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.