs and books that are right about some things, but, so far as I can tell, miss the mark entirely about others. And this is pretty consistent across the board. So, yeah, from where I’m standing, I still say that most women simply don’t understand what it feels like to be a less than attractive young man. And this isn’t about other axes of privilege, this is specifically about women not understanding my experience as a male.
So clearly, somehow this aspect of the “male perspective” is lost in the shuffle when it comes to mainstream media. Which is probably because the “male perspective” that dominates the media- while it is a male perspective- is also a tall, hot, wealthy one. Idk if feminists think that most men’s lives are like RDJ’s, but they aren’t.
So, I think that the privilege model is flawed, or at the very least it’s being applied too broadly by non-academic Social Justice Warriors on Tumblr. It seems to me that “privilege” is meant as an abstract sociological phenomenon. What it isn’t meant for is for arrogant SJWs to use as a sneering perjorative.
Wait, what does women not understanding your experience as a man have to do with the concept of privilege being flawed?
And actually, this is not about your experience as a man. It’s about your experience as a not-very-attractive man, and attractiveness is an axis of privilege. Unattractive women can face huge roadblocks, too. In fact, both men and women are actually paid less, all other factors being equal, if they are unattractive (some economist did a pretty careful study on this; I can link you to it if you’re interested).
There are actually plenty of unattractive men in the media, but I’ll suppose that their unattractiveness is not really made a topic of discussion.
Well in one of your blog posts (and I’ve heard this before) you mentioned that one consequence of privilege was that the non-privileged group had a better understanding of the privileged group than vice versa. Which I mean, that makes sense on an intellectual level, because the dominant group will more successfully push their agendas/hobbyhorses/whatever.
But so the issue is, since this seems to me obviously not true- since most feminists don’t understand my experience- I question the validity of privilege as I understand it.
Also, yes I would like a link to that study if you don’t mind. Not that I’m surprised.
I think there is some truth that women don’t know what it’s like to be a man and men don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. (But people who are gender flexible have access to wider knowledge than I do.)
However, up until very recently, men were the dominant writers and producers of media (particularly TV and newspapers), and thus media consumers of any gender were hearing more from a man’s POV than from a woman’s.
So, yeah, from where I’m standing, I still say that most women simply don’t understand what it feels like to be a less than attractive young man.
And do you understand what it feels like to be a less than attractive older woman (like me)? Because when I talk gender with men online it’s apparent that they often are discussing only hot, young women when they say ‘women’. (The women can always get laid meme and the “I wouldn’t mind if women hit on me or chased me down the streets” type arguments.)
Many of the laws that explicitly discriminate against women have been repealed (in the US). But when laws are applied differently to men and to women, e.g. women not being allowed on juries, then clearly there is no level playing field. When I was growing up, there were zero women on the Supreme Court, and there never had been. It was a big deal when that changed. Now there are three, which is great. It’s still short of half. When there are five for a period of time, then I’ll be delighted.
Is it bad that I kinda feel like sneering at you right now? Not because of your comments on privilege, but because of your expectation that “women” should be able to understand your particular experience as an unattractive male. I doubt “men” in general understand my experience as a relatively attractive woman with large breasts, but I don’t really expect them to and I don’t go around whining about it. I just ask that they stop harassing women like me, or speak up when they see it happen. Understanding is not required, just choose to act with consideration rather than callousness.
You can sneer at me if you want. Plenty of people do.
As a less-than-attractive young man myself — or at least one who has felt less-than-attractive for most of his life and has not had much “luck with the ladies” as the saying goes — I can sympathize. However, your experiences do not invalidate the concept of privilege. In fact, as others have already pointed out your ignorance of the experiences of less-than-attractive young women actually reinforced the concept. Looks are far more salient to how women are judged in our society than men and I feel it’s rather safe to say — again, despite my sympathy for your situation — that you do not actually have it as bad as an equivalently-less-than-attractive woman of your same age.
Let me give you some advice, though. However less-than-attractive you may be physically I can pretty much guarantee you that the most unattractive thing about you is the self-pity that comes across clear-as-day every time you comment on one of these male privilege posts. Try to focus less on what you think is wrong about yourself (and which you are probably exaggerating) and more on what’s right about yourself (and which you are probably undervaluing). Some women aren’t going to want to date you. Life isn’t fair to us ugly folks, it’s true and it’s sad. But it’s life. On the other hand, a lot of women aren’t so worried about looks as they are having a companion who respects them, takes them seriously, and can have interesting conversations.
Also, it won’t just happen. You really do need to put yourself out there. You may have to deal with some rejection and I also have a little trouble with that. Just keep trying to put yourself into new social contexts where you can focus on your strengths and feel good about yourself. That’s pretty much the only thing the PUAs have right: confidence is pretty damned sexy.
Well ok, I didn’t say that my unattractiveness necessarily invalidated privilege, although I guess that was sort of the implication. What I meant was that, from my observations, it’s very obvious (to me) that most women, including feminists, don’t understand how life works for non-attractive young men, plus also, they seem invested in not understanding it. And this seems to go against “privilege” as it’s been explained to me, which I think is boiled down very well in Scalzi’s blog post. From my position, there are very obvious downsides to be a male, and so anecdotally this would seem to invalidate the binary approach that Scalzi (and SJWs in general) take.
So it’s that which makes me question the concept of privilege, at least when it comes to gender. I’m not as knowledgeable about race/LGBT stuff, so I won’t run my e-mouth about that. But I will talk about feminism. Unless I get banned, I guess.
What would “understanding how life works for non-attractive young men” look like to you? What would a female feminist have to say for you to feel understood?
I ask because the way these discussions usually go is that the person in question claims that if we “really understood” their situation, we wouldn’t be saying that they have male privilege. But, in fact, as I pointed out in this post, the fact that you get screwed over in other ways besides your gender does not invalidate the fact that you have privilege due to being male.
I think the best way to explain privilege is to start with your own. People have a sense of fairness, and privilege sounds like something that should be taken away. So it sounds threatening if you start the conversation claiming they have privilege.
Now we know the nature of male/white/whatever privilege doesn’t work that way. But you don’t get to that part of the conversation with a disappointingly large number of people.
I think this is a large component of the resistance we see from the usual suspects.
And to make this completely clear: they are in the wrong. This is a suggestion on how to tell them that.
As an able-bodied, middle class cis heterosexual white male, I approve of this post. Very well written!
That’s not to say that there aren’t a few unanswered questions about privilege (e.g. if everyone is blind to their own privilege, why are some female feminists so adamant that female privilege does not exist?) but I certainly see how intersectionality affects everyone.
I think the resistance of female feminists to the concept of female privilege comes from three sources:
1. The vast, vast, vast majority of the time “female privilege” is brought up, it is being used by men to deflect examinations of their own privilege and to somehow “prove” that being a woman is not a disadvantage in this society. See my examples of arguments in bad faith at the very end of this post: women are more likely than men to get their dating site messages answered (mostly because many men use the spray ‘n’ pray method of sending messages, to be honest). Does this mean we shouldn’t talk about how women are much more likely to be harassed and raped? I don’t think so.
2. Female privilege pales in comparison to male privilege. Getting my OkCupid messages answered and getting doors held for me (which I don’t want/need) compared to holding the majority of social, cultural, political, and financial power in society?
3. Where female privilege exists, it exists due to stereotypes and sexism. If it is true that women win the majority of custody cases, why do you think that is? Because women are automatically presumed to be better parents, since that’s their “role.” Why do people hold the door for me? Chivalry. Why do I get to wear skirts and dresses and men don’t? Because for a man to dress like a woman is the most demeaning and degrading thing. Why do people rush to help women when they’re having trouble, but not men? Because women need help and protection.
That’s not to say that this is fair to men. It’s not at all. I’m just saying that it’s a bit redundant to ask female feminists to talk about female privilege, because when we eradicate sexism, we will also eradicate those advantages that women get over men–since those advantages are motivated by sexism.
The thing that bugs me about terms like ‘female privilege’ is I think it’s usually used as a derailing tactic. At the very least, it seems disingenuous to use ‘privilege’ to refer to the perks of an unprivileged or less-privileged position.
It seems like it’d be similar to saying that poor people have the privilege of not having to pay an accountant to deal with their stock portfolios. At best you can call it a perk of not having to deal with the side effects of that particular privilege.
I’m a man and no expert on feminism, but mostly what I see is #3… women having “privilege” based on exploiting extremely sexist cultural norms. It is always “women get over because of X” with “X” being some sort of sexist view of women that is ultimately more of a cage than a freedom. For instance “women get to be housewives, instead of working outside the home” gets trotted out as privilege, instead of accepting that it is a situation that exists because of the sexist belief that housework is “less valid” AND that women aren’t suited for “more valid” types of work.
Forgive me for jumping in but the urge is too strong.
Just a few days ago, I heard a podcast with Aaron Ra speaking about what constitutes evidence for a hypothesis. I thought his explanation was as short as it was precise and it was along this line:
“If a fact can be interpreted in favor of several, mutually exclusive explanations, then it’s not evidence”.
And I have to say:
All the mental gymnastics done, all the “evidence” presented in favor of the existence of the “patriarchy” and its mysterious offspring “male privilege”, can in fact be turned around 180 degrees and used to prove “matriarchy” and “female privilege”.
Let me be precise:
Actually, I should’ve said “re-turned around”, because if you look at the feminist chain-of-evidence, it goes like this:
An opposing opinion points to one (of countless) obvious situation(s), where women are having the edge over man, either in legal, social, whatever ways.
The feminist then goes to assert an elusive agency called “patriarchy”, which is working in secret and hidden ways, to explain why what we can observe, is not only wrong, but exactly the other way around.
And @Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner, that’s exactly what you just did. For every straight forward observation, you come up with an explanation that asserts secret agency which “accidentally” happens to confirm the explanatory results you wanted to “prove” in the first place…
It strikes me how inredibly similar this concept is to religious creationism.
In light of Aaron Ra’s statement, the best thing I could say about “partriarchy” and “male privilege” is that there is no evidence for their existence.
Or I could call a spade a spade and call out the line of argument for their existence as straight out delusional.
I like to think of privilege as a middleschool scientific experiment: You change ONE factor at a time: Will my plant grow better with X amount of water or with Y? You don’t change amount of water and sunlight at the same time.
One thing about privilege isn’t only that it’s pretty invisible if you have it, you also get very good at explaining it away. It’s totally understandable that you want to think you’re treated nicely because you’re awesome. And that you got the job because you’re really qualified. It attacks the very self-concept to acknowledge that you might have gotten a better deal because of something you have actually no control over.
And you’re also very good at rationalizing why the other person got a shitty deal. Just world fallacy and all of that. Nonono, you’re getting shit at your job because your boss is just an asshole and you can’t do much against assholes. Those black guys get searched because….. It’s just a coincidence that they’re black.
Conversely, I often get the sense that in social justice spaces, it goes the other way around. I got treated poorly because I’m gay, not because I’m an asshole. I didn’t get the job because I’m black, not because I wasn’t qualified. They disagree with me because I’m a woman, not because I’m clearly and obviously wrong. Etc.
[…] Miri explains privilege. C’mon, people, it’s really not so difficult! […]
I think it’s really strange that we used the word ‘privilege’ to mean things like ‘able to walk down streets without getting harassed’. Maybe I’m influenced by coming from a culture where privilege meant ‘something unfair which must be removed‘ but I’m not the only one because then you get people who start apologising for living under these very proper conditions. Equally interesting the way we use ‘check your privilege’ to stop people who are trying to silence discussions about those kinds of obstacles or diminish their importance. The real privilege at stake perhaps, is control of a discourse and the collective worldview that goes with it. I could certainly get on board with removing that one and I’d like to see it talked about more, but I think it’s so little understood right now that ‘check your privilege’ simply will not work.
So if we’re talking about white privilege and point out that black folks are systematically disenfranchised you would say it’s inappropriate to use the term “privilege” unless we were arguing that no one should be able to vote?
Sense; you are not making it.
“Check your privilege” doesn’t work because it’s an antagonistic statement directed at people who do not get it. Such people have to be coddled and led by the hand unfortunately. But yes, I think you nailed that part: part of male privilege is controlling the discourse, for example men telling women what is or isn’t sexist. One problem with this is that men are blind to much of their privilege for the same reasons Miri describes in the OP. A lot of men end trying to shout the woman’s perspective down instead of trying to understand how the world might look different from that perspective.
You’re entirely correct that people privileged in one area are often not in another area. VERY few people have no privilege or all possible privilege. That is why I am SO frustrated with these people here at FTB! Privilege is a silly concept that really can’t explain much of anything because it’s unmeasurable, yet every time anyone disagrees here at FTB, they are dismissed (or banned) with the excuse that they “have privilege.” Yep. So do you! Almost everybody has SOME privilege. Unless you try to deal with people just as they are as individuals, you are doing them a disservice. Privilege is NOT a useful concept.
They’re using that as shorthand for, “You have privilege and you’re unwilling to recognize that and admit that people without the specific privilege we’re discussing here may understand these things better than you do.” That’s why I noted that it’s important to be really specific when telling someone that they have privilege. Which privilege(s) do they have? How might those privileges be blinding this person to this specific issue?
Granted, I don’t know you or what you got banned for. I’m sure there’s more to the story than you’re telling here. For what it’s worth, I’ve never banned anyone for “having privilege.” I’ve banned people for trolling, being abusive, arguing very poorly, etc.
Yep. EVERY SINGLE TIME! Zero exceptions. None at all. Literally 100% of disagreements at FTB end with “You’re privileged! DISMISSED!”
Do you even read what you write?
Yep. EVERY SINGLE TIME! Zero exceptions. None at all. Literally 100% of disagreements at FTB end with “You’re privileged! DISMISSED!”
Not only does it happen all the time, but it is some how magically unquotable and un-linkable. I’m constantly arguing with fuzzy paraphrases and smoke and mirrors and not actual text, esp. not actual text in context.
Dog spare me from careless readers and careless comprehenders. (Not you.)
Privilege is a useful concept.
See how I just stated that without an argument? Did you find it convincing?
If not, why did you think “Privilege is not a useful concept” would be convincing to anyone else?
I find it quite useful.
I generally think of privilege is all the BS that you don’t notice unless pointed out. I’ve never been harassed or stared at in the gym. I don’t even think about it. I didn’t know until George Zimmerman that “coons” was a racial term. I’ve never had to come out of the closet.
But I have had to listen to all that godawful Christmas Music.
Some of the examples don’t explain privilege as an advantage. Being treated fairly by the police is not a privilege just because other people are treated portly. The people who are excused from tickets and sentencing because of their identity are privileged.
It’s best to think of privilege as a relative advantage, not an absolute one. In some cases, privilege means things simply working as they should. In other cases, though, it really means special perks–for instance, if you’re old, rich, and white, and have access to an old boys’ network.
There’s a colloquial definition of “privilege” which is used solely or primarily for cases where the advantaged party does not deserve their advantage.
I think of the usage of the word “privilege” in this context as a sort of jargon – it means any case where one party has an unearned advantage over another, without regard as to where the “fairness” level lies between them.
I know, right? I was hung up on that for weeks–I honestly had to immerse myself in literature to make sure it meant what I thought it meant. I think the problem is that the language of oppression was codified by outgroups, so it’s just as biased towards their perspective, and odd-sounding and vaguely alienating to other ears, as the traditional ingroup-constructed terminology is towards them–that is, descriptions of social power dynamics default to “unfair advantage” the same way English pronouns default to “he.” It really is just a semantic point when you get down to it, but the enemy does love to bury itself in semantics and tone…
When I’m trying to explain the privilege concept to people, I use this example, which is race-based rather than gender-based: When I’m out with some male black friends drinking, we always have my white female self or my white male boyfriend hail the cab. Our buddies stand back or a little apart until the cab stops for us, then we all get in, or even just my friends get in, because it would be faster for us to hail their cab for them. If you were white, had no black friends and/or had never had the occasion to hail a cab with said friends, or discuss cabs with them, there is no way you could know this was even a problem. Similar with getting a mortgage approval: I felt totally comfortable going to a bank and meeting with a loan officer in person to initiate the process, even tho it was mostly conducted via phone and email thereafter. My mixed-race friend got her pre-approval entirely online and on the phone, so she would never meet a loan officer in person until time came to close. Another thing that a white person couldn’t know about unless they often discussed these sort of issues or sought out publications that highlighted these problems, most of which are written by and for people of color.
A gender-based example, which I just *know* people will say is trivial to the point idiocy (which in itself is a form of male privilege, to think this doesn’t matter) is female clothing sizes and cuts vs. male clothing sizes & cuts. Men’s clothing, especially “professional” clothing like shirts and slacks and suits, are sized based on actual measurements: inch-lengths for collar, cuffs, inseam, etc. If you know you are a 36″ x 34″ pant, you know all pants marked “36” x34″” will fit you, whether you like the style or not.
In women’s clothing, especially higher-end “professional” clothing like blouses and suits, one clothing line’s “size 8” will be another’s “size 10” or even “size 12”. So if I’m shopping in a new store, I have to take in two or even three versions of the same garment to find one that fits correctly, which is time-consuming and I must do myself, whereas I can easily pick up a three-pack of XL t-shirts for the boyfriend without even checking, cause I know they will be the same XL as his others. And that’s not even to go into the fact that the women’s clothing makers create garments for an “average woman” and just size that up and down, ignoring all the very tall yet thin women, or the short yet chubby, or the thin with large breasts, or the large hips with small breasts, or any other of the many different body types. As a result, men’s clothing often fits easily without expensive tailoring. Women’s clothing almost always does not, and yet women are judged more harshly on their ability to “dress well”, which makes expensive tailoring almost a requirement in order for women to be “taken seriously” as professionals.
If you were a man who had never shopped for women’s clothes or paid any attention to women who talked about these problems, you would never know that your clothes are simply cheaper and easier to find than theirs. Even when I’ve brought these issues up in detail to male friends, they’ve said it sounds like whining about trivial matters, and women’s clothing is more exciting anyway so shut up. And then these same men will point out or even mock women who make fashion choices they do not approve of: “What a butch! Doesn’t she know how to dress *like a woman*?” & etc.
Or gendered hygiene products! Men’s razors and deodorant are point-blank cheaper than women’s, but women who buy men’s brands for savings are jeered at for trying to “be a dude.” It is a no-win situation that unless a man pays careful attention, he will never even be aware. Or if he’s made aware, since culture tells him that concerns about clothing are “superficial” or even “girly”, he won’t think it is important at all.
Whew, I wrote a lot. I get quite exercised by people claiming “privilege doesn’t exist” when it is only their privilege that lets them think that.
While the rest of your comment is unexceptionable, I feel I should point out that men’s clothing manufacturers do this too. I can’t buy shirts that fit, because my arms are proportionally longer that ‘average; for a guy of my height, so I have the choice of sleeves that are too short or a shirt that fits like a tent. Having also shopped for women’s clothes, though, it’s way harder.
One more reason I prefer to just buy men’s (or unisex) shirts and simple pants (fleece pajama bottoms, oversized sweats).
It’s also kind of ableist, so many of the “nice” clothes have these itty-bitty zippers and what-not — next-to-impossible for some of us to manipulate…
Augh those little zippers! I think those are impossible for *everyone*! Funny how I almost never seen them employed on men’s clothing. Also note, next to zero men’s garments fasten in back. Nearly *all* female dresses and skirts and plenty of blouses/tops employ impossible zippers on the back or side, rather than sensible fasteners on the front like male clothing, presumably because women always have someone to help them dress (WHO?!).
This is why I dressed in hand-me-down brother’s clothing for most of my childhood (aside from the thrift). And why I reveled in being taken as a boy in public (short hair helped.) And why I was mortified the day I realized (at 12!) that my C-cup breasts would make that kind of “passing” next-to-impossible for me from there on out. I still wish I could convincingly cross-dress, but my body-type has ruled that out pretty much permanently.
If you are looking at privilege in binary terms, then any person is either privileged or unprivileged depending on who you are comparing them to. I am privileged by living in a first world country with welfare and government supplied single-payer health insurance compared to an destitute and illiterate person in a war-wracked third world country. On the other hand, compared to a middle class professional of any sex in my country, I am very poor, living on welfare and odd jobs. So classifying any individual as privileged or unprivileged is rather arbitrary and depends on context.
I have a very pessimistic view of the rhetorical value of “privilege”. It seems to help people sometimes, but other times it just seems like everyone takes it the wrong way.
A couple years ago, someone in the ace community made a list of “sexual privileges” which drew a lot of backlash. Among other things, people complained that some of the privileges were things that LGB people also lacked (which is similar to the point you’re arguing against in this point). On some level that’s fair, but does that mean no two privilege checklists can ever overlap?
Anyway, because of this and other complaints, the community collectively abandoned sexual privilege as a concept. At some point, instead of blaming it on other people for “not getting it”, we should place some of the blame on the clunky concept of privilege.
I don’t know how much of the blame should go to the concept itself and how much should go to 1) the fact that some people are not good at explaining the concept, and 2) people who have privilege have a vested interest in not recognizing that fact and are therefore likely to react defensively. That’s not to blame on the concept. That’s to blame on the existence of privilege itself.
I, too, was very defensive when I first learned about privilege. Extremely defensive. Guess what? I got over it.
Thanks, Miri, for doing the heavy lifting of treating the comments as though they are in good faith (they may very well be) and responding in an even tone, even though you shouldn’t have to. It might be helpful to bring up marginalization as the other side of the axis of privilege – this could help explain the kinds of (relative) privileges that are actually just fair treatment (as opposed to special consideration, though when fair treatment is reserved for a small group, it *is* a special consideration) to people who are having difficulty understanding the concept.
smhll makes a really good point with respect to things like perceived “female privilege” as well – often the source of the privilege (if it even is that – something like OKC message responses quickly veer into the territory of harassment for many women) is being misidentified, because “female” is, in the minds of those complaining, being exclusively constructed in seriously sexist and heterosexist terms. Guys who say things like “I would love to have women rub against me on the subway” are, of course, only imagining people they find attractive – they’re implicitly contextualizing the interaction as consensual and thus entirely missing the point (which is, of course, a tendency that is itself a function of male privilege). And, of course, we have intersectional considerations that cannot be dismantled into their constituent parts. The experiences of someone falling into “attractive woman” category can’t be explained solely through disparate “attractive” and “woman” models of positionality, but only through their interaction – quick example: the type of harassment targeted at “attractive women” is going to be different in some ways than the type targeted at “unattractive women”, and also not shared by “attractive men”.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for doing work to try to make this stuff accessible (we’ll leave for other spaces the question of just how appropriate it is to wander into a discussion where one doesn’t understand the terms or theoretical frameworks and demand to have one’s concerns addressed or start insulting everyone involved if one is simply dismissed).
In your opinion, do women have *any* privilege based solely on their gender? Or is all of the gender privilege in the hands of men?
Miri answers this in one of the comments above, actually. Let me put it this way: a vast majority of members of congress are male. There has never been a female president. A large majority of corporate executives are male. A majority of college professors are male. A majority of doctors are male. A majority of lawyers are male.
A majority of food service personnel are female. A majority of administrative assistants are female. A majority of nurses are female.
The majority of the population is female.
What did you have in mind for examples of female privilege? Usually I hear the fact that they usually get custody of the children in divorces but in a majority of cases men don’t even want custody. Besides that, child custody for a single mother also means that the mother has to pay for child care for when she’s at work and that she has to support two or more people on one person’s income. Doesn’t sound like much of a privilege.
I completely acknowledge that there is male privilege. In my opinion it isn’t a zero sum game.
Here are some quick google results on the topic of female privilege.
Some of the items are ‘humorous’ but they do contain some valid points.
These ones are skewed to be a bit offensive, but if you ignore the tone there are valid points
I think that it is best to fully own your own privilege when having a discussion about privilege.
I’m not trying to be offensive. I’m trying to be open and honest.
I know, that as a cisgendered straight white man, I have an abundance of privilege. I sure I could post at length about it, but it would make me feel rather worthless 😉
I’m inclined to post about anecdotal incidents where a woman has used her gender privilege to my detriment, but anecdotes aren’t very useful.
It’s not your fault that you have privilege. You were born into it. There’s nothing shameful about having it, and especially nothing shameful about owning up to having it. Having privilege and admitting to it doesn’t make you “worthless.”
It is never comfortable to ponder your own privilege.
I know that it would be more accepted by men, and others with privilege in areas that are commonly valued, for women and others to not be dismissive about the privilege that they have. I’d like to see more people acknowledge their privilege without following it with a “but”.
psymin, do you think feminists haven’t tried every possible coddling hand-holdy strategy already? It doesn’t work. They’ll still find something wrong with it, because they are desperate not to acknowledge their privilege.
Further, when I’m talking about a way men are advantaged over women, a way in which I might be advantaged over some hypothetical man is simply irrelevant to the discussion. That’s why these constant refrains of “But what about female privilege??” are derails. You don’t want us to talk about male privilege. That’s why you keep asking us to talk about female privilege. That is, in fact, what you’re doing right at this moment.
You know, this stuff gets really, really tedious. Skimming those lists, I’m seeing mostly things that are the flipside of patriarchal memes, most of which involve women being pushed into weaker and less powerful roles along with a whole lot of Citation needed. Secondly, even the ones that are ‘legitimate’ are stupidly absurd; my gf is able to get free counseling through a local organization under a grant aimed at making mental health care to black people, who are a heavily underserved population in terms of mental health care. This is pretty much equivalent to the ‘female privilege’ your lists show. This is not, however, black privilege because there is no such thing in this country, even though my bf can’t get his mental health care free there. Basically, the fact that being in an underclass comes with certain things that can be benefits doesn’t mean that it’s not an underclass, or that the ‘benefits’ are an unmixed blessing.
Don’t link me to “humorous” and “offensive” lists and then make me guess at what you’re talking about. Just answer the question. This is an asinine way to have a discussion.
I’ll just address a few of the “offensive” items:
1. ” From an early age the opposite sex will be instructed never to hit me but I may not be given the same instructions. However, should I strike males I can expect not to be hit back and any social penalties that occur from my actions will actually fall on the male.” — because of the presumption that because I’m female I am weak and incompetent and cannot take care of myself. Despite this it’s not actually all that uncommon for men to hit women. Feel free to check the statistics on that.
2. “If I’m not smart, but pretty, I can marry and achieve the social and financial level of my husband without ever working.” Because I have been encouraged from a very young age to focus on my looks rather than my education and accomplishments and that the most worthwhile thing I can ever do is to get married to someone rich. I am privileged because I have the opportunity to become a rich man’s property. Joyous day!
3. ” I can produce offspring. A status which grants me an “essential” status in our species that men can never have and which can never be taken away from me even in old age. ” -Ignoring this person’s apparent ignorance about menopause, the frequency of female infertility and conditions such as ovarian cysts, the fact that until the late 20th century men were also “essential” to producing offspring, the crippling physical pain of childbirth, the wear on the body caused by pregnancy, the fact that pregnancies set women back professionally, and the fact that men are free from worrying about being abandoned while pregnant this one makes a lot of sense.
4. “4. Regardless of my mate value society has organized fertility clinics and social welfare programs that will allow me to have children and provide for them should I choose to reproduce without a mate or marriage.” I’m guessing this guy isn’t writing in the USA. As the child of a single mother I can tell you right now this is complete bullshit.
5. “I not only have the more valuable and sought after sexual identity, but I also have complete control over my reproductive choice and in many ways over the reproductive choice of the opposite sex.” “More valuable” is pretty telling here. Women are objects but they’re valuable objects. That’s like, a privilege or something. Also, all women everywhere apparently control whether or not I get to have children. They must have magic mind control powers or something.
Seriously, this stuff is so full of shit. This is ridiculous. If you want to be taken seriously then try having a serious discussion instead of linking to crap like this.
You could also try addressing the argument I already made which you’ve completely ignored so far.
I apologize for linking to the lists. I’ll post my anecdote here, if that is helpful.
I was assaulted repeatedly by a woman that I was in a relationship with. The domestic abuse hotline scoffed at me and 911 didn’t do anything about it. Were I female and assaulted repeatedly by a male, I don’t believe this would be the case.
While I think that you were treated incredibly unfairly in that situation I’m not seeing how that amounts to female privilege. The fact of the matter is that women are also not believed when they report abuse. I’m curious of why you think it was that you were scoffed at. Do you think it’s because the person on the hotline thought women were so morally virtuous that they couldn’t possible do anything so heinous? Or is it probably more likely that he or she thought women are so weak that they couldn’t be competent abusers?
I don’t really think our culture encourages women to abuse men more than it encourages men to abuse women so while I think that it’s terrible what happened to you I’m not sure it really demonstrates “female privilege” so much as the fact that some people are really shitty to each other. And I think the response of the hotline and the authorities were more based in misogyny than misandry.
Whoever wrote that ridiculous list certainly didn’t write it from the U.S. Or Ireland. Or any of the Catholic-controlled Central and South American countries. Or China.
Because that quoted bit right there? That is bullshit. I only wish I had such control and ownership about my own body.
Can you express some situations where you have benefited solely based on your gender?
Are you talking to me or to daniellavine?
Psymin, you still haven’t given any clear examples of women benefiting because of their gender. Also, I’m a man so it would be pretty trivial to do so. In fact, I already have.
Anyone who is female, I suppose 🙂
So absolutely nothing to say about my observation that despite the US being majority female almost all positions of power, privilege, and prestige are dominated by men? Do you not think that’s salient to the question of male privilege vs. female privilege?
I’m not the one denying that my gender has privilege.
Hey psymin – daniellavine has already identified himself as male, in this thread, in response to you. Female is not his gender.
In other words you do think it’s relevant but acknowledging would blow your argument out of the water so you need to make it all about “female privilege.” Of which you have yet to give an example that is not based on a presumption of female weakness and incompetence.
As has already been mentioned, women are usually assumed to be “better” caretakers of children and thus subject to less scrutiny than men when dealing with children. My brother volunteered at a Boys & Girls club and was hyperaware of not being alone with any child at any time to avoid any side-eye or, much worse, accusations of abuse. However, as I told him, this is actually the best practice for any non-relative caretaker of children, regardless of gender. In my training as a camp counselor, the whole group was told sternly that under no circumstances should they place themselves in a position where it is their word against the child’s, especially in cases where discipline was called for.
That was going to be my point – that I wonder what it is that makes these fellows think that many women don’t worry about being alone with a child not their own. I’m certainly very careful, always, when I’m in contact with children who are not my own. I try to interact only in front of their parent(s)/guardian(s). I don’t touch kids without explicit consent, and only for a clear and defensible purpose.
Partly this is to protect myself – though false allegations are remarkably rare – and partly to respect the child’s agency/consent and autonomous control of their own body.
Many of these complaints ignore the reality for women, which tends to be “most of this, plus rape”.
Honestly, much of the defensiveness about this comes across to me as simple reaches for (false) equivalency, in search of a tu quoque. Yes, there are ways in which men have it crappy. On balance, though, it’s not close. It’s just really not.
Great post, Miri.
* And bear in mind I’ve lived while being perceived as a varsity jock on the boy’s team, and later as a lesbian now-grandmother of six (four kids, two step- and two foster-) after transition, so I really can speak to this to some extent; much of privilege is external, so until I began to express my real gender identity, people extended me male privilege in some ways. Also, I served in the military until being thrown in jail for a while and then out when my gender identity was discovered (a defensive outing by a surprised and surprising encounter with an officer from our base, in a gay bar). So I have a fairly wide experience of “being perceived a boy”, and 20 subsequent years living as a woman, “passing” all the time back when that was a survival skill.
I’m HIGHLY disappointed with the state of female privilege these days. I haven’t gotten nearly enough free drinks to make up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars I’m missing out on thanks to the pay gap.
While the comparison you’re making remains valid, this isn’t strictly true. There’s been a creeping tendency in the past few decades to list sizes (usually circumference, length tends to be more true-to-listing) that are actually one to several inches smaller than the actual measurements of the garment, in what appears to be an attempt to assuage the concerns of men that they might be fat (or perhaps it’s just a function of moving production to sweatshops). Across brands, and even across styles/cuts within a brand, the actual size of something marked e.g. 36″ can vary quite a bit.
Thanks for the post. Most of my discussion of privilege have gone well because I begin by listing where I am privileged (white, highly educated affluent parents leading to good educational experiences), and then I go into the list of ways that I’m not (female, lesbian, disabled.) Part of my motivation for doing this is that when I compare myself to other people who may be similarly disadvantaged, the huge difference between me and them is due to the privileged I mentioned. It’s kind of like saying “Just like you, I have privileged because of X, and I had disadvantages because of A,B,C.” I note you’ve addressed this in your blog when you mentioned immigrants not having a totally uniform experience. But it seems like everybody already talks about how privilege is relative, so I don’t think there’s really any ignorance of that that isn’t willful at this point.
Many of the not in good faith arguments are people who just want to wallow in self-pity. It’s one thing to point out your own disadvantages and then perhaps show some empathy or solidarity with others, like a *less-than-average-attractive-man* who realizes that being a visibly disabled woman would be similar to his own situation, only a lot worse. It’s another just to play games of “you don’t get it.” I mean, most people who discuss privilege can come up with great examples of how privilege works in different situations and can come up with lots of analogies. I’m disabled, but because I have some pretty kick-ass job skills I can still (for now) find work because I’ve got more leverage than someone working at a cash register. Because of this, a same-sex partner is less of a big deal since the relationship between me and people I work for is less adversarial. Sometimes I feel like the odds are against me, and at other times I feel like I’m unfairly advantaged.
One thing I do is that, particularly when talking to men about privilege, especially white men, I usually start by addressing class privilege since it’s usually the axis they’ll related to.
In my opinion, it is valuable to point out the ways in which you are advantaged on the exact same axis that you are pointing out that someone else is advantaged on.
Rather than using different axes, it will help put the privileged person you are communicating with in the mindset that it isn’t a zero-sum-game. If you are willing to own up to your own privilege on that axis the other person might be willing to as well.
Say I found $5 on the ground. It doesn’t belong to me, but I take it anyway.
Say you found $1,000 on the ground. It doesn’t belong to you, but you take it anyway.
Yeah, I got $5 for free. Cool! But you got a thousand frickin’ bucks! How come, whenever I point out how lucky you are for having found a thousand frickin’ bucks, you have to be like, “Yeah, well, you found $5!”
That’s what these conversations are like. Over and over and over.
I agree that is what these conversations are like.
Unfortunately we as a society do not value the privilege that women have. It makes the privilege they have seem like it is only worth $5. I know that I’ve paid far more than that to combat my personal anecdote regarding female privilege.
If the privilege that women have is only worth $5, then it should be trivial to put it on the table with the $1000 that men have.
I’ve put mine there. Please add yours to the pile as well. 😉
Right, because having people hold the door for me pales in comparison to holding the majority of political, social, cultural, and financial power in this country. That’s why I say it’s only worth $5.
Besides, as I mention in another comment about female privilege in this thread, female privilege is allotted to certain women due to sexist stereotypes. Feminists are fighting against sexist stereotypes. Once there’s no more sexism, there will be no more privileges afforded to women simply because they happen to be women. That’s my $5 on the table.
In what way is a privilege that is not valued privilege at all?
My ability to reply on threads doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. I apologize for starting a new one.
I believe that if your goal is to help men acknowledge their own privilege based upon gender, without them being defensive, it would be helpful to acknowledge women’s privilege without being dismissive.
I’m not trying to quantify or place value one the privileges that do exist. I certainly am not trying to dismiss the privilege that I have.
I am male. Being male affords me privileges that women frequently do not have. I think that this is not fair and we should do everything we can to help tackle this social issue.
I would love for more women to say something similar. In my opinion we are on the same side.
It is discouraging to me, and likely other allies, when we put energy into helping women get a fair shake but don’t see affirmation that similar efforts are being made for them.
I disagree. If my goal is to help men acknowledge their own privilege, then I should explain what privilege is, calmly, provide evidence to back up my point, and emphasize that having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. I can draw from similar privileges that I have–for instance, being white–to show how I get benefits that I did not earn relative to people who lack that privilege. I will not compare molehills to mountains, however. That weakens and cheapens my point.
Why can you not say “I am female. Being female affords me privileges that men frequently do not have. I think this is not fair and we should do everything we can to help tackle this social issue.”?
Because 1) that would be giving in to the people who seriously believe that women have more privilege than men and that institutional misandry exists, and 2) that would be saying that my unearned $5 is every bit as unfair as your unearned $1,000. It just isn’t.
I disagree. Do you think that I believe women have ‘more’ privilege than men?
I think you would garner more allies if you weren’t dismissive about the privilege that women have. Or at least if you weren’t vocal about dismissing it. We all know that the privilege that women have isn’t valued in society, it doesn’t necessarily have to be brought up every time female privilege is mentioned.
I’m sure you’re just as weary about female privilege being brought up every time male privilege is brought up as I am about female privilege being dismissed as ‘worthless’ every time it is brought up.
I fully acknowledge that gender privilege exists and we should do what we can to lessen its impact on society.
Can you agree with that statement at least?
How have I “dismissed” female privilege? Unlike, perhaps, some people, I acknowledge that it exists. But I will not back down from my assertion that it pales in significance to male privilege and that is derives from the exact same sexism that creates male privilege. I will also not back down from my assertion that the demand to constantly discuss female privilege alongside (or, more accurately, in lieu of) male privilege is not an argument made in good faith. It is an argument made to deflect from what you/men in general would prefer not to discuss.
I’m just repeating myself now, though, and I’m not going to repeat myself any more.
“It is discouraging to me, and likely other allies, when we put energy into helping women get a fair shake but don’t see affirmation that similar efforts are being made for them.”
Get off it Psymin. I specifically asked you for examples of female privilege and the only one you could give without linking to a bunch of MRA garbage wasn’t even a clear example of female privilege.
Give some examples of what you want women to own up to. Go ahead. We’re all waiting for you.
Please don’t be hostile, daniellavine. This is very discouraging.
Perhaps this isn’t a forum designed for openness, communication and compassion.
Here is a very simple and easy one. Women are not required to register for the selective service and men are. Please not that I’m not assigning value to this. Please do not dismiss its value. Please just simple acknowledge that it exists, it is unfair, and it should be addressed.
That does exist, it IS unfair, and it IS being addressed. By feminists. In fact, we recently made progress–women can now openly serve in combat roles.
Note, however, that I and many other feminists oppose most military action entirely. We don’t think anyone of any gender should be drafted.
Thank you Miri 🙂
It is also being addressed by the NCFM which has taken legal action.
I’m not being hostile. I’m asking you to actually support your assertions with an argument. It’s…interesting to me that you think asking you to support your arguments is “being hostile”. I’m starting to think Miri may be right that you are not engaging in good faith.
It’s also interesting that you would cast aspersions on the forum based on the output of a single one of the participants. I think people have been very patient with you considered that you’ve said very little to back up any of your assertions. Give a little and get a little, psymin.
But why are women excluded from selective service registration? Is it because they are considered more competent and therefore too valuable for war? Or is it because they are considered more weak and therefore unsuitable for war?
I can acknowledge it exists but when you tell me “Please do not dismiss its value” it seems like you are saying “stop arguing and just agree with me!” In fact, that seems to be your mantra. You are angry that people won’t just roll over and agree with everything you say. Tough — I don’t agree with what you say and you have not made a very good case for it.
I don’t think anyone should be subject to selective service registration and I think the fact that it is male-only is a consequence of historical misogyny. I think you would be very hard-pressed to make a case otherwise.
daniellavine, are you saying that female gender privilege is “a consequence of historical misogyny” and therefore isn’t worth addressing?
That’s exactly what it’s a consequence of, and that doesn’t mean it’s not worth addressing. It means, as I’ve repeatedly stated, that it’s best addressed by addressing misogyny.
I never said it wasn’t worth addressing. In fact, I said this:
That is me explaining how I think it should be addressed.
Pretty rich to accuse me of “being hostile” and then to put words in my mouth.
Cool. As long as it is worth addressing, call the source of the issue whatever you want. Heck, even if MRAs think that it is caused by misandry and they are addressing the issue of ingrained sexism in the system .. to the same ends. Is that not worth supporting?
We might just be running into a sematics issue here. Is it possible to abstract the issue a bit so that we can all be on the same page without alienating supporters? Perhaps we could say that it is caused by “a consequence of historical sexism” so that men don’t feel like they are the cause of the problems?
Note: I do not think it is caused by misandry.
Gosh. How generous of you.
It’ll be a cold day in hell before I support the way the MRAs address things that are problematic, even if I think they’re problematic, too. You know why? Because they’re working from a faulty premise and don’t want my help anyway, since they blame feminists (which includes me) for all of their problems.
This is a form of tone-policing, which Miri addressed in her last post. I don’t think she has an obligation to frame things in any way other than the way she wants to. She’ll certainly read any criticism in the comments (case in point), but at some point you’re just telling her how to run her own blog.
Sorry Miri, I missed your reply in this thread.
I’m willing to discuss male privilege all day. I will not dismiss my privilege and I will acknowledge the positive influence it has had on my life. All I’m asking in return is for the people involved in the conversation to acknowledge their own gender privilege. This conversation includes more than just you and I.
“How have I “dismissed” female privilege? Unlike, perhaps, some people, I acknowledge that it exists. But I will not back down from my assertion that it pales in significance to male privilege and that is derives from the exact same sexism that creates male privilege.”
Your third sentence there is a dismissal. It is saying, IMO, “Yes I have privilege, but but but”. It is more than most people can do and I thank you wholeheartedly for addressing it.
That’s interesting that you’d say that, given that your entire thing in this thread has been “Yes I have privilege but but but let’s talk about YOUR privilege and not mine.”
And no, explaining that two things are not equivalent is not tantamount to “dismissing” one of them. Explaining that you may not understand the source of a problem is not tantamount to dismissing it either.
For instance, I think that in terms of environmental causes, climate change is a larger problem than the poaching of endangered species. If I choose to be an activist about climate change, I will tell you that I think this is a bigger problem than the poaching of endangered species, and that does NOT mean I’m “dismissing” the problem of poaching endangered species or that I do not think that that is also a problem. Just that one of those, to me, is a larger, more far-reaching, more harmful issue, and that is the one I will chose to expend my time and energy on.
mythbri, It is certainly not my intent to tell her how to run her blog and I apologize.
By the way, do you think I am MRA?
You’re the one arguing it’s a form of “female privilege”. I’m arguing that it’s not. The source of the issue is very relevant to that argument.
No, because I don’t think the MRAs have good intentions here. I think they (like you) use this example in a self-serving way to score points.
“Male privilege” has always been about the consequences of historical sexism. It has always been explained that way. That is how Miri explains it too. If you’re offended by the idea of “male privilege” then it is because you have not been reading/listening to explanations of what “male privilege” is. Which is pretty typical, actually.
But if Miri is actually right about what she said then should she lie to you to make you feel better?
psymin, honestly I don’t really care whether you’re an MRA or not. I’ve tried too often to engage self-identified MRAs in good faith, only to have them fall back on the same tired old arguments that are based on faulty premises, some of which you’re doing a fair job of imitating right now.
What you have done is made several of these comment threads all about you and your flip-side to the “What about the menz?!” question, which is “What about the female privilege?!”
By the way, I’m sorry about the abuse that you suffered and the lack of help available to you from people whose job it is to help. That sucks. It happens to women a lot, too. It happened to my grandmother, who finally left her husband after the night he tried to kill her. Being a single, divorced mom in the 1970s was rough, based on what I know of her life then. My abusive grandfather didn’t have it so rough.
A thought occurs to me (though probably already said somewhere in this thread, and certainly elsewhere) that much of what someone like psymin would call ‘female privilege’ might be more accurately described as perks of conforming to gender roles.
Yes, this is exactly what I was trying to get at. Female privilege is granted to certain women for knowing their place.
…and a lot of “male privilege” is *removed* from men who refuse to know their place, by refusing to conform to gender roles, or even by refusing to *enforce* gender roles, by refusing to oppress women or go along with it.
(There’s one subtle point here which may confuse many people: class privilege is extremely powerful, overriding nearly everything, and high class privilege can grant you the ability to refuse to conform without getting punished. But if you don’t have high class privilege, refusing to conform is pretty nearly always really bad for you.)
Privilege is not a very useful concept. It’s great for describing stuff like stop-and-frisk or sexual harrassment — or even the ability to not conform without getting into trouble — where what you have is the privilege of *not dealing with a bunch of crap* which is thrown at the people “without” the privilege.
It’s not very useful for the broader problem of explaining of how the self-reinforcing patriarchy works. For that, more useful concepts are conformity and enforcement.
queequack — I disagree with you, but I do find male privilege to be one of the more complex forms of privilege. For example, able-bodied people are pretty simply more privileged than disabled people, and there is only expense to the disabled on this axis of privilege. White people as well share pretty unilateral privilege over people of color. Straight people, cis people, wealthy people — again, the privilege they have hurt the unprivileged, but it doesn’t hurt *them* in any meaningful way. I find that male privilege can be much different. Strict gender roles, which are enforced by the male-dominant culture, can be nearly as constrictive and harmful to men as they are to women. For example, emotions are very natural and healthy things, but dominant masculinity means that men are only allowed to have some sort of positive emotion like happiness, plus anger; the vast array of other more complex emotions aren’t socially acceptable for males to show. Going into fields considered feminine is likewise looked down upon. Non-conformance to dress, voice, gait, and other physical standards does confer restrictions on men. Men are more likely victims *and* perpetrators of violence. Men are more likely to commit suicide. The list goes on and on.
I definitely think men still get the vast majority of advantage from the system set up as it is — I don’t think there’s any doubt that men are the privileged gender. But unlike most of the other axes of oppression, gender is one that punches both ways, if not equally in both directions.
(Note: MRAs will always take these statistics on violence and suicide and come to the totally incorrect conclusion that women and feminists are to blame, and that women are privileged unilaterally over men, when what they should be doing is working WITH feminists to break down the gender inequities and limitations on both sides.)
“But unlike most of the other axes of oppression, gender is one that punches both ways, if not equally in both directions.”
I wholeheartedly agree with this, as well as this:
“what they should be doing is working WITH feminists to break down the gender inequities and limitations on both sides”
Unfortunately, when communicating on web forums it is easy to say “Look at all the evil out there, this is what my opponents think!” and refuse to cooperate with people who really should be allies.
So privilege is sometimes a difficult concept to describe to people, especially with how often people assume concepts lie along a single spectrum. I’m trying to come up with a way of describing it to more effectively convey the idea of privilege and how it interacts with intersectionalism. Here are my thoughts so far:
In trying to visualize it, I came up with a net metaphor – think of each axis of privilege as a peg around a circle in front of you and privilege as a net stretched across those pegs. The more privileged you are along a particular axis, the further out your net is stretched in that direction. A straight, white, cis male with money and education is going to have a pretty wide net to work with.
Each event or interaction you experience is a ball tossed at you through that net, aimed towards whatever privileges are in play for a particular circumstance. The weave of the net is big enough that everyone’s going to have to try and catch some of those throws, but the wider your net is, the more likely it is to catch the ball for you.
For instance, a poor, less-educated white guy’s net is almost entirely missing where wealth and education are primary concerns. In a job search for instance, that guy is getting less help from his privileges than a rich/educated white guy because his net isn’t very well stretched over that spot. He’s got to work harder to catch those same opportunities.
Sometimes those throws hit us before we can catch them. Life gives people curveballs that no amount of net can account for, or there are cases where a throw makes it through the net anyway. Everyone still has to work to keep up with the things life throws at us, but we don’t usually see where our privilege nets catch things for us. (Which is why it’s so jarring when those privileges fail us in new situations – It’s nothing we’ve had to watch for before!)
You’ve always got to keep privilege and circumstance in mind – one person may have similar privileges but different circumstances from another. The things life throws at the first person are coming from a different direction than the second. Or one person may have similar circumstances but different privileges – throws coming in from the same direction, but one’s net isn’t as effective as the other and more get through they net that they’ll have to catch on their own.
Well psymin, what’s also unfortunate is that pretty much every single time feminists and their allies try to talk about anything, men want to talk about themselves instead, and derail the discussion. Case in point: most of this comments section. Men hold 99% of the wealth in the world, and about that percentage of power (not so far off from the $5 v $1000 discussion above, is it?), yet the vast majority of this thread you’ve spent demanding that we talk about that $5.
I’m not demanding anything. This blog post is written by a woman and entitled “But I’m a man and I don’t feel like I have any privilege.”
Does posting about men and women and privilege seem offtopic to you?
FWIW, I don’t think it’s useful to make statements like “Men hold 99% of the wealth in the world”. It’s as stupid as saying, in the 19th centurys, “Jews hold most of the powerful banking jobs in Europe” — technically true, yet extremely misleading.
In reality, an extremely small group of men hold 99% of the wealth in the world, and most men are pretty much as broke as most women. Patriarchy/kyriarchy/intersectionality theory has discussed this for a long time, actually…
^not sure why the reply link isn’t threading the comments…
It certainly seems disingenuous to say you were talking about “men and women and privilege”, when you were asking over many, many comments to be acknowledged as unprivileged, particularly after the author had done so, multiple times.
I’ve never said that I was unprivileged.
Every time the author has mentioned her gender privilege she has followed it with a dismissal, aside from one. I am thankful for this one time.
The only “dismissal” I made was to the claim that male and female privilege are equivalent, or that we must always discuss both at the same time, or that female privilege is caused by anything other than the same ol’ sexism. Do not claim that I “deny” that there are benefits to being a woman. You’ve put words into the mouths of other commenters, too, and I will not stand by while you do it to me.
I’m sorry to have offended you. I’ll not be bothering you any further.
Is it possible to abstract the issue a bit so that we can all be on the same page without alienating supporters? Perhaps we could say that it is caused by “a consequence of historical sexism” so that men don’t feel like they are the cause of the problems?
So you’re now asking that pretty please will an oppressed class bend over backwards to make you, a member of the privileged class, feel nice and squishy and comfy? C’mon, psymin. Allies 101, dude. Being an ally is not always comfortable. Sorry?
No, because MRAs propose crap solutions due to their shitty and hateful premises. Hitler supported a national health care system; that doesn’t mean I’m willing to ally with Nazis just because they also want single payer.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Welp, I was wrong to assume good faith: http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/1ecd0q/was_i_out_of_line_here/
Reviewing this thread I think we should all be thankful to psymin for demonstrating so clearly the form of privilege called “male entitlement”.
Heh, well, I think what psymin wanted to talk about just wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. And it’s my blog, so…
psymin was very insistent that it’s unfair to talk about what you wanted to talk about without also talking about what he wanted to talk about. He was also pretty insistent that it would be unfair for anyone to disagree with him on what he wanted to talk about. He also refused to address any argument that wasn’t an admission that he was absolutely right about everything.
I can come up with a few words for how I feel about that but “entitled” is one of the more polite ones.
Your blog is great by the way! I didn’t check it out for a while because it was at the bottom of the FtB page but I’m so glad I followed a link.
The way I feel about someone who insists that female privilege is as worth discussing as male privilege is the way I feel about a white person who insists that black privilege exists, because they can say “N*gger” and not be thought of as racist.
That’s kind of what I was getting at in my first reply to psymin, but your phrasing is catchier.
Try this neat trick — look at random psymin comments in this thread, and see how many of them could be swapped out with – “but I’m a man and I don’t feel like I have any privilege”.
Well, psymin did say several times that he acknowledges that he has privilege. But he also said that thinking about that makes him feel bad, and then he kept asking us to talk about female privilege.
I do think there’s a gray area between denying one’s privilege and doing the hand-wavey “okay fine okay I have privilege now can we move on to something else” thing.
More along the lines of “Acknowledged Privilege, felt bad, therefore tu quoque!” Shorthand guilt-handwaving. More of “Well, men have privilege, BUT SO DO THA WIMMENS!” In short, a bullshit argument from someone that has superficially seen their privilege, but can not, or will not, deal with the implications.The analogy I enjoyed, that allowed me to come to grips with such was “Just because you were born on second base doesn’t mean you hit a double.”
So the only thing you have to deal with is open displays of attraction? HOW PAINFUL. (eyeroll)
What is your argument?
I want to apologize for my comment. It was insensitive and meant to discredit your lived experience because I have been struggling to incorporate feminist viewpoints into my male perspective and the psychic strain of being accused of having privilege for my gender is difficult to deal with. What I want to argue is that neither male privilege nor female privilege are useful concepts; the genders are simply unequal. Gender inequality is a more useful phrase and the debate between feminists and MRAs about who has more privilege is not useful. This is why I identify as a gender egalitarian.
Thanks for your apology. I see what you’re saying and I’m not sure if I agree, but I don’t think you’re wrong, either, except that I disagree that the word “feminism” should be abandoned on this basis. However, I ultimately don’t really care how people identify themselves because it’s none of my business. All I really care about are people’s ideas and how they put those ideas into action.
Thanks again for clarifying.
“Privilege is a theory, a framework that can be used to explain how our social world works.”
This is my main problem with the privilege framework: that it’s a normative framework, not simply a descriptive framework of how our social world works. If you were to describe a situation and how it is easier for, say, a man to deal with it that for a woman, I would probably agree with you. But calling it “privilege” implies or assumes a wide variety of normative or moral statements that we weren’t explicitly discussing. When people use the word “privilege,” it feels like they’re trying to slyly slip in lots of connotation that I’m not always sure I agree with or accept. I’d certainly like to talk about those other issues, and I might agree with you, but I’d like to have that conversation explicitly, not rolled up into a single word.
What exactly is normative about the concept of privilege? Can you give some examples of these normative or moral statements?
Replied in the wrong place, see 31 below
This is the Achilles Heel of the privilege idea as I see it. And it’s the most common breakdown of communication I have encountered discussing anything related to feminism. The border between privilege as a theoretical framework and “let’s count privilege points and whoever scores lowest wins this debate” is fuzzy far too often. Using “imposed” privilege as a silencing tactic is also more common than it should be (“I declare you to be a cisgendered white male and therefore shut up”).
It’s essentially transmuting the idea into a rhetorical hammer.
Is it EVER worth arguing privilege on an individual basis? I’ve seldom encountered anyone who protested to the idea presented as “could you imagine your life having been tougher being born as someone else”. Inevitably “you have privilege” ends up sounding accusatory and that just makes people defensive.
This is another annoyance of mine. When discussing privilege, the idea of fluid gender and sexuality is usually present. But in that same discussion the label “white” is applied as if it were set in stone. Try talking about who’s “white” with northern Europeans. You’ll find out about so many different heritages it’s like a cultural expedition. Starting with the american sense of “white” you’ll whittle away slavs, southern europeans and questionably non-germanic peoples until you’re left with Scandinavia (Sami and possibly Finns excluded), Great Britain and a handful of Germanic countries. Who’s white really depends on where you’re asking. And putting race issues into primarily white vs non-white ignores a ton of ethnic animosity the world over, a lot of which has other origins than skin tone.
There’s really no end to how diluted the idea can be. This is the “otherkin” end of the genderqueer issue. “If gender is fluid, why not race or species”. Or as you mention, “couple privilege”. Hell I can make up one right now – hair privilege. It’s even a cross gender issue. While more common for males, it’s usually harder for women to cope with hair loss. And I’m pretty sure there’s already statistics showing people with hair are perceived as youthful, healthy and of higher status, I even vaguely recall some study showing people with hair earn more and go further in their careers.
I guess the question is “what’s the cutoff”? Is there a way to say “to this point, but no further” or “there are more important issues” without sounding like a hypocrite?
The only good counterargument I’ve seen is the integration argument. “The legitimate issues men have are effects of the patriarchy and thus covered by feminism already”. I guess you could argue hair privilege is an ableist issue? It’s not a very satisfying answer either, whatever your point is just gets absorbed into a larger system with a promise of “we’re already working on it”. It’s like claiming feminism isn’t worth bothering with, because it’s already covered by the struggle for class equality and gender issues are superseded by that anyway.
Sorry for being longwinded. I thought your blog was great and just as much for people who are already feminists as not.
It usually implies that the benefit of privilege is wrongly, unjustly or unfairly held, that it is unearned or undeserved and that the exercise of that privilege constitutes oppression. From the Wikipedia page on male privilege:
“Male privilege refers to the social theory which argues that men have unearned social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely on the basis of their sex, and which are usually denied to women.”
In Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the invisible backpack” she writes:
“Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in Women’s
Studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so
one who writes about having white privilege must ask, “Having described it, what will I
do to lessen or end it?”
For her, describing and understanding it as a social phenomenon is connected to action, to working to change it. And later on she writes
“For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading. We usually
think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck.
Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower
certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.
I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power
For me to feel understood? I mean idk, I can’t link to anything specific, it’s more just a general attitude. The sneering contempt of Marcotte, etc. toward lonely nerds. Nice Guys of OKCupid. These are very obviously people who have NO idea what it feels like to have no one and no options, and what’s more, they have no interest in educating themselves.
And I don’t accept that attractiveness is just a separate “axis of privilege” or whatever, because there seems to be a very gendered component to it. I disagree strongly with the above whoever who said that unattractive women have it worse than comparatively unattractive men. That’s not at all true, in my opinion. I don’t deny that it sucks to be an ugly woman, and they deal with assorted bullshit too, but their male counterpart is going to have it much worse. He will be treated like garbage.
So I do think that attractiveness is bound up with gender, because it’s so much easier for women to be attractive enough to receive emotional validation.
Um, this was a response to 126.96.36.199
How in the world can you possibly know that? Are you magic? Can we cash in on those “prove you’re a psychic” prizes now? In the same vein as you complaining that “feminists” do nothing or don’t do enough to demonstrate to you that they understand or care about your experience, you go ahead and feel free to assert (without providing any evidence to back up your claim) that unattractive women still, among all of the shit thrown their way, have a better time of it than you, and other men like you.
Why do you feel you can make this claim?
Wait, “old” is most definitely not a privilege, especially once you consider everything that goes along with it. Even an old, wealthy man’s friends die, leaving him with no social network, but a network of providers – nurses, doctors, assisted living, um, assistants, cooks, butlers – and maybe even some family, a wife, perhaps children.
I understand that an old, poor, black, lesbian, tansgendered, deaf woman with leprosy would have it far, far worse (she may have never had a ‘network’, cannot afford medical care, and is likely to die a miserable painfull death after a life in which she had nearly everything going against her and any friends she did have are dead as well).
So I’m not arguing against the concept of privilege, just pointing out that being old is not a privilege for anyone.
My comment above at 35 was meant to be a reply to Miri’s comment at 10.1. Not sure why it ended up down here.
BTW, Miri, satanaugustine is me, your Facebook friend Frank Wall. Just though that would help to give you somehwat of a frame of reference for any of my comments. I hold you in high esteem, both as a person and intellectually. If I ever say something that indicates otherwise, I have propably simply communicated poorly.
I think it’s being a middle-aged adult that’s a privilege. Young people get screwed over in many ways, and old people get screwed over in many ways. There don’t seem to be any significant disadvantages to being in your 30s or 40s.
*edit* Yeah, I was making the common mistake of calling anyone older than a young adult “old.” My bad. 😛
But I don’t want to be middle aged, Miri. I want to be young and attractive again. I want the energy of youth. I don’t want the wrinkles and lack of motivation. I want to be so naive that I believe my depression will disappear for good. I want to not be sick of being alive. I want to be naively hopeful about my future. I want to feel like I actually have the desire to be alive. I haven’t felt that way in 20 to 21 years. I’m 43 and I no longer have the privilege of hopeful naivete.
Thanks for answering my comment, Miri. I remember when I was a young adult and considered everyone older than me as “old.” I don’t think that’s uncommon. Sorry for the depressing comment. Just being honest about my experience of middle age with someone who cares about such things.
Not sure what to say, I was kind of surprised that my comment about how I admit to class privilege in discussing privilege with men spawned the type of comments it did where, apparently, there’s all these female privileges I’ve been blind to.
I wanted to address the comment that “it’s never comfortable to ponder your own privilege” and the idea that doing so can cause one to feel ‘worthless’ that *someone* said. Seriously, this sounds like privileged whining to me, the sort of ‘you’re KILLING me by talking about my privileges, please stop, I feel so guilty!’
Both of my parents were college professors. I got to live in a few different countries when I was a kid, and always part of an affluent, sought-after family who got to live in nice places and got lots of nice attention from academics eager to welcome us to whatever country. This pretty much guaranteed that I’d do extremely well in school (graduated HS at 14) would get to go to college without financial difficulty.
Do I feel terrible or worthless when I think about my life versus the life of the child of a single mother, without much education who is struggling to pay the bills and keep her kids fed and who isn’t able to really help them much with their schooling? No, I look at it as a *problem to solve.* We might not totally even out privilege, but what would need to be done so that those kids would get some of the nice experiences that I had? What kind of education system would make sure that other kids don’t get left in the dust? Is there something that families like mine *should or could do* that would help other people?
Privilege is something that you can USE to help less privileged people. If I’ve had educational privilege, I can USE that to fix the problems of people with less privilege.
If you examine your own privilege, having it pointed out doesn’t feel accusatory.
I found this to be very informative and well constructed too // It can indeed
be problematic to decide if you are more or less privileged than someone else
though if one references the Golden Rule such considerations must be academic
since treating others as yourself should be the prime motivation here and not
how high or low one is in the pecking order relative to another // So you did
go into some detail to explain it which as I said was very useful in deed now
I used to only see privilege in purely social and economic terms // But it is
interesting how many other perspectives there are // So one should try not to
get too hung up on it in mathematical or percentage terms for that is missing
the point such as is a black gay man more or less privileged than say a white
straight tran // It is not about point scoring as you indicated // That could
be more problematic anyway because an axe of privilege is not always going to
the same // One may marry into a higher class for example or move to an other
age demographic or whatever // So it is in a constant state of change rather
like the evolution of species is // I have seen some attempt to deny it which
is a shame because it is obvious that it exists and note many who do this are
males who reject the feminist perspective here though gender is just one axis
on this scale // I some times wish they would listen to alternative views and
opinions and not shout them down just because the owner is in possession of a
vagina // There is nothing worse than having a closed mind // Also no one has
a monopoly on wisdom and being wrong is not so much probable as true now // I
shall finish on a complete tangent // You have recently said you do not get a
lot of positive feed back which I find hard // But you will definitely be one
I shall be reading on a regular basis // I may not agree with every thing you
say but nothing so far but your mindset is one that we find favour with so we
shall be reading you rather regularly albeit infrequently if that makes sense
We are not always here but when we are we shall take note of what you have to
say // So I hope you carry on for as long as you can // Thank you for reading
In the case of the “nice guys” mentioned on the aforementioned old tumblr, and who often get mocked by people like Amanda Marcotte, have you looked at what they do to get that? At least with the tumblr, I seem to recall each post showing screenshots of said “nice guys” saying some awfully vile things about women.
This is flawed; you’re entirely correct that attractiveness has a gendered component, but it seems practically self-evident that this is much worse for women. After all, we know how much unattractiveness sucks. I spent most of my life as practically a gargoyle on the male attractiveness totem pole, and I’m still not particularly photogenic or attractive today.
There’s one key difference. Society places practically, and often functionally, 100% of a womans value in her appearance. If she’s unattractive, she’s worthless.
As men, we’re fortunate to be able to funnel our identities into other avenues. For example, despite my own unattractiveness and extreme social awkwardness, I have generally been able to develop a reputation and a persona based on intellectual ability. Society generally approves of this. This gets validation, appreciation, and even admiration.
Now, it generally doesn’t transfer 100% to the dating realm (it helps, of course; but typically not much if you have social awkwardness on top of unattractiveness), but it does provide a way for unattractive men to be accepted by society. There are others, too; that was simply the easiest way for me. In the specific case of intelligence, this exact same approach would be likely to get an equally unattractive woman jeered at by society, as society in general doesn’t value intelligence in women (it’s often even considered a negative trait; consider how many men are turned off by the idea of dating a woman smarter than they are).
There is some very serious “female privilege” exemplified by “women don’t get drafted into the military”. Women who haven’t studied the matter are frequently dismissive of the sort of violent abuse which men *routinely* get from other men in single-sex environments — because it doesn’t generally happen in all-female environments. This is definitely a type of privilege.
Of course, serious feminists recognize that this happens and that this “female privilege” and “male privilege” are both part and parcel of the patriarchy structure, where the primary rule is “obey the rules, no matter how stupid they are, stay in your box, stay in your role, do what you’re expected to, or else”.
I completely agree with Miri — all the real “female privilege” is category #3, it’s sexism, it’s what feministrs have been trying to get rid of all along.
Tiberius: “patriarchy” isn’t a complicated concept, nor is it invisible. It’s the system where *men and women who disagree with the system* are punished — this means anyone who fails to behave according to sexist gender-role expectations. Have you read bell hooks’ very straightforward explanation in “Feminism is for Everybody”? I recommend it, it’s better than the abstruse academic nonsense you usually see.
“Using “imposed” privilege as a silencing tactic is also more common than it should be (“I declare you to be a cisgendered white male and therefore shut up”).”
Yeah. The official intellectual term for that behavior is “ad hominem”; the more commonplace term for that is “bullshit”.
“Is it EVER worth arguing privilege on an individual basis?”
Only in one case. The “But the police never stop and frisk me!” case. The only reasonable response is “They don’t do it to middle-aged white men in business suits like YOU. They only harass people when they think they can get away with it — black people, women, people in hoodies.”
That’s the ONLY time when it is EVER worth talking about privilege on an individual basis — when you’re debunking the “I’ve never seen it therefore it doesn’t exist” argument.
FWIW, my replies don’t seem to be threading correctly. 41 was a response to 5.1, 42 was a response to 31.
Ah. Had to unblock gravatar scripts.
Exactly. This is something I’ve tried to express, and you’ve written it really well. It’s not that every single man is better off than every single women. It’s that all *else being equal,* gender is one more factor that can affect privilege.
First, I find the concept of “checking privilege” to be fallacious. The entire concept seems to be used to deny facts or reasoning and boil the entire debate down to, “you just can’t understand me!”. Second, I’m willing to acknowledge a lot of privileges if women will acknowledge their own. Yet when questioned about this, the response is usually pointing to the almighty, omnipotent patriarchy. I was told once that people believe in conspiracies for the same reason they believe in God, they don’t want to believe in coincidence. If we’re arguing that the female population has a glass ceiling in terms of leadership positions and other professions, then there is very clearly a glass cellar where you find that Men have the highest rates for work related death, men have the highest rates for homelessness, drug use and alcoholism and men have overwhelmingly been the majority of armed forces. And while I can appreciate your kind thoughts on custody law, there has never been a feminist protest for male rights in custody battles like there has been pay gaps.
Maybe that’s because most feminists are women, and most people protest about issues that affect them personally and not those that don’t? Also, it’s a little tough to worry about problems affecting someone else when you feel completely stymied by the ones that affect you.
I’m sorry does that excuse it? Would you not protest against racism even if it didn’t effect you?
Can you point out anything significant aside from an advantage (gained from sexist assumptions about women’s “nurturing” nature, BTW) in custody battles in Family Court?
And in terms of work-related death and the armed forces, bear in mind that for the vast majority of western history, women were forbidden to do such work, because of, surprise, similar sexist assumptions to the one that gives rise to the custody issue.
When there exists a powerful trend of crushing sexism that visibly suppressed approximately 50% of the population for centuries, only (arguably) mostly relenting in the last 100 years, to say “coincidence”, you must assume that the entirety of the previous, unquestionably patriarchal system dissipated in a few short years, and now generations have been raised without the same problematic ideas regarding gender. To take this explanation is clearly less parsimonious than to observe that remnants of a previously much more powerful gender-based hierarchical system still cause problems for both men and women today. It takes either long periods of time, or unimaginable atrocities (e.g. genocide) to completely invert social systems. The continuing prevalence of racism throughout most of America is testament to this.
Patriarchy isn’t a “conspiracy”; it’s a positive feedback loop. A self-perpetuating social system. One that will, if attacked properly, dissolve over time.
“Can you point out anything significant aside from an advantage (gained from sexist assumptions about women’s “nurturing” nature, BTW) in custody battles in Family Court?”
First off, sexist or not, it’s still a legal advantage. As patriarchy, by definition is a a construct created to only benefit men, this is very clearly an exception. I would point to the fact that 6/10 of college graduates this year were women. Young boys are doing worse and worse in school. Now you could attribute this to their nature but really that’s idiotic when you’re simultaneously advocating for the elimination of gender roles and stereotypes. In other words, you can’t say personality or other qualities are nurture while simultaneously saying that this is nature. I would also point out that men are more likely to commit suicide or turn to alcoholism or drug use because of a lack mental health support. The feminist excuse for this borders on victim blaming, claiming that men are just too stubborn or stupid to get adequate services. Another advantage: the legal definition of rape. It’s legally impossible for a women to rape a man with her vagina. Pretty self explanatory there. As far as women have been conditioned to avoid dangerous work, why are no “enlightened” feminists pursuing such careers then and instead pursuing careers in academia? A place a I might add which was already overwhelmingly populated by women?
As for privilege gaps in terms of race, I think it’s a travesty that most activists have no idea what goes on in the inner city and frankly could care less. The system there is broken and needs repair, not the usual solution of throwing money at a problem and hoping it goes away. Take for example a friend of mine that I met at a local soup kitchen, we’ll call him jerry. Jerry has 7 kids with four different mothers, he’s currently on foodstamps and a number of other government programs to meet his bills. He recently got to the point where he was financially strong and able to pay off his stuff without assistance. Unfortunately, as soon as his ex lovers and kids heard he had a small amount of money, they decided to sue the crap out of him for unpaid child support. Now he has some money, but not enough to pay the bills they’re asking for. So the only solution for him is to get back on government assistance. He’s 57 years old and most likely he will never be able support himself. Meanwhile, the state government refuses to lower any taxes and claims it needs them for supporting the inner city. The communities around the area keep property taxes high so they don’t get any “riff raff” floating in. Now that’s what I call privilege.
That’s absolutely what I call privilege, too. Class privilege, to be specific.
what if I told that you that one of the greatest offenders of this was also one of the great intellectual centers of America and also a center of progressive thought? Aka Princeton?
I’d say you have a pretty low bar for what constitutes “progressive thought.”
So the fact that it’s an ivy league institution that offers some of the finest academics in the world doesn’t qualify?
In and of itself? Of course not. One doesn’t simply look at status and assume that an institution will be progressive. It could offer the best academics on Earth, and it still wouldn’t qualify on that basis alone.
To be clear, while not advocating for “throwing money at the problem”, would you advocate removing existing welfare benefits?
Ben Pratt @ 44–
Jerry has seven children by four different mothers? And when he got some money together the mothers of his seven children tried to get him to spend some of it feeding and housing his own kids? And you see that as an example of how poor Jerry has it bad? What about the women and kids?
Are all four women executives with six-figure incomes who are simply trying to harass him for the laughs? Or could it be they’re on public assistance, too, and their assistance will be cut off unless they make an effort to go after the child support? I don’t know about New Jersey, but in a lot of states, if a guy like Jerry gets some money together and the mother of his kids *doesn’t* make an effort to get back child support, she can have her assistance cut off. So he’ll be “financially strong” and she and her kids will be completely destitute.
Incidentally, I’m white and middle class, and I know a lot about what went on in one notorious housing project in Chicago, because I worked with a group of residents who were trying to do something about the crime and gang violence there. I believe Jerry’s up against it– but so are the women and kids. You can’t know if men are relatively privileged in a particular setting until you’ve seen how the women and children are doing.
“Jerry”‘s actions aside, my point was mostly about the arduous amount of government interference into family life that goes on and screws people at the bottom of our society. , not a general blanket statement to attack the mothers of his children. “Jerry” isn’t a perfect person either and he definitely has some mental illness but the point is that he could have a better life if it wasn’t for the aforementioned holds that the government has on him especially pertaining to child support law.
Maybe he could even afford to move out of a dangerous place like Trenton, which while it is no chicago, has had 9 homicides since the new year.
You say your point was about “the arduous amount of interference into family life” that “screws people at the bottom of our society.” But what you actually wrote was that the mothers of Jerry’s children “decided to sue the crap out of him.”
Yet you apparently know the mothers very likely sued because they were pressured by the welfare providers. One study I read pointed out that the women sometimes lie that they don’t know the the identitiy of their child’s father, because the father may be more inclined to chip in whatever he can if he isn’t paying child support. (The women I worked with, who were not married to their kid’s fathers, never discussed the details of their finances with me. Why would they– we were all volunteers together. I wasn’t their social worker.)
Exaggerating the amount of choice the women had in the matter makes it appear that women are more powerful and men less powerful than is actually the case. I don’t understand why you would want to do that, if you aren’t trying to minimize the privilege of the men in that situation (which is not a whole lot) and maximize the privilege of the women (which isn’t a whole lot, either.)
This is why the idea of privilege is such a dead end intellectually. In this case, I’m not focusing on privilege, I’m focusing on problems that affect men one of which is child support. Their reasons for suing the pants off this guy are irrelavent, his life is still miserable because of them suing. Now that being said, tell me that as a man he’s more privileged in this situation when just the act of producing kids has screwed him over so immensely. The mothers of his children are doing better than him simply because they have custody. Getting back to my point though, you want an over convoluted diagnosis with huge logical fallacies and ultimately I want solutions.
You will never get solutions. Because you’re refusing to see the problem clearly. Within any racial group in the US, women are more likely to be in poverty than men. Having children does not make their lives easier– it makes them harder.
You are pointing to the example of a man with mental problems who fathered seven children by four women; and blaming his problems, not on his mental state, not on the fact that he fathered far more children than he could support, not even on the draconian regulations to which people on welfare are subjected– but on the women!
Your underlying assumption– although I don’t expect you to recognize it– is that men should be pampered, coddled, and never, ever asked to take full responsibility for their own actions. And that right there, kiddo, is what people are talking about when they refer to male privilege.
Actually, blaming women is the opposite of what I’m doing. Unlike you, who seems to be so hellbent on blaming men for the problem. I’m blaming a system that favors women in child custody cases, that forces them to seek welfare and other programs instead of maintaining steady pay. Where is the responsibility of the women involved in all of this? Your assumption is that they’re helpless in this situation, holding on to the old chivalry meme that women need consist help and coddling. The idea of privilege is really just that, a variation of the old “women and children first” ideal. You don’t want to create new gender dynamics, you want the same ones except with less power for men.
Women on welfare– who, you just said yourself, usually cannot get jobs that allow them to support a family and pay for child care– are forced by the system to try to collect child support from the fathers of their children. If they refuse, they are cut off from welfare. It would be much better for the women if they did not have to do this. I am not blaming men for that. I am blaming the system. You, on the other hand, are blaming the women. You apparently expect them to refuse to sue the father of their children, and instead have their only source of income cut off and, if they’re in government housing, get thrown out onto the street. That is a choice no responsible parent should take. Yet you are blaming them for not taking it. That’s the male privilege, right there. Yes, getting sued hurt Jerry. But refusing to sue would hurt Jerry’s children far more. You are putting Jerry’s needs before his children.
Am I thinking your buddy, Jerry, acted irresponsibly because he had seven children by four women without having any intention of providing for them? Well, yeah, I am. But, how do you get from that to, I’m blaming all men? I’ve never met even one man who’s had seven children by four women. In fact, I can only think of one man I know who has seven children, and he supports them, both financially and emotionally. So I respect his choice. I don’t blame him for his wife’s medical problems caused by all those pregnancies, either. I understand that she’s an adult and that was her choice. He wanted the kids, but he didn’t coerce her to have them.
If you can only get from what I wrote that I’m blaming all men, including for things they have no control over, or that I don’t hold women responsible for things that they do have control over, you haven’t paid attention to what I actually wrote.
[*quote]Within any racial group in the US, women are more likely to be in poverty than men[*quote]
And men have the highest rates for homelessness.
Right. It was impossible for me to tell from the wiki article how many men are homeless versus how many women, because the category of family didn’t mention the gender of the adults in the families. Single men make up slightly over half of all homeless in America. The total number of chronically homeless is somewhere around 170,000. So we’re talking about some tens of thousands of homeless versus tens of millions of people living in poverty.
This is the last reply I’m going to make to you, mostly because my life is extremely busy right now. But also because I think this is a waste of time. I don’t believe you really care much one way or the other about the problems of poor people in America. Certainly, when you wrote in another post that their big problem is taxes, I laughed out loud. You’re using homelessness, and other people have used the fact that men are far more likely than women to die in industrial accidents, to talk about how bad men have it. But if you’re an educated white guy and you’re not completely strung out on booze or drugs, your chances of either ending up homeless, or dying in an industrial accident are virtually nil.
The number of industrial deaths in America is less than 5000 a year. And they’re heavily concentrated in transportation (truckers and airplane pilots and flight engineers) and other outside occupations (ranching, farming, logging, and the offshore fisheries.) Engineers have worked for decades to make trucks, planes, and boats as safe as possible. So it’s not as if people are dying because nobody cares.
So, when you compare some statistic about the higher number of men who are homeless to the 1 in 4 chance of rape women face, or the near 100% chance of sexual harassment, you’re comparing women’s real life experience to some statistic you read about on the Internet. That’s why we’re unimpressed.
My issues with privilege theory, is that it seems to imply that “privilege” as a concept can make sense and be applied other than in a way which is completely relative.
Terms such as “Male privilege”, in and of themselves(in a vacuum), are nonsensical, because they denote that whatever advantage that a privileged person has, is inherent to being a part of said group, not an extension of being, for example, male in a specific environment.
If this fact was truly acknowledged, then we would recognize that whatever privilege a person has is a complex body of attributes feeding off a complex system of influencing factors from the environment, and therefore not something you can simply throw under the bus with simplistic labels like “white privilege”.
At the end of the day, if you could truly demonstrate through argument how an individuals privilege is effecting her/his argument, or tampering with her/his point of view, you are in effect, at one level or another, demonstrating a fallacious argument, in which case you do not need to appeal to privilege to begin with.
(if a man says, “I never see women getting harassed in the streets, so it’s obviously not a problem”, it is fallacious statement, whether we accept that he is blinded by privilege or not)
A good example of what I’m trying to illustrate could be a discussion between a black and a white individual on matter of racism.
If the white person was raised in, or live in, an eastern Asian country, where she/he would statistically be a smaller minority, than for instance an African-American man or woman in the states – appeal to privilege during the course of the conversation would be inane.
Now you could make some sort of historical argument here(as In black people have suffered more historically, therefore you can’t understand their suffering even if you suffer some in your time), but that too would be really inane. Individuals are part of collectives, but they are not the collective as a whole.
Privilege is useful in an academic setting when trying to analyze the different ways in which some social groups are benefiting from their environment, and how those benefits effect their perceptions.
It’s not a good tool for people with unaddressed personal issues to throw hissy fits and discard any and all arguments made by people they perceive(keyword here) to be better off than themselves, when these people questions their personal experiences(another keyword).
When you consider the large amount of cognitive bias we as humans suffer from, an all the common fallacies we commit due conversation on daily basis, you can never expect people to really ever take what you say on word alone, especially if that those not fit their own perspective on the topic of conversation. Furthermore, if you don’t know the personal history of the person you are talking to, and you reduce that person to an expression of the mean average of a statistic(such as being “male”, or “straight”), and dismiss that persons perspective based on that, you are the one engaging in fallacious and unconstructive behavior.
That is not how privilege should be used, and such usage completely undermines the value of the concept altogether.
And before anyone denies it being used in this fashion – I would redirect you to almost any new, mainstream feminist on sites like youtube, and so forth. To pretend this doesn’t happen in every day life is insulting.
To exemplify my point though,
I grew up being white, in a predominately white society. That privileged me when I applied for (most)jobs, it kept me off the cop radar when I was in upper class parts of the town where I lived, etc etc.
On the other hand, I grew up with mostly non-white friends, hanging out down-town in a mostly non-white environment. In this environment, my “whiteness” was a handicap. I had to work twice as hard as anyone else to gain acceptance from my peers, always viewed suspiciously, often treated with racist remarks, but expected not to reply in turn, because that would make me the “real racist”. I was never on equal footing with the people in my social group, and stood out as a sore thumb. I was often stopped by police for “looking suspicious”, more often than most of my non-white friends, due to the fact that I was “white” in a place that no “upstanding , ordinary white people would ever hang out in willingly unless they’re criminals”.
Now, you can discount this and say, “everything else being equal”, a minority would have it worse in the opposite situation, but that would be completely disingenuous and ignoring the reality of the situation – namely, that there is no such things as “everything else being equal” to begin with, as this is an impossibility, and any statement of conjecture based on that premise is unfalsifiable. The fact of the matter is that I have several minority background friends who succeeded more than me socially among people of my ethnic background, than I did in the reverse situation.
Now, I live and work in Japan, where I represent a 1% minority.
Now, if anyone were to discount my view during a discussion on issues pertaining to racial discrimination merely on the basis of me being white, I would be pissed, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, when people unthinkingly use stupid fucking stock phrases like “check your privilege” instead of arguing point by point, in a constructive matter, that does not make them social justice advocates, nor does that make them worthy of being listened to.
I reject that completely out of hand, as utter and complete nonsense spewed by people who’ve let their own personal issues and distaste for the opposition(justified or not) override their better judgement, and ability to have functional dialogue for the sake of actual progress.
The fact of the matter, is that once you recognize intersectionality, and you see how much it matters, this should bring you to a full stop when it comes to privilege theory. It should tell you that really, the only privilege a person has, is what she/he has in relation to everything else.
There is no such thing as “everything else being equal”.
It also bears noting that suffering is, in many ways, subjective.
TRIGGER WARNING(rape and violence):
Some survivors of rape will tell you how they would rather be dead than raped, others will tell you the opposite.
So, the point in case is that, there is for instance no consensus, nor way of determining what is objectively worse – being raped, or being killed.
Yet, with the example in this blog post, “with everything else being equal”, a woman has it worse than a man, because of the shit she has to face sexually speaking, when men are, “with everything else being equal”, more likely of being killed, killing themselves, dying from life-style diseases or work-related accidents.
I am not making this as some kind of MRA bullshit argument about how men have it so bad. I am completely disinclined to support any movement that confuses individuals with collectives.
Where an entire group of people take on the mantle of suffering because some constituency of said group is suffering.
That being said though, when we consider the subjective aspects of suffering, the different ways suffering can peak for different statistical groups, and how this all changes in relation to environment, and so forth, simplistic, naive and judgmental methods of quantifying suffering and labeling individuals need to fucking stop.
It does not help equality. It does not make people cooperative. And it does not give you an objective picture of reality – and it is, despite what everyone doing it would have you believe, an expression of intolerance by the means of passive aggressive shaming-tactics to silent opposition.
Do not indulge in it.
People doing so are not helping themselves, nor the causes they claim to be fighting for.
Everything after the trigger warning misses a number of very important points, chief among them the fact that the likelihood of violent or accidental death being higher for men than for women does not mean that the likelihood of a man suffering violent or accidental death is higher than the likelihood of a woman being raped (hint: it’s not). On that note, another major difference is that if you’ve suffered violent death once, the risk of it happening again is zero; the same is not true of rape. Further, to extend your comparison, while there is a statistical possibility that I might die violently, I do not have to deal with strangers randomly opening their coats to show me their guns, invite me to come play with their knives, ‘playfully’ jamming pistol barrels into my ribs on public transport, and otherwise indicating their potential willingness to kill me on a consistent basis. While there are places with a relatively high probability that you may face such a threat, these are limited in physical area, and in any situation below actual guerrilla warfare the incidence of such death threats is vastly lower than the incidence of street harassment and related behaviors.
It does not make people cooperative. And it does not give you an objective picture of reality – and it is, despite what everyone doing it would have you believe, an expression of intolerance by the means of passive aggressive shaming-tactics to silent opposition.
Untrue. For those capable of intellectual honesty and a little basic empathy, it works fine. It’s only when dealing with people who’ve invested their identity in their privilege that I seem to see the kind of thing you’re pulling here. A more charitable interpretation involves different ways of learning things, and different methods being better to get through to different people, but frankly I’m out of charity at this point. I’ve heard too many versions of the same disingenuous passive aggressive crap, on too many topics, to take it seriously any more as anything but a blockading tactic.
Wow, Trenton and Chicago. I have lived in both of those cities at some point. I also visited Princeton, and can’t say that I’d expect the folks there to understand that there’s much more to social justice than publishing papers documenting inequality.
I can be sympathetic to men who are stuck with lots of child support payments and cannot get ahead. I even know of one case where a man was unable to go back to school (potentially to earn more money in the long run) just because doing that would endanger his ability to pay child support. (Note – I heard that but could not totally confirm, but that seems believable. Financial aid is hard to come by for part-time students.) However, I don’t see that guy as the victim of *women* but as the victim of a system that puts expectations on men to ‘provide’ without giving them the means to do so. It’s the same system that punishes a single mom for ‘child neglect’ for the crime that other people don’t pay her enough money for her work. It’s the system that punishes teachers of inner city kids when the kids do bad on tests because they’re too hungry to concentrate.
US capitalism is designed to make sure poor families fall apart. The system is set up so those men will fail as ‘breadwinners’ and, though often employed, the women will not earn enough to really lift themselves out of poverty, and they’ll have to balance shitty, low-paid, inflexible work and taking care of their kids while mostly white, upper middle class women get to ‘choose’ to stay home or get flex time. The poor will be blamed for their own poverty because of their ‘broken families’ when it’s really the system that broke the family.
I’d disagree with the teacher thing, especially when unions are out there advocating for larger more bloated schools that never succeed. In some classes the teachers will take off for extended periods of time and leave the students with no adequate substitute to teach them properly. I heard a story about a math teacher that went off for pretty much the entirety of the school and came back around test time. The school couldn’t find an adequate substitute so the kids didn’t learn any of the material and of course flunked the tests. The entire idea of paying for longevity rather than quality is ridiculous. The union contracts are managed in such a way that every teacher gets paid the same, whether they’re an english teacher or a math teacher even as kids continually fail in science and math. The biggest reason for that is they don’t have quality math or science teachers because people who get those degrees usually go on to well paying jobs and won’t settle for a teacher’s salary. If you could pay certain teachers more than others, either for quality work or because you need those teachers, you would find a much stronger education program. Another problem is the inadequate learning centers, The schools are bloated bureaucracies that are really just job programs rather than places to teach kids. If you could send the kids to other schools in the area or break down the larger schools into smaller ones so you could have smaller classes, overall you would see more kids succeed.
In and of itself? Of course not. One doesn’t simply look at status and assume that an institution will be progressive. It could offer the best academics on Earth, and it still wouldn’t qualify on that basis alone.
To be clear, while not advocating for “throwing money at the problem”, would you advocate removing existing welfare benefits?
I would advocate for a system with less burdens and regulations that make it impossible for a person to get off said programs. Stripping welfare out entirely is an impossibility as it is so ingrained into our system and would be unfair and inhumane to do.
Which burdens and regulations specifically? How would you change them? What, specifically would you do that is different from the solutions others have already mentioned?
Lower the tax burden for one as that is often a huge barrier for people trying to get off government assistance. Impose less harsh penalties for minor offenses for two as too often you hear about someone who’s held in contempt of court for failure to pay parking tickets or ends up in prison for smoking a joint. Maybe some sort of monetary compensation for being able to get off welfare would be a good one, kind of like a loan that you don’t have to pay back.
It we are calling a spade a spade, you are saying that white, heterosexual males are the most privileged, but in what way?
Women are generally more trusted than men, but not necessarily more trustworthy. If there is any kind of a dispute between man and woman, everyone – men and women – will by default side with the female.
Women do have worrisome men follow them around, I know. And I can clearly imagine just how worrisome it would be. But the night is probably more fraught with danger for the male. He is at a much higher risk for random violence. Take a stroll down to your local accident and emergency room on any evening and witness the injuries brought on by an attack. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was a boys-only club. Look at the proportions of homicide victims.
Round up all the homeless people in your city. Is that an accurate representation of the population at large? Is it approximately 50/50? In reality, and not being sexist, but males simply have a broader spectrum of being than females. The highest of the highs are dominated by males, and the lowest of the lows are also dominated by males, whilst we are the minority gender. Proof that the male spectrum is simply just broader.
Women in the modern day have some inexcusable privileges over men. Women are allowed to demean men in the workplace. Women are allowed to be explicitly sexist. Why is this? Women aren’t held back from any meaningful employment at all. Naturally, there ARE jobs that are eminently more suited to males, such as construction and demolition and suchlike, but in the asexual world of business women aren’t held back and men aren’t privileged. I don’t feel like women, or feminists in particular, truly understand life from a male perspective any more than makes understand life from a female perspective. (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus anyone?)
I concur with you that ethnic groups are relatively underprivileged to white people. How can we account for this? The best I can offer is simply that we do live in a white country. If whites were to be an ethnic minority in another country, I dare say we would see a mirror image, or perhaps worse. That’s just the way of the world at the end of the day.
Really? This has never been my experience (I’m male, BTW), and the entire stereotype of the emotional, hysterical, lying woman exists for a reason.
Ill defined. Give a comprehensive definition of “being”; and even afterward, to provide “proof” that can be taken seriously, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d want to see some kind of peer-reviewed research.
It isn’t. Do you have any citations for the existence of widespread tolerance of demeaning behavior toward men?
I take it you aren’t familiar with the concept of unconscious bias? Business is definitely not an asexual world; never has been. Until very, very recently, business was all but a “men only” world, and still retains most of the biases from that era; the small proportion of female executives and the continued existence of a wage gap (after all differential factors are controlled for) is testament to that. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a few scholarly citations:
Interesting that you seem to think that “feminists” have an 100% female identification rate. I’m a feminist, and having been male my entire life, I should certainly hope I understand the “male perspective”. Really, it sounds like you haven’t researched this issue any further than starting with the assumption “all meaningful sexism against women was totally and utterly purged after they got the right to vote”, and never questioning that assumption at all.
So… The answer to racial marginalization is just “It is because it is, and don’t you even fucking DARE to suggest that this condition can or ought to be improved.”?
K, so I’m going to completely agree here with pretty much all of what you’re saying. Privilege of certain groups exists and the way you’re portraying this makes a lot of sense. However, sometimes I feel privilege is a bit overrated. Like you said, the most privileged of us all can still have their lives ruined by circumstances. Really I think circumstances says it all. Whether you’re straight, gay, male, female, black, white, latino…whatever the case, I can safely say, no matter who you are, life sucks in one way or another ._.
[…] exists. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, […]
[…] But I’m A Man, And I Don’t Feel Like I Have Any Privilege, from FTB […]
[…] Almost everyone lacks privilege in some ways (not just the silly and illegitimate ways Andrea Smith mentions in her essay), so it might not be particularly useful to speak of “having” or “not having” privilege in general. It might only make sense to speak very specifically: “You have the privilege of being perceived as white, so cops don’t profile you.” Or “You have the privilege of having been born into a family with lots of money.” (I discuss this more here.) […]
[…] “But I’m a man and I don’t feel like I have any privilege.” […]