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FAQ: What is male privilege?

Before discussing “male privilege” it is first important to define what privilege means in an anti-oppression setting. Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.

In a nutshell:

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 normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.

[Betty, A primer on privilege.]

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. Furthermore, since dynamics of social status are highly dependent on situation, a person can benefit from privilege in one situation while not benefiting from it in another. It is also possible to have a situation in which a person simultaneously is the beneficiary of privilege while also being the recipient of discrimination in an area which they do not benefit from privilege.

Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being read as male by society, benefits from male privilege.

When first dealing with the concept it might be easier to approach it from a systematic, rather than personal, approach. Consider what Lucy says here:

[T]rue gender equality is actually perceived as inequality. A group that is made up of 50% women is perceived as being mostly women. A situation that is perfectly equal between men and women is perceived as being biased in favor of women.

And if you don’t believe me, you’ve never been a married woman who kept her family name. I have had students hold that up as proof of my “sexism.” My own brother told me that he could never marry a woman who kept her name because “everyone would know who ruled that relationship.” Perfect equality – my husband keeps his name and I keep mine – is held as a statement of superiority on my part.

[Lucy, When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege.]

In this case the inequality is perceived, in part, because taking one’s husband’s name is considered “normal” for a woman, whereas choosing to keep one’s own name deviates from that. Popular culture often labels this behavior as “emasculating” to a man, but never bothers to question how a woman might feel being asked to give up something that has been part of her since her birth. This is an example of a culture of male privilege — where a man’s position and feelings are placed above that of the woman’s in a way that is seen as normal, natural, and traditional.

Going back to Lucy’s article, this is what she said in the paragraph directly preceding the one quoted above:

Male privilege may be more obvious in other cultures, but in so-called Western culture it’s still ubiquitous. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous that it’s invisible. It is so pervasive as to be normalized, and so normalized as to be visible only in its absence. The vast, vast, vast majority of institutions, spaces, and subcultures privilege male interests, but because male is the default in this culture, such interests are very often considered ungendered. As a result, we only really notice when something privileges female interests.

[Lucy, When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege.]

Most people do not think twice about a woman who shares the same name as her husband; they simply assume that the shared name is his family name. This is an illustration about how male privilege operates in stealth. When a wife does not share the same name as the husband, however, it often leads to confusion and even anger — as Lucy’s example illustrated. This is because the male-oriented option (wife taking husband’s name) is seen as default, and the neutral option (both parties keeping their original names) is a deviation from that norm and therefore comes across as privileging the woman because it doesn’t privilege the man.

It is important to keep in mind that the above example is not an outside incident; male privilege is an institutional problem that has a long history associated with it. In addition to her anecdote above, Lucy discusses how male privilege interacts with fandom; in “Occasionally Conversations with my Man Are Instructive” Ilyka talks about the impact of it in terms of male commenters on feminist blogs; and in her “Privilege in Action” series tekanji takes instances of privilege that she’s witnessed in various aspects of her life (both online and off) and deconstructs them, looking specifically at why they are problematic. All of which points to one thing: it’s not about one person saying or doing one thing, it’s about a whole lot of people saying and doing things that, collectively, end up giving men an overall advantage.

Related Reading:

Introductory:

Clarifying Concepts:

  • More on the different types of privilege:

    Although different privileges bestow certain common characteristics (membership in the norm, the ability to choose whether to object to the power system, and the invisibility of its benefit), the form of a privilege may vary according to the power relationship that produces it. Male privilege and heterosexual privilege result from the gender hierarchy. Class privilege derives from an economic, wealth-based hierarchy.

    [Wildman, p. 17.]

  • An illustration of male privilege:

    After a while, we began organizing “chick nights,” gatherings of just the four of us and maybe some other women we knew from outside the group. For reasons that were often kind of bizarre, some of the men in the group took exception to this. They never organized nights at which we were excluded. When we pointed out that by the law of averages, a good half of the various social outings ended up being guy-only, they replied that it was not the same thing.

    “Look,” I finally said to one of them, “when we get together Saturday night, we’re going to paint our nails and put goop on our faces and play with each others’ hair and watch movies with really hot guys and talk about how hot the guys are and probably talk about sex and periods and all that fun stuff. Do you really have any interest in that?”

    “No,” he replied, “but we could do other stuff instead.”

    At which point I walked away, because otherwise things would have ended either with a rant on how it was not only more socially accepted but socially expected for women to be interested in stereotypically guy things than for guys to get into stereotypically female things (which I didn’t want to do, because really, we all did love gaming and horror movies and science fiction all that fun stuff), or else with me banging my head on the table.

    We live in a culture of male privilege.

    [Gillam, Lucy (The Fanfic Symposium): When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege.]

  • On the powers granted by privilege:

    When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence, they can’t limit your opportunities, and you needn’t worry much about the use of a slur to describe you and yours, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it’s going to go. What are they going to do next: deny you a bank loan? Yeah, right.

    [Tim Wise (ZNet): Honky Wanna Cracker?
    A Look at the Myth of Reverse Racism
    .]

  • On the gray areas of intersecting privileges:

    As a man who identifies as a feminist, I think a lot about the oppression olympics, in part because my place(s) within feminist discourse and activism always involve my understanding, to whatever degree I am able, my places of privilege. But also, I am always trying to better understand the oppression of others, trying to empathize with the feelings that oppression brings, by noting the places in my life where I am not the person with the *most* privilege. This is a dangerous business, because one has to avoid the temptation, which is sometimes really non-conscious, to equate one’s experience of not-being-privileged in a certain respect with being oppressed in another respect. That is, I have to also be constantly aware that my experience as a man who tends to cry in private and public from time to time (say), and who therefore doesn’t experience as much privilege that comes with traditional masculinity, may provide me some insight and empathy, it also will not compare in some important ways with most of the ways people experience oppression.

    [Jeff (Feminist Allies): Oppression Olympics: To Run or Not To Run?.]

  • tekanji (Official Shrub.com Blog): “Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it
  • Barry Deutsch (Amptoons): The Male Privilege Checklist: An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy McIntosh *
  • Peggy McIntosh (Independent School, Winter 1990): White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

* The Male Privilege Checklist link is to a third-party archive for a reason. Details.
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133 comments on “FAQ: What is male privilege?

  1. For a privilege primer, I would highly recommend Conversations with my Man. It’s usually a lot easier to swallow than the checklists, and even my privilege list raises a lot of hackles.

  2. Thanks, tekanji. I just reposted that post here in fact, since the original blog is now private. [new link]

  3. [...] FAQ: What is male privilege? « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog “Privilege is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.” Short and to the point. (tags: privilege feminism society faq men reference) [...]

  4. Just a note: I updated this entry, adding to the existing links and quotes. I also wrote up a more in-depth definition of the male privilege in order to try and foster a better understanding of the concept and how it operates.

  5. [...] If you’re interested in getting a better understanding, I would recommend starting with this page and visiting the links after you’ve read the [...]

  6. [...] and continued imbalance of power, where men as a class are privileged over women as a class (see male privilege), an important, but often overlooked, part of the term is that sexism is prejudice plus power. Thus [...]

  7. [...] Recent Comments FAQ: What is “… on Feminism Friday: The origins o…tekanji on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…tigtog on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…Official Shrub.com B… on FAQ: What’s wrong with s…Official Shrub.com B… on FAQ: What roles should men pla…FAQ: What is “… on FAQ: I’ve got nothing ag…FAQ: What is “… on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…MansVoice on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: What is “sexism&#82…tekanji on FAQ: Why are you concentrating…tigtog on FAQ UpdatesFAQ: What is “… on FAQ: What is male privilege?… [...]

  8. [...] sexist messages from the day we are born to the day that we die (see FAQ entries on the patriarchy, privilege, and why feminism is still needed for more information on this topic). The way that these messages [...]

  9. [...] you should read. And in case you never got around to understanding male privilege, here’s this for you – actually that site is where I will start recommending all the Liberal Men I run into in my [...]

  10. [...] that you should read. And in case you never got around to understanding male privilege, here’s this for you – actually that site is where I will start recommending all the Liberal Men I run into in my [...]

  11. Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class.

    The italicised part of the above sentence, appears to introduce a conceptual element to “male privilege” not explicitly present in the definitions of “privilege” given at the start of this FAQ (the “general definition”). It is possible to conceive of advantages, status, and benefit which is conferred by society to certain groups, but which which is not due to the group’s institutional power. Children, for example, enjoy many such advantages, etc., but do not have institutional power.

    My two questions are as follows: Is this omission from the definitions given at the start of this FAQ erroneous? I.e., is it intended that the word “privilege” – as generally defined – applies only to those advantages etc., which are due to the group’s institutional power?

    If the answer is no, then what is the status of this additional element in the quoted sentence? Is it definitional, i.e., intended to restrict the term “male privilege” to a subset of the generally-defined privileges enjoyed by men as a class? Or is it indicative, i.e., is it intended to make a statement of fact about male privilege: is it claiming that the subset – so restricted – of generally-defined privileges enjoyed by men is in fact substantially the whole set?

    Pardon me for phrasing these questions in so many different ways, but they are subtle and I wanted to be clear about what I’m asking. The questions are important because I consider “privilege” as defined here to be a coherent and useful lens through which to examine societal structures, but the idea that men as a class have institutional power is hugely problematic in ways which have largely or completely gone unexamined by feminists. Usually when I broach the subject, feminists refer to “male privilege” which is clearly begging the question. A google search of this site turns up a handful of instances of the phrase “institutional power”, but all of them simply claim that men have it, without any justification.

  12. [...] Feminism 101 says the following in its Male Privilege FAQ: Before discussing “male privilege” it is first important to define what privilege means in an [...]

  13. Daran, I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking here, and the phrasing you are querying dates from tekanji’s update of the FAQ, so I can’t answer you as to her intent. However, you seem to be a bit woolly on the whole class analysis concept, as (if I read you correctly) you are arguing that some men being disadvantaged in some ways means that men don’t have power as a class. So I’ll just address that.

    Firstly, every person belongs to many classes which intersect in various ways to affect the status that any one person is perceived to own. We are a hierarchical species, and we have developed a tendency to console ourselves for low status in one hierarchy by working to enhance our position in another hierarchy. Of course, some hierarchies have a larger effect on us than others.

    Secondly, it is absolutely undeniable that until last century men did have de jure institutional power as a class: women were literally second class citizens (and still are in some countries). It seems absurd to claim that we have erased the legacy of those traditions entirely in just a few generations of legal sexual equality when the de facto situation is that men still hold, and still expect to hold as their right, the vast majority of positions at the top of the social hierarchy (including the position of decision-maker in the household, who is deferred to by the rest of the family).

    If members of one class overwhelmingly hold the positions at the top of social institutions, then that class has institutional power. Those actually heading the institutions define what is Normal, and those who don’t share aspects of their class become regarded as the Other. Obviously, the more class attributes you share with the Hierarchs (gender, race, ethnic/religious heritage, wealth, education, etc) the more Normal you are regarded as, whereas if you only share one or two attributes you fall uneasily between the Normal and the Other – however, those attributes you share with the Normal will give you social advantages over Others who do not share them.

    (The same analysis holds to whites having institutional power over non-whites despite legal equality.)

  14. Daran, I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking here, and the phrasing you are querying dates from tekanji’s update of the FAQ, so I can’t answer you as to her intent. However, you seem to be a bit woolly on the whole class analysis concept, as (if I read you correctly) you are arguing that some men being disadvantaged in some ways means that men don’t have power as a class. So I’ll just address that.

    Thanks for going to the trouble of answering. Unfortunately you didn’t understand my question, and consequently your answer, while certainly addressing some of where I am going, didn’t answer where I was at with my questions. This was my fault; I asked way too much in one go. Please permit me to have a second go.

    Forget about “male privilege”, for a moment, and concentrate on “privilege in an anti-oppression setting” as defined in the first paragraph and the Betty quote. I notice that the concept of institutional power isn’t part of these definitions. My first question is: Is this omission an error? Is it the intention that the word “privilege” apply only to those advantages, benefits, and status which are due to the group’s institutional power?

    Here’s a concrete example. It is not disputed, I assume, that children do not have institutional power. It also cannot be disputed that children enjoy “advantages that [they] benefit from based solely on their social status [as children] … that is conferred by society.”

    So should we call these advantages “privilege”?

  15. I think it’s disingenuous to try and call children privileged, the same way it’s dishonest to trot out, say, that ‘female privilege checklist’ and claim it compares to male privilege. Children don’t have privilege. They’re not adults. They don’t have privileges; they don’t have power, they just have protection provided by their adults.

  16. Childhood is a stage of life. Sex is not. It’s static, unless one undergoes a series of operations.

  17. My two questions are as follows: Is this omission from the definitions given at the start of this FAQ erroneous?

    It’s not erroneous; the institutionalized aspect was implied in the part about “social status”.

  18. tekanji, the annual showering of presents on children is an “advantage that [they] benefit from based solely on their social status [as children] … that is conferred by society.”. It meets the definition of “privilege” as given at the start of this article. But ginmar says it isn’t a “privilege” and you say the definition is correct. I can’t reconcile these two positions. (Of course you may simply disagree with ginmar on this point.)

    ginmar, you are mistaken if you think I’m “try[ing] to call children privileged”. What I’m trying to do, is pin down what the word “privelege” means “in an anti-oppression setting”. The impression I get is that meaning shifts according to the speaker’s need at the time.

    SarahMC, there’s nothing in the definition of the word privilege that says it can’t apply to groups defined by their stage of life.

  19. My last comment should have read

    …But ginmar says it isn’t a “privilege” and you say the definition is correct.

    Could a mod please edit.

    Moderator: Done!

  20. The annual showering of presents on children is a tradition which emphasises their lack of power and lack of self-sovereignty: they can’t buy things for themselves because they are not allowed to work and earn money. (Even professional children have no right to control their own earnings until they become legal adults.)

    Present-giving at the appropriate festival is a way for the people who actually own the privilege in the family (the adults and especially the primary income-earner) to make themselves feel warm and fuzzy by sharing the benefits of their privilege with the children in a ritually structured way . These gifting rituals where children receive more presents than the adults (even if the adults’ presents actually cost more) had their origins in controlling the behaviour of children (only good children get presents) and has now been subverted into a status-display of conspicuous consumption which again, benefits the income-earning adults more than the children.

  21. [...] FAQ: What is male privilege? (tags: feminismus maenner maennerbild faq genderblog) [...]

  22. [...] FAQ: What is male privilege? (Finally, a feminism 101 blog) [...]

  23. [...] women and men from true equality. Also, it should be noted that, while men have what’s called male privilege that doesn’t mean that there must logically be a “female privilege” counterpart. [...]

  24. [...] post in the comments, I should really get around to publishing it. Feminists use the term “privilege” to describe the advantages men have over women because of sexist attitudes that dominate [...]

  25. [...] b/c, well, i am tired of having this discussion again and again… ahem. [...]

  26. The Tim Wise article is unavailable without paid membership to that site… I’m not sure, since I’ve never seen it, if this is the same article or not:

    http://2xconsciousness.blogspot.com/2006/12/honky-want-cracker-look-at-myth-of.html

  27. [...] living and breathing in a society that perpetuates male privileges. (for more on male privilege see here and [...]

  28. [...] means. What you need to realize is that we all have privilege to some degree: white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc. The hardest thing is to do is to get over your instinct to fight and [...]

  29. Is it okay if I make a statement here that disputes something that is generally accepted as feminist orthodoxy? If I do, will I be engaged seriously?

    A wise person that I greatly respect recently said this, in regards to the “male privilege checklist” and other, related lists:

    —begin quote—
    I can’t agree with the entire concept of privilege. Knowing that you are unlikely to be raped is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living. Knowing that your children are unlikely to be taken away from you is not a “privilege”, it is a background standard of living. No one should feel guilty for having either of these “privileges”. If some people lack that background standard of living, it is a problem. If some people do have that background standard of living it is not their fault.

    [cutting some irrelevant stuff]

    “Privilege”, to me, sounds like something bad and to be eliminated; the term comes from “private law”, I believe.

    If the goal is to de-deprivilege women and not deprivilege men, someone really needs to say so and maybe pick a different word. Talking about a normal standard of living as “privilege” leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I don’t think it was intended otherwise, either.
    —end quote

    It seems to me, as it did to Peggy McIntosh, that there are two distinct types of advantages that get conflated under the single term “privilege”.

    One is that some people are denied rights, choices, and/or experiences that every person should have simply because they are humans living in a society. “Not being the victim of violence” is one of these. This kind of “privilege” you eliminate by, oddly enough, spreading it until it becomes universal.

    The other category of “privilege” is the ability to ignore the fact that people who are different from you in some way exist, and that these people lack rights that they ought to have. To kill this type of “privilege”, you, well, kill it by shouting loud enough until you make it impossible to ignore.

    Am I understanding things correctly, or do I need to go do some more research? Am I right in thinking that there are really two different concepts involved, and if there are, should we have separate terms for both of them so they don’t get confused?

  30. Sorry, I forgot to close my html anchor tag. :(

    [fixed that for you ~tigtog]

  31. Gosh, there really needs to be a standard of civility on these blogs, which I understand, but some of these comments just make me so angry that it’s very difficult. How do these feminist bloggers do it? You must all be zen masters.

    Doug, this friend of yours has demonstrated privilege and how it works so succinctly, I couldn’t even write the script. When this person said that privilege is about being the dominant class being at “fault” or that they should “feel guilty,” they demonstrated that they have not read one single book, article, blog post, or anything else about privilege.

    This continuously amazes me. I go on physics forums and I have yet to see a single person come in who couldn’t tell you why objects of different weights fall at the same speed in a vacuum, but tell us all that Newton’s laws are completely wrong and that they know better than the millions of us who have spent years studying, using, and researching physics.

    I go on sewing forums, and I have yet to see someone who doesn’t know how to sew on a button come in and tell us all that you really don’t need to measure the flat pattern, and they know better than all those people who have been sewing professionally for decades.

    Yet, I often see people who demonstrably cannot even be bothered to make a 45 second Google search to find out about feminism, claiming that the fundamental principles of a philosophy that so many women have been dedicating their lives to developing for a century or two are completely wrong.

    In a society of male privilege, who gets to hold the prestigious definition of “wise”? Women who spend years researching and engaging their intellects to develop a philosophy? Or one person who can’t be bothered to find out anything about that philosophy, but decries its principles anyway?

    This case is particularly interesting because, Doug, all you have to do to find out what privilege means is to scroll up.

    When you have found out what it means, then absolutely you can debate a principle of feminism, as far as I’m concerned. If that time comes, then I will be very glad to discuss it with you, because I will just be so happy that you have taken a little time to educate yourself about this movement before saying that its principles are wrong. (Just in case the text gives the wrong impression, that last sentence is not sarcastic. I really would be happy.).

  32. Doug, a few responses to your comment, primarily the part you quoted.
    For one thing, I am always a little suspicious about semantic nitpicks. Sometimes it’s incredibly important to find the right word or to acknowledge a word’s power, but sometimes semantics become a way to silence or to disempower. After all, it is a privilege to name or define something, or to belong to the class of people who define, so it seems a little problematic to me that the quoted writer is responding to a criticism of privilege by saying “don’t call it privilege.”
    For another, that “background standard living” is precisely the definition of privilege. Just as an individual born into middle class simply takes middle class standard of living for granted (do we have a TV? of course! a car? of course!), so too does an individual born into gender or racial privilege simply take that for granted. (Why would I be pulled over by cops more often? I’m not doing anything wrong. Why should I be worried about sexual violence? I don’t blame to either commit it or be victim to it.)
    The entire point of the privilege concept is to acknowledge that not everyone does enjoy that standard of living, and that often the disparity is caused by something out of the individual’s control, and that this is not humane.

    I’ll stop there because my comment is getting unwieldy and also because the argument of your comment is less clear to me than the quoted portion. But if you’re interested in further reading, here’s a link to a post I wrote awhile ago musing on what it means to have privilege (and how it’s not equal to blame): http://tanglethis.wordpress.com/2007/09/14/a-few-things-from-my-invisible-knapsack-for-you/

  33. One is that some people are denied rights, choices, and/or experiences that every person should have simply because they are humans living in a society. “Not being the victim of violence” is one of these. This kind of “privilege” you eliminate by, oddly enough, spreading it until it becomes universal.

    I’ve been thinking about about that one a bit over on my blog lately as well.

    Can you really call a man’s lower possibility of being raped than a woman’s a male privilege or is it just the fact that women are being denied the basic right to feel safe?

  34. I fail to see the distinction you are attempting to make.

  35. [...] hard to juggle adoring my sons for everything they are and knowing that they have a mountain of male privilege holding them [...]

  36. If there’s only one pie, and I get three quarters of it, and you get a quarter, then I’m privileged because a fair distibution of pie would give me half of it, and I get more than that.

    If I have a low risk of being raped and you have a high risk, then fair in this case would be for neither of us to face any risk at all. Unlike in the case of the pie, I am not better off than is fair.

    In the first case in order for me to have more pie, you must have less. My having more pie is the cause of the problem. In the second, my relatively low risk is not the cause of the problem.

    That’s the distinction that Danny is making, and it’s a reasonable one. The privilege framing in the second instance problematises the wrong thing.

    Maia, a feminist, has the same critique.

  37. While I see the distinction, I don’t agree that having a freedom or right that others do not have is not STILL a privilege. It’s a different kind of privilege, and worth analysing from different angles, but it still exists.

    The argument seems to be implying that privilege can only ever be demonstrated with regard to tangible goods, for a start. The higher level of tangible comfort that higher status persons are surrounded by when compared to those of lower status is only the tip of the iceberg – the real benefit of higher status is the intangible freedoms from want and apprehension it provides, and those freedoms are a privilege because not everybody shares them.

    White men in the USA have far less risk of being imprisoned for a minor drug offence than Black men do. They also face far less risk of being beaten by the police in a routine traffic stop. What is fair would be for both to face exactly the same risk. Are you arguing that White men have no privilege over Black men here?

    As Maia emphasises in the post to which you link:

    On an individual level I think it’s important to know where you come from, to know what you’ve been given, and to analyse how you benefit from this system. I absolutely think that everyone has a responsibility to not use the privilege, and power, society gives us – over people we know.

  38. But that’s not what privilege means. It is not a privilege for white men to not be beaten by the cops because black men are more likely to do it, because a privilege is something special, something extra, above and beyond someone’s rights. It does not mean “something one person has that another person doesn’t” — a privilege must also be something that is not a right, something the person is not entitled to. If one person has a right and another person does not, that’s not privilege, that’s a person’s rights being violated. It’s a different thing.

    Say I find and then beat the living shit out of Dave (don’t worry, he had it coming), and I don’t beat anyone else. Is not getting beaten up an example of not-being-Dave privilege? No, I violated Dave’s rights by beating him up, it’s not something you are a component of.

    You frame it as privilege, and in the same post show why it’s important not to do so. When it’s someone’s privilege causing the problem, we want to take that privilege away to make things fair. You say in your post, what would be fair is if white men and black men had the same risk, which is totally misdirecting our attention. By that standard, it would be “fair” if police officers started targeting white men more! The problem isn’t that white men are being beaten less, it’s that black men are being singled out for beatings and sentencing. Not being beaten is NOT a privilege white men have, it is a right that black men are being denied. There’s a significant difference.

  39. If one group in society is consistently at risk of having their rights being violated while another group doesn’t share that risk, how is the second group NOT privileged by their freedom from that risk?

    When it’s someone’s privilege causing the problem, we want to take that privilege away to make things fair. You say in your post, what would be fair is if white men and black men had the same risk, which is totally misdirecting our attention. By that standard, it would be “fair” if police officers started targeting white men more!

    I should have phrased that better, that it would only be fair if both face the same lower (fairer) risk.

    But I simply don’t agree that when one group has a privilege causing a problem that “we” want to take it away to make things fairer. Voting for a government representative was a privilege that only a few (male, landowning) had at one time. The way to end the unfair privilege was to extend it to everyone, not to take the vote away from those who already had it.

  40. But when you say it’s a privilege you imply it is something we can/should take away. That’s what privilege means, and it frames the issue misleadingly to call it privilege. It is not something that the individual white male whose eyes are to be opened is doing or exercising, it’s what other people cannot do or exercise.

    Voting was a privilege given only to white males (assuming this based on they could do it and others can’t , not about if voting is what we consider a fundamental right), because it was a positive afforded explicitly to that group and not to others. It could have been solved by having everyone vote or nobody vote, because either one was fair. If we think voting is a fundamental right, then not having anyone vote is not a fair solution, and the non-white non-males are being denied the right to vote. Using the nice water fountains and sitting on the front of the bus in the South were privileges because they were a positive thing that whites could do that blacks could not. Not being beaten is not a privilege because it’s a negative (as in absence, not bad) that is not specially awarded to whites, it is denied to blacks. And it’s not a privilege that is afforded to people-who-aren’t-Dave, either, it’s a right denied to Dave.

    Privilege is not just a matter of inequality, there is a whole other suite of meanings and connotations that come with it. It misallocates responsibility by telling Whitey “shit is bad because of something you HAVE” rather than “shit is bad because of what others DON’T have”, and promotes useless white guilt and resentment.

  41. Privilege is not just a matter of inequality, there is a whole other suite of meanings and connotations that come with it. It misallocates responsibility by telling Whitey “shit is bad because of something you HAVE” rather than “shit is bad because of what others DON’T have”, and promotes useless white guilt and resentment.

    Oh, the old “this concept/word/principle doesn’t work because it makes the hegemony feel bad” chestnut.

    Not useful. If whites, or males, or anyone wants to be an ally, then they need to learn how to speak with the oppressed rather than demanding that the oppressed speak to them.

    Privilege does have a host of connotations, as most words to, and among them is a sense of power. Mobility, agency, all those things come under the umbrella of privilege. Yes, being able to move around in the world with a significantly reduced risk of rape or other sexual assault is a gift. Enjoy it. But if you’ve got it, don’t complain that you didn’t ask for it or that you can’t give it back. Don’t whine that folks are holding you accountable for a gift you didn’t ask for in the first place. Just understand that it’s a gift of mobility, and power in a way, and do be accountable for understanding the way power works and how you can avoid hurting others with it. That’s all it means to recognize your privilege.

  42. Tigtog:

    The argument seems to be implying that privilege can only ever be demonstrated with regard to tangible goods, for a start.

    That’s not what I intended to argue. I chose a tangible good to illustrate the point, that’s all. Voting is another example. In this case, the pie is the influence you have on government. By extending voting to people who aren’t land-owning men you necessarily reduce the influence on government of land-owning men, their retention of their votes notwithstanding.

    For the sake of facilitating discussion, let’s call having something which necessarily implies that someone else doesn’t, a type-A privilege.

    By contrast reducing women’s risk of rape, or black men’s risk of a police beating does not necessarily entail increasing men’s risk of rape, or the police-beating risk of people who aren’t black men. Let’s call this a type-B privilege, the kind of thing you can have which doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody else doesn’t.

    Now let’s return to my pie example. I suggested that having having three quarters of the pie was a type-A privilege, but if, upon investigation, we discovered that the reason we both have less than a whole pie, was because there was a system in place that kept us fighting over pie, instead working together to bake pie, then this apparent type-A privilege is revealed to be a type-B privilege.

    Similarly an apparent type-B privilege may in reality be type-A. The phrase “developing nation”, for example suggests that if those pesky third-world countries would just “develop”, or if we could help them to “develop”, then all their problems would be solved without it costing us any more than a few $trillion in development aid.

    It doesn’t happen because for us to enjoy our Western world wealth requires that we loot the third-world for its resources, impoverishing its people in the process. Our apparent type-B privilege is in reality type-A.

    Before I go further, do you disagree with this analysis?

  43. It’s an analysis that has possibilities, Daran. Certainly the possible solutions to the problems of privilege are rather different in Type A and Type B, although I’m wary of limiting privilege to a simple binary.

    There are also the complications offered from analogy between the concept of socially conferred privileges upon certain social groups and the historical precedents of legally conferred privileges upon trusted individuals of a certain status or rank: those de jure privileges have long been considered to include exemptions and immunities as well as authority, rights, benefits and prerogatives.

    A further complication: what about the totally innate privilege of having a stronger physique than others, and how society has responded by outlawing the use of “excessive force”?

  44. Being able to walk down the street and not be raped is NOT a gift. Gifts are GIVEN to people, this is not given. It is not a privilege, it is an absence of the violation of rights. They are not the same thing.

    Also the attitude “I don’t care if this term is not useful or inaccurate or counterproductive, if Whitey wants to fight racism and sexism then he has to do it on and with our terms” is really, really, really, really, really bad. Really bad. Recruiting people to your side is a good thing. Recruiting people to the side of “not perpetuating racism and misogyny” is how you solve racism and misogyny. Sitting there and not caring how well you get people over on your side, because they have to come to you if they want to do good, may be the worst possible stance to have.

  45. Tigtog, do you think the outlawing of “excessive force” as something that’s part of, or related to, the male/female social dynamic?

  46. Huitzil, are you serious? Because the really, really, really, privileged thing is what you are saying.

    You don’t have to ‘recruit’ people. The person who gets the worse part of the deal in our unfair system doesn’t HAVE to do anything. It’s good if they do something, but no MORAL obligation there. The privileged people? They have the moral obligation to NOT be bastards, and act like decent human beings. They don’t get a cookie for considering someone else feelings. Did you read this blog? At all? That was very offensive a very privileged. People have to beg you and being nice to you for you to try then like equals? Wow, just wow.

    And yes. Lower risk for being raped? Society gives you that. Yeah, they don’t give that to me. It’s not good, but some people have it for their gender. How do you call that? Oh yeah, everybody has that right! But NO. Society doesn’t give that to everybody, they give that to men, because they are men.

  47. do you think the outlawing of “excessive force” as something that’s part of, or related to, the male/female social dynamic?

    Not especially, I was simply using it as an example of how society has constrained a totally natural privilege that some people have that could be used to dominate others.

    In fact, if I have my history right, laws against excessive force were all about male conflicts, primarily the horror of the possibility that a large strong prole might overcome and batter a gent to death with his fists despite the gent’s other advantages. The PR was all about householders not killing someone just for burgling etc, and that’s a socially just aspect of the laws, but again that was always assumed to be a male/male confrontation.

    As to your other argument re the word itself, you are inferring a lot of meanings to feminist usage of the word that are not how I understand the term at all. In particular, in my framework, immunities and exemptions are indeed privileges. In fact I would like a properly referenced cite for your idea that the very word “privilege” implies a benefit that ought to be removed, because I’m not finding that in any definition I’ve read thus far. It will have to wait for tomorrow though, because that’s your three comments for the day.

  48. And you now what? if the victim of abuse ‘sits there and waits’, can you blame them? They are victims for god sake! They live all their lives with all that discrimination, they deal with it every single day of their lives. People with privilege? They don’t. If you expect an equal system, good man, start giving away you wish to be treated like an special snowflake. THINK about fairness and justice, and true equality, and what oppressed people have to deal. And don’t expect that they have to ‘be nice to you’ when you insult them. I won’t ‘be nice’ to you when you insult me and think you have the right to your privileges over me because our culture educated you that way.

    You don’t get any special treatment. You have special treatment by our society. Don’t expect that the ones with less privileges than you forget that.

    This was discussed over, and over again in this blog. I can’t believe how many times I have to say the same think.

    Yes. I’m frustrated. And mad. Very mad.

  49. Here’s the thing, Huitzil: if people don’t want to come to your side, even after you lay it all out in an easy-to-navigate 101, and define your terms, and cite your sources, and explain your logic over and over?
    Then they’re not gonna come.
    Case in point: you.

    There’s an amazing anthology called The Bridge Called My Back that I recommend to anyone who is interested in the power dynamics of gender, race, or sexuality. The first thing that the editors make clear in the beginning is that their book is for women, especially women of color, most especially lesbian women of color. They say they are sick and tired of explaining themselves to white feminists and straight feminists and non-feminists, so they are just going to go off and talk to each other for while.
    And the result is one of the most powerful literary texts I’ve read in my studies. Some clips of it here, but I recommend looking at a library copy and learning why your demand for recruitment is so deeply problematic.

    Recruitment is the language of marketing, not necessarily that of progress.

  50. (a bit over word limit but responding to three people and also under a 3 post limit, hope you understand)

    Noir: You don’t “have” to convince people to be on your side, in the sense that “you must beg and plead to be treated as an equal, woman-slave! ho ho ho ho!”. You DO, on the other hand, have to convince people to be on your side in order to effect change, in the sense that you have to turn a key to start a car. Changing people’s minds is the objective! Are we going to rectify the injustices against women, without convincing people at-large to adopt more feminist positions? No.

    Why is this so enraging for you? Why do you somehow think I am saying everyone is equal and there is no injustice, when I have been concerned entirely with terminology and have again and again said that the phenomenon described is real, but that I don’t think it fits the word “privilege”? How, on Earth, am I insulting you when I say “I have the right not to be raped, and so do you?”

    tigtog: I honestly think your reading of such laws is gender-related, and absurd — to say that they were passed due to worry the proles may challenge the gents is so far from the truth it is actually a bit unsettling. It’s like saying laws against murder were passed because the white males in power feared assassination by the proles. Response must be appropriate to stimulus in all our interactions, and if a society does not regulate the use of force (just as if they don’t outlaw murder) then they don’t stay a society very long. Simple as that.

    And as to the word “privilege”, it’s a connotational thing. As evidence I offer Noir’s posts. Privilege is something we resent, the privileged are people we revile. She apparently hates me, and says that all oppressed people hate me, because I HAVE privilege she does not.

    tanglethis: You assume I am not already a feminist. I am!

    Saying you don’t care about ‘marketing’ your views of equality in order to create equality is like saying you’re going up against a guy who shoots bees from his hands. (It means you are going to fucking lose.) The phenomena described as “male privilege” is real. It is bad. But if it’s not accurately described as “privilege”, and calling it that creates a reaction contrary to our interests, why the hell should we keep calling it that? Because we’d rather not make efforts to reach out to the “undecided”, than see things get done? Recruitment is the language of marketing, but in this case, marketing and progress are one and the same.

  51. Huitzil, I neither made that claim nor that assumption. Read again. “Side” is a deliberately open term – the above could apply to this thread, or any other debate, because I think it’s fairly applicable in most disagreements.

    Your assumption, though, is that Noir, tigtog and I are inaccurate in definiting certain advantages as privilege. So far, we’ve been pretty happy to back up and explain our various POVs, which happen to coincide. I managed to learn the umbrella concept of privilege myself, apply it meaningfully to my own life, and introduce it successfully to college students (“introduce,” since I think principles of feminism and other practices of awareness are life-long projects, and I won’t claim to teach them in entirety).

    So far, I seem to have alienated you (and maybe a handful of students) with this idea I have found practical and useful. Who exactly is supposed to gain if I adjust the definition to be more palatable to you and other folks who resist it? Do you progress if I do that? Doesn’t look like it. You get to stay the same and I… have to change my terms to suit you. Yeah. That’s the story of the -isms, isn’t it?

    I’m also (responding to your response to tigtog) still not sure where you’re getting this idea that privilege is de facto something hated and reviled. She asked for a citation back up there, by the way. It doesn’t seem logical to assume that Noir hates you, whether for your privilege or otherwise. She did say that you frustrate her, but that’s not because you have privilege. More likely because you lean on it to make an argument that doesn’t really enhance or usefully complicate the knowledge we’re working with, while at the same time claiming that what we can see with our own eyes is not what we think it is.

    Perhaps it isn’t. But hey, if you’d like to better market that argument to us, perhaps you ought to put it in more persuasive packaging. Right?

  52. I think based on Noir’s incredibly hostile, paranoid reaction, it is safe to assume she hates me. She instantly assumed I was attacking and insulting her, ascribing motives to me that were nowhere in anything I said, accusing me with the righteous fury of the oppressed. I used her post as my ‘cite’ because it’s very difficult to cite the connotation of something; it’s not what they list in dictionaries, after all, and anything else I could cite you could dismiss out-of-hand as being some random person. (also you cannot Google it without all your results being explanations of white privilege, executive privilege, or computer access privileges)

    I don’t think you’ve been reading what I said, either, as you are continuing to react to me as if I am saying male privilege and white privilege does not exist, when I have explicitly stated multiple times that the THING is real and the NAME is wrong. How is this “leaning on privilege to make an argument”? How is this saying you have to change the definition while everyone else stays the same? The definition stays the same! The product is the same, you put it in a better box! If we resent changing terminology –and not the actual content! — in order to reach out to the “other” we are never, ever, ever going to accomplish the goal. Which in case you forgot is “converting people to a more feminist outlook.”

    Also here are a few links I scrounged up where people (or Parliament) talk about the negative connotation, but since there can be no authoritative source, I can’t give you a citation.

    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa;jsessionid=719E0519D7DDA502D8486BAF0A6A1719.tspace5?messageID=14165844

    http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/jt199899/jtselect/jtpriv/43/4311.htm (go down to 337)

    http://www.barder.com/ephems/402

  53. Okay, Huitzil, I definitely don’t hate you because I don’t even know you, but what you say (and not you as a person) is very frustrating, and something that, as a woman of color, makes me sick every time I hear it.

    I’m not even mad at you usage of ‘privilege’, I’m mad at this:

    Changing people’s minds is the objective! Are we going to rectify the injustices against women, without convincing people at-large to adopt more feminist positions? No.

    Yeah. And whose responsibilities is to change their own minds to threat someone else as an equal. Do you think that I, as a latina, have to ‘convince’ a white person to see me as a human being, when they can do that perfectly for themselves. When THEY are the ones who HAVE to do that for themselves. I don’t have the obligation to do anything. I do it because I have no other choice. I live with all that shit every single day of my life, I don’t have to say it in a way that white-men like it. They are offending me when they don’t see me as a human being. I don’t have the obligation to educate them.

    That’s what offends me. That you, as a man, are saying that women and people of color, and disabled people, and any other minority have to educate the white, male, able, member of the powerful group person to threat them like human beings. That’s privilege talking. When a member of a powerful group and says that to a minority? We don’t live in vacuum, think about the connotations of that. I’m not resenting your privilege. I’m resenting that you are saying me that I’m obligated to perpetuate that privilege for you.

  54. It’s not privilege talking. It’s reality. It’s mechanics. You have to educate the powerful group to treat you as human beings because [b]they aren’t doing it on their own![/b] I mean you said that I was saying you were obliged to do something, and yet you quote something I said that came immediately after me saying it’s not about obligation, it’s not about you having to prove yourself, it is about goals and the actions that cause these goals to be fulfilled. You turn a key to start a car. You put yeast in the dough to make bread rise. You educate and convince people to fight gender inequality. It’s how the action is performed.

    Whitey may be obliged to educate himself and treat women, minorities, and the disabled as human beings. But because he’s not educated, he doesn’t feel any need to do that, and he’s not going to! Saying that because it’s his obligation, you refuse to put in the effort, is like saying “I refuse to solve the problem because it’s unfair the problem exists.” Other people have the obligation not to steal things from others, but we still lock our cars. You could say it’s unfair that you have to do something extra when you are in the right, that it is the thieves who need to live up to their obligation to not steal from others. And you would morally be in the right, and your car would be stolen. Not worth it.

    and that’s three, the comment limit is a real bummer

  55. Sweetheart, you are putting the obligation on the victim. This was discussed over, and over, and over again. That’s another thing uber-frustrating for me.

    Look, people do bad things, and we do some things to protect ourselves. Yeah. That means that victims will do what they think is best for them. They won’t do it because they want to ‘enlighten’ the victimizer. If someone doesn’t do the effort to be a decent human being, I’m not going to be nice with them, and I’m not going to try to teach them like kinder-garden kids. If someone tries to steal your car, you lock it. You do it because it’s the best for you, but you AREN’T obligated to find the person who steal you and educate them on why they shouldn’t steal.

    I don’t understand the thing about me quoting you, but I will say this:

    You have to educate the powerful group to treat you as human beings because [b]they aren’t doing it on their own![/b

    No. If they don’t going to educate themselves, I don’t have to do anything. Don’t you think I do enough? I bet my ass you don’t know what minorities have to live through. Don’t say, you white-man, what a minority has or doesn’t have to do to your group. Did you understand the part that they have enough? What about you? Oh yeah. I think that if you aren’t suffering the oppression and are privileged. YOU have the moral obligation to educate people in your group. Not the minorities. They will do it because they are VICTIMS. I have the obligation to educate people about discrimination towards the indigenous, homosexual, transgender and disabled, etc. But I don’t go telling them what they have and doesn’t have to do to stop the oppression they are suffering and I’m not. This is all about morality, honey. That’s why we are doing this.

    I’m done. I’m mad enough.

  56. Oh, and let me clarify it. When you lock your car, you do it because you don’t want it staled. You don’t have any obligation to do anything that will only affect you when someone else is guilty. You are self-protecting, but nobody has the right to tell you how had the obligation to do something because you don’t have the fault. They will do it, of course, they will call it ‘common sense’, but the truth is that the only guilty person was the one who did wrong to you, and the only victim were you. Telling you ‘what you should do’ when you are a potential victim is supposedly for your own sake. Victims will judge what is and what isn’t best for them.

  57. The car theft isn’t even a great example, because locking your car prevents theft done to you, and has nothing to do with the relationships between people and cars elsewhere. When you ask the oppressed – I can kind of prefer that term to victim – to teach oppressors about oppression, you’re asking them to use to their individual agency to attempt to affect change among other peoples’ interrelations. Which is noble, sure, and a lot of people choose to do it, but it’s not okay to insist upon it.

    An example that seemed to fit the analogy better than cars:
    If I’m accosted by a man who wants my number or my attention or some combination thereof, I always have choices. Two fairly safe options include:
    (a) explaining to the man that I’m just not interested. This never yields instant results: it might turn into a teaching opportunity wherein I convince this man that just because women sometimes walk alone doesn’t mean they want company, or I might just have a nuisance on my hands and have to escape some other way.
    (b) telling the man I have a boyfriend. This nearly always yields instant results, but it reinforces the idea that women are property of or under protection of men, and that I should be left alone because I have a man and not because I have a desire to be left alone.

    (a) might create progress. But (b) gets me out of that situation quickly and safely, which is usually *my* highest priority when I’m walking around by myself. And it is not right or just to demand that I walk around teaching men how to behave toward women in the street when all I want to do is get where I’m going.

    I’m kind of done too, because Huitzil is doing a lot of non-reading (I wish we could edit our comments so I could just bold the bits of my earlier comments that already addressed the things he brings up in later comments), but I did want to add… I think this conversation about obligation is very interesting and related to privilege, but nearly swerving off-topic. Are there other threads that address how to be a good ally or why it isn’t fair to demand that others educate you about how to act? I skimmed and didn’t see anything that quite fit the bill, and it’s a good topic.

  58. I was about to say something about the car analogy and how it didn’t cover the power relationship that goes on in oppression too, but yeah, it’s not a very good analogy.

    And I think this was all addressed in topics about ‘Patriarchy hurts men too,’ rape (victim blame and responsibility), and other similar topics. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I recall some discussions about these in the past.

    Oka, with that I’m definitely done.

  59. This is not about obligation, I have specifically said so multiple times, and you don’t seem to read that part and keep responding to arguments I didn’t make. The “non-reading” you accuse me of is that the nonexistent subtext you are reading into what I say doesn’t acknowledge your previous answer to a question I never asked.

    You have no obligation to lock your car. You only lock your car because other people would fail their obligations and deny you your rights. It is not fair that you have to lock your car. But you lock your car because you do not want it to be stolen. Saying “it doesn’t count because it doesn’t cover the oppressive power relationship” shows you don’t know at all what I am talking about, when I’ve made it as clear as possible. Other people are doing bad things to you. You have the right to have those things not happen to you. You are not obliged to change your course of action. But changing your course of action is the thing that causes them to stop doing bad things to you. Fact. Physical fact. If people are not educating the oppressors they are never going to stop oppressing, period, end of story, that’s all she wrote. The oppressors will not educate themselves. If feminists aren’t going to be the ones educating them because they aren’t obligated to, who in the hell is going to be doing it? Comparing it to being hit on in the street is a far worse analogy, because educating one guy about your dating status is something you can blow off, but educating a society about systemic oppression and making sure to do so in the most effective possible manner is NOT.

  60. I want to make a comment that addresses the question initially raised up the chain about “privilege,” questioning the use of the word, and arguing that the absence of oppression is a *right* and not a privilege. While I would agree that this is so, in my own experience as a black woman, my *right* to live free of oppression is regularly ignored or dismissed.

    What I think some posters may not be getting is that to some extent, the use of the term “privilege” is meant to have an ironic tone; when one speaks of white privileges or male privileges or heterosexual privileges, one is speaking–ironically–of the things that white people, straight people, or men can do without much reflection; shop without being profiled in stores; kiss in the park; keep their own names after marriage. It’s easy to claim that such things are not privileges if you have them. The point of calling them privileges is to point out that people don’t have them, on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, etc.

    I think, too, that for the people who are calling on women/gays and lesbians/people of color to take up the responsibility of education, its important for men/straight people/white people–especially those like you who are in reading distance of a blog like this one–to really push yourselves to attempt to listen, instead of arguing. Push really hard to have some humility, especially if you are new to the topic. You have twice as many ears as you do mouths.

    Much of the reason that so many people ultimately say “Fuck it! I’m not here to educate,” is because so many who claim to want to be educated mostly just seem to want to argue.

  61. Much of the reason that so many people ultimately say “Fuck it! I’m not here to educate,” is because so many who claim to want to be educated mostly just seem to want to argue.

    Excellent nutshell, Lindiwe.

    Your point about privilege in your second para is especially pertinent to the poster above who claimed that “privilege” meant something that the person owning it shouldn’t have – no, that’s totally arse about. The problem isn’t that the person owning privilege shouldn’t have that benefit/prerogative, the problem is that other people should have it too.

  62. And I do not think that the connotation of the word “privilege” is suited to the definition you wish to use it with, and I don’t think you can change that meaning by saying you ascribe new meaning to it, I do not believe the irony of the label is something people have or will pick up on, I do not believe it effectively places focus on those who are oppressed as it should, and I do not believes it communicates its concept in a manner that aids or doesn’t inhibit convincing the un-committed. Privilege has a negative connotation and it misframes the issue for all parties. There are other things we could call it…

    Male power (bad choice — accurate, but even more drastically misframing, bad association with “white power”),

    Male advantage (bad choice — connotation of advantage is the reverse of privilege, it’s something earned, good, and not given to all),

    Male freedom (I think this is a good one, with “freedom” having the connotations you want privilege to have of being good and something that should be universally extended, and it doesn’t have the resentment — it’s more accurate as well)

    Male exemption (put it with the maybes, sounds too legalistic but is neutral and many of these things are things males are exempt from)

    Male license (would be great if it didn’t sound like the license you have to get from the DMV to be male)

    Etc, etc, etc. Each of these words denotationally conveys the same concept, and should have the same meaning. Connotationally they are totally different and some are better than others at conveying the message. This is what I am, what I was, what I have always been talking about. If you don’t think the packaging of a phrase like this is important because it’s the uneducated’s responsibility to be receptive to it, you’re being silly.

    • The term you’re searching for is “institutional sexism” to describe the scenario where women as a class are disadvantaged with respect to men; as distinct from “male privilege” to describe the scenario where men are advantaged with respect to women.

      The advantage of not using “male privilege” to cover both these scenarios is that it implies what actions we should take to address the problem. By saying not being raped is a male privilege we imply the way to fix this inequality is to rape more men. Instead we should say that women being raped is institutional sexism, thereby implying that eradicating rape is the solution.

  63. Wow, very interesting discussion going on here.

    If I may go back to Daran’s earlier statement:
    If there’s only one pie, and I get three quarters of it, and you get a quarter, then I’m privileged because a fair distibution of pie would give me half of it, and I get more than that.

    If I have a low risk of being raped and you have a high risk, then fair in this case would be for neither of us to face any risk at all. Unlike in the case of the pie, I am not better off than is fair.

    I think this is a false distinction, because the latter example is a very real and literal way that patriarchal society prevents women from getting their share of the metaphorical pie.

    It means we have to take that into consideration every time we apply for a job that requires us to make our way home after dark, or if we want to take evening classes. It means that we are told to limit our social outings in ways that men are not. It means that for many women, even the home environment is not safe (which again, negatively impacts the ability to work, study, socialise, etc). These are not two unrelated phenomena– both work in tandem to ensure that men have greater access to institutional power. And it’s reinforced, not only by men who actually rape, but by anyone who claims that it’s only common sense (like locking your car) for women to give up their slice of the pie in order to avoid rape.

  64. “If you don’t think the packaging of a phrase like this is important because it’s the uneducated’s responsibility to be receptive to it, you’re being silly.”

    I think this is an interesting argument, and one that gets made a lot. On its face, I definitely get the point, and to some extent, even agree. It’s important to talk to people where they actually are. But the problem is that (as this discussion seems to demonstrate) the difference between people being where they are and actually wanting to stay there, and people being where they are but being open to moving their minds elsewhere is a big one.

    If I’m talking to a man who is committed to his male privilege, or who is totally unexamined about it, it doesn’t matter what I call his privilege–male freedom, male license, or a ham sandwich. What he will resent and reject is not the language, but the ideas behind it, period. He may nitpick the language, but primarily as a way to denigrate the messenger (me) or to undermine my authority to speak. So I can use any of the phrases above, and even explain the logic of any of these phrases, yet there will always be some way for this language to be criticized as flawed, inaccurate, inexact, etc.

    I really understand and get the feeling, and even the frustration behind the notion that if we present feminist ideas in exactly the right way, they will be accepted, because they are simply common sense. But I think that’s a myth. The reason that feminist ideas are widely rejected is not because they haven’t been phrased right. It’s because they fundamentally threaten the status quo.

  65. “It’s because they fundamentally threaten the status quo.” =

    which is exactly why over all the Earth (and nearly, but not wholly, over all of Time), allegedly “good men” of all skin colors will, when confronted with easily recognized sexist behaviors and actions, do exactly squat to stop or change them — then … at the times of their occurrences, let alone, later.

    [this post has been edited by the moderator to snip material that was a direct cut and paste of comments left at other blogs - no splogging here, please]

  66. It means we have to take that into consideration every time we apply for a job that requires us to make our way home after dark, or if we want to take evening classes.

    You don’t have to. Men are much more likely to be violently attacked while traveling to and from home than women, and the risk is so low that neither sex has to.

    It means that for many women, even the home environment is not safe (which again, negatively impacts the ability to work, study, socialise, etc).

    I appreciate that for some people, mainly women, the home is not the safe place it ought to be, and yes, that can severely affect their ability to function away from the home too. But many more women do not have that problem. These women have the best of freedom-from-violence pie – they’re not victimised at home and have the lowest risk of victimisation away from the home

    The problem women have with violence is the unwarranted fear of it, fear which feminists do little to allay. Instead of saying “take back the night, because there’s really nothing to fear”, these campaigns terrify women with false tales of epidemics and tides of violence.

    These are not two unrelated phenomena– both work in tandem to ensure that men have greater access to institutional power. And it’s reinforced, not only by men who actually rape, but by anyone who claims that it’s only common sense (like locking your car) for women to give up their slice of the pie in order to avoid rape.

    Less than 10% of rape attacks happen while the victim is travelling, and I’ll bet that the majority of those are by a travelling companion. As this website says:

    The good news is that the “jump out the bushes rapist is
    A) the rarest type and
    B) the easiest to avoid and prevent.

    The same measures that keep you from being robbed will protect you from being sexually assaulted in this manner. So the odds of this happening to you are pretty rare to start with and a little bit of knowledge and a few simple, commonsense measures will greatly reduce those odds even further.

    Thoe commonsense measures advocated by that website do not involve giving up any pie.

  67. tigtog:

    It’s an analysis that has possibilities, Daran. Certainly the possible solutions to the problems of privilege are rather different in Type A and Type B, although I’m wary of limiting privilege to a simple binary.

    In my experience, feminists tend to limit privilege to a simple unary, but yeah, I’m not suggesting that this is the analysis to end all analysis. I’m glad, though, that we’ve found common ground that the analysis “has possibilities”.

    Unfortunately feminism does not do this analysis. You don’t even have a vocabulary for it, hence the need for ad hoc coinages such as “type-A” and “type-B”. Moreover, many (most?) feminists seem to conceptualise race and gender privilege as being of type A. This is indicated by assertions that white people and men “benefit” from privilege. Clearly there is no benefit to me from a system that keeps us fighting over pie, if the alternative, that we work together to make pie would give me more pie.

    My own view is that all race and gender privileges are type-B. Only wealth privilege (including being born in a wealthy country) has a type-A component in so far as it buys access to a greater share of the world’s natural resources than could be granted to everyone.

    A third objection has already been discussed at length, and is the likely cause of the misanalysis discussed above. The word problematises the status of the privileged person/group, which is only really the problem in the case of a type A privilege. In type-B cases, it’s not the privilege which is the problem, but the disprivilege.

    To summarise: feminists do not generally do this analysis, do not have the vocabulary to do this analysis, and mostly conceptualise race and gender privilege the wrong way. This is a consequence of the word itself: how it frames the issues.

    There are also the complications offered from analogy between the concept of socially conferred privileges upon certain social groups and the historical precedents of legally conferred privileges upon trusted individuals of a certain status or rank: those de jure privileges have long been considered to include exemptions and immunities as well as authority, rights, benefits and prerogatives.

    It’s not clear to me how this impacts upon the type-A/type-B analysis, or if you are just offering it as an alternative analysis.

    A further complication: what about the totally innate privilege of having a stronger physique than others, and how society has responded by outlawing the use of “excessive force”?

    Ditto. Also the definition given in the post is “how society accommodates you”, which would seem to exclude innate privileges.

  68. “The commonsense measures advocated by that website do not involve giving up any pie.”

    I disagree: I would suggest that the “pie” that these commonsense measures involve giving up is an erasure of rape as a problem of the way that masculinity is configured in our culture. Thus rape effectively becomes the problem and responsibility of women. This is why there are far more “commonsense programs” like this one, which teach women how to fend off rapists, than there are commonsense programs which teach *men* how to think about their masculinity so as not to become rapists.

    The inherent privilege lies in the fact that although men as a gender are the ones raping, women as a gender are the ones who somehow need educating. Rape thus becomes a “woman’s issue,” and given women’s second-class status, becomes a second class issue as well.

  69. Lindiwe A.:

    I disagree: I would suggest that the “pie” that these commonsense measures involve giving up is an erasure of rape as a problem of the way that masculinity is configured in our culture.

    Pardon me, but this sounds as though the goal is not to reduce or eliminate rape per se, but to do so only in ways that feminists approve of.

    Thus rape effectively becomes the problem and responsibility of women.

    I don’t see it that way. I see it as giving women and men the tools to take responsibility for their own personal safety. I don’t believe that women are essentially passive victims, but it does disturb me the way feminism seems to want to shoehorn them into that role.

    Self-defence and personal security are always the responsibility of the (potential) victim. That’s their nature. To the extent that this is problematic, it applies to all self-defence, not just rape defence, yet for some reason it’s only problematicised in the case of rape defence.

    Independent of FF101’s three-comments-per-day limit, I have a self-imposed commitment to reduce the amount of verbiage I inflict on feminist spaces. So I’ll end this comment here, and address your remaining points in another comment here (once my third most recent comment is 24 hours old), or back at my own blog.

  70. Wow I didn’t realize this thread was still going while I was off thinking about privilege and right. I’d appreciate more things to consider.

    tigtog:
    Your point about privilege in your second para is especially pertinent to the poster above who claimed that “privilege” meant something that the person owning it shouldn’t have – no, that’s totally arse about. The problem isn’t that the person owning privilege shouldn’t have that benefit/prerogative, the problem is that other people should have it too.

    It seems that you are making two distinctions:
    The problem isn’t that the person owning privilege shouldn’t have that benefit/prerogative
    The possibility that I may get hired over a woman just because I am a man is most certainly a problem and it is a benefit that I (well actually no person) should not have.

    the problem is that other people should have it too.
    Based on that the way to make things fair would be to start hiring women just because they are women. And I’m sure we all agree that hiring someone just because they are _____ (you can fill that in with any race, gender, religion, sexual preference, etc…) is wrong.

    All this talk over whose responsibility it is to educate people has become can of gas to add to the flames of intolerance. Every side is expecting everyone else to come to them because they are right. And frankly some of what I’ve seen on the internet has become what I like to call “Shut up! You’re privileged!” style activism. People like that seem to think that the way to incite change is to totally and abolutely silence any and all dissenting thoughts and just accept that their way is the right way.

    And while we’re talking about activism and educating people I have a question.

  71. The problem women have with violence is the unwarranted fear of it, fear which feminists do little to allay.

    It’s quite clear that you haven’t been doing your reading. Haven’t you gotten a sense yet, from just this blog, that those lists women are given about “how to avoid being raped” make us REALLY REALLY angry, particularly given that they aren’t actually all that practical in terms of avoiding rape anyway? Every feminist blog I know takes a stand against these things. Instead, they tend to be perpetuated by the media, by well meaning but misguided people doing email forwards, etc. And mind you, not all of these tell women to simply avoid being alone at night– a few weeks ago, I saw a newspaper article that told women to avoid bus stops during the middle of the day! (I’ll find the link for you later– at the moment, I can’t access the email account where I have it stored.) Think about that– women being told that they should avoid public transport, which many rely on to get to their jobs, to get to social activities, to get to university– to me, that’s asking women to give up their pie. And this is typical when you have a spate of rapes– in contrast, when you have a spate of muggings, the media usually starts talking about being tough on crime. Of course, if someone lives in an area where mugging is more common, they are more likely to take certain precautions– but the newspapers don’t really feel the need to make that their focus, they simply assume that people will do so. But, as Lindiewe said, when it’s rape, the discourse is all about putting the onus on the woman to avoid the situation, and it’s that discourse that privileges men, becuase it means that we women spend time watching our backs when we should be getting our slice of pie. You don’t like those discourses, then that’s great– and as you learn more about feminism, you’ll learn that WE DON’T LIKE THEM EITHER!

    And then, of course, if a stranger rape does occur, women are far more likely to be interrogated about the clothing she was wearing, how much she’d had to drink, etc (and this is true of the FAR more common acquantance rape too– which is why you can’t just throw statistics out there about whether or not men are getting assaulted by strangers– because rape is something that is used to take away women’s pie outside of the context of walking home, alone at night).

    I think you’re also not examining the psychological impact of rape. Men may face a higher risk of being mugged at night (possibly because there are already more men out on the street at night), but if a woman gets mugged, she has to deal with the potential threat of rape as well– which is not only a huge trauma in and of itself, quite aside from the nasty side-dish of social stigma designed to tell her that it was at least partly (if not all) her fault.

  72. “this sounds as though the goal is not to reduce or eliminate rape per se, but to do so only in ways that feminists approve of.”

    Not at all. However, this thread did begin as a conversation about privilege, not rape. As a gender men have the privilege to commit rape and have the ways in which it is a largely gender-specific issue disappear. It is not seen as a problem that has to do with the very ways in which men understand their manhood and masculinity. It is seen far more overwhelmingly as a problem that women should be concerned with defending themselves against. I’m not arguing about whether this is “just the way things are” right now, which seems to be your point. Nevertheless, this is privilege.

    I agree that self-defense is by its very nature, *self* defense. However, as I said in my earlier post, self-defense, as opposed to any kind of education of potential rapists (men) is the overwhelming response to reports of rape in this country (for me, the US). And given your stats about the far higher rate of acquaintance rape to “stranger” rape, wouldn’t it make sense to educate young men and boys about how not to be rapists? It would, if it wouldn’t potentially impinge on male privilege.

    This is less about whether or not women are “passive victims” than it is about how we recognize how the realities of male privilege and sexism have completely shaped our responses to a loaded issue like rape.

  73. [...] at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, FAQ: What is male privilege? Before discussing “male privilege” it is first important to define what privilege means in an [...]

  74. [...] was acting as a perfect example of male privilege, so perfect I wished I could let him crawl inside my head (or any of the girls who were trying so [...]

  75. [...] matters, background matters” – sounds awfully like privilege to me, a topic well rehearsed in feminist and anti-racist and GLBTI and PWD circles. (I’m white, able-bodied and straight, so my [...]

  76. (Since I don’t know, what formatting can be used here, I’ll use UBB codes. Sorry, if that doesn’t work).

    [quote]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 normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.[/quote]

    What advantages do I have that I think are normal? Am I being normal — and which others am I supposed to consider being the deviation from the normal.

    When I was married, my wife and I each kept our ‘own’ family names, which is quite common here in Denmark. Since it is common, it is — in a manner of speaking — normal, though not really normative. I don’t consider people that arrange otherwise to be deviations from the norm, except perhaps in a statistic sense.

    I happen to be member of the Lutheran Church just like 84% of the rest of the population, so I’m quite normal in that respect. But I don’t actually consider people that aren’t members of the Lutheran Church to be deviants; they are simply not members of the Lutheran Church.

    I am now divorced. Around 60% of all marriages in Denmark end with divorce, so I’m quite normal here too, but I don’t consider people that don’t divorce deviants.

    Since the divorce I have remained single. Around 25% of the adult Danish population are singles, so while not the most common, it’s not something extremely exceptional to be single. It’s actually quite normal, but I don’t consider non-singles to be deviants.

    In short, I find the above definition of privileges rather useless. What is ‘normal’ supposed to mean?

    best regards
    Poul Willy Eriksen

    • You are confusing advantages with other characteristics. Many of the characteristics you list as “normal” don’t give you any particular advantage.

      But some of them do. Even if you personally don’t consider variations from the norm to be deviants, many other people will do so, and will display prejudice and discrimination against people who are clearly variant from the norm. Those who are or who “pass” as normal have the advantage of not being subject to such prejudice and discrimination.

      It’s not about whether you personally practice prejudice and discrimination. It’s about whether you are subject to it from a large subset of your fellow citizens or not. If you are not subject to prejudice and discrimination, you have the privilege of society treating you as normal.

  77. [...] likely to be pressured into caring for elderly or disabled relatives than their male counterparts? Constantly dealing with people who deny or don’t recognize the existence of male privilege? That advertising is often tremendously sexist? That victims are blamed for being victimized? [...]

  78. One comment I like to make when the subject of privilege comes up is that privilege is a way of performing systemic analysis, but it is mostly useless for determining relative inequality at the individual level. (Yes, that’s essentially similar to what other people have said, but I prefer my phrasing because it focuses on the process of analysis without leaving room for quibbling about using privilege to talk about individuals.)

  79. I can def feel male privilege around me. Just by walking around campus I notice it. To me this is an example of male privilege that I see everyday and feel. If a man looks another man up and down, what does that imply? Usually its one guy trying to intimidate or start some thing with this guy. Thats powerful, men usually don’t do that on a day to day basis. BUT; if a man looks at me and looks me up and down its ok. I’m the one that has to look away or walk away because its uncomfortable. That is one form of male privilege.

  80. To me this is an example of male privilege, and I see this on campus all the time. When a man looks at another man and looks him up and down what does that inply? Usually it means that he want to intimidate him or start some thing with the other guy. BUT when a man does that to a women? Not only do they feel like its ok, but that it is expected! This is one form of male privilege.
    That is power, to use just your eyes to discriminate a body.

    • This may not be especially relevant but your mention of the power of a look reminded me of it and I want to mention it anyway.

      I’m a slight male, a good portion of women are taller than me. The point is I’m not particularly threatening looking. As a PhD student I used to spend a lot of time on campus very late at night (I’d often leave after midnight). Occasionally, as I was leaving, my path would cross with women who were also on campus at that time. On a number of these occasions I had these woman look at me not as a student who was just working late but fearfully, as if I was a predator that they needed to be wary of.

      I know that there have been instances of attacks on campus late at night and women had been encouraged to be vigilant, but I have rarely felt so much like a monster as on those occasions. It was distinctly unpleasant.

      Ever since I’ve been especially critical of men who stare at women, I felt that their actions directly precipitated that feeling of being hunted that was clearly in the minds of those women.

  81. male privilege differ from culture to culture,in most western cultures,it is as obvious as it is in some other places but still there are forms of it that are practised indirectly.

  82. I understand the general point, but I have to say that some of the examples above might just be about having friends/relatives who are idiots. Getting mad at you for not taking your husbands last name, or for having a girls’ night out? That’s just insecure BS.

    And it’s natural that if 50 people are cool with you keeping your name, and one guy yells at you, you’re going to remember (and talk about) the yeller.

    Might be regional, too — I’m in Portland, OR which is pretty progressive. I’ve heard some pretty shocking examples of stuff like this from people who live in the South, or Texas.

  83. I find the example above, by Lucy Gillam, to be a little confusing. It obfuscates the issue at hand by placing it in an equitably questionable scenario.

    Before I explain why that is, I can see that the male response “No, but we could do other stuff instead,” is privileged. The assumption that the women in the group must invite them and must provide the activities the men want is privileged – and wrong!

    The problem I have is this: the ‘chicks nights’ are described as events at which the group’s men were excluded because they are men. Initially Gillam has assumed that the men wouldn’t be interested in make-up, ‘chick flicks’ and hair styling (either that or she just doesn’t want men present on the basis of their sex rather than their characteristics and interests). Then, when the guys have complained about not being included she has phrased her ‘invitation’ as a challenge to their sexuality in a patriarchy reinforcing way.* The way it reads to me is, ‘Men shouldn’t be interested in female interests. There will be female interests at these events so you’re not included.’ This can’t be helpful.

    Reading the full reference, Gillam makes it clear that her main issue is that women are expected to take an interest in men’s interests, but not the other way around. Yet, by her response, it is clear that she has done nothing to encourage the men to develop those interests. There was an opportunity with the guys wanting to be involved to have a romantic movie night etc. and help then develop those interests that wasn’t taken. By her own actions Gillam has actually helped reinforce patriarchal stereotypes.

    From what we are told, it seems that the women were never explicitly excluded from any other group event. Presumably, the group just had gaming nights, or football nights or whatever, and anyone male or female was welcome if they shared those interests. It would seem that ‘half’ of these events were stereotypically male interest events, since half of them ended up being male only. Yet the fact that no one was explicitly excluded is important – as Gillam says women really do like all that cool stuff. So, no one should think of a recreational activity/subject of discussion as being explicitly/exclusively male or female.

    *The reference to periods, while not critical to the argument, is particularly telling here. At the risk of setting up a straw-woman argument here, (note: not straw-feminist since I wouldn’t presume this view was prevalent amongst feminists) it seems that women are the ones who are reluctant to talk about periods with men. Many men I have met are curious about periods; maybe I am biased, most of my friends are scientists and are therefore curious about anything, but particularly information that seems hidden from view. The prevailing view amongst society (men and women) is that periods are private women’s business – forbidden to men – men who listen in are being rude and ungentlemanly. Thus, invoking periods as a topic for discussion at the ‘chicks nights’ plays on societal stereotypes in order to force any polite man to back down. Not cool.

    In fact, many of you may be interested to know, that research has shown that women whose partners are knowledgeable about the female reproductive system are less stressed during that time of the month. It seems pretty obvious really, that men who are knowledgeable in this area would be more sensitive, and their partners would have an easier time of it. Invoking periods as women’s private domain, thus actually has a negative impact on women’s health (and probably on the health of relationships in general).

    • Interesting points, kandela. Exclusivity is itself a kind of privilege, and sometimes in the face of true oppression I can see how it would be something you wouldn’t want to give up. I’m thinking of a woman who told me about living in Morocco, where women are often hassled on the street (especially if not veiled), telling me how wonderful the single sex public baths were as a refuge. Sure, but of course if you didn’t have the harassment in the first place….

      In a more open society like the U.S., less understandable. Being coed does change an event, even if the non-traditional gender is open to it, but I generally think of that as a good thing. As a dad staying home with each of my infants, I learned tons about childbirth etc. from chatting with moms at the playground and loved it, but it may have been a bit disconcerting to the moms sharing their intense experiences. I’m in a long-running coed poker game, for another example, but I think it’s all to the good. The all-male, cigar-smoking, macho games seem way corny to me.

  84. Right, okay. So the one single real example of male privilege is that it is assumed that in marriage a woman will take the man’s surname? That is all you’ve come up with! Everything else is not only ‘inivisible,’ you’ve not even been able to cite another example in this blog! Not one!

    I came here to try and work out what the whole patriarchy concept was. I am still none the wiser, except I am now harbouring doubts that it really exists.

    Instead, what seems to exist is a will by women to be women but to deny the same right to men. For example, you want your women only social outings, which I’m fine with by the way, but from experience I know guys only nights at work could get my company sued.

    You’re going to have to do a lot better than that to convince most people this privilege exists.

    • Andrew: One very prominent example of Male Privilege (as you have demonstrated here) is the option to be completely oblivious of your own privilege.

      Asking anybody to “prove” it exists, is like asking for proof that the sky is blue. I challenge YOU to prove that it doesn’t exist.

      This is a Feminist blog, so BS like “You’re going to have to do a lot better than that to convince most people this privilege exists” isn’t going to fly.

      None of the women here are obligated to enlighten you. Go bark orders at somebody else. And if you really need proof, just check out the arrogance of your own comments.

      Have a nice day.

      • Yes, this is a fairly typical response, lacking in any academic rigour. If you cannot prove something, ask someone to prove you wrong. This is a fairly typical practice of organised religion, because the response tells nothing yet frustrates everything.

        You are not obligated to respond, certainly. I don’t expect that of anyone. However, does no one here see a problem in one group accusing a whole gender of an abhorrent injustice, then failing to produce a shred of evidence to sustain their claims? Furthermore, does no one believe it is a problem to alienate those who, like myself for example, have no desire for any inequality whatsoever to exist?

        I want to know what male privilege is. If it can be proven to exist, I will be an ardent supporter in dismantling it. In my mid-twenties, I am young and have no memory of visible inequality; I have lived my entire life believing the genders are equal. So to be told that this is an illusion and that what exists is invisible makes me curious as to what this inequality is.

        [Moderator note: text beyond the third paragraph snipped in accordance with the Comments Policy ~ tigtog]

  85. Andrew, did you read the older comments as well as just this page? Did you even read the whole post?

    There are plenty of other examples in the linked posts, that’s why they are there. The example of surname traditions was used simply because it’s so insidious and unexamined, compared to other things which are much more obvious – e.g. that most managers and above in most industries/professions are men, and that men are continually offered higher rates of pay for doing the same work.

    I’m also curious as to why you believe that the “girls night out” example had anything to do with work and thus with practices liable to get a company sued? Y’know, it’s almost as if you didn’t even read the title of the post that was being quoted, let alone the full post itself.

    • I’m not taking the ‘what’s in a surname’ attitude as such. I can understand that a woman might not want to change her surname, I wouldn’t want to change mine. But the solution is simple and who cares what society thinks of you for keeping your own name? I think it’s quite a valid example actually, because name changes as a consequence of marriage is rather quaint and increasingly in a digital age a right pain for all concerned.

      Where I disagree is the suggestion that keeping their name makes men feel any more important. The way most men think, this is a trivial cultural oddity. Some very macho men make a big deal of passing down the family name I guess. Actually, I would quite like the idea of everyone taking the woman’s name in marriage just to upset them, but that’s just my malevolent streak (malevolent is a very sexist word actually).

      I think this is really all a matter of personal choice.

      One other point:

      [Moderator note: text beyond the third paragraph snipped in accordance with the Comments Policy ~ tigtog]

    • [Moderator note: since you didn't get the point the first time, I'm interleaving the appropriate response between your paragraphs ~ tigtog]

      According to an equality in the workplace course I attended a few months ago (which ironically stereotyped men as perverts and harrassers and women as manipulating bullies in most of the scenarios), companies can expose themselves to accusations of constructive dismissal if the employer is accused that it’s staff created a culture of exclusion.

      [the situation in the quoted post is NOT A WORK SITUATION ~ tigtog]

      It’s a tenuous link, I agree. We’ve all heard the stories about a bunch of alpha males whose brains were in their trousers who worked in a dealing room in the city of London creating an unequal culture which led to the company being sued by a female co-worker. The basis of evidence was little more than social arrangements.

      [the people in the quoted post DID NOT WORK TOGETHER ~ tigtog]

      Of course, men and women should be able to have ‘bonding’ sessions when they want them, although men, typically homophobic, prefer to substitute the word ‘drinking’ for ‘bonding.’ But modern legislation makes even this simplest of pleasures slightly less straight forward.

      [the situation in the quoted post is NOT A WORK SITUATION ~ tigtog]

      • Andrew,

        Male Privilege is just one term used by feminists to describe inequality. It’s a bit of jargon, it does not describe every way in which women and men are treated unequally, but rather used to aid discussion. Basically this term describes the idea that women don’t benefit from the assumptions of society as much as men do; and that the majority of opinion and media is seen from a male point of view. If someone calls you privileged you can think of it as code for ‘try thinking about it from the underprivileged point of view.’

        With regard to workplace inequality gender stereotypes (also called gender schemas*) are at work. They are applied against men and women, but the stereotypes have inequal consequences. Partly because the power structures in place are historically biased in favour of archetypal men – these stereotypes are therefore enforced unequally – and partly because the stereotypes themselves are unequal. A large number of (even) negative male stereotypes set them up as dominant, that is not the case for negative female stereotypes. Of course this is not universally true of all stereotypes but there is a large imbalance. In the workplace we can actually measure the inequality that these schemas contribute to, in the form of number of women in management positions and pay discrepency etc.

        If you want to learn how gender schemas work and how they are inequal, I suggest these very good tutorials: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/gendertutorial/tutorials.htm.

  86. Andrew says: ‘So the one single real example of male privilege is that it is assumed that in marriage a woman will take the man’s surname? That is all you’ve come up with!’

    As tigtog said, it’s NOT all there is to come up with.

    However, for the sake of argument, let’s just say it was. Let’s just say that the only feminist issue in existence was the issue of girl children being given the dignity of continuing the maternal surname.

    Frankly … I’ve encountered this condescending what’s-in-a-surname attitude so many times over the years. I’ve been expected to feel ashamed of even bringing up the subject, because there are so many more ‘worthy’ gender issues to consider … like rape or FGM.

    Certainly, rape and FGM are raw, brutal, political crimes against women, but I do NOT believe they are any more important as feminist issues than the crime of depriving the girl child of her fundamental, symbolic birthright to continue her surname down through the generations – as the boy child has been doing for many centuries, as a matter of course.

    The loss of the maternal surname is not a trivial issue. It’s the first encounter (and first lesson) – at about age 4 – with the gender power hierarchy of the wider world. It’s the first and fundamental lesson that the boy and girl child learns … that one half of humanity is so much more important than the other half, that only the more important gender’s surname is kept and not the other gender’s.

    And for what purpose? When you think about it … there is absolutely no practical or symbolic reason why the maternal surname has to be subsumed by the paternal surname. There is absolutely no logistical reason why societies cannot adopt the simple convention of having a girl child take her mother’s surname and a boy child take his father’s surname. The paternal surname convention has no basis in practical necessity and has only been maintained down through the generations for gender-political reasons.

  87. Tigtog

    Can you possibly fix up the typo at the beginning of my previous post, where I repeat the word ‘ … ‘says’?

    I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

    [Moderator note: Done! ~ tigtog]

  88. I found this checklist on another site and thought it deserves inclusion, with critique, on the blog.

    The Male Privilege Checklist

    [huge snip - see Moderator note below ~ tigtog]

    • Moderator note: it appears to be time again for Netiquette for Newbs

      When quoting another post, LINK TO IT
      * It’s a matter of ethics, so that other readers can examine the original post in context and compare it to your representation of it.
      * It also gives the original author some linkjuice, which is simply good manners.

      Read comprehensively before commenting!
      * the post to which you refer is referenced in this very post – it is one of the final references for further reading. It has not been ignored or unconsidered. To completely miss this, and to then accuse the author of not sufficiently proving the argument is rude just for a start and completely exposes you as an insufficiently careful reader. Nobody will take your criticisms seriously if you can’t even read for meaning accurately.

      Read the Comments Policy before commenting!
      * it is clearly detailed there that this blog moderates comments for length, believing that overly long comments inhibit rather than encourage further discussion. Long detailed critiques belong either on the original post so long as you comply with its comments policy, or on your own blog (get one, it’s free!), and what you should post here is a few paragraphs as teaser and then a link back to your longer post.
      * this is your fourth comment for the day, which shows that you have not read the Rules for New Commentors in the Comments Policy. Normally I wouldn’t have even published this comment, but the point needs to be made for the benefit of other readers as well.

      NB: I had originally included this as a moderator note within the body of Andrew’s post. I have moved it to form its own separate comment text.

      • Typical. Don’t respond to arguments, just snip them. As you don’t want to debate the issues, but instead simply want to bully anyone who doesn’t agree with you around to your way of thinking, I’m going to move on to sites that consider gender equality as opposed to a site for people who blame all their failings on being women (when in fact it seems to be due to a shyness to the points of view of others).

  89. It is correct that women are different from men and from each other through family experiences, relationships, to paid labour, colour of skins and the list goes on, but one can argue that we all share experiences (not the same kind mind you) but life happenings that are universally connected ( events such as births, deaths and celebrations). Science tells us that we – the human race – have male and female hormones. These hormones affect us all, whether we are woman or man, as we all experience emotions. I believe this is defining threads that intertwine all human beings. My opinion of pornography is that it (more often) portrays the woman being victimized. Our media has a huge affect on society and how it views women and men and violence. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence at a young age before it becomes engrained will help society in the long term, in that young women will be aware of their rights. Just as important through education and awareness people’s attitudes, values and beliefs in regard to violence against women need to bechallenged. Today’s youth is tomorrow’s significant others, parents, law makers, police, judges, teachers, etc.

  90. @andrew:

    I want to know what male privilege is. If it can be proven to exist, I will be an ardent supporter in dismantling it.

    Before we start, do you understand/accept the concept of privilege generally? i.e. that there is class privilege, and race privilege, and other privileges that our society grants to some groups but not to others?

  91. And yes, we have FLOUNCE!

    @Andrew, you were asked to abide by the same rules as any other poster, but apparently that’s treating you unfairly.

    Boo-hoo.

    • Also – typical. Responding to reminders about Netiquette with accusations of bullying, just because this is one forum you can’t spew verbiage endlessly over until people give up arguing through sheer exhaustion.

  92. There is no male privilige. In the west there was male burden, which meant treating women better than men. It was called chivalry. And now women are endangered and unfairly burdened ourselves, because clueless know it all feminists such as yourselves have destroyed chivalry.

    • @ francesca

      If you think that all women in “the west” benefited from chivalry you would be mistaken.

      Chivalry was a game for the nobility whereby one proved to the fathers/brothers of noble women that one was sufficiently sophisticated (as well as wealthy and warriorlike) to be considered for a familial/territorial alliance. Like most games of the nobility it ended up being copied by people lower down the social ladder without the nuances and goals being the same, because the family assets were never the same. However, chivalrous gestures all have the same ultimate signal “I am stronger and have more resources than you” with the implied consequence “so be grateful I’m being nice” and a subtext of “you mightn’t like me when I’m not being nice”. It’s all a dominance game.

      Chivalric traditions may have aided several dozen women travelling first class on the Titanic (who survived to shepherd the children and the inheritances of their wealthy husbands), but it didn’t help hundreds of their drowning sisters on the lower decks as the upper classes were given first places on the lifeboats. That you personally might miss some of the privileges held out to upper-middle class women does not justify holding back equality from women of the working class (who have always been in the majority, no matter what Norman Rockwell/Leave it to Beaver may have told you).

      • tigtog,

        with respect to the few dozen – why isn’t this concept ever applied to men/patriarchy by feminists (except the one who wrote about “hegemonic masculinity”? Why not say, patriarchy helps a few guys be chivalrous and a few women to reap benefits thereof, but for the rest of guys and gals there’s really not much in it. Ok, fair enough, we know why that’s never said, because it would once again make economic difference the dominant social cleavage and invalidate the feminist claim that gender is *the* fundamental conflict.

        And it would also imply that feminism would not be able to define on its own which dimensions of power are deemed acceptable and which not (as in “benevolent sexism” vs. “female privilege”). In short, it would demonstrate that the exception (“the male individual who doesn’t hold the privilege ascribed to him for being male”) is actually much more of a rule than expected, and that would require a lot of feminists to reconsider long-held worldviews…

      • Jim, perhaps you should look further into the words “kyriarchy” and “intersectionality” before claiming that feminists never examine the entwining oppressions surrounding race and class as well as gender. Economic difference is the result of the unequal treatment of people based on race, class and gender – you can’t just look at economic differences in isolation from the social differences.

        That other oppressions exist and exacerbate one another does not negate the oppressions of sexism. Both/and, not either/or.

  93. Anamarie, on May 22nd, 2009 at 11:57 am Said:
    To me this is an example of male privilege, and I see this on campus all the time. When a man looks at another man and looks him up and down what does that inply? Usually it means that he want to intimidate him or start some thing with the other guy. BUT when a man does that to a women? Not only do they feel like its ok, but that it is expected! This is one form of male privilege.
    That is power, to use just your eyes to discriminate a body.

    Have you really seriously thought about this? The fact that women DON”T have to get into physical altercations the way men do. The way that we have worth without proving ourselves physically is a huge sign of a natural intrinsic respect for women. (I’m talking about civilized western cultures heres.) It is only as feminism tells men that there is nothing unique or precious about women that women are becoming vulnerable to being treated the way men treat other men, which can be brutal-esp through out non civilized cultures.

    It’s only because you’re a woman that you can pracitice this kind of double think and whine, While never having to prove yourself the way men do with each other. Enjoy this chivalrous protection while it lasts, with feminist elite such as yourself who knows how much longer the world will be safe for all of us women.

    • @francesca

      The way that we have worth without proving ourselves physically is a huge sign of a natural intrinsic respect for women.

      Alternatively, it is a sign that women are infantilised, treated like children who are not allowed to test themselves in a very important way that men use to gain respect from others (not that I am endorsing the hierarchy of physical dominance).

      (I’m talking about civilized western cultures heres.)

      What cultures are you thinking of where women routinely engage in physical contests? Or are you implying something else here (I think you might be, but you’re not brave enough to say what you really mean, especially taking into account other things you say).

      It is only as feminism tells men that there is nothing unique or precious about women that women are becoming vulnerable to being treated the way men treat other men, which can be brutal

      Women have been treated brutally in white picket fenced suburbia, you know. It’s just that before feminism nobody talked about how nice respectable Mr Citizen could only cope by regularly giving Mrs Citizen black eyes, and nobody wanted to think about the other bruises that they couldn’t see.

      There is no evidence that the incidence of abusive attacks on women has increased. Increased reporting rates are not the same as increased incidence rates. Before feminism, abused women had no recourse at all, and now they do, and at least some people now understand that outward Respectability is no guarantee of inherent Decency.

      SotBO: yes, women are not the only victims of abusive violence from their partners. That argument belongs on this post.

      NB: this comment has been edited for clarity since first publication.

    • never having to prove yourself the way men do with each other

      Why should men buy into that toxic crap? Why should we raise our sons to believe that physical contests are proof of “masculinity”? Why are you implying that this traditional male posturing is something that should be perpetuated? What good does it do for men (or for women)?

    • Enjoy this chivalrous protection while it lasts, with feminist elite such as yourself who knows how much longer the world will be safe for all of us women.

      Women are staggeringly more likely than men to be raped or sexually assaulted, usually by someone they know or are in love with, and the rape conviction rate in most “civilised Western cultures” is below 5%. If you think you are safe right now you are living in a fantasy world.

    • Firstly, men do not stare at women in a deneaning way due to so called male privilege, the men who behave like this do so because they are ignorant morons who have been raised to believe that his behaviour is ok (by the way who exactly are you suggesting they think expects this behaviour, their peers or the women they are degrading) Secondly physical altercations between females, in the playground, in the pub and on the street now far exceed those between men and have done for some time, and they are considered more vicious and calculated in nature than male confrontaions. Ask any prison officer (CAT A/B) worth his or her salt which of the two genders poses the greatest physical to them and they’ll tell you that its the women every time. Also it might be of more value to your endevours if you looked at things from somthing other than a white middle class perspective

      • Ignorant morons?I find that you calling males ignorant morons as rather bias.What I see here is the same sexism that women tried to fight.Yes I’ll agree that woman are far more wronged.But what your doing is pushing woman further down.You femenist are challenging the men with power.And in doing so your making them take it out on women,
        And I’m truely sorry if I sound like some guy protecting males.But in truth I fight for equality.
        Age 15

      • Kevin, read it again. Was Jane calling ALL men ignorant morons, or just the subgroup of men who stare at women in a demeaning way?

        Careful reading is a good thing.

        P.S. I’m not a fan of calling people a term that stigmatises people with genuine cognitive deficits, Jane. The English language is rich in non-ableist terms of insult. Use one of those next time please.

      • @Jane Morgan

        Secondly physical altercations between females, in the playground, in the pub and on the street now far exceed those between men and have done for some time, and they are considered more vicious and calculated in nature than male confrontaions.[sic]

        Cite?

  94. @kandela

    the stereotypes have inequal consequences. Partly because the power structures in place are historically biased in favour of archetypal men – these stereotypes are therefore enforced unequally – and partly because the stereotypes themselves are unequal. A large number of (even) negative male stereotypes set them up as dominant, that is not the case for negative female stereotypes. Of course this is not universally true of all stereotypes but there is a large imbalance.

    This is a beautiful summary of where the imbalance lies in the various gender stereotypes. Thank you.

  95. I agree that white and or any other priveleged group can be priviledge at one end of the pool and find themselves without privileges in other pools of groups. Sometimes the bigger or higher priced car will be a status marker in one neighborhood and a target and full vunerable victim in the next. Its better to be privileged with knowledge that is accepted everywhere and benificial any and everywhere.

  96. I need to ask something pertaining to what tigtog said at the very beginning of this thread in explaining the concept of privilege; specifically this:

    “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.”

    I have to question to what extent this is true. Because in any examination of the dynamics of oppression and privilege, variables which determine these are taken into account (with some being excluded more often than others). The most commonly acknowledged ones are — gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental/physical ability and class. Well then it would seem logical to say that a white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cisgendered male with a high level of income enjoys all conceivable privileges. So it’s a bit hard to imagine how a man fitting all these could call himself “non-privileged” in any meaningful way. By the same reasoning, it’s a bit hard to understand how someone who is the opposite of all these — say a transgendered, disabled lesbian of colour from a working class background — could be considered “privileged” in any meaningful way.

    So how can *everyone* be both privileged in some situations and not so in others? I don’t understand

    • Niall, you make good points, and I probably could have phrased myself more clearly, but I think you are looking too much at the macro level. Certainly some groups have generally higher levels of privilege than people of other broad groupings, and they always will have. However, even amongst people of similar general privilege backgrounds, there are still hierarchies: privileged groups such as high income white het cis able-bodied men still have different levels of access to the old boys’ network of opportunity depending upon their schooling and ancestry, and marginalised groups such as disabled working-class trans lesbians of colour still have different levels of access to employment, education, housing etc dependent upon just how much they vary from social norms along the various axes and what systems are in place to ameliorate inequities due to their differences.

      (edit for further thoughts) Different levels of access to opportunity is the fundamental building block of privilege, and no matter how small the social grouping there will still be people looking at who has and who doesn’t have what assets/skills to form a hierarchy within that group. Thus you find that a person whose identity crosses several intersecting marginalised groups might have a relatively high status in the hierarchy in one of their marginalised identity groups while having a much lower status in another one of their marginalised identity groups.

  97. You know that pie chart where the huge Christian slice is screaming “Help, we’re being oppressed!”?

    http://tinyurl.com/25bsk6s

    Women are a majority of the voting-age population, so women have the majority of the political power. True, most politicians are men, but every male politician was hired by women. And if women as a group ever thought they were oppressed, they could fire the “oppressors”.

    Challenge for feminists: name one group, from any nation, in any time, that

    1) Made up a majority of that nation’s people
    2) Had voting rights
    3) Was oppressed

    If no other group in the history of our planet meets this criteria, why should American women be different?

    • Is it only governments that oppress others, Diamond Dust?

      Also, I think “the working classes” answers your challenge very neatly and accurately.

      Perhaps there are quite narrow limits within which the power of one’s vote can actually be employed.

      Perhaps – just a thought – our system of “democracy” was deliberately designed that way. After all, the poor always outnumber the wealthy, yet poor people somehow never seem to end up as Prime Minister or as President. If all it takes is having more of the voters, then why don’t the poor vote for one of their own?

      Google “systemic barriers”.

      • Re: Government
        Government is not the only potential source of oppression, but government can be used to stop oppression. See: anti-discrimination laws.

        Still, I suppose women may think that there are areas of oppression that government can’t or shouldn’t stop. So if you’re a libertarian feminist, my argument may not apply to you. (But really, how many feminists are libertarians?)

        Re: working classes

        Any majority group must necessarily include members who earn the median income or higher. You claim that in some nations, the working class is both the majority and oppressed. This would mean the median income is oppressive. What country is this? The United States ($44,389 USD)? Australia ($44,197 USD)?

        Yes, there are countries with large numbers of poor people. But in such countries are usually poor themselves (meaning the wages aren’t oppressive) or are too corrupt to grant the poor voting rights.

      • I forgot about this one.

        You have a very limited view of the nature of oppression if you analyse it only on economic grounds.

        Also, I wouldn’t go slinging the median income around as if people here are not aware of how it differs from mean and mode. When the elites have disposable incomes that are well over a hundred times the median wage, that buys a lot more pressure on the levers of power.

    • P.S. You appear to think that only American women are feminists. Why?

      • I didn’t say only American women are feminists. I limited the scope of my argument to the United States because I know that women make up the majority of America. Because I recognize that not all countries have female voting majorities. There are probably other countries where women make up the majority of voters. In fact, since men are more likely to die young than women, and since propensity to vote increases with age, I’d venture women have voting majorities in most liberal democracies. (But I haven’t looked it up.)

    • So since the women in – oh say – the DRC are the majority and have voting rights, all that rape and FGM isn’t an issue then. Interesting.

      BTW, what percentage of the U.S. Congress is female again?

    • I am from Iran, women make the majority of voters here too. By your logic we should have been turned into an utopia of gender equality a long time ago. But we aren’t. Still patriarchy rules over our lives.

  98. i think men having privilege is sort of a tradition.
    It may seem like a custom thing to many people that male is the head of the family and whom has all the power.However, a large population may think this way. But there are many people out there who doesn’t behave so. Thus, male has privilege or not all depend on personal oponin. Some people like to obey it and some simply don’t.

  99. There is a difference between having a privilege of which you are unaware (as many offspring of wealthy parents take the ‘world’ they exist in as the same ‘world’ others exist in) and being both aware of privilege (certainly the poor and middle class are aware of the wealthy) and then being determined not to be a victim. Many revolutions have begun with that determination. Elevtheria y Thanatos.

  100. The best thing about being a male and having male privilege, is doing something with it. This isn’t meant in the sense of “I have the privilege to treat others however I want to”, but more of a “I have the privilege to make a change in the world around me, and that could be for the betterment of feminism.” That just so happens to be my stance on it. If people are ignoring the voices of women on these subjects and only want to hear a man’s opinion, they will hear mine with a touch of feminism in it.

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