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FAQ: Don’t women have “female privilege”?

Short answer: No, what is commonly called “female privilege” is better described as benevolent sexism. Systems like the draft and chivalry often seem advantageous to women at first glance, but when examined more closely they in fact reinforce sexist institutions that keep both 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. This is because, although many strides towards equality have been made over the years, women as a class have not yet leveled the playing field, much less been put in a position of power and authority equivalent to that which grants institutional power to men as a class.

Why “female privilege” is better called “benevolent sexism”

Quick jump: Why It’s Benevolent Sexism | Male Privilege’s Counterpart

While feminists do agree that the practices that are commonly ascribed to “female privilege” (such as women being the recipients of chivalric practices) are expressions of inequality, they disagree that such practices should be considered a form of institutionalized privilege. This is because being rewarded for not going against the status quo and being the recipient of institutional privilege are not the same thing. The system of privilege uses that kind of reward system in order to perpetuate itself, but the existence of a reward isn’t proof in of itself of privilege. Instead, they use the term benevolent sexism to describe the practices because of how they are tied to the greater narrative of sexism in traditions/the status quo.

Consider this:

Not only is it subjectively favorable in its characterization of women, but it promises that men’s power will be used to women’s advantage, if only they can secure a high-status male protector.

[Glick and Fiske (February 2001).]

Without any context it could easily be seen as talking about “female privilege”, but in fact it’s an explanation of why benevolent sexism is so easily accepted by women. Now, if this were the only factor at work, then saying that “female privilege” is better called benevolent sexism would be splitting hairs. But the reason that benevolent sexism works and “female privilege” does not is because it better identifies the system behind the beliefs.

To understand why the term “female privilege” obscures the root of the problem, it’s first necessary to distinguish the difference between the concepts that make it up and those that make up male privilege. For the most part, women do gain some benefits from the chivalric beliefs that are often chalked up to “female privilege”, just like men gain some benefits from the system of male privilege. However, the difference is that the status quo for men is one which grants them status and power in both the public and private spheres, whereas the status quo for women is one which limits their power to the much smaller, and more specific, domestic sphere.

Put another way:

Eagly and Mladinic (1993) pointed out that the favorable, communal traits ascribed to women (e.g., nurturing, helpful, and warm) suit them for domestic roles, whereas men are presumed to possess the traits associated with competence at high-status roles (e.g., independent, ambitious, and competitive). Furthermore, women’s stereotypically communal attributes are also the traits of deference that, when enacted in daily interaction, place a person in a subordinate, less powerful position (Ridgeway, 1992). Thus, the favorable traits attributed to women may reinforce women’s lower status.

[Glick and Fiske (February 2001).]

If we recognize this difference and allow the problematic practices to be combated within the framework of sexism, it becomes part of a greater discourse of eliminating sexist beliefs and practices from our cultural landscape. And there is actually evidence that shows that this approach is effective, as there seems to be a direct relationship between the reduction of hostile sexism and the reduction of women’s belief in and use of benevolent sexism:

Another explanation for women’s acceptance of benevolent sexism is that it is a form of self-protection in response to men’s sexism. Smuts (1996) argued that pair-bonding among humans is, in part, an evolved female response to the threat of sexual violence (because a pair-bonded male mate offers protection from other men). In a similar manner, endorsing benevolent sexism may be a way in which women cope when many men in a culture tend to be hostile sexists (cf. Jackman, 1994). The irony is that women are forced to seek protection from members of the very group that threatens them, and the greater the threat, the stronger the incentive to accept benevolent sexism’s protective ideology. This explains the tendency for women in the most sexist societies to endorse benevolent sexism more strongly than men. Furthermore, the countries in which women (as compared with men) rejected benevolent sexism as strongly as hostile sexism were ones in which men had low hostile sexism scores. As sexist hostility declines, women may feel able to reject benevolent sexism without fear of a hostile backlash.

[Peter Glick, Susan Fiske (American Psychologist Volume 56(2), February 2001, p 109–118): "An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism as Complementary Justifications for Gender Inequality".]

Said in a more accessible way:

See, I think that some of the problems that men face now- some of the things that people like Burton complain about and see as examples of female privilege over males- are a direct result of the flaws a patriarchical system. It’s not that women have more power than men, it’s that patriarchy is an inherently flawed system that sets standards that are harmful to everyone. It’s a double edged sword. And as attitudes have changed and feminists have helped to break down some of the systems that have held women back and prevented them from reaching their full potential, some men are finding that, shock of shocks, there are some serious problems with the way things are.

To summarize the point of this section: When it’s called benevolent sexism it’s recognized to be tied to the system of sexism, and can therefore be fought (successfully) with tools like feminism, whereas when it’s called “female privilege” the solutions called for tend to call for strengthening the status quo, which ends up making it harder to end the offending practices.

Male privilege’s counterpart

Quick jump: Why It’s Benevolent Sexism | Male Privilege’s Counterpart

I’ve seen the argument floated around that if there’s such thing as “male privilege” that there must therefore be an equivalent of “female privilege”. While I can understand why someone could come to this conclusion if their main reference for “privilege” was one of the privilege checklists, this is actually a misunderstanding of male privilege, which is an institutional — not a personal — privilege.

The tendency of most people is to think of “privilege” in terms of its common usage, which is an individual advantage that a person can earn and possess. But the problem is that male privilege isn’t that kind of privilege; it’s a kind of privilege that is systematic, rather than something that an individual has control over. This system is part of things such as history, culture, and tradition and is one of the ways that power in kept mostly the hands of those who already have it (what’s called the privileged group). This is achieved primarily through denying certain privileges to most people outside of that privileged group. It’s different than the common usage because it’s specifically backed up by institutional authority and, beyond the impact it has on individual people, it is also an important tool for maintaining the various hierarchies that make up the patriarchy.

When one is working within a hierarchy, the logical counterpart to people with power becomes people without power. So, the correct counterpart to “male privilege” would actually “female non-privilege”. Granted, it sounds more than a bit silly being said like that (which is probably why I’ve never heard anyone use it), but the concept that it expresses is that of in-group/out-group dynamics. Or, as it is put most commonly, the counterparts to privileged groups are that of the non-privileged groups.

To summarize the point of this section: Since the concept of privilege inherent in the term “male privilege” expresses a hierarchy (ie. an in-group/out-group dynamic), the placement of men in the in-group (because of the power that their class holds) necessitates placing women and other non-men in an out-group (because of the lack of power). Thus, “female privilege” doesn’t work as a counterpart to “male privilege” because it doesn’t fit into that dynamic.

Related Reading:

Introductory:

Clarifying Concepts:

  • On why benevolent sexism can be mistaken for a privileging of women:

    A central part of our argument is that benevolent sexism is a particularly insidious form of prejudice for two reasons: (a) It does not seem like a prejudice to male perpetrators (because it is not experienced as an antipathy), and (b) women may find its sweet allure difficult to resist. Benevolent sexism, after all, has its rewards; chivalrous men are willing to sacrifice their own well-being to provide for and to protect women.

    [Peter Glick, Susan Fiske (American Psychologist Volume 56(2), February 2001, p 109–118): "An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism as Complementary Justifications for Gender Inequality".]
  • On why “female privilege” isn’t an advantage after all:

    UCLA, the thing is what you call “benevolent sexism” (I have to say it really sounds like an oxymoron), is always accompanied by what you call “hostile sexism” in every society out there. They are often times intertwined, as one can be framed in a way that appears like the other. For example Justice Kennedy wants to “benevolently” protect us from having to face the consequence of our own decisions regarding our own bodies. There are men (and women) out there that would argue that women not being allowed in certain jobs (or all jobs), is a privilege for women: they don’t have to go out in the world and fight. They can just stay at home and bake cookies. Now isn’t that a privilege? I have heard Islamist scholars and non-scholars argue that Hijab is actually for the protection of women. There are many more examples, but hopefully you got my point already.

    It is just bizarre to call these instances of sexism female privilege. It’s more like, if we’re good slaves of the patriarchy you’ll throw us a bone every once in a while (also known as chivalry).

    [Comment by sojourner (Feministing): It doesn't get worse than this..]
  • More on why “female privilege” isn’t an advantage after all:

    Think of it this way, aleric: it can’t be female privilge when females did not establish the rules from which they supposedly benefitted. Looking at the Vietnam war era, women held little political or social power compared to men – especially as far as the military was concerned. While I would say that not being included in the draft is a benefit (who wouldn’t want to avoid being forced to risk their life when they were not willing to do so voluntarily), I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an example of female privilige because the reasons women were excluded based in sexism. Not only were women considered too weak, too emotional, and too incompetent to serve, but excluding women from service made it much easier to limit women’s rights in other areas.

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115 comments on “FAQ: Don’t women have “female privilege”?

  1. Another reason it’s not really female “privilege” is that it is given to women by men and can be revoked at any time. And often is, if the woman is not “lady” enough to “deserve” it.

    For example, women are protected from sexually hostile men — unless they don’t “act like a lady.”

    The idea that women are protected from being involved in war is risible in the extreme. There are plenty of civilian casualties in war. It’s just that, for the most part, the women involved aren’t armed.

  2. Something still doesn’t make sense…

    “Another reason it’s not really female “privilege” is that it is given to women by men and can be revoked at any time. And often is, if the woman is not “lady” enough to “deserve” it.”

    But this is true of any kind of socially constructed “privilege.” If a man doesn’t act like a man (i.e. how others — men and women — expect a man to act) then he loses some of his privileges. Maybe all of them, in fact.

    One could argue that the expectations placed on men tend to work out to their benefit if they conform, whereas the expectations placed on women do not lead to the benefit of those women.

    I think that’s what is being said here:
    “the difference is that the status quo for men is one which grants them status and power in both the public and private spheres, whereas the status quo for women is one which limits their power to the much smaller, and more specific, domestic sphere.”

    The status quo is the package of real benefits they get when they conform to social expectations (status, power, etc.)

    But even here there seems to be a mixed bag: fulfilling the expectations his society places on him does not always work out to a male’s benefit. For example, suppose two siblings, a brother and a sister, are having a hard time. The brother recognizes and confirms to the expectations of his gender and tries to go it alone. The sister recognizes that it is acceptable for her to ask for help, whether from her parents or others.

    You might argue that the brother still might come out ahead in terms of real benefits — but I kinda doubt it. At the very least, it’s not inevitable, and has to do with a lot of other factors. While the status quo for men on the average might be kind of nice, if they conform, there’s no reason to suspect that it will benefit the average _poor_ man over the average woman.

    The poor man, if he goes it alone, will fail. The poor woman, if she asks for help, has a better chance to succeed. So why say the poor man is privileged while the woman is not? Aren’t they differentially privileged, in such a way that their respective privileges will work out to their benefit (or not) differently in different circumstances?

    • The thing is, it is not generally women who enforce these gender roles- it is other men telling him that he is not man enough, and often punishing that lack of ‘masculinity’ with violence. A woman buying into this may scorn a man who doesn’t fit this paradigm of manliness, but it’s not groups of women going out and physically assaulting “girly” men.

  3. Terrance Watson you brought up a good point. But I still wonder…

    In your example, although the woman has come out ahead, I am not sure that she is benefiting from an actual privilege. To me she is benefiting indirectly by the lower expectations that are placed upon her as a female.

    The reason why it’s acceptable for women to ask for help is that we are perceived as weaker, less capable. The expectation is already built in for us to need help.

    People can still have advantages that are not privilege based. The way I like to the think of the feminist movement, is that it basically allowed females to do stuff that were historically masculine activities e.g. education, politics, enterance into certain jobs, right to divorce, etc

    The flip side is, very few individuals seem to be fighting for the right for men to be “allowed” to do things that are considered “feminine” e.g. asking for help, primary parenting, primary homekeeper, etc. And I’m not convinced that most men and society in general sees this as something worth fighting for, honestly. Maybe you can tell me.

    The only reason that I can see for this is that masculinity still holds higher value. And because of this, I can see in some areas, women have an advantage in that we can “add value to ourselves” by taking on some “masculine” roles.

    To me real privileges are glaringly obvious and so in today’s world they tend not to go unchallenged for long, at the very least in public discourse.

    The lack of enthusiam by men, in general to have a piece of that “female privilege” that women supposedly have seems to also support the idea that in most realms this “privilege” is non-existent or has little percieved value.

    • I FUCKING LOVE YOU.

    • Thats one way to see it, but I would argue that gender roles for women have been largely relaxed in comparison to gender roles for men, at least in modern western society. I for one would speculate that it is not the perception of female privileges as having little value which prevents men from pursuing it, I mean the whole idea that men cannot ‘ask for help’ is completely at odds with feminine ‘privilege’ as you describe it.

  4. spike the cat, that’s a very important distinction to draw: not all advantages are privileges.

    Your other point about how few men are seeking “female privileges”, and how this indicates the low value placed upon them, is the crucial one I think.

    • “Your other point about how few men are seeking “female privileges”, and how this indicates the low value placed upon them, is the crucial one I think.”

      It does not indicate low value.

      If a male tries to get female privileges he loses all his male ones. So if he tries to get the female ones and fails he has nothing.

      That’s why it’s not attempted it’s too risky.

      • But that’s exactly why it indicates low value. Taking on aspects of female gender roles (being a stay at home dad etc) is risky because people see men taking on female gender roles as weak. how much do you want to bet that men who stay at home would be called “whipped” by his friends? It’s only risky because people think that men are taking the easy way out by staying at home because they’re “supposed” to be the ‘provider” for the family. “Letting” their wife (in a heterosexual relationship) be the one who brings the cash home is supposed to be emasculating because she is the one that is “supposed” to be taken care of.


  5. The flip side is, very few individuals seem to be fighting for the right for men to be “allowed” to do things that are considered “feminine” e.g. asking for help, primary parenting, primary homekeeper, etc. And I’m not convinced that most men and society in general sees this as something worth fighting for, honestly. Maybe you can tell me.

    Actually that is not the case. For the most part caring for children is percieved as a “feminine responsiblity”. Well there are men that are seriously trying to step to the plate and be responsible dads and in the stories they tell the main opponents were women and politicians that reinforced that percerption. When it comes to things like child care those dads don’t care about the feminine or masculine label, they just want to be there for their child(ren).


    Your other point about how few men are seeking “female privileges”, and how this indicates the low value placed upon them, is the crucial one I think.

    The reason it seems like there are few of them is because they don’t care about masculine or feminine, they just want a level playing field. Which is also what feminsts want.

  6. Danny, it seems odd to say “actually that is not the case” and then go on to essentially repeat spike the cat’s point. As to just wanting a level playing field involving not caring about masculine or feminine, although that would indeed be the ideal, I think you’re missing the point.

    The point about the traditionally masculine privileges is that the self-sovereignty with which they endow the person is universally regarded as desirable social advantages (the capacity for independent financial security, pursuing personal ambitions regarded as normal, having one’s opinion listened to with consideration, mentorship pathways for leader roles in the community etc etc).

    The “female privileges” universally involve trading self-sovereignty for the alleged protection of somebody else i.e. father or husband, “paid for” by becoming a servitor. The “female privileges” involve no personal financial security, the pursuit of personal ambitions being regarded as selfish abandonment of family duties, one’s opinion regularly ignored or belittled, never having the final say in decisions, no pathway for talented women to be mentored for leadership roles in the community etc etc.

    Men are generally unwilling to trade self-sovereignty to gain the so-called female privileges. Women are expected to trade self-sovereignty in order to be regarded as feminine at all.


  7. Men are generally unwilling to trade self-sovereignty to gain the so-called female privileges. Women are expected to trade self-sovereignty in order to be regarded as feminine at all.

    It sounds like you are hinging your argument on the notion that “men have privileges and they don’t want to give them up”. From what I can tell more and more men have no qualms about giving them up. And from what I’ve seen I have to ask (even at risk of rocking the boat): Women want a fair share of rights and these privileges (which I and many men are all for) and be the true equals of men. Why is it that they seem to go silent when it comes to equal responsibility?

  8. It sounds like you are hinging your argument on the notion that “men have privileges and they don’t want to give them up”.

    I think that’s largely true, yes. Especially for socially conservative men.

    From what I can tell more and more men have no qualms about giving them up.

    Which privileges do you see men broadly giving up? I know very few men who have given up all their independent earning capacity to be provided for by their wife, even if their wife does earn more than they do. A few, but not many. (ETA) Actually, I can’t think of one SAHD who has given up their own income-earning activities entirely: some have chosen to combine studies with primary child care, but that’s still investing in future income-earning capacity.

    And from what I’ve seen I have to ask (even at risk of rocking the boat): Women want a fair share of rights and these privileges (which I and many men are all for) and be the true equals of men. Why is it that they seem to go silent when it comes to equal responsibility?

    To which responsibilities do you refer? From what I’ve seen women have always accepted equal responsibilities.

  9. I suppose I should repharse that since you can’t give up what you don’t have. Yes there are men in the upper levels of society that have advantages over women but for some reason when the topic of privilege comes up all of a sudden all men get lumped together.

    I hope I don’t go overboard with this:
    Responsibilities:
    How is it that a couple can have a child and in the event of divorce there is little to no financial responsibility for the mother yet the father is expected to pay for nearly everything (even when there is shared custody)?
    Feminists like to tell men, “If men’s issues are so important to you then why do you do something about it?” A fair statement but when something comes along that might help men out who’s at the top of the list of opponents?
    On issues of rape and DV accusations. A woman can get a man arrested on nothing more than, “He raped me.” / “I’m scared of him.” Yet when said woman admits to making a false claim (not to be confused with an actual rape victim that mistakenly ID’s the wrong person) she almost never faces charges while that innocent man has to rebuild his life.
    And I have yet to hear of a woman that supports requiring women to sign up for Selective Services at 18 (yet men face fines and prison for not doing so).

    Now I’m not saying that women have never had any responsibilities or expectations but I wouldn’t say they were equal responsibilities.

    • You are delusional, not just naive..

    • 1. This is because people see women as the ” caregiver” and men as te “provider”. If those roles were not set in stone then women wouldn’t get custody so often and have to care for the child, and the child would go to whomever is best.

      2. 1 in 3 women are raped in their lifetime, only 1 in 16 of the rapists in these cases see any jailtime. Only 2% of rape reports are false.

      3. I don’t think there is a draft in the US anymore?

  10. Way to reveal that you not only have not fully read this very FAQ, but you certainly haven’t read any of the others.

    Privilege: your view of what constitutes male privilege is naive in the extreme. That wealthy men also have class privilege (and probably race privilege) ON TOP of male privilege does not mean that poor men hold no male privileges (indeed that’s probably why poor men fight harder to hang on to the ones they do have). That class privileges give wealthy white women more social advantages than male privileges give to poor black men does not mean that those poor men hold no male privileges: just that there is an intersectionality of class/race /gender oppressions under patriarchy.

    As to your list of responsibilities:
    * Non-custodial mothers have exactly the same child support responsibilities as non-custodial fathers. In shared physical custody situations (nearly all separated couples except a very small litigious minority hold joint legal custody), for the benefit of the children the parent who earns more is expected to cover a higher share of the costs of child-raising in some states, especially if the shared physical custody is not exactly equal-time. That the parent who earns more is nearly always the man is exactly the sort of tilted field that feminists seek to level.
    * Really, you’ll have to be a little more specific than “when something comes along that might help men”. If whatever the something was helped men without harming women, then I can’t imagine anyone having feminist reasons to oppose it.
    * Women who makes false complaints of rape are liable to the same charges and penalties as those who make false complaints of any other crime. An alleged perpetrator being found not-guilty is not the same as proving that the complainant lied, of course.
    * The draft: on this one you just have not been paying attention. Many feminists are working hard to have women allowed to fill combat positions when they join the armed forces (combat positions are promotion track and higher pay) so have no objection at all to extending the armed services registration to women. Most other feminists who believe that women should not register for the armed services take that stance because they believe that the armed services register shouldn’t exist at all.

    As to your claim that other responsibilities/expectations of women are not equal to the responsibilities of men, I’m simply speechless that you can dismiss the many responsibilities where the buck stops at a woman’s “desk” as not equal.

    Let’s take women’s responsibility for raising the next generation of taxpayers:
    * Despite the MRAs who want a presumption of joint physical custody, it is still the norm in non-contested custody cases that the separating partners either jointly decide to leave the children in the primary physical custody of the mother, or the father decides for both of them by just walking away. ETA: this is a major traditional responsibility which women are expected to shoulder as a matter of course, even if they also wish they could just walk away and start again without the burden of family responsibilities.
    * Men who abandon their children are “feckless” or at the worst “deadbeat”, women who abandon their children are “unnatural” at best and “monstrous” at the drop of a hat. ( We see this in family homicides: men who kill their partners and/or children are so common they barely make the local news unless the family is wealthy, women who kill their partners and/or children make national headlines and generate detailed court coverage.)

    Women are almost always universally regarded as somehow responsible for getting themselves raped.

    That’s just for starters. I’m glad that’s your three for the day, Danny.

  11. Danny, I want to add to what tigtog said in response to you. Having male privilege doesn’t mean that every man’s life will always be perfect, it just means that there are a certain set of problems that men generally don’t have to worry about, but people who are not men do have to worry about. A lot of it is around having the default “person” in society be a man- the president is a man, books use “he” for a gender neutral pronoun, advertising that uses “sex” to sell is almost always appealing to male notions of beauty and sexuality.

    There is also the set of assumptions that people make about men. For example, men who get a good job don’t need to worry that their co-workers think that they were hired because of their gender (fear of affirmative action), and if a man chooses not to have children, no one questions his masculinity (women who choose the same get their femininity questioned all the time).

    And finally there is the way people treat men. Men are sexually harassed much, much less often than women. Boys are called on more often than girls by teachers and receive more teacher attention. Men who are raped don’t face a trial where the defense argues that they were “asking for it.”

    Examples stolen shamelessly from “Alas, a Blog.”

  12. I wanted to briefly respond to Jadewolf’s example relating to boys being called on more by teachers in school.

    I don’t doubt that that’s true, but I also think the picture of how gender affects educational experience is more complex. Speaking of my own experience growing up in the American South, there was an assumption that girls were more mature and intelligent than boys. That assumption was flatly stated to my third grade class by our teacher, who informed us that boys were too wild to be good students. This is an assumption I also encountered amongst the my fellow students in college – almost all female, which was the norm for a Classics major – who often expressed surprise that a man was able to keep up with them.

    I don’t know what all this really means, if anything, but I’m not sure women are at a disadvantage in academics.

    Anyway, my apologies for the digression.

  13. See that’s why I like posting here. I was able to say my peace without getting attacked for not blindly following the crowd unlike other sites and you all just said your own peace without adding in personal attacks and insults.

    I can get with what you’re saying. I fully agree women and men both have their own set of expectations, assumptions, and treatments. Some are positive and some are negative but frankly they are all unfair. (In fact I’d like to dispute some your points Jadewolf but this is not the place).


    Having male privilege doesn’t mean that every man’s life will always be perfect, it just means that there are a certain set of problems that men generally don’t have to worry about, but people who are not men do have to worry about.

    Thank you so much for pointing this out. All to often I get this (a modified form of what you just posted):

    Having male privilege means that every man’s life will always be perfect. They don’t have many problems to worry about but people who are not men do have to worry about. And the ones that they do have to worry about they brought on themselves.

    And as soon as you call them on it they scramble to post what you posted in an attempt to make the other person look like the enemy.

  14. A few comments:

    I think one of the issues here is that we are sort of at a societal crossroads. We have MANY people subscribing to SOME principles of equality, yet are loathe to identify themselves with anything having to do with feminism.

    So subsequently on these blogs we hear a lot of finger pointing e.g. women don’t want this, or feminists want that. What people should do is to critically think about the motivations behind others thoughts and actions. Just forget about the labels for a second.

    For example, for moms (or dads) in some low income communities the chance to stay home with the child while relying on 1 income is a luxury. Contrast this with other communities where perhaps it is a luxury for both parents to pursue careers outside the home.

    Both of these can be seen in an equalitarian context; and although we might not call it feminism, we must remember that feminism is about having choices.

    A few words on rape:

    Now one of my problems with the acquaintance rape situation is the way we address prevention (or not). Most aspects of rape prevention education are targeted toward potential victims who are disproportionately female; and very little serious rape prevention education is targeted toward perpetrators who are disproportionately male.

    This is either a result of male privilege; or infantilization, ie., the notion that men are somehow incapable of controlling themselves, so all the burden is therefore placed on the woman (don’t drink, watch what you wear, etc).

    Why can’t there be a more frank conversation about male and female sexuality and the responsibilities that accompany sexual activity for both genders? A more balanced conversation would serve to achieve two goals:

    1) An overall reduction in attempted rapes, which leads to
    2) An overall reduction in unfounded allegations

    Sounds to me like everybody wins.

  15. Responding to Arkhilokhus – you’re right, it’s a common trope that male students are less disciplined or calm or serious than female students. (Sometimes this trope even coexists with another completely opposite trope, that male students are better at math and science than female students.) And that’s certainly an unflattering concept about males, and it doesn’t help them get ahead in school.

    But – and I think this is true of many ways in which sexism stereotypes men – although that example seems to favor girls, it actually replicates yet another pattern of female subordination. Let’s take your teacher’s concept:
    “Boys are too wild to be good students”
    and make an inference:
    “It’s no good trying to control boys”
    and look at the reverse:
    “on the other hand, it’s easier to control girls.”

    It’s a gross logic that you can see in a lot of other situations. Such as: “Men are animals,” which is deeply insulting to men, but also implies that men aren’t responsible for their sexual actions, so women have to be.

    P.S. I was shocked and disbelieving the first time I heard that boys get called on more often than girls. My psych teacher taught me that, and then challenged the class to keep track in our other courses. Sure enough, observation fulfilled the theory… I hope it’s less true as people become aware of that, though.


  16. Why can’t there be a more frank conversation about male and female sexuality and the responsibilities that accompany sexual activity for both genders? A more balanced conversation would serve to achieve two goals:

    It’s because of the finger pointing you mention earlier in your post. If you bring men and women together for a frank discussion the majority of the time would be taken up by both sides chiming off various stats, stories, and other things in an effort to establish the other side as an enemy that has no right to talk (because its all their fault) and must be “educated” (all the while ignoring the issues the other side brings up).

    There is no way in hell a “It’s all their fault and if they would admit it and then do what we tell them then we will all be equal and better off.” attitude is going to get us anywhere.

    • “There is no way in hell a “It’s all their fault and if they would admit it and then do what we tell them then we will all be equal and better off.” attitude is going to get us anywhere.”

      When have you heard feminists fighting for men “to do what we tell them to”???

  17. Tanglethis, thanks for this. I was mulling over how my experience fit into the larger pattern of male privilege versus benevolent sexism. What you said makes sense, and has given me quite a bit to think about.

    Just initially, it seems to me that this pattern reinforces male dominance in another way. I think it creates the impression in men that women think they’re smarter, and therefore better, than men. This in turn leads men to seek to undermine women, partly out of envy. The really sick thing about this dynamic is that men believe that doing this actually furthers equality; returning women to a realization that men are just as good as them, without seeing it as an expression of aggressive dominance.

  18. “Furthermore, the countries in which women (as compared with men) rejected benevolent sexism as strongly as hostile sexism were ones in which men had low hostile sexism scores.”

    Can someone give me a specific reference for this? I’d like to investigate it further.

    Thanks!

  19. [...] also what I personally think of as sexist privilege. (or racist privilege, or whatever…) This is an advantage that an oppressed segment of the [...]

  20. [...] is rigid and inflexible, and it confers privileges to men over women at every turn. There are no benefits to being a woman that are not framed in terms that inherently limit and define women in the [...]

  21. [...] Coming from a young child: flirting with a little boy to get free stuff is “like shooting fish in a barrel.”  Great.  We’re back to unabashedly encouraging girls (and women) to use their femininity to take advantage of men’s apparent “natural weakness” for women.  And this manipulative ability and tendency inevitably comes naturally for women–hell, a girl doesn’t even need to learn this.  Hear that?  It’s easy–just part of who we are, apparently.  Talk about valorizing and naturalizing benevolent sexism. [...]

  22. [...] Hat tip to LindaBeth who observes: Coming from a young child: flirting with a little boy to get free stuff is “like shooting fish in a barrel.” Great. We’re back to unabashedly encouraging girls (and women) to use their femininity to take advantage of men’s apparent “natural weakness” for women. And this manipulative ability and tendency inevitably comes naturally for women – hell, a girl doesn’t even need to learn this. Hear that? It’s easy – just part of who we are, apparently. Talk about valorizing and naturalizing benevolent sexism. [...]

  23. My problem with this entry is that not all “female privilege” falls under the “benevolent sexism” category. For instance:

    * It’s more socially acceptable for women to show strong emotions, by e.g. crying
    * Women are less likely to get harassed for wearing stereotypically male clothing than men wearing stereotypically female clothing
    * Women are much more likely to be trusted near children that aren’t theirs

    As a part of the male sex, I’ve often felt uncertain in the company of other males, as I feel that the way I am doesn’t match the stereotypical concept of what men are like, and that other men are more likely to look down on me if I don’t somehow ‘prove’ my masculinity regardless. In contrast, if I was female, people would consider it normal that I (among other things) was more sensitive than the average male.

    I’d like to stress that I don’t think female privilege would be stronger than, or even equal to, male privilege – no doubt society gives women the short end of the stick, on average. Nor do I think that a female privilege existing would somehow mean that male privilege was any less important to fight. But I do not see how one can realistically claim that there is no female privilege. I have childhood memories of staying quiet about some “girlish” toys I might have wanted, of accidentially stumbling into the genre of romantic novels and finding them interesting but not having the courage to borrow them from the library because I felt too embarassed to read such a stereotypically “female” genre, and thinking that it would have been fun to babysit children but then not looking for opportunities for that because I feared people would suspect any eager male babysitters of being potential child molesters. Had I been born as a girl, none of this would have been any sort of a problem.

  24. but Kaj, men are more stigmatized for being ‘female-like’ because female are lower in status than them in society’s view. That’s not part of a privilege, that just the bias that comes when you ‘act like the minority.’ Women acting like men are ‘admirable’ because they are seen as ‘overcoming themselves’ by acting like the privileged majority. Stereotypical female qualities are denigrated, while stereotypical male ones are exalted. You won’t say that a black person is privileged because they will be congratulated if they act ‘white’ (that means, of course, not acting like the stereotyped image that the majority has of them), right?

    And of course, of course, patriarchy hurts men too, but not by privileging women.

  25. Noir,

    in principle, I understand your logic. Privilege is a perk that comes from being in a superior social class, therefore men not being able to act like they were in an inferior class can’t be privilege. Right.

    On a practical level, though… if we ignore the “comes from being in a superior social class” bit, the female privileges certainly fit all the other criteria of privilege (at least the ones listed on this site – in fact, looking at that entry, I don’t see it explictly stated that privilege would have to derive from being in a superior social class, just from being of a certain social status). It’s an advantage that comes from social status, an advantage the members of that group think of as normal, and everybody in the group benefits from it. The sex that doesn’t have it is hurt by virtue of not having it. It’s admitted that the patriarchy hurts men too, but there doesn’t appear to be any specific term for this (?). Why not just call it privilege as well?

    It seems to me that not calling it privilege would be counterproductive to feminism – to be honest, “sure, you men are hurt too, but it’s only us who lack privilege” sounds a bit condescending (though I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way). Many men would probably have an easier time accepting that they have privilege if they were pointed out the ways in which women had privilege, too. It’d be a reason to do more work in order to guarantee equality of the sexes, not less.

  26. Are some male privileges also benevolent sexism?

  27. Kaj et. al.,

    One of the reasons that I think “privilege” works so well as a way of describing benefits of a dominant class (whites, males, able bodies, etc.) is because (to me, at least) the term denotes the benefit of power. And that’s really what it comes down to, nearly all of the time: power, agency, mobility. So, if women are expected to be sensitive (a supposedly “weaker” trait of the “weaker” sex) but men are not, that is certainly harmful to men (by denying them expression human emotion) but it also maintains the myth of men as impervious to emotion (i.e. stronger). If women may wear feminine (read: vulnerable) clothing but men may not, then men continue to avoid association with shoes that destabilize your walking and clothes that put your form on display. In these instances that you gave about, it’s true that women have cultural access to certain traits that men are not supposed to have, but it would be wrong to call this privilege – both instances reify male dominance.

    I also think that “it’s insulting to say that women lack privilege” is a disingenuous argument, and (deliberately or mistakenly) misreads the theory of privilege. To understand privilege of any sort is not to claim that oppressed groups lack capability or personal agency or anything that makes them independent human beings. It only means that our culture is constructed in such a way as to disadvantage or create obstacles for that group. For example, when I say I have white privilege, I mean that I’m aware of the ways in which historical and present prejudice has made it easier for me (as hardworking as I am) to have the position I have. White privilege does not and has never meant that nonwhites aren’t powerful and capable of having the same position… just that they may have to work even harder than I do to get there.

  28. [...] I go about my stupid real life (which continues to suck donkey balls). But then 95percent showed me this and it all [...]

  29. I was thinking about this discussion, and I think that a useful exercise to distinguish between advantage and privilege is to look at how these things are incoprorated into society’s metanarratives. A famous example of this is Gloria Steinam’s If Men Had Periods. The whole thing is worth reading, but I think this excerpt is key:

    Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“MENstruation”) as proof that only men could serve in the army (“You have to give blood to take blood”), occupy political office (“Can women be aggresive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?”), be priests and ministers (“how could a woman give her blood for our sins”), or rabbis (“Without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean”).

    Now, while menstruation is generally considered a “disadvantage” for women (and indeed, for many women can cause debilitating cramps– and the article does address this point), if it was incorporated into narratives like this, it would translate into privilege. Of course, it’s instead incorporated into narratives designed to keep women out of power.

    Now let’s look at this in terms of things that are generally considered a female “privilege”– as has been discussed here, in many countries (but not all– Hi Israel!) women have not been conscripted/drafted into military service, and have been expected to stay at home during war. Even completely ignoring the fact that women do face widespread rape and torture as a result of war anyway, military service is something that is used to legitimate men as leaders. Look at the way the Republicans needed to dishonestly undermine John Kerry’s wartime achievements– because those achievements were seen as something that validated his status as a candidate for president. Look at John McCain, and the way he uses his experiences in Vietnam to legitimate his candidature.

    Now, let’s imagine instead that a woman running for president claimed that five years of living in an abusive marriage, in which she was raped and beaten, was something that made her a suitable candidate for president– after all, it’s an experience shared by many women, it’s something that strengthens her drive to address social justice. But the metanarrative wouldn’t allow her to do that– she would be called weak for not getting herself out of the situation sooner, she would be accused of exploiting the abuse of women for political gain, she would probably be accused of lying about her experiences. Only men are allowed to claim years of torture as a sign of valour, in spite of the fact that torture is part of the daily lives of women in abusive marriages. Yet, for many years– and certainly when McCain was born– entering into marriage was seen as the only valid option for women.

    Personally, I see marriage and childbirth as something that women have traditionally been conscripted into– it may not have been legally compulsory, but for so long there was no other option for women who did not have some form in independent wealth. It was something we were supposed to do for our countries. But, in spite of the fact that risking one’s life in childbirth is FAR more necessary to the continuation of a nation than fighting a war overseas, one does not see women held up as potential leaders because they have made this important contribution to society– on the contrary, the narrative says that it makes us less valid as leaders– because they’ve spent too much time running around after the kids instead of getting “real” experience (and, of course, now that many women can make the choice to remain child-free, a childless woman will be rebuked for rejecting the role of mother– or alternatively, if a woman had children, but then also gets experience in other fields, she’s a bad mother and therefore unworthy).

    Fortunately, being conscripted into marriage and childbirth, at least in privileged countries like Australia, and the US, is less common than it used to be (although there are still social groups in which it occurs), and fortunately too conscription and the draft have not been used for a long time. I’m aware that American men still need to register, but it hasn’t been used for a while now. I’m pretty sure, from discussing the matter with friends in the military, that if conscription was re-implemented in Australia, both men and women would be conscripted. Yet, in spite of this, we still have narratives that legitimate one form of service (military) and not another (domestic) even though both have traditionally involved sacrifice for one’s country.

    When I see war memorials replaced with memorials to women who have died in childbirth, then I’ll believe that we have female privilege. When I see a woman treated as a hero and legitimate leader for surviving an abusive marriage while men who were tortured in war are denigrated for their experience, then I’ll believe we have female privilege. In short: when we have a set of narratives that suggest that women’s experiences make us more valid as leaders then men– then I’ll believe in female privilege.

    • Hi Beppi, I thought it might interest you to know that medals/honours were awarded to mothers in the Soviet Union. The highest award being that of ‘Mother Heroine.’

      “This decoration was awarded to all mothers bearing and raising 10 or more children. It was awarded upon the first birthday of the last child, provided that nine other children (natural or adopted) remained alive. Children who had perished under heroic, military or other respectful circumstances were also counted.” — Wikipedia

      Apparently around 500,000 of these medals were awarded (one to a male, who presumably adopted). There were also ‘Order of Maternal Glory’ medals 1st Class (9 children), 2nd Class (8), 3rd Class (7) and the ‘Motherhood Medal’ 1st Class (6 children) and 2nd Class (5).

      Note: I’m not trying to make any point by posting this particular information. I don’t currently have an opinion on whether medals of this type are a good idea or not (I need to think about it more, maybe do some reading). Actually I would be interested in your opinion. I just thought you might find the information useful or interesting.

  30. In the last few months I’ve had time to think things through and I may be making progress (although I have no idea what I’m progressing towards). Reading back in this thread I’ve said some things that don’t fully agree with anymore as well things that I still stand by but oh well.

    So beppie it seems that your definition of privilege hinges on power and historical advantage, correct? I’ve been thinking over my interpretation of privilege lately (by all means take a look. And there is one thing that makes me hesitant to attach power to privilege. Based on that attachment when a person from a group who has been historically oppressed is given something just because they are ____ how is that not privilege?

    I’d appreciate your (and anyone else’s) thoughts.

  31. Danny, we don’t live in vacuum. If you talk about things like Affirmative Action, and the likes, when people are given ‘benefits’ because they have a disadvantage regarding the dominant group. If you hire more disabled people because they are disabled and you know they don’t have the same advantage than able people has to get a job, you aren’t privileging them. You are just making an effort in seeing the disadvantage and doing something conscious because of it. It’s like saying than making more starring roles for characters of colors in a movie is privileging them, but the truth is that the writer/productor/director was, yeah, including them because they were people of color, and because they know there is an AMAZING lack of starring characters of color. But they aren’t, by any means, privileging characters of color.

  32. Affirmative Action has been a tricky one (well to me at least). Of course minorities should most certainly have a fair chance getting an opportunity at a position as the majority (minority and majority of course vary from situation to situation). But I’ve always had an odd feeling about taking it to the point where you hire someone specifically because they are _____ and choosing the best candidate.

    In your example of disabled people:
    If you hire more disabled people because they are disabled and you know they don’t have the same advantage than able people has to get a job, you aren’t privileging them. You are just making an effort in seeing the disadvantage and doing something conscious because of it.
    I can’t speak for disabled people because I am not but that almost sounds like a handout which unless I’m mistaken many disadvantaged people (not just the disabled) do not like. Perhaps I am confusing that handout with privilege…

    Now about your hiring people of color in acting roles. Nothing wrong with hiring talented black actors/actresses. It would seem that in my thinking that hiring people of just because they are people of color is unfair and it kinda feels like, “I’m not racist. I hire people of color too.” I think I see where you’re coming from. This is new stuff to think about. Thanks folks.

  33. It’s fine, the thing is they aren’t giving roles/jobs/whatever to members of minority just because. They are giving them because they apply for the job/role/whatever AND because they are member for that minority. This is due to the fact that people in the dominant group has more opportunities not only because they apply, but BECAUSE they are members of the dominant group. You already accept that our society isn’t balanced.

  34. Hi

    I understand completely that privilidge lies with men. Often though, in situations dealing with conflicts between populations rather than individuals it’s important to recognise individuals. As individuals we are sometimes powerless against systems and culture which are bigger than us all.

    i.e. Not all men have it easier than all women, and women gain advantages from the patriarchy and men are hurt sometimes by the patriarchy are things that show empathy.

    Every man has not consciously contributed to patriarchy, men feel great pressure to fight and die in wars and to earn money in the coveted high powered jobs and *as individuals* they can’t see the privilidge or the power that gives them sometimes….the responsibilities weigh so heavily that it doesn’t *feel* like privilidge…even though it is.

    What’s wrong with softening the language and acknowledging female benefits if it means men feel empathised with and understand more about feminism by the end of it? If that gives them the space to forget their own immediate pain to concentrate on someone elses?

    Would things have been different if women had been thought of as the superior class all this time-I doubt we would have had a more equal society, just an upside one to the one we have. Just like if blacks had colonised the whites….I am sure we still would have had slavery.

    Empathy and understanding goes a long way in changing minds. And if it had been the other way around I would hope men would have been understanding but strong in their revolt too.

    Finally I don’t understand sometimes why MRAs and feminists aren’t working together.

    MRAs complain they are over represented in jobs like rubbish collection, the army, fire service etc
    MRAs complain about being “success objects”
    MRAs complain about not being involved in child care and not being chosen as primary caregivers after divorce.

    Feminists want more women to choose the career they want unfettered by the patriarchal view of what it is to be female. More women in the armed services
    Feminists was more women in higher paid jobs
    Feminists want more equal sharing of domestic work so that women are not disadvantaged in the work place.

    Look what you have in common!

    • Finally I don’t understand sometimes why MRAs and feminists aren’t working together.

      On the off chance that you’re not being deliberately ironic, I suggest you look a bit deeper into what most MRA sites say about women in general, and especially what they say about feminists. You appear to have missed quite a bit.

      • On the off chance that you’re not being deliberately ironic, I suggest you look a bit deeper into what most feminist sites say about men in general, and especially what they say about MRAs. You appear to have missed quite a bit.

    • “MRAs complain they are over represented in jobs like rubbish collection, the army, fire service etc
      MRAs complain about being “success objects”
      MRAs complain about not being involved in child care and not being chosen as primary caregivers after divorce.

      Feminists want more women to choose the career they want unfettered by the patriarchal view of what it is to be female. More women in the armed services
      Feminists was more women in higher paid jobs
      Feminists want more equal sharing of domestic work so that women are not disadvantaged in the work place.”

      No, MRAs want to keep things the ways they are. They see nothing wrong with gender roles: men doing the hard, dangerous, repugnant job because they are superior to women; women, in their turn, should return the favour by being grateful and submissive.

  35. To Bink,
    MRA’s aren’t, in my experience, concerned about equal rights at all; they’re only concerned with taking long fought-for rights away from women. I suggest you try reading some of their blogs. Their visceral and unreasoning misogyny is truly terrifying.

  36. I see a lot of talk of men as individuals being disadvantaged under certain circumstances but the consensus seems to be that men as a group are never disadvantaged. I think this analysis is simplistic. To be more precise, I think spitting people into men and women is too simplistic and that we should really be thinking about aspects of this issue in terms of a kyriarchy rather than a patriarchy.

    Specifically, I think fathers have a valid complaint. We are all aware that the patriarchy does not look favourably upon fathers who want to spend more time with their children (be it as stay at home fathers, equal parents after a divorce, or just as parents in general). women are preferred as parents and this preference is institutionalised.

    Women in general are disadvantaged by this position, because they are stereotyped as default parents their advance in business and politics is (wrongly) impaired. Non-family-centred men who seek power are privileged as a result, and because they are, men in general achieve positions of power. But there is also a disadvantage to men here. Studies have shown that men are more susceptible to mental illness later in life because they don’t form close personal relationships other than with their wives. A disconnection from family leads to health issues and general unhappiness.

    This disadvantage I have just spoken of is greater for these family centred men. We need to consider these men as a separate group. They have collective concerns – they are more than individuals. The problem is that men who seek additional time with children aren’t the ones in power. Mostly they are young men. Generally they are not the men who are the most career driven yet they are being held to those values by the men who are in power. Additionally, the forces of the patriarchy are drawn on to employ men and women to expect men to be the career driven type, being both career driven and family orientated isn’t considered an option – men aren’t taught that they can have it all. So, these men are the victims of institutionalised sexism.

    Traditionally, you wouldn’t call this an example of female privilege. Despite the fact that home life has been the woman’s ‘sphere of influence,’ this role has been a compensatory mechanism – a benevolent sexism – for women. Now, however, things are beginning to change, mainly through the work of feminism. Improved access to day-care, increased part-time work opportunities and increased maternity leave, plus changing attitudes, have lead to a recognition that women can balance a family and a career. Men are not in an equivalent position. Being able to have a career and a significant role in family life is an advantage. Maybe it could also be called a privilege.

    For me a feminist ally is just a feminist who isn’t directly disadvantaged by the topical issue. Most of the time the men in feminism are allies, but on this issue they are the feminists and the women need to be the allies.

    It seems to me that not all feminist women know how to be good allies. Often this issue is bought up MRAs are mentioned. This has the result of getting most feminists off side and they don’t support their male colleagues. As a result some fathers engage with the MRAs instead, despite not agreeing with much of what they say, because they feel they are their only strong advocates. Male feminists need more support from feminism as a whole in this area. I think instead of only pointing out that many aspects of MRA positions are anti-feminist it would be more constructive to simply say, “We don’t agree with MRAs most of the time and that makes co-operation difficult,” but then go on to support the position of fathers, vocally support those issues you do agree with. This would be much more constructive.

    A more equal share of family duties is desirable for women and men. It’s impossible for only women to have equality in this area. This is a feminist issue and deserves support when it comes up. Please, we (family men and those who want to be in the future) need your help and support.

    • I think instead of only pointing out that many aspects of MRA positions are anti-feminist it would be more constructive to simply say, “We don’t agree with MRAs most of the time and that makes co-operation difficult,” but then go on to support the position of fathers, vocally support those issues you do agree with. This would be much more constructive.

      This is a very good point. Balancing family and career needs to happen for men as well as women, and we won’t have any chance at true gender egalitarianism until it does.

    • I’ve heard a few times people talk about having a place to discuss masculinity and maleness and the problems particulary facing men, kinda analagously to feminism. This sounds like what you’re looking for here – it’d give a place to bring up specific issues like parenting, as well as more general issues like the expectation that men should be less interested in their children.
      And this sounds to me like a pretty great idea, there don’t seem to be many opportunities going to actually discuss masculinity, what it means, how it can be relevant, how social expectations push us to behave, that kind of thing. And I think it’d be good too to stop seeing ‘male’ as just the default non-gender and talk positively about it.
      But it seems like it’s only ever talked about hypothetically. So, does anyone know of anything like this? I had a look and found one or two good websites with essays on the subject, but nothing really discussion-based. If not, would people be interested in starting one? I’d be happy to do the basic setting up if there are people keen to join this kind of discussion?

      (and yep, I realise I just wrote a post on a feminist blog entirely about men – hope this is on-topic enough to be legitimate?)

      • Hugh, I think that’s a good idea. I would suggest that if you set-up such a site you make it clear that discussions are to take place in a pro-feminist context in order to distinguish your site from MRAs etc.

  37. This whole page seems to be an attempt to redefine ‘female privilege’ as ‘benevolent sexism’. It’s not, and the suggestion that women have no power whatsoever in society that hasn’t been given to them by men actually infantilises women and undermines any attempt at rectifying any subsequent inequalities.

    Of course female privilege exists. Male priviliege has nothing to do with men “as a class”. Male privilege is a list of advantages men have in society because of their gender. Conversely, female privilege is a list of advantages women have because of their gender.

    e.g. If I apply for a job in a field such providing care for another, as a woman I am more likely than an equally qualified man to to get that job.

    e.g. As a woman there is more help available to me if I am discriminated against because of my gender.

    e.g. As a woman my life is seen as having a greater value than that of a man’s.

    The thing is. These lists serve no purpose whatsoever other than to perpetuate gender stereotypical behaviour. They’re useful in a way – to identify various double standards in society- but unfortunately that’s not how they’re used. They’re used to deliberately divide the genders when we should be trying to show people (particularly young people) that they can do whatever the other gender can do (biological exceptions aside).

  38. Two points:

    1) I’m fine with accepting the idea that female privileges are really “benevolant sexism” in disguise…

    But, and only if… I saw feminist organizations organizing campaigns to educate women to refuse “benevolent sexism”.

    Where are the campaigns teaching women to refuse benevolent sexism. Where are the campaigns teaching women to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for those areas and refuse being given advantages because they’re the “weaker sex”. Where are the campaigns teaching women not act as the weaker sex? Right now I see women who say “hear me roar, I am strong” in areas that were classically male privileged… But when they go in the areas where women were always privileged they go “oh, I’m a weak little girl, won’t you protect me, wine me, dine me, and treat me like a little girl?”

    If there was an equal amount of campaigns teaching women to throw away their privileges as there were campaigns encouraging them to gaining men’s privileges, I’d believe you. Right now, I’m suspicious.

    2) Ever occured to you that men’s “privileges” are also benevolent sexism?

    Most of these are leftovers from a lot more primitive societies which were very specialized in their roles (not just gender roles, but generally in roles assigned to people). The roles didn’t allow much flexibility.

    Did it ever occur to you that some of these thing that you claim to be “privileges” for men are also burdens for the men who do not want them?

    Just like a woman can consider chivalry to be benevolent sexism and a burden that she be expected to be a “lady” when she doesn’t like it. Its an equal burden for a man to be expected to become strong, powerful and successful. Most men who don’t like the role, end up commiting suicide. When boys learn their gender role (what you call privilege) the suicide rate increases 15,000%… They obviously can’t stand all the privilege :)

    Male roles are also benevolent sexism.

    The point is that gender-roles as such are bad because they define who you should be based on your genitalia. Gender roles ignore that you as an individual, have individual goals, motivation and aspirations in life.

    The problem is when someone comes in with this hypocritical view that gender roles damage only one gender… thereby furthering the discrimination they think they are solving.

    You refer to the male role as “privilege” and the female role as “benevolent sexism”, what proof more do you need that you’re not being equal?

  39. Here is stupid checklist that some misogynist put together to claim that female privilege exists. It’s called the “Female Privilege Checklist”. [link]

    [moderator note: link edited to point to a google-cache - no link-juice for misogynists from here]

  40. Ok so why is it somethings that should be considered benevolent sexism against men listed on that famous male privilege checklist? Such as

    “If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent” –
    What this really means is that no one expects men to be good parents so if they’re competent they’re a pro compared to all the other men.

    • All a man has to do is not abandon his kid and he’s considered a good dad, but a woman just has to breast feed too long (by somebody’s arbitrary standard) and somebody will accuse her of child abuse (eg Selma Hayek), and you think this is female privilege and sexism against men?

      • For me, at least, it’s a matter of viewing it the same way for men and women. If you state that this situation is sexist against women because it holds women to a higher standard than men, then when you see men being held to a higher standard than women, you must then declare that situation sexist against women. (Or you can refine your argument to “the parenting situation is sexist against women because it holds women to a higher standard AND _______.”)

        I also think that you’re engaging in some hyperbole. I can think of plenty of examples of fathers who stuck around who were still considered bad fathers. (Abusive, &c.) And it’s very different to say “will be considered a bad parent by most people” and “somebody will accuse her.” I’m pretty sure that every parent was considered by someone to be doing a bad job. I don’t doubt that there’s a difference in perceptions of mens’ childrearing abilities vs womens’, but I also don’t think it’s as wide a gulf as you’ve indicated.

  41. Also how would the old double standard of
    sleeping with students not be considered a female privilege?

    I’d honestly like to know that one.

    • You mean like all the coverage of Debra LaFave compared to that of Lawson Sweat, Michael Markeson, Gregory Pathiakis, Edgar Berry, Jack Russell Hubbard and various other male teachers you’ve never heard of who’ve been convicted of sexually assaulting students?

  42. Didn’t read the comments thread, so excuse me (and by all means don’t publish this comment!) if I’m repeating someone.

    I can’t help but feel that this thread sort of avoids the accusations of Female Privilege. Most MRA sites will, admittedly, use chivalry and the draft as examples of what they call Female Privilege, but like all radicals they shouldn’t really be taken seriously. Other people, on the other hand, use perfectly viable examples of “Female Privilege” that cannot be described as benevolent sexism, such as almost automatic custody of children in divorces, regardless of which party is at fault, or being capable of interacting with a strangers children with a much lower chance of being suspected of having an abusive motive.

    This is not to say that those Female Privileges are anywhere near to being on the scale of the Male ones, but this post essentially avoids adressing something that is actually very real. There certainly are Female Privileges, just nowhere near as many.

    • Jeff, see my reply to ballgame below for more, but the short answer is that Privilege is a package, a gestalt of social status attributes, not just a benefit here and there.

      Generally, ‘maybe-dangerous’ men get deferred to, ‘probably-safer’ women get imposed upon. This is the stereotype at play in the interacting with a stranger’s children scenario, and in most mixed-gender social scenarios being considered ‘maybe-dangerous’ plays to the advantage of men in terms of who gets deferred to in social interactions.

      In divorce another social stereotype is in play: that childcare is a female job. Most women get physical custody because most men don’t want it, and most men don’t contest it. In contested custody cases, men are actually quite successful.

      • ‘Privilege is a package’ doesn’t really make sense when it’s customary to warn people to ‘check YOUR privilege’. It would be weird for a man to actually have every single item in the Male Privilege package… but we still say he HAS male privilege, even though he doesn’t have the whole thing.

  43. @redfish – I don’t know. Usually they’re just told what they should have done differently to prevent the male teacher from assaulting them,.

    • @snobographer – Suppose what you say is true.

      Which is worse after being sexually molested, being told that you should be glad it happened, or being told how you could have prevented it?

  44. It seems to me that the argument against the existence of female privilege is essentially circular:

    We live in a patriarchy.

    How do we know we live in a patriarchy?

    Because we live in a system that privileges men and not women.

    But in some cases, women enjoy clearly demonstrable advantages over men!

    Those advantages aren’t privileges!

    Why not?

    Because those advantages exist in the context of living in a patriarchy.

    Many female advantages appear to fully qualify as “privileges” under the terms used to describe “male privilege” here at Feminism 101, i.e.:

    “advantages that [women] benefit from based solely on their social status”

    “advantages [women] have that [they] think are normal”

    “In particular, in [tigtog’s] framework, immunities and exemptions are indeed privileges.”

    The subsequent rationalizations for confining the label of “privilege” to male gender advantages seem at best arbitrary and at worst plainly counter-factual. There seems little objective logic in labeling the absence of the “slut shaming” of men (the shaming of people for having too many sex partners) to be a male privilege, while not acknowledging that the (relative) absence of the “virgin shaming” of women (the shaming of people for having too few sex partners) as a female privilege. And in the United States, for example, how is it “benevolent sexism” that female infant genitalia are considered off-limits to arbitrary excision (even for religious purposes), while male infant genitalia are not?

    • Circularity is a serious alligation… no rebuttal to this?

      • @famfamfam, I haven’t felt any urgency in rebuttal because ballgame is, per usual, merely indulging in rhetorical sophistry about the concept of privilege: accusing feminists of treating it as a monolithic property when feminist theorists have never done that, instead it is his strawman that is treating privilege as a monolithic attribute instead of as a system of intersecting hierarchical attributes.

        Read the Patriarchy FAQ and it’s description of the kyriarchy as a system of multiple intersecting hierarchies of superordination and subordination. Each of those hierarchies confers privileges/dominance to some in that grouping over others by who is designated as superior/inferior. The three major social hierarchies are Race, Class and Gender, but there’s many other hierarchies operating within and around the big three.

        Because we live in a system that privileges men and not women.

        Feminism argues that men are privileged over women in the Gender hierarchy. Feminism has never denied that some women gain social advantages over some men though having ‘superior’ positions in other social hierarchies. ballgame has made a textbook strawman argument.

      • It would seem, if the purpose of this site is truly to be “Feminism 101,” then a proper response would be to explain how the given examples are merely privileges in some other hierarchy, not to merely think “This is textbook strawman” and ignore it.

        If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that sometimes women have privilege due to being white or upper-class. If so, which of these hierarchies applies to the situations ballgame described? Americans, I feel certain, would be more upset at the notion of genital mutilation practiced on poor black girls than rich white boys (Although if you choose to disagree with me, I have nothing to back that assertion up.) Similarly, I feel that middle-class white men get virgin-shamed more than middle-class white women, and the same for any other section of Class & Race. Do you disagree?

      • Feminism argues that men are privileged over women in the Gender hierarchy.

        tigtog, it may be true that ‘feminism’ makes that argument (at times), and the assertion that ‘men are more privileged than women’ might even be true (though I’ve yet to see someone actually do the work and somehow assign values to the various privileges that men have and that women have, and tally them up). However, neither of these contentions is at issue.

        What IS at issue is the specific contention of the OP (and indeed, of this blog and gynocentric feminists in general): that women are never privileged over men, that they don’t, in fact, have “privileges” as the term is defined in your “male privilege” post.

        Feminism has never denied that some women gain social advantages over some men though having ‘superior’ positions in other social hierarchies. ballgame has made a textbook strawman argument.

        The implication that I’m either deliberately or inadvertently confusing race or class attributes with gender attributes is just blatantly false. All of the female advantages I list in my “Female Privilege” post apply to women of the same race, class, and sexuality as a comparable set of men to which they would be relatively advantaged. For example, white women are far less likely to be murdered than white men, and African American women are much less likely to be murdered than African American men. There is no ‘kyriarchical overlap’ that would explain these gender discrepancies.

        Gender is not like race and class, which are (by and large) uni-directional when it comes to privilege. In gender, there is a wide spectrum of attributes in which men suffer worse outcomes than women, even controlling for other kyriarchical attributes. Handwaving these feminine advantages away by arbitrarily removing the “privilege” label from them or by falsely implying that they are really the result of some other demographic variable strikes me as being singularly unconvincing.

      • ballgame, you persist in conflating any singular advantage(s) with hierarchical privilege. One or a few advantages in a particular situation that derives from a systemic position of subordination is not an example of privilege. Even slaves are able to embezzle from a master – you think that one advantage in their situation makes them privileged?

        As for the example of men being more likely to be murdered than women, I note that you don’t mention that the perpetrators of these murders are also overwhelmingly male. The places where high rates of male-on-male violence occur are gender-stratified social spaces that are created by certain men for the benefit of their buddies who want to exploit other men, because there’s a lot of money to be made on the edge of legality in the sort of spaces where women are simply not welcome to participate (some women might be present as designated eye-candy/trophies, but the whole point of their presence is as decoration, not as contenders). The higher risk of violence and murder goes hand in hand with the greater opportunities to make large sums of money in these spaces, where so much money is made that law enforcement is easily paid off etc.

        The other place where high rates of male-on-male violence is found is in incarceration, most of which happens due to crimes and misdemeanours committed in the gender-stratified spaces described above i.e. they are a consequence of these male-created spaces created to make money off exploiting marks (gambling, drinking, drugs etc).

        How you can look at that and not see an intersecting kyriarchal hierarchy phenomenon beats me, unless it’s that you’re not catching on that wiseguys view themselves as inherently superior to marks. Wiseguys just find it easier to fleece marks when they’re in a competitive group doing the macho posturing, which is easier to get going when the marks are discouraged from bringing their wives – the wiseguys play off sexist stereotypes of women as the “ball and chain”, nagging and ruining a fun night out, to exclude women from these lucrative but dangerous spaces – but that’s secondary to their goal of fleecing the marks.

        So, the men are having all the fun, the men are making all the money, and some of those same men are doing the beating and killing and dying. The only reason women aren’t doing the dying bit is because they’re excluded from all the rest of it as well – one advantage gained from being subject to a plethora of denied opportunities that add up to a lot of disadvantage. One advantage is not a Female Privilege.

      • tigtog,

        thanks for your reply – I read the article you link to and I think it does make ballgame’s point – you say –

        “The theoretical adequacy of patriarchy has been challenged because, for instance, black men to not have control over white wo/men and some women (slave/mistresses) have power over subaltern women and men (slaves).”

        and

        “This does not mean that superordinate women (by virtue of lineage/wealth) do not have concrete advantages and social privileges compared to subordinate men – this is where the intersecting rankings and dominations of the kyriarchy come in.”

        I can’t really see what in the article you link to explains why it’s necessary to terminologically separate one kind of privilege of a social position from the other, ie why it’s necessary to call female privileges “benevolent sexism” because they are something inherently different. If you introduce the other, intersecting, dimensions into the picture, then all you can say is that, in patriarchy, ceteris paribus, men have privileges. But since people are so vastly different, each and every one of them, it seems absurd to claim that there ever really is, or could be, a real ceteris paribus situation, because it seems rather unlikely for two people to find themselves at the exact same position in all other (allowed) dimensions, except gender. Maybe this marginally works for glass ceiling analyses in Western corporations or politics, thinking of affirmative action as benevolent sexism. But apart from that specific application?

        Assume a disabled man and a asian female executive. He has privilege but she has benevolent sexism??? An ugly black male CEO and a pretty white female CEO?

        I doubt the terminological distinction is helpful, and I can see why it’s criticized as unfair and as an attempt to exempt women from responsibility for reconstructing the very same system criticized as problematic when they are themselves in a position of power.

      • You seem to be missing the whole point of intersectionality, famfamfam. One can have Male Privilege but lack White Privilege. One can have Wealth Privilege but lack Able-Bodied Privilege. One might have NeuroTypical Privilege but lack HeteroNormative Privilege. The possibilities of intersecting hierarchies and privilege positions are vast.

        The fact that one lacks Privilege in one hierarchy does not automatically cancel out the Privilege one has in another hierarchy, it just means that the balance of superior/dominant status signifiers and inferior/subordinate status signifiers will make one’s social situation complicated and situationally slippery, whereas another person who scoops the pool of superior/dominant status signifiers will be cushioned by Privilege in nearly all situations.

        We are a hierarchical species who reinforce our status to ourselves by judging others as lesser than. People with Disabilities can be racist . People of Colour can be classist. People with NeuroDiverse cognitive arrays can be homophobic. Poor people can be ableist. Women can be sexist about other women, just as members of other vilified groups can internalise bigotry so that they vilify members with the same status signifiers.

        If one wants to examine the roots of one’s own behaviour, one has to acknowledge the privileges one has in order to work out where one’s blinkers are, otherwise how can you lift those blinkers off? So, I have white, cisgender, heteronormative, middle-class, able-bodied, tertiary-educated, Anglo Privilege as my major social status signifiers. As a NeuroDiverse Woman, I lack Male Privilege and NeuroTypical Privilege.

        Depending on the situation, my array of Privilege might well outweigh someone else’s Male or NeuroTypical Privilege in combination with their other attributes. But there will also be situations where it won’t. Some of those situations will be more important than others.

      • tigtog,

        thanks for your reply –

        “You seem to be missing the whole point of intersectionality, famfamfam. … Depending on the situation, my array of Privilege might well outweigh someone else’s Male or NeuroTypical Privilege in combination with their other attributes. But there will also be situations where it won’t. Some of those situations will be more important than others.”

        Well, I think you’re saying exactly what I did.

        That it’s basically impossible to operationalize a composite privilege value for any individual because there are so many different components/dimensions. So I’m still not getting why it’s beneficial to label advantages of women on the gender axis “benevolent sexism” and not female privilege when advantages that men get on this axis are labeled “male privilege”. Again, the only reasons I can see at the moment are discoursive – in feminist discourse, it is rather common to criticize men for their lack of awareness of their “male privilege”, something that is made easier by rhethorically attempting to move empirically apparent gender based advantages enjoyed by women on a different axis. And again, in a situation where “having privilege” is often used as an accusation, claiming to not any seems also useful to obscure the role of women in the constant reconstruction of the gender system critisized.

        You know, to say that women cannot have gender based privilege because if it weren’t for male privilege there wouldn’t be any privilege at all in the gender realm, is a bit like saying that black people cannot be racist because white people came up with racism to begin with. It’s not very convincing, I’m afraid.

  45. “one advantage gained from being subject to a plethora of denied opportunities”

    See, I just don’t get that. Maybe I’m just (as I’ve been told before on this subject) “Privileged”, but I’ve never been denied the opportunity to do whatever pleased me based on nothing more than my gender.

    And why is “Privilege” such a big issue? We all have areas where we have some “Privilege” over others, and it all evens out in the end. What’s the problem?

    • why is “Privilege” such a big issue?We all have areas where we have some “Privilege” over others, and it all evens out in the end. What’s the problem?

      Because Privilege does not in fact even out, and some people deny that it exists at all when they are judging disadvantaged/marginalised people for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

  46. tigtog, I think your notion of crime as a self-enrichment scheme that men engage in at the expense of women, to be loaded by middle-class biases.

    A lot of crime is driven by poverty, and for those people, doing crime is as much the breadwinners “work” as more mainstream economical activities are for others.

    Many of those criminals have women and families that depend on the fruits of their crimes, and the fact that the men predominantly engage in it often functions to protect the women and children from the legal consequences.

    In fact, one could argue, reaping the fruits of crime without needing to directly partake in the crime itself could be considered a female privilege in many of these cases.

    • Actually, I think I’m a lot more cynical about this than you give me credit for, because I include the grunt-level crims amongst the marks in the system run by the wiseguy bosses.

      Only a very few people get rich out of organised crime and the only-just-legit pursuits that surround it. Everybody else under the bosses, both squares and wannabe wiseguys, is being exploited by them, and the way that they get to exploit maximum profit out of their enterprises is to encourage male-only spaces where competitiveness rules, and thus the violence happens.

      This is a classic class-based hierarchy of dominance and exploitation, it’s just not the traditional “legit” classes that are involved.

  47. I think Tigtog and Ballgame are just coming at this from different a priori assumptions.

    From Tigtog’s slave analogy, it would seem that Tigtog assumes that even if there was an advantage to being a slave (not sure if I agree with this particular advantage) that this could not be termed a “privilege” because slaves as a class are not “privileged”.

    What Ballgame is referring to as “privilege” is an advantage that may or may not lead to an overall privilege based on how all the individual “privileges” were counted. So, the slave’s presumed advantage would actually be a “privilege” weighed against their master’s “privileges,” although the master would be privileged overall.

    So, I present that by Tigtog’s definition, if women were on the whole privileged over men, these benevolent sexisms would turn into privileges, but because (under Tigtog’s assumptions) women are not privileged, but oppressed, these benevolent sexisms are not privileges.

    If that were true, Tigtog and Ballgame are really speaking past each other. One thinks that men are privileged and the other does not. This doesn’t mean that Tigtog (or certain branches of feminsim) use circular logic, per se. It’s just different assumptions. The real argument here is whether men are actually privileged or not. This is more of an evidence based sort of argument, ill suited to blog comments or this blog in general, which assumes that women are an oppressed class.

    • I think you’re right, lesquarries.

      Privilege is a status in a hierarchy, which is made up of accrued advantages and exemptions.

      Advantages and exemptions looked at in isolation are not enough to establish privilege.

      • I think that part of the problem is that there are multiple definitions of privilege in use. At minimum, there’s the usual definition (just google “privilege” to find one) and there’s various fairly closely related descriptions over at the male privilege FAQ (although it nowhere out-and-out defines it, saying “If something fits this description, it’s privilege. If it doesn’t fit this description, it isn’t privilege.”)

        But, it feels like there’s a third definition in play. Not being forced to serve in war, for example, fits the aforementioned descriptions. It is an advantage that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to women, not seized by individual women. Now, it isn’t necessarily conferred due to “superior social status,” but if that’s part of the what constitutes privilege, then failing to include it when answering the question “What is male privilege?” is just going to confuse people like me (and presumably ballgame), who are here because they’re looking for “Feminism 101.” It also, of course, would completely obviate this FAQ and answer ballgame’s question.
        ‘Don’t women have “female privilege”?’
        ‘No. In the context of feminism (as well as other contexts), the term ‘privilege’ is used specifically to refer to advantages gained through being part of a superior social group. So, by definition, there can be no female privilege in a male-dominated society.’

      • ‘Don’t women have “female privilege”?’
        ‘No. In the context of feminism (as well as other contexts), the term ‘privilege’ is used specifically to refer to advantages gained through being part of a superior social group. So, by definition, there can be no female privilege in a male-dominated society.’

        That’s actually a very good answer and is indeed exactly what I believe. Male privilege attaches to men as a class in a male-dominated society. Until we have a society in which leadership positions are closer to 50/50 at all levels in all fields (hey, even much closer to 60/40 would be fantastic) then we still have a male-dominated society.

      • tigtog, I wonder if you could explain to me one thing. You seem to infer that our society is male-dominated based on the fact that men comprise most of its top echelons. I don’t understand how you can avoid looking at the society bottom echelons before reaching this conclusion. The bottom echelons of society are also predominantly male.

        I think the claim that the society is male-dominated is false. I agree that the highest levels of society are male-dominated, but how can you concentrate on fixing that without looking at the big picture?

        Although there might be some level sexism pushing man up (but what pushes them down??), greater variance of ability seems like a much more plausible explanation for such state of things. Even the small variance would dictate very different results in a large population if you select the top few to give them high rewards and completely disregard the bottom few (which happens in capitalism).

        For example, if men have a bit greater variance in intellectual ability than women, then it could be that:

        * if you pick the smartest (or dumbest) half of the population, you’ll get 50% men and 50% women
        * if you pick the smartest (or dumbest) 1% of the population, you might get 90% men and 10% women
        * if you select the smartest (or dumbest) person of the whole population, you’ll get a man in both cases with a very, very high probability

        Even with the above outcomes, the average (and mean) man and woman can still have exactly the same level of intelligence and the difference in variance can be very small.

        It’s just basic math and statistics, which I think, you misinterpret.

      • If you’re going to limit the term privilege to advantages through being part of the dominate group, and define the dominate group based on their majority presence in leadership positions, then don’t male advantages have to be explicitly linked to the male dominance of leadership positions in order to be referred to as privilege(s)?

        To me it seems like an oddly narrow way to define what seems to be an important word within feminist theory. Lack of diversity in leadership, and the effects thereof, is certainly an important issue, however it would seem to be a more powerful and useful definition to have privilege refer to the pervasive and accepted/transparent discrimination within a society. And it’s this definition I see general see used the most.

      • Why do you want to define male privilege differently from how people talk about white privilege and class privilege? Feminist theorists didn’t invent the concept of privilege, they simply saw how it applied to institutionalised sexism.

        If one looks, from a distance or on first acquaintance, more like a member of the dominant group than a member of the subordinate group, then people will treat one differently, and one will be given different/better opportunities and easier access to higher-status pursuits/occupations/remunerations. That is what privilege boils down to – whether when the gatekeepers look at you, the stereotypes on which they judge you position you as more capable and worthy or less capable and worthy.

        The world remains, by and large, a place where the gatekeepers judge people with pale skin as more capable and worthy than people with dark skin, where the gatekeepers judge people wearing expensive clothes and speaking with “posh” accents as more capable and worthy than those who do not, where thin people are judged as more capable and worthy than fat people, where able-bodied people are judged as more capable and worthy than people with disabilities, and where men are judged more capable and worthy than women. This is where systems of privileges intersect.

      • I don’t believe I am defining it differently. The key concept behind the term “white privilege” was to frame the racial differences in terms of positives for the whites instead of negatives for the blacks. To point out that treating blacks ‘fairly’ on an individual basis will not produce equality if whites get a free ride. While whites might be almost universally advantaged in a vast majority contexts, I don’t think that the universality or unidirectional elements are a fundamental part of the term. Nor do I think that whites holding leadership positions is fundamental to the use of the term.

        To the extent that “privilege” is defined that way, I don’t see the term directly applicable to the gender sphere. The dynamics between the genders are vastly different to those between the races. There are many contexts where the ‘gatekeepers’ deem women as more capable or worthy in a way that doesn’t happen with blacks. Demonstrating that leaders are more likely to be men, or even that the dominate social group has a majority of men, does not demonstrate that men as a whole are a dominate social group.

      • Demonstrating that leaders are more likely to be men, or even that the dominate social group has a majority of men, does not demonstrate that men as a whole are a dominate social group.

        Are you sure you are quite clear on what “as a whole” means? Because it specifically means that one is looking at social trends rather than making a universal statement about absolutely everybody, and you seem to be using it as if exceptions disprove something about dominant groups.

      • “Male privilege attaches to men as a class in a male-dominated society. Until we have a society in which leadership positions are closer to 50/50 at all levels in all fields (hey, even much closer to 60/40 would be fantastic) then we still have a male-dominated society.”

        I didn’t realise there was a hard threshold of women’s empowerment beyond which female privilege became possible. I was interested to note that Iceland had passed the threshold you defined.

        From the UN’s 2010 Global Gender Gap Report:

        Gender Gap Subindex ……………………………………….Rank, Score, average, Female, Male, f/m ratio
        Political Empowerment…………………………………………. 1, 0.675, 0.179, na, na, na
        Women in parliament…………………………………………….4, 0.75, 0.22, 43, 57, 0.75
        Women in ministerial positions……………………………..4, 0.83, 0.18, 45, 55, 0.83
        Years with female head of state (last 50) ………………3, 0.53, 0.15, 17, 33, 0.53

        The key stat there is that 43% of Iceland’s parliament is made up of women, and that 45% of ministerial positions as defined in Iceland are also filled by women. These numbers improve year by year (and Iceland isn’t even the top ranking country in these areas, it’s only 4th).

        So, my question is, if Iceland is meeting the ‘close enough to equality threshold’ you indicated (60/40), does this mean there is no male privilege in Iceland?

        We could say, that women are still a bit further behind in other areas in Iceland, and that would be true. But they are also ahead in some areas. For instance the rate of tertiary education for women in Iceland is close to double that of men, there are also 28% more female professional and technical workers.

        I’m sure there are areas of inequality in Iceland that could easily be described as being privilege at work, but if you adopt the definition you have, where one group must also hold a largish majority of leadership positions, then that definition no longer fits. I prefer the definition others have argued for here of situational privilege because it aids discussion, analysis and therefore further equalisation of society under a wider variety of conditions.

      • You and other interlocutors seem to have a very narrow view of leadership as only pertaining to political office, and also because I mentioned male leadership as a major sign of a male-dominated society, you all seem to be leaping on that as if it’s the only sign/symptom of sexist dominance. Might I suggest being a bit less absolutist in your reading?

        The paragraph you quote refers to “leadership positions … at all levels in all fields”. To me that means leadership positions in your local community organisations, your workplace, your religious affiliation, your “voice of authority” positions in mass media and not least who gets most recognition and rewards for their efforts in your own family. The political is personal. Leadership is about so much more than just elected office.

        With regards to women and tertiary education, have you ever considered that women undertake it in larger numbers than men because without it women cannot find hardly any jobs at all which have a prospect of career advancement, while men still can? So perhaps it’s not quite the great sign of equality/inequality tilting the balance towards women that you think it is, but still a sign that certain career paths are blocked to women?

      • Tertiary education: yes, and I often say that to other people. But in the country ranked number 1 in the UN’s Gender Gap report, a 2:1 ratio of women to men getting higher education doesn’t seem consistent only with that being the case.*

        I only mentioned political leadership because they are the only figures available to me. But I will reiterate that Iceland is ranked number 1 for gender equality in the world. It seems reasonable to think that near equality in political leadership probably translates into other areas as well.

        *And tertiary education isn’t just about getting a job, it has benefits for wolrdview (like involvement in activism) and personal development that regardless of job prospects those who go are benefiting from.

      • …it specifically means that one is looking at social trends rather than making a universal statement about absolutely everybody…

        There seems to be a significant gap here between “social trends”, “dominate social group” and the provided definition of male privilege: “every man … benefits from male privilege”.

        and you seem to be using it as if exceptions disprove something about dominant groups

        That was more or less my point. Leaders are the exception; most men aren’t leaders. Therefore leadership positions don’t prove the dominance of a group as a whole.

        Privilege is a status in a hierarchy, which is made up of accrued advantages and exemptions.

        Essentially, what is the neutral and objective process used to analyse collectively all the observable advantages and exemptions, and from them deduce the abstract knowledge of the existence and structure of the privilege hierarchy?

  48. It seems to me that what tigtog is describing is that men are responsible for creating spaces where men take advantage of other men? Is that correct? Because that seems dangerously close to saying men are solely responsible for such crimes, when in fact they are not. Both genders are complicit in the reality of our world, and especially in a kyriarchy, this means that most men — and most women — will have absolutely no control over the space they are forced to inhabit where violence, prostitution, and other forms of oppression exist.

    But to the point at hand… it seems the argument is largely based on semantics. We can say that advantages conferred upon women simply by their gender are “privileges” or we can say they are evidence of “benevolent sexism”, yet in the end we agree that women have advantages — in some cases certainly — over men. This seems to indicate that patriarchy is definitely not absolute, and that kyriarchy is more complicated than three inter-locking systems of oppression. This structuralist approach is inherently essentialist, leaving out large amounts of contradictory evidence.

    Example: Office Ladies in Japan. While subject to various forms of oppression — from career stagnation, to lack of recognition — these Office Ladies wield considerable influence in the office as a united group, utilizing their own gender to subvert the existing social order that would seek to constrain them. They can question a male boss’ masculinity by showing that he cannot control his office, because the Office Ladies will go on strike, or do their work poorly, or coordinate poorly. They can then play off this threat or direct action to gain advantages like a pay raise, vacation time, or merely a more hospitable work atmosphere. They utilize their sexuality to influence coworker interactions to their benefit, or to make difficult male coworkers easier to deal with. There’s even a special holiday dedicated to honoring the Office Ladies, and recognizing their contributions! Thus, they have turned disadvantage to advantage, and reformed the hierarchical system into a more complex interrelationship.

    We should take note of this in the US, because gender relations are not as simplistic as they may seem. This is obvious in California, where I live, as Meg Whitman runs for governor based solely on her own acquired wealth, having received very few endorsements despite winning the Republican primary. Is this not an example of how kyriarchy is a false structure, and that hierarchy is rather a much more complex system, often contradictory to our own pre-conceived cultural knowledge? And she’s not the only woman prominent in politics…although it’s unfortunate so many of them (Palin, McDonnell) are blatant bigots.

    FTR, I’m not hating. Just saying.

      • tigtog,

        I read thru your comment, and it didn’t seem to make a case for why you need specific terminology to distinguish “male privilege” from female “benevolent sexism”. Intersections of hierarchy exist, and as your own arguments prove, clearly you have a privileged position compared to, say, a Black man. Your race cushions you, even though you may feel oppressed by your gender, in ways that he will never be.

        For example, in rape cases, whether rape occurred or not is going to be hotly contested, but the Black man is not going to believed as much as you would be. (And history has shown this to be true in the US.) Yet at the same time, if the man were White, again this would still be true. (And the current media climate also shows this to be true. And I speak of it regardless of whether the man or woman is guilty.) So, in two cases where systems of oppression are moved around gender, a woman still benefits.

        Now, calling this “benevolent sexism” seems disingenuous when in many important and life-altering facets of our culture, women clearly hold the advantage. So, maybe we need to redefine privilege? And maybe sexism too.

    • This reminds me of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A woman in the movie (who was an adult) wanted to work in IT, but her father wouldn’t permit it. So the daughter, the mother, and another female family member got together and cooked up a convoluted scheme to manipulate the father into allowing her to do the job she would like to do. The characters in the movie believed this to be evidence that they actually had the power over the man, but I was just shaking my head. If you have to use manipulation tactics in order to gain some semblance of rights for yourself, that does not put you in a position of power. For heaven’s sake, if you have to “utilize your sexuality” and other such self-demeaning tactics in order to make 65% of what your male peers make instead of the usual 60%, then you most certainly are not at an advantage.

      This goes back to tigtog’s very clever master/slave analogy. A slave can manipulate a master, and I imagine slaves frequently did so in order to get by. However, the slave is still the slave and the master is still the master. And with office ladies in Japan, the boss is still the boss and the office ladies are still the office ladies.

      • Thanks for good points. I agree. If you have to sell your self respect and dignity to be treated as slightly less inferior, that’s obviously not equality.

  49. It would also seem that most dissenters who are sent to this site are not sent here because they do not understand a particular feminist argument, but because they do not believe that women are an oppressed class. If women are not an oppressed class not much on this site, or on most feminist sites, would make any sense.

    I haven’t seen this assumption explicitly stated anywhere on this blog. Maybe its because many feminists assume that this viewpoint is very popular. I don’t have hard numbers for the population as a whole, but I would guess among people sent here, it isn’t very popular. Maybe this assumption should be made explicit on the front page and a statement that this blog (and most feminist blogs) is not about arguing whether this assumption is true or not?

  50. Totally agree with tekanji. Even in the case of counter-discrimination, allegedly benefiting women, the outcome might be the opposite one. No counter-discrimination has leveled the playing field. Most positions of power are still in men’s hands. More in http://ornagee.blogspot.com/

  51. “Systems like the draft and chivalry often seem advantageous to women at first glance, but when examined more closely they in fact reinforce sexist institutions that keep both women and men from true equality”

    If both women & men are victims of inequality as a result of “male privilege”, why not refer to “male privilege” as “benevolent sexism” as you are proposing for the term “female privilege”?

    Do you not see that “male privilege” ( which feminists believe is a given rather than a theory ) is as contentious as the counter “female privilege” argument put forward by counter feminists?

    Criticism based on gender alone is by definition sexist.

  52. Tigtog’s assumption of benevolent sexism would stem from assuming that men are characteristically favored over women in a kyriarchical power structure. What this assumption lacks however, is proof. I believe tigtog’s main and most salient argument is that the social narrative and supposed context of privilege is more important than the actual reality of privilege (or supposed advantages) itself. However, the narrative that tigtog presents is far from widely accepted. For example, a narrative explanation of a man not being entrusted with his children in a divorce case (in the case of contested custody) would be that the man is not a capable parent. This in turn, fits in with a societal narrative that men are more brutish, callous, violent, angry and possess less emotional maturity and emotional intelligence than women. A man who is murdered in a drug deal is considered to have it “coming to him” in the sense that in his engaging in illegal behavior, he was transgressing society’s rules and thus deserved a sentence of death (despite the fact that legally, his behavior wouldn’t carry that sentence in a court of law) Society’s vision of this victim is that his male status as a brute or thug precludes his ability to be a sympathetic person, one deserving of justice.

    The point I am trying to make, is that narratives don’t really give us an accurate picture of something, because a contrary narrative can easily be created to fit the whims of the narrator.Speaking frankly, a narrative includes unproven claims that can’t and shouldn’t be used to justify our terms and points of conversation in a debate about social justice.

    Not to mention, that feminism has everything to gain by including men’s grievances against the “patriarchy”, for not doing this smells of special pleading and disingenuous conversation.

  53. Good points by Danny…I respect men who stay home and care for children every bit as much as the women. Parenting isn’t exactly cake for anyone.

    The only ‘female privilege’ I ever encountered was that I wasn’t expected to be physically strong…and I don’t see that as a privilege. It’s not a privilege when someone assumes I’m too small and sickly to deadlift 40 kilograms.

  54. One point from earlier in the thread: just because some women fight/argue against equality (specifically by denying men opportunities in what was traditionally ‘women’s work’) doesn’t mean feminism should just give up or that feminism is wrong or what have you. Women can be sexist as well, including women who have benefitted from feminism.

  55. [...] privilege,” namely “female privilege,” is denied and re-framed as “benevolent sexism:” Systems like the draft and chivalry often seem advantageous to women at first glance, but [...]

  56. There’s a simple way to explain why it is “benevolent sexism” and not “female privilege”:
    It is not a female privilege because it is NOT women who decided to have that “privilege”. In other words: MEN have the power, the privilege, and they used it to give some “special rights” to women, whether they (women) wanted the rights or not. How chivalry started? Did a powerful privileged woman stand up and say “now you men will open the door for me and other women lest I use my power against you!” – not really. Or is it mainly female judges that decide to give custody to women because – supposedly – women are naturally better parents than men because they are women (sic)? Not at all. Did women say “we hereby declare that we won’t go to war and die, YOU WILL, full stop” ? Nah, it was men who decided that women were “too weak” to fight do this & that )and generally too “womenly” to do anything but make babies and clean and cook and do all the “boring stuff”)
    It’s hardly a privilege if it limits your choices, isn’t it?
    And chivalry is very often a way of saying “good girl!” to the woman who plays by the rules and those who give females the “privilege” of having the proverbial door opened for her often expect to be rewarded in some way for how “gentlemanly” they are.
    Women should hardly feel obliged to reward someone for giving them a favour that they didn’t ask for in the first place, yet it so happens that some men feel “cheated” and oh-so-offended when they don’t get their pat on the back, sometimes in the form of an intercourse. Ever heard a guy complain that he bought a girl a number of drinks yet she didn’t have sex with him? Well I have. How RUDE of her not to fuck “the nice guy”, right? ;). But yes, some not quite bright guys consider getting free drinks a female privilege – I’m not even joking however I wish I were – despite the fact that it’s THEM who decide to buy the drinks, and it’s them who think buying a drink is a legitimate way of attracting females. And btw, they don’t even find it embarrassing that they resort to using money to make themselves “attractive”, which is interesting in itself. But I digress.

  57. As you note, a lot of men come by the concept of male privilege through those invisible-knapsack-alike lists.

    They probably got forwarded to those lists by people who wanted them to realize their own sexist behavior. Maybe it worked. And maybe it had some unintended effects: Now he believes that sexism comes from privilege and only from privilege. Now, whenever he hears a discussion on privilege, he assumes that it’s about “where sexism comes from”.

    It makes me think it would be better to avoid discussing male privilege by that name when you’re trying to “call a person on their privilege,” because if you call them on their privilege, they’ll interpret the concept of “privilege” to be something that can exist on a strictly personal scale, the same way having a lot of money gets you the sorts of privileges that you can buy. There are contexts where it makes sense to use the word that way, just not when you’re talking about vast and intricate social systems.

    So I suggest that “male privilege” shouldn’t be defined as something that men can benefit personally from; when a particular man gets a particular benefit as a result of being a man in a male-dominated society, that is the result of benevolent sexism, and the benevolent sexism that he is experiencing is a consequence of male privilege.

  58. While I can understand why someone could come to this conclusion if their main reference for “privilege” was one of the privilege checklists, this is actually a misunderstanding of male privilege, which is an institutional — not a personal — privilege.

    There are institutions that give privileges to women that they don’t give to men. They’re not particularly pervasive institutions–I’m thinking of, e.g., the publishing industry–so that kind of privilege isn’t a legitimate counterpart to male privilege in an anti-oppression context. But it’s not because that kind of privilege, given to women, isn’t institutional, but because it’s not from the same kind of institution.

    It’s possible that this use of “institutional” means something like “societal,” or something even more nuanced, in which case I suggest you unpack the term, in a footnote if need be.

    Anyway, if we happened to be talking about the publishing industry in particular, it might make sense to refer to that as “female privilege,” but we’re not. The trouble is that I’m not sure what we’re talking about. Society? Okay, yes, but what society is that? Western, the United States…? Not that there aren’t common problems with sexism between several societies. Actually there are whole subfields of feminism devoted to finding those.

    Nonetheless, if you don’t specify what context you’re using “privilege” in, people will just kind of assume whatever makes sense to them, which might be the publishing industry if they work there. And I don’t think it’s sufficient to say that you’re speaking in a social justice context, because there are social justice issues in every particular industry.

    You’re speaking about big social problems. These are necessarily harder for people to get their heads around. Otherwise there wouldn’t be much point in having a whole academic field for them, right? Of course it’s good to study those. But it doesn’t make much sense to start with the big problems when speaking with newbies and outsiders.

    I wanted to express the difficulties inherent in merely establishing what scale of a social problem you’re dealing with, but I couldn’t decide whether the article was treating “benevolent sexism” as something that exists absolutely everywhere, or merely in some arbitrarily large society, like maybe the United States or Western Civilization or something. But it had to be one of those, and “benevolent sexism” meant something different for each. I can tell because of this:

    But the reason that benevolent sexism works and “female privilege” does not is because it better identifies the system behind the beliefs.

    Belief systems are necessarily going to differ depending on who holds them. Perhaps there is some sense in which the entire United States can hold the same belief system, and you were talking about that. But I’m not sure.

  59. [...] of “what is privilege?” because there are resources for [making it unnecessary to do] that. (Links kept to four because honestly, I have 141 items on Delicious tagged “privilege” [...]

  60. [MODERATOR NOTE: Wall of text that should be its own blog post somewhere else deleted. Publish it elsewhere and just leave a link to it here.]

  61. I think that flat out saying there is no female privilege, only benevolent sexism hurts this page. I think it is very unlikely that situation could be so absolute in any matter regarding genders nowadays. Aren’t you basicly saying that society gives men so absolute power over all things that women don’t have any advantages in any part of society which isn’t by men being benevolent sexists? That just doesn’t sound plausible. I believe the situation has been such in the past but i don’t believe it is possible or has been possible in the last 50+ years.

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