Rachel Held Evans stayed true to form and sparked some Twitter debates with a tweet today. I’m a big fan of hers and always appreciative of her questions, thoughts and ideas.
Guys: So what’s it like to engage in a thoughtful, vigorous theological debate without getting called “shrill” or “out of bounds”?
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) December 5, 2013
The issue she touches on and is often accused of herself is that marginalized voices are often questioned not on their veracity or rhetoric but on their very participation. They are often cut out quickly for either “being out of bounds” (which must mean too emotional, off track, or having some gender bias as if men have nothing of the sort). It is like the retort for any debate with a person of color when claimed they “play the race card.” And so, in the ensuing Twitter discussion I participated in, some argued that Held Evans were off base and that claiming “male privilege” was a part of this was a ridiculous claim.
The issue of male privilege is real. I am surprised that some question its existence. The claim is often that by claiming Male Privilege an issue and pointing it out, one is somehow guilty of sexism itself for making a general statement about men.
Is there such a thing as Male Privilege? Lets take a look at a few stats that possibly point us towards an answer.
• Forty-six percent of women believe they’ve experienced sex discrimination in the workplace according to a survey from 2013.1
• Pay inequity. Pay inequity results in years of lower earnings. Over the course of a woman’s life (based on 47 years of working full-time year-round), the average women loses earnings worth:
- $700,000 if she is a high school graduate.11
- $1.2 million if she is a college graduate.12
- $2 million if she is a professional school graduate.13
There is also a Male Privilege Checklist that is pretty enlightening. I found it very enlightening as well as rather saddening realizing all the areas our sisters and wives and daughters can be made to feel marginalized.
- If you have a bad day or are in a bad mood, people aren’t going to blame it on your sex
- You can be careless with your money and now have people blame it on your sex
- You can be a careless driver and not have people blame it on your sex
- You can be confident that your coworkers won’t assume you were hired because of your sex
- If you are never promoted, it isn’t because of your sex
- You can expect to be paid equitably for the work you do, and not paid less because of your sex
- If you are unable to succeed in your career, that won’t be seen as evidence against your sex in the workplace
- A decision to hire you won’t be based on whether or not the employer assumes you will be having children in the near future
- Work comfortably (or walk down a public street) without the fear of sexual harassment
- Walk alone at night without the fear of being raped or otherwise harmed
- Go on a date with a stranger without the fear of being raped
- Dress how you want and not worry you it will be used as a defense if you are raped
- If you are straight, you are not likely to be abused by your partner, or to be told to continue living in an abusive household for your children
- You can decide not to have children and not have your masculinity questioned
- If you choose to have children, you will praised for caring for your children, instead of being expected to be the full-time caretaker
- Balance a career and a family without being called selfish for not staying at home (or being constantly pressured to stay at home)
- If you are straight and decide to have children with your partner, you can assume this will not affect your career
- If you rise to prominence in an organization/role, no one will assume it is because you slept your way to the top
- You can seek political office without having your sex be a part of your platform
- You can seek political office without fear of your relationship with your children, or who you hire to take care of them, being scrutinized by the press
- Most political representatives share your sex, particularly the higher-ups
Your political officials fight for issues that pertain to your sex
- You can ask for the “person in charge” and will likely be greeted by a member of your sex
- As a child, you were able to find plenty of non-limiting, gender role stereotyped media to view
- You can not care about your appearance without worrying about about being criticized at work or in social situations
- You can spend time on your appearance without having people criticizing you for upholding unhealthy gender norms
- If you’re not conventionally attractive (or in shape), you don’t have to worry as much about that negatively affecting your potential
- You are not pressured by peers and society to be thin as much as the opposite sex
- You’re not expected to spend excessive amounts of money on grooming, style, and appearance to fit in, while making less money than the opposite sex
- Have promiscuous sex and be viewed positively for it
- You can go to a car dealership or mechanic and assume you’ll get a fair deal and not be taken advantage of
- Expressions and conventional language reflects your sex (e.g., mailman, “all men are created equal”)
- Every major religion in the world is led by individuals of your sex
- You can practice religion without subjugating yourself or thinking of yourself as less because of your sex
- You are less likely to be interrupted than members of the opposite sex
Not to mention the male domination of the church, business, media, and most industries. My mother-in-law has an employee, under her supervision, who is male and makes more money that she does. It is hard to argue for the fact that male privilege is not around.
Many detractors point out that they never notice it, and is therefore not a problem.
THAT IS THE VERY POINT!
That is proof of your privilege!
I try to avoid conflating issues and do not like to tie racism in with gender in with sexuality in with religion. Each issue is its own unique and varied ground but sometimes we can learn and find parallels in ideas. But looking to the issue of White Privilege does provide some context and ways of looking at the issue. In his book, Speaking Treason Fluently, the polemicist Tim Wise makes some arguments against these statements. Wise was called racist for stating that whites were racist (a strange turn, I agree). But according to Wise, and in my opinion as well, “To say that most white folks are in denial…is not racist, because such a belief is not based on stereotypes about whites; rather, the claim is supported by what white folks actually say when asked if we believe racism to be a significant problem… (Wise, 38).”
It is not sexist to say Men enjoy privilege. They do. It is sexist to state that women are shrill and out of bounds because they are not. Stating men enjoy privilege is making a statement of something men innately possess. It is not something they do or act like. It is not based upon stereotypes it is based upon the way the world interacts with them.
At the risk of quoting too long a section, here is more Wise. For out intents, it may be helpful to mentally insert gender or male/female whenever Wise mentions race. Then I will sum it up!
Apparently, to white America writ large, nothing has to do with race nowadays. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which charges of the same were being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that at long last we’ve become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter when we have run up such and amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In ever era, black folks said they were the victims of racism, and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong. Every single time. Without fail.
Unless we wish to conclude that black insight on the matter — which has never to this point failed– has suddenly converted to irrationality, and that white irrationality has become insight (and are prepared to prove this transformation by way of some analytical framework to explain the process), the the best advices seems to be that which could have been offered in past decades and centuries: If you want to know whether or not racism in a problem, it would probably do you best to ask the folks who are its targets. They, after all, are the ones who must, as a matter of survival, learn what it is and know when it’s operating. We whites, on the other hand, are the persons who have never had to know a thing about it, and who, for reasons psychological, philosophical, and material, have always had a keen interest in covering it up.
And that sums up my argument pretty well.
1) Men do not notice it when it exists. It is not surprising that Rachel comments on gender issues and a man claims its not a big deal. It is easy for a man, who does not need to worry about how he is viewed (by and large, if that man is a person of color it changes things) as a man.
2) I am seeking to find stats to cite here but I am sure that men value the sexism as less than women.
3) The best advice is to ask a woman if male privilege exists. Don’t ask a man. He doesn’t need to see it.
Anyways…sorry for the long rant. I am just trying to figure this out. I, in my place of privilege, want to know my own issues so I can be aware of them. I want to see what I do not need to. I want to see how others feel my gaze. I want to know if I am empowering other or holding them back, even if not purposefully.