Why “Male Privilege List” Is Garbage, Part I

I’m sorry, everybody, this list is long, so the post will end up being even longer. My apologies for that. Here is “The Male Privilege List” that has been making rounds on the blogs I follow. We all know how I love the word “privilege”, so I had to address this list.

Before we begin, glance over the list and look at the parts I put in bold type and underlined. What do they have in common?

The Male Privilege Checklist

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

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

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).

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

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).

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

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

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

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. (More).

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.

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

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters. (More).

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

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. (More).

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.” (More).

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability. (More).

26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. (More).

27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More).

28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. (More).

29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

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

31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

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

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

38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks. (More).

39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.

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

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

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

43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover. (More).

44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.” (More: 12).

45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment. (More.)

45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

What do all the bold-typed underlined parts have in common? Yes, right you are, our old and trusty friend, the passive voice. Whenever you see a text where passive voice is used in 21 out of 46 sentences (almost half the time, that is), you have to start getting suspicious. Why is there such a reluctance in this text to name the active agent? Who is this evil person or a nasty group of individuals that does all this seeing, teaching, calling, praising, scrutinizing, encouraging, attributing, labeling, expecting, and picturing?

This reluctance to avoid stating who imposes and maintains these sexist stereotypes clumsily attempts to obscure a reality that the very existence of this list wants to negate: men and women participate equally in seeing, teaching, calling, praising, etc. Men and women gain equally from the sexist system they help to keep in place. At the same time, they are equally oppressed by this sexist reality in return for the benefits they equally receive from it.

Now, please turn your attention to the parts of the text that are italicized and underlined. What do they have in common? Yes, exactly, they all make reference to what people might think. This kind of mind-reading has a very simple name to it: projection. Whenever I fear that everybody thinks I’m stupid (boring, fat, ugly, etc.), this has absolutely nothing whatsoever with what other people actually think. People in general very very rarely dedicated any time at all to thinking about others. These thoughts I attribute to people around me are nothing but my own beliefs that I project onto others.

My suggestion to those who worry incessantly about what others think about them is to turn attention to themselves. Nobody thinks all this stuff about you, my friend. You are the one doing all this thinking. And you can choose to stop at any time.

In the second part of this post, I will address some of the statements on this list in more detail.

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33 comments on “Why “Male Privilege List” Is Garbage, Part I

  1. Clarissa, the Male Privilege List is still pretty harmless.
    It gets much MUCH more detailed and targeted towards smaller demographics than just man.

    There is for example a Male Cisgender Programmer Privilege Checklist on the Internet. In fact, there are so many of them that there is a List of Privilege Checklists over at Amptoons.

  2. “Why is there such a reluctance in this text to name the active agent?”

    Probably not a reluctance; it’s a shortcut, if a lazy one.

    “Who is this evil person or a nasty group of individuals that does all this seeing, teaching, calling, praising, scrutinizing, encouraging, attributing, labeling, expecting, and picturing?”

    Parents, teachers, religious leaders, friends, books, mainstream media, movies, pundits, bloggers, commenters….

    Are you suggesting that cultural norms and pressures only exist in peoples’ minds?

    • Pretty much a half of all parents are women. Most primary and secondary school teachers are women, too. Friends one chooses for oneself and there is nothing to prevent them from being women. The majority of bloggers are female. Books are written by women all the time.

      Society is not an entity that exists somewhere outside of us. It is each and everyone of us together. So my question is: if half of society consists of women and they engage in seeing, teaching, calling, praising, etc., then why do they do it? Because they are duped into it by men? Or, might there be some rewards that women derive from these existing cultural norms and pressures?

      This is what I find it interesting to analyze. The “bad men oppress long-suffering good women” is not very interesting to analyze. But this is what this list seems to be doing.

      • “why do they do it? Because they are duped into it by men? Or, might there be some rewards that women derive from these existing cultural norms and pressures?”

        I would say all of the above. It is true that many feminists, and feminist blogs, do not like to discuss the latter as much as the former. But women are only human :) On the other hand, the rewards are obviously (to some extent at least) part of the ‘duping’ process, so it is difficult to untangle the two completely.

  3. The MSM and movies and pop culture in general, as well as other important institutions (religious, political, etc) ARE generally controlled by men, and I suspect these are the main culprits alluded to in the list. The friends and family are considered to be ‘enforcers’ of the patriarchy in most versions of feminist theory, I believe. Most feminists I have encountered do not claim that women are not participating in sexism against women.

    • “The MSM and movies and pop culture in general, as well as other important institutions (religious, political, etc) ARE generally controlled by men, and I suspect these are the main culprits alluded to in the list.”

      -I wonder who was mainly responsible for bringing up these men. Was it their fathers?

      Movies and pop culture are, first and foremost, consumer products. If 50% of the population found these products unappealing and didn’t consume them, the companies making them wouldn’t survive for long.

      “Most feminists I have encountered do not claim that women are not participating in sexism against women.”

      -And what is their explanation for women’s participation in maintaining the culture of gender stereotypes? I’m genuinely curious.

      • Well, now you are blaming women for the way kids turn out. Aren’t both parents responsible for childrens’ upbringing? Also, just throwing this out there, but the fact that children spend more time with mothers when very young, and that more teachers are female in the earlier grades (while many more professors are male) does not do wonders for respect for women. It actually has the opposite effect. Again, there is a lot of feminist theory that addresses this issue. I am not defending it, but it would be helpful if you were aware of it. See Mary Daly for example.

        This conversation is also ignoring the past completely, as if women have always had all the rights and opportunities that they have in 2011, and we carry no baggage.

        As far as shlumpy loser males on TV; oddly enough they often have beautiful, smart well-groomed wives who put up with them, or girlfriends who are dying to marry them. This is a common Hollywood movie theme lately also. Can you think of one single example of a fat shlumpy poorly dressed woman with a hot guy that she is either married to or being courted by on any TV show or any Hollywood movie?

      • “As far as shlumpy loser males on TV; oddly enough they often have beautiful, smart well-groomed wives who put up with them, or girlfriends who are dying to marry them. This is a common Hollywood movie theme lately also.”

        -Exactly! This is exactly what I’m saying. This portrayal of men and women is demeaning and offensive to both.

        “Well, now you are blaming women for the way kids turn out. Aren’t both parents responsible for childrens’ upbringing?”

        -Of course, they are. The system where women are primary caregivers by default hurts everybody: children, women, and men.

        ” that more teachers are female in the earlier grades (while many more professors are male) does not do wonders for respect for women”

        -Not any longer. In my field, for example, the majority of students and professors are female. This, of course, is the result of the sexist stereotype that women are better at learning languages and that literature is for wimps.

    • The MSM and movies and pop culture in general, as well as other important institutions (religious, political, etc) ARE generally controlled by men, and I suspect these are the main culprits alluded to in the list.
      But the part that is almost never nuanced is that those men that are controlling those institutions are NOT doing it for the sake of men as a class, they are doing it for themselves. Yet time and time again and list and list again just shortens it to men, but have the nerve to get offended when they get called on it.

      Most feminists I have encountered do not claim that women are not participating in sexism against women.
      Now if they would just recognize that there are women that participate in sexism against men…

      • “Now if they would just recognize that there are women that participate in sexism against men…”

        -Of course, women participate in and promote sexism against men. And of course there is a huge reluctance to recognize that.

      • Please allow me to quote the “Feminism 101″ site:

        Short definition: Sexism is both discrimination based on gender and the attitudes, stereotypes, and the cultural elements that promote this discrimination. Given the historical and continued imbalance of power, where men as a class are privileged over women as a class (see male privilege), an important, but often overlooked, part of the term is that sexism is prejudice plus power. Thus feminists reject the notion that women can be sexist towards men because women lack the institutional power that men have.

        They backpedal a bit form this in the elaboration that follows, but still…

  4. Finally somebody who addresses the projection phenomenon. In the gender world this is so common that I think it’s safe to say that we are all prone to do some of it. I know I have. I grew up feeling inferior – even worthless because I’m male. I still often think that this is how society views men. With such a mindset, the very notion of male privilege is absurd, worse, it’s very insulting.
    The problem is that that is my own impression and it took years to realize how much of what I saw happening was a projection of my own insecurities. Sure, it’s not my “fault” that I have those insecurities but that doesn’t mean it’s anyone else’s fault either. Further, we can’t fix things on a large social scale as long as we see everything in terms of our highly subjective personal experience.

    Unfortunately, becoming aware of projection and countering it, requires a level of self-reflection that most people are unwilling to do. And that I can safely says, is a problem of humanity in general – far further reaching than just gender issues.

    • “Unfortunately, becoming aware of projection and countering it, requires a level of self-reflection that most people are unwilling to do. And that I can safely says, is a problem of humanity in general – far further reaching than just gender issues.”

      -These words are golden. Projection is, indeed, a very handy mechanism that people use to explain their issues in larger social terms.

  5. Understanding the mechanism of projection is absolutely vital, because most people who take stereotyped gender relations for granted don’t realise they are projecting. Also, it is possible to overreact to their almost completely unconscious projections, thus wasted a lot of time and emotional energy. I find I can tell if someone is merely misunderstanding something I’ve said or engaging in a projection on the basis of whether they can go deeper or express more detail about whatever subject matter we’re involved with. For example, I gave an admittedly abstruse answer to someone recently, and they responded with, “Don’t be irrational, now.” So, I asked them how they (a male) normally responded after they had taken time to give someone an answer and they had been told, ” “Don’t be irrational, now.” What is the deeper meaning of this; its deeper interpretation? Since he was unwilling to explain what he meant, I concluded that his way of engaging with me was hugely projective.

    • I admire your skill at not letting other people’s projections derail you. Honestly, I’m still at a stage where I don’t know how to do that. Even when I know on a reasonable level that I’m dealing with a projection, I still very often flare up and, as you say, lose a lot of time and emotional energy.

      Not investing too much feeling into somebody else’s projections is still a skill I haven’t mastered.

  6. I found this interesting, if someowhat mind-boggling, partly because I have been exercised by people making similar claims about white privilege.

    But I also have some questions.

    I read somewhere that different cultures have different styles of writing, and it had some diagrams, and one that I remember showed English culture as going straight to the point, but Spanish culture takibng as long as possible to get to the point, and circling around it for a long time, and a lot of this also involved preference for the passive voice.

    I have tended to think that beating around the bush is undesirable, and I agree with what you say about the passive voice. But I also wondered if that was just an Anglo-centric viewpoint, and was something I needed to become aware of, as others have implied that i need to become aware of my alleged white-centric viewpoint.

    But then i think, you are more likely to have a Ukrainian-centric viewpoint than an Anglo one, and yet I agree with you about the passive voice, so perhaps it isn’t an example of cultural chauvinism. And it was a Pole, Stanislav Andreski, who accused English-speaking academics of favouring nebulous jargon. If you haven’t read Andreski’s Social sciences as sorcery yet, you ought to. I think you’d like it.

  7. Other people’s opinion of you can control concrete outcomes in your life. Yes, a person usually internalizes some percentage of the expectations of other people – parents, teachers, peers, media portrayals of people who look or act like you, employers (I remember the “men wanted” and “women wanted” employment ads). However, a boss who believes that women aren’t smart enough to be scientists and don’t belong at first-rank institutions can damn well tell individual women that that woman is just not top-rank and he isn’t going to provide a recommendation or any help whatsoever. If the woman has been reared to be a “polite” woman, to not dominate the conversation, to consider other people’s feelings before her own, and generally to avoid any display of temperament or egotism, active snubbing and lack of mentorship or fellowship can wear down self-confidence.

    I find it interesting that a man says that he felt inferior because he is a man (generic). I can understand being indoctrinated to feel inferior for being a “gender-atypical” man. American boys with non-stereotypical interests (vis-a-vis peer group expectation), for example boys involved in classical music, classical dance, chorus/choir, visual arts, or theater, are labeled sissies at best, fags at worst by their school peers. Mainstream white American culture whales on black boys as delinquents or crooks from mid-grade school on into adulthood, letting off only in late adulthood. It is hard for me to understand a white man feeling inferior because he is a man (generic), not including class background, educational opportunity, or the like. All of the US presidents have been men, most of the US senators and state governors have been men, men form 97% of the CEOs of the Fortune top 100 companies, men still dominate (90%) the “name brand” chef, executive chef, and gourmet chef categories, men still predominate as university department chairmen and deans, and so on. Men even outstrip women in average salary in the degreed (R.N. bachelor’s and above) nursing profession despite the difference in average seniority.

    • ‘I find it interesting that a man says that he felt inferior because he is a man (generic).”

      -Actually, I can understand it. It’s television. All of these shows and commercials that present men as bumbling, incompetent, silly, emotionally stunted fools with poor hygiene who need to be steered in the right direction by competent, put-together women. Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, Bones, Law and Order: CI, there are so many of them.

      Of course, the reason why such shows exist is to compensate women for disempowerment in terms of employment by conceding us dominance in the private sphere. So once again, everybody gets cheated out of full humanity.

    • I find it interesting that a man says that he felt inferior because he is a man (generic).
      Are you saying that as in you don’t understand it or you think its not true? If either is the case my first question is if you are a woman. And I’ll explain my question here.

      All of the US presidents have been men, most of the US senators and state governors have been men, men form 97% of the CEOs of the Fortune top 100 companies, men still dominate (90%) the “name brand” chef, executive chef, and gourmet chef categories, men still predominate as university department chairmen and deans, and so on. Men even outstrip women in average salary in the degreed (R.N. bachelor’s and above) nursing profession despite the difference in average seniority.
      First off out of all the men that exist and have existed in the US what percentage of them have been presidents, senators, governors, and top CEOs? My point being that only a very, very, very, very small percentage of us ever get to that level and the ones that do have no problem doing it on the backs of men and women (yet people act like the men at the top are looking out for men as a class, as one of those men let me tell you they are not). And the same for those name brand chefs as well. For every one of the 44 male presidents we’ve had there are thousands of men who will spend their lives at the bottom of the ladder and history will never know their names. Yet time and time again we’re supposed to believe that those men at the top are looking out for men as a class?

      Secondly that whole wage gap thing has been contested to the point that I don’t even know what to think anymore (since you spoke specifically of nursing so maybe you have some numbers on that?).

      What I find interesting are the two types of people who seem to not be able to understand that there are a lot of men who feel inferior. Men who have some sort of power and people who aren’t men.

  8. BTW, why did my avatar turn out to be a dog? Not that I mind, but I am more of a cat person given my work hours and apartment living.

  9. Pingback: Why “Female Privilege List” Is Garbage | Clarissa's Blog

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