Moving Beyond Privilege

There’s this theory I’ve had for a while now, and it’s only crystallized over the past couple days as I’ve looked at a few different gender-related “privilege checklists”. So here goes:

There exists a set of memes about men and women, describing the platonic ideal of each gender. As you get closer to this ideal, your life is easier. As you get farther from it, life becomes more difficult. Many if not most of the items on the privilege checklist simply express these memes or their direct consequences. So for people who fit their gender’s expectations? They get an advantage, an easier life — like walking down a nice flat garden path instead of a steep and narrow mountain trail. But for those who’d rather break them, they have to fight social pressures and stigma and even the legal system.

And given that defying one gender’s expectation often means fitting into another’s, we see privilege checklists — a list of things that are conforming for one gender, but not for another.

This isn’t a new idea. It’s the subject behind this famous poster (pdf). But because of this, I think it doesn’t make sense to keep talking about “male privilege” or “female privilege” so much as male and female gender expectations and the ways they interact with the legal system and our lives to make things shittier for everyone.

ETA: I suppose I should clarify (before it comes up later) that I’m only talking here about gender-based privilege. Racial, class-based, able-bodied, etc privilege is outside the scope of this post.

About aliarasthedaydreamer

Aliaras is a giant nerd. Kinky, queer, and poly, she loves thinking about things and poking at them to see how they work. She’s currently in college learning the secrets of the universe (physics). While not arguing over the internet, she blows pixels up, draws, writes, cooks, and wanders around making the world a weirder place.
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45 Responses to Moving Beyond Privilege

  1. Danny says:

    I can dig that.

    There are some pretty f’d up expectations on both sides.

    But because of this, I think it doesn’t make sense to keep talking about “male privilege” or “female privilege”…
    I think the main reason people continue to argue over this is because they are arguing over whether or not a particular gender privilege exists. I do think that talking about expectations would do more good if for no other reason than people would then be defining their own pains instead of trying to define the other’s pleasures. More like, “I’m expected to…” instead of “You aren’t expected…”. No one likes to hear someone try to dictate their life to them, especially when the person dictating hasn’t walked in those shoes.

  2. Darque says:

    Even worse is when someone tells somebody else that they have a privilege which they do not possess.

    I’d agree that I’d rather see people focus on the ways in which they’ve been hurt, not the ways in which others are “privileged”.

  3. Eagle33 says:

    I concur, Darque.

    It’s doubly insulting for someone to imply I have priveledges after what I had endured as a child and teenager.

  4. Hugh says:

    There’s a nice previous post here by Holly Pervocracy about chucking the term “privilege”. I think that ties in nicely to this, because I too am one of those foolish men who’s blundered into an argument with a feminist-on-the-internet because at the time I didn’t get what “privilege” actually meant in context.

    I think that “privilege” is a terrible word to describe the phenomenon it actually describes in the context of academic feminism, because it retains just enough of the “us vs. them” mindset that spawned it to ensure that people who use it outside of circles who could be expected to understand it will have to forever explain themselves or get into dumb arguments with sympathetic guys like me.

  5. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    @Eagle33: Well, first off, I’m only making this claim about gender-based privilege.

    Secondly, it’s still true that, because of your gender, you will have an easier time in certain environments or doing certain things. These environments are ones which are coded “male” and those things are “male” things. Because of my gender, I will have an easier time in other environments or doing different things — “female” environments and “female” things. Given that I want to do a lot of “male” things, this is still deeply frustrating to me, and you still have an advantage there — one that’s granted to you by others without your consent and regardless of your past history.

    That said, if you present yourself in ways which are coded as feminine, you might face even more disadvantage than I, who presents as fairly androgynous to feminine.

  6. Eagle33 says:

    Alias: “Secondly, it’s still true that, because of your gender, you will have an easier time in certain environments or doing certain things. These environments are ones which are coded “male” and those things are “male” things. Because of my gender, I will have an easier time in other environments or doing different things — “female” environments and “female” things. Given that I want to do a lot of “male” things, this is still deeply frustrating to me, and you still have an advantage there — one that’s granted to you by others without your consent and regardless of your past history”

    Funny, I don’t remember people granting any advantages to me when I was treated like dirt by both genders and have found scant resources in addressing any traumas that were the result of negative treatment by the girls and women.

    As far as having advantage over you in areas where you want to do “Male” things. Sorry, but you’re talking a survivor here. Not a typical male. Take your grief up with them, not me..

  7. Brian says:

    No advantages whatsoever? That’s hard to believe; it’s more likely you’re focusing so hard that the problems being male has caused you that the advantages seem small in comparison.

    Remember, privilege by the conventional definition doesn’t have to be a privilege overall*; if you have any of the separate advantages that being male gives you you still have male privilege.

    *:This is, incidentally, one of the annoying things about the word “privilege”: it causes these kinds of misconceptions where an otherwise well intentioned person claims “but I don’t have privilege” due to misunderstanding the term. By the definition of the term, nearly everyone has privilege. Even ignoring non-gender privileges, because there are both female and male privileges you would have to be at least entirely gender atypical to not have any privilege at all. But if everyone has it it’s misleading to call it privilege, isn’t it?

    And as long as I’m on that subject, does any of the mods mind starting a thread about breaking up privilege into its component parts? We as a movement have had to do that for a looooong time, and we might as well start now.

  8. typhonblue says:

    @ Brian

    You sound really callous right here.

    Anyway. Alias I think you need to extend the analogy a bit to accomodate this one dynamic.

    Men’s position in the sphere of the ‘ideal’ is far more tenuous then women’s. And once they’re out of it their privilege not only ceases but becomes active persecution. And since they aren’t allowed to be seen as a victim, this persecution can be severe.

    Also, women being more fixed in the ‘ideal’ means, in turn, that their freedom of thought and movement is also far more fixed.

  9. Brian says:

    @Typhon: I was afraid of that, but honestly there’s only so far you can get explaining things while still sounding fully empathetic.

    As long as I’m here, I would like to make clear I’m not saying to Eagle that he has it nice or anything, only that by the technical definition of the word privilege he has it.

  10. Danny says:

    Brian:No advantages whatsoever? That’s hard to believe; it’s more likely you’re focusing so hard that the problems being male has caused you that the advantages seem small in comparison.
    I think this almost plays into the point that Eagle makes. Its almost as if by him being male its supposed to be just a given that he has some sort of male privilege and to think otherwise means he’s either not paying attention or he’s too focused on his hardships (and having seen people like Eagle in other forums I’ve noticed that people are more than willing to steamroll over their hardships and pretend all that’s there is privilege). When used like this the concept of privilege almost sounds like a shotgun, fire enough pellets and something has to hit target. And I also submit that while some people are trying to find common ground there are others (more than a few) that do this with the intention of shutting down people.

    (Conversely how can it be that Eagle can’t possibly have no male privilege while he’s supposed to believe that no female anywhere has any female privilege? Bring I’m not sure about your stance on female privilege this is a general question to people who would make those assertions.)

    *:This is, incidentally, one of the annoying things about the word “privilege”: it causes these kinds of misconceptions where an otherwise well intentioned person claims “but I don’t have privilege” due to misunderstanding the term….
    …or misusing the term.

  11. Eagle33 says:

    Brian: “No advantages whatsoever? That’s hard to believe; it’s more likely you’re focusing so hard that the problems being male has caused you that the advantages seem small in comparison.”

    No I don’t have any advantages if you’re going to term male priveledge that way. Nor have I ever been born with any advantage as an individual.

    And don’t try to rope in me with those who do have advantages because I’m not like them.

    How do you call someone who has been shat on in the past, by both genders, advantaged in any way? I wouldn’t call myself the typical priveledged “Male”.

    Sounds to me like you’re invalidating my experiences again. How very thoughtful of you.

    Like I said, take up your grievences with the men at the top.

  12. Brian says:

    “Conversely how can it be that Eagle can’t possibly have no male privilege while he’s supposed to believe that no female anywhere has any female privilege? ”

    He’s not. Women do have female privilege. I’m not sure there’s anyone on here that agrees with that FF101 page.

    “How do you call someone who has been shat on in the past, by both genders, advantaged in any way? I wouldn’t call myself the typical priveledged “Male”. ”

    And again, not necessarily advantaged overall; having privilege has nothing to do with how nice or not-nice your life is overall. Which is like I said one of the problems with the word.

    But since we’re still both using it anyway, an analogy with one of the non-gender privileges:

    By simply having access to a computer you have some kind of first-world privilege, because there are many people in the world that don’t have access to computers. But obviously not all people who have access to computers have good lives, or even necessarily better lives than people who don’t, and I’m certainly not saying anything about your other experiences by saying that you have this one advantage.

  13. Eagle33 says:

    Brain: “By simply having access to a computer you have some kind of first-world privilege, because there are many people in the world that don’t have access to computers. But obviously not all people who have access to computers have good lives, or even necessarily better lives than people who don’t, and I’m certainly not saying anything about your other experiences by saying that you have this one advantage.”

    One problem there.

    This computer was bought and paid for by hard earned dollars. It’s not like it fell into my lap out of the sky one day nor did I win it in some contest.

    Other than that, I’m starting to see what you mean by advantage. But I still find it triggering.

  14. Eagle33 says:

    Oh, Brain, thanks for acknowledging there’s female advantage as well. We may disagree on things, but here is where we see eye to eye (or text-to-text).

  15. Brian says:

    Oh, I’m really sorry if anything I said was triggering. Seriously.

    But if I can go ahead (and since apparently my last posts were triggering, warning ahead), “paid for by hard earned dollars” isn’t really relevant to the concept either. Like I said, it doesn’t square well with any intuitive idea you might have about what it would mean.

  16. magdelyn says:

    “… My position is that being yourself is not a privilege, since I cannot control how other people treat me because of some immutable characteristic, just like it’s not my fault if someone discriminates against me for the same immutable characteristic…”

  17. TomeWyrm says:

    The problem, again, is with the word. What ‘privilege’ means to most people, isn’t what it means here.

    Because you are male you have a better chance at getting certain jobs, merely because you’re male. You can walk around most towns without a shirt on… because you’re male. You are given opportunities, better chances, and other such things… because you’re not female.

    Conversely, you are at higher statistical risk of being murdered, or physically assaulted. You can get testicular cancer, your life expectancy is 7 years lower, on average. Because you’re male.

    Back on the topic of gender privilege. You’re less likely to be assumed that you obtained your employment via sexual favor, you’re more able to compete in sports without being considered a freak, you are more likely to be promoted, and your superiors are more likely men the higher you go.
    You’re also more likely to be seen as some kind of wimp/freak if you show your emotions, it will often be assumed that anything vaguely complimentary you say to someone of the opposite gender was sexual in nature, the lists go on and on.

    Eagle, your life may not seem like it’s been exposed to those privileges, but by virtue of being the gender you are, other people have likely granted them to you. With more than 6 billion people on this planet, you’re going to have massive numbers of outliers; people that don’t fit the mold. But just because that was not your personal experience does not also mean there is no problem.

    No it’s not your fault. It’s society’s fault that they think that, but it should be your responsibility to help change those screwy biases, equalize gender perceptions. Remove one of the barriers placed on every human being simply because they were born and raised (or chose to switch) into one gender camp, the other, or none at all.

  18. Fingenieur says:

    @Brian:

    “This is, incidentally, one of the annoying things about the word “privilege”: it causes these kinds of misconceptions where an otherwise well intentioned person claims “but I don’t have privilege” due to misunderstanding the term.”

    No. With this word, it is pretty specifically the feministish interpretations that are misusing and arguably with malicious intent.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privilege

    I’m no English speaker, but I think “norm” would suit with the modern context way better. For multitude of reasons, hijacking language in this way is very alarming. Spindoctoring around privilege and patriarchy does not hide thire batshit-C very well.

    Really. It just makes feminism look bad. Normal people just see a bunch of people who have issues admitting being wrong about their core issues. When not viewing the world through f-glasses, playing the “Oh, it does not mean that anymore!” -game looks about ridiculous as the cults rescheduling apocalypse time after time.

    Privilege is privilege. You don’t like it? Go find your own words!

  19. Danny says:

    Thank you Fingenieur. For some reason feminists think that if they take an established word and put their spin on it (or complete redefining) that its other people who are having the misunderstanding about the way its being used. They can have all the theories and lingo they want. But I think its pretty presumptuous for them to get mad because someone doesn’t abide by their redefining of a word.

    I think this kinda proves the point of this post. The word is tainted by people arguing over its definition and folks on all sides saying that their definition is “the right one” and everyone else needs to get their mind right on the subject.

    Brian:
    He’s not. Women do have female privilege. I’m not sure there’s anyone on here that agrees with that FF101 page.
    The problem here is that there are a lot of people who do believe in the FF101 page on that, enough to the point where you have to be mindful of when its safe to bring up or not. Despite the number of folks that agree there is female privilege there its still contested by those who have apparently already decided (with their selective definition of gender privilege no less) that there is no such things as female privilege. Its great that the folks here recognize that that FF101 page on female privilege is a crock, but knowing its a crock simply won’t fly in most feminist spaces (and even bringing it up could get you some condescension, some insults/personal attacks, and a link to FF101).

  20. Actually, one could argue that there’s an element of intersection with cis privilege, in that those who don’t conform to archetypes are seen as less legitimate. Those who conform to their assigned identities, those who are the most cis, so to speak, are privileged over those who do so less.

  21. Erl says:

    Thank you Fingenieur. For some reason feminists think that if they take an established word and put their spin on it (or complete redefining) that its other people who are having the misunderstanding about the way its being used. They can have all the theories and lingo they want. But I think its pretty presumptuous for them to get mad because someone doesn’t abide by their redefining of a word.

    I don’t think that many feminists go out into the world, find someone using “privilege” colloquially, and then scold that person for not using it in its technical, feminist theory sense! Instead, most of my experience of these scuffles are when someone, quite possibly well-intentioned but without the feminist background or vocabulary, enters a feminist space and either contradicts the claim that male privilege exists, or takes umbrage at the assertion. That’s a perfectly valid time to say “no, listen, we’re using the term in a sense not equivalent to that which you expect.” It’s true that feminists aren’t always polite when doing so, but from their perspective there’s an unlimited stream of people asking the same sort of questions. Hence the existence of FF101 (which, I admit, is problematic) and the tendency to shout “Go read the 101s” instead of explaining the technical feminist concept of privilege themselves.

    Now, of course, on the internet a “feminist space” or any “[fieldofstudy] space” by definition has a pretty wide open door and a high rate of entry, making it difficult to manage this clash. And, further, mechanisms that restrict entry are seen as proof that feminist blogs are echo chambers, that they can’t tolerate dissent, and that feminism is thus a sort of tyrannical ideology.

    (Not that you, Danny or Fingenieur, are making the latter sort of accusation. But when a feminist site decides on its comment policy, it has to consider the accusations of all of its possible critics.)

    The word is tainted by people arguing over its definition and folks on all sides saying that their definition is “the right one” and everyone else needs to get their mind right on the subject.

    You mean, like any technical word? I’m not sure what about “privilege” makes it so problematic, as opposed to other technical terms. I grant that its associations lead to a lot of responses like Eagle33’s. But I’m unwilling to abandon the concept. It speaks to a central observation of my feminism–that gender relations, as currently constituted, are unfair. So if anyone has any suggestions on vocabulary that can succinctly express that concept, while sidestepping the issue of Eagle33’s response, I’m all ears. But unfortunately jargon is largely drawn from extant languages, and thus touched with its associations.

    This computer was bought and paid for by hard earned dollars. It’s not like it fell into my lap out of the sky one day nor did I win it in some contest.

    Eagle33, I hope you don’t find this argument triggering either. And please discontinue if you do!

    But I think you’re missing the point. You live, due to events largely outside of your control, in a set of circumstances where working hard earns you dollars, instead of simply sparing you further beatings. You live in a place and time where you can aspire to a job that pays for more than your subsistence. You live in a place and time where computers are available for sale, because they exist. Hell, you live in a place and time where you can poop in a toilet rather than a hole in the ground! (as someone with some GI issues, this last means a lot to me.)

    Each of those conditions is actually fairly rare across the spectrum of humanity. Furthermore, each of those things was not something you worked hard for. You didn’t work hard to be born now rather than earlier, or “here” rather than “there,” or in (I assume) an English-speaking household rather than one whose language would impede your integration into Western society.

    As a comparative matter, you may be rather poorly off relative to those in your place and time; such advantages as you have in a local sense may have been bought with the sweat of your brow. But by dint of your location itself, you have all sorts of opportunities and advantages that you simply didn’t earn–because you couldn’t’ve. There’s no way that a Roman senator, no matter how unfairly rich, could have earned the right to use a laptop.

    Now, I think there’s an unexamined difference between privileges that should be universalized (e.g., the “privilege” of good childhood nutrition) and ones that should be done away with (e.g., the “privilege” of, say, the right to purchase slaves). But that’s rather farther than I was meaning to go.

  22. Eagle33 says:

    Fingineiur: “Eagle, your life may not seem like it’s been exposed to those privileges, but by virtue of being the gender you are, other people have likely granted them to you.”

    O…okay.

    Guys, I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m now starting to have those depressive thoughts again.

    People don’t get what happened to me. I didn’t ask for it, okay? I didn’t ask to be born male! I didn’t ask to be teased and treated like shit!

    Just forget it. I’m done with this topic.

  23. Eagle33 says:

    Okay, Erl, thanks for proving my point that people don’t get it with me.

    Like I said, I didn’t ask for any of this and for all of you to gang on me like that just goes to show there’s no place for my feelings, especially my trauma that I work hard to get through when in it.

    Just proceed without me, please.

    Maybe I’m not just cut out for this shit. Or maybe I’m just a sexist moron who deserves what happened to me since well “Women were oppressed” throughout history or whatever. Either way, this topic is too triggering.

  24. Cheradenine says:

    Actually, one could argue that there’s an element of intersection with cis privilege, in that those who don’t conform to archetypes are seen as less legitimate. Those who conform to their assigned identities, those who are the most cis, so to speak, are privileged over those who do so less.

    This.

    (I wrote something similar to Valerie and Aliaras in the earlier thread about the problem with ‘privilege’.)

    I think this might be why I’m so fascinated by archetypes and their evolution and how they work and can be played with. This is also why stories are important. Stories are often powerful because they take observations and turn them into archetypes that resonate with us.

    And also why it’s important to keep banging the drum for “not all (men/women) are (thing) even if ‘the majority’ are”. Especially if “the majority” is a tiny percentage shift between two massively overlapping bell curves (that link shows how a typical “sex difference” (finger length ratio), though a clearly observable “statistical fact”, still leaves 47% of women with the “male” trait and 40% of men with the “female” trait).

  25. kaija24 says:

    @Eagle33: I’m very sorry for what you went through and no one is trying to discount that. However, your personal experiences do not negate the fact that external factors exist in the culture that affect you and everyone else who is alive today in this time and place. The fact that terrible things happened to you AND that some things fall in your favor can both be true and unrelated at the same time, and the discussion and points that other people are raising are not directed at or all about you.

    If you are having depressive thoughts and this topic is triggering for you, then I can see where it might not be good for you to engage in the conversation. No one here is ganging up on you, but we’re certainly not qualified to give trauma counselling or provide therapy so I hope that you can find a place for that and resource people who you can talk with. :/

  26. Eagle33 says:

    And here I thought I could accept all points of view. Some eglitarian I am.

    I blew it, wussed out.

    I hate these triggers! I hate me for having them!

    I’m a worthless eglitarian.

    Sorry…I…

    I don’t feel good.

  27. Cheradenine says:

    @Eagle33: Not a lot of people look at our Resources page, but it contains a number of links to support, counselling and information resources for male survivors, and for those suffering from depression, for whatever reason. You’re not worthless because you have triggers or depressive thoughts. We’re just not trained to deal with it here, and would likely cause more harm than good. Please seek the advice of a professional who can help you.

  28. Thomas says:

    I very much agree with this post. In one of those endless privilege discussions someone came up with the term “gender compliance privilege”. That makes a lot of sense to me.

    For example let’s say I want to be a stay-at-home dad who only works part time. This is was mothers typically do here in Germany. Choosing this role is much harder for me as a man. My employer will make it difficult to work part time, people will look down on me for my lack of ambition, I will have to find a wife who’s willing to be the breadwinner. So based on my individual choice to fulfill the traditional female role my male privilege is actually a disadvantage. I think this holds true for a lot of points on the privilege checklists.

  29. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    @Thomas: Exactly! That’s my point here — from your example perspective, you’re disprivileged in relation to women, and no amount of “but you can more easily get a high paying job!” makes up for the fact that you don’t want one.

  30. typhonblue says:

    @ Everyone

    Having heard Eagle’s situation, I don’t think he had any advantage at all. If he was closer to ‘platonic manhood’ he might have but since he was male and far from it, his ‘privilege’ became disprivilege because he was punished for supposedly falling short.

    That’s the thing. If we allow that privileges only exist when someone is within the sphere of ‘platonic gender’ we should be able to acknowledge that they evaporate when someone is outside the sphere of ‘platonic gender’.

    Therefore Eagle was not privileged in any functional sense.

    In fact he was actively punished for failing to live up to whatever ideal of manhood his tormentors forced on him.

    And he is subsequently punished by our society’s failure to respect men’s vulnerabilities. Because, once again, vulnerabilities aren’t allowed in ‘platonic manhood’ therefore a man who has any is punished by society.

  31. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    @Cheradine, Valerie: Agreed on the cis privilege thing. It also interacts with straight privilege, in that gay stereotypes usually look like acting like the opposite gender, so someone who is a straight but gender-nonconforming person might find themselves on the butt end of homophobia.

  32. typhonblue says:

    @ easilyenthused

    “but you can more easily get a high paying job!”

    Relative to who, though? Single women between 20-35 earn as much or more then men.

    In fact there is a pay-gap in favor of women when it comes to part time work so it’s literally true that a man who wants to take a part time job that allows him a better life-work balance is at a disadvantage to women due to the part-time pay gap.

  33. typhonblue says:

    Ooops… that @ should be @aliaresthedaydreamer.

  34. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    @typhoblue:

    That was me, not EE, and it was an example based on the predominance of men in the highest-paying jobs — but the point wasn’t that statement (it was a throwaway), it was that the man in Thomas’s example wouldn’t find any statements about his “privilege” in that area comforting, because that’s not what he wanted to do. I was agreeing with both of you there.

  35. Cheradenine says:

    @Aliaras: interestingly, CJ Pascoe argues it’s the other way around — that homophobia is often rooted in gender policing.

  36. typhonblue says:

    @ aliarasthedaydreamer

    “That was me, not EE, and it was an example based on the predominance of men in the highest-paying jobs”

    Predominance does not necessarily mean that men find it easier to get into the highest paying jobs. It could mean that they are more motivated to do so.

    After all it’s part of ‘platonic manhood’ that men have a high paying job in order to provide for a spouse and kids.

    The same pressure that a stay-at-home dad feels is the same pressure applied on a working man to achieve more. It’s just that the working-man has folded under it to a greater degree.

    I’ve seen studies that say if men didn’t feel like they had to have high earning jobs to have families then they wouldn’t; and that they would prefer to work less if it wouldn’t negatively impact their family’s finances.

  37. Erl says:

    Okay, Erl, thanks for proving my point that people don’t get it with me.

    Like I said, I didn’t ask for any of this and for all of you to gang on me like that just goes to show there’s no place for my feelings, especially my trauma that I work hard to get through when in it

    . . .

    And here I thought I could accept all points of view. Some eglitarian I am.

    I blew it, wussed out.

    I hate these triggers! I hate me for having them!

    I’m a worthless eglitarian.

    Sorry…I…

    I don’t feel good.

    I’m incredibly sorry that this topic is so distressing for you. I second Cheradenine’s suggestion that you look into resources on this subject, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you for taking care of your own mental and emotional well-being by stepping away from harmful and triggering conversations.

  38. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    @cheradine: I could mostly agree with that, although you can get some truly vicious homophobic backlash for coming out as a pretty gender-normative person, on the basis that you were “deceiving” everyone.

  39. TomeWyrm says:

    Eagle is a good example of a point in aliarasthedaydreamer’s original post. Eagle didn’t fit the meme, so the privilege (in the technical genderist sense) became a disadvantage. A really harmful disadvantage judging by Eagle’s reactions. That’s the thing about having an advantage, if you don’t have the advantage, you are (by definition) at a disadvantage compared to someone that DOES. Which is why an egalitarian should endeavor to abolish BOTH female privilege and male privilege, if you’re not a typical male all those advantages are disadvantages. You could be gender ambiguous, you could be female, you could be a feminine male, you could be transsexual/intersexual/whatever (There’s entirely too many terms for me to remember… sorry), it doesn’t matter. If you’re not in the ‘group’ you got shafted somehow.

    [Aside: Sorry if I came across as attacking you, Eagle. I meant well, even if I was an idiot about how I went about telling you. I think that you are cut out for commenting on this blog because you’re willing to talk. Intelligently. I do hope you come back eventually!]

  40. rezam says:

    Has anyone here studied the differences between strong and weak cultures, where the strong/weak refers to the degree of attachment to founding myths, core values and so on are analyzed. Not my area, but I wonder if adherence to stereotypical gender roles is a similar component.
    The different challenges confronting a given culture, and their standing on weak .vs. strong determines their ability to summon joint action across the culture?
    When a culture is under threat and the adherence is weak, they are less likely to decide and implement a response to the challenge, and the culture fails. Where the culture is not under threat, there is less need for such adherence, and contrary pressures build and begin ascending.
    My countries culture is weak (not a value judgment – a description), to the point that there is debate about what myths and values are held strongly. The US is viewed as much stronger.

    Within a culture, I wonder if those who perceive the challenges as small, are much less prone to adhere strongly to founding myths and to core values. Those who do feel the challenges do adhere.

  41. Adiabat says:

    Erl (July 22, 11.39): “You mean, like any technical word? I’m not sure what about “privilege” makes it so problematic, as opposed to other technical terms. I grant that its associations lead to a lot of responses like Eagle33′s. But I’m unwilling to abandon the concept. It speaks to a central observation of my feminism–that gender relations, as currently constituted, are unfair. So if anyone has any suggestions on vocabulary that can succinctly express that concept, while sidestepping the issue of Eagle33′s response, I’m all ears. But unfortunately jargon is largely drawn from extant languages, and thus touched with its associations.”

    How about nearly any word other than privilege to describe the concept? You don’t have to abandon the concept, just the bad choice of word that is causing all these problems.

    Erl, ask yourself this: Why choose ‘privilege’ to be the term that has its meaning changed for your technical word, instead of a word without all the associations?

    It’s because the people who coined it wanted the connotations that come with the word. These ‘misconceptions’ that you complain about are a *feature* of privilege theory, not an unintended consequence. The people who coined it wanted to create the negative associations about people it was intended to be used against: men.

  42. Rachel says:

    @Adiabat, you might want to back off that, because you’re kind of erasing anti-racist activists or assigning them malicious intent where absolutely none is due. Gender privilege is not the only kind that exists and I’m not even sure that gender was the first systemic inequality to be described by the term.

    Also, I presume that you likewise deplore pro- or anti-abortion persons using the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice?” Or bigots hiding behind the term “conservative” or left-statists co-opting “liberal?” It happens literally all the time, because language changes to fit the needs of the people who use it and not the other way around, and linguistic prescriptivism is actually in itself a privilege and something you should stay away from. Telling people that they don’t have the right to choose what language they use to frame their discussions about social justice is actually pretty close to telling them that they don’t have the right to start the conversation at all.

  43. Adiabat says:

    @Rachel: Accusing someone of “Erasing” is a silencing tactic, and your comment is bordering on concern trolling. I even read it as a threat at first. Do you actually have a response to what I said or do you just not like what I said? Why have you decided to just attempt to shut down discussion rather than _have_ a discussion?

    You could have simply replied that you think that white privilege came first and since the connotations of the word privilege make more sense in that case they were inadvertently carried over into male privilege as the term had already been established. Therefore gender theorists co-opted the word “privilege” because it had already gained traction when discussing oppression. That would have been more reasonable; wrong but reasonable*.

    As for accusing anyone of malicious intent: Why are you so sure that there was no malicious intent? I imagine it’s quite normal and human for people who feel victimised and oppressed to be angry, to want to paint their oppressors in the worst way possible. The question remains that out of all the word choices why choose ‘privilege’. Why choose a word with such connotations to simply describe “that gender relations, as currently constituted, are unfair”, as Erl puts it, and which most people on this thread, including feminists, agree is troublesome? I believe that it wasn’t an accident or a random choice. I think it was an (conscious or unconscious?) attempt to attach to men all the negative associations with the word. Even McIntosh herself equates privilege to advantage in her essays, yet she chooses to use privilege as the ‘technical term’. You’re welcome to discuss this. You can share your view. But it seems that all you want to do is shut down any ideas and any discussion that you don’t like through your attempt to change the discussion to that of the most taboo: race.

    * As far as I’m aware the use of the term ‘privilege’ was coined by Peggy McIntosh. In the 1988 essay “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” she used the concept of privilege re gender discussion and introduced the concept of white privilege for the first time. Therefore its original intention was to be used primarily against men. The term was then co-opted by anti-racist activists, who can rightfully use the ‘traction’ excuse. Therefore the accusation of malicious intent only applies to its use re gender.

  44. Adiabat says:

    @Rachel: I was going to ignore your second paragraph but I’m going to try and assume good faith and reply to you.

    Firstly, your initial questions have literally nothing to do with anything I said.

    Secondly, there is absolutely nothing in my post that said that people can’t use a word in the way they want to. You’re use of privilege in your reply is yet another attempt to shut down discussion. The tendency for some feminists to jump to accusations of privilege straight away to silence people has already been discussed at length in another post on this site. Perhaps someone here can give you a link.

    Thirdly, I know how language works. I agree with David English’s views on the anti-prescriptivism of language, and that definitions should follow usage, not the other way round. But were not talking about the natural development of language.

    We’re talking about technical usage of words: using a common usage word in a specific technical sense. I have no problem with using a word in a technical sense, even if the new use has little resemblance to the original use (“especially if” actually). I wouldn’t say that someone can’t use a word in a technical sense but I would say that some uses are problematic and that it is okay to criticise those uses.

    One problem is when you wish to use a word in a specific way, but still wish to keep the connotations of the original word, without any logical basis for doing so. For example, materialistic pantheists believe that the Universe is ‘God’. They don’t believe in all the magic stuff. The question is why use the word God at all, why not use Universe to describe exactly what you mean? The answer is that they want to incorrectly keep the connotations that the word ‘God’ brings. There is no logical reason to keep those connotations, therefore their technical use of ‘God’ is logically incorrect. Not because they can’t use the word, but because the choice of word is obscuring our ability to conceptualise what they are referring to accurately.

    Another problem is when you use a word in a specific technical way, but fail to take into account the connotations completely. A reverse of this problem is what happened to the Spastic Society, where the word took on connotations later and they had to rename to Scope. Connotations matter.

    Finally a minor point, as it comes up often: You said “Telling people that they don’t have the right to choose what language they use to frame *their* discussions about social justice is actually pretty close to telling them that they don’t have the right to start the conversation at all.”

    They may be *your* discussions, but you’re using the results of those discussions to make decisions and judgements about other people, pressuring lawmakers to pass laws based on those judgements, while simultaneously preventing these people from joining the discussion, or from having the discussion on any terms except your own. If you insist on having echo-chamber discussions about how bad other groups of people are I have a problem with that, and not only because any results from said discussions are worthless. It’s not only the conservative label that bigots hide behind. So I’m joining the discussion, and my first contribution is that your choice of technical terms attaches unjustified negative connotations to groups of people, and you don’t seem to care enough to simply use different terms.

  45. Pingback: Holding on to the good: in praise of masculinity, femininity, and everything “normal” | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

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