On the Status of Male Privilege (and Subsequent Checklists)

First, before I even say a damn thing, let me clarify a few things from the outset (which should already be well-established by now, but that I want to make sure people understand).

  1. I’m well aware that male privilege is a reality and I’ve never attempted to deny this fact. Maybe it’s not as obvious or severe as it was forty years ago, but it still very much exists.
  2. I disagree with the idea of furthering a “culture of victimhood” as much as the next libertarian, but I am nevertheless sympathetic to this culture only when a particular group can reasonably claim a significant disadvantage. Women, I believe, fall into this category, and so I’d very much consider myself a male feminist.
  3. This should be common sense, but disagreeing with a feminist does not make one a chauvinist.

The reason I’m writing this is that I came across the Male Privilege Checklist today, and read through it. On the whole, I agree with the concept. And I agree with its intended aim: to show men certain privileges that we take for granted and reap the benefits of, simply because we’re males.

However, the list is a bit misleading at times and I disagree with some of its points. Most of them are right on, make no mistake. I only take issue with a few of them. To me, intellectual honesty is everything when it comes to a social movement, and if you start to include some questionable things in with the truth, you risk breaching that boundary between truth and biased propaganda.

Since I don’t like to see the old “women are irrational” myth furthered, I’ll go over a few of these points now.

By all means, criticize me in the comments if you disagree with any of these.

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true. (More).

These two points seem contradictory to me. The first works if we operate under the presumption that men are getting preferential treatment over women when it comes to employers’ hiring practices. The second works if we operate under the presumption that employers are hiring women to fulfill certain quotas, and are therefore giving women preferential treatment when it comes to hiring.

I think it should be one or the other. Either women are given preferential treatment in hiring (regardless of the motivation behind it) or not. Personally, when I go in for a job interview, I don’t feel in any way that I’m more likely to get the job than an equivalent female applicant. Every place in which I’ve ever been employed had a generally even male-female mix, which makes perfect sense statistically, economically, and every other -cally that applies.

So I don’t really think number 1 holds much merit. (The “prestigious job” part, I’ll get to later)

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

I honestly don’t see this one as true, and even if it is, how is that an example of male privilege? Wouldn’t that mean that the expectations are lower for males, which would mean that people generally think a woman will outperform a man for the same task?

If I do a good job on a task, I get “good job.” If a woman does a good job on a task, she gets “good job.” I’ve never seen it any other way.

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

This is a little silly. It’s generally a bad idea to walk alone in the dark, period. Just because men have one less thing to fear than women doesn’t mean we should fear walking alone in the dark less than women should.

If someone says, “There’s a bear in those woods that eats more women than men,” that’s more than enough reason for me not to go in those woods. I’m not going to be “less scared” than women would be, because it’s very possible that I could get eaten. In the grand scheme of things, there’s not much difference between “there’s an 80% chance you’ll get eaten” and “there’s a 90% chance you’ll get eaten.” It’s dangerous, period.

No, this isn’t blaming the victim. It’s not blaming the victim to say “it’s dangerous to go outside alone at night.” Of course an attacker holds full responsibility for his actions, but in the interest of self-preservation, I try to avoid places where attackers could get to me. If you ask me, this is as much a male problem as it is a female problem.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

Maybe this is true, but the corollary to this is that there are things I can do that would call my masculinity into question that a female doesn’t have to worry about.

If there’s a conflict with another man, I’m expected to endanger my well-being by fighting instead of fleeing or talking it out.

If I care “too much” about what my significant other wants, I risk being ostracized by other males as being “pussy-whipped.”

I’m expected to be completely responsible for both my and my partner’s sexual pleasure, and if she doesn’t achieve sexual gratification, I might be considered less of a man.

I’m expected to want and think about sex all the time, and if I don’t, something is wrong with me.

If I have kids, I’m expected to go to work and earn money to support the mother and my child, rather than be a stay-at-home dad.

Males have certain gender expectations, just like women do. That doesn’t mean these expectations are fair, deserved or justified. It doesn’t mean they’re right. In fact, they’re wrong. But the existence of certain gender expectations are not examples of male OR female privilege. They’re merely examples of sexism, which applies to both men and women.

15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

My boss is a woman. Her boss is a woman. More than half the project managers in my workplace are women. The branch manager is a woman. Both HR reps are women. And the same has been true for every place in which I’ve been employed.

I haven’t asked to see the “person in charge” very often in my life, but when I have, I haven’t expected to see any particular gender more often than the other. Maybe in the higher-up corporate offices this would be true, but female entrepreneurship is a responsibility held by females. I’m the first to testify to the fact that there were very few women pursuing degrees in engineering or business management. Why is that?

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

Yea, strong female leads are so hard to find. Except for Clarice Sterling (Silence of the Lambs), Sarah Connor (Terminator), Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars), Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill), Xena the Warrior Princess, Elvira, Buffy Summers (Vampire Slayer), Lisa Cuddy (House, MD),  Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown, Cleopatra Jones, Dana Scully (X-Files), Ellen Ripley (Alien), Wonder Woman, Zoe Washburne (Firefly), River Tam (Firefly), Dora the Explorer, Alice, and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter).

But, you know, other than them

30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

True, but I get called an “asshole” all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone call a woman an asshole. Is this “female privilege”?

36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.

37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

All the more reason to be an atheist. (Aside from the minor detail that God doesn’t exist, of course)

Since there is no god, how am I privileged by the fact that most people’s imaginary friends are male? This facet of male privilege, I think, only really applies to members of a patriarchal religion.

40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

Absolutely, 100% NOT the case for me. Nor is it the case for a good number of men I know. I have absolutely no problem with ending up a stay-at-home dad, and I’d actually consider it a privilege. Perhaps it’s possible that me and dozens of other guys I know are the exception and not the rule. But even if it is a rule, it’s only that way because women are still deciding of their own accord to sacrifice their careers to stay home and raise children. And it’s difficult to determine whether this is the product of expectation or desire.

41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

Women are on the cover of Cosmopolitan, too. And Bust. And Double-X. But I don’t see a lot of men picking up those magazines at the newsstand. This is an economic point, not a social one. Research has shown that men respond to pictures of beautiful women, and that women respond to pictures of… beautiful women. Why this is, I don’t know. But I’m not sure how this is an example of male privilege.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. (More). If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do. (More).

Maybe not “thin,” but men are definitely pressured to be fit, and we are judged by other men (and women) based on how much we can or can’t bench press. Plus, I’m pretty sure fat people in general (male or female) are stigmatized for being fat. I’m not sure women can claim to have it any worse than men in that arena.

Those are pretty much my only concerns. For the most part, though, this is a really good list that every man should read. We’ll never fully progress until we recognize where the problems lie.

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