Male privileging is a term you might have heard bandied around by feminists and if you’re a guy maybe it rubs you the wrong way. In short, privilege is the advantage someone enjoys beyond the advantages of most. Now, as a male, you’ve probably heard this term many times and you’re probably even rolling your eyes right now (not only females roll their eyes you know,) because you don’t even believe it exists. “Here she goes again, a typical woman.. always trying to say they’re disadvantaged and men get better treatment…blah blah blah… blame me again because I am a man.” Yup some men do think like this. Disclaimer: I am not into “man bashing.” In fact; I think that feminists who are anti-male are really shitty advocates for gender equality and they give all of us a bad name. However, I am totally into “patriarchy bashing” because that is the problem. It’s not men who are the enemy in the fight for equal rights. It’s our male dominated misogynistic society. So if there are any misogynists reading this today, I don’t think you should continue because you’re not going to agree or enjoy it.
Male privilege refers to the unearned advantages or rights granted to men solely on the basis of their sex but usually denied to a woman. Now if you’re a guy and you’re thinking “hey I don’t get anything free for being a man… I didn’t wake up this morning and have a cheque handed to be for being male” that is not how privilege works. Privilege is the result of ingrained societal attitudes and it affects us constantly.
Privilege is about how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are ” normal”. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from the norm. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf. Since social status is conferred in many different ways — everything from race to geography to class — all people are both privileged and non-privileged in certain aspects of their life.
Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a group due to their institutional power in relation to women as a group. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of just being a male, benefits from male privilege.
If I were a man, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I should change my surname or keep it when I’m getting married. As a man, I would get paid significantly more (in most jobs) on average than a woman. If I get angry, I’m just angry, I’m never a bitch. The more sex partners I have the more macho I am to others but as a woman I’ll be deemed a “whore”. Not forgetting my chances of being raped are significantly lower because I am a male. You ketch my drift?
Now you don’t have to apologize for being privileged. It isn’t your fault you were born a male nor does having these privileges make you a bad person. What it does, however, is strip men of the awareness of the effects their privileges have on how they see the world. It makes them think that they can go through life this way, and it isn’t “unfair” but its “normal”. When in fact the way men are treated most times are better than how a woman would be treated in exact same situations. There’s nothing normal about that to me.
If I were a man, for example, nobody would sexually harass me while I’m walking down the street. Now it’s easy for a man to assume that this is normal and acceptable. In fact, culture tells them that the way they see the world and their experiences are perfectly normal. So when women say or “complain” (as men always think we’re doing when we speak up,) so yes when we complain that we’re being harassed when we’re walking down the street, a man’s immediate reaction would be to dismiss this idea because since it doesn’t happen to him, we’re probably just over reacting. Its really harmful to think this way though. Men should not dismiss the lived experiences of women (especially things we have to go through on a daily basis) just because you don’t live through it – this is your advantage not ours.
In an ideal world these things wouldn’t exist. Males would be treated just the same if they were female, white or black, straight or other. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world but as a male what you need to do (as someone who enjoys male privilege) is to at least be aware of it. Be aware of the way in which it colours how you see the world. Accept it: men in our society are privileged.
In other words, in some situations, we kinda prefer men. We give them extra opportunities, whether consciously or not, that allows them easier access to things that those of us who are not male- aka women can’t quite get to. That is not to say that life is always easy for men or that men do not experience hardships. All it means is that in regards to gender, men are not as oppressed. Unfortunately a lot of times men forget to check their privilege, i.e. they forget to acknowledge that they’re privileged and therefore sort of force concepts unto marginalized people without actually understanding what it’s like to be discriminated against in that vein.
For instance, he grew up as the only boy with five sisters or he did a gender course at college and may have come across women’s issues before, but he’s not or will ever be female, and no matter how many conversations he’s had, or how much discrimination he’s witnessed, a man will never know what it’s truly like to be a woman. So for them to come along and say that women aren’t treated unfairly or to say that male privileging is only a figment of feminist imagination is ridiculous. Its just the same for a white male to say that racism doesn’t exist in the U.S. But of course its easy for someone to say these things because he isn’t the one experiencing it.
Similarly, men often come at women’s issues with the same air of dismissal. “Is it really that serious? they ask or “Don’t you think you’re just over reacting?” No we’re not! And sometimes being a woman really sucks if you live in a society that constantly tries to keep you down. And because of your privilege, double standards exist. So as men, no matter how educated, or observant or sympathetic you are, you will never have the experience of what it’s like to be a woman.
You may never understand how hard it is for a woman to be virtuous yet provocatively enticing at the same damn time. Nor would you understand how unfair it feels for working mothers to be labelled “bad” for wanting to focus a little bit on our careers while we applaud stay-at-home dads. Men I recommend you take a read of feminist Jessica Valenti’s book “He’s a Stud,She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know.” In it she discusses, fifty ways in which men have privilege over women in our society. In other words fifty things that are okay for men but aren’t okay for women. Could you imagine that? Some examples in the book include how women are responsible for birth control, how older single women are spinsters instead of “eligible”, how women don’t have presence in the media and then my personal favorite “he’s angry, she’s pms-ing.”
Now ladies, how many times have you been asked when you were frustrated about something “umm are you on your period?” Excuse, is that like the only time women are allowed to be upset? Do we not have legitimate logical feelings? Now we don’t even need to go to feminists authors for examples all the time, because we women experience it daily. Take the common truism that women who sleep around are “sluts” while men are studs. Today the double standard operates largely through indirect social pressure. In the media, for a woman to be successful she has to be talented and good looking, a man just has to be talented. In law enforcement, male officers would be considered more abled over females for a huge case. On an athletic scale, which is already male dominated; a lot more money would be invested into male for sports than females because it’s a guy thing right? And who still believes that male are better at math (I hate that one.)
Males have controlled a broader and more powerful social space in practice, and we see that male privileging is a major factor of male academic under performance. Thus boys are privileged at school over girls whether or not girls achieve higher grades. This is the unfair reality we live in. From day one, therefore, boys and girls are treated differently in this self-fulfilling conception. In the home boys are expected to misbehave while girls are expected to conform to a rigid code. If a boy misbehaves it is essentially expected but if a girl does so it is a serious matter. Expectations are very important in how children behave and our children are raised under the noxious banner that “boys will be boys” and “girls can’t do what the boys do and still be a lady.” Sounds familiar right?
Remember the double standard mentioned earlier, well it is again operating through the rules of etiquette. As a child there would be so many things to “becoming a lady” a girl is required to learn but not boys. A lady must be seen and not heard, but a boy can run and scream and rough play. Often times in the home, parents would allow their sons to go out and stay out for longer hours, but the girls can’t, even though they are older. Now picture if this were you, won’t you just hate your little brother or constantly think that he’s your parents’ favourite. Have you ever heard the term “mothers raise their daughters but love their sons?” I guess society has a favourite child as well, its males not females.
Finally, I believe that male privileging can be changed through transformed practices of gender socialization. Gender socialization is the tendency for boys and girls to be socialized differently. Boys are raised to conform to the male gender role, and girls are raised to conform to the female gender or role. Now wouldn’t it be wise to nip inequality in its butt from as early as childhood but treating all kids the same. Teaching your boys how to behave just as your girls, without the fear of homophobia. Raring your kids based on morals and values and not merely societal expectations of male and female. They should both learn how to cook and clean and behave in the classroom, how to respect others, how to work hard at school and how to achieve their goals based on their grades and not race, sex, ethnicity or class. And for those of us already grown and set in our ways- Guys just acknowledge that you’re privileged- and the easiest way to do that is to start off by saying “you know I’m not a woman but hey here’s my perspective” or “as a man I haven’t experienced that first hand but this is how I see it.” It totally opens the door for intelligent productive conversation, because as soon as you come at something from a place of privilege you’re exercising your privilege and therefore minimizing the plight of the marginalized person to whom you’re speaking. So don’t apologize for it, instead use it to your advantage to bridge the inequality gap.
The other thing that men need to do when and where they can, is try to destroy privilege. Try to end privilege by fighting for equality. What does that mean for our society? Ultimately (better yet hopefully,) it means that you all will stop enjoying unfair advantages based on male privileges. The way that it’s going to happen though, is not by treating men worse but it’s by treating women equally, treating women just as well as we would treat men. You losing your privilege isn’t really you losing anything, it’s all women gaining something. Nobody, feminists included want men to be treated worse in our society, we just want women to be treated better, treated fairly and put privilege aside and equality in all things.
I’ll leave you with this quote though, “women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition”- Marilyn Monroe.