men, masculinities and gender politics

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Unpacking the Male Privilege Jockstrap

The writing that is mine in this blogpost is copyrighted under my name, Julian Real, 2008. All Rights Reserved. No duplication or transmission of this material is permitted without crediting it to its author, and reproducing it as it is written here, in whole or in part.

I explicitly copyright this work this because I know how online misogynists and "anti-misandrists" (please! spare us your insanity!) operate: they take snippets of writing out of context, or make shit up, and claim some feminist or profeminist actually said it. Well, 99.99% of the time it's a Womanist or feminist who is being misquoted or maligned by men and the male supremacist media, let's face it.

I shall begin by stating that I've been interested in seeing a list of male privileges, all spelled out nice and neat, for some time. I just found out one such list exists (thanks Ann!). Why it took me so long to find it is a question that has no good answer.

Male privilege is a complex, vast, endemic matter, a bit like air--hard to notice unless it hits you in the face. If you're a woman living in a home with a man, that happens literally with atrocious regularity. I say this with knowledge that in the U.S. it is now "Domestic Violence Awareness" month. (I think it should be called "Let's Do Something About the Terrible Fact that Men Beat the Shit Out of Women at Home" month, but that's a topic for another post.

Truth is, there may not be enough numbers to numerically list each and every way male privilege manifests in various societies. I will limit my own modified version to apply to what I know of male privilege from Western white-dominant societies, but not white-only societies. I want to thank Barry Deutsch for creating and further compiling the list which identifies 43 forms of male privilege. I will also offer up a critique of that list, as I find some of it to be racist, heterosexist, and classist, among other things. But thanks, Barry, for getting the ball rolling. (Pun probably intended.) And I hope you have stopped allowing misogynists and racists to degrade and harass women of color and white women on your blog.

I most surely welcome visitors here to send me, via email or comments to this blog, other forms of male privilege that haven't made the list so far.

As Barry does in his piece, I want to publicly thank Peggy McIntosh for her original work, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and the unnamed and unknown women who have brought to my attention, via Womanist and Feminist books and other media, and via friends, many other forms of male privilege and entitlement, including, of course, my own, which I diligently try not to forget are in place in every social and interpersonal moment of my life.

So let's begin with Barry's list and go from there, shall we?

The Male Privilege Checklist
An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy McIntosh
[NOTE : All words in brackets are written by Julian Real, added to Barry Deutsch and company's material on Oct. 2, 2008]

(Source: Expository Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 2. Copyright © 2001 - 2002 Barry Deutsch. Permission is granted to reproduce this list in any way, for any purpose, so long as the acknowledgment of Peggy McIntosh's work for inspiring this list is not removed25 .)

In 1990, Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack". McIntosh observes that whites in the U.S. are "taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group." To illustrate these invisible systems, McIntosh wrote a list of 26 invisible privileges whites benefit from.

As McIntosh points out, men also tend to be unaware of their own privileges as men. In the spirit of McIntosh's essay, I thought I'd compile a list similar to McIntosh's, focusing on the invisible privileges benefiting men.

Since I first compiled it, the list has been posted several times on Internet discussion groups. Very helpfully, many people have suggested additions to the checklist. More commonly, of course, critics (usually, but not always, male) have pointed out men have disadvantages too - being drafted into the army, being expected to suppress emotions, and so on. These are indeed bad things - but I never claimed that life for men is all ice cream sundaes. Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that sometimes bad things happen to men.

In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society. And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor; who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy's stick. As Marilyn Frye has argued, while men are harmed by patriarchy, women are oppressed by it.

Several critics have also argued that the list somehow victimizes women. I disagree; pointing out problems is not the same as perpetuating them. It is not a "victimizing" position to fight against injustice; we can't fight injustice if we refuse to acknowledge it exists.

An internet acquaintance of mine once wrote, "The first big privilege which whites, males, people in upper economic classes, the able bodied, the straight (I think one or two of those will cover most of us) can work to alleviate is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege." This checklist is, I hope, a step towards helping men to give up the "first big privilege."

The Male Privilege Checklist
[Barry Deutsch: let me know if you'd prefer I offer my criticisms of your list in another way other than bracketing them below. -- Julian Real.]

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favour. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed. [However, men who appear to come from poverty or the working class are much more likely to be turned away from a prestigious job than a middle class or wealthier-appearing man.]

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won't think I got my job because of my sex - even though that might be true. [This is far more true for white men than for many men of color.]

3. If I am never promoted, it's not because of my sex. [But may well be due to my race or ethnicity, if I'm not white.]

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won't be seen as a black mark against my entire sex's capabilities. ["Black mark" is part of racist speech. Black Monday, black mark, black sheep of the family: all generate negative associations with blackness and Blackness. See Dreaming The Dark, by Starhawk, for more on this.]

5. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible. [This is much more likely to be the case for men perceived to be heterosexual.]

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I'm a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible. [This is really only true of non-incarcated heterosexual men, not non-incarcerated gay men. Date and spousal rape among gay men is not negligable. And anti-gay rape, as a form of queer-bashing by heterosexual men, happens more than negligably. The salient point about rape is that when it happens to women by men it is part of a larger system of gender-based (male supremacist) terrorism and subordination, particularly when it occurs within one ethnic group. It is part of gynocide. And it is also a vicious part of a larger white Western male supremacist practice of gynocidal/genocidal atrocity against women of color globally, including within the U.S. Put simply, heterosexual men are not likely to experience rape and when they do it's anecdotal, not systematised and institutioalised as natural and normal.]

8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces. [White supremacist men do teach their children to fear people of color, day and night. And men of color are at risk of violence when in all-white areas at night; often the perpetrators are police officers, whose job it is to maintain the white male supremacist status quo.]

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question. [This is primarily true of heterosexual men: childless men who are misperceived as gay are having their masculinity called into question on many fronts, including when we do not have children.]

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I'll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I'm even marginally competent.

12. If I have children and pursue a career, no one will think I'm selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. Chances are my elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more likely this is to be true. [Truer of Christian, white, heterosexually-identified men than any other men, in the West.]

15. I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to see "the person in charge," I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be. [It is also true that the higher up in business organizations one goes, the more likely any man is to encounter a white man as boss.]

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children's media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male heroes were the default. [This exclusively applies to white heterosexual men.]

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones. [This is to say, what I experience socially is never part of a system of subordination against me--and my sex-class--by another gendered group.]

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception. [This holds true primarily if I'm a white, middle class, heterosexual man. Poor men (and women) have little to no media representation.]

21. If I'm careless with my financial affairs it won't be attributed to my sex. [I think this applies primarily to wealthier men, disproportionately white.]

22. If I'm careless with my driving it won't be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won't make me an object of contempt or derision. [This is much more true of heterosexual men than of gay men.]

25. There are value-neutral clothing choices available to me; it is possible for me to choose clothing that doesn't send any particular message to the world. [I question this: I think so-called "male attire" does send plenty of messages. More later.]

26. My wardrobe and grooming are relatively cheap and consume little time. [This warrants unpacking. More later.]

27. If I buy a new car, chances are I'll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. [The same is true of buying a used car.]

28. If I'm not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore. [My sex is not overtly coerced by media and other social forces to be "beautiful" as defined by racist, capitalist, misogynist media. And butch women of any sexual orientation have virtually no presence, positive depiction, or meaningful representation in mass media. Butch men are a staple of mainstream media.]

29. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch. [More on this later.]

30. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called "crime" and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called "domestic violence" or "acquaintance rape," and is seen as a special interest issue.) [This is not especially true for poor men, however.]

31. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. "All men are created equal…," mailman, chairman, freshman, he. [And I will not be asked to "get used to it" or made to translate when reading literature or other reading materials which use sexist pronouns and professional terms.]

32. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is. [And I am not considered to be "dirty" or "gross" during certain portions of the month or year, because of physiological processes that happen to many among my sex.]

33. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don't change my name.

34. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

35. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is usually pictured as being male. [And, just as ridiculously and oppressively, also white, and also straight.]

36. Most major religions argue that [if heterosexually involved in a primary relationship] I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me. [And this is grossly heterosexist as well as misogynist and misopedic.]

37. If I have a wife or girlfriend, chances are we'll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labour, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.

38. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she'll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of childrearing.

39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we'll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

40. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media are filled with images of scantily clad women intended to appeal to me [, a heterosexual man,] sexually. Such images of [heterosexual] men exist, but are much rarer.

41. I am not expected to spend my entire life 20-40 pounds underweight. [And a weight gain or loss of a few pounds doesn't become fodder for social discussion.]

42. If I am heterosexual, it's incredibly unlikely that I'll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

43. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

On we go with the "Unpacking The Male Privilege Jockstrap" list, begun on October 2, 2008.

44. I can use curse words publicly and be less negatively judged, due to my sex, if I appear to be a man.

45. In addition to being aggressive, I can be irritable, moody, temperamental, sullen, non-responsive, reactive, angry, outraged, unpleasant, not deferential, unkind, insensitive, inconsiderate, rude, combative, dominating, overbearing, critical, assertive, and many more ways of being human, without being called misogynist terms, including "the b word" and "the c word".

46. If perceived as male, I can, without social critique, only wear what is termed "male-appropriate" attire.

47. I do not have to ever wear high heeled shoes, not counting "cowboy boots".

48. I can attend many fancy or formal gatherings in the same outfit, without anyone either noticing, or commenting about it critically.

49. If I attend special events, I don't need to be concerned about whether I should do something different with my hair.

50. I will be not be likely to be called misogynist terms if I my hair is unkempt.

51. I will not be judged solely due to my sex for having body odor. [I may, however, be solely judged by my race or class, if a man or woman.]

52. I can live in a capitalist society in which no advertising exists to sell me products to make my crotch smell "meadow fresh".

53. I am not inundated with ads that bring the public's attention to my crotch or reproductive organs.

54. Especially if white and not poor, I am considered human without qualification.

55. Human rights laws are written with me in mind, more than my female counterpart.

56. Unless I have post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual assault, I am not likely to be frightened and startled if a man suddenly comes up next to me on the street or road.

57. As a pedestrian, I do not have the unrelenting, dehumanising experience of heterosexual men regularly offering to let me to walk on by so they can check out my ass.

58. David Letterman and Jay Leno, among other night-time talk show hosts, are not likely to discuss and point out my body parts and gender as a major topic of conversation.

59. If an athlete, a scholar, a sports car racer, a mechanic, a plumber, a farmer, or an activist (among many professions and endeavors seen as "primarily for men", I am not likely to be told "but he's also very masculine" elsewhere in his life.

60. I do not have a letter or gender identifier in the TV Guide before my sport, such as women do: the WMBA, Women's Tennis, Women's Golf.

61. Pursuing a life in team sports is something that is seen as a reasonable and healthy human pursuit, if I'm a boy or man.

62. I do not generally have my ass grabbed by strange men.

63. Especially if not a teenager, I do not usually have cars pull over, assuming I'm a prostitute, whether or not I am.

64. I can strip in a club and have it be seen as fun, not sleazy.

65. I can pretend my sex does more work each day than women do, and honestly believe it.

66. I can lingeringly embrace a woman in public while kissing her without fear of being beaten up or killed.

67. I can live with a woman as a life partner, or with several women consecutively in a series of flings, without fearing being beaten up or killed precisely for that reason.

68. It is not assumed that I exist for the purpose of bringing human life into this world.

69. It is not assumed I am "for" men.

70. The penetration of various orifices of my body by a penis will likely be socially understood as criminal or immoral acts that harm my dignity and social status, regardless of what they mean to me or how I experience them.

71. If heterosexual, I can go through life without my body being penetrated by a penis, and without ejaculate being dispensed on my face or other areas of my body.

72. Especially if heterosexual, the terms "ho", "whore", and "slut" (in various languages) are not associated with my gender.

73. My gender is equated with being human, especially if I'm white.

74. If white, what my sex produces creatively in writing or visual media will have a much better chance of being shown in art galleries, published, or held in museums and acclaimed in textbooks as "great" work.

75. What I write will not be dissected and analysed in the mass media based on my sex by those of my sex.

76. When I speak, it is assumed I speak with some authority, no matter what I know or don't know.

77. When I enter a room where the public circulates, such as a bar, club, college classroom, or restaurant, I do not generally have men nudge their male friends and indicate verbally or non-verbally that "you should check that person out", in an objectifying and degrading way, while continuing to stare at me with no regard or understanding of how that could make me feel.

78. I am not usually approached on the street by strangers who want my phone number, for the ulterior purposes of wanting to f*ck me.

79. My outer clothes are not fashioned so that the rape of my lower body is easily accomplished.

80. My life partner does not expect me or usually want me to have a variety of kinds of underwear, for special occasions.

81. I don't have to shave my armpits or legs ever, for any social occasion.

82. I don't have to shave my face to be seen as "more appropriately like those of my sex".

83. I don't have to wear make-up to "make myself look better", or to feel better about my appearance.

84. I don't ever have to own or use tweezers.

85. I can wear the same exact clothes several days consecutively without many people noticing or caring.

86. I don't have to fear white men coming onto my people's Native land to rape me.

87. I can have raped many women, including women I owned as slaves, and go down in history as a great and honorable person.

88. If I am a white and Christian man, I can see myself reflected in every U.S. president and vice president to date, as of October, 2008.

89. I can, without question or concern, use human beings as prostitutes, whether or not they are prostitutes, and believe it's my right to do so and that no one is harmed by me doing so.

90. As a U.S. white man, I can travel to Third World countries and sexually assault children and women with relative ease and impunity, assuming I have the money for the trip.

91. Most especially if white, I can do almost any crime at all and get away with it most of the time.

92. People assume my violence and aggression is natural to my sex.

93. Generally speaking, almost the entire population of my sex-class assumes that violating women and girls visually is either natural, desirable, acceptable, or should be in no way illegal.

94. Books are written which argue that my impulses to rape and cheat on my spouse are genetic or natural, not social and cultural.

95. Among my male friends, I can speak with relative ease about the fact that I am horny without anyone attaching a negative term for what that is.

96. When around men who call me friend, I can joke about criminally sexually assaulting "the other sex", or can brag after having done so, usually without anyone calling me out for being a hater of that "other" gender.

97. I can be an activist for rights for my gender without being seen as a destroyer of the family.

98. If I speak out regularly on behalf of my gender, about how the other sex systematically mistreats us, that is seen as valid, not a form of delusion or "hysteria".

99. I can hate the other sex my whole life and not have that be challenged by members of my own sex.

100. I do not have to fight for and with the people of my gender, locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide, for the opportunity to be seen as human beings of intelligence, humor, and accomplishment rather than as sex-things for men to exploit.

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