I was at a party recently and it came to the classic point in the evening when the ingested beer turned most of the side conversations into deep philosophical discussions. A friend sat down with me and asked me for my opinion on a feminist issue.
Now, this friend has “outed” me as the “resident feminist” and has starting
arguing discussing feminist issues with more and more frequency. Truth me told, I’m very grateful for this sort of discourse, because I’m glad to know that feminism is becoming a conversation more men are willing to have. Especially after he told me this – he had read somewhere online a rather enlightening article about male privilege that opened his eyes.
“I realized, I never have to worry about walking alone down a dark alley,” he said. “I never thought about it before.”
What came to mind is the White Privilege Checklist that was so popular online a few years ago and, in my humble opinion, still carries a great deal of weight. This friend of mine is actually foreign and a non-Caucasian, so I think he has a particularly interesting point of view on the unspoken “privilege” so many in this country enjoy and yet so many are denied.
The tricky thing with privilege is that people don’t even realize they are benefiting from it – for example, while technically a mixed-race female, I am a phenotypically Caucasian, native English speaking, heterosexual, middle class American. Ergo, I unknowingly enjoyed white, straight, and economic privileges my entire life.
I don’t intend on sparking a debate on “who has it the worst,” what I hope is to illuminate cultural privilege – particularly male privilege – that many people don’t recognize.
The Male Privilege Checklist
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).
3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).
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.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
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.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. (More).
12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
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.
16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters. (More).
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.
18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. (More).
19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.
21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.” (More).
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability. (More).
26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. (More).
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More).
28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. (More).
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
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.
31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
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.
38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks. (More).
39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.
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.
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.
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).
43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover. (More).
45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment. (More.)
45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
<Deutsch, Barry. The Male Privilege Checklist. Version number. Amptoons.com, nd. Web. 24 June 2013>
The frustrating truth is twofold:
1. There is a wide population of men who will deny parts of this checklist or the entire thing.
I think the reason here is the same reason that male friends and acquaintances of mine, whom I usually find to be progressive and liberal thinking, will get angry and offended whenever there is a candid conversation about rape culture – they don’t like the insinuation that they, by doing nothing, are still the “bad guy.” Not that these men are inherently bad, but by standing by uneducated and doing nothing, they are only perpetuating it, which to them perhaps feels like an accusation of fault when they feel as if they are on the “right side” of the debate. It is very uncomfortable to recognize and admit that you more closely resemble the perpetrators than the victims in a situation where you feel innocent from blame; I know this, as I too had to come to the realization that I benefit from an unspoken privilege from being white, straight, and middle class.
Then again, there are just those women-hating men and MRAs who simply will argue any point made as well.
2. This list is not complete.
There are so many other aspects of male privilege that surround us every day that were omitted, forgotten, or perhaps unrealized.
For example, when you go to a popular movie, as a man you can typically be assured that a representation of your gender will prove to be the hero and save the day. You can also be pretty sure that a representation of your gender will not be helpless or victimized and be in a situation in which they have to be rescued. You can be pretty sure that a representation of your gender will be “rewarded” with the girl. Deviations from this formula are typically classified as “alternative,” and thus “different” from the norm.
For example, if you are male, you can be fairly confident that you can get drunk in a social setting and you will not be sexually assaulted. You may get into a fight or get robbed, sure, you can be fairly confident you will not be drugged or raped. If you are, you can be pretty sure that you won’t be blamed for “asking for it.”
For example, if you are a victim of unwanted sexual advances or flirting and you are male, you can be sure that most of the time, a simple “No thank you, I’m not interested” will suffice. Futhermore, you most likely won’t be branded a lesbian, a whore, or a bitch for doing so. If you are female, the only response that will almost always rebuff these advances is “I have a boyfriend.” This is because another man will sooner respect the “property” of another man before they will respect the opinions of a woman.
For example, if you are married or in a committed relationship and both you and your female partner are offered jobs, most likely she will be expected to give up her career opportunity to move for and/or adapt to yours.
HOWEVER, MEN HAVE DISADVANTAGES TOO, AND NO, THEY DO NOT COME FROM “FEMALE PRIVILEGE.”
Whenever men are unfairly treated due to being male, such as they are discouraged from crying or being emotional, or male rape victims are not taken seriously, it does not come from a place of female privilege. What it comes from is patriarchy – which places unfair expectations of both men and women to behave a certain way. If you are more interesting in this sort of perspective, in which women and men are both unjustly affected by patriarchy, I encourage you to check out this enlightened post.
I think that recognizing privilege, while definitely an effective tool in the feminist crusade, extends beyond gender issues and enters the realms of classicism and racism as well. If we can begin to identify these silent oppressing forces, perhaps we can achieve true equality in more than just one sphere, but in many, and perhaps spheres we wouldn’t even recognize before.
“Apart from these details, this could be a college guest room, for the less distinguished visitors; or a room in a rooming house, of former times, for ladies in reduced circumstances. That is what we are now. The circumstances have been reduced; for those of us who still have circumstances.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale