“Shut Up, Rich Boy”: The Problem With “Privilege.”

I’m a feminist writer, but I don’t like to use the word “privilege” in my writing. Here’s why not:

1) It’s antagonistic.

I know, I know, it’s not supposed to be.  Everyone is supposed to recognize their privilege and go “oh, okay, I checked my privilege, I’m good now.”  Privilege, as generally defined in feminist circles, is something you’re born with, and therefore something you can’t be blamed for.

But frequently, “privileged” is used as an insult.  Or it feels that way when it lands–and as we’re fond of saying in feminist circles, “intent is not fucking magic.”  Telling someone that they’re privileged sounds a lot like “shut up, rich boy,” and the fact that it wasn’t intended to mean this doesn’t make it sting any less.

Of course oppressed people (or any people!) are under no obligation to make nicey-nice to others, especially in spaces they consider their own, but if your goal is to Make Friends And Influence People, then a little bit of self-tone-policing is in order.  And that includes not using a phrase that sounds like a rude dismissal to anybody who doesn’t speak Feministese.

2) It’s misleading.

About that “shut up, rich boy.”  Very often, someone who’s been called “privileged” in a feminist discussion will retort that they’re shit poor, they work a shit job and live in a shit house eating shit food, and they sure don’t feel like they have a lot of privileges.  And besides, they don’t hate or discriminate against this group they’re supposedly “privileged” over.

At this point in the conversation, the feminists are obliged to explain that “privileged” doesn’t mean your life is guaranteed awesome, just that there are certain things that a white male doesn’t have to worry about that other groups can, and it doesn’t mean that you’re deliberately causing oppression, but you’re sort of a participant in oppression, or you’re sort of benefiting from oppression, and you just didn’t understand exactly what “privilege” means.

Any word that requires this much explaining to not be insulting and untrue is not an awesome word.  It shouldn’t take three pages and a bibliography to explain why you didn’t just say “shut up, rich boy” to someone who’s actually quite poor.

3) It silences people.

This one is often intentional. “Your opinion is coming from a place of privilege” really does mean “shut up.”  It means “shut up” on the basis of the speaker’s ethnicity and sexuality and other things beyond their control.  I’m not okay with that.

It’s okay to tell someone “your opinion is wrong because you aren’t accounting for how difficult it is to face [oppression], possibly because you don’t encounter it in your daily life the way [oppressed group] do.”  This is a sensible statement.  But it cannot be shortened to “you think that because of your privilege.”

4) It ignores oppressions against “privileged” groups.

This is where things get relevant to Teh Menz.

Where the word “privilege” is used, it’s generally assumed that a rich, straight, white, male, cisgendered, able-bodied, educated, full citizen of the country they live in is the most privileged person out there, and all other people are less privileged on the basis of how far they are from this model.  So a rich straight white female cisgendered able-bodied citizen is still pretty privileged, and a rich straight black female cisgendered able-bodied citizen is a bit less privileged, and so on.

The problem with this little hierarchy of oppression is that there are certain problems–society-wide, deeply ingrained problems, and not trivial ones–that “more privileged” groups have and “less privileged” groups don’t.

When I was a little girl, I could hug and kiss my friends, hold their hands and share a bed with them.  Because I was female, I didn’t have to worry that I would be bullied or physically attacked for showing nonsexual affection to kids of the same gender.  Little boys are not so lucky–by middle school at the oldest, boys are socially forbidden any physical closeness more intimate than a backslappy bro-hug.

According to “privilege” doctrine, there can be no such thing as “female privilege”–men are always more privileged.  And in fact I am uncomfortable calling this “female privilege,” because there are other problems that little girls have and boys don’t.  (As a child, I was constantly in trouble for not being “ladylike.”)  But it’s not right to just gloss over it either.

I think the only language solution is to write out long-form what you mean–“girls get to do some things boys can’t, and that sucks, and boys get to do some things girls can’t, and that sucks.”

In our society both men and women deal with unfair shit, and characterizing this all as unidirectional “privilege” oversimplifies the problem, antagonizes potential allies, and marginalizes nominally “privileged” people who still experience oppression.

About Cliff Pervocracy

Cliff Pervocracy is the kinky, poly, feminist, healthcare worker author of The Pervocracy.
This entry was posted in gender movements, language, noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

388 Responses to “Shut Up, Rich Boy”: The Problem With “Privilege.”

  1. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    The really awkward thing for me is when “female privilege” is used about something that I don’t like, didn’t ask for, and would prefer didn’t exist — the sort of “benevolent sexism” memes. Things like how women are delicate flowers, which means that we (have been able to) expect men to carry the big heavy things and register for the draft and stand in front of us and protect us from _______, whatever big and scary thing that is.

    Because I get pissy when someone’s trying to help me carry the big heavy thing just because of my gender (how many times do you hear “I need a couple of strong guys to move the ______”?), and I think it’s really messed up that we only sign up half the population to be drafted. I mean, other countries (with successful militaries!) don’t leave that half-done, and furthermore fuck off if you don’t think I’d be perfectly good at “defending my country” with guns. Not, you know, that I want to, but that’s not gender talking that’s my dubiousness about recent wars.

    So…is that still privilege if I want to scream “I DIDN’T FUCKING ASK FOR THAT AND WHY THE FUCK WON’T IT GO AWAY” every time it comes up? I dunno, man.

    Belated Realization Edit: Thinking back, I see all that stuff not as a privilege, but as hurtful/oppressive — and so it weirds me out when people class this hurtful/oppressive force as “privilege”. Because I’d love to be able to carry heavy things without having to fend off doubting comments from peers and superiors, suggesting why don’t I just give that to them/a big strong guy.

  2. pervocracy says:

    There are still female privileges (ergh… female social advantages, anyway) that I do enjoy, though. For example, the freedom to dress in most kinds of stereotypically male clothes. I don’t put this in the “why the fuck won’t it go away” category–I’d class it as “why the fuck aren’t men allowed to wear female clothes?”

  3. AB says:

    Aliarasthedaydreamer, I think what you say is true about a lot of privilege, it’s unwanted and unasked for. Generally, feminists are pretty good at saying that for every girl who’s not allowed to be strong, there’s a boy who’s not allowed to be vulnerable, but this highlights the problem with the term: Both of them want something they aren’t allowed to because of their sex, both cases are generally accepted as unfair (at least by feminists), but only one is labelled privilege.

    I don’t use the word because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m more familiar with psychology and social sciences than with American feminism, so the most natural terms for me to use are high-status and low-status. I don’t know if that’s equally provocative, but I feel it’s more accurate.

  4. JutGory says:

    I don’t like the term, “privilege” (though some would say I am very privileged-and that may be why I do not like it), because it appears to mask a certain personal aspect. It casts one into a group (and feeling like an individual is a mark of privilege).* The “un-privileged” however, use privilege as a lever. The privileged cannot see their privilege, but the “un-privileged” understand the privileged. Thus, in a sort of Hegelian sense, the disadvantaged person becomes the advantaged person by casting a disadvantage as a positive thing to shame the advantaged person.

    In addition, some “privileges” are looked at as a bad thing, when they are not. My favorite example of this is: I do not have to worry about getting pulled over by the police because of the color of my skin. Yes, I have that privilege. But, you know what: that is NOT a privilege. That is the way everyone should be treated. Saying that a “privilege” is an unearned advantage (or whatever the definition is) ignores the fact that certain “privileges” are not really privileges; they are the way everyone should be treated. You do not have to “earn” basic human dignities (and it is unfortunate that some people do not respect those dignities, but it does not turn it into a “privilege”).

    Rather, I ascribe to the dictum that “nothing human is alien to me.” That is something that is verboten in discussions of privilege. With enough empathy and thought, I hope that I would be able to relate to anything one of my fellow human beings could experience. Not to say it is easy (the male-female divide is probably the hardest to bridge), but, if it is impossible for two different people to relate, what is the point?

    Sorry for meandering a bit.

    -Jut

    *For example, some “privilege checklist” says that one is privileged if one does not feel one’s success or failure reflects upon one’s race or gender as a whole; and the “un-privileged” are so because their success or failure is ascribed to their race or gender. These are kind of two sides of the same coin. I enjoy taking credit for my successes, and wish that I could blame others for my failures (instead of the other way around). And, that is what is kind of ironic, privileges often have an upside AND a downside (as do the lack of those privileges).

  5. machina says:

    I think the issue here is the extent to which folks are buying into the idea a Hegelian master-slave relationship, where the oppressed are knowledgeable of the privileged experience while the privileged are ignorant of the oppressed. It makes sense to some extent, a particularly privileged person usually has less need to understand the experience of a particular oppressed person they are interacting with. The problem occurs when it’s assumed that an oppressed person knows the experiences of the whole of a privileged class. The heterogeneity of such large groups makes such knowledge impossible.

  6. Shora says:

    On point number three; Often it is irrational, but i think it’s often not. I truly believe that sometimes, in order to check my own privilege, I need to shut up and listen the the experiences of those less privileged than me. When a transperson is talking about the oppression they experience, be it minor or life disrupting or unsafe, it is part of my duty as a part of checking my privilege to shut the fuck up and listen. cissplaining, or really any type of ‘splaining, is really really not cool. I’m pretty sure everyone agrees with that, which is why we have the word privilege in the first place.

    The problem comes when groups who are seen as more privileged want to talk about the shit in our culture that they experience. They have just as much a right to expect people shut up and listen and not ‘splain away their problems as other marginalized people do. This last point is something that I’m really only just learning. For a long while part of me always thought “Yea, patriarchy hurts men too, but not like, hurt them hurt them like REAL marginalized people.” It’s and insidious and damaging notion that’s steeped in feminist discourse and I’m only now learning my way out of it.

    I guess the word privilege, the way it works in feminist circles, kind of creates an oppression olympics, doesn’t it?

  7. TitforTat says:

    Next, Oppression Olympics. It seems there are now lots of new terms to shut people up. Maybe the whole thing is that people have lost the ability to empathize. I know some days I have.

    “Walk a mile in another person’s shoes”, but they dont fit. 😦

  8. Emma says:

    This is why the thing that frustrates me the most about the idea of privilege is that it’s something one passively just has. In people’s actual lives, privilege (or whatever) is part of social interactions with other human beings, all of whom use identity categories like straight or male actively. Just because something is systemic doesn’t mean it’s independent of humans.

    As a basic example, the draft is a law made by people actively deciding what they thought was best for the country. All those European countries with more gender-integrated militaries used to have compulsory military service years for all men and only men. They changed the law. Saying that it is female privilege to not be drafted places all the responsibility on femaleness and ignores the people in power who maintain that state of affairs.

    I think everyone talking about the draft as privilege remembers in the backs of their minds that it’s a situation that has been created by people. But the idea of “privilege” can really erase important parts of the conversation when we talk about slipperier things like being “a lady.” Aliaras, you experience being considered a lady, or at least being a delicate flower, as something that people treat as a privileged status, in which you don’t have to carry heavy things. I get that it may be unfair to call it a privilege to you, since you don’t want it, but I’m going to call it a privilege for me, because I hate having to carry heavy things around. Holly, you experienced it as the lack of privilege, because it was a standard of behavior that you were held to that was unequal and constraining.

    If we just discuss whether or not being a lady is a privilege or carries privilege, or even if we try to net out whether it has total positive or negative privilege, we ignore the fact that “being a lady” doesn’t exist out there in the ether. It’s an idea that is used by us and by the people in our lives. Or it’s a more concrete useable item like money, so you can hire movers and get out of carrying around a bunch of heavy stuff that way. But having money doesn’t just magically, without you doing anything, cause moving to be easier.

    I think just saying “women have some privilege and men have some privilege” is true, in aggregate, if you squint, but it’s also a lot like talking about patriarchy instead of sexism. It erases all the people who don’t oppress other groups, and lets off the hook the ones who do. Plus it makes the whole thing sound completely inescapable.

  9. Danny says:

    Personally I think the concept of privilege can be a useful way to take notice of the forces at work which is a necessity (because how can you get rid of an enemy you can’t identify?). I think the problem comes into play with the way people choose to use it.

    Like your point here:
    According to “privilege” doctrine, there can be no such thing as “female privilege”–men are always more privileged. And in fact I am uncomfortable calling this “female privilege,” because there are other problems that little girls have and boys don’t. (As a child, I was constantly in trouble for not being “ladylike.”) But it’s not right to just gloss over it either.
    The reason there is no such thing as female privilege in the privilege doctrine is because people don’t want it there. If you check out finallyfeminism101 there is a lot of material (some of that long windedness you mention in your point about misleading) you’ll see the twisting that is done to say, “Oh no that’s not female privilege that benevolent sexism”. In the end it seems that the only difference between benevolent sexism and privilege is whether we’re talking about male or female, if males have it its privilege if females have it is benevolent sexism.

    JutGory makes a point too about things that everyone should have been called privilege. For instance as a guy when it comes to expressing lust you could argue that guy has “the privilege” of expressing his lust whereas a woman that expresses her lust will be bogged down in complaints about how “unladylike” she is. If everyone should be free to express (and express only, reciprocation is not required just the freedom to express it) then how can that be a privilege?

  10. mythago says:

    Great. So what’s the new, non-offensive, non-silencing, nicey-nice term we’re going to substitute to discuss where law, custom and culture rate varieties of certain characteristics (like skin color or socioeconmic class) as higher than others, such that people who fall into the more ‘desirable’ categories receive certain benefits they may not even be aware of, let alone ask for?

    I’m dead serious. How do we talk about this if we’re going to say that one musn’t ever use the p-word because it’s silencing, mean and some people have used it badly? What term can we use that’s less inflammatory in the interim period between ‘actual widespread use’ and ‘people who don’t want to talk about it scream at you to STFU’?

  11. Danny says:

    And another problem with that relationship is when the oppressions of the system in question are not one-sided. That Hegelian master-slave relationship might work when talking about the white/black relationship but it will not work when applied to the woman/man relationship.

  12. Anyone here know of fandom secrets? Most of it is just squeeing over crack plotbunnies or snarking on funny secrets, but that was where I first heard the term “privilege”. And because of that, and because it was always used as a way to shut someone up (a gay guy complaining about his sexuality being treated as a kink? PRIVILEGE. LESBIANS ARE TREATED WORSE. someone explaining that misandry does exist? PRIVILEGE. MISANDRY IS GREAT FUN/MISANDRY = UNICORNS.), I started to hate it. I know a lot of sweet, feminist guys and I just get angry on their behalf.

    (And I’m so very sorry for the capslock.)

  13. mythago says:

    See, while I’ve seen that, there’s absolutely no acknowledgment here that people may react angrily to ‘privilege’ not because somebody is being a big ol’ meanie and picking on them, but because they don’t want to goddamn hear it. “How dare you suggest my family had white privilege? My ancestors came over after slavery ended and they worked hard all their lives blah blah blah.”

  14. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I’ve actually been in that exact situation, mythago.

    And it wasn’t a matter of not wanting to hear it; it was a matter of genuinely not understanding the phrase. And the angrier people got at me and the more they told me that I was being racist and I was trying to hang on to my white privilege and oppress non-white people… the less I understood the phrase.

    It wasn’t active malice but a lack of context, and while you may feel “it’s not someone’s job to teach you 101,” it would be nice to not bash down on people who don’t know the 101, or even understand that there is a 101 that they haven’t learned yet.

  15. Holly Pervocracy says:

    It’s not a matter of “we have to all call it ‘grivilege’ now.” There’s a lot of ways to talk about oppression without implying that less-oppressed-in-certain-ways people are malicious, unable to understand the issues, or do not experience oppression themselves.

    For example… “law, custom and culture rate varieties of certain characteristics (like skin color or socioeconmic class) as higher than others, such that people who fall into the more ‘desirable’ categories receive certain benefits they may not even be aware of, let alone ask for.”

    That’s a statement with a lot more content than the single word “privilege” encompasses to most people.

  16. Toysoldier says:

    I guess the word privilege, the way it works in feminist circles, kind of creates an oppression olympics, doesn’t it?

    It does not create it so much as it invites it, and this is not limited just to feminists. Every group that views itself as have-nots ends up falling into the same routine of treating their experiences as inherently worse than anyone else’s. This even occurs within groups, like with skin tones differences in the black community or the tension between gay men and lesbians.

  17. Ginny says:

    I agree with this. I use “privilege” as a shorthand for “shut up for a minute and listen to someone else explain what it’s like to be them, because there may be problems in their daily life that you haven’t even imagined — and resist your inclination to justify or explain away what they say their experiences are, because the fact that you’ve never perceived them doesn’t mean they aren’t real.” Kind of an unwieldy sentiment, which is why “privilege” is such a useful word. But I don’t use it except for people who know its specialized meaning.

    And it’s important that the “shut up” is “…just for a minute” because I don’t think the idea of privilege should ever be used to full-stop silence somebody. The privileged party does have the right to question, challenge, and otherwise respond to the issue, they don’t have to just sit there in silence and accept whatever they’re told because they’re “privileged” and therefore incapable of making a useful contribution. God, no. But I do think it’s fair to ask them to stop talking for a minute and stretch their brains around a new idea, and that’s what I use “check your privilege” for.

    And I guess I’m not tapped into the right/wrong circles, but I had no idea there were people claiming there’s no female privilege. To me it’s self-evident that there is.

  18. mythago says:

    In *your* case it wasn’t a matter of wanting to hear it. Not everybody is coming from a place of well-meaning ignorance. It can be very, very hard to hear that one has unfair advantages, and some people simply choose to react to that with angry denial.

    And while I agree with you that bashing down on people is uncool, it’s also uncool to waltz up to people and say “Hi! You all need to teach me 101, because I’m too lazy to bother to learn a thing on my own, and by the way I’ll criticize you for not dropping what you’re discussing right now to bring me up to speed. Oh, and don’t even think about not being perfectly sweet, reasonable and measured in everything you say.”

  19. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I think a lot of people are coming from a place of ignorance, well-meaning or not.

    As for tone arguments and 101… I think that they are never mandatory, but… you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t make any new allies if you have a hostile tone and refuse to do 101.

    Maybe you don’t want to make new allies, at least in that particular space. That’s a valid choice–making allies isn’t your full-time job. Just understand that’s the choice you’re making when you say “I’m not going to be nicey-nice to the oppressor.”

  20. mythago says:

    So whenever I want to talk about the-concept-formerly-referred-to-as-white-privilege, I must now say “the law, custom and cultural valuation of light/white skin color as higher than dark/brown skin color, such that ‘white’ people receive certain benefits they may not even be aware of, let alone ask for”? That’ll make for some long blog posts.

    Here’s the thing: I think the obligation to be civil and thoughtful cuts both ways, and it’s really unfair and pointless to say ‘you have to be nice to newbs but they can be assholes.’ Nothing whatsoever prevents somebody who doesn’t understand privilege from expressing their confusion about the term politely (“It seems as though you’re suggesting that everyone white has an advantage over everyone brown, and that seems incorrect”) instead of, as you put it, “bashing down”.

    TL;DR: I don’t think all the assholes are on one side here.

  21. mythago says:

    @Holly Pervocracy: you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t make any new allies if you have a hostile tone and refuse to do 101.

    While again, I agree with you that tearing people’s heads off is not generally a good consensus-building strategy – how likely is somebody to become an “ally” if their attitude is, I refuse to listen to you unless you explain everything to me without my bothering to life a finger, and because I find this subject uncomfortable anyway, if you say anything I interpret as the least bit “hostile”, I’ll walk away and blame you for it?

  22. Chris says:

    I was thinking about privilege the other day and figured that if men are privileged then women must be too. I don’t know the privilege rules but to me it made perfect sense that if things men are able to do within society are classed as ‘privilege’ then things women are able to do within society should also be classed as such. I probably worded that badly, but an example is crying in public: unacceptable/frowned upon for a man, acceptable for a woman, and thus part of women’s privilege.

  23. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    Oh, yeah, not denying that — the one you brought up about being able to hug and snuggle with friends, especially female friends, without it being automatically sexual is a huge one. I was talking specifically about the weird ones which are classed as privilege but I see as harmful injustices.

  24. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    Thinking back, I see that not as a privilege, but as hurtful/oppressive — and so it weirds me out when people class this hurtful/oppressive force as “privilege”. Because I’d love to be able to carry heavy things without having to fend off doubting comments from peers and superiors, suggesting why don’t I just give that to them/a big strong guy. And that’s the thing that bugs me about it.

  25. Holly Pervocracy says:

    Who said that was their attitude?

    Someone who reacts badly to being told (something that sounds like) “not only don’t you understand this, you can’t, and your opinion can never be welcome here” isn’t asking to be coddled–they’re reacting quite rationally for anyone who doesn’t know that “privilege” is a codeword.

  26. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I don’t know about crying in public (most people seem to just ignore a man or woman who does this), but I think women do have advantages in society that men don’t–just as men have advantages that women don’t.

    I do think men have more, but it’s almost not important to compare who has it worse, because I’d like to get rid of inequalities in both directions.

    And I think it’s important to say “advantage” and not “privilege” when speaking of specific actions rather than general Privilege, just because of the way privilege is kind of a codeword for a much bigger concept in feminist discourse.

  27. AB says:

    As I’ve said earlier, I use high-status/low-status. And possibly in-group/out-group. It’s more about communicating that a given culture often holds certain groups/lifestyles in higher regard, or consider them more valid than others.

    Modern psychology has a slew of terms to choose from in that aspect, some of them are even feminist. Instead of rape-culture, you can talk about rape-myth acceptance. I’ve also found the concepts of paternalistic and envious prejudice to be more useful and descriptive than misogyny/misandry and privilege.

  28. ozymandias42 says:

    I think you make a really interesting point about the difference between “privileges everyone should have” and “privileges everyone shouldn’t have.” Everyone should be allowed to drive without being pulled over because of their skin color and everyone should not be more likely to get a job because of their skin color, but both not getting pulled over and getting the job are called privileges.

    Actually, I think the concept of privilege folds together a lot of distinctions that really do exist. For instance, sexism (which ends up hurting everyone) is different from racism (where whites usually have it pretty good). Classism (which is on a very fundamental level unfixable in a capitalist system) is different from homophobia (which is relatively easily fixable). To call all of these privileges erases differences that really do exist.

  29. Ami Angelwings says:

    I think the problem w/ the term is that it implies it’s something you have that you shouldn’t, and that you should feel grateful for… and then ppl start focusing on all the things wrong in their lives and a big blow up happens :\ When often it’s something you have that you SHOULD, everybody SHOULD (like everybody should be able to use the washroom w/o fear of harassment, or everybody should be able to access buildings in our world, or etc) have but some don’t (trans ppl first example, disabled ppl, second) and the problems I’ve found w/ the world privilege when used in personal exchanges (which I think is another thing, it’s a term that was never meant to be used the way it has now that anti-oppression is so big and ubiquitous on the internet and a lot of exchanges aren’t big written critiques, they’re 2 line comments) is that it puts the focus on the person being problematic (let’s assume atm that this is a good faith thing where there is a “privileged” person being problematic) and makes them feel guilty and defensive (ideally nobody should ever feel that way, I know, but they do) rather than putting the focus on the marginalized person where generally the issue is about. :\ The idea of the exchange usually is something like “you don’t understand b/c you don’t have to face the things we do, and this is an issue about us so please listen” but b/c privilege implies that rather than NOT HAVING particular bad experiences, that they have special experiences, good experiences, ones they don’t deserve, etc.. ppl go into the trauma UFC thing (maybe it’s not better than oppression olympics xD but often it’s not rly about oppression per se, it’s about specific trauma and bringing it up to defend yourself, well meaning, or dishonestly, or w/e… and I dun mean the term to be mocking, it’s just what I observe, it turns into a big mess of “well this happened to me!” “well this happened to me twice!”) in order to prove just how not special their lives are and then the whole point is lost :\

    And that’s the thing, the focus should be on the marginalized group (I’m assuming this is a space FOR that marginalized group, or that the topic is one that involves them… ) and them sharing their exp, or trying to explain/unpack the various dynamics that oppress/marginalize them (that’s another word I prefer, marginalized, vs oppressed, cuz marginalization sounds involuntary, oppression sounds like it has to be some sort of mindful thing, often it is, like in terms of laws and stuff, but it’s a battle I don’t need xD ) but the word privilege is almost ALWAYS heard wrong b/c well.. English is a clumsy language -_-;; And while I think ppl VERSED in oppression politics should know better (I’m looking at you transphobic feminists who suddenly go ignorant and say “but I’ve been raped! where’s my cis privilege!”) in general, ppl grow up learning what privilege means in one way (like the show “Privileged” is not about regular ppl right?) and when you USE that word, it puts the focus on them, as if they have things they shouldn’t, and then they start going defensive talking about the bad things in their life. And THAT’S NOT THE POINT of what SHOULD be the point of the discussion -_-;; It’s not supposed to be about them, it’s supposed to be about the marginalized group, and understanding the issues they (we) face! And as I said, MOST of the time, privilege doesn’t mean you have something you shouldn’t, it means that the marginalized group doesn’t have something that you have, you should have, and you take for granted. There will of course always be defensive ppl… I mean even in this framing I suspect that if I mention having to worry about if my voice will out me, or if I didn’t tuck well, or etc etc, that somebody will say “but I get beaten up for being a weak geeky guy!” but at least, like we all agree this is bad right, ppl SHOULDN’T be beaten up? So at least the framing would be such that we at least are saying “these are things that shouldn’t happen” rather than making it seem like EVERYBODY should be the very worst, and if you don’t have it, you’re “privileged”, rather than the default should be “privilege” :\

    But I still do think, like in that example above (which DOES happen even when I frame things differently, not just that specific ones, but others as well) it’s still important to say “that is terrible, and actually, some of the problems here are related, but plz, this is right now not about you…”. I think what frustrates ppl about “oppression olympics” is that it assumes that if you talk about one thing, you must not care about other things, and that also everything is to be taken in a vacuum :\ Like you could point to EVERY SINGLE thing I face as a trans person in a vacuum and say “it’s like this, for this person” or “like that, for that person” and if you kept doing that you could easily conclude, well what’s the big f-ing deal? But put together, it is a big f-ing deal. So I think what I mean is that getting rid of the word privilege doesn’t mean the whole marginalized/non-marginalized dynamic is gone, or should not be taught, explained and also RESPECTED in places where it is ABOUT helping the marginalized group but I think that now that anti-oppression politics has moved out of the academic realm and into the quick and dirty world of the internet, at least a word that doesn’t imply that you have things you shouldn’t, could help move the conversation along much faster, and easier. :]

  30. Pants says:

    Male social advantages result in state-approved and state-sanctioned inequality for women. The inverse is not true. This is what reserving the use of privilege to refer to the non-oppressed group is supposed to point out. Not individual privilege, although that is the way I most often see it used, and the way you’re writing about here.

  31. ozymandias42 says:

    WOOO! What Ami said.

  32. amberyust says:

    Just a note – please use “trans person” rather than “transperson.” Trans people are people too, not some other separate thing.

  33. JutGory says:

    ozymandias42: “Everyone should be allowed to drive without being pulled over because of their skin color and everyone should not be more likely to get a job because of their skin color, but both not getting pulled over and getting the job are called privileges.”

    After some thought, I guess the way I would phrase it is that “not being pulled over because of skin color, etc.” should be described as “fair.” While it is “unfair” to be pulled over because of your skin color. But, being treated “fairly” is not something that we should consider a “privilege.”

    The point being: Privilege seems to suggest an unfair advantage, whereas in the case of the driver, it is the DISadvantage that is really unfair.

    -Jut

  34. Brock says:

    The word “privilege” always makes me think of the slogan “X is not a right, it’s a privilege”, originally drilled into me in Drivers Ed, with “Driving” for X, but now appropriated whenever someone wants to make X contingent on passing some test, e.g. when X is “Flying”, and the test is getting groped by TSA agents.

    But unlike driving, so many of the things on the “privileges” lists, like “Walking down the street without being subjected to catcalls”, are things that really are – or should be – rights.

  35. Jim says:

    “The really awkward thing for me is when “female privilege” is used about something that I don’t like, didn’t ask for, and would prefer didn’t exist…”

    And there is a stock answer to this objection when a man makes it about “male privilege” – “Gee, I didn’t ask to be subject to the draft and have to comply with it in order to get student loans….” . That standard answer is “Oh, waaaah, the burdens of privlege.”

    There is a lot of female privilege, it goes a lot deeper than being allowed to hug and kiss or wear pink, a lot of it is forced on women and the answer is to admit to it and refuse to benefit from it.

    That means for instance refusing to let people call rape of females heinous while they deny that males even can get raped, that menas not saying the primary victims of false rape accusations are the women who won’t be believed in the future, that means refusing to let men do all the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs in society when you are advocating for set percentages of women on coorporate boards, that menas not crying about how women couldn’t vote in a time before they ever took up arms to take and keep the vote. And that kind of thing.

    And since I didn’t say so clearly, your objection is spot on. It asserts the centrality of the person’s agency in all this. One of the glaring weaknesses of a lot of feminsit discourse is the moralistic tone it takes in its terminology coupled with a real reluctance to recognize individual agency (it screws up class analysis). That contradiction tends ot make a lot of it look hypocritical, even when it really is making some good points.

  36. AB says:

    I don’t disagree with you in principle, but in my experience, women’s crying isn’t just blindly accepted, especially not in inappropriate situations (e.g. in public). Very often, crying is considered slightly pathetic, it’s just that some people don’t expect any better from women. If you’ve worked to become accepted as one of the guys, crying can hurt you just as much as it can them.

    Sometimes it seems like crying, and shows of emotions in general, is for women what bumbling sitcom-dad behaviour is for men: Not so much accepted as expected. I don’t think men like the idea that they’re slobs around the house any more than women like the idea that they’re hyper-emotional and prone to bursting into tears.

    There are even some experts saying it can be more acceptable for men to cry: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21457366/

  37. Tim says:

    The reason why I don’t like the word privilege itself is that it does not express that it is not always an advantage you have. The word privilege seems to imply that only good can come out of having one and that you are free to use it or not.

    The truth is, that a privilege often just is a privilege if you use it and if you adhere to a very strict set of rules. If you don’t or can’t obey these rules then often this privilege comes around and bites your behind.

    You could certainly argue that women have a privilege when it comes to children. They are deemed more trustworthy and are supposed to be born as child-loving caretakers. But what if you have no idea how to take care of a child and someone expects you to ? Suddently your supposed privilege has turned into unfair gender expectations and those suck.

    You could make tons of examples here, say about shy and cautios men expected to be leaders because men are naturally more assertive and leadershippy.

  38. Jim says:

    Thansk for the reminder. It is not a trivial difference, either in the grammar you are pointing out or the reality it refers to.* “Transperson” suggests an almost comical sci-fi image to me.

    *Say both phrases, the first as two words and then the second as one word with the emphasis on the first syllable to see the difference in meaning.

  39. beshemoth says:

    How about calling priviledge ‘the luck of the normal’?

    (And, hello, and I’m actually shyer on the internet than in real life, so, byee!)

  40. Holly Pervocracy says:

    Well, I feel bad smacking down a shy person, but calling white/cis/het/male/etc. people “normal” is a really, really bad idea.

    There aren’t any abnormal races/genders/sexualities.

  41. Jim says:

    This is a good example of where this fairly useful principle breaks down. Cultural rules around shows of emotion vary.

    You live in Denmark. I grew up in the US in a family Northern/Western European family culture, prettyy simlar in alot of ways. Public or even private displays of negative emotion are considered shows of weakness. they are not so much male or female as just childish. As you say, a little pathetic.

    That is not the case in other cultures, where the opposite is true. In those cultures emotional reticence is interpeted in a number of negative ways – lack of emotion, deceptiveness, and so on.

    The way it works out in US society is this – for about the last 50 years emotional demonstrativeness has been valorized over reticence, but unevenly.

  42. aebhel says:

    I think one of the things that drives me up a wall about a lot of feminist discourse–about a lot of anti-oppression discourse in general, actually, even when I tend to agree with them in the main–is the obliviousness to how the word ‘privilege’ is used by more or less every single layperson out there. For most people that I’ve spoken to outside the feminist blogosphere, privileged means some variation of well-to-do, white-collar, upper-class, rich person. And it’s not actually okay to dismiss the opinions of anyone entirely on those grounds either, but when you’re talking to somebody who’s flat-broke, as you say, telling them that they’re privileged is going to piss them off. Justifiably so.

    I understand the concept, and I understand why its used, but I think a lot of people who are really familiar with feminist-speak tend to forget that not everyone is, and that it isn’t always a matter of willful assholery as it is genuine ignorance. Words mean things, and if your word means something related but pretty fucking different in the day-to-day language of everyone who’s not familiar with your in-group language, maybe it’s time to (a) not use that word to outsiders and/or (b) find another word.

  43. aebhel says:

    ‘The luck of conforming closely to the mythological concept of a norm‘. 😛

  44. Jim says:

    1. Disparities in conviction rates and senstencing?
    2. Disparities in child custody and the family court system in gnereal, and in the way society values mohterhood over fatherhood?
    3. Disparities in the response to crimes agaonst women as opposed to those against men – rape, DV, even murder and other violent crimes?
    4.

    “The inverse is not true. ”

    The inverse is certainly true, but an enculturation aimed at recruiting you to feed/house/protect, to defend women at all costs is going to ensure that you see yourself as all-powerful and dominant.

  45. Jim says:

    “You could certainly argue that women have a privilege when it comes to children. They are deemed more trustworthy and are supposed to be born as child-loving caretakers.”

    This is one that I will accept as “benevolent sexism.” Thirty years ago this was held up as the greatest example of sexism in society. This pedestalization of mothers was the number one barrier to women getting their equal places in the workforce.

  46. Jim says:

    Jargons serve several purposes. One is to develop a streamlined, economical terminology, and that is very useful. But another is to sgnal who is in and who is not. So jargon often chooses a streamlined term that is counter-intuitive or contrary to the common use of the same word. And that’s good too, or can be. But obviously it’s going to cut the public out of your conversation.

  47. Emily H. says:

    Couldn’t agree more. In regular non-activist conversation, “privilege” means something you weren’t born deserving, but have to earn. It implies that not everyone should get advantage X (a driver’s license, or whatever), & that if you can’t prove you deserve it, maybe it should be taken away. This simply isn’t true of many of the things construed as “privilege” in race/gender/class politics — like the right not to be pulled over for your race, or to be free from sexual harrassment, or taken seriously on the job, or whatever. These are things that should be extended to all people, not taken away from the privileged few.

    The connotations of the word “privileged” do nothing to make this clear. And the term conflates advantages that no one should really have (like a straight person who assumes all people are straight, and never has to explain his/her sexual preference) with those that everyone should have (like a straight person who can get married, and never gets hassled about his/her preference). In a truly fair world, some “privileges” simply couldn’t exist, since you wouldn’t be able to assume your race/gender/orientation was the default one. Others would simply be rights. This term is unclear, and most people who use it should make more effort to explain what they really mean.

  48. AB says:

    Definitely. Though it’s interesting that in cultures where shows of emotion are considered positive, they’re not necessarily attributed to women.

    I also think we need to distinguish between behaviours that are considered positive in one sex and negative in the other (a feminine and well-maintained appearance in women, anger in men, etc.), and behaviours which are generally considered negative, but expected more from one sex than another (sloppiness in men, crying in women).

    In fact, there are a lot of distinctions we could use. Sometimes people are punished more for exhibiting a negative trait linked to a different sex (e.g. sloppy women), but also for exhibiting a negative trait linked to a different sex (e.g. emotional women), and other times people are encouraged to exhibit a certain trait (e.g. anger in men) but more severely punished if they take it too far (e.g. violent rage in men). But I think the first distinction is the most important.

  49. Jim says:

    “Great. So what’s the new, non-offensive, non-silencing, nicey-nice term we’re going to substitute to discuss where law, custom and culture rate varieties …..”

    Well for a strart, how about something that isn’t crude and reductionist and that doesn’t erase the differences between innate rights, earned rewards and actual privleges as granted by some higher external authority, as the term means in common usage? That distinguishes between inherited advantage and advantages that a meritocractic system, in those few instances where such a system exists. That would be a start.

    Oh, and it would help if the people slinging the p-word actually respected the “lived experiences” of the people they are slinging the term at. Preaching at people about privilege while you privilege your perceptions and moral judgments over theirs is not a winning communicative stragety.

  50. Cheradenine says:

    Dammit, I think everyone’s beaten me to most of the things I wanted to say on the subject. I was actually thinking of discussing privilege in another in the series “Why I don’t use the word X”, but Holly gets in first…

    Wait… that’s a good thing! It means I don’t have to type it myself 🙂

    As well as agreeing with the article, I do have a couple of things to add:

    First, I do particularly I want to add my support to the viewpoint that calling certain things “privileges” when they ought to be basic human rights actually diminishes them. “Privileges” are often seen as something that can be revoked. Equality isn’t something that should be revokable.

    And also, I’d like to expand a little on Holly’s point #4, which is that even within a class of “privileged” people, even for a “privilege” that the class is supposed to enjoy, there will be people who do not, in fact, receive that privilege, and assuming they do is a kind of prejudice all of its own. It’s kind of a double-bind because you have to both actually suffer the problem referred to, and suffer from people’s assumptions that you don’t or can’t.

    For example, if you were a white person who, by sheer bad luck, got pulled over by the police dozens of times a week for no reason (yes, I know, exaggerated example, bear with me) I think it would be fair to say that you didn’t have The Privilege Of Not Getting Stopped By The Police For No Reason.

    So then, how galling would it be for someone to then turn around and say, “Of course you have The Privilege Of Not Getting Stopped By The Police For No Reason, you’re in the Class of White People, and when you say you don’t think you have that privilege, you just don’t understand what it’s like to be pulled over by the police all the time!”?

    So yes, this is an outlandish example, but if you look at “privilege checklists” that do the rounds, a lot of them are phrased along the lines of, “As a [class of person], I am less likely to suffer [injustice] than if were [another class of person]”. Which might be true, but is just a probability, a luck-of-the-draw… and doesn’t help if you lose that lottery.

  51. Mythago, the problem here is that you’re assuming that everyone who goes into this rather niche internet space is being intolerably obtuse and ignorant when they don’t understand our codewords right away. That’s a bad attitude to have- I could almost say it’s an attitude of ‘Social Justice privilege.’ You don’t get to make up a word, make up an incredibly specific context and history behind that word and then scream that word at people in a way which sounds insulting and silencing and THEN pretend you have the moral high ground when people are offended or even puzzled.

  52. Toysoldier says:

    Mythago, at the end of the day whoever uses terms has a responsibility to explain them. You cannot expect other people to inform themselves about your ideas. That would be helpful, but it really is not going to happen. More so, explaining it on the spot tells that person that you are actually listening to them. Yes, they may reject everything you state and pretend they are offended. However, at least you made the effort to inform them. And if they consider your explanation hostile, that is a great moment for you to ask for an explanation.

  53. Emily H. says:

    I think insisting that there has to be one magical term for it is part of the problem! If I were trying to talk about these issues I’d probably use a full phrase or sentence to explain what I really meant as precisely as possible. For example, “you think street harassment is a compliment because you’re never experienced it, you don’t know how prevalent it is or how threatening it can be” is a useful thing to say. I could use that to tell a person who’s being thoughtless that they don’t really understand the issue — that they should listen to the experiences of people who have been through a certain experience, rather than assuming their wonderful logical brain has grasped every facet of street harassment already.

    I think this is useful where “male privilege!” isn’t, because this (hypothetical) person isn’t arguing that harassment is no big deal because he’s a male — there are men who do accept the seriousness of the problem, and women who don’t. Often someone is dismissive of a marginalized group’s issues, not because they’re “privileged” and haven’t lived through thing X, but because they’re being lazy and have never thought about what X would be like. They could understand it if they tried. Being precise about what “privileged” means in a certain context could help them get this through their head.

  54. Emily H. says:

    I posted something very similar in response to JutGory’s comment at 1:23. I’m glad to see some other people see it the same way — the word “privileged” always bothered me, but I thought I was the only one.

  55. Emily H. says:

    I think it could be argued that the “privilege” here consists in not EXPECTING to be pulled over frequently as a normal part of life — not living in fear of it? Men can be raped, but men have the advantage of getting to walk around at night without fear of rapists. Because it’s so much rarer, but also because they won’t be blamed for failing to take this “normal” danger into account. Men being raped is viewed as bizarre and anomalous, so they’re not constantly warned about the need to protect against it. And if it does happen, they would be seen as justified in viewing the crime as something horrifying that they could never have predicted. Women often have it in the back of their mind that if you get raped, it’s because you didn’t take precautions. (Although male rape victims face a whole set of other issues with being ridiculed or doubted.)

    Similarly, if a white person gets unfairly pulled over, they may have the luxury of feeling bewildered or outraged, rather than resigned. The unfair advantage lies in getting to take certain things for granted, and not having to resign yourself to certain injustices.

  56. i think the point of the “privilege” lists has since gotten completely derailed :\ They’re meant to be examples, and they’re sometimes generalized/don’t apply to everybody (often due to intersectionality issues or other issues), but they’re also meant to be taken together :\ As I said above, you can take a lot of things point by point in a vacuum and just say “well this happened to me too” :\ Like w/ trans ppl, you can (and do) get cis ppl saying “well I don’t feel safe in washrooms either” or “well ppl look at me funny in the washroom” or etc… but that’s not the end all or be all… and it’s not about “winning or losing” on a single point of a checklist (which also isn’t like handed down from god xD I think ppl forget that they’re meant to be educational TOOLS which also means that somebody should be there also explaining it, it’s more like a hand out in class rather than a policy guide, if that analogy makes any sense xD ).. and I think also, ppl often fear and worry or believe that anti-oppression is a zero sum game :\ That if you concede that some group has it better, they’ll go off, get rights and leave you stone cold :\ That if you say “okay trans ppl are more in danger in washrooms” then only WE’LL get stuff changed to make washroom gendered environments more comfortable (or eliminated all together) and the rest of you cis suckers will be ignored cuz you have all that priv and haha losers… and I know sometimes it might FEEL that way depending on who you’ve interacted w/, and sometimes I think ppl rly just FEAR that it is and they take things thru the lens of that fear, but it’s not a zero sum game :]

    but yeah to get back to the original, I think that’s why it’s important to not turn teaching tools and terms into memes.. which sadly a lot has… priv checklists, etc… like things that started out as ways to try to illustrate and give examples, to hopefully get ppl to stop and think have become just another arguing tactic or a policy guide… AND then it sets it up as like a “holy book” to knock down :\ and that’s not the point :\ nor is the point that other ppl might NOT also exp things in that list (like cis feminists often like to point out that they’re in danger of rape too vs trans ppl, but the point isn’t “we are, therefore you’re not”) it’s that when taken together, it can add up, and be more than the sum of it’s parts in terms of marginalizing that group. :\

  57. Sagredo says:

    And as I said, MOST of the time, privilege doesn’t mean you have something you shouldn’t, it means that the marginalized group doesn’t have something that you have, you should have, and you take for granted.

    Right. It’s a sort of negative term, it means “not being marginalised when someone else is”, with a vague guilt-pushing about it. The privilege concept is always associated with lists of individual privileges, and when you see one it’s always worth going down the list and sorting them into “things everyone should have” and “things no-one should have”. I think the privilege concept arises from eliding this difference. It’s an envy-based viewpoint that only cares about differences, and that’s toxic.

    People will say that having privilege is a bad thing, or that it is “problematic”, or that it needs to be eradicated, but it is not problematic to have something that everyone should have, even if others don’t have it. As you say, it’s far better to talk about the actual marginalisation and oppression.

    But it’s a bit more complicated than that, because the word is used in two related ways. The original Peggy McIntosh meaning was as situation. The idea was that privilege was something one had as part of the situation one was in in society, prior to anything one actually did. But it’s come to also refer to a particular kind of behaviour. You can find this when you hear “check your privilege” or “that reeks of privilege”. This kind of behaviour absolutely should be called out, though I’m not sure the best term if the concept of privilege is suspect. In the case of racial marginalisation and oppression, some of it could plainly be called racism even without conscious bad intent.

  58. A440 says:

    Hi, I’m one of those people who, as Holly put it, “needs 101”; here’s something I’ve never been able to get–

    If I am a white, cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, relatively upper-class male who is a citizen of the United States, that’s just about as privileged as you can get. Right? Right. We can all agree on that. Take away any one of those things, and that’s still pretty privileged–that’s not controversial either.

    …So? What is that supposed to *mean*, normatively? If I’ve recognized that I have that privilege, that people will, on average, look at me differently because of things beyond my control, that I have had access to many, many opportunities because of things beyond my control, what *other* responsibilities are incumbent on me because of my privilege? I’ve heard that I’m not supposed to regard the “experiences” of less privileged people as “invalid,” but I’ve never quite heard an explanation of what that means. I’m not about to revise my entire worldview because I know I’m privileged. Similarly, am I supposed to try to make an active effort towards ending privilege? I’m not about to abandon my life’s work to try to fix thorny social problems.

    Is “privilege” anything more than an ostensively obvious awareness of one’s surroundings? Does it imply a morally right or wrong *action* to be taken by the privileged or nonprivileged?

    Because if not, it seems like a kinda useless concept to me.

    Sorry if this seems a bit abrasive coming from a n00b, but I’m very philosophically confused.

  59. @Emily exactly :] or what they might have to fear in terms of how the police might treat them after having pulled them over… :\ It’s not that nothing bad or unfair can ever happen but that they can be piled on b/c of being part of a marginalized group :\ like I was pulled over by a cop for a routine stop… and then he saw my DL and the gender marker… and then he questioned and grilled me over it, and demanded I explain to him “what” I am and “why” I do it.. and etc etc :\ And police harassment and power tripping can happen to cis white ppl too (as a Toronto Star story on police abuses illustrates sadly well) but we have an extra layer where it’s not just being unlucky and running into a bad cop on a bad day… it’s about hoping we’re LUCKY and run into a good cop on a good day and having that extra layer of fear :\

  60. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I think the most important thing is to recognize that there are parts of life you don’t know about, because you’ve been lucky enough to avoid them. For example, you might take it for granted that public buildings will have bathrooms you can use safely. A person whose gender presentation does not match their apparent sex (say, a tall person with stubble and a very square build who wears a dress and makeup) does not have this privilege.

    (One of the reasons I don’t like saying “privilege” – it’s not unjust that you can use the bathroom, it’s unjust that some people can’t.)

    The application of this knowledge varies greatly with what the specific privilege is (another reason I don’t like the term), but in this case, there would be two main things to consider:
    1) That when a trans person talks about having trouble using public bathrooms, don’t dismiss or minimize the problem because you haven’t experienced it.
    2) That when you’re in charge of the bathrooms for an event or a new building, you should stop and think about everyone who uses bathrooms, and not just design bathrooms that would serve your needs.

    …it’s complicated. Like you said, this is really not a question with one answer.

  61. AB says:

    I can sympathise with the idea behind the use of privilege. At least some people use it as a way to avoid casting the privileged as the norm like people usually do. Like, instead of saying “gay people are marginalised” they say “straight people are privileged”, or in other words, treating the experience of homosexuals as the norm and the experience of heterosexuals as the exception.

    The weakness of this is that the current experiences of people lacking in privilege shouldn’t be the norm, so while the intention was to not treat them like the exception who always need to explain themselves, the word instead ends up indicating that their situation is the baseline which all other experiences should match.

  62. Daran says:

    So whenever I want to talk about the-concept-formerly-referred-to-as-white-privilege, I must now say “the law, custom and cultural valuation of light/white skin color as higher than dark/brown skin color, such that ‘white’ people receive certain benefits they may not even be aware of, let alone ask for”? That’ll make for some long blog posts.

    Speaking for myself, I have no objection to the use of the word “privilege” to refer to the fact that there are significant, non-artificial, society-wide benefits granted to white people, and no such benefits afforded to POC.

    I object to the use of the term to refer to the significant, non-artificial, society-wide benefits granted to males while falsely denying that females are also granted such benefits.

  63. Hugh Ristik says:

    4. Disparity in reproductive rights (e.g. men who are victims of statutory rape or deliberate fraud still have to pay child support)

    5. Bodily integrity (female genital mutilation is illegal in the US; male infant circumcision is legal… even while not being so severe usually, the ethical issues are similar)

    6. Bias against men in sexual harassment/assault policies in colleges and the workplace, disciplinary hearings (a frightening account from a feminist who served on disciplinary tribunals), and producedures (disciplinary panelists trained to believe that neutrality is colluding with abusive men). This bias is enabled and condoned by government agencies who give colleges and companies carte blanche to create vague and selectively enforced policies.

  64. Cheradenine says:

    Emily, I probably chose a bad example with the pulled-over-driving thing. But note, I didn’t say “a white person getting pulled over once“, I was talking about someone experiencing something directly comparable — getting pulled over regularly and therefore having the same expectation of getting pulled over.

    Plenty of the “privileges” in these checklists aren’t about expectation, though. Plus, even for the ones that are… after the first time it happens? Like, to take one of the examples given, after the first time a male is raped? I think they’re going to be plenty worried about it happening again, you know?

    Ami, I think there’s a difference when discussing these issues with regard to minorities. What I mean is, if you’re an ethnic minority, or trans, or any other group that is relatively uncommon in a given society, there’s an inherent marginalisation simply through rarity — people just don’t tend to consider the needs or experiences of that group because they tend to think of the most common group first. So when you sum up all the issues, it can, as you say, point out that marginalisation, in a possibly-useful way (depending on how it’s used, presented, etc).

    However, in the case of cismale/cisfemale privilege lists, I don’t think that applies in the same way. Women clearly get discriminated against in certain areas, but they’re also the majority of the population and given that they have a list of privileges of their own… is “marginalisation” really the right word to use here? I don’t think so myself… I mean, does the Female Privilege Checklist prove that men are marginalised? Men clearly get discriminated against in certain areas too. So if everyone is marginalised, what does the word even mean any more?! 🙂

  65. I think you’re kind of misinterpreting what I said o_o

    The list was meant as part of a whole discussion, not an ends to itself (which is why the “expectation” thing is not in all lists, tho I have seen lists where it is, but I think it’s often just boiled down to practical “real” things cuz of the fear of ppl saying “well how you FEEL isn’t an example of real oppression”) but when it gets used as an ends to itself it becomes . well basically what you just said in your last paragraph xD But that was not what I was saying… I was saying that the way a lot of ppl have encountered it, and the way unfortunately it’s become like a meme and sometimes a “beatstick” or a policy guide (“here read this”) it becomes interpreted as just that “here’s a list, this means we’re marginalized” and as you said, by that logic then everybody is marginalized since I’ve seen “trans privilege” lists too (which btw are usually pretty darn back breaking logically, but then I think similarly of some of the other “anti-anti-oppression” privilege lists xD)

  66. Laura says:

    When my husband and I were courting, he told me that he was frequently thought to be a probable shoplifter and was followed around a lot in stores. I thought he must be making that up but learned that he wasn’t when I was there and saw it. For instance, we’d walk into a store together past a person standing at the door, and my DH would whisper, “that’s security and he’s going to follow me”. And sure enough, that person would be magically at the end of whatever aisle we were in, looking at my husband out of the corner of his eye until we left. And my DH with his hands behind his back, telling me what he wanted to buy, b/c he didn’t want to be told not to come back. Irritating, because he’s probably the most honest person on the planet. And irritating to read that white folks don’t know what it’s like to be suspected of being a shoplifter when they haven’t done anything. I always want to say, you don’t know what I know or don’t know. And if you look at the color of my skin, or my husband’s skin, and make assumptions about our experiences, guess who’s the racist.

  67. There’s also more than just realizing some stuff happens to you… there’s also listening to the voices of the other ppl, as you said, and also being respectful and understanding that as a person who society has deemed “the norm” and a lot of things are aimed at, or created from a perspective centric to you, there may be interactions or an idea of… I don’t want to say “entitlement” but of believing that you are the objective observer. I bring this up b/c I was just thinking, in the new post, I actually DO want to say something, except about the politics and expectations around trans ppl, specifically trans women :\ But I’m also afraid, b/c I’m concerned that it’s going to be all about “disclosure” and when to disclose and it’ll be the usual thing where it becomes about “what about the poor cis men’s precious heterosexuality!” and ignores a lot of things (first off, the idea we NEVER think about this ourselves, or it’s not a rly tricky, stressful and dangerous issue we worry about whenever we date) and it centres the discussion suddenly around the privileged group that is considered the “norm” :\ Also other issues.. about washrooms.. it’s not just fearing violence, it’s that the issue always centers around cis ppl rather than trans ppl (as do issues involving my own ability to take hormones, or get surgery, or nething else) :\ And the idea that like… as an example, recently, I asked ppl for dating advice… just y’know, I like a guy, how do I let him know I like him? And then suddenly, somebody started talking about disclosure… and then it became about that :\ And I didn’t mention whether the guy knew I was trans, whether the guy was trans himself, I didn’t ask for advice, I haven’t even mentioned my surgical status… but b/c I’m trans, cis ppl, even well meaning, feel that a personal thing that I haven’t mentioned and they know nothing about is their public domain and that it’s about the issue most important to THEM re: trans dating, not what I was asking :\ if that makes sense at all :\ (I’m elaborating on you Holly for his sake, not meaning that you don’t understand this or that you were wrong :3 )

    Just adding that stuff liket his are things to keep in mind if you are concerned about how your “privileges” MAY interact w/ marginalized groups :]

  68. Cheradenine says:

    Hm, I think we’re talking at cross-purposes a little, but basically agreeing with each other 🙂

    At least, my overarching point (and, if I’ve understood correctly, yours too) is that it’s useful for a person to reflect upon their own “privilege” and how their own experiences — or having not had certain experiences — might leave them unaware of the problems other people face, and that checklists might make a useful starting point for people to hold discussions along those lines — perhaps they should all have those number-bars next to each statement, like in customer surveys, for people to circle how much they agree/disagree… 😛 — but they aren’t actually accurate or useful in their own right as statements of fact, and beating people over the head with them to prove how oppressed they are is deeply unhelpful on many levels.

  69. Ami, I think there’s a difference when discussing these issues with regard to minorities. What I mean is, if you’re an ethnic minority, or trans, or any other group that is relatively uncommon in a given society, there’s an inherent marginalisation simply through rarity — people just don’t tend to consider the needs or experiences of that group because they tend to think of the most common group first.

    I also think that’s kind of a simplistic view. And you can be marginalized without being a tiny minority :\ Technically white straght cis abled middle class men are a rly tiny minority… In Toronto, white ppl are a minority, they’re the largest minority, but they’re still a minority.. In the city where I live (just outside Toronto proper), Chinese ppl are about 50% and white ppl are fairly less (cuz there are other minority groups here too)… but that doesn’t mean there isn’t racism.. or that Chinese ppl still don’t face marginalization (I said above I use the word to avoid using “oppression” but I think now it’s being seen as me meaning that they’re shoved to the side b/c they’re such a small group :\ ) It’s more than just population totals AND I think it’s problematic to define or say “well that’s understandable” (and I know that’s not EXACTLY what you’re saying :\ ) marginalized groups or talk about oppression/privilege dynamics in terms of just population… (this is esp true in certain areas of the world or in global politics in general)

  70. Jim says:

    “privileges everyone should have”

    You mean “rights”?

  71. aebhel says:

    And that’s fine, but it’s kind of disingenuous to claim that you want public discourse and then deliberately use jargon that cuts the public out of your conversation.

  72. Yus that is what I was saying 🙂

  73. that sounds more combative or disagreeing than I meant :\ I meant that I tend to be uncomfortable w/ the “size of population” thing being something that’s brought up as either justifying something or dismissing something (as I hear a lot) and I think size of population means less to me than what’s actually going on w/ the dynamics of the society and how ppl are treated/viewed/understood/etc :]

  74. Daran says:

    4. The Draft. (Ozymandias already mentioned this. I’m just giving it a number)
    5. State sponsored massacres targeting civilian men.
    6. UN organized evacuations of civilians which exclude precisely those men being targeted for massacre.
    7. US Law prohibiting genital mutilation only applicable to the sex least likely to be so victimised.
    8. State assistance for programs which serve only female victims of sexual or domestic violence.

  75. Daran says:

    Bugger! We crossposted.

  76. ozymandias42 says:

    Exactly. 🙂 Rights that some people don’t have.

  77. Jim says:

    “I think insisting that there has to be one magical term for it is part of the problem! ”

    This wins the thread. You have stated the biggest problem with the term. There ware others. but this is the biggest.

    “For example, “you think street harassment is a compliment because you’re never experienced it, you don’t know how prevalent it is or how threatening it can be” is a useful thing to say. ”

    Here’s an example of how listening to the advantaged person can yield useful information. A very standard response from men on this issue is that we would love to know what it is to be this visible, that complaining about being noticed just tells us how privileged women are. Now that is not information about street harassment, of any sort, but it is very useful information about how men, the men you are supposedly trying to talk to, are going to see this and other issues of “male gaze”. They are going to see “gaze” as the solution, not a problem. Someone missing a foot is not going to be very sympathetic to someone who has no shoes.

    And yes, it is as clueless as standing on a hot street corner waiting for the light to finally, finally change, envying the person in a wheelchair next to you.

  78. Jim says:

    I agree with all of this. There’s a lot there.

  79. Maxine Shaw says:

    When I was a little girl, I could hug and kiss my friends, hold their hands and share a bed with them. Because I was female, I didn’t have to worry that I would be bullied or physically attacked for showing nonsexual affection to kids of the same gender.

    Where the HELL did you grow up? Never-Never Land?

  80. Cheradenine says:

    AND I think it’s problematic to define or say “well that’s understandable” (and I know that’s not EXACTLY what you’re saying :\ )

    It’s not even remotely what I’m saying.

    The definition of “marginalised” is “to treat as insignificant or peripheral”, and my point is that I don’t think that either cismales or cisfemales as a whole are treated as insignificant and certainly not as peripheral, in most first-world societies.

    Are population totals a factor in this? I would say, in an open society (I’ll get back to that) then yes: If you push 90% of the population out into the margins, then… that’s where the new mainstream is! The 10% left behind are now in the margins, because that’s what mainstream and margins are.

    However, this isn’t universally true, for sure. But that’s more a factor of societies that are not open. By which I mean… let’s take as an example, South Africa under apartheid. Here, clearly, a black majority was marginalised (let’s be honest here: outright fucking oppressed, no quibbling about it), but that’s because laws actively excluded the majority from participation in the mainstream.

    If you don’t have those structures in place, either overtly (laws) or covertly (collusive prejudice, eg “old boys club”), if you have something that is a democracy, then you can’t stop the majority from taking over — again, because that’s just what democracy is: rule by the majority (it’s tweaked a little by representative vs direct democracy etc, but in general terms).

    And I don’t think localised population counts (eg this city or that city) are especially useful except for very localised phenomena. So, within your city, the majority Chinese population are still a minority in terms of the wider Canadian society, its media, politics and so on. But it might have an effect on, to pick one example, very local politics.

  81. mythago says:

    Of course the problem with “advantage” is that it does come across as zero-sum. I have an advantage over you, not I have privilege that you do not have.

  82. Holly Pervocracy says:

    This was my experience, at least when I was pre-pubescent. I kissed my friends on the cheek and shared beds at sleepovers, and it wasn’t sexual and wasn’t a problem. Puberty put the kibosh on this, but at ages 6-10? At least for me, there wasn’t an issue.

  83. mythago says:

    This. And let’s nof forget that “emotion” here is very loaded; only certain emotions and emotional displays are considered unmanly and “emotional”. “Emotional” practically means the same thing in US culture as upset, sad, off-balance, about to cry. We don’t look at a man who is bellowing at the car that just cut him off at the exit and think wow, he’s getting all emotional.

  84. mythago says:

    Well, Holly, you’re attributing hostility, impatience and silencing to anyone using the term ‘privilege’; yet you simultaneously demand that anyone who doesn’t commonly use that term be treated as acting out of good faith, goodwill and a mere absence of information. You seem to think that communication failures are all one-way.

  85. Yeah that was what my 2nd comment was about xD I didn’t actually mean you were saying that, but I’m pointing out my own issues w/ ppl bringing up the population thing.

    Again, I think we’re agreeing but reading each other wrong xD (and as I said, you’re reading marginalization, understandbly, differently than I was saying above, in the way I used it… I use it instead of “oppression” b/c oppression gets a reaction out of ppl that isn’t what I mean :\ just like marginalization has gotten a reaction out of you that wasn’t what I meant)

    I’m sorry for the misunderstandings :] (and that I came off, and I know that I shouldn’t have said that’s not what you EXACTLY meant, cuz that’s not even what i MEANT, it’s that I forgot to delete part of a sentence I had constructed and when I finished it I didn’t notice -_- I’m sorry :] I meant that i know that’s not what you’re saying but that these are my qualms with using it and the way it’s been used, and that is why I myself do not subscribe to it or use it)

  86. Cheradenine says:

    Maxine, where did you grow up? It might be that you grew up in a different culture, I don’t know your history. But I can tell you that Holly isn’t describing Never-Never Land.

    It might help to clarify: I don’t think Holly is suggesting that it was OK to grow up as, for example, an out lesbian, nor that girls never got bullied or physically attacked. I believe she is suggesting that the boundary of what was considered “acceptable heterosexual female” behaviour included hugging, holding hands, sleepovers, and nonsexual kissing. And that seems to be a description that is familiar from my life, that of many people I know, is represented in the media, etc.

  87. mythago says:

    I don’t mean to shock you here, toysoldier, but I actually agree with this. 🙂

    Where I disagree is with Holly and slightlymetaphysical’s portrayal of this as people who use the term ‘privilege’ = angry, silencing jerks who refuse to explain anything ever, and people who wander into a discussion and don’t know the term = gentle, well-meaning lambs who’d be right there on the front lines if somebody was only nice to them for five seconds. I can’t possibly be the only person who has ever seen someone blow up, not because These Bloggers Were Condescending, but because they simply didn’t like the ideas they were hearing and preferred to attack the tone of the messenger.

    Yes indeed, it is a good thing to take a moment to say “privilege means ________” or “check this link, it’s a nice summary of what we’re talking about here” instead of blowing up. It is also a good thing not to derail uncomfortable discussions by insisting that the ‘tone’ isn’t right, or people disagreeing is ‘silencing’, or that it’s totally unfair to say ‘please see this post at Feminism 101’ instead of dropping everything and changing the subject to something they could find out in a few seconds on their own.

  88. If you don’t have those structures in place, either overtly (laws) or covertly (collusive prejudice, eg “old boys club”), if you have something that is a democracy, then you can’t stop the majority from taking over — again, because that’s just what democracy is: rule by the majority (it’s tweaked a little by representative vs direct democracy etc, but in general terms).

    I wasn’t referring to politics tho.. or political power, I think this is where we’re getting our signals crossed :\ I’m referring to broader cultural, social and media narratives, and those can be thru a lens that is not about who has the most population in a certain country or area, and that is what I was meaning w/ marginalized voices :] Also the bringing up my city was to add nuance to the general thing I read what you said as :\ It’s hard to talk online in little soundbytes cuz we know what we mean but it doesn’t always come out and sometimes I think, at least I do, take shortcuts without meaning to cuz *I* alrdy know what I mean :]

  89. GudEnuf says:

    I like to use the word “perspective”

    “Your male perspective is blinding you to women’s problems.”

    is less inflammatory than

    “Your male privilege is blinding you to women’s problems.”

  90. Ginny says:

    I’m a little confused about your position here. Are you saying that a conversation about the unpleasantness of street harassment should turn into a conversation about the unpleasantness of invisibility? Because if so, the only conversations we’re ever going to have will devolve into, “You think your problem is a problem? I’d LOVE to have your problem!” Which is kind of what happens now.

    If the conversation is about street harassment, then yes, the party who doesn’t experience harassment and doesn’t understand why it’s a problem needs to shut up for a minute and listen openly to the other person’s perspective. Then, after that, they can have a separate conversation about invisibility and how painful that is. But asking that I, talking about a problem I experience, let the conversation get derailed into someone else talking about their opposite problem, and insisting that I learn from them before they’ve made an effort to learn from me, is unfair.

    And yes, I’d say the same thing if the conversation was originally about the problems of invisibility. (That is, we can talk about harassment AFTER I’ve made an earnest and good-faith attempt at understanding the experience you’re talking about.)

  91. mythago says:

    Sort of. Privilege can also mean not being on the receiving end of unfairness – it’s the neutral state. Highway officers don’t waive tickets for me because I’m white, but they probably also aren’t going to disproportionately pull me over because of my skin color, either.

  92. 2ndnin says:

    I think we need to question the term privilege because of the way in which it is used. If we take for example the White privilege checklist a lot of the components on it are really more ‘dominant racial group’ or sub group related than directly relating to whiteness. Similarly whiteness varies very fluidly to exclude groups, for example there were debates on various feminist blogs which brought up Italians being non-White. In a similar way a lot if the male privilege checklist is not male but class or wealth based.

    It is a standard idea in feminism that someone who lives as x should really have the say on x. Privilege really is used to shut this down for example men talking about men, or poc in White feminist groups.

    We can’t apply privilege to any single individual because the amount they benefit from it varies. Is president Obama really less privileged than Joe six-pack because Joe is White or is the intersection of academic privileges with reality very different to mere academia.

  93. you mean privilege in that 2nd thing right? xD

    cuz I like that :] perspective :3

  94. mythago says:

    It’s as if somebody tried to say that children have “age privilege” – hey, they don’t have to pay bills or worry about going to work every day, school is not that hard, they can eat all kinds of things that would get an adult derision for liking, and so on. We’d think such a person was being rather silly; these are not “privileges”, they are the result of children having few rights (and few responsibilities) and are part of their being seen as less-than. (You can’t expect the little darlings to do more, can you?)

  95. Pants says:

    Wah wah wah the draft. So predictable. Call me when it’s an actual issue.

  96. Nicole says:

    I appreciated this post. I have a problem reading comment strings in feminist blogs because of the male-bashing, and it makes me cringe when I see the word “privilege”. I understand what it means. It’s the way that it’s used that bothers me. I don’t love the way the word “dude” is used either, most of the time. I’m less bothered by female-bashing, because the people doing it are not part of a community I want to think of myself as a part of. I already disagree with them, disagreeing with their way of expressing things I disagree with isn’t going to cost a lot of extra energy.

    Came here from your blog, and I appreciate being led here.

  97. mythago says:

    What I really wonder about the draft is why there has been no organized effort to change it. FFS, even NOW’s official position for some time has been that the draft should either be abolished or include women. It’s hard not to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist and wonder how much certain MRA groups really want the draft to go away. It’s such a useful issue.

    I mean, back in the ol’ Usenet days, I had this conversation approximately a jillion times:

    MRA: Something about the draft. Grrr.
    ME: I tried to register for the draft and was rejected on the basis of my gender. I would be more than happy to be a test case for any group that wants to take up the banner. Know of any?
    MRA: [changes the subject]

  98. Hrm… I’m replying again cuz I feel bad… esp that my comment came off WAY wrong and I was not in any way implying that you meant that, (as I said it was a deleting mistake i didn’t notice or catch) 😦 I want to apologize again for implying you did mean that :] (and honestly I dun disagree w/ nething you said above :] )

  99. Brian says:

    And yet I have (and I’d bet you have) heard people say “I wish I was a little kid again”.

    Sure, these are mostly people who don’t realize how much it sucks to be a little kid, but I don’t think the acknowledgment that sometimes kids really do have it better takes away from the fact that it really does suck to be a little kid.

  100. Cheradenine says:

    It’s okay, relax 🙂

  101. mythago says:

    It does imply action, but there is a lot of room between giving up your career to work as an activist and “screw you, I got mine, Jack.” As Holly and Ami said, you can practice being aware and considerate without having to make major overhauls in your career; you can point out when others are exercising privilege in a harmful way, you can do small things to help alleviate this privilege.

  102. GudEnuf says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Can one of you admins fix my comment please?

    [yep, done – Holly Pervocracy]

  103. Brian says:

    Who says newbs can be assholes?

    The point is that someone who says “I’m a white guy but I don’t have privilege because I’m poor” (or similar) is not being an asshole even if he argues the point for pages. And I have seen guys like that actually argue the point for pages. A term that creates that level of misunderstanding is a bad term.

  104. Holly Pervocracy says:

    NOTE: NWOslave’s comments clearly violated any concept of “good faith” and have been deleted from this thread–as will all future comments that are not in good faith and not conducive to respectful, on-topic discussion. All replies to him have been deleted as well due to derail concerns.

    I don’t have the power to unilaterally ban him from this blog, but he is banned from my post.

  105. mythago says:

    You haven’t had many discussions about white privilege, if you think there are people who believe POC have “no such benefits”. Affirmative action! Being thought cool! Obama is President for crissakes! Being able to play the race card to deflect criticism!

  106. Brian says:

    You’re ignoring that there are people, many of whom are entirely polite, who will not grasp the loads of details that the word “privilege” entails.

    Like I posted a bit up there, I’ve argued with plenty of people who say something like “but I’m poor, I can’t have privilege” or “as a woman I don’t think I have privilege”. Then about ten posts where they attempt to object and I or someone else point out the tangle in the definition of privilege, and at the end it boils down to “well I still don’t have privilege by the layman’s definition of the term”. Plenty of these people have been entirely polite, and none of them have been hostile to the concept behind the word “privilege”, so I don’t think you can dismiss them as “assholes”.

    If we’re going to talk to non-feminists at all, we need a word that does not get misinterpreted so very badly.

    —–
    Pre-post edit: And now I think of it, Holly is not saying that everyone who uses the word privilege are angry silencing jerks. Holly is saying that the word always gets misinterpreted and that sometimes it’s misused by angry silencing jerks. I think it’s pretty clear that she’s not saying that everyone who uses the word privilege is an angry silencing jekr.

  107. 300baud says:

    I certainly find it a useful concept. Privilege is systemic and pervasive in human interactions, and there are a lot of things that are hard to explain without it. But I also find it useful personally.

    Like all people, when things are going well for me I tend to think it’s because of what I’ve done. That’s not totally false, but I still find it very helpful to think about what parts of my success (especially my success relative to others) are due to various sort of privilege. It’s similar to the Christian “counting one’s blessings” approach to humility.

    I also choose to make an active effort toward ending privilege. Not on any grand scale, but in my day-to-day life. I try to reduce the extent to which I treat people differently because of their various privileges. And in contexts where I’m privileged, I look for opportunities to use that for fairness. You don’t have to, of course. But once you start seeing it, I expect you will.

  108. mythago says:

    1) I’m open to a better term.
    2) It’s not a “misunderstanding” if the other person simply would prefer not to understand.

    I’ve seen those discussions, btw. It doesn’t take pages and pages to politely say “Of course being white doesn’t mean you are teh winz in all things, or that you always have an advantage over anyone who isn’t white. Nor does having white privilege mean you lack privilege in other areas – for example, class. That doesn’t change the fact that being ‘white’ is, in our culture, valued more than being ‘black’ and overall, having ‘white’ skin grants privileges that being brown does not.” But somebody who prefers not to hear that will just repeat over and over that they can’t possibly have white privilege because they’re poor, and because they have less privilege than Obama no such racial privilege exists, QED.

  109. Tamen says:

    Where you meaning to say “…why there has been no MRA organized effort to change it.”? Or is it that NOW just have a official position on it since 1980, but have done no organized effort to actually change it? If so, I’d argue that they’re no better than the MRAs you decry.

  110. mythago says:

    You’re ignoring that there are people, many of whom are entirely polite, who will not grasp the loads of details that the word “privilege” entails.

    I’m not ignoring this at all. I’m saying that it is not productive to banish a word from our vocabulary simply because a) not everybody immediately understands it and b) some people misuse it. “Here is a link to a Feminism 101 blog that lays the issue out nicely” is, IMO, a polite and informative way to help somebody who wants to know what ‘privilege’ means.

  111. Illannoying says:

    I think you’re also overlooking how often a few feminists get together in a non-feminist space, decide amongst themselves that it’s suddenly a feminist space, and start expecting everybody else to fall in line. That’s when many of these do become very active STFUs. In very much the same way that, absent a decent FAQ, “do your own 101ing” often translates in practice to “shut up until you’ve become immersed in our culture to the point that your opinions have fallen into lockstep”.

    Really, if I were in charge, there’d be a concept of privilege-awareness – a positive notion of how well you keep track of how you’re advantaged relative to society in general – as opposed to the current notions which seem use “privilege” as an analogue to “sin”. It’d also help a lot if we could talk about social bundles like masculinity and femininity as being full of tradeoffs (E.G: men not being allowed to be emotional/women are expected to be unreliable because of their emotions) rather than trying to rank things or twist them around.

  112. Brian says:

    Most MRA groups are not serious activist groups. You can’t expect them to change the draft because you can’t expect them to do anything.

    Also, @Pants: The draft was an actual issue back when the feminist movement was first founded, which is why NOW has an official position that the draft should be equal if it exists. It’s still an issue in plenty of other countries.

    And I notice you’re ignoring the plenty of other things besides the draft that are totally actual issues. Why are you on this blog if you don’t seem to care about men’s rights?

  113. mythago says:

    So MRA organizations are no better than NOW at promoting gender equality? I don’t think you’re gonna make any friends on the MRA side with that one. 😉

    What I mean is, it feels as though this is yet another example of “Hey feminists, you missed a spot. And get me a beer while you’re up.”

  114. mythago says:

    You know, if I countered with a similar list for women, I’d be screamed at for playing Oppression Olympics.

  115. Brian says:

    Sorta-edit: Why doesn’t NOW lobby for an equal draft? Because NOW’s full position was that there shouldn’t be a draft at all, and plenty of their members were lobbying for that back when there was a draft on.

  116. Brian says:

    Gah, ninja.

    Unexplainably hostile ninja who is clearly assuming bad faith at that.

  117. Sonja says:

    Thank you! I HATE the word privilege for exactly those reasons. It IS silencing, it IS used (frequently) to shut people down from talking about whatever the topic is, and it makes me angry to no end.

    I’ve been lucky to be raised middle-class in Australia (yes, I even consider that to be lucky), get a good education and keep good jobs.

    According to Dictionary.com, Privilege is “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most”, and I don’t believe that anything I have or have done is “beyond the advantages of most”.

    For example, I was put through the public education system, not private. I have a Diploma, but not a Bachelor (let alone Honours, Masters, or PHD…), a mid-range paying job in a multi-national, private company (public service get better everything here in Aus, particularly here in Canberra).

    It’s really nothing that anyone else couldn’t do if they wanted.

  118. typhonblue says:

    One of the most terrifying privileges that men lack is any sort of protection against female sexual predation. From ‘A Story about the Invisibility of Male Rape’:

    “The way I handled it was probably wrong, but there’s a sort of unwritten rule among men that when that sort of thing happens, you just don’t talk about it because when you do talk about it, the thing that hangs over you is that no one really cares when women do it.” –dungone

    When I read stuff like that, I can feel myself start to panic. Stuff like this:

    In which two rape victims are forced to pay child support for children conceived through rape.

    Just to state it again. Men have zero protection against female sexual predation. And that terrifies me.

    Can you imagine being a woman and just having to live with being raped because society simply does not care or acknowledge that it can happen? Not ‘you asked for it because of X’ but more like ‘well, you’re a woman, it was his right as a man.’ Men are supposed to be sexually available to women whenever women want.

    I personally find it really difficult to talk about men’s ‘greater privilege’ when they have to deal with a complete social void when it comes to their right not to be sexually violated.

    There is other stuff, but this is the one issue that really takes my breath away. I’m a woman and I find it personally triggering.

  119. Brian says:

    Like other people have posted, she’s not suggesting it’s okay to be a lesbian, only that she never felt the kind of intense pressure to not be seen as gay that boys have.

    Has anybody ever told you about that pathetic little game guys play in the bathroom, where they must always choose the urinal furthest away from all other guys so as to minimize the risk other guys will think they’re looking at their cocks? It’s silly right? I’m a guy and I assure you it really happens.

    I think it’s obvious from that that it’s not the least bit okay if guys hug each other or hold hands, which is a shame because there’s been plenty of times I’ve wanted to hug other guys, but I couldn’t because it would’ve caused a gigantic cloud of awkwardness to descend upon the conversation and I’d feel like crap and they’d feel like crap and it generally would suck all around.

  120. Holly Pervocracy says:

    Sonja – There are a LOT of things in your story that certain people couldn’t do no matter how bad they wanted. People not born in a country with free public education, for example, could not have gotten that. And there are lots of people for whom the best job they can get–and it’s not a matter of “wanting” but of opportunity and/or ability–is low-paying or none at all.

  121. Shora says:

    Meep, sorry, I didn’t even think about that! You’re right, now that I think about it, it’s not trivial. I’m gonna leave it up because I don’t like just pretending I don’t make mistakes.

    Thank you for correcting me, sorry to offend.

  122. Shora says:

    The way I have always seen the term oppression olympics, it’s used as a tool to AVOID silencing someone. Saying “my” oppression is worse than “your” oppression, and therefore a much more important thing to talk about so shut up please, the grownups with real problems are talking, is a FANTASTIC way to shut down and alienate people (as well as be an ass).

    At the end of the day, creating hierarchies of oppression don’t help anyone, and silence a whole lot of people.

  123. Holly Pervocracy says:

    But to call you “privileged” doesn’t seem quite right, because it would imply (outside of a very specific jargon usage) that:

    a) Working a middle-class job with a non-bachelor’s diploma is a life of luxury, which it obviously is not
    or
    b) Working a middle-class job with a non-bachelor’s diploma is something you evilly stole from poor people, which you obviously didn’t.

    Instead, I’ll just say that you might not have considered all the life circumstances other people might have that prevent them from having the same opportunities as you did. That’s a longer sentence, but I think it’s both more clear and less hostile.

  124. mythago says:

    Again: what term do you propose we use instead?

    And yet again: It’s also not a winning communicative strategy to assume that anybody using the term ‘privilege’ is “slinging” it, is disrespectful and clueless and is preaching about moral judgments. That’s about as winning as “STFU, privileged newb.”

  125. mythago says:

    For example, “you think street harassment is a compliment because you’re never experienced it, you don’t know how prevalent it is or how threatening it can be” is a useful thing to say.

    Useful? It sounds pretty accusatory to me: You’re only saying that because you don’t know what you’re talking about and have never experienced this, but I have and I do, so let me tell you why you’re wrong. Jim’s comment below is a pretty good example of why you’re not going to get “Oh, I see! You’re right! Thank you for explaining that meaningfully and not using the p-word.”

  126. fogg says:

    I first encountered this specialized use of the word privilege a year or two ago, when I started reading about these issues online. At first I did not like the word, but I have concluded that was a combination of seeing it used aggressively on fandom secrets (a phenomenon that was mentioned in a previous comment) and genuinely not being comfortable with my own undeserved advantages. I think the challenge of figuring out the concept behind the word privilege helped me to see my own more clearly, since I realized I was seeing the exact same word again and again, and it was impossible to forget about it.
    This is different from the disconnect between the jargon and common meanings for the word theory, as used in the phrase “the theory of evolution.” Taking the time to learn the meaning of the word theory to a scientist will not help in understanding of the concepts evolutionary biology.
    To me, there is a place for the word privilege, since it does seem to have a coherent meaning that’s worth discovering. I think that using it in combination with clear elaboration of the sort that Holly describes would make for an accessible and effective text.

  127. mythago says:

    You’re confusing “privilege” and “privileged”. “Privilege”, with no “d”, refers to advantages (or at least lack-of-disadvantages) that people have because of their perceived ‘normalcy’ or ‘desirability’; it doesn’t mean an absolute advantage for each individual. “Privileged” implies that a particular person has individual benefits and special treatment.

    Sonja’s actually providing an example of what I was talking about before: being angry about the term “privilege” and accusing the term of being “silencing” not because it is being used to beat somebody down, but because it suggests that something other than hard work or luck affects our success. It is painful and jarring to think that if we had been the ‘wrong’ race or religion or socioeconomic class, then maybe hard work and a positive attitude would not have been enough to get us where we are today.

  128. Shora says:

    I hear both Holly’s and Mythago’s points here. I’ve been in so many countless circular arguments about privilege and what it means with someone who really just refuses to listen or challenge their viewpoints because it makes them uncomfortable. Many of these arguments were with my ex-boyfriend, and I joke that feminism ruined my relationship (it really needed to be ruined anyway). Sometimes, truly, people need to shut up and listen. And sometimes well meaning, obtuse noobs get shredded to pieces by people who who are just so fucking sick of the circular arguments they’ve lost the ability to tell between good-faith obtuseness and bad faith douchebaggery.

    Something that may help with this problem is encouraging newcomers to lurk. That’s what I did when I was new to this whole feminism/social justice thing. I lurked, I read, I learned, and when I felt like I could make a valuable contribution I did, and not a moment before. I would not be uncomfortable calling someone who refused to spend a while familiarizing themselves with the new community they’ve found themselves in out for being lazy. Because yes, that is something that takes effort, but is very rewarding and doesn’t smack of making a marginalized person educate you because you can’t be bothered to yourself.

  129. Shora says:

    I think chris has a point about crying. It is obnoxiously easy to make me cry, and I recognize that this is in large part because society at large has taught me that when I cry, things tend to go my way. This is not so for men, and therefore I have a privilege, and an unearned one at that. Also, it’s fucking annoying, because by the time I was old enough to feel ashamed for such typical manipulation tactics, I had lost the ability to keep myself from crying.

  130. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I think this is where all the talk about exclusionary jargon comes from…

    I’ve been blogging about feminist issues for more than four years, and until this very moment, I didn’t know that “privilege” and “privileged” were codewords for different things.

    (In fact, if I wanted to be a pain in the butt here, I’d point out that learning this jargon requires a lot of free time, education, and unfettered web access…)

  131. typhonblue says:

    No you haven’t. Very few human behaviors are fixed or immutable.

  132. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I can’t stop myself from crying sometimes. I can suppress it sometimes with great effort, but it’s like trying to keep my heart rate from rising–an effort of will helps but can’t I always take full control of my body.

    I have to admit, this is also a touchy issue for me because I had an abusive mother who would scream at me “you’re just crying to manipulate me!” when I was genuinely and uncontrollably crying. It was a hell of a mindgame.

  133. typhonblue says:

    “I have to admit, this is also a touchy issue for me because I had an abusive mother who would scream at me “you’re just crying to manipulate me!” when I was genuinely and uncontrollably crying.”

    Sounds like you didn’t get your emotions validated by your mom; used to happen to me too, except she would always trot out the ‘I’m the one with the REAL problems’ line.

    ‘I can’t…’ statements are learned helplessness. We get into these thought loops in which we try to make something ‘acceptable’ by saying we’re helpless to stop it. But we rarely are.

    You have a right to cry. You have a right to want to cry. Your mother is not the arbitrator over your rights; nor do you have to justify your crying to her by doing self-limiting things that remove your agency.

  134. ozymandias42 says:

    When I was a little girl, I could hug, hold hands with, cuddle and share beds with my friends; in fact, I’ve occasionally shared beds with friends up through college. My anecdotal observation of young girls suggests that that sort of nonsexual affection (especially handholding) is relatively common, although the more obvious forms like kissing and holding hands tend to be policed out of girls in middle school or so.

  135. Holly Pervocracy says:

    I appreciate your sympathy, but my tearducts are literally not under my voluntary control.

    The only way for me to not cry is to not be upset, and sometimes I really can’t, as in “I can’t lift that boulder” can’t, decide to not be upset.

  136. Tamen says:

    Men are socialized from a very young age to ideally not be afraid of anything – whether it is unlikely (getting raped by a stranger while walking alone at night) or more likely (getting physically assaulted while walking alone at night). This I believe is also one of the reason why men die younger than women. Having a skewed view of risks makes more men take chances which ends badly. And then testosterone gets blamed by gender essentialists.

    Women are probably socialized from a very young age to be too afraid of too many things. This negatively impacts their lives in other ways like you describes. And there is no denying that the expectation from society (both men and women) that women take the precautions regarding outfits, where and when she travels/walks and so on add to her fear.

    I would guess that a more correct fear level is somewhere in the middle of what men and women experience.

    By the way, I think you’re wrong that men who’ve been raped is seen as justified in viewing the crime against them as something horrifying – they are more likely to be told that it wasn’t a crime or that they could’ve prevented it by fighting off the rapist.

  137. Brian says:

    But they don’t prefer not to understand. That’s what I’m saying. There is no deliberate mental block going on here.

    Most of the people who I argue with on the internet totally agree that their life would be worse if they were black or w/e, but (to them) that doesn’t mean they’re privileged, because their life is already pretty bad. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position; unless I already knew the jargon term I would never say that a poor white guy is privileged.

    Besides, if you have to explain a word in full every time you use it you might as well just give the full explanation outright because the word isn’t helping you condense anything anyway.

  138. Brian says:

    Yes, I mean male restroom etiquette. Goddamn male restroom etiquette.

    IT’S NOT EFFICIENT AT ALL TO FILL UP URINALS IN ORDER OF DISTANCE FROM OTHER GUYS! IT’S MOST EFFICIENT TO FILL UP URINALS IN ORDER OF DISTANCE FROM THE DOOR! AND WASTING TWO URINALS JUST FEELS. SO. WRONG!

  139. Brian says:

    /rant

  140. Brian says:

    It doesn’t. Privileged is the adjective form of privilege, just like it always is.

    However it might be the adjective form of layman-privilege, and it might be the adjective form of sociologist-privilege. It’s kind of hard to tell.

  141. Brian says:

    TBH (now you’ve raised the point) I think scientists ought to stop using the word theory now it’s clear that laymen misinterpret it so badly.

    I mean, sure you can stay up there saying “but it’s not our fault they misunderstand it” as long as you want, but the only way to make people stop thinking that evolution is “just a theory” is to call it something else.

  142. Toysoldier says:

    It is painful and jarring to think that if we had been the ‘wrong’ race or religion or socioeconomic class, then maybe hard work and a positive attitude would not have been enough to get us where we are today.

    But that is not a privilege. A privilege requires that a person receives something they otherwise would not and have not earned. A decent education and job are not only what most people in Western countries expect to get, it is also what they generally receive, i.e. the default. That some people are denied the default does not makes who do get it privileged. What you are talking about is disprivilege, someone receiving less than they ought to.

    I think the problem is that people who use the term want others to apply the term to themselves without applying it to themselves. In other words, I have “male privilege” and should acknowledge it, but not to the extent that I actually look for that “privilege” benefits me. “Male privilege” protects me from rape, but I should not look at my life and ask WTF happened to my “male privilege” from birth until I was fourteen. If a theory only works if it gets applied in a very specific way, you should toss the theory out.

  143. firebeexlt says:

    Er?

    When I was young, statements like these were made to me in all seriousness all the time. I still see such statements being made all the time — sometimes I even have still had them directed at me, by other people who are parents and have exceedingly poor boundaries.

    They are not by any means uniformly viewed as silly.

  144. ozymandias42 says:

    Ingroup/outgroup? Marginalized/nonmarginalized people? Just naming the groups you’re talking about? Define privilege the first time you use it in any 101 space?

  145. firebeexlt says:

    I have a similar physiological reaction to certain emotional states to what Holly describes here, and I am less than impressed by the ideas that you are presenting. Do you realize that your statement could be easily read as a restatement of the emotionally abusive behavior Holly experienced in nicey-nice language?

    For all practical purposes, even if there is some theoretical state of physical and mental mastery in which I either do not experience the problematic emotional state or successfully completely contain my physical response while simultaneously appearing normally responsive to my environment, I have not yet attained that degree of mastery despite considerable motivation to do so.

    In the meantime, because I have to live in the real world until the point that I become a transcended master, my strategic and tactical judgments regarding how I manage my relationships treat the tearfulness (and other such like physical reactions) as more or less axiomatic in the short and medium term in much the same way that while in theory I might learn to singlehandedly push my truck up hills if I work out hard enough, in practice I make sure to buy gas regularly.

  146. Illannoying says:

    Outside of the specific, deliberately misconstrued “theory of evolution”, nobody gives anybody grief over things like Newtonian theory, atomic theory, etc. Scientists who understand public policy do tend to avoid the T-word when talking with laypeople, too.

  147. typhonblue says:

    “Do you realize that your statement could be easily read as a restatement of the emotionally abusive behavior Holly experienced in nicey-nice language?”

    Do you realize that your statement, right here, could be read as a restatement of the emotionally abusive behavior *I* experienced?

  148. mythago says:

    Most people in Western countries receive a decent education and job? Really?

    I understand what you’re saying about ‘disprivilege’, but it can also be privilege – when somebody does an extra favor, or overlooks a rule, or is more lax than they would be if I were a different color or gender, that is privilege. And, I suppose, disprivilege for others at the same time.

  149. seagullsong says:

    I’ve been thinking about this issue and how to articulate it for a few months now, and you just did it perfectly. Thank you so much, this is it exactly.

  150. mythago says:

    There’s nothing “pain in the butt” about noting that having class and financial advantages makes these things easier.

    But you see what just happened there, yes? We had a discussion about privilege and privileged, and nobody screamed at anybody else or told anyone they were stupid and to STFU. There was no shaming for not getting the ‘jargon’. Nobody reacted defensively. Nobody whined that they weren’t being spoonfed.

  151. mythago says:

    @Holly: I have to admit, this is also a touchy issue for me because I had an abusive mother who would scream at me “you’re just crying to manipulate me!” when I was genuinely and uncontrollably crying.

    I’m so sorry. Without in any way excusing your mother’s choice to behave that way, I would be completely unsurprised if she was also abused at some point. Children who have been abused often have a very negative, angry and vicious reacting to fear and sadness in others; where another child might comfort or express sympathy for tears, abused children commonly react by telling the upset child to shut up, or attacking them to get the crying to stop. (Certainly this is not true of *all* abused children, nor is it something that cannot be unlearned, but it is a common marker of abuse.)

  152. firebeexlt says:

    Actually, I’m going to back up a bit and say that the statement may be a bit closer to a recapitulation of my experiences (which are somewhat different than Holly’s, but share a limited set of commonalities), hence the tension that seems to be evident in my tone.

    I apologize for the accusatory phrasing. What I mean to convey is not that your statement bears the mark of intent to damage, but rather that in a fashion that may legitimately be hard to realize they can constitute an indirect statement that a person having the reaction so described was in fact doing so by their own volition and furthermore that they are now choosing to justify it through the use of falsehood (stating that they cannot control their reaction when in fact they can).

    This statement negates — and statements further above directly negate — the statement of the affected person about the experiences they have had with their own body and their own emotional state, which is a problem (and possibly more resembling my problem). They also serve to support the first half of the accusation that was cited earlier, and I may well have misread implied support for the second half (that the volitional activity was undertaken in order to manipulate the mother).

    My verbosity here is not intended to be harsh, but to be be more precisely descriptive — it is a strategy of speaking that I use when dealing with difficult conversations on subjects that are far from neutral for me.

  153. typhonblue says:

    No, it’s okay firebeexIt.

    I’m actually somewhat proud of myself that after my initial flush of panic at your statement, that I went ‘wait a sec…’

    Because, as I said in my own post, my abuser used their ‘pain’ to silence me.

    I wasn’t intending to suggest that her lived experience was wrong, just that IME, we shouldn’t need to use learned helplessness to defend what’s our right to have. Namely our emotions.

  154. ABDC says:

    I think the difference between “female privilege” and “benevolent sexism” is more like, is it actually beneficial or is it only beneficial in theory, and what is it based on? Like, as discussed above I would class the ability to be physically close to other women without it automatically being considered sexual to be a form of female privilege, because it’s something almost all women enjoy and would want to continue. Also it’s based on negative image of males, especially gay males, more than anything about women. Whereas I would consider having doors opened for you to be benevolent sexism and not female privilege because in my experience, most women in fact don’t want doors opened for them and it’s MEN who usually insist on doing it and women just put up with it so as not to offend (I know some women like having doors opened for them, but in my experience they are the minority). Also, it seems to be based on seeing women as lesser/not as capable. So to me there actually can be such things as female privileges,
    but they are distinct from benevolent sexism, which is also real and also harmful.

  155. firebeexlt says:

    “I’m actually somewhat proud of myself that after my initial flush of panic at your statement, that I went ‘wait a sec…’”

    I guess I still need to get better at that >_>.

    What I’d still be a bit picky about, and perhaps it’s more a matter of phrasing, is the question of “learned helplessness”. When I am upset to a certain degree, what I’ve seen happen is that my heart rate rises, I cry, I have difficulty controlling my tone of voice if I choose to speak, and I exhibit a characteristic pattern of tension in my shoulders. I’ve tried to do otherwise — I spent a considerable part of my young adulthood believing that having my emotional needs taken seriously was contingent on this, so I done tried real hard — and so far what I have found is that success is not up that particular tree.

    Accepting that I am (to all appearances, etc.) this way and that being this way is OK, though, doesn’t constitute a concession that I lack control over important things in my life in a global sense, it just means that the point at which I exert that control is somewhere other than the place between “emotional experience” and “physical manifestation”. So, say, I can’t necessarily choose not to cry when I am thoroughly upset, but I can deal with problems that in my experience lead to “thoroughly upset” before they get to that point, or do things that may lead to “thoroughly upset” in safe environments with safe people who have previously been informed of my tendencies in this area, or by leaving a place to collect myself, if I unexpectedly find myself “thoroughly upset” in circumstances where I don’t want to exhibit the physical manifestation that follows from this.

    That’s not “I lack power”, but rather “knowledge is power”.

  156. rezam says:

    I don’t believe it – someone else actually dislikes the usage of dude
    Vindication….
    I simply cannot stand that – I perceive it either as an attempt at some kind of artificial friendliness, usually by someone pretending that they have not just said something offensive, or it is used in a sneering, jeering putdown wherein you can practically hear them saying scumbag under their breath, but won;t be honest enough to use a blunt term.
    That made my day
    I get sufficiently irritated over both forms of bashing that I have to drop a book on my fingers to keep them from responding and off my keyboard, since that way lies futility. Thank something for good moderators.

  157. Daran says:

    Affirmative action!

    Not non-artificial.

    Being thought cool!

    Not significant.

    Obama is President for crissakes!

    Not a benefit.

    Being able to play the race card to deflect criticism!

    Not society-wide.

  158. typhonblue says:

    First of all feeling helpless is perfectly reasonable and understandable. You have the right to feel helpless or any which way you feel.

    I’ll try again. When we’re abused I think sometimes we want to prove to our abuser that X unwanted(by them) emotion is out of our control. Because that makes us feel we’re justified. But we shouldn’t need the justification in the first place. Needing to justify ourselves by saying ‘it’s out of my hands’ is part of the abuse.

    If I’m crying, I don’t say ‘I can’t help myself’ I say ‘why should I help myself, it’s my right to cry. Saying ‘I can’t help myself’ is submitting to a system in which I have to justify my right to cry through helplessness. I’m crying because I want to, and no one can take that right away from me.’ Or ‘it’s my right to feel anger until I don’t want to feel anger any more.’

    Although this is possibly too confusing a point to get across with this medium. Maybe if you want, you could try it instead and see how it makes you feel. Instead of saying ‘I can’t help feeling helpless/sad/cry,’ say ‘I have the right to feel helpless/sad/cry.’

  159. Dr Anonymous says:

    So you don’t honestly see the academic dishonesty in what they are doing over at finalyfeminism101, first declaring that privilege is something that is so ingrained that it is invisible to the ones holding it, when discussing male privilege and then on the turn of a dime, a collection of women being able to declare that they as women have no privilege due to being women.

  160. Dr Anonymous says:

    The right to live in an ordered society without being expected to help maintain order?
    I.e. police, military, sanitation.

  161. Holly Pervocracy says:

    Women work, dude. And we work in plenty of order-maintaining jobs. Even just going with the stereotypical ones, society wouldn’t be terribly ordered without nurses in the hospitals or teachers in the schools.

  162. Dr Anonymous says:

    And how often are nurses and teachers in schools involved in firefights? Having to handle toxic waste? Having to handle really messy suicides?

  163. Holly Pervocracy says:

    You’re asking the wrong girl, because I was an EMT for two years (work in an ER now), so I’ve handled a whole lot of really messy suicides.

    Anyway, just because a job isn’t dramatic and macho doesn’t mean society could survive without it. No, a nurse doesn’t get in firefights–she (or he, really now) just keeps sick people alive. It may not be risky, but it’s still important.

    Very, very few women are able to stay home full-time except when they have small children (and raising those contributes quite obviously to society). Whether we’re working as nurses, police officers, or grocery clerks, women’s work adds to an ordered society.

  164. ABDC says:

    You know female (and male) nurses do a lot of gross things, right? They frequently have to work with dead or dying patients, clean bed pans and human waste, etc. I’m just saying. Ditto teachers, who depending on where they work and how difficult their children are may end up screamed at, cried on, bitten, kicked, etc., all in a day’s work. Many stereotypically female jobs, done by both men and women, can involve pretty messy or disgusting elements. I’m just saying.

  165. Titfortat says:

    Most people in Western countries receive a decent education and job? Really?(Mythago)

    No they dont, BUT, they do have a chance at it. Even though they might not fit into the right ‘group’ it can be done with a little MORE hard work and luck.

  166. Ethan says:

    Cool article, on the thing of girls being able to hug or snuggle their friends, in my primary school and high school, it was actually against school rules for boys to hug, even in prep. I myself got timed-out in grade 1 because I hugged my best friend in the schoolyard, and the only explanation I got for it was “it’s just not proper”, which is pretty damn stupid.

    There is also that it is socially acceptable for women to wear “men’s clothes”, but men not being able to wear “women’s clothes”. Yet another problem is that it is much more acceptable for women to be gay or bi than men, I remember one of my friends was bi, and his sister was bi too, so when his sister told their parents they were just shocked for a while and accepted it, but when my friend told them he was bi, they would shout and tell him things like “you have ruined our reputation”, it got so bad he had to move in with me for a few weeks, and this was when he was just 17.

  167. Mythago, how I read this is that we all agree with you. We are all completely agreed that people barging into non-101 spaces and demanding to be educated is a problem (if they’re listened to). We are all completely agreed that a lot of people are stubbon and find the first excuse to flounce out when you point out that they’re not the most wonderful person in the world. In fact, I love the idea of ‘checking your privilege’, which, while its occasionally used as a tool to silence people, is more often a really useful tool to allow someone to seperate the bad thing they said/did from the good person they are, and discard the problematic attitude.

    Where we disagree is on the relevance of all this to the matter in hand. The fact that some people are obstinate doesn’t mean that we have to expect people to understand all of our language as soon as they walk through the door. The solution to that is to let the people who are going to flounce flounce. The fact that some people derail conversations horribly has no effect on whether we should throw abusive-sounding and silencing language at everyone who turns up. The solution to that is to tell people that their desire to be educated is disrupting the conversation.

    You say that Holly and I think that everyone on our side is wicked and everyone on the ‘other side’ saintly. If that was true, why would we still be on our side? My opinion is actually pretty nuanced, there are people who misuse the word privilege on our side who need to be called out on it, but there are also lots of sensible people who use it well. There are newbs who are awful, there are some who are great. I get the impression you’re trying to turn this into a game of “Lets see which ‘side’ is more right, and then go on as if that side was 100% right,” and saying that if we’ve disagreed with you, we’re backing the other side. That’s… exactly the sort of thinking this site was created to prevent.

  168. doctormindbeam says:

    Thank you for articulating so succinctly something I’ve had trouble with myself. If I might add a number five to your list: It glosses over the speaker’s own privilege. In tandem with being used as an insult and to silence another voice (which it does, as you pointed out), it “lays the blame” at someone else’s feet, ignoring the user’s privilege herself.

  169. doctormindbeam says:

    Yes. A lot of those things are still privileges. You don’t “ask” for privilege.

    ETA: If you’re pissed and offended about having privileges, and don’t want to admit you have them, then you might be feeling how a lot of men feel the first time they’re told to “check their privilege.” The appropriate FAQ section applies here.

  170. doctormindbeam says:

    I do see not being drafted, not having to worry about “making the first move,” being able to expect someone to help you with heavy things or hold the door for you, etc. as forms of privilege.

  171. doctormindbeam says:

    Yes. That is age privilege. What’s the problem here?

  172. doctormindbeam says:

    Saying that it is female privilege to not be drafted places all the responsibility on femaleness and ignores the people in power who maintain that state of affairs.

    Not really. Privilege isn’t something that’s blamed on you (and if you’ve been using it that way, you’ve been wrong). It’s something that you experience that makes your life easier than someone else’s based on some arbitrary trait. In this way, not being drafted or having doors held for you are forms of female privilege.

  173. doctormindbeam says:

    I’m liking this line of thought — “privilege” as an active thing that elevates you above the norm, and “unfairness” as something that brings others below it (but the people who aren’t experiencing it aren’t strictly experiencing “privilege” in that case).

  174. doctormindbeam says:

    Yes, yes it does. And for the record, I fucking loathe “mansplaining,” “cissplaining,” etc. They’re too often used as an epithet or insult to silence someone else. “You disagree? It’s because of your sex. Stop ‘mansplaining’ to me, you man.”

  175. doctormindbeam says:

    Yep. See right here.

  176. doctormindbeam says:

    I tore FF101’s concept of “benevolent sexism” versus “privilege” a new one in this post, fyi, if you hadn’t already read it.

  177. doctormindbeam says:

    Mythago, I think the point is that since people have used the term “privilege” to be exclusionary and as an attack on others, you need to either find a new term or be extremely careful how you use it. It sucks when your friends shit in the pool but they still did it.

  178. doctormindbeam says:

    What about “eased?” As in, as a white man, my experience with the police is eased; however, my experience communicating in feminist circles is not.

  179. doctormindbeam says:

    I think you touched on an important problem here, with being precise and verbose with language. I often find that resorting to simple short phrase or one word summaries of a problem fosters, or is indicative of, lazy thinking about it in general. What may start out as a convenient shorthand becomes manneristic, and soon anything men do becomes “privileged” and it’s used as an epithet. It’s a slippery slope of careless thinking that can lead to ingroup-outgroup separations.

  180. Jebedee says:

    Excellent comment EmilyH. I think the idea that the term “privilege” is a vital tool greatly overemphasises the need in practice, when discussing some specific issue, to have some all-encompassing term that covers that and a million other things. At their best I think references to privilege are a useful reminder not to make “Let them eat cake” arguments: don’t make erroneous assumptions that your own experience is common to everyone. But if someone’s doing that, why not simply point it out in those terms? It shouldn’t require enormous numbers of words and can be much more specific than just accusing them of “privilege”.

    The usefulness of “privilege” as a shorthand seems to me more often than not outweighed by the laziness and abuse of the term that such shorthands often encourage (think “troll”, which often seems to have degenerated from “person making inflammatory statements purely to provoke a reaction” to just “person who said something I don’t like”). “Privileged” in reference to comments seems very frequently used as just a term of general disparagement rather than a means of pointing out actual fallacies, and in reference to people as an attempt to denigrate their opinions based largely on their group membership rather the opinions themselves.

  181. doctormindbeam says:

    You’re only saying that because you don’t know what you’re talking about and have never experienced this, but I have and I do, so let me tell you why you’re wrong.

    You will be civil to other commenters or you will be removed. Are we clear?

  182. doctormindbeam says:

    Ask yourself if that was a productive comment.

  183. Dr Anonymous says:

    Yes I do think it is was a productive comment. It is very odd to claim that privilege is advantages given to your group so freely that they are invisible to you, and then claiming that a very select group is somehow able to discern that their invisible advantages don’t exist.

  184. doctormindbeam says:

    It can be very, very hard to hear that one has unfair advantages, and some people simply choose to react to that with angry denial.

    You mean like this?

  185. doctormindbeam says:

    My response was to mythago, not you. Sorry — I realize the threading is confusing here sometimes.

  186. doctormindbeam says:

    @Shora:

    Sometimes, truly, people need to shut up and listen. And sometimes well meaning, obtuse noobs get shredded to pieces by people who who are just so fucking sick of the circular arguments they’ve lost the ability to tell between good-faith obtuseness and bad faith douchebaggery.

    … And sometimes, people simply want to exclude anyone from the discussion who doesn’t agree with them, and uses “privilege” as a stick to beat down other points of view. It’s a problem no matter how you look at it.

  187. doctormindbeam says:

    At the risk of abusing what this post itself is about… yep. 🙂

  188. doctormindbeam says:

    However, crying at a sad movie is perfectly acceptable for women, but frowned upon for men.

  189. doctormindbeam says:

    I think you severely overestimate the power of “the MRAs” (which has as much collective meaning as “the feminists”).

  190. doctormindbeam says:

    @mythago:

    Hey feminists, you missed a spot.

    By golly, we did! Instead of pointing at it and saying, “That’s not a spot,” how about we start cleaning it?

  191. doctormindbeam says:

    That’s an excellent point!

  192. doctormindbeam says:

    That’s a really interesting point: When a group is a minority and still has (or is assumed to have) disproportionate power, what does that say? And what does that say about the role of the majority group(s) (pluralities?) for upholding the status quo themselves?

  193. doctormindbeam says:

    That’s awful, Ami. 😦 I’m sorry.

  194. doctormindbeam says:

    Thanks for feeling comfortable discussing here. 🙂 Just out of curiosity, how did you find your way over?

  195. doctormindbeam says:

    I think that’s a symptom more of the miserable science and math education in the US than anything else. Most people hear “theory” and think it means “hypothesis,” and it’s a travesty.

  196. Jebedee says:

    DMB: I’m pretty sure the line you quote above was mythago’s phrasing of how she believed EmilyH’s comment about street harassment could be perceived by someone hearing it (note the colon which precedes it), not a statement mythago herself was making.

  197. Toysoldier says:

    Most people in Western countries receive a decent education and job? Really?

    Really.

    I understand what you’re saying about ‘disprivilege’, but it can also be privilege – when somebody does an extra favor, or overlooks a rule, or is more lax than they would be if I were a different color or gender, that is privilege. And, I suppose, disprivilege for others at the same time.

    Not really. There are only three possibilities: privilege, disprivilege, and privilege at someone’s expense/disprivilege to someone’s benefit. Just because one person receives more does not mean everyone else is disprivileged. If a rich person gets extra tutoring while an average person gets a basic education, the average person is not disprivileged. He got exactly what he was supposed to. It just appears that he is disprivileged in comparison to the rich person. I explain this concept in detail on my blog.

  198. Jim says:

    It’s not half as provocative specifically because it is so accurate.

  199. Jim says:

    It is blatant argumentum ad hominem. It’s so OTT fallacious that it usually just flabbergasts people into silence. That’s why it’s so popular.

  200. Jim says:

    “I’m a little confused about your position here. ”

    You are not a bit confused, as you show in your answer. You picked out wall my main points and fouind he weaknesses. What was confused was my muddled presentation.

    Part of what I failed to lay out was that a discussion of street harrassment is a discussion of visibility – “male gaze”. And it pretty much invites if not requires a discussion of invisibility to see why the target of your explanation is missing your point. And the point may in fact turn out to be that you never considered his point, or imagined he had one, when you started in.

  201. Jim says:

    That’s what Iget. I heard it as quoting it in order to disapprove of it.

  202. doctormindbeam says:

    @Jebedee, @Jim (tertiarily, @mythago): Ah, in that case, I stand corrected! Catching up on a thousand new comments, sometimes I read too quickly. 😉

  203. doctormindbeam says:

    It’s interesting how often subjugated groups go on to subjugate others, isn’t it? (And it’s not just sexism or trans-phobia among feminists. Just look at homophobia among blacks, for instance.)

  204. Jim says:

    That’s some of us. This is what I was saying about different cultures. That kind of behavior is considered seriously pathetic in my culture – West Coast. Letting someone get you angry is considered pretty weak out here. It’s not “being assertive”, “refusing to let someone push you around” whatever; it’s just weak. Everyone’s mileage is going to vary.

    And this is not a unusual takemon this. Somoen pointed out in commenting on Obama’s unflappability and refusal to break nasty, that as the outsider kid in Indonesia he was teased pretty hard, and if he got angry about it, he would get teased even harder, and that this is a general rule in those cultures all across Indonesia. getting visibily angry is a defeat.

  205. Jim says:

    Well, yeah. But having their cake and eating it too may be one of their objectives. It often looks that way to me.

  206. Kimsie says:

    yeah. right. I’ve seen highway officers waive tickets because a white man was behind the wheel. “what the hell were you doing?” “I’m sorry officer” no ticket.

  207. Kimsie says:

    being a man is “white”. women understand, to a large part, what it is like to be a man. down to the expectation to ogle chicks. … I don’t know how to explain this better, but the default is better understood than the exception.

  208. Danny says:

    If that is the case then why are women so readily engaging in the sexism, gender policing, etc….that harms men? And there’s also the fact the black/white imbalance is much more one-sided than the man/woman imbalance.

  209. typhonblue says:

    You know, as a woman, I can’t say I agree.

    I’ve noticed that men have a perspective that isn’t intuitive to me. I’ve spent a long time listening to men and reading their words and still find myself surprised by certain aspects of their relayed lived experience.

    However, maybe I’m just uniquely insensitive compared to the keen sympathetic qualities of the average woman.

    In light of that, perhaps you could answer a question. What are the concerns that men have with society and why do they have them?

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to catalog and understand but I’m more limited in my ability to have a posteriori knowledge of the male lived experience then yourself.

  210. doctormindbeam says:

    What a surprise: That the sexes have different experiences. 🙂

    Regardless, I’m curious. What have you been surprised by?

  211. typhonblue says:

    The sheer depth of fear and despondency some men have in the face of society’s inability to protect their sexuality from predation by women(and superficially by other men). Or recognize that it happens. And that it’s not funny. (I think a lot of men like to think women have it worse as a way to deflect their own pain.)

    That was one of the most haunting discoveries. Another one was the anger and sense of betrayal from circumcision (one guy I encountered said if he couldn’t own his own body then how could he be said to own anything at all?)

    Another one is the pain men feel when pre-judged as abusive or predatory.

    Also, the whole idea of rising to a challenge rather then deflecting it to others was a surprising aspect of masculinity versus femininity. Outside of the extremes of being victimized, this attitude tends to make life more livable. (And the fact that women are taught to look to others to solve their problems is , IMHO, limiting and abusive to women.)

  212. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but I wanted to throw in my 2 cents and return later to rebut, challenge, explain.

    My problem with “privilege” (other than I find it hard to spell correctly) is that the layman’s definition sounds like something that can be revoked. My white “privilege” would be almost impossible to revoke.

    My first run in with feminists (ever!) was over privilege.
    It went something like this:
    ME: I would like to be complimented on my “assets.”
    Feminists: Check your fucking privilege!
    ME: Oh, so that’s like how women get doors held for them and stuff.
    Feminists: No! It only goes one way!
    ME: But why?
    Feminists: Because Patriarchy!
    ME: http://thumbs.reddit.com/t3_fef3a.png

    So anyway, since Mythago has been practically BEGGING for a replacement word, I propose “grace.”

    The term has religious connotations – “God” doesn’t punish some people by “grace.” As an atheist, I don’t find this term to be blasphemous.

    Grace also has some good associations – for example, if someone is able to move smoothly, without encumberance, they could be said to be “graceful.” This could be similar to the way “privileged” folks are able to move about in society.

    Grace also has an association with forgiveness – which can be useful if you’re trying to disarm people who feel attacked for their “privilege” (i.e. ‘I don’t want this privilege, get it off me!’)

    Lastly, I like “grace” because it has associations with beauty, elegance and “upper class.” Think of Marilyn Manson’s song “The Beautiful People” and you might get the backhanded compliment it can denote.

    When I think “privilege” I think of a spoiled rich kid trampling on the hard-working gardner’s private rose garden. When I think “grace” I think of a upper-crust rich person who doesn’t realize how good they have it. (Think of the movie the Parent Trap or Life Stinks.)

  213. fogg says:

    Even though I brought up that example, I know that modern scientists don’t actually talk about the “theory of evolution.” I think that’s just the wording that has become popular with the general public, and now that it’s part of an anti-evolution argument, it probably won’t go away.

  214. Danny says:

    Okay I actually agree with that. There can be a difference between benevolent sexism and privilege and I’ve seen what you say used to explain why female privilege does not exist. Now I have a question.

    Why is it that (according to finallyfeminism101) benevolent sexism only occurs with women but privilege only occurs with men?

    There seems to be a bit of disparity when it comes to figuring out if something is benevolent sexism or privilege. If its something that benefits women then the search is on through high and low to figure it out and examine it and then conclude its actually benevolent sexism but if it benefits men it goes straight to the privilege pile with no examination.

    Take the notion of a man being more than likely getting the nod over a woman on a job. For the most part I think that most men would not want such an advantage. Suddenly the fact that men don’t want it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that men have it. Yet and still this notion (or something like it) sits proudly on nearly every male privilege checklist in existence.

  215. Nicole says:

    Pervocracy. 🙂

  216. I agree that privilege is misused to silence others, but I don’t think getting rid of the word is going to stop people, as people misuse EVERY word they can to shut others down (including names for very real things like racism, ableism, homobigotry, misogyny, misandry….I could go on). Getting rid of it would also be getting rid of a conceptual tool I have found, at least, to be extremely useful for self-reflection.

    Consider the analogy with racist: I can say what you said was racist or I can say you ARE a racist. One of those can be useful, one of those cannot. I can say what you said or did seems to come from a place of privilege, or I can say that you ARE privileged. And I think this addresses your idea that it ignores the oppressions that also apply to those operating with the most institutional privilege – it makes privileged an adjective to be attached to actions or words on a case by case basis instead of a blanket statement that says “you are always and in every situation privileged!!!eleventy!11!”

    For both examples, I’ve found the former to useful and the latter to be hostile. And I also have instinctive negative reactions to being called out, even when I know it’s justified. No one LIKES to be called on hir privilege. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be.

    In short: people are going to use shitty conversational tactics to try and “win” or at least “not be wrong,” regardless of what words they employ, and even though I have instinctively had the “they just told me to “shut up rich girl!”” reaction many times, in enough cases it was true enough that I find it valuable to be reminded.

  217. Daran says:

    these are not “privileges”, they are the result of children having few rights (and few responsibilities) and are part of their being seen as less-than. (You can’t expect the little darlings to do more, can you?)

    I don’t agree that children have fewer rights, at least in those parts of the world where anyone’s rights are respected. They have different rights. They do generally have fewer responsibilities.

    And I think, broadly speaking, this is because they are recognised to be different from adults. Some people probably do think of them as “less-than”, but that’s not a necessary implication of “different”.. Additionally, while it is probably true that most people underestimate the degree to which children are capable of shouldering responsibility*, its possible to justify protecting them from it, by observing that it isn’t good for them to be forced to do so.

    *You only need to look at, for example, street children who at six or seven years of age, not only fend for themselves, but also look after younger siblings.

  218. As far as I understand, “privilege” cropped up precisely to draw attention to systemic disadvantages, because a lot of privileged people who were taught that, to use your example, not being disproportionately pulled over due to skin color was basic fairness (I used to be one of these people) didn’t really notice the flip side of the disadvantage – our own advantage. While these should basic rights and fairness should rule, it doesn’t, but pointing out privilege is useful because it invited people to not think of having these “basic fairnesses” as the status quo – which for many people it isn’t. Privilege came into use to challenge the “duh” nature of these things, the same way “cisgendered” came out to challenge the “duh” nature of cisgenderedness – ie to create a binary or spectrum or scatterplot or what have you, instead of making the other condition (trans, in this example, or disadvantaged/marginalized in this general discussion) the ignorable default.

  219. Sara says:

    I don’t know any women who *expect* men to hold the door or carry heavy things for them. Sorry, but to me, that’s not a privilege, it’s hurtful and upsetting, and yes, sexist to women since it feeds into ideas that we’re weaker and can make it harder for us to go about our day, not easier.

    I agree with not being drafted as a genuine feminine advantage, though. Possibly not “making the first move” as well, although I think that one is a double-edged sword, harmful to both men and women, since many women who do make the first move are seen as desperate or slutty or unfeminine, and I think many women would like the freedom to make the first move without automatically being seen as slutty or desperate. That doesn’t deny the advantage for women who dislike making “the first move” though, as well as the disadvantage to men who are shy or who just don’t want to make the first move but will be seen as gay, not a real man, unworthy, etc., if they don’t. I think the thing about a lot of sexists notions actually it’s that they’re double-edged swords, potentially harmful to both men and women depending on personality, rather than clearly beneficial to either gender.

  220. AB says:

    Doctormindbeam, I know we disagree on a lot of things and that you probably wont listen to me, but many people in this blog, and you especially, seem to be operating on the disturbing notion that whenever a man perceive what women have to be an advantage, it is always an advantage no matter what she says, and if a man says women are treated in a certain way, that’s always considered the truth no matter what women say. You’re the exact same kind of brushing off you accuse feminism of engaging in.

    Girls not learning to approach is roughly on par with boys not learning to do housework because it’s not considered manly. Even though it’s rightly considered a sour duty, plenty of men have a diminished quality of life because they never learned it, such as single men living in a pig-sty and old men who can’t take of themselves after their wife died. But whereas men can start doing housework if they decide to, there is still a stigma against women approaching which I assure you many of us would love to get rid of. It’s not a one-sided advantage.

    In regards to the draft, it hasn’t been in effect for any sex in the USA for decades, and laws tend to change mostly when they become relevant (women only became eligible to inherent the Danish throne when the king and queen had nothing but daughters), so I wouldn’t rule out the draft changing if it ever became implemented again. Not that it’s not unfair as it is, but it’s not “The privilege of not being drafted”, if anything, it’s “The privilege of perhaps not having to be drafted if the draft is reinstated” and the male disadvantage being “Having a bigger chance of getting drafted if having the right age and qualifications if the draft was ever implemented again”.

    And finally, the door-holding, bag-carrying chivalry. First off, as Sara said, it can be hurtful and insulting, and secondly, it’s not something women automatically expect the way white people expect to not be pulled over because of their skin colour. I really wish you’d respect women’s account on it instead of relying on stereotypes. Plenty of people of both sexes help others carry heavy things and hold the door for everybody who seems to need it, plenty of men never do this for anyone, and plenty of other men only do it to a certain kind of woman.

    I watched a social experiment not long ago, where two women went to a train-station and started struggling to get a heavy suitcase up a well of stairs. One was conventionally attractive, the other was not. The conventionally attractive woman got plenty of help from men who, when asked afterwards, often explained how they felt like heroes helping a pretty woman. Some of them openly said they did it because she was pretty, others said they would like to think they would have helped even if she wasn’t sexually attractive. The less pretty woman was allowed to struggle for a long time before getting any help, and when she finally did, it was from two smaller girls who had to work together to even lift the suitcase. Privilege indeed.

  221. Sagredo says:

    there is still a stigma against women approaching which I assure you many of us would love to get rid of. It’s not a one-sided advantage.

    I don’t doubt this, in part, but I also suspect women who approach or who consider approaching interpret their social fears as gender-specific stigma. Until they learn confidence one way or another, men who approach are often afraid not only of rejection, of being considered unworthy, but also that their approach was somehow socially inappropriate. They’d probably interpret that as a stigma against men approaching if only that had any credibility…

  222. AB says:

    Most people are afraid when they approach for the first time. Some people never cease to be afraid of it. But women, apart from not being part of a culture which teaches them to approach, are also frequently told that men don’t like it when women approach.

    It’s part stereotype, but there is some truth in it – I have heard men say that they enjoy the chase the most and that they wouldn’t want a woman who made the first move. Being the one who gets to choose whom to talk to and dance with, and not having to put up a polite façade towards unwanted romantic attention, can be an advantage too.

    Women also have the dilemma that on one hand, people are always talking about how guys are constantly horny and willing to sleep with any but the most pathetically ugly girls, but on the other hand, girls also know that realistically, they will probably get rejected quite a lot if they approach. That makes a rejection a lot more potentially humiliating (i.e. she couldn’t even get a guy to have sex when she offered it), but not necessarily more rewarding.

    As I said, it really isn’t a one-sided advantage for anyone.

  223. Sagredo says:

    I think advantage is an excessively competitive framing. Sure, some privileges really are things that are more than is deserved, and that’s worth calling out. But for others, things that everyone should have, it is typically no advantage to me if other people are denied rights that I retain. And here’s what we hear about privilege from various sources:

    * “Privilege is unearned.” Yet things that everyone should have should not even need to be earned. The truth of the matter is that marginalisation and oppression are undeserved.
    * “Privilege should be eliminated.” Yet we should not eliminate rights from those that have them. The truth of the matter is that marginalisation and oppression should be eliminated.

  224. Sagredo says:

    I don’t think it’s a one-sided advantage for either gender overall. I think it’s a fairly one-sided advantage for extraverted (or something) men over extraverted women, since both want to approach but the women are discouraged by convention. And I think it’s a fairly one-sided advantage for introverted women over introverted men, since neither want to approach but the women will be approached.

  225. AB says:

    I can agree with that, with the exception of introverts and socially awkward people who uninterested in sex (for whom not having to explain a rejection is an advantage).

  226. Daran says:

    It’s something that you experience that makes your life easier than someone else’s based on some arbitrary trait. In this way, not being drafted or having doors held for you are forms of female privilege.

    I would dispute that occasionally having doors held open for them makes life easier for women in any meaningful way.

    The salience of the draft as an issue has been raised by Pants elsewhere in the thread, and I’ll address it there. Suffice it to say here that I do consider this to be a legitimate female privilege.

  227. Daran says:

    It’s something that you experience that makes your life easier than someone else’s based on some arbitrary trait.

    I’ll also add that many feminist expositions of privilege link it to institutional power or some equivalent concept. I have a blog post in the works.

  228. Daran says:

    Why on earth would you want to sign up for the draft? If you want to serve in the military, then sign up to the military. If you don’t, when why would you want to sign up to be forced to do so?

  229. Karina says:

    isnt that a bit sexist? I mean you are pointing to the persons gender as some kind of handicap who makes him unable to understand other people. I think, at least for me, a more proper way would be more like: your personal experience is blinding you to other peoples problem. or at least we can learn that some people will always disagree with us, regardless the gender.

  230. Pingback: The Draft is a Salent Issue in the United States. Votes for Women isn’t (NoH) | Feminist Critics

  231. Daran says:

    Wah wah wah the draft. So predictable. Call me when it’s an actual issue.

    Feminists frequently raise votes for women as though it were an actual issue. I trust you’re as quick to dismiss their concerns.

    In any case, you’re wrong to think that the draft isn’t an actual issue in the US today. Even if it wasn’t, its still an actual issue in other countries.

    Even if it wasn’t an actual issue in any country, I count nine other actual issues listed by various respondents above, which you’ve ignored.

    I’m calling you now.

  232. Karina says:

    I agree, but I also like to point out that the words changes all the time, especially in thise PC times. Racism = xenophobia, police men = officers, trashman =ecological operator ect ect. The lessic may change but the meaning is the same.

  233. doctormindbeam says:

    @Sara, @AB: Privileges are never a “one sided advantage” — any more for men than women. With all due respect, I think it can be difficult sometimes to acknowledge when you have privilege. Men have been asked for quite some time by women to examine theirs. Treading lightly, are you sure you’re not feeling the same initial internal pushback against the notion that you do have these privileges? Denial is strong.

  234. AB says:

    I feel privileged that I live in a country where my ethnicity is considered the norm. I feel privileged having two strong and healthy legs and not having to wonder how to get from point a to point b. I feel privileged that if someone punches me, they’re likely to be perceived as violent and wrong in their actions. I feel privileged that the one time I forgot that my bus pass had ran out two days ago, the controller believed it and let me buy a ticket instead. I feel privileged that I can use about half the public rest rooms without feeling out of place.

    But I sure as Hell don’t feel privileged having (often older) men approach me when I’m obviously not looking for company, or not being able to go to a bar without wondering if the guys there will see me as a tease for not being there to be picked up by them, or being told that outright rejecting someone without getting to know them is on par with racism, or simultaneously being told that if I smile and politely engage in conversation with a man approaching me whom I’m not interested in (i.e. getting to know him before rejecting him) then I’m “leading him on”, or knowing that there’s a considerable chance I’ll be considered pathetic if I approach a guy, or being forced to deal with the dilemmas and emotional turmoil of of courtship before I’m ready to it because being hit on is not something you choose.

    And I definitely don’t feel privileged being told (and this is far from the first time) that my worrying over making the first move on a guy I whom know wont take the initiative himself is something I just don’t experience because of my genitals. Especially not when I can read about how Holly always has to approach men because she’s not pretty enough, while knowing that least two of my male friends were approached by their girlfriends.

  235. Daran says:

    Generally, feminists are pretty good at saying that for every girl who’s not allowed to be strong, there’s a boy who’s not allowed to be vulnerable,

    Yes, feminists do say this, which makes it rather odd that they endorse* sites likes Men can stop rape, which ties its positive non-violent masculinity to strength. I don’t have to be strong; I can be a rape supporter instead. Thanks for the choice.

    *agree with closer to 80% of it than 20% of it.

  236. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB: I think you ignored the substance of what I said.

  237. AB says:

    Then I don’t get what your point was. Privileges have usually been described as generally advantageous, such as not being pulled over by the police because or one’s skin-colour. You’re just listing gender roles (men approach, women are approached) and calling them female privilege.

    You also made it sound like these things were something women could just expect (again, like how white people expect not to be pulled over, or women expect to not be called gay if they admit to being raped), despite them not being part of many women’s reality.

  238. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB:

    You have privilege in that you know you will not be expected to serve in a war if you don’t want to.
    You have privilege in that you know you’re not expected to approach a partner.
    You have privilege in that you know in a “he said-she said” family court dispute, the judge will tend to side with you.
    You have privilege in that you are encouraged to eat healthily and that healthy food is not seen as antithetical to your gender.
    You have privilege in that you will receive lower insurance rates.
    You have privilege in that you are likely to be selected for hiring over an equally qualified man if the workplace is not predominantly female.
    You have privilege in that you are actively encouraged to attend higher education and that the classroom is designed with your needs in mind.
    You have privilege in that you are not expected not to show emotions save for anger or lust and just “grit your teeth and bear it.”

    Must I go on?

  239. doctormindbeam says:

    If you take issue with our sidebar links, this is the appropriate venue for voicing that concern.

  240. Adiabat says:

    Another problem with accusing someone of privilege to silence them is that there is also the possibility that even though they are ‘white male etc’ they have listened to the ‘lived experience’ of the unprivileged, internalised it and empathised fully with them, yet they still may disagree with their conclusions. Just because someone has ‘lived’ something doesn’t automatically mean that they are right in their analysis of it.

    Take class privilege for example. An unskilled low-class person may blame ‘all them immigrants taking our jobs’ for any hardship they suffer. Just because we don’t know their lived experience doesn’t mean that we should accept their conclusions or their suggestions for how to solve their problems. Our own analyses may be more valid, despite our ‘privilege’.

  241. Toysoldier says:

    In most instances they do not go on to do it; they were already doing it. Feminists already ignored other groups. Black people, being very influenced by Christian views, already demonstrated homophobic views. The irony is that they fail to notice when they harm other groups in the same way they were harmed.

  242. AB says:

    “You have privilege in that you know you will not be expected to serve in a war if you don’t want to.”

    I’m disadvantaged because guys who have never been expected to serve in a war, and who know they’ll not be expected to serve in a war, can and will use a law I never supported to bash me with, while I know that if my country was ever in a situation desperate enough for the draft to be necessary, chances are women would be drafted anyway.

    “You have privilege in that you know you’re not expected to approach a partner.”

    I’m expected to approach a guy if I want to make a pass at him. Neither men or women are expected to approach people if they don’t want to.

    “You have privilege in that you know in a “he said-she said” family court dispute, the judge will tend to side with you.”

    I know that if my husband takes more parental leave than me (which is entirely possible in my country), he will be more likely to get primary custody over our children than me, but if I take more parental leave than him and get custody as a result, people will attribute this to my sex.

    “You have privilege in that you are encouraged to eat healthily and that healthy food is not seen as antithetical to your gender.”

    I am more likely to suffer from iron-deficiency because of my diet, I am encouraged to see food as antithetical to my gender (really, telling a woman who spent her teenage years eating carrots, oatmeal, and stuff she later threw up that she was encouraged to eat healthily is just mean), while at the same time being the target for the majority of commercials for candy and chocolate.

    “You have privilege in that you will receive lower insurance rates.”

    My health insurance rate will increase if I’m about to be a mother, while the child’s father will be unaffected.

    “You have privilege in that you are likely to be selected for hiring over an equally qualified man if the workplace is not predominantly female.”

    I’m likely to be passed over for a man in predominantly female occupations, and to be considered less qualified no matter what.

    “You have privilege in that you are actively encouraged to attend higher education and that the classroom is designed with your needs in mind.”

    I’m disadvantaged because classrooms are not designed with my needs in mind, and further disadvantaged because I’m passed over for help in favour of boys who make more noise.

    “You have privilege in that you are not expected not to show emotions save for anger or lust and just “grit your teeth and bear it.””

    I’m disadvantaged because if I show emotions, people are more likely to see me as hysterical and out of control.

    And all this aside, being on the approached end is not a privilege. Or perhaps it is in the same way being the approacher is, but in that case, the term completely loses its meaning.

  243. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB: You really don’t get it, do you.

  244. dungone says:

    “I’m disadvantaged because guys who have never been expected to serve in a war, and who know they’ll not be expected to serve in a war, can and will use a law I never supported to bash me with, ”

    The draft exists. As a man, I had to register for it. If I didn’t, I would have been denied naturalization as an immigrant and would not be allowed to vote, I would have been denied financial aid for college, and I might have spent time in jail. Men who were subject to the draft were the last group of disenfranchised people to win the right to vote, with the 26th amendment that moved the voting age from 21 down to 18 as a response to anti-war protesters. There are men currently alive who are maimed and disabled from being forced to fight in Vietnam and still remember their friends who died there, while you got to roll out of bed at 18 and go vote without having to do anything to earn it. You’re damn right that you should get bashed for your attitude on this.

  245. dungone says:

    @Sara “Sorry, but to me, that’s not a privilege, it’s hurtful and upsetting, and yes, sexist to women since it feeds into ideas that we’re weaker and can make it harder for us to go about our day, not easier.”

    I can say that it’s hurtful and upsetting for me to be promoted over women who are more qualified than me because it makes me feel like I haven’t really earned it. What a disadvantage!

    Thankfully, men are starting to hold doors for each other as much as for women and once in a blue moon women will even hold doors for men. It certainly doesn’t seem to get in the way of anyone’s day or hurt their feelings. I also happen to know of a subtle social phenomenon on the NYC subway where women, after men started to end the practice of getting up from their seats to let women sit down, started doing it for each other based on who the higher ranking female was. I’ve seen 20-something ladies get up for able-bodied 30-something ladies and have confirmed by asking that this was what these younger women commonly do. One of them scolded the men who were just sitting there reading newspapers who didn’t budge, so she had to do it. So it’s something that men would generally prefer not to have to do anymore, but women still expect them to do it and get irate when they don’t.

  246. doctormindbeam says:

    @dungone: It also bears keeping in mind that privilege can be unwanted. Privilege isn’t something you ask for or necessarily want.

  247. Rididill says:

    Well said, Mythago

  248. Jim says:

    “Wah wah wah the draft. So predictable.”
    So predictable.

  249. Jim says:

    “Women work, dude. And we work in plenty of order-maintaining jobs. ”

    Men wqork at those too. That’s clearly not what he meant. Is it? He’s talking about physical risk and male disposability.

  250. Jim says:

    “What I really wonder about the draft is why there has been no organized effort to change it. ”

    This is a good point. I think it has to do with class. The last tiem the draft was a live issue was during the Vietnam war, when colloge kids were vulnerable to it. Since that no lnger threatens them, they and their parents and that whole elvel of society no longer gives a shit.

    And since the live issues in the MRM are rape accusations, DV, fathers’ rights and family court issues, it may really just come down to a matter of priorities.

    “FFS, even NOW’s official position for some time has been that the draft should either be abolished or include women. ”

    In the case of NOW, it’s just cheap posturing. It affects their constituency not at all so they put no energy into it, it costs them nothing and looks good in case anyone looks to check.

  251. Jim says:

    “You know, if I countered with a similar list for women, I’d be screamed at for playing Oppression Olympics.”

    Actually it would read like a bunch of claims to chivalrous protection.

    “Look how you brutes harm us, it’s your job to fix this.”

    “Only men can stop rape!”

    Rinse and repeat. Standard data for a patriarchal mentality.

  252. Danny says:

    Another problem with accusing someone of privilege to silence them is that there is also the possibility that even though they are ‘white male etc’ they have listened to the ‘lived experience’ of the unprivileged, internalised it and empathised fully with them, yet they still may disagree with their conclusions. Just because someone has ‘lived’ something doesn’t automatically mean that they are right in their analysis of it.
    On the money. Its been too many times where I was on a forum and someone tried to use their experiences as proof that my experiences didn’t happen.

  253. Danny says:

    No the interesting part is that they will do it and then have the nerve to Flip The Fuck Out when called on it.

  254. NoxiousNan says:

    The first two mentioned are oppressive, I-didn’t-ask-for-this-stuff that limits women. While I will concede that in my experience most women (by a longshot) will happily accept this as priviledge, enough have felt oppressed to make a movement, to make the armed forces change some of their ways, to make a movie, and so on.
    Not being able to make the first move is also oppressive. I doubt there is even one hetero woman out there that hasn’t lost the chance to date a man they were attracted to either because they could never make a move and he was clearly too shy (and clearly interested) or because the man became immediately repulsed by being asked out by a woman.

  255. Brian says:

    I think what they mean when they say “benevolent sexism” is that the privileges women get originate from the same sucky gender roles as discrimination against women does.

    So the reason women aren’t drafted is the same “delicate little flowers” meme that is also responsible for every story ever written where the only woman in the story is a MacGuffin rather than a legitimate character, and so on.

    Which is true as far as it goes, but the thing they don’t seem to realize is that it’s also true reversed; male privilege is almost always due to those same stereotypes. The example from before is great; why is the hero always a man? Because the hero is going to get hurt sometimes, and since women are delicate little flowers they can’t possibly be deliberately put in a position where they could be hurt.

    Exact same meme, which in itself is mainly sexist against women, creates unfair advantages for both genders and unfair disadvantages for both genders.

  256. Brian says:

    From that all I can say is that you don’t have a representative sample.

    The first point seems exclusive to male rape survivors, and maybe guys who spend a lot of time around male rape survivors. Other guys legitimately do not realize they can be raped, especially outside of prison, especially by a woman.

    As a guy who has been circumcised and who would rather have not been, I don’t feel a sense of “anger or betrayal”. Most guys who have circumcised would not even rather not have been.

    Third is, okay, pretty common. Anyone would feel bad if you judged them as predatory and they weren’t, I think. But men actually do get judged predatory occasionally, when it’s really difficult for women to because women for the most part don’t approach.

    And I assure you, the meme that you should “solve your own problems” is highly toxic. It is a very bad idea to not try to get help from others. You are literally not capable of solving your problems entirely on your own. Trust me, I and many other men I know have spent a long time under the sway of this meme. At its least harmful, it leads to wandering around a store for 30 minutes because you can’t bear to ask anyone where the damn cereal is.

  257. Sara says:

    @doctormindbeam: When did I say privilege is a “one-sided advantage?” I think I specifically said that most sexist stereotypes were double-edged swords and acknowledged that women have some advantages over men (such as the draft, or the advantage introverted heterosexual women have in getting to wait for men to approach them).

    All I did was specifically refute the idea that having doors opened for you, boxes carried for you, is a female advantage because for one thing, as AB said, many women who are not conventionally attractive never get such offers and women who do get offers don’t merely get helped but are hassled, harassed and heaped with scorn when they don’t accept it. I have had men get very hostile to me when I said that I could carry something on my own, had them deliberately get in my way, etc. I fail to see how such hinderances are any kind of “advantage.” But I don’t see how I ever said that women had no advantages, or that everything is just a one-sided benefit to men with none for women. Actually I’m pretty sure I said the opposite of that.

  258. Sara says:

    @dungone, Maybe I am just biased because I have had very, very bad experiences with saying, “No thank you.” or refusing it when someone asks to carry something for me. Some men become very hostile. Likewise when I try to hold the door for men, most don’t care or appreciate it but some become *very* hostile and angry and I once had a man bodily shove me through a door when I tried to hold it for him. I just don’t see how anything that causes someone to act violently to me can be a privilege. If you turned down a job because you didn’t feel that a woman should lose out on it because she’s more qualified, and were assualted or shoved or pushed or had the person offering the job become very violent in response to you, then to be honest I’m not sure how privileged I would see you as being in that situation. You’re still the recipient of being attacked.

  259. doctormindbeam says:

    @Sara: What would you say your instances of female privilege are, then?

  260. Brian says:

    Children certainly have fewer rights. It’s well known that legal minors that are old enough to meaningfully exercise rights they don’t yet have (also known as teenagers) can chafe something awful over it.

    Even the idea that children have as many rights as adults seems silly to me. How long was it since you were a kid? Because I happen to be eighteen right now, and so I can still remember when I didn’t have those rights. The first time you realize you can sign a contract on your own is a great feeling.

  261. Sara says:

    @ doctormindbeam, I would say instances of female privilege would be getting to express sadness or fear or doubt, and cry, without being called a “pussy”, is probably a big one! Women are generally allowed to be more emotional than men without fewer repercussions (the exception being showing anger, as angry women are often thought to be “bitches” whereas angry men are much tolerated–however anger is often the *only* acceptable emotion for men to show, which is very damaging to men). Also, I can be shy without having my femininity called into question, whereas shy men frequently have their masculinity doubted by both women and other men. I can wear stereotypically male clothes like pants, etc., and not automatically be thought of as some kind of freak whereas men are heavily shamed for wearing female clothes such as dresses or skirts. In general, I think people who are *extremely* gender variant will come in for heavy shaming and possibly violence whether they are male or female–but, in general, I think we as a society tolerate or even laud a certain level of conventionally masculine behavior from women, as long as it doesn’t go too far, whereas even the slightest bit of feminine behavior in men is universally reviled and condemned. I can play sports and drink whiskey and most people will probably think it is “cool” and not weird, creepy, or deviant. Also, I can touch and hug my female friends without people assuming I’m a lesbian–this is a major privilege that many men do not enjoy because they can’t be affectionate that same way with *their* male friends. Also, I am not pressured to constantly feel up for sex and ready for sex with anyone, at any time, in order to prove I am a “real” woman. I can say no to sex without having my femininity called into question. Also, if I hit a man, it’s likely to be seen as cute or funny and not the horrific physical abuse that it is; I never WOULD hit a man (or a woman) but the fact that women can get away with such things under the guise of being “cute” is really disturbing to me.

    There’s probably more, but off the top of my head I would say those are all female privileges that make my life as a woman, easier in some respects than a man’s would be. Far moreso than door-holding, which tends to realistically impact women’s lives either negatively or not at all.

  262. Sara says:

    @doctormindbeam, Oh, and of course there’s also the draft, which I think I’ve acknowledged as being a female privilege like three times by now. There’s also that, if I am ever raped, I probably won’t be seen as “wanting it” because I was aroused. Though that’s not to say the world is kind to female rape victims either; they have their own toxic narratives to cope with, and their own problems, and generally I think some people don’t really see it as *mattering* if a woman wants sex or not if she does something they see as causing her to owe the attacker sex. Still, the “he wanted it/men always want sex” meme creates some problems largely unique to male victims, I feel. Plus, male rape victims often have to cope with a lot of invisibility, people disappearing them, etc., because the default rape victim is assumed to be female. So there’s that as well.

  263. Sara says:

    I’m not the person you’re replying to, but for me personally, I would like to sign up for the draft simply because I feel that it’s unfair that men have to and women don’t, and I think I should put my money where my mouth is.

  264. ozymandias42 says:

    I’d sign up too. I feel it’s unfair that only guys have to be draft-dodgers.

  265. AB says:

    I’m not sure I’d call being more allowed to cry an advantage, or at least not a one-sided advantage the way not being drafted is. When I see a man who doesn’t have his house in order, people often call him a typical bachelor, or simply a man, whereas a woman who acts the same has a higher risk of being called sloppy for it, because it’s considered below female standards. But I also know that many men (at least American men) are furious with the sitcom stereotype of men as fat slobs, or the commercial stereotype of men as being helpless around the house, so I’d never call “being allowed to be more sloppy” a male privilege.

    The same goes for crying, very often it’s not received positively either way, it’s just more expected of women. It also seems to have become more accepted for men to cry http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21457366/ns/health-behavior/t/crying-women-more-harshly-judged-men/ and that the typical male way of crying (getting misty eyed as opposed to sobbing and having tears down the cheek, which might be physiological) is more accepted overall. As for the chivalry, I always liked this illustration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1kdjT4073A

  266. AB says:

    I’m curious about how we went from a post about how the word ‘privilege’ is antagonistic, misleading, silencing, and ignores oppression of privileged groups, to a discussion where women are being required to acknowledge a slew of privileges which many of them have found disadvantageous. Isn’t that contrary to the original article?

  267. Adiabat says:

    @brian: “And I assure you, the meme that you should “solve your own problems” is highly toxic. It is a very bad idea to not try to get help from others.”

    I think that we shouldn’t claim that either meme is better or worse. Making the claim either way is trying to control the freedom of other people. What’s important is that people have the choice. In this case it’s the choice to either solve your own problems or to get help. Solving your own problems enables you to develop useful skills for handling stress and, well, problem-solving. Conversely getting help prevents problem becoming too much to handle.

    The ultimate aim for gender equality isn’t to make the sexes homogenous, to claim that the way men or women behave is better and we should all do the same, but to reduce the limitations of choice that arise because one is a particular gender. That way people have the choice to take either path.

    @several poster’s argument that women aren’t privileged by not having to approach.

    The important thing here is choice and who has more. It’s established that men who prefer to approach and women who prefer being approached are advantaged in our cultures. No argument there I think (except maybe over some superficial phrasing I’ve used).

    What establishes privilege would be the relative freedom to choose the alternative: the behaviour expected of the opposite gender.

    I would argue that sanctions on men choosing the alternative are greater than the sanctions on women choosing the alternative. My reasoning is that women who prefer to approach at least have some chance of having success in finding a partner while men who prefer being approached basically have near-zero chance of success in finding a partner. Even if their preferences are unsuccessful (which seems to largely depend on the culture where you live) confident women can always fall back on being approached. Men don’t have this backup, and so the fact that women can make the choice with less social or personal sanction is why some consider women privileged in this area.

  268. Adiabat says:

    I think ‘fall back’ is the wrong term in my above post. I meant that women who prefer to approach will likely still be approached, while men who prefer to be approached will most likely not be approached. Therefore the women’s choice doesn’t hamper their chance of finding a partner while the men’s choice does.

  269. AB says:

    @Adiabat, I strongly agree about the importance of choice, and that the recommended behaviours for both sexes can usually be both advantageous and damaging, but in regards to this:

    “I would argue that sanctions on men choosing the alternative are greater than the sanctions on women choosing the alternative. My reasoning is that women who prefer to approach at least have some chance of having success in finding a partner while men who prefer being approached basically have near-zero chance of success in finding a partner.”

    I have to disagree slightly on that, provided the men in question are reasonably attractive and spend time around women, their chances of being approached are far better than near-zero, and on the other hand, the chance of women who aren’t attractive and don’t spend a lot of time around men to be approached is very low too. As is often the case with sex differences, it depends more on the individual than the gender.

    There is also the choice of people who aren’t interested in finding a partner (or prefer to find them among friends and acquaintances), who’re often approached against their will. It doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but the standards of politeness many people have been brought up with can make it very hard and exhausting to reject people.

  270. Danny says:

    AB:I’m curious about how we went from a post about how the word ‘privilege’ is antagonistic, misleading, silencing, and ignores oppression of privileged groups, to a discussion where women are being required to acknowledge a slew of privileges which many of them have found disadvantageous. Isn’t that contrary to the original article?

    Well considering that majority of the gender privilege conversation the occurs everywhere else is of the “there’s only male privilege, female privilege does not exist!” I think it might be a necessary step in confronting them once and for all You can’t expect people that have been shut out of the conversation to just magically move on to once they are finally about to say something. This could have been headed off a long time ago by simply avoiding the four things mentioned in the original article.

  271. AB says:

    @Danny: “Well considering that majority of the gender privilege conversation the occurs everywhere else is of the “there’s only male privilege, female privilege does not exist!” I think it might be a necessary step in confronting them once and for all You can’t expect people that have been shut out of the conversation to just magically move on to once they are finally about to say something. This could have been headed off a long time ago by simply avoiding the four things mentioned in the original article.”

    Well, discounting for a second that talking about how lucky women are and how disadvantaged men are has been the subject of a huge number of blogs where this kind of venting would have been more than welcome, and that mainstream media like FOX talk about things like “attacks on masculinity”, what you say could also be said about the people who’ve argued that there is only male privilege.

    You could just as easily make the case that if the women who’d felt marginalised had initially been met with empathy and respect, shutting people out of that conversation would never have been necessary in the first place. It’s like people are looking for some Original Sin, somewhere to point and say “This is where oppression started!” and then use it to justify engaging in a behaviour they wouldn’t want to be the target of themselves. It would be nice if this blog was more about breaking that viscous cycle, rather than just being a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction etc. etc.

  272. Cheradenine says:

    I’m curious about how we went from a post about how the word ‘privilege’ is antagonistic, misleading, silencing, and ignores oppression of privileged groups, to a discussion where women are being required to acknowledge a slew of privileges which many of them have found disadvantageous. Isn’t that contrary to the original article?

    My perception is that it happened like this:

    • Holly posted a useful and interesting article about the word ‘privilege’ and its uses, and the problems therein
    • People popped up in the comments saying, “but that’s cuz men are never institutionally discriminated against!”, which, frankly, I’d have nipped that thread in the bud right there on grounds of it being a) a FAQ repeatedly answered elsewhere on this site and b) defining privilege in an even more antagonistic way by throwing the fuel of state-sanctioned oppression onto the fire. Given that Pants only made two comments, that one and a content-free, shit-stirring “wah wah” post, I’m thinking that this was an intentional troll designed to send the conversation off-topic, rather than a clueless accident.
    • But naturally people sprang at the chance to prove this viewpoint wrong by listing ways in which men are discriminated against. Not to try and say they’re “more” oppressed and “win the Oppression Olympics”, but simply to prove that discrimination against men does actually exist and isn’t a myth invented by Machiavellian white-cat-stroking MRAs.
    • And then women popped up to say, “but wait, I don’t feel privileged by that! That’s supposed to be an ‘advantage’ for me? But I hate that! Or I get oppressed by that too! Or that just doesn’t happen! Or…”
    • At which point, guys who have probably been on the receiving end of exactly the kind of responses Holly wrote the article about just couldn’t resist the delicious irony of pointing out “of course you’d think that, you’re privileged”, that they’re making external determinations of who is and isn’t “privileged” without having lived the experience of the “unprivileged” party.
    • Which, you can argue whether that’s a valid argument or not, but you can’t deny that there are some very interesting double-standards at play if you insist men are privileged and women aren’t.

    At least, that’s as best as I can figure it out. It’s impossible to read a thread written when replies/nesting were enabled, now that they’ve all been collapsed into a single flat list. 😐

    Anyway. I think it’s all a bit of a distraction. Brian is closer to the heart of it, I think, when he writes:

    why is the hero always a man? Because the hero is going to get hurt sometimes, and since women are delicate little flowers they can’t possibly be deliberately put in a position where they could be hurt. Exact same meme, which in itself is mainly sexist against women, creates unfair advantages for both genders and unfair disadvantages for both genders.

    I disagree slightly, because there are negative connotations in the hero myth as well (the hero takes foolhardy risks, for example) and just don’t believe the memes are “mainly sexist against women”, but the gist is right: what we’re talking about in a lot of cases aren’t things I would categorise under privilege for either gender, but rather things I would label gender policing.

    The thing about gender policing is that it’s like a path cut through a jungle: if you want to follow the path, it’s great! If you don’t, you’re stumbling over vines at every step of the way. If you personally happen to want to take the role you’re gender-policed into (regardless of which it is), then you are privileged by that, because all society’s assumptions and prejudices are stacked in your favour. If you don’t, then you’re screwed. It’s difficult to “jump tracks” from one path to another, and even harder to just make your own way through the trees. Your (anyone’s) perception of how much “privilege” or not is involved with your policed gender-role is probably down to how closely your natural preferences align with that role.

  273. Cheradenine says:

    It would be nice if this blog was more about breaking that viscous cycle, rather than just being a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction etc. etc.

    It would, wouldn’t it?

    Perhaps you could do your own part to break the cycle.

  274. Sara says:

    @ AB, thank you for the article link! I had not read it before. I do find that very interesting! And I do think it’s true that the “more allowed to cry” thing doesn’t really apply to female public figures, especially female politicians, who constantly have to prove that they should be permitted into a traditionally male field and can be raked across the coals for any display of so-called “weakness” (while still having to be emotional *enough* so as not to appear “cold”). So I probably should have been more clear on that. That said, I do consider being more allowed to cry an advantage in my personal life all the same. I know that, as a child, I was allowed to cry when I was sad and I would get hugged and cuddled. My brother got told that “big boys don’t cry” and to use his words. I also don’t really think crying and being sloppy are comparable since I don’t think crying is an inherently negative or unhealthy thing, the way sloppiness and messiness are. I think crying should just be regarded as one more mode of expression and not an inherently negative behavior. So yes, frankly, I do think there are some types of emotional expressional advantages for a certain kind of woman (cute, youngish, not in a public role or a stereotypically male job) that men, older women, and women fighting to prove themselves in stereotypically male jobs don’t have.

    I have to disagree slightly on that, provided the men in question are reasonably attractive and spend time around women, their chances of being approached are far better than near-zero, and on the other hand, the chance of women who aren’t attractive and don’t spend a lot of time around men to be approached is very low too. As is often the case with sex differences, it depends more on the individual than the gender.

    I agree with this a lot. I know the onus is still more on the man to do the approaching, and on the woman to let herself be approached. However, things *are* changing, and I do know some women who feel more free to approach men these days (despite the very much alive preconceptions that such women are crazy or desperate or sluts) and some men who have been approached by their current female partners. I think this might be partly regional/cultural, though, since for everybody, differing from your expected gender role can be easier or harder depending on where you go and who you hang out with.

    I also agree about politeness and being approached by strangers; for a shy person of either gender, that’s a very awkward situation and I know I’ve often felt the sort of “damned if you, damned if you don’t” feeling that you describe–if I reject a guy immediately I’m being cruel or unfair, or if I assume that a guy who is being friendly is hitting on me then I’m being presumptuous; but if I am friendly, talkative, etc., then I’m leading him on if I end up saying no and/or I’m dense for not realizing what he wanted. :/ Of course this isn’t the fault of any individual man who approaches me, but it’s still an unpleasant social situation to be put in. Though, I do suspect men probably have their own constricting or confusing roles that make them feel damned if you do, damned if you don’t, as well (I think somebody mentioned feeling trapped between wanting to be respectful but also wanting to take a more assertive role, as is often expected of men?). Which just goes to show that rigid gender roles are toxic and harmful for everybody.

  275. doctormindbeam says:

    @Sara: Interesting and good points. Thank you!

  276. doctormindbeam says:

    @ozy, @Sara: I think we need to abolish military conscription to lift men up, not drag women down into a problem only men have right now.

  277. doctormindbeam says:

    @Adiabat:

    The ultimate aim for gender equality isn’t to make the sexes homogenous, to claim that the way men or women behave is better and we should all do the same, but to reduce the limitations of choice that arise because one is a particular gender. That way people have the choice to take either path.

    Excellently said. 🙂

    You also hit on exactly what I was trying to convey with “approach privilege,” in more eloquent words than I used.

  278. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB:

    I’m curious about how we went from a post about how the word ‘privilege’ is antagonistic, misleading, silencing, and ignores oppression of privileged groups, to a discussion where women are being required to acknowledge a slew of privileges which many of them have found disadvantageous. Isn’t that contrary to the original article?

    Firstly, that isn’t what happened. You’re not a victim here, so stop trying to paint yourself as one. And secondly, since you continue to refuse to acknowledge that you have privilege, I’m forcing the issue. I don’t really care whether or not you find your privileges disadvantageous. I care that you go through the same shit men have been asked to and realize that you have them.

    I have to disagree slightly on that, provided the men in question are reasonably attractive and spend time around women, their chances of being approached are far better than near-zero, and on the other hand, the chance of women who aren’t attractive and don’t spend a lot of time around men to be approached is very low too. As is often the case with sex differences, it depends more on the individual than the gender.

    With all due respect, as you are not male, I don’t think it’s really fair for you to try to speak to the male experience of approaching/being approached by women. Walk a mile in a guy’s shoes and you might change your song. Why don’t you try asking what it’s like instead of telling us what it’s like?

    I’m not sure I’d call being more allowed to cry an advantage [… t]he same goes for crying, very often it’s not received positively either way, it’s just more expected of women. It also seems to have become more accepted for men to cry and that the typical male way of crying […] is more accepted overall. As for the chivalry, I always liked this illustration […] Well, discounting for a second that talking about how lucky women are and how disadvantaged men are has been the subject of a huge number of blogs where this kind of venting would have been more than welcome, and that mainstream media like FOX talk about things like “attacks on masculinity”, what you say could also be said about the people who’ve argued that there is only male privilege. You could just as easily make the case that if the women who’d felt marginalised had initially been met with empathy and respect, shutting people out of that conversation would never have been necessary in the first place. […] It would be nice if this blog was more about breaking that viscous cycle, rather than just being a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction etc. etc.

    This is what I mean about not acknowledging your privilege.

  279. kaija24 says:

    I think one BIG point about the draft is that it is just as much about class as it is about gender. The vast majority of the military in the US is made up of lower class and minority people who see it as an opportunity for training and gainful employment that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, or by groups that hold military service as a honorable tradition (the South, for instance). There just aren’t too many sons of the wealthy and powerful who are volunteering for military service. There’s a lot of rhetoric about “patriotism” and “supporting our troops”, but the burden is not equally shared. My own opinion is that either we should have no draft or compulsory military service for all citizens, as many other countries do (a short stint in young adulthood with the option to stay in the service for those who choose). Then those who support war and military action would then have to walk the talk, and the burden of national defense would be spread equally across gender and class.

  280. Adiabat says:

    @AB: “As is often the case with sex differences, it depends more on the individual than the gender.”

    It’s true that there are exceptions to the norm, as always. Perhaps we should take Attractiveness Privilege into account? 🙂 But I think your point highlights just how insufficient Privilege theory is in explaining anything. A new model is needed. One that not only recognises that strict gender roles can affect both genders, but also that it affects people within those genders in different ways.

    @Sara: Good points. I don’t recognise “the very much alive preconceptions that such women are crazy or desperate or sluts” but that may just be geographical difference. Or maybe it’s something else such as what women think that men think or is what women think of other women: self policing or gender policing from within the gender. But other than that I agree.

  281. AB says:

    @Cheradenine:

    “But naturally people sprang at the chance to prove this viewpoint wrong by listing ways in which men are discriminated against. Not to try and say they’re “more” oppressed and “win the Oppression Olympics”, but simply to prove that discrimination against men does actually exist and isn’t a myth invented by Machiavellian white-cat-stroking MRAs.
    And then women popped up to say, “but wait, I don’t feel privileged by that! That’s supposed to be an ‘advantage’ for me? But I hate that! Or I get oppressed by that too! Or that just doesn’t happen! Or…”
    At which point, guys who have probably been on the receiving end of exactly the kind of responses Holly wrote the article about just couldn’t resist the delicious irony of pointing out “of course you’d think that, you’re privileged”, that they’re making external determinations of who is and isn’t “privileged” without having lived the experience of the “unprivileged” party.”

    The thing is, apart from coming off as antagonist, misleading, and silencing to those of us who don’t spend a whole lot of time on feminist blogs talking about privilege, a lot of it doesn’t even seem analogous to the kinds of privilege I have seen mentioned for other groups (which admittedly isn’t as extensive as the norm here). I’ve never heard of the privilege to be sloppy, getting cheap haircuts, being the one to approach, or most of the other male counterpart to the female advantages listed.

    “It would, wouldn’t it?

    Perhaps you could do your own part to break the cycle.”

    I tried to, by pointing out that it’s hardly fair to accept hostility towards feminism on the grounds of bad treatment, but refuse to take into account that feminists can (and frequently do) receive the same kind of bad treatment. Which, you can argue whether that’s a valid argument or not, but you can’t deny that there are some very interesting double-standards at play if you insist every instance of feminist hostility or ignorance about men is inexcusable, but that masculists are not to be held to the same standards when they deal with women.

  282. Cheradenine says:

    I’ve never heard of…

    Isn’t that the point?

    I tried to, by pointing out that it’s hardly fair to accept hostility towards feminism on the grounds of bad treatment, but refuse to take into account that feminists can (and frequently do) receive the same kind of bad treatment

    That’s not breaking the cycle.

  283. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB: Your comments have been removed in violation of the comment policy.

  284. AB says:

    OK. Would you mind telling me exactly what about them violated the comment policy?

    Moderator Note: Repetitive material removed.

  285. doctormindbeam says:

    @AB: “Commenters […] who repeat the same point over and over again […] will be first warned, and then have their comments deleted.”

  286. Danny says:

    AB:It would be nice if this blog was more about breaking that viscous cycle, rather than just being a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction to a counter-reaction etc. etc.
    Well considering that this blog has only been here for what 2 weeks, maybe a month (versus sites, MRA, feminist, or otherwise that have been running for years), its interesting that you’ve already decided that the folks here don’t want to break the cycle.

    I tried to, by pointing out that it’s hardly fair to accept hostility towards feminism on the grounds of bad treatment, but refuse to take into account that feminists can (and frequently do) receive the same kind of bad treatment.
    Other than a rare few examples who has said that all hostility towards feminism is okay? Who have said that feminists never get treated unfairly? Considering that many of the bloggers here id as feminist I can’t imagine that going to well around here for long.

    Which, you can argue whether that’s a valid argument or not, but you can’t deny that there are some very interesting double-standards at play if you insist every instance of feminist hostility or ignorance about men is inexcusable, but that masculists are not to be held to the same standards when they deal with women.
    And every time you’ve brought this up (and you’ve brought it up a lot) how many people here have tried to say that “every instance of feminist hostility or ignorance about men is inexcusable, but that masculists are not to be held to the same standards when they deal with women.”?

  287. wondering says:

    It is NOT a privilege when someone tells you you can’t do something. It may seem beneficial (hey, no one will ask you to carry something heavy or die in a war) but being told that you can’t do something because you are [black, female, gay, trans, whatever] is NOT in your best interests. Being told that you can’t lift something heavy is no different than being told you can’t marry the person you love, or use the bathroom that you believe you should use. Some folks may dress it up all purty and tell you it is a privilege that you are being prevented from doing what you want, but honey, that’s just putting perfume on a pig.

  288. typhonblue says:

    @ wondering:

    “Being told that you can’t lift something heavy is no different than being told you can’t marry the person you love, or use the bathroom that you believe you should use.”

    Or that you can’t be a primary care taker of children so you better channel your parental instinct into working?

  289. Cel says:

    “It is NOT a privilege when someone tells you you can’t do something. ”

    Hmm, so it’s not a privilege when women are told they cannot serve greater or even equal prison sentences than men for identical crimes. and that they are forced to serve lighter (or no) sentences?

  290. ozymandias42 says:

    All of you: STOP PLAYING THE OPPRESSION OLYMPICS.

    Men are oppressed in some ways. Women are oppressed in other ways. Men are victims of benevolent sexism. Women are victims of benevolent sexism. Men are victims of sexist stereotypes. Women are victims of sexist stereotypes. Men are victims of sexist social structures. Women are victims of sexist social structures.

    None of the sexism against women invalidates the sexism against men; none of the sexism against men invalidates the sexism against women.

    And most of the sexism is BIDIRECTIONAL– that is, it harms both men and women. It is not inherently better to be forced to be a worker when you want to be a parent than it is to be forced to be a parent when you want to be a worker. It is not inherently better to not have someone offer to help you lift something heavy when you need it than to have someone patronize you by offering to help you lift something you clearly can carry. Both suck, and both are dependent on each other. You can’t get rid of one without eliminating both.

  291. noahbrand says:

    What Ozy said. Christ, some of this “nuh-uh, my team has it worse” shit is just embarrassing.

    You realize that you all sound exactly like the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, right?

  292. Titfortat says:

    Sometimes people just need THEIR story to be told/heard. It is not always a power play. Maybe the the skill of the great communicator is to figure out which one is genuine, though I realize it is so much easier to wield the sword of ‘Oppression Olympics’.

  293. sarahejones says:

    I don’t really think “female privilege” exists. The things that you’ve mentioned, like the freedom to be physically affectionate with your friends and the relative freedom to wear masculine clothing (which really depends on your cultural upbringing anyway) aren’t privileges. Women are stereotyped as emotional creatures. That’s why it’s more acceptable for us to be physically affectionate and when we are, we feed that stereotype despite the best intentions. Some of us are more free to wear masculine clothing because masculinity is preferred to femininity. Due to inequal status, it’s not threatening for a woman to wear a man’s garb. We’re already disenfranchised.

    So while I acknowledge and respect that a man who has experienced forms of oppression due to other aspects of his identity will likely bristle at being accused of owning privilege, privilege is still a really excellent way of describing the benefits of identifying as male. Social expectations for the male gender grant them dominance. That’s why I use ” male privilege” in my writing. I find it very useful.

  294. ozymandias42 says:

    Sarah: I think the important distinction here is between privilege-as-cause and privilege-as-result. Take masculine clothing as an example. The cause of it is partially* that the set of traits arbitrarily labeled masculine are valued more than the set of traits arbitrarily labeled feminine– given that women are supposed to be feminine, this devalues women.

    However, the result is still that women have a freedom than men do not have.

    The cause of any given privilege may be sexism against one, or the other, or most often both genders; however, the result is that one gender has an advantage that another gender doesn’t, regardless of the reasons.

    *Feminist activism played a role too…

  295. typhonblue says:

    @ ozymandias42

    Masculinity is not seen as unqualified good. Also what we term ‘manhood’ seems to be better termed ‘adulthood.’

    I, personally, reject associations of femininity with vulnerability, victimhood or frailty, either emotional or physical. Not interested in a femininity that embodies these traits–which are also embodied by children, in other words our traditional notion of masculinity/femininity is less about male and female and more about the adult/child dichotomy–nor do I think they’re necessary for a femininity that contrasts masculinity.

    After all female wolves(yes, anthropomorphizing) manage to be loyal, steadfast, courageous–everything we associate with ‘masculinity’–and female.

  296. Danny says:

    ozymandias42:The cause of any given privilege may be sexism against one, or the other, or most often both genders; however, the result is that one gender has an advantage that another gender doesn’t, regardless of the reasons.

    On the money. One thing I find interesting about the people that say male privilege exists and female privilege doesn’t is how far they are willing to look at what you just pointed out. When it comes calling something male privilege the cause doesn’t matter one little bit (and full effects of it on males doesn’t matter either until its time to spit some PHMT lip service). All that matters is its something that males have and females don’t. However when it comes to calling something female privilege all of a sudden we have examine the causes of it, where it comes from, the impact on females, etc….

    Why the selective use of the lens?

  297. machina says:

    Ozy, I think that’s partly correct. Male clothing generally demonstrates that personal expression is subsumed by practicality and conformance. Power is usually given consensually and these are pragmatic choices of traits in anyone who is to be given power.

  298. @Danny:
    “However when it comes to calling something female privilege all of a sudden we have examine the causes of it, where it comes from, the impact on females, etc….”

    Dude, you can’t go around saying stuff without giving a “Profound Insight Warning.”

    I nearly spit out my Red Bull when I read this – and that drink is expensive. Trigger warning next time.

    (But seriously, Wow – I think this might be pretty profound IRT the way feminists consider gender issues.)

  299. @Danny…isn’t the movement of feminism sort of ENTIRELY about examining where male privilege comes from and how it works? I won’t deny that some feminists use “MALE PRIVILEGE” to shut people up and avoid examining it, but I think a pretty damn large number of feminists have spent and are spending a lot of time talking about the causes and origins of male privilege…some even manage to do it without blaming all men…

  300. Dr. Anonymous says:

    @Startledoctupus

    The feminist movement says that is all about equality. I.e. all people being treated equally. Have one set of ethics when it comes to judging men and another set of ethics when it comes to judging women is as far from this as one can go. One of my favourite examples of this is how I am supposed to have a privilege of not being afraid of walking the streets at night, since I am 6″5′ and built like a tank. When I try to tell them that the other side of the coin is that drunken men who have to prove their manliness will always pick me out, since I am usually the biggest and most dangerous person around. This is not well received.

  301. Danny says:

    @startledoctopus:
    isn’t the movement of feminism sort of ENTIRELY about examining where male privilege comes from and how it works?
    If by examination you mean tracing almost everything back to “society is setup to keep men over women” then silencing any who disagree then I’d say no. Some of them actually do want to figure out what’s going on and doing something about it and some are just looking to pin everything bad that’s ever happened on men and demanding we fix it (while of course holding us responsible for helping women too).

    Take for instance something that’s considered male privilege and some that’s considered female privilege.

    1. Is there any questioning if that thing was started by today’s men/women?
    If its male privilege it doesn’t matter if said man had a hand in starting that thing up or not just by sharing gender with the few at the top who did he’s suddenly privileged just like them (guilty by gender association if you will). If its female privilege then suddenly its worth pointing out that the thing in question wasn’t started by women.

    2. Is there any questioning about how many men/women actually benefit from that thing?
    If its male privilege then there’s no need to actually show that a man benefits from it its just kinda a given that he has that privilege. With female privilege we get discussion.

    3. Is there any questioning about how that thing is actually harming men/women (and can actually explain it, not just spit out PHMT in the case of men)?
    Now this is where I can agree with you. There are actually feminists out there that actually can talk about how things harm men without chiming off that bit of lip service (because really how would you feel if someone tried to sum up all the things that harm you with a catchphrase?) and will do the same with female privilege. But there are still quite a few that mention the harms in an effort to washout the benefits (a consideration not paid to men). Almost like there are two different goals when talking about men (don’t forget to mention the benefits more than anything) and women (don’t forget to mention the harms more than anything).

    Some of the things that are classified as male privilege could meet the conditions of “benevolent sexism” but they aren’t called that. Why not?

  302. maymay says:

    I really liked this post. 🙂 I happen to agree with it theoretically, yet (as perhaps others have commented before I; I haven’t read this long thread) disagree with what appears to me to be your implication that being antagonistic is fundamentally problematic. I happen to think antagonism is deeply undervalued.

    That said, I think you hit the nail on the head with point number 4, and in fact you could go one step further, explicit calling out notions of privilege as reductionist on their face. What most people mean when they say “privilege” is not actually privilege at all, but rather what some have called “categorical privilege” that uses identity-based attributes monolithically where affinity, not identity, would be the more useful unifying characteristic among different groups of people. In this regard, I think specifically of Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto,” circa 1991. Your 4th point seems to echo Haraway when she deconstructs Chela Sandoval, writing:

    Sandoval emphasizes the lack of any essential criterion for identifying who is a woman of colour. She notes that the definition of the group has been by conscious appropriation of negation. For example, a Chicana or US black woman has not been able to speak as a woman or as a black person or as a Chicano. Thus, she was at the bottom of a cascade of negative identities, left out of even the privileged oppressed authorial categories called ‘women and blacks’, who claimed to make the important revolutions. The category ‘woman’ negated all non-white women; ‘black’ negated all non-black people, as well as all black women.

    I think this is a fine example of how theorizing privilege can help Teh Menz by offering it as a stepping stone towards understanding the experience of “the other” but can also help categorical groups like “women” (and also “men,” for that matter) avoid a self-defeating victimhood that is, I’ll dare say even though this is hard for me, too, beneath all who call themselves socially aware beings.

  303. Harper says:

    I think these are good arguments for not using Feminism 301 jargon in a Feminism 101-level context.

    But I don’t think Holly Pervocracy gets to tell the rest of the internet to keep it at a 101 level, just in case we piss anybody off.

  304. Brian says:

    Now I think about it some more, there’s a problem that this article identifies (privilege is a mish-mash of mostly unrelated concepts) but that not many people have dedicated any effort to solving. So, here in this comment I’m going to attempt to identify the most useful pieces of privilege and leave them here to see if we can get some new words for them.

    1. Privilege as “the property of a societal bias that it is only obvious when it isn’t there”. That is, the thing that makes using regender so interesting; if bias was obvious, or conversely it didn’t exist, regender wouldn’t reveal anything that anybody didn’t know.

    It shows up really strongly in things like plot summaries or political news and a little bit in most other pieces of news.

    2. Privilege as “an advantage (and it needs to be legitimately an advantage, not the absence of a disadvantage) you have as a member of group X”. The kind that can be best expressed as an enumerated list, even though most privilege checklists out there count discrimination against others as privilege, for whatever reason. Discrimination against others is not this kind of privilege unless it actively makes your life better.

    On Ampersand’s checklist, which as far as I know is as close as we get to a canonical one, the only ones that are legitimately a male privilege are: 1, 6?, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18?, 20, 32, 36, 37, 38?, 39?, 40?, 41, and 47, where the question marks mark situations where the main problem is a disadvantage against women that benefits men as a side effect, rather than a full advantage for men.

    As you can see if you look at the bullets, this kind of privilege overlaps pretty strongly with type 1; most of the legitimate societal benefits men get as a class are that men are the overwhelming majority of politicians and fictional characters. Which still doesn’t benefit individual men much unless they happen to be actors or politicians. Or clergy; though it’s clear that most churches are biased towards men it’s still an example of privilege-2 despite not being privilege-1.

    3. Privilege as “a subtle psychological bias towards group X”. That is, not the actual pulling over of black people, but the unconscious bias the police officer had that made them think this black person looks more dangerous than all the white people they see. The kind of thing that the Implicit Association Tests are supposed to measure. The reason everyone notices when boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls, and nobody notices the other way around.

    4. Privilege as things like “that extra 33% which men make over women”. Very similar to 2 except that we would all like to be making what men make; though the extra money itself might be considered a privilege the fact that men make more money is discrimination against women, not towards men.

    Out of these four (I’m sure there are others), I think the only one that makes sense to retain as privilege is privilege-2. Privilege-1 I want to call salt water syndrome, as analogy to how a salt water fish does not know whether it’s swimming in salt water unless it isn’t. (For some reason privilege-1 takes well to animal metaphors.) For privilege-3 I’d suggest “implicit bias” after the implicit association tests. The only one I have no idea for is privilege-4; I think it’s necessary to separate it from privilege-2, but it’s such a fine detail I’m not sure how to name it succinctly.

  305. ballgame says:

    Brian, I find your comment puzzling on a number of levels. For one thing, it’s not clear to me whether you’re endorsing the representations of reality you’re alluding to, or if you’re just saying that such things shouldn’t be considered privileges (wthout passing judgment on whether or not they’re accurate).

    Privilege as “an advantage (and it needs to be legitimately an advantage, not the absence of a disadvantage) you have as a member of group X”.

    Can you explain how you distinguish the difference between an “advantage” and “the absence of a disadvantage”?

  306. James says:

    Watch this if you don’t think that there is Female privilege. Then gis “Domestic Abuse” and keep in mind that it’s about a 50/50 male female problem (it’s hard to get good numbers, but I’ve seen statistics that place it higher for each sex). This isn’t saying that there is no male privilege, but when you talk about these things it’s good to keep in mind that power dynamics always seem lopsided because we can see our own disadvantages but not our own privileges.

  307. Brian says:

    @ballgame: I am saying that all the things I identified actually happen. Not necessarily as often as each other, but I did say I was identifying the “most useful” parts of privilege. If they don’t exist they can’t be useful, can they?

    —-
    The test I was using in my head when I went over Amp’s checklist to differentiate between the two was “would I want everyone to have what men have, or would I want everyone to have what women have?” But although that test is useful it’s not the core distinction.

    The real definition is that to have an advantage you need to have an affirmative benefit over an undifferentiated person (the default gender pronoun is “he”, most of the major characters are men in almost every fictional story ever written). It can’t be that you are that undifferentiated person and everyone else has a disadvantage. (Most of amp’s checklist with “nots” in them: “f I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.”, “If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.”, that sort of thing.)

  308. ballgame says:

    I am saying that all the things I identified actually happen.

    Oh. Then FTR, you’re wrong on the facts on #4, Brian. Equally qualified men and women working the same jobs earn about the same as each other. If there is an aggregate disparity, it’s at most in the 5%-7% range, not 33%.

    The test I was using in my head when I went over Amp’s checklist to differentiate between the two was “would I want everyone to have what men have, or would I want everyone to have what women have?”

    Huh. I like the elegant simplicity of that. I’ll have to run some through my head to see if that works.

    But although that test is useful it’s not the core distinction.

    The real definition is that to have an advantage you need to have an affirmative benefit over an undifferentiated person (the default gender pronoun is “he”, most of the major characters are men in almost every fictional story ever written). It can’t be that you are that undifferentiated person and everyone else has a disadvantage.

    I don’t think this makes as much sense.

  309. Brian says:

    I am aware that if you subtract all the non-pay ways women are discriminated against out of the gap that the amount of actual pure pay discrimination is tiny. But that’s missing the point. Women make about 25% less than men (not 33% less; men make 33% more. 100/75=133) before you subtract anything out, and that’s bad no matter why it happens.

    For example: if you subtract time off from work for taking care of children, the pay gap decreases quite a bit. But that’s because women take off more from work to take care of their children, which is because women are expected to take care of their children to a greater extent than men, which is itself sexist.

    Or if you measure pay for the same position, the pay gap also decreases. But that’s (at least partly) because women aren’t promoted as much in addition to not being paid as much.

    So the pay gap is certainly more complicated than just “women make 75% of what men make”, but that doesn’t make it less of a problem. It’s just a bunch of different problems.

  310. ballgame says:

    Women make about 25% less than men (not 33% less; men make 33% more. 100/75=133) before you subtract anything out, and that’s bad no matter why it happens.

    No, Brian. Women and men work different jobs on aggregate. Women tend to work safer, less physically demanding jobs than men. (Men get killed on the job eight times as often as women do, for example.) Getting paid less is wrong only if they are doing the same work, or are capable of doing the same jobs equally as well and are prevented from doing so.

    Now, I want to be clear: I am absolutely aware there are sexist dynamics at work in different industries, and sexist expectations of both men and women. It is certainly possible that these, on aggregate, contribute to a net pay disparity adversely affecting women (just as they contribute to a net risk disparity that adversely affects men). But there’s no statistical evidence supporting the idea that this unjust disparity is in the 25% range, and it’s a gynocentric myth to keep repeating that figure as if it’s true.

  311. Brian says:

    Women and men work different jobs on aggregate.

    I believe you are referring to the “women are paid less because they take lower paying jobs” myth, so two things about that:

    1. Why the assumption that jobs dominated by women are just naturally lower paid? If there’s gender discrimination in pay for the same job, than there ought to be gender discrimination for pay across different jobs.
    2. Even if 1 isn’t true, there’s no obvious reason why “people with vaginas” should tend towards lower paying jobs than “people with penises” enough to make a major statistical difference. Since they do it must be due to (guess what!) cultural sexism.

    If women are encouraged to be nurses, and nurses are paid less, that is sexism.

    Women tend to work safer, less physically demanding jobs than men

    Though this is true, I hope you’re not making the mistake of thinking that means “easier” or “more fun”. A man who lifts heavy boxes all day has a more physically demanding job than a nurse, but the nurse might be responsible for cleaning up all sorts of bodily fluids. You can’t say merely because the job is more physically demanding that it is also a worse job.

    Getting paid less is wrong only if they are doing the same work, or are capable of doing the same jobs equally as well and are prevented from doing so.

    Getting paid less is always wrong, if the factor we’re talking about shouldn’t have anything to do with lower pay in itself. It is fundamentally wrong that women get paid less than men no matter why, because there is no property of women that makes them deserve less pay than men.

    If blue-eyed people got paid less than brown-eyed people, that would be unfair no matter why it happened, right? If Indians got paid less than Australians (and I believe they do), that would be unfair no matter why it happened, right?

    gynocentric

    Hate this word. HATE this word. It’s a blatant spin word, on the level of “teabagger” (for a member of the Tea Party) or “baby killer” (for someone who is pro-abortion rights), and it seriously doesn’t make you seem any more rational to use it.

  312. Brian says:

    Just noticed this, and wanted to clarify:

    By “there ought to be gender discrimination for pay across different jobs”, I mean “we would expect there to be”, not “morally there ought to be…”.

  313. typhonblue says:

    @ Brian,

    “gynocentric”

    I like this word. It succinctly encapsulates a world view that is toxic without explicitly referencing feminism. I would say aspects of Christianity and traditional values are also ‘gynocentric’ and the term does not exclude them.

    I’ll let ballgame address your other assertions. I agree with him.

    For example, there is a pay gap in favor of single women of a certain age in cities. There is also a pay gap when it comes to part time workers with women earning more then men(functionally this means certain kinds of work-life balance are less available to men.) Yet we never hear about the lost wages of single or part-time men.

  314. ballgame says:

    1. Why the assumption that jobs dominated by women are just naturally lower paid? If there’s gender discrimination in pay for the same job, than there ought we would expect there to be gender discrimination for pay across different jobs.

    But as noted, there is no statistical evidence supporting the notion that there is, in aggregate, “gender discrimination in pay for the same job,” Brian. There is certainly gender discrimination in various industries — likely for the same job in many instances. This affects both men and women. As I noted, if women experience a net negative pay disparity — unfortunately the statistics that could establish whether this is true or not simply don’t exist — it would be at most a couple of percent.

    [ballgame:] Women tend to work safer, less physically demanding jobs than men

    [Brian:] Though this is true, I hope you’re not making the mistake of thinking that means “easier” or “more fun.” A man who lifts heavy boxes all day has a more physically demanding job than a nurse, but the nurse might be responsible for cleaning up all sorts of bodily fluids. You can’t say merely because the job is more physically demanding that it is also a worse job.

    It’s not a mistake to think that a “less physically demanding” job is physically easier, Brian. That’s what “less physically demanding” means. Whether such a job is “more fun” or “worse” is an entirely subjective judgment. The point is, if you have two jobs, each requiring the same level of skill and having roughly the same benefits, and one job is less physically demanding than the other, it will be much easier to find people willing to work the less physically demanding job. The dynamic of supply and demand will drive down the wages for that less physically demanding job.

    Men, overall, are physically stronger than women, which means significantly more of them can maintain a high level of productivity in a physically demanding job that requires brute strength. They are also (in our current culture) more willing to take on high risk jobs that provide them with a paycheck they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. If it is your assertion, Brian, that it is unfair that the men in these jobs get paid more than those who take less risky and less physically demanding jobs, then I would have to disagree.

    I’m sorry, BTW, that you have such a negative reaction to the word, “gynocentric.” I find that it’s an extremely useful and clarifying word, given the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the word “feminism” (i.e. is it a women’s movement or an egalitarian movement). Perhaps — if we continue to engage each other here — you’ll become desensitized to it.

  315. Brian says:

    But as noted, there is no statistical evidence supporting the notion that there is, in aggregate, “gender discrimination in pay for the same job,”

    By the study you used in your own post there is statistical evidence for gender discrimination in pay for the same job. A 5% gap is still a gap, even if that was all there was.

    The point is, if you have two jobs, each requiring the same level of skill and having roughly the same benefits, and one job is less physically demanding than the other, it will be much easier to find people willing to work the less physically demanding job. The dynamic of supply and demand will drive down the wages for that less physically demanding job.

    Yes, and it will also be easier to find jobs that are pleasant or don’t require skill in other ways. Men’s wages might be artificially elevated by having more heavy-lifting types of jobs, but then women’s wages might be elevated by having more touching-bodily-fluids types of jobs. You can’t count the kind of unpleasant job that one gender usually has and then ignore the kind of unpleasant job the other gender usually has.

    They are also (in our current culture) more willing to take on high risk jobs that provide them with a paycheck they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. If it is your assertion, Brian, that it is unfair that the men in these jobs get paid more than those who take less risky and less physically demanding jobs, then I would have to disagree.

    But men who take high risk jobs don’t get paid more than men who take less risky jobs. They usually get paid less.

    Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of average wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of the highest paid jobs, most of them aren’t very risky and don’t involve much physical effort. Stuff with high levels of physical risk tends to have wages at or below the median for all jobs.*

    And if you think about it this is obvious. If you were to name a job that pays well, you’d probably go with “doctor” or “lawyer”, and definitely not “construction worker”.

    —-
    I would go into more detail about my problems with the word “gynocentric”, but I don’t want to clutter up my post. I think instead I’ll save it until we’ve finished talking about the wage gap.

    But as a primer, they’re very similar to the problems Holly had with the word “privilege”.

  316. ballgame says:

    [ballgame:] But as noted, there is no statistical evidence supporting the notion that there is, in aggregate, “gender discrimination in pay for the same job,”

    [Brian:] By the study you used in your own post there is statistical evidence for gender discrimination in pay for the same job. A 5% gap is still a gap, even if that was all there was.

    Actually, Brian, the researchers found that, when you take into account all the relevant variables, equally qualified women working the same jobs make more than men! They don’t say that as a conclusion because they are statistically precise researchers, and all those variables aren’t independent of each other. Because some of those variables may be ‘double counting’ some non-gender impact, there isn’t statistically conclusive evidence to support the idea that ‘women make more than men.’

    So instead, they focused on using only independent variables to discern what the ‘worst case scenarios’ would be in terms women’s pay. Depending on the methodology they used, they found that women made at least 93%-95% of what men made.

    The actual figure is unknown because the data doesn’t exist which would allow a more precise answer. (The problem is you need large sets of both longitudinal data that track people’s careers through time, and large sets of ‘lateral’ data that track pay rates of specific job types. When you look at statistically meaningful samples of longitudinal data, you have to ‘blur’ the lateral data, and vice versa.) Mathematically, it’s possible the gap is as large as 7%. Mathematically, it’s possible that women actually make more than men. Which is why I say “there is no statistical evidence supporting the notion that there is, in aggregate, ‘gender discrimination in pay for the same job.’” (FTR, I tend to suspect that there is still aggregate pay discrimination against women on the order of a couple of percent.)

    You can’t count the kind of unpleasant job that one gender usually has and then ignore the kind of unpleasant job the other gender usually has.

    You’ve presented no evidence that women, on the whole, have more unpleasant jobs than men, Brian, or even that they’re more likely to come into contact with ‘bodily fluids.’

    But men who take high risk jobs don’t get paid more than men who take less risky jobs. They usually get paid less. …

    And if you think about it this is obvious. If you were to name a job that pays well, you’d probably go with “doctor” or “lawyer”, and definitely not “construction worker”.

    You’re making a fundamental analytical error here, Brian. You are failing to hold the level of skill of the employee constant. The question here is NOT ‘do high risk occupations overall pay more than low risk occupations overall?’ The question is, ‘do high risk occupations offer potential employees higher salaries than they could earn at the other occupations available to them?’

    The FDL story I linked to earlier showed one concrete example of how this works. And frankly, it’s just common sense: it’s easier to find and replace an employee for a low risk occupation than for a high risk occupation, if other occupational parameters are held constant. The law of supply and demand would tend to drive up the wages for the high risk occupation (if they both required the same level of skill and were otherwise equivalent).

  317. Brian says:

    You’ve presented no evidence that women, on the whole, have more unpleasant jobs than men, Brian, or even that they’re more likely to come into contact with ‘bodily fluids.’

    You’ve presented no evidence that men do. That’s all I was trying to make clear; that though I wouldn’t be surprised if you had evidence that men work more strenuous or more risky jobs, that’s not the same thing as saying that on balance the extra money for having an unpleasant or difficult job goes towards men.

    You’re making a fundamental analytical error here, Brian. You are failing to hold the level of skill of the employee constant.

    I was aware that I wasn’t; partly that’s because I couldn’t easily find data on only jobs you can get with no college education, like most high risk jobs. But I also don’t think it’s strictly necessary to hold the level of education constant. Even if, all else being equal, high risk jobs pay more than low risk jobs, the fact that all else is not equal still counts for quite a bit when we’re talking about aggregate statistics like the pay gap. (Because we’re not asking “are women paid less for the same job with the same credentials?”, though that’s also useful information, we’re still asking “are women paid less, period?”.)
    —-
    But I’m wondering here, is this a case where we’re talking past each other? Because I notice you seem focused on pure pay discrimination, and I agree (and agreed back at the beginning of my first post on this) that the level of pure pay discrimination does not seem to be greater than 5%.

    The problem is that, since what we’re talking about is whether sexism causes women to be paid less, focusing on pure pay discrimination is just one way that it does. Sexism also causes women to be paid less because of all sorts of other kinds of discrimination and societal biases and so on.

  318. Brian says:

    Ah, didn’t see dmb’s post. Sorry.

  319. Brian says:

    Apologies for triple posting (if someone else hasn’t ninja’d me by the time I post this), but I believe, since my objection to the word gynocentric is related to my objection to the word privilege, that this is still on-topic, and so possibly useful for rerailing the thread:

    My objections to the word gynocentric are essentially the objections to “privilege” in the OP.

    1. It’s used mainly as an insult. Ballgame, you called the wage gap a “gynocentric myth” in your post, and we both know that gynocentric wasn’t some kind of side comment. But you also claim it means something useful. So a purportedly content word has turned into an insult… just like privilege has.

    2. It’s not clear what it’s critical of. In theory, all it means is “centered on women”, but criticizing a movement named feminism for being centered on women seems to kind of miss the point. (If you say that is the point, you’re criticizing something that doesn’t deserve criticism and I don’t know what to tell you beyond that.)

    Since I assume people are more intelligent than that, and since it’s definitely used as criticism, what you probably mean is “centered on women to the exclusion of men“. But then I’ve seen many people use it where I wouldn’t think it was to the exclusion of men; case it point the wage gap, which even if it is a myth is not inherently anti-man in any way.

    3. It’s often used to mean “that opinion is beyond the pale” There are some words that can be used as general shutdown words to any opposing discussion (within the subject area, of course). Call an opponent or an opposing argument “racist/anti-choice/babykilling/antifeminist/from a place of privilege” and you’re saying “that is beyond the pale of rational discussion; no reasonable person could hold that opinion because it is actually immoral and not merely wrong”. Call an opponent’s position gynocentric and you’re still saying “we can’t even consider whether this is true because it is wrong in a moral sense”.

    These kind of taboo-your-opponent’s-argument words are a particularly insidious kind of fully general counterargument, and all of those are of course Not Cool.

    4. It is used to fail to consider women’s problems Nearly every time I’ve seen the word “gynocentric” it has been used to dismiss a problem women have. Yes, it’s true that men have problems. Yes, these deserve fixing as much as women’s problems, and yes, ignoring men’s problems is bad.

    But women also have problems, ignoring them is just as bad, and they don’t deserve fixing any less than men’s problems. As far as I can see the main point of the word “gynocentric” is not to say “you should consider men more” but rather “you shouldn’t consider women so much”. And that is also Not Cool.

  320. Schala says:

    “As far as I can see the main point of the word “gynocentric” is not to say “you should consider men more” but rather “you shouldn’t consider women so much”. And that is also Not Cool.”

    My usage has always been “men are completely forgotten in this”, not “stop considering women”. I’ve also been said to be an MRA, not a feminist, an anti-feminist, obtuse, for daring to mention that men are forgotten in a dilemma. Any dilemma.

    Also been told that men had no problems, men caused their own problems, men should fix their own problems, that trans women have male privilege and that this is justification enough to exclude them from any women’s space.

    So yeah.

  321. Pingback: In Defense of Jargon, and a Journey Towards Feminism « quoded

  322. B-Lar says:

    Thank you so much. I have had a problem with the usage of The Privilege Concept for awhile and the only counterpoints I saw have come from ball-cupping idiots. I thought that maybe I was being a privileged ass for seeing the imbalance.

    I have been hooked by this site since I discovered it yesterday, and I think what you have started is awesome. You have my axe, if required.

  323. Pingback: GCU Dancer on the Midway - Link blog: atheism, meme, sam-harris, politics

  324. Eleri Hamilton says:

    Yes. This. 1000 times this. I see way to many times where ‘privilege’ is used to mean “I get to discount anything you say because you are one of Those”. It’s like I have to start carrying around a big Privilege Scorecard to prove I have a voice on any topic. And I see daily people saying “Don’t judge me/treat me differently because I’m X”, and then turn around and think it is ok to to do the same thing to subset Y. Equality is equality, not one-upmanship.

  325. Pingback: Privilege Is Awesome! Keep Talking About It! — ChildWild

  326. nemorathwald says:

    The OP has her heart in the right place, and I appreciate this post. But I have mixed feelings. Are these four requirements feasible?

    1. I see very little way around other people _perceiving_ your language as antagonistic when it’s not. It’s too much responsibility for anyone to take.

    2. “Privilege” is misleading in the same sense that all language is misleading. As we say in the Lojban community, “the price of infinite precision is infinite verbosity”.

    3. Nobody has to be silent just because someone is dismissive of them.

    4. Sure, women have their own advantages. I myself have had problems from being stereotyped. (Middle-aged, white male, straight, cis, abled, kind of educated I guess… if I left off anything, you can safely assume I’m on the privileged side of it, except I’ve been flat broke my whole life) But that’s just a drop in the bucket. Can we really expect everyone to be concerned about all the problems of all people? I usually expect them to focus on only the biggest ones that affect them, and their language will always be imprecise and insensitive to the degree it reflects that.

  327. Heel Biter says:

    …do people honestly not get why it’s okay for women to ape masculine clothing (and to a lesser extent, characteristics) and not okay for men? They think that’s about privilege? LOL, that’s because masculinity is aspirational, and femininity is shit. Of course women should want to aspire to manhood, as long as they do it in cute, nonthreatening ways, like dressing up as boys. It’s not like it actually changes anything; it’s kind of like when your dog sits at the kitchen table and thinks it’s people. It’s cute! But for men to dress up in feminine clothing and adopt feminine characteristics is a devastating threat to the entire gender system. This is not “female privilege,” it’s just rigid enforcement of the gender binary, a binary where woman is shit and man is the second coming of Christ himself.

  328. Schala says:

    “This is not “female privilege,” it’s just rigid enforcement of the gender binary, a binary where woman is shit and man is the second coming of Christ himself.”

    That’s why they get crucified a lot I bet.

  329. typhonblue says:

    @ Schala

    “That’s why they get crucified a lot I bet.”

    LOL. Schala, you slay me.

  330. Jim says:

    “Nearly every time I’ve seen the word “gynocentric” it has been used to dismiss a problem women have. ”

    Brian, you might want to widen your reading a bit.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gynocentrism (Not quoted as authoritative, just as the first Google hit)
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gynocentric
    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2007/07/25/what-good-is-gynocentrism/
    http://rebukingfeminism.blogspot.com/2011/06/gynocentric-consummation-totality-of.html

    Soory about that last one and all the woo, but the point is that these are the first hits on a search and none of them use the term as you suggest it is used.

  331. BlackHumor says:

    The two definitions are of course not relevant; I’m saying it’s used to dismiss women’s problems.

    I’m already aware of FC; it’s actually my main source of “gynocentric” in use and so the origin of my problems with it. Just because that particular page is reasonable about it doesn’t mean it’s used reasonably elsewhere on the site. (I mean, you yourself saw ballgame use it exactly as I described right in these comments.)

    And from what I can get out of it, the last link is a stellar example of what I’m talking about.

  332. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “(I mean, you yourself saw ballgame use it exactly as I described right in these comments.)”

    What? Please elaborate on this, with quote if you would.

  333. figleaf says:

    Maybe it’s just because I’ve effectively been a “house husband” for the last 15 years (and consequently confronting structural obstacles to career reentry) and maybe it’s just because I’ve been thinking about gender stuff for a really long time, or maybe it’s just that I recently returned from watching a huge amount of socializing in rural Greece, but I’ve got a slightly different perspective on the (very real) wage gap: It’s not a wage gap for women, it’s a wage premium for men. If you’re a masculinist, or for that matter a feminist, you need to ask yourself “what are employers getting that extra twenty percent?” The answer, and a lot of men aren’t going to like this, is “expendability.”

    That women in very particular (mostly urban, largely socially-displaced, almost entirely childless) demographics are getting the wage premium over their male peers actually tends to validate rather than invalidate my point.

    The wage premium is for the purchase of a significant chunk of what’s really valuable about human existence.

    Failure to recognize this is maybe the only real big failure of feminism. Failure to recognize this is also a huge failure for MRAs, and that failure is further compounded by the tendency for MRAs to object not to the extraction of their expendability for a few cents more on the dollar but instead to object to women’s entry into competition for the expendability that’s been the traditional domain of men.

    figleaf

  334. typhonblue says:

    @ figleaf

    “Failure to recognize this is maybe the only real big failure of feminism. Failure to recognize this is also a huge failure for MRAs, and that failure is further compounded by the tendency for MRAs to object not to the extraction of their expendability for a few cents more on the dollar but instead to object to women’s entry into competition for the expendability that’s been the traditional domain of men.”

    You don’t actually read MRAs much do you?

  335. typhonblue says:

    @ Figleaf

    If you had you’d realize that you just outlined one of their central arguments both about the wage gap and about society in general.

    Plus you topped it off with a straw man ‘MRAs wanna git t’wimminfolk back’n that there kitchen!’

  336. BlackHumor says:

    “But there’s no statistical evidence supporting the idea that this unjust disparity is in the 25% range, and it’s a gynocentric myth to keep repeating that figure as if it’s true.”

    This is clearly:

    1) an insult
    2) dismissing women’s problems (specifically the problem of the wage gap)
    3) not relevant at all to the core meaning of “focused on women”.

    @Figleaf: I agree it’s really a wage premium, but it’s not for men alone. It’s for white men. Black men lose out to about the same degree as white women. So I don’t think it’s paying for anything specific.

  337. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “Black men lose out to about the same degree as white women.”

    Single women in cities make more then single men.

  338. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “1) an insult
    2) dismissing women’s problems (specifically the problem of the wage gap)”

    Remember what you said about repeating the statement that there is more male-on-female rape then female-on-male rape as a verified fact, when it absolutely is not?

    You said it’s not marginalizing male victims if it’s true.

    If ballgame is right he’s not insulting or dismissing women’s problems.

    “3) not relevant at all to the core meaning of “focused on women”.

    Gynocentric likely refers to the people who are stating the 25% wage gap as fact rather then the fact itself. Saying there are groups on this planet who revolve their world view on what they (mistakenly) think is good for women, is a verifiable fact.

  339. John Markley says:

    Heel Biter,

    “…do people honestly not get why it’s okay for women to ape masculine clothing (and to a lesser extent, characteristics) and not okay for men? They think that’s about privilege? LOL, that’s because masculinity is aspirational, and femininity is shit. ”

    If it were actually true that feminine behavior in males was stigmatized because of the belief that “femininity is shit,” feminine women would be the women that supporters of “Patriarchy” would despise the most, and most of the social pressures on women that feminists object to would not exist- the last thing the sort of society you describe would do would be to pressure women to be maternal, passive, demure, chaste, or pretty, and hold up women who fulfill these expectations as more praiseworthy and likable than those who do not.

  340. typhonblue says:

    ““…do people honestly not get why it’s okay for white to ape black culture (and to a lesser extent, characteristics) and not okay for black people to act white? They think that’s about privilege? LOL, that’s because blackness is cool, and whiteness is lame. ”

    Hm… Doesn’t make much sense that way either.

    I think it’s more like this. For a child to act like an adult is endearing. It’s cute and if they pull it off, it’s exceptional. For an adult to act like a child is appalling; but they don’t become children, they become failed adults.

  341. Astraea says:

    Privilege is probably the wrong word, but there should be a word for “look at the perspective of the other, before you make statements about the normative experience.” That tends to be the context in which I hear privilege, at least. When talking about how a woman reacts to a catcall, how a homosexual man feels about the church’s teaching, etc., don’t assume that your (non-member) reaction is the correct one. Think about why their reaction may be different than yours.

    The interesting thing about the wage gap is that if you look at jobs that used to be primarily male, but then became primarily female, the wages drop significantly. Similarly if you look at jobs that were primarily female, and then became primarily make, the wages rose. Since these are the same jobs, I don’t think you can argue that this because men take more challenging/difficult jobs. It’s because male labor is valued more highly than female labor. And that, fundamentally, is the problem.

  342. I’m confused by all this talk about the wage gap.

    (Please – correct me if I’m wrong) But it seems that most of you above (Fig, Black, Astraea) are saying that:
    The symptom (which is problematic in itself):
    “Men make more money than women do”
    The cause:
    “Men’s labor is valued higher than women’s labor”

    Isn’t this begging the question?
    What if men’s labor was, on average, more valuable than women’s labor?
    I realize that question is going to set off alarm bells in many of your minds (and it probably should!)

    But, please, hear me out: I think that everyone on this site agrees that much of the western world is operating under oppressive gender roles that affect both men and women. Our society constantly assaults impressionable young girls with ideals of beauty – and assaults impressionable young boys with ideals of wealth and power.

    We don’t seem surprised that women exposed to this pressure end up putting massive amounts of effort into looking beautiful (working out, buying lots of beauty products, getting plastic surgery and developing eating disorders).

    Why, oh WHY aren’t you all expecting men exposed to this pressure end up putting massive amounts of effort into making money and accumulating power(putting in longer hours, spending extra energy on networking, obsessing over their resumes, pulling no punches to get promotions, committing suicide after getting laid off)?

    One of Feminism’s most heinous blunders has been framing the problem as “men make more money than women” when the problem is “men are taught that their worth as human beings relies on the number of commas on their paycheck.”

    (I’ve said it before on this site and on my blog, but for some of you who don’t know me – I’ve always wanted to be a house husband since I was a boy. However, I bought the line “women will only want a man who makes a lot of money” I went to an expensive college and got a degree. Sure, now I have a high-paying job – but every single month that I send in my college loan payment I am reminded and infuriated by the system that defined my value for me – instead of letting me chose for myself.)

  343. typhonblue says:

    @ EasilyEnthused

    “One of Feminism’s most heinous blunders has been framing the problem as “men make more money than women” when the problem is “men are taught that their worth as human beings relies on the number of commas on their paycheck.””

    I remember reading about a study that said if men weren’t judged by their paycheck in terms of being datable and marriageable they, themselves, said they wouldn’t make as much.

    The wage gap is likely due to *priorities* more then anything else. The only way to change it would be to change men and women’s priorities. Make women feel that they are less defined by what they look like(and their femininity) then what they do; make men feel more defined by what they look like(and their masculinity) then what they do. (Hey, now this thread ties into Sexual Harassment of Men)

  344. BlackHumor says:

    @Typhon: That analogy is not only false but absolutely backward, and for why let’s suppose ballgame was right:

    If it was true that the wage gap was around 5% instead of 25%, it still wouldn’t be a gynocentric myth to claim it was 25%, because in what sense is it “focused on women”? But it would be tabooing-your-opponent’s-argument to claim it was a gynocentric myth even if it was a myth, because it’s using “gynocentric” as an insult, and more than that as an insult implying that kind of argument is universally wrong. It would sound just as silly for ballgame to call something a “gynocentric fact” as a “racist fact” or a “misogynist fact”, not only because facts can’t actually be any of those but because of the implication that nothing gynocentric can be a fact.

    @Astrea: I think what we should be saying is not “you have privilege” but “you don’t have empathy”. Because that’s really the core problem, so why do have to hide it? Just say “you don’t know what it’s like to be harassed” instead of “check your privilege”; making your words less clear never helps anyone.

    But the second part of your post is an excellent response to EE’s post after you, so points for ninja-arguing.

    @EE: Another response to your post:

    There have been many many many studies showing that women’s work is valued less. For two of the most relevant to this, look under the headers “Job Applicants Without Sex” and “Women get less credit for their work”.

    Is “men have to work to support their families” one of the toxic memes that support the wage gap? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn’t have anything to do with whether men actually work harder than women. By all measures I’ve seen they don’t.

  345. Clarence says:

    Astraea:

    That wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that now a group of people is moving into those jobs en masse who won’t be at risk for taking lots of time off for maternity and other child care issues? Invariably that would mean that men as a group could put more time into working and thus “fast track” their promotions. Instead of sexism, I see lack of paternity leave as more of a problem.

  346. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “it still wouldn’t be a gynocentric myth to claim it was 25%”

    Yep. It would be. First of all, it’s gynocentric to be concerned about the male-female wage gap over, say, the poor-rich gap or the white-black wage gap.

    “By all measures I’ve seen they don’t.”

    What measures are those BH? The measures I’ve seen indicate that full time male workers work about five hours more then full time female workers. Plus they take less time off. Plus they are more willing to relocate. Plus they put salary over other benefits such as a safe working environment, work that’s personally fulfilling, health benefits etc.

    Here’s something from the wall street journal, not amptoons:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903454504576486690371838036.html

  347. Clarence says:

    BlackHumor or Brian with the changed name:
    All studies I’ve seen say that men DO put in more time than women at work. This is partly because of the existence of a pretty vast group of women who prefer to stay at home.
    You have an issue with this? I suggest you take it up with those women. Good luck with that.
    So of course feminism won’t. Because they know that if they try to push at mothers and housewives any more the backlash will totally destroy the movement. So they prefer to blame men and/or patriarchy. It’s an old game, and one I am not very amused with at all.

  348. @BlackHumor:
    On of my good friends at work is in charge of our compensation system. My company has more than 20,000 employees all across the globe – so to help us make decisions about fair pay for all of those employees – we have a system. It’s a proprietary software package that calculates wages based on need, the type of job being filled, competition for that job and years of relevant experience.
    That’s it. There is no box to check on the interface “Does employee have a weenie?”
    The software doesn’t know, doesn’t care and our company has a non-negotiable policy for hires. You can accept, decline or decline for compensation. If you decline for compensation, the job goes to the next candidate – until we’re out of candidates.

    This software package is used by the vast majority of our fellow Fortune 500 companies. Simply put, paying women less than men does not make sense from a business perspective – and if it doesn’t make business sense – it won’t get done.

    I completely recognize that none of that stop General Manager Joe Blow from paying Cindy Cottonsocks $1 less an hour than Scotty Mctrousersnake at a privately owned gas station in Bugaloo, Michigan – but that isn’t systemic. Hell, man, women make up ~80% of Human Resources positions in the United States!* Human Resources departments dictate compensation for jobs – it seems you’re suggesting a conspiracy to deprive women of their hard earned pay by a group that is mostly women.

    Anyway – isn’t this site called “No, Seriously, What About teh Menz?” Other than you suggesting that my wife should be making 25% more than she is right now – how is this about men?

    If you want to get in your pow-wow circle over at Alas, you can discuss the wage gap all you like. There have been Feminist Web sites dedicated to discussing and rallying the troops over the wage gap for decades. Those same Web sites were the ones who chased men like me away when I wanted to talk about incidents of domestic violence against men by women and the weaponization of male sexuality – so please forgive me if I’m a not a fan of bringing a “woman’s issue” to this site.

    I tried to make the wage gap a man’s issue as best I could – so I ask you – if you refuse to accept that it it could be a men’s issue – what in the world are you doing discussing it here?

  349. Oh God that edit button can’t come soon enough.

  350. typhonblue says:

    @ Easily Enthused

    If it’s any consolation bringing up wage gap as a topic can’t be pinned entirely on BlackHumor(Brian). It’s more of a ‘it takes two to tango’ situation.

    Although I agree with ballgame that the ‘wage gap’ is profoundly gynocentric in its framing. Who decided the gap between men and women’s wages was somehow infinitely more important then, say, the gap between white and black wages?

  351. GAH! More editing problems! That entire second part was not supposed to be aimed at BlackHumor – my apologies. None of that was supposed to be directed at anyone in particular.

  352. BlackHumor says:

    @Typhon: First, you know very well that’s not what ballgame was saying.

    Second, are you saying that because nobody else has brought up their respective wage gaps women shouldn’t either?

    Third, it’s not actually true that feminists ignore those other wage gaps; Ampersand in particular mentions them several times in his series on the wage gap.

    @EE: While that software is obviously a good thing, it could only deal with direct pay discrimination, and I said right at the beginning of the argument that that’s a very small portion of the wage gap.

  353. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor
    “First, you know very well that’s not what ballgame was saying.”

    I don’t know what he was referring to, specifically, when he called the wage gap a ‘gynocentric fact.’ What aspect was he calling ‘gynocentric’? I don’t know and you don’t know either.

    Maybe he’ll weigh in.

    “Third, it’s not actually true that feminists ignore those other wage gaps; Ampersand in particular mentions them several times in his series on the wage gap.”

    Mentions? I’m sure he mentions them in the context of drawing a superficial comparison between the wages of black people and white women. Even though there are no demographic categories in which black people earn more then white people. They don’t earn more when they’re part timers(as women do compared to part time men), they don’t earn more when they are single urban adults between the ages of 20-35(as women do relative to men in the same category), they don’t earn more in certain job positions(women CEOs earn more then male CEOs).

    I’m sorry the term ‘wage gap’ refers, overwhelmingly, to the male-female wage gap. This wage gap has been decided to be more important then any other. By far. Hands down. No question.

    The (white) women come first, second, third and always. Gynocentrism.

  354. Clarence says:

    typhonblue:
    I was agreeing with you up until your last sentence, but I’m going to call you on that.
    Wage gap studies between men and women include women of color in the statistics. I’m afraid you can’t pretend that feminists think the “wage gap” is only a white woman’s problem. That would be intellectually dishonest, esp. since, as you undoubtedly know, many womanists also speak of the exact same wage gap, not a different one.

  355. BlackHumor says:

    “Gynocentric myth” is what he said. “Gynocentric fact” was the hypothetical construction I made to point out that it would be absurd to say that because “gynocentric” implies “myth” even though it doesn’t mean “myth”, and is therefore a taboo-your-opponent’s-argument word.

    Though I would like him to weigh in on this.

    —–
    I noticed you skipped argument number 2 to talk about argument number 3. So again, are you saying that because anti-racists don’t bring up black people’s wage gap that feminists shouldn’t bring up women’s wage gap?

    Or are you saying that feminists must bring up the wage gaps of every other group of people? (Not that this isn’t technically gynocentric, but it’s clearly not a bad thing, and ballgame was just as clearly using gynocentrism as an insult.)

    I did touch on this in my original post about gynocentrism; if gynocentric is taken at it’s literal meaning it’s pretty useless, because of course feminism is going to focus on women and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  356. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “if gynocentric is taken at it’s literal meaning it’s pretty useless, because of course feminism is going to focus on women and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

    Then why do you have a problem with it? Feminism is gynocentric. It advocates for women to the exclusion of men.

  357. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    I’ll address your second point.

    “Second, are you saying that because nobody else has brought up their respective wage gaps women shouldn’t either?”

    It just sort of shows the kind of power that (white) women wield compared to black people. Also, yeah, I sort of think women should take a back seat considering everything but about 5-7% of the gender wage gap is accounted for by education, hours worked, job choices, etc. etc. And the spending gap favors women by a 4 to 1 margin; I doubt you can say that about the spending of black people versus white people.

    How come we never hear about the spending gap between men and women? I’ve always found that strange. Somehow we need to worry when men are earning more but not when women are spending more. It’s even more bizarre when you realize spending is where money gives you power, not earning.

  358. typhonblue says:

    Also I don’t necessarily agree with ballgame. I don’t think these gynocentric myths are really that gynocentric.

    I believe misogynist philosophies of female victimhood centre men’s agency, thus are androcentric because they assist in developing men’s sense of self-potency. Whereas they cause women’s agency to shrivel like the bloody and broken toes of a bound foot.

  359. Jim says:

    “If you’re a masculinist, or for that matter a feminist, you need to ask yourself “what are employers getting that extra twenty percent?” The answer, and a lot of men aren’t going to like this, is “expendability.”

    YES YES YES. And when women break down and decide to let themselves be just as expendable, as disposable as men, that will be real equality. And don’t imagine that tis expendability is some extra little bonus that employers thought up to enrich themselves, no question- it does enrich thems; but it’s the price of competition and winning out. If you won’t make yourself expendable, there are billions on the panet who will. Some are willing to sacrfice a lifetime of underpaid work for the sake of future generations. Thise are the people who inherit the earth.

    This expendability operates in settings where ther eare no employers at all. You have to count yourself pretty damned expendable to set off in an umiak to go after walruses. You have to count yourself pretty expendable to charge naked and unarmored into a Roman line of legionaires – the Celts routinely did this and it simply blew the Romans’ soft little Italian minds.(Here’s where subordination and organization, another kind of expendability, wins out over raw bravery.)“if gynocentric is taken at it’s literal meaning it’s pretty useless, because of course feminism is going to focus on women and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

    YES. This is why I discuss with you; you follow your reasoning out wherever it goes. It’s called rigor and honesty.

    There’s nothing wrong with feminism centering on women. There is something wrong with feminsim centering on women and then claiming to be the sole or evem the appropriate paradigm for gender discussions, or even more ridiculously, that it is the solution to men’s problems.

  360. Paul says:

    “There’s nothing wrong with feminism centering on women. There is something wrong with feminsim centering on women and then claiming to be the sole or evem the appropriate paradigm for gender discussions, or even more ridiculously, that it is the solution to men’s problems.”

    This. If I have any problem with feminism at all, it is this.

  361. typhonblue says:

    @ Paul

    “This. If I have any problem with feminism at all, it is this.”

    Hell, I have a problem with feminism even being the solution for women’s problems if it’s not going to incorporate men’s PoV.

    We’re pair-bonders and the majority of us who want to pair-bond with men are evolutionarily wired to find a relationship with one fulfilling. I know that saying this is considered some sort of misogynist slur on womankind, but I’m not sure why? Are women supposed to be fulfilled instead by the fruits of corporatism? High powered corporate careers? Expensive corporate products? Lavish corporate services? Corporate corporate corporates?

    So if feminism has no room for a man’s PoV it ultimately has no room for women either. It’s just going to end up making women more and more miserable by stigmatizing what they actually want and making it more difficult to achieve. And, hey, look! That’s exactly what it’s done. (Well, there’s a correlation, I suppose it’s not definitive causation.)

  362. I have blogged an analysis of the term “privilege”, citing the OP, at http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3567

  363. Titfortat says:

    We’re pair-bonders and the majority of us who want to pair-bond with men are evolutionarily wired to find a relationship with one fulfilling(Typhonblue)

    What about the evolutionary possibility of polyamory?

  364. BlackHumor says:

    @typhon: We certainly aren’t pair-bonders. I think this is where I plug Sex At Dawn, but I’m so tired of Dan plugging it I’m just going to say that it contains my evidence for “we certainly aren’t pair-bonders”.

    Oh, but earning is what gives you power, not spending*; if you own the money, you don’t have to give it to anyone. If you do, it’s just as much an exercise of your power as spending it yourself.

    Power that other people freely choose to give you isn’t real power because they can take that power away if they want. Power is only real if you could offend anyone you want and still have it. A lieutenant commands more troops in person than the Chief of Staff, but it’s silly to say they have more power, because the Chief of Staff is granting the lieutenant that power and can take it back if he wants.

    *: Except in a free-market sense which doesn’t have much practical benefit to an individual.

  365. typhonblue says:

    @ BlackHumor

    “We certainly aren’t pair-bonders. I think this is where I plug Sex At Dawn, but I’m so tired of Dan plugging it I’m just going to say that it contains my evidence for “we certainly aren’t pair-bonders”.”

    Does Sex At Dawn mention new research into the hormonal changes men undergo during pregnancy? If not, then it is hardly a definitive statement.

    Incidentally, the only species in which the male undergoes hormonal changes during pregnancy are pair-bonders. That’s a hell of a lot more convincing argument(one based on observable changes in the endocrine system) then whatever ‘Sex At Dawn’ likely puts forward.

    But, yeah, let’s continue to push the meaninglessness of fatherhood. Despite the fact that fatherhood is what some anthropologists believe made us human in the first place.

    Women can do everything men can do plus nurse plus gestate so let’s just get rid of the flawed half of the human race. We know better then nature, amirite? AMIRITE? Yeah. Only women are fully human. Men have nothing to offer that a woman doesn’t and a whole lot less!

  366. BlackHumor says:

    @typhon: One physical change < at least three other physical indications of promiscuity* plus relationships to known promiscuous species plus MANY observations of many unrelated hunter-gatherer groups with no expectation of exclusivity (and sometimes an expectation of NON-exclusivity) in romantic relationships plus the observation that all peoples whose cultures have only monogamous relationships find it difficult to not cheat.

    And who's saying fatherhood is meaningless? Plenty of hunter-gatherer tribes have all the men in the village take care of the children. Just because there is no single identifiable biological father does not mean that the child doesn't have at least one man taking care of it.

    *: Long penises, relatively large testicles, and several mutations indicating a high degree of sperm competition, among others I'm sure I'm forgetting.

  367. BlackHumor says:

    Though, maybe I should clarify:

    I do not mean that humans do not have romantic relationships, all I mean is that they’re not necessarily exclusive or permanent. If you mean humans pair bond in the broadest sense I agree with you.

  368. @BlackHumor:

    I consulted Christofer Ryan for the audiobook of Sex at Dawn and have discussed the content of the book a few times.

    I cannot speak for him – that is not my place. However, I suspect that statements like “Sex at Dawn says humans aren’t pair bonders,” keep him up at night.

    What SaD claims is that evolutionary biology shows that humans evolved with traits that indicate that “monogamy was not the norm.” The express purpose of the book was to stop people from claiming that “monogamy is in our nature.”

    You are making the same mistake many, many other people made when they read SaD – to the point that the authors are considering re-writing the concluding chapters to better get the point across.

    It’s nuanced – but important: Sex at Dawn made a strong case that evidence for human monogamy cannot be found in our biology.

    But as has been expressed on this blog before (where is Cheradenine and Noah when I need them?), biology is not the only deciding factor in our wants, needs and desires, nor is it the only deciding factor in how we go about getting those needs fufilled.

  369. /sigh (WTB edit button)
    That should read:
    “I consulted for Christopher Ryan for the audiobook of Sex at Dawn and have discussed the content of the book a few times with him.”

  370. Clarence says:

    Easily Enthused:

    Ryan makes an absolute mess of science in many parts of that book -probably his most egregious faults concern primates. Sex at Dawn is provocative by design, but it’s not the last word on the subject anymore than The Blank Slate by Pinker was.

    Have you critically examined any of the main claims of that book?

  371. @Clarence:

    I hope I didn’t come across as uncritical of Ryan. I have brought up the following issues with him personally:
    *Lack of inclusion of paraphilias
    *Hand-waiving towards social pressure on biological evolution
    *Devaluation of evo psych theorycrafting as a whole (rather than just parts)

    In return, he sent me a list of recommended reading that I have slowly been working through. (Last I spoke to him was in March where we discussed Jesse Bering – who I am reading now.)

    I don’t have to agree with the entirety of SaD – nor does the book have to be a paragon of scientific discipline to be useful to its audience. The book is not a scientific paper – it is a bold book that challenges a bunch of poorly supported assumptions about sex, biology and monogamy – and that is something that needs challenging – maybe not from a scientific perspective, but certainly from a social one?

    As a happily monogamous man – I don’t stand anything to gain here – except more acceptance for my fellow human beings.

  372. 2ndninin says:

    Going out on a limb here (an arm for argument’s sake) but if we are going to consider the gender-pay-gap shouldn’t we also consider the gender-welfare-gap?

    At least in the UK we have a gender-wage-gap of ~10.2% (full time only) (it’s a gradient, women 22-29 earn ~2.1% more than men, at 50-59 17% less indicating part of this is a generational problem so we won’t see full solutions for 30-40 years). The average figures are worse of course, but with 88% of men in full-time occupation and 58% of women this is to be expected so it’s silly to get outraged over the full-time to part-time gap. Men also tend to work ~10% more hours than women and do more overtime (which is not counted in these figures making the overall gap worse).

    What is interesting though is that 18% of the average woman’s wage in 2008 was composed of benefits while only 7% of men’s was. The benefits gap is nearly as wide as the pay gap!

    We have also recently had more complaints from groups that women will suffer more in the recession with the loss of public sector jobs (2:1 female dominated), and things like child allowance (~£2000 a year per child afaik) is counted as a loss to women rather than a loss to parents (since there are more single female parents than male).

    The question is then is any of this relevant? 80-90% of the wage gap appears to be due to occupational segregation, hours, and experience levels with like-for-like wages being very similar (within 3%). It is only when we compare across segments that we get this ‘unequal’ wage issue. Can we actually solve this?

    If you look at geekfeminism (www.geekfeminism.org) at the moment there is a thread or two up on women being a minority in STEM and having to be ‘one of the guys’ to get along in the environment effectively. It seems a lot of this is again ‘gynocentric’ lamenting the few women in STEM yet not really concerned about the few men in nursing. biology etc…

  373. Paul says:

    Does anybody know how the “wage gap” data was compiled? Everybody seems to know about the 25% gap, but everybody I’ve asked about how that number was reached hasn’t a clue. Apparently it was brought down from a mountain on a stone tablet as far as anybody knows

  374. I believe it’s average workforce-age-presumed-male income vs. average workforce-age-presumed-female income.

    It’s actually total pay, not wages, for one.

  375. 2ndninin says:

    Generally the figures are non-overtime full-time male median wage against non-overtime part-time female median wage. Some studies will skew this further of course.

    Generally it will ignore overtime (which would enhance the pay gap) and give categories broad enough to park the US in.

  376. Pingback: Things That are Not the Same | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

  377. Pingback: Kritik: „Männer sind privilegiert“ « Alles Evolution

  378. Pingback: Careful with that word Mable, it’s loaded. « I'll come up with something in a minute.

  379. Lucky Lurker says:

    Holly Pervocracy I just want to thank you for an amazing post that summed up a lot of what I feel, but far more eloquently. Whenever I have seen the term “privilege” used it has done nothing to further understanding, which surely should be the point of debate.

  380. Pyrogen says:

    How about this: as a woman, I am expected to cry. It is seen as pathetic, but it is expected.

    However, the converse is this… When I’m NOT crying or yelling no, that means that people assume that everything is alright and that i am ok with everything.

  381. Schala says:

    You think it is not assumed of men?

  382. Schala says:

    If men complain about issues affecting them, it’s whining for no reason.

    If men don’t complain about issues affecting them, it’s proof there is no issue affecting them.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Gotta love it.

  383. superglucose says:

    *Stands up and applauds.*

  384. Pingback: Armed and Dangerous » Blog Archive » What ‘privilege’ means to me

  385. Bruna says:

    Jesus, I wish I could post this entire text on tumblr! There’s been quite a few heated discussions going on there, and most often than not the term proviledged is used to end a discussion by basically telling the other person to shut up like you said, and I’ve been feeling really uncomfortable about it because it seems dismissive and discourages dialogue instead of promoting it. I’m wondering if I it’s okay to link this in my blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s