This post is for the fellas. That includes dudes who identify as feminist, but specifically those who don’t and question what it is that feminism really does. And especially those who think they do, but don’t really. It’s also for all those angry email composers out there who keep crying at me about Men’s Rights, and giving men a “fair go” and “not all men are like that” and “I’m a good guy” – I promise, you’re not actually as nice as you think if you’re sitting up at night writing me emails about how you’re a nice guy that end with you threatening to rape me. Not cool guys. But I digress.
Let’s begin with a simple question. What does gender equality mean to you?
What does it look like? What would it mean you would have to change in your life? How would it affect you personally? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section below, because I am truly interested to see them. Keep in mind though, how you answer that question matters more than you think. When injustice or oppression is being address, I’m not interested in hypothetical visions of change, your personal experience is part of that process. You might even find it fairly easy to give me examples of inequality, but consider if you actually understand how those inequalities impact your life.
Because I know how.
Currently, our societal expectations of women and men, social programming and even our legislative system all work to sustain this construct that places men (specifically while, middle/upper class, straight men) on top. This means that one gender (men) consistently succeed, achieve and benefit at the expense of every other gender (yes, there are more than two). Does this really seem fair to you?
This construct is what I mean when I refer to male privilege. But before you get all hurt and angry and write me awful emails please note that I believe that this male privilege hurts us all, including men. Sometimes especially men.
You know this, because you’ve experienced it. Accessing male privilege often requires you to conform to a toxic norm of masculinity. You know this norm – it’s idea that the only “real men” are the ones who don’t show their emotions, who solely value sports and physical strength, who don’t reach out for help when they need support; and that any other version of male is weak and womanly. And you probably also know that no man completely fits into this narrow box of masculinity, and that our society is unforgiving toward people who don’t fit what they’re “supposed” to be.
So, without waffling on for longer about what exactly is male privilege – here are my 100 classic examples. Reflect on these at your leisure.
MALE PRIVILEGE IN CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION
1. People give you toys that are more likely to be educational, to develop a range of skills, and to let you imagine a range of career possibilities – while toys considered “girls’ toys” are often limited to beauty, housework and childcare. Things like Lego and cars are traditionally “boys toys” that my brothers got to play with, while I was stuck with dolls and miniature ovens.
2. You can be assertive without being told to “not be so bossy.”
3. Adults compliment you more for your abilities rather than only your looks, and you’re not taught from a young age that your value is only as good as your appearance.
4. School dress codes don’t suggest that your body is inherently shameful or unprofessional, unlike girls who are told that it’s up to them to cover up. If you would like examples of this, please let me know. I have hundreds.
5. You get a higher amount and quality of attention from teachers, like more substantive feedback that improves your learning.
6. Your energetic behavior and creative energy is encouraged or dismissed with phrases like “boys will be boys.” Girls are taught to be “lady-like,” which includes being more reserved and less outspoken. Even as an adult, when I express an opinion – either IRL or online – I am stomped on, abused or shushed.
7. You’re not told that you’re supposed to be bad at math and science because of your gender.
8. People are more likely to respect your bodily autonomy – they don’t say things like “your father’s going to need a shotgun” to imply that your sexuality belongs to men throughout your life.
9. You aren’t raised to believe your gender is inherently more delicate or weak with phrases like “you throw like a girl.”
10. As you’re growing up, you have more positive role models of your gender to choose from in media, history books, fiction, and more.
11. Academic resources are more likely to cite the work of people of your gender.
MALE PRIVILEGE IN THE WORKPLACE AND ECONOMY
12. You can make choices to have both career and family without people assuming it’s a challenge or an unusual achievement for you to “have it all.”
13. You’re not insulted for going “against your gender’s nature” for choosing to have a career, but not children.
14. If you choose to have children, you’re not questioned about how having a family would hurt your ability to do your job.
15. You’re paid more for your work. In the US, on average, white women earn 78 cents for every dollar, with wages dropping to 64 cents for Black women, 54 cents for Latina women, and 59 cents for Native American and Alaska Native women. In Australia it was recently discovered that the rates are very similar.
17. You’re assumed to be the leader of your household – so you can avoid stereotypes like assuming you’d have to “check with your husband” about taking a promotion. Yes, this has happened to me.
18. You have a lower risk of living in poverty. 1 in 7 women and 4 in 10 single-mother families are poor, with the poverty rate for minority women at almost double the rate for white women.
19. If you’re a single father, that doesn’t put your household at the highest risk for poverty – single mother households are most susceptible.
20. You can negotiate for raises, promotions, and more without being seen as too aggressive.
21. You’re not stereotyped at work as not belonging in higher paid roles, like being mistaken for the nurse if you’re the doctor, or for a secretary when you’re a lawyer. You are more likely to be confused for being the doctor if you are in fact the nurse.
22. You can put little time into your appearance without a negative impact on your work life, like having people believe you’re unprofessional or not put together.
23. You can spend less on products to maintain your “professional” appearance. Women are expected to spend more on clothing, accessories, and beauty products, even when they’re earning less.
24. You can be assertive at work without being labeled “bitchy” or “bossy” or even rude.
25. If you’re never promoted, it’s not because of your gender.
26. You’re less likely to be penalized for not putting up with sexual harassment and misogyny from co-workers and bosses – they’re often normalized as part of the workplace, with one survey showing 1 in 3 women experiencing harassment at work.
27. You’re less vulnerable to gender norms trapping you in financial abuse – for women in relationships with abusive men, society’s idea of men as breadwinners can make financial abuse go unnoticed and more difficult to recover from.
28. If you’re careless with money, it’s not attributed to your gender.
29. You can get upset at work without people blaming your emotions on “hormones,” “PMS,” or “being oversensitive.”
30. Your gender is more represented in higher paid positions. For instance, women are fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOS.
MALE PRIVILEGE AND THE MEDIA
31. You get to have your gender represented in the media as “strong” without writers going out of their way to have a “strong female character” as a unique take. These characters are actually, as Bijhan Valibeigi put it, “rarely strong and barely characters.”
32. Your gender dominates influential media institutions such as the Academy Award voting membership, which is 77% male. Women have far fewer media executive positions and are far less likely to be celebrated for success in categories such as Best Director.
33. Writers of your gender are more likely to be published, have their books reviewed, and get other publishing industry attention that gets their books widely read.
34. Film and television characters of your gender have more substantive dialogue. The Bechdel Test measures whether a story includes at least two women who talk to each other about anything other than a man, and a huge number of popular films fail it.
35. Characters of your gender or more often written with a focus on more of their attributes than just their appearance. The recently coined Jane Test looked at descriptions of women in screenplays and found that they almost always centered on the character’s appearance and not much else.
36. You can easily enjoy sports with athletes of your gender, as men’s sports get more airtime and promotion than women’s sports.
37. Branding and advertisements don’t put limits on your potential from the time you’re a child, sending messages that your gender isn’t smart or that you “need a husband.”
38. Advertisements are a lot less likely to objectify you, portraying you literally as an object or a tool for men’s pleasure, as is so common for women.
39. Romantic films are less likely to portray a character of your gender being stalked as a sweet sign of affection, which creates toxic norms around harassment and intrusion as a way of pursuing you.
40. You can use the internet without being harassed.
41. You can be an online gamer without being harassed, threatened, or demeaned.
42. People of your gender in the media can age naturally without scrutiny, even being said to get “finer with age.” Women in industries like modeling, acting, and TV journalism are more likely to be pushed out of their careers as they age.
MALE PRIVILEGE AND THE LAW (AND POLITICS)
43. If a person of your gender isn’t elected to public office, it’s not because of their gender.
44. A political candidate of your gender doesn’t have to face media scrutiny that reinforces gendered stereotypes of not being suited for leadership.
45. A political candidate of your gender isn’t scrutinized more for his appearance than his abilities.
46. A political candidate of your gender won’t be penalized by the idea that they can’t balance both family life and public office.
47. Political leaders of your gender aren’t judged for not demonstrating “lady-like” behavior that’s the opposite of qualities that public views as leadership skills, like confidence or “not being afraid to speak your mind.”
48. You don’t have politicians primarily of another gender making laws to control your gender’s bodies.
49. There are more lawmakers of your gender determining the rules we all have to live by. In 2014 in Australia, women accounted for slightly less than a third of parliament. In the US women make up 20% of Congress.
50. You can have strong political opinions without people calling you a “feminazi” or judging you for being “opinionated.”
MALE PRIVILEGE IN RELATIONSHIPS AND SEX
51. You’re more likely to be congratulated for having lots of sex, rather than shamed for it or called a “slut.”
52. You’re not judged as a “slut” even for things unrelated to your sex life, like the way you dress or how conventionally attractive you are.
53. You’re not judged as a “prude” for making your own choices about who you don’t want to have sex with, or even when you are ready to have sex.
54. You’re not taught that your sexuality exists only for other people – or stigmatized for masturbating.
55. The media, popular sex advice, and normative definitions of sex focus primarily on your pleasure; your pleasure and your sexual adventures are celebrated in the media.
56. Most pornography is made with your gender in mind (and it creates some pretty damaging ideas about women and other genders).
57. You can be open about enjoying sex without people feeling automatically entitled to having sex with you.
58. You can make changes to your appearance like a haircut or dye without assumptions that you’re doing it for men.
59. School sex education, religious values, and other pervasive sources of sexual norms don’t treat your gender as more dirty, impure, and undesirable for losing your virginity.
60. You can be expressive about your sexuality in conversation, art, music, and more, without people accusing you of “using your body to get by.”
61. You can participate in kink, BDSM, and other alternative sexual practices without being judged as a “slut” or facing assumptions that you’re not in control of your own sexual choices.
62. You can be non-monogamous without people judging you for going against your gender’s “nature.”
MALE PRIVILEGE IN SOCIAL NORMS
63. You can dominate conversations without being judged. Women are perceived as “too talkative” even when they’re speaking less, with one study showing that women need to make up 60-80% of a group to have equal time in a conversation.
64. You’re less likely to be interrupted when you speak – studies of men and women showed that both interrupted women more than men.
65. You’re not automatically assumed to not know what you’re talking about – or subjected to mansplaining.
66. Common vocabulary favors your gender as the default, with language like “mankind” and “foreman,” and dictionary definitions of words created by men.
67. You’re not expected to swear less, apologize more, or other supposedly “lady-like” behaviors that reflect stereotypes of your gender being submissive.
68. You’re not expected to step aside if someone of another gender is walking in your path.
69. Social norms allow you to take up more physical space.
70. Perceptions of how much your gender is represented skew in your favor. When a group is comprised of 17% women, men think it’s 50-50, and at 33%, men believe women are the majority.
71. You’re less likely to have strangers expect you to smile – it’s so common for women that it’s sparked a widely praised art project called “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”
72. You can buy clothes designed for your gender that have pockets you can actually use – clothes meant for women are often focused on being “slimming,” so purely decorative pockets are common.
73. You can buy a car without salespeople assuming you can be taken advantage of. Chances are, you’ll be offered a better price than a woman.
74. If you’re excluded from mainstream culture, you can find community in “outsider” or counterculture groups like nerd communities without being excluded there also because of your gender.
75. You can be outgoing or open about your choices without people calling you an “attention seeker.”
76. You can enjoy traditionally “masculine” hobbies like sports without people saying you’re just doing it to impress men.
MALE PRIVILEGE AND HEALTH
77. You can age naturally without being judged for “letting yourself go” if you experience changes like graying hair, gaining weight, or getting wrinkles without using cosmetic products to cover these changes up.
78. Your gender is considered to get “finer with age,” while women are considered less desirable.
79. You’re under less pressure to be thin, and face fewer social and economic consequences of being fat than women do.
80. You aren’t expected to eat less, with ideas of being “lady-like” including dainty portions.
81. Doctors are more likely to take you seriously when you tell them your symptoms.
82. You’re less likely to have your physical illness symptoms attributed to psychological factors. For instance, when men and women with identical symptoms mention stress, doctors are more likely to overlook a woman’s symptoms of heart disease.
83. You’re less likely to have mental health issues dismissed as being “hysterical” or “oversensitive.”
84. You can get diagnosis and treatment for disorders like ADHD without your symptoms being overlooked due to assumptions about the “typical” behavior of your gender.
85. You can show your nipples in public, and are less likely to be harassed overall for showing some skin – even when women in public are using breasts for breastfeeding, they can be subject to harassment.
86. You’re not judged for keeping your natural body hair.
88. You can have a casual, friendly interaction with a stranger, like exchanging a smile or responding to a greeting, without worrying about that stranger taking it as a sexual invitation and telling you to “lighten up” if you don’t.
89. You can turn down a date without worrying about being verbally attacked or physically assaulted.
90. You can drink in a bar alone unbothered. In many other public spaces, including bookstores, coffee shops, festivals, and more, a woman alone is often assumed to be available for men to talk to and harass.
91. You can travel alone without worrying about being targeted for violence because of your gender.
92. You’re less likely to experience intimate partner violence.
93. You’re less likely to be stalked.
94. You’re less likely to be the victim of revenge porn.
95. You’re less likely to be raped, especially if you never go to prison.
96. You’re less likely to be homeless as a result of intimate partner violence.
97. You’re less likely to be physically injured by a partner. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
99. You can enjoy partying without people blaming your “lifestyle” if you’re sexually assaulted. You can also set a drink down at a party and come back to it later without having to worry about being drugged and assaulted.
100. You’re less likely to be blamed for your own sexual assault based on what you were wearing.
I could actually go on. There are so many issues I haven’t covered here, but I wanna hear from the fellas. What instances of privilege do you notice in your daily lives, and what do you do about it? Do you actively notice any instances where you are given favourable circumstances over those experienced by women?