Looking for Proof of Male Privilege in Your Daily Life?
May 7, 2015 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Here Are 7 Undeniable Examples • By Jon Greenberg @citizenshipsj

Author’s Note: This article is written from a White, cisgender, straight male’s perspective – in other words, from my perspective.
posted by wonton endangerment (137 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
All you have to do is compare authors, artists, musicians, and directors: who is allowed to be seen as the genius visionaries with an epic plan? Not women.

I don't have a problem with men getting those kinds of career-changing perks when they are earned, but let's give it everyone who has earned it, too.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:42 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a really good explanation of the whole concept of privilege actually. Saving so I can share.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:28 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Recently I have been having difficulty articulating privilege at the day to day level.

Thanks for this.
posted by blurker at 6:38 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Collect and share your favorite collections on Tumblr at http://100percentmen.tumblr.com and http://allmalepanels.tumblr.com
& viva la difference!
posted by iiniisfree at 7:04 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I quite like this, but I've often found that the word "privilege" seems to make cis-ish man-ish people bristle as they don't feel privileged. Wish there was a less loaded word used in the regular discourse.
posted by taff at 7:04 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here Are 7 Undeniable Examples

Undeniable? Clearly the author has never encountered a straight white cis male before.
posted by rorgy at 7:12 AM on May 7, 2015 [46 favorites]


If it takes a man to tell you that male privilege is real and ubiquitous, then you just proved its power.

Quoted for truth.
posted by blurker at 7:22 AM on May 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Seems like a bunch of cherry picking. You could easily turn each of these around--e.g. I have the privilege of being born into a gender where people open doors for me, offer to carry my stuff, and eagerly pay for my meals/taxis. I have the privilege of being born into a gender where I can become a corporate lawyer OR stay home and raise my kids all day, and either decision will be lauded by large pockets of society. Lastly, just as women are judged based on their appearance (for reasons not imposed by society but by the pitiless realities of evolutionary biology), men are judged by their achievements. There is tremendous pressure on men to work long hours and thus be able to "support a family"--pressures that the entry of women into the workforce has in no way alleviated; it's just put MORE pressure on men to be even more successful than their female counterparts in order to attract a mate. After all, a female investment banker isn't going to be impressed by a man of lesser career status.
posted by Guinevere at 7:26 AM on May 7, 2015 [30 favorites]


I'm not sure who gets covered by the idea of intersectionality, but I think you kind of have to be fit, middle class or better, straight, and white to enjoy a lot of these privileges. I guess 2 out of 7 ain't bad?
posted by poe at 7:32 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


I quite like this, but I've often found that the word "privilege" seems to make cis-ish man-ish people bristle as they don't feel privileged. Wish there was a less loaded word used in the regular discourse.

It's worth remembering that Peggy Noonan, who coined the term, has talked about choosing it as a gentler alternative to "oppressive" — as a way of recognizing that someone could be on the wrong side of an oppressive dynamic without being a Bad Person with conscious intent to actually oppress anyone. (This New Yorker interview with her discusses some of that stuff.) And as much as people bristle at being called "privileged," I'm sure it's still a lot easier to swallow than being called an oppressor.

There's a euphemism treadmill at work here, where newer, gentler words keep getting coined for potentially challenging or threatening concepts — and then those words keep getting abandoned in part because the people who don't want to face the challenge posed by those concepts will keep bristling at the words for them, and eventually just stop listening to those words at all. I don't think there's a perfect terminology that will prevent that sort of resistance.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:36 AM on May 7, 2015 [105 favorites]


I quite like this, but I've often found that the word "privilege" seems to make cis-ish man-ish people bristle as they don't feel privileged. Wish there was a less loaded word used in the regular discourse.

Agreed. In colloquial American English, calling someone privileged has been an insult for a very long time. As a result, "unpack your invisible backpack of privilege" is not difficult to interpret as a hostile command, if you're of a mind to.

I try to frame the discussion around "Categories of Bullshit," which has been a little more rhetorically effective. No, it's not quite the same idea, but it overlaps a lot and is easier to sell: "Bullshit comes into our lives from many directions and in many categories. As a cisgendered, heterosexual white male, there are certain categories of bullshit that will never apply to you. That's not to say that you can't be buried alive in bullshit, but that there are categories of bullshit that you don't have to worry about. Right now we're talking about categories that you don't have to worry about because it's fucking ridiculous than anyone has to deal with them ever, and we can actually do something about them."

Again, it's not quite the same conversation, but it's worked okayish as a starting point. It's easy to get hung up on conflating "privilege" with "quality of life," and that's not going to help. There's no shortage of cisgendered heterosexual white males with deeply shitty lives, and rather than telling them they're privileged (which is often heard as "you got it good, so stop complaining"), it's more effective to say that other people are getting unfairly shafted.

Some folks won't ever accept these ideas, but I think reframing it could help some others get past their defensiveness and figure it out. Once the outline of the idea penetrates, then you can get into aspects of privilege that the "categories of bullshit" discussion doesn't.

None of this is to say that people should couch their terms all the time or ignore the problem. Just that if you are interested in reaching people who are hostile to the idea, this is a strategy I've had a little luck with.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:43 AM on May 7, 2015 [52 favorites]


After all, a female investment banker isn't going to be impressed by a man of lesser career status.

Sorry, no. The idea that women are only attracted to men who are more successful/have achieved more than them is nonsense.
posted by almostmanda at 7:44 AM on May 7, 2015 [55 favorites]


It's worth remembering that Peggy Noonan, who coined the term [privilege] ...

That reference sent me down a frantic hole of disbelieving Google-searching and slack-jawed Wikipedia-scanning for a good 90 seconds or so before I realized you must have had a momentary brain lapse and mistyped the name.
posted by Mothlight at 7:44 AM on May 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


I have the privilege of being born into a gender where people open doors for me, offer to carry my stuff, and eagerly pay for my meals/taxis.

As a member of presumably the same gender, who is paying for your meals and taxis and how can I get in on this? (I admit to the carrying stuff, though.)
posted by maryr at 7:45 AM on May 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't deny it exists, but I never liked the term privilege because it implies that you must take a positive action to enjoy it. "It's a privilege to be here" only happens when, you know, you got up and came to a place. "Parking privileges" only work when you get a car and drive.

I think "attribute" would be better. "I have the attribute of a short morning routine." It just is.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:45 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lastly, just as women are judged based on their appearance (for reasons not imposed by society but by the pitiless realities of evolutionary biology), men are judged by their achievements.

Also, where do you work that women are not judged by their achievements?!?!
posted by maryr at 7:46 AM on May 7, 2015 [20 favorites]


I have the privilege of being born into a gender where people open doors for me, offer to carry my stuff, and eagerly pay for my meals/taxis.

Flip side of this is 1) the implicit, usually unconscious and very vague assumption that women are incapable/weak/need protection, i.e. require assistance, and 2) the often not-so-implict idea that some men have that if they do favors for women (especially paying for things), means that women somehow owe them something in return, usually sex. This is benevolent sexism.

Lastly, just as women are judged based on their appearance (for reasons not imposed by society but by the pitiless realities of evolutionary biology), men are judged by their achievements. There is tremendous pressure on men to work long hours and thus be able to "support a family"--pressures that the entry of women into the workforce has in no way alleviated; it's just put MORE pressure on men to be even more successful than their female counterparts in order to attract a mate. After all, a female investment banker isn't going to be impressed by a man of lesser career status.

This is going into the old "what about the men" argument, but basically, yes, men suffer from gender stereotypes as well. This is why it is important to understand what male privilage is, so we can recognize it and fight it because it isn't just hurting women - narrow gender roles and norms hurt all of us.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:47 AM on May 7, 2015 [77 favorites]


Male privilege -- that must be why men commit suicide four times as often as women, die five years younger than women, are jailed ten times as often as women, are more than ten times more likely to die in a workplace accident, and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime. Of course, a couple of hundred men who get to be wanker CEOs and politicians makes up for all that!

And before you ask, yes those disparities hold for white men as well.
posted by zipadee at 7:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Am I the only one tired of these articles in which a guy earnestly tells us that despite being straight and white and cis he's down with the privilege discourse, and he's here to tell us all about it?

It's like a mid-term presentation by an 18 year old during their first ever sociology course who's grappling with identity politics within the classroom.

We've been over this terrain countless times on MeFi in far more interesting and insightful ways - this is far from best of the web.
posted by modernnomad at 7:57 AM on May 7, 2015 [30 favorites]


This is kind of a thin post. It's not much better or worse than a thousand other lists of male privileges and there isn't really much to talk about besides quibbling with some of the examples (Men should fear assault, it's ignorance and overconfidence that prevents them from doing so more than privilege) or going over the same old debates about privilege in general.

Undeniable? Clearly the author has never encountered a straight white cis male before.

Being bristly about it is not even remotely a straight cis male unique phenomenon. It can be very difficult to get even feminist aware women to appreciate straight and cis privilege. I've seen some women defend very strongly the fetishization and objectifying of gay men in fiction at times, for one example. Men just have so many comparative privileges that there is a lot more to call out.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:58 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lastly, just as women are judged based on their appearance (for reasons not imposed by society but by the pitiless realities of evolutionary biology)

Ok cool so women are expected to wear makeup, shave their legs, do their hair, accessorize, dress attractively but not TOO slutty, shorten their calves with high heels and squeeze their organs with Spanx, all because SCIENCE
posted by Librarypt at 7:59 AM on May 7, 2015 [74 favorites]


> Lastly, just as women are judged based on their appearance (for reasons not imposed by society but by the pitiless realities of evolutionary biology

Totally exempt from culture and custom, because biology? Really?
posted by rtha at 8:00 AM on May 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "? That's a judgement placed on me by someone who knows nothing about me. For all the education I have, for all the hard work I've done, I still make minimum wage, drive a car that's about to die and struggle to make it. And I'm 48. So yes, I am very privileged. And apparently I should feel quite guilty about it . That's the point of this kind of article, isn't it?
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 8:00 AM on May 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


Male privilege -- that must be why men commit suicide four times as often as women, die five years younger than women, are jailed ten times as often as women, are more than ten times more likely to die in a workplace accident, and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime

Many of these things can be attributed to a patriarchal society. Patriarchy hurts men as well as women. This is a pretty well-established discussion with feminism.

So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "?

It's not about you. The fact that some people with privilege experience difficulties does not deny the fact that ALL people in an oppressed group experience shared difficulties as a direct result of the oppression. Please refer to the "not all men/yes all women" discussion.
posted by Librarypt at 8:04 AM on May 7, 2015 [52 favorites]


> And apparently I should feel quite guilty about it

Some people probably want you to feel that, yeah. Me, I'd prefer that you (we, all) just be aware that there are areas in your life where the privilege you have is in operation. Be aware that the world you move through is not the only one, and is not the one that everyone else gets to assume as the sole reality. But go ahead and feel aggrieved instead, because that's way more useful.
posted by rtha at 8:05 AM on May 7, 2015 [29 favorites]


Just a friendly reminder that discussing the unique ways that women are disadvantaged due to gender does not in any way take away from the fact that men can also be disadvantaged due to gender in different ways. It is okay to talk about women's issues without making it about men's issues.

For those who bristle over the whole "privilege" thing, feminism hears ya and is already on it. See Intersectionality.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:06 AM on May 7, 2015 [54 favorites]


Across every culture around the globe, in every era of human existence, heterosexual men have (on average) chosen mates based on relative youth and other indicators of fertility. Heterosexual women have (on average) have chosen mates based on wealth, social status, intellectual/physical strength, and other resource-providing abilities. To ignore this or to discard it as irrelevant in modern society denies the fact that evolutionary pressures - whether we like them or not - are not only part of our history but have shaped who we are today. Why do women (on average) still prefer men taller than themselves who pick up the check on the first date?
posted by Guinevere at 8:12 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. Maybe people can respond to the actual link rather than re-litigating all of feminism here?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:16 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


that must be why men commit suicide four times as often as women

Because they're less likely to seek support for suicidal impulses, thanks to a society that tells them that doing so makes them less of a man.

die five years younger than women

Because largely due to societal factors imposed on them they make up the largest part of the roles that lower average lifespans, such as war, violent crime, and other risky behaviors.

are jailed ten times as often as women

Because for that same reason they are more likely to commit crimes or be targeted by law enforcement for them.

are more than ten times more likely to die in a workplace accident

Because women are generally blocked, either implicitly or explicitly, from jobs with higher mortality rates.

and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime

From another man. Women are not only more likely to be the victim of a crime committed by a man, but also to have that crime go unreported, go unpunished or lightly punished, and be a victim of the same man.

So, yeah, Librarypt has it right. The kind of patriarchal oppression that affect women through societal factors also affect men. Claiming that that absolves them of the overall privileges they get in their lives, or that women actually hold more privilege, is 100% the opposite of reality.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:17 AM on May 7, 2015 [123 favorites]


I have the privilege of being born into a gender where people open doors for me, offer to carry my stuff, and eagerly pay for my meals/taxis.

Cannot tell if serious. Are you for real suggesting that individual instances of the unilateral enactment of benevolent sexism is, in any way, materially comparable to the fact that men get paid more, are able to operate under the general assumption that their words and actions will be treated as demonstrably equivalent to rationality, intelligence, and worth, and are not only utterly overrepresented in the socioeconomic and political spheres, but have also been seen as inherently valuable and fully self-realized members of society from its outset?

I mean, I'm... [looks down] yep, definitely a woman, but I'm just as definitely not getting offers from people to open doors for me, offer to carry my stuff, or eagerly (?!) pay for my meals/taxis, nor would I consider it anything but condescending as hell if people felt the need to extend those offers to me in the first place, because I'm a grown adult who can take care of her damn self. But maybe my lack of experience in this realm is because to many/most people, I "look like a man"? If that's the case, though, any/everyone who would otherwise be moved to proffer up these sad and insignificant little tokens if only I would more readily enact a socially acceptable feminine role is hereby cordially invited to take a flying leap.

Male privilege -- that must be why men commit suicide four times as often as women, die five years younger than women, are jailed ten times as often as women, are more than ten times more likely to die in a workplace accident, and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime. Of course, a couple of hundred men who get to be wanker CEOs and politicians makes up for all that!

Awesome, you're doing the thing! Someone always has to do the thing. First off, if you think an unequivocal summation of male privilege can be found in the simple acknowledgment of the existence of "a couple of hundred men who get to be wanker CEOs and politicians," you should probably brush up on your... uh, pretty much all of human history, which has literally always been, by and large, written by men.

Secondly, if you want to give your complaints any heft beyond the vociferousness with which they're uttered, maybe you could try to lend a hand to your people (read: men, otherwise known as the group of humans who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of violent crimes committed against men) so it's easier for them to identify the problems and work to eliminate them? Or are women, as we so often are, expected to shift our priorities away from our own political liberation in order to somehow automagically reduce or lessen the horrifying frequency with which men rape, assault, and kill other men?

If that's the case, how has it been ascertained that women are at least somewhat responsible for male violence? Are women the ones who are enforcing and upholding the sick, outdated patriarchal standards that lead to these kinds of numbers? Or are your statistics only useful as a rhetorical cudgel when you want to deny the other material realities of male privilege? Do you think that men's high completed suicide rates cancel out, I dunno, the way women have been wholesale written out of history? The pay gap? Domestic violence statistics? Femicide? The fact that marital rape is still perfectly legal in a whole hell of a lot of the world? Come to think of it, why is it that dudes only ever bring up their litanies of sex-specific woes whenever anyone has the gall to acknowledge the fact that men as a class are at a distinct political -- although not necessarily individual -- advantage in patriarchal societies?

Like, I'm certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could rattle off some statistics that would make your hair curl, all of which would center on the subjugation and abuse women are made to suffer as a class. But I don't think showcasing the arenas in which men are uniquely oppressed does you any favors when you're not using them as anything more than a way to deny the otherwise undeniable benefits men enjoy in countless other arenas.
posted by divined by radio at 8:18 AM on May 7, 2015 [90 favorites]


To ignore this or to discard it as irrelevant in modern society denies the fact that evolutionary pressures - whether we like them or not - are not only part of our history but have shaped who we are today.

Didn't do that, and you're the one who started with positing that it's only evolution and "(for reasons not imposed by society..."
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Many of these things can be attributed to a patriarchal society. Patriarchy hurts men as well as women. This is a pretty well-established discussion with feminism.

No, they are not attributable to a 'patriarchal society', whatever that is supposed to mean. The are attributable to the way power is used and distributed in the society. The implication of saying that we live in a patriarchal society is the implicit claim that we live in a society that is designed (presumably by men) to benefit and advantage the male gender. That's not true. References to patriarchy might be meaningful when you're discussing Saudi Arabia and the like, but in reference to the contemporary U.S. it seems to function as a buzzword to shut down discussion.

of course if someone has a genuinely rich analysis of 'patriarchy' that explains how it produces a society in which the majority of men are harmed and disempowered then I'm all ears.
posted by zipadee at 8:21 AM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


of course if someone has a genuinely rich analysis of 'patriarchy' that explains how it produces a society in which the majority of men are harmed and disempowered then I'm all ears.

It empowers men as a gender relative to women and harms women more than men. It does not make men all-powerful or invincible.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:26 AM on May 7, 2015 [23 favorites]


The implication of saying that we live in a patriarchal society is the implicit claim that we live in a society that is designed (presumably by men) to benefit and advantage the male gender. That's not true. References to patriarchy might be meaningful when you're discussing Saudi Arabia and the like, but in reference to the contemporary U.S. it seems to function as a buzzword to shut down discussion.

Wait..what? I would like to live in your U.S. where the patriarchy is merely a buzzword to shut down discussion. Because that is not the one where I am from.
posted by Kitteh at 8:26 AM on May 7, 2015 [32 favorites]


That reference sent me down a frantic hole of disbelieving Google-searching and slack-jawed Wikipedia-scanning for a good 90 seconds or so before I realized you must have had a momentary brain lapse and mistyped the name.

HAHAHAHA OMG DAMMIT BRAIN. Uh. Yeah. *headdesk*

posted by nebulawindphone at 8:32 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


modernnomad: "It's like a mid-term presentation by an 18 year old during their first ever sociology course who's grappling with identity politics within the classroom."

This is a pretty vague dismissal that smacks of "because a man wrote it, he cant be insightful or understand women's issues" ..

It will be better if the criticism is more along the lines of how the article is vapid or shallow.

I found the article to be informative, if not insightful ... it lists the type of privileges, doesn't focus on analyzing them too much ... whether it is best of the web or not, we can talk about that, but lets not be gender dismissive about it.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 8:33 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


do most women prefer men who pay on the first date? that hasn't been my experience. are women lauded by large pockets of society for being a corporate lawyer or being a housewife? that has also not been my experience - not even close.

even if some of the shitty stew of white supremacist patriarchy is evolutionary - so? we've overcome so much of our programming - most of us manage to not steal or murder, even if someone has something we want, we wake up to alarm clocks and digest things never found in nature, we've all but removed ourselves from the food chain, we generally don't kick the men out of the tribe when they become threats to the alpha, and on and on and on - and yet, somehow we're supposed to believe that the need of 45 year old men to try to scoop up 17 year olds is just something they can't overcome or that women have to earn less than their male partners. bullshit. those are excuses from people who like to play those roles and try to convince the rest of us to just lay down and take it.

and this is coming from someone who has chosen to be a housewife in a heterosexual relationship where my husband is the bread winner - but i know these were our choices (partially influenced by sexism) and don't try to pretend like everyone has to live this life or like we're just following our biology.
posted by nadawi at 8:40 AM on May 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


Across every culture around the globe, in every era of human existence, heterosexual men have (on average) chosen mates based on relative youth and other indicators of fertility. Heterosexual women have (on average) have chosen mates based on wealth, social status, intellectual/physical strength, and other resource-providing abilities. To ignore this or to discard it as irrelevant in modern society denies the fact that evolutionary pressures - whether we like them or not - are not only part of our history but have shaped who we are today.

No, I can disagree with your sweeping oversimplifications without discounting the role of evolutionary pressures in shaping human biology.
posted by IjonTichy at 8:46 AM on May 7, 2015 [15 favorites]


So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "?

Recognize that we aren't all fighting the same battles. Realize that with all the struggles you've faced, there many who have had surmount obstacles you hadn't even thought of. Develop or maintain some sympathy for those who have less successful than you because of implicit biases in our society. Use your consciousness of these biases to try not to be "an oppressor" when you are in positions of power. Identify those positions of power. Empathize.

Think. What you are supposed to do is think.
posted by maryr at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [32 favorites]


wait wait wait

I agree with almost all of this but ... is that bit about not ever being concerned for your security when walking down the street even at night true for you other guys? Because I am always checking who's around me and I will "nope" out of places if I get a particularly bad vibe. Like the bit about "shadowy figure on the sidewalk"... A dude in sunglasses and a hood at night following behind me? I'm on fucking high alert and feeling far from "safe and secure" (speaking of which, Vancouver, why are you guys doing this? If it's weed, trust me, no one cares if your eyes are red). I've seen enough shit and I've had enough random people on the street try and fuck with me and you're god damned right I'm looking out for threats. I get that the threat is worse for women, no argument from me, but the way the author wrote that makes me feel like I'm the only guy who gets his guard up and actively looks out for and makes an effort to avoid sketchy people and situations.
posted by Hoopo at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


The implication of saying that we live in a patriarchal society is the implicit claim that we live in a society that is designed (presumably by men) to benefit and advantage the male gender. That's not true.

Why or how is it not true?
posted by griphus at 8:54 AM on May 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


griphus: "he implication of saying that we live in a patriarchal society is the implicit claim that we live in a society that is designed (presumably by men) to benefit and advantage the male gender. That's not true.

Why or how is it not true?
"

The only way that i can think of is that it is not designed .... its an emergent consequence of a complex system in which most men are basically cogs in the wheel.

Yes, men are advantaged but I am not sure men are intelligent enough to be designing it.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:02 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Secondly, if you want to give your complaints any heft beyond the vociferousness with which they're uttered,

They're not complaints, just facts, and their heft should come from the fact that they're true. I realize that doesn't carry a lot of weight on the internet.

maybe you could try to lend a hand to your people (read: men, otherwise known as the group of humans who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of violent crimes committed against men) so it's easier for them to identify the problems and work to eliminate them? Or are women, as we so often are, expected to shift our priorities away from our own political liberation in order to somehow automagically reduce or lessen the horrifying frequency with which men rape, assault, and kill other men?

Of course men are responsible for the great majority of violence. Most of the facts I cited may well emerge from the biological distinctions between men and women (as some in this thread have pointed out these are rooted in evolution). It's not on 'women' to solve these problems. It's not necessarily on 'men' either. It takes collective effort. The problem with some (not all) feminist discourses isn't the promotion of female solidarity or collective action, which is necessary as you point out. It's the promotion of a totalizing intellectual agenda where everything in the society is seen through the lens of male-female divisions and the superior privileges of men, when the reality is far more complex and society is and must be constituted through the collective cooperative efforts of both men and women.

how has it been ascertained that women are at least somewhat responsible for male violence? Are women the ones who are enforcing and upholding the sick, outdated patriarchal standards that lead to these kinds of numbers? Or are your statistics only useful as a rhetorical cudgel when you want to deny the other material realities of male privilege?

interesting you're talking about rhetorical cudgels, your post seems to be nothing but. But women, while they certainly aren't 'responsible' for male violence, do play a role in upholding the social order just like everyone else does. I wouldn't deny the existence of particular male privileges. Both genders are both advantaged and disadvantaged in certain ways by the prevailing social order. Both pay a price. Constantly harping on divisive rhetoric about 'male privilege', which implicitly portrays men simply as the defenders of and beneficiaries of current social arrangements, is unlikely to produce cooperative effort to change it.

Do you think that men's high completed suicide rates cancel out, I dunno, the way women have been wholesale written out of history? The pay gap? Domestic violence statistics?

Now that you mention it, it does sound better to be missing some mentions in the history textbook than to be so full of despair that you shoot yourself in the head. But maybe that's just me. Let's not start on the pay gap.

But seriously, nothing cancels out anything. Everything exists simultaneously and next to each other. Political and ideological discourses try to get us to ignore some things and drive others out of mind, because they see attention to suffering as a zero-sum game. The more of it you get, the less I get.

Come to think of it, why is it that dudes only ever bring up their litanies of sex-specific woes whenever anyone has the gall to acknowledge the fact that men as a class are at a distinct political -- although not necessarily individual -- advantage in patriarchal societies?

I don't know, some of us think about these things in lots of contexts. I don't think the political system is run for the advantage of men. It would be quite unjust if it were, but at least in that case it would be run for the advantage of half the population, and I don't think it advantages even half the population right now.
posted by zipadee at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


The only way that i can think of is that it is not designed .... its an emergent consequence of a complex system in which most men are basically cogs in the wheel.

Similarly, the marginalization of black people in America is an emergent consequence of a complex system in which white people are basically cogs in the wheel, so America isn't a racist country.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:08 AM on May 7, 2015 [23 favorites]


They're not complaints, just facts, and their heft should come from the fact that they're true. I realize that doesn't carry a lot of weight on the internet.

No, they're facts with absolutely zero context. Just because they're true absent a million other factors doesn't mean they support your assertions.

Let's not start on the pay gap.

How utterly unsurprising.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:12 AM on May 7, 2015 [21 favorites]




Why or how is it not true?

Well, start with the stats I cited above.

Similarly, the marginalization of black people in America is an emergent consequence of a complex system in which white people are basically cogs in the wheel, so America isn't a racist country.

Hey, if white people were locked up at 10 times the rate of blacks and lived five years less then I'd have some questions about racism too. The power relations between races are totally different than the power relations between the sexes.
posted by zipadee at 9:15 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "?

Recognize that we aren't all fighting the same battles. Realize that with all the struggles you've faced, there many who have had surmount obstacles you hadn't even thought of. Develop or maintain some sympathy for those who have less successful than you because of implicit biases in our society. Use your consciousness of these biases to try not to be "an oppressor" when you are in positions of power. Identify those positions of power. Empathize.

Think. What you are supposed to do is think.
posted by maryr at 8:52 AM on May 7
[3 favorites +]


Someone has just said that he is barely scraping by despite hard work and this supposed "privilege", and the answer is "Enpathize"?!

Ironic.
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:18 AM on May 7, 2015


Empathy is the cornerstone of finding our commonalities so that we can work together at building a more just society; it is not a spoon slapped against the back of someone's hand so they feel bad.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:24 AM on May 7, 2015 [58 favorites]


That isn't what irony is.
posted by maryr at 9:49 AM on May 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


And I didn't say that empathy was easy.
posted by maryr at 9:50 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Rustic Etruscan: "Similarly, the marginalization of black people in America is an emergent consequence of a complex system in which white people are basically cogs in the wheel, so America isn't a racist country."

Nice quip ... but pretty facile.

The key difference between various positions articulated is the amount of agency that men have in creating/sustaining a patriarchal system in our society.

I dont think men created the system ... they did get advantage of the biological differences .... and now a lot of men (and a big part of women) help in sustaining it.

And the differences between genders is not at all same as differences between races ... unless you think there is a biological basis to the claimed superiority of one race over another.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:00 AM on May 7, 2015


Men are so terribly privileged to pee standing up.

The overwhelming prison population is male.

Women soundly outperform men at all grade levels in school.

Women are 16% more likely to enroll in college and 20% more likely to graduate from college.

Women make up 50% of medical school enrollment and also 50% of law school enrollment.

As the old men in power die off, women are poised to dominate the next generation.
posted by zwemer at 10:09 AM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


What the fuck is going on here? Like seriously, what is going on.

Are there people on here trying to argue that a) male privilege doesn't really exist, b) we don't live in a patriarchal society, and c) we're all suffering equally?
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:12 AM on May 7, 2015 [109 favorites]


Yeah, I'm having the same reaction. I mean, I wasn't on MeFi for the Serious Boyzone Years, but this is weirding me out.
posted by Kitteh at 10:14 AM on May 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


Me too on the WTF. Was an alert sent out to the reverse sexism mailing list to come sign up for accounts here and argue against feminism?
posted by triggerfinger at 10:17 AM on May 7, 2015 [35 favorites]


Of course the privilege of being drafted and having Johnny blown off for King and Country, see Jake Barnes, must not be overlooked. Nor was the "Order of the White Feather" directed at women ...
posted by mfoight at 10:21 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the old men in power die off, women are poised to dominate the next generation.

from your lips to god's ears!
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2015 [17 favorites]


Constantly harping on divisive rhetoric about 'male privilege', which implicitly portrays men simply as the defenders of and beneficiaries of current social arrangements, is unlikely to produce cooperative effort to change it.

When one of the central problems with the oppression men and women face is that men are too damn violent/transgressive (often because they are oppressed by other men, and essentially taught to escape that by violence/messing with other people), then the problem really is mostly on men.

I would agree with you that feminism wants to center women. It needs to. I agree this can lead to it having a blind spot about men's experiences—women don't have them, and men are terrible at talking about them. The fact that men are awful at talking about their gender is indeed one of the big problems feminism faces.

Men do need to step up. They need to get over it, they need to put away their bullshit little lists of MRA talking points that boil down to "men are violent." They need to forget about fucking goddamn evolutionary psychology. They need to stop thinking that feminism is something that can be easily disproved. They need to stop cherry picking the parts of feminism they disagree with to indict the whole. Stop equating when a feminist goes too far with the weight a threat of violence carries from an oppressive, violent social class. Stop being idiots who have nothing more to say than hurr durr both sides.

They need to stop making a big show about how they're not participating because they weren't asked nicely enough.
posted by nom de poop at 10:24 AM on May 7, 2015 [51 favorites]


Sorry, wait, did a wire get crossed somewhere, delivering an influx of posters from the alternate universe where women haven't historically been actively barred, by men, from the majority of dangerous occupations (combat military, mining, construction, heavy industrial work, not to mention 'dangerous' pastimes like running marathons and, until SUPER recently, Olympic ski jumping)?

Like, please feel free to complain about how shitty the draft is, but it is REALLY not the fault of women that we don't get drafted.
posted by nonasuch at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2015 [48 favorites]


Great post, nom de poop. I agree that feminism needs to center on women. Men need to stop with the MRA bullshit and work together to find a way to work on men's issues without irrationally painting women as an enemy. It just wastes the time of everybody involved to fight, but it can't be prevented as long as a hate group is trying to represent themselves as the face of male issues.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:34 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think there is a point to be made that fixing sexism society isn't about making lists and trying to get things to add up, but changing the rules of the game.

Sexism is shitty for both men and women. Women moreso. But honestly even without that last point, things still need fixing. And fixing it isn't just a matter of equalizing bullshit. Maybe it's a step. Getting more dudes to see what things really are like from a woman's perspective is something I think would really help. But maybe lists presented with a swagger of "I'm going to tell you how it's really like, and you can't deny it" aren't very effective at promoting that sort of empathy?
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:35 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


in fact - women have worked for dedaces, often without the support of men to either try to cancel selective service or open it up to women. when the draft is brought up as an argument against feminism, i know the person arguing it hasn't actually researched it past "men have to sign up for it on their 18th birthday and it's not fair!!"
posted by nadawi at 10:36 AM on May 7, 2015 [24 favorites]


2. I Have the Privilege of a Gender That Confers Authority

Very early in my career I had a shocking demonstration of this. I worked in a very undistinguished role for a small business and one day the office manager was complaining about how she'd been trying for weeks to get a county inspector in to approve something, and they kept putting her off.

I said, maybe a different voice will have an effect, can I try? She said sure, I'm desperate. I phoned the relevant office, told them my business and was immediately passed through to the man in charge. (Our office administrator had never been passed to him.) I referred to our office manager as "my assistant" and explained the problem.

The inspector was there that afternoon.

I attribute this entirely to the difference in our genders.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


Maybe that would be a better list for a white dude to write - things that are shitty for white dudes that feminists support making less shitty. You know, intersectionality and all.

A big help would be convincing people that gender equality isn't a zero sum game.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


That would be a better list. Though in general I think better discussion can come from setting our ambitions higher than the listicle treatment. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 10:42 AM on May 7, 2015


Maybe that would be a better list for a white dude to write - things that are shitty for white dudes that feminists support making less shitty. You know, intersectionality and all.

I have seen many, many, many such lists and discussions. They exist! A lot of them!
posted by jaguar at 10:42 AM on May 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


if finding exactly the right words and tone to convince men that women are equal to them and deserve to be treated as humans would get the job done, we'd be there already. this isn't a failure on how we or our allies speak.
posted by nadawi at 10:44 AM on May 7, 2015 [41 favorites]


i mean, take your pick!
posted by nadawi at 10:45 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


i mean, take your pick!

Awesome. About 1,160,000 results.
posted by jaguar at 10:49 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't remember where I read it, but one of the best descriptions of (white, in my case) male privilege I've heard is: it's like playing a video game on the lowest-difficulty setting. And it's true! There's so much shit I don't have to deal with or worry about (or probably even know about, in a lot of cases) that makes life harder for people who aren't male and/or white.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


A big help would be convincing people that gender equality isn't a zero sum game.

Writing helpful articles isn't a zero sum game either. There is no conspicuously-absent piece describing the aspect of feminism/privilege/etc. you think would be Useful To Men because this article exists.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's mefi's own jscalzi, TCC.

(Though personally it is far from my favorite metaphor for a lot of reasons.)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:54 AM on May 7, 2015


Oh, christ, I wish I hadn't looked, but yep: the #IDontNeedFeminism hashtag is still going strong.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:55 AM on May 7, 2015


Although on closer inspection a good proportion of them are disparaging of the tag and some are quite funny, like "I don't need Feminism because jet fuel can't melt steel beams"
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2015


I understand the whole "this isn't the right way to encourage empathy" angle, I really do. But it goes into murky territory really quick. Sometimes I think that the only thing worth doing is greatly increasing how often people encounter this message. Beat them over the head with it. Show them over and over again how the system we have in place damages both genders.

Showing how one gender is at a disadvantage does not take away from the very real struggles the other gender also experiences. We don't have to play that card. We don't have to rail about how actually, one gender has it real easy at times and it's the OTHER that's being beat to death. How is that helpful? This isn't some sort of competition, you don't have to list off all the ways men have it bad when someone writes an article about women.

Nor do you have to respond to some sort of call to action. Articles like this aren't written specifically to you, oozy rat in a sanitary zoo. A ton of us are living in really shitty conditions these days, struggling to make ends meet. Some have it worse, some have it better, but I would bet anything that being male has made some things easier in your life. It doesn't have to be anything big. It doesn't necessarily mean work promotions or better deals at the supermarket. But it could mean people have treated you differently, raised you differently, looked at you differently. Over time little things like that add up and change how you feel about yourself, about your place in the world. About the opportunities you think you have, or should pursue.

You don't have to do anything. Just be aware. And when you can, when and if, encourage people to treat each other like goddamn human beings regardless of their gender.
posted by erratic meatsack at 11:13 AM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


I dont think men created the system ... they did get advantage of the biological differences .... and now a lot of men (and a big part of women) help in sustaining it.

And the differences between genders is not at all same as differences between races ... unless you think there is a biological basis to the claimed superiority of one race over another.


[ponders the assumptions here for 5000 years] solid point
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing that struck me reading some of the arguements against the use of the word "privilege" was how some people seem to conflate the social aspects with economic or class aspects.

Maybe it's our horrible educational system, or how we never really teach people to use words in multiple contexts, and how context fucking matters when evaluating word usage, but it always seems like the only definition of "privilege" that most people understand is something akin to aristocracy or elevated status within the existing hierarchy of society. I guess I am thankful for learning that CONTEXT MATTERS and that the word "privilege" can have multiple meanings based upon the words that surround it. Hell, even just googling the definition of the word, you get this:
priv•i•lege
/'priv(ə)lij/
noun
1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
synonyms: advantage, benefit;

verb formal
2. grant a privilege or privileges to.

So, really, just by the basest definition, it is clear that it can mean several things. I can grant privilege to my user account by invoking su (computers). I can have the privilege of living where I do by my income. I can have privilege conferred to me in public speaking due to my education background and my ability to present myself to others as knowledgable. All one word, but many different meanings or forms.

Of course, there are many facets to the whole thing as well. I always thought one of the best demonstrations was by Mitchell and Webb: TV advertising - sexist?
posted by daq at 11:44 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have encountered far too many men who don't see any sign of discrimination against women. Which is always mind boggling, and honestly, sad AND enraging (And pretty annoying to see on mefi). It is their very privilege that allows them to ignore struggles not their own.
posted by agregoli at 12:28 PM on May 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's like a mid-term presentation by an 18 year old during their first ever sociology course who's grappling with identity politics within the classroom.

It's not much better or worse than a thousand other lists of male privileges and there isn't really much to talk about besides quibbling with some of the examples

I find it kind of funny that we got these comments at the top of the thread, but then the rest of the thread is about "So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "?" and "That must be why men commit suicide four times as often as women, die five years younger than women, are jailed ten times as often as women, are more than ten times more likely to die in a workplace accident, and are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime."

I mean, clearly we're not all on the same page here. There is still something to talk about.

I find that outside of Metafilter, those latter comments are much more representative of the kinds of conversations I have about this topic (when I don't avoid it entirely because it's exhausting.) I'm hoping that the listicle here can give me a quick link to share when those conversations are online (or some examples to cite from memory when they are in person) which is a little less confrontational than the original "invisible backpack" essay and a little more specific and relatable for non-gamers than Scalzi's "video game setting" essay. I like how mundane the examples are, because it makes it clear that 1) it is really hard to notice this stuff unless you've practiced looking for it and 2) having these privileges doesn't make you a bad person. I mean, this guy didn't do anything wrong on this completely ordinary day he describes. He didn't personally oppress anybody.

As for the question of "what am I supposed to do with this knowledge?" the answer as far as I'm concerned is mainly just "Keep it in mind when you feel the urge to judge people." Like, if you're thinking something negative about a woman's looks, try to keep in mind how much effort it is to comply with the tougher beauty standards women have to deal with, and cut her some slack. Similarly, don't judge women's career choices, or the amount of time it takes us to go to the bathroom, or whatever, because you know, we have to deal with crap that you don't have to deal with. Don't judge. Cut us some slack. That's what you're supposed to do with it. (And that's what I try to do when my racial and sexual-orientation related privileges are pointed out to me.)

And as far the areas in which men are disadvantaged -- those are all real problems. But a lot of them come out of the social pressure to be "macho" (which can come from women as much as other men, I admit.) But, I mean, men don't go to doctors in general or get mental health care in particular because sickness is seen as weakness and emotions are seen as unmanly - hence higher suicide rates and shorter lifespans. Men are more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of crimes because violence is seen as manly. A lot of the opposition to these social norms is actually coming from feminists.

Finally, I would just like to say that while there undoubtedly are some men who just hate women and really do want to keep them down, and there undoubtedly are some "feminists" who actually are misandrists, for the most part none of this "privilege" stuff is about conscious choices we make in an effort to hurt one another. There are no good guys and bad guys here. It's about not falling for the old "just world" fallacy, and assuming that when someone is suffering they must've done something to deserve it. It's about remembering to "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a terrible battle you know nothing about." It's about helping people see each other's battles.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:42 PM on May 7, 2015 [21 favorites]


I mean, clearly we're not all on the same page here. There is still something to talk about.

Yes, just nothing from the link that you couldn't get from the other 1000 listicles on this topic. If you want a 200 level discussion, don't rely on a 101 level link.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:44 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


So...ho hum, I guess?
posted by agregoli at 12:46 PM on May 7, 2015


In my professional internet opinion, male privilege is a better model of our social realities than anything anyone has develoloped yet. All the standard attempts that I have heard of arguing against it fail because they are intellectually weak. They are arguments that haven't done their homework, so to speak.

This year my younger cousin married his current wife, who happens to come from a more traditional Asian family whose father has literally materially privileged his firstborn son over the younger sister. Material mean money for college education, amongst other benefits that in contrast the sister had to obtain and and finance herself. That's what traditional Asian patriarchy does to women, in a mileu supposedly as cosmopolitan as Hong Kong.

Are things different in America? Sure, less explicit. But to believe it is less of a problem is to take the easy way out.
posted by polymodus at 12:54 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have noticed that people who bring up the statistic that men commit suicide more often than women in the U.S. tend not to mention that women ATTEMPT suicide twice as often as men do ...
posted by kyrademon at 1:04 PM on May 7, 2015 [21 favorites]


women ATTEMPT suicide twice as often as men do

And the reason men are more successful is that they are far more likely to use violent means like a gun -- which is itself a gendered choice, because guns are MANLY.

Someone who takes an overdose of pills has a much better chance of being rescued and resuscitated than someone who shoots themselves in the head, all else being equal.
posted by suelac at 1:30 PM on May 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yes, just nothing from the link that you couldn't get from the other 1000 listicles on this topic. If you want a 200 level discussion, don't rely on a 101 level link

But, as this thread had made clear, just getting people to accept the basics is a struggle, let alone getting into more advanced concepts. Clearly, many people don't even think privilege is a thing, so we need to start there. Baby steps.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:59 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Even though I thought it was mandated for every white cis-dude alive, the article author has clearly never been to a Rush concert.
posted by 99_ at 2:07 PM on May 7, 2015


But, as this thread had made clear, just getting people to accept the basics is a struggle, let alone getting into more advanced concepts. Clearly, many people don't even think privilege is a thing, so we need to start there. Baby steps.

Sure, as my comment that was quoted there said, we can do the same old debates on privilege again with this material.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:22 PM on May 7, 2015


So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged" or am an "oppressor "?

Be a decent and fair human being?
posted by srboisvert at 2:38 PM on May 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged"

"privilege" is more usefully examined on a social level than an individual one because it isn't remotely a single-axis variable. Almost all people have privilege on one axis and.. uhhh... the opposite of privilege... on another axis.

White women for example. Privileged or not? Black men. Privileged or not?

The answer, of course, is that it depends on context.

So what you do is recognize what context is being discussed and work to level the playing field for everyone. Oh, and generally try to avoid talking about someone as privileged-full-stop except in very narrow contexts.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


For crying out loud, it's like a barn in here, with all the straw flying from every corner. It's almost like nobody's listening to anyone.

Which, for the most part, they're not.
posted by chimaera at 3:45 PM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Scalzi's "easy setting" metaphor is really how I best describe my life, I'm not sure why other straight white guys seem to get so upset about the idea. Even though I grew up poor and screwed up my life in six different ways as a young man, I still managed stumble Mr. Magoo-like, into a pretty comfortable middle-class life. That despite dropping out of college after five years without an actual degree, getting my girlfriend pregnant, not actually finishing my degree until I was 33, etc. I don't want to negate all the hard work that I did getting myself out of that hole that I'd dug for myself but I still need to acknowledge that it would have been much more difficult had I not been a big lug of a white guy.
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 PM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


As the old men in power die off, women are poised to dominate the next generation.
That's what I heard them saying in the days of Feminism 1.0, the 1970s. It was a big lie then, and it still is (if we count on 'natural forces' to make it happen).

So what am I, a not particularly successful cis white male, supposed to do with the knowledge that I am "privileged"
Enjoy it. You almost certainly would've been much worse off if you were NOT a cis white male. I know that I, "a not particularly successful cis white male" would not be ALIVE today if I were not cis, white AND male. The truth hit me while I was waiting to qualify for Social Security Disability and engaging with other people also waiting (none of whom were cis, white AND male). Guess who got approved fastest?

just getting people to accept the basics is a struggle, let alone getting into more advanced concepts.
One thing that my disability has given me is time to reflect on the rest of my life; and my working life had at least a dozen instances of getting preference and ONE of not (I got the smallest raise of the accounting clerks, the rest of whom were female, which was explained as because they knew they'd never be able to pay me enough to keep me, because I was a man).

Of course, The System* is insanely cruel to everybody, but I realized a lot of my own lack of success came because "Meritocracy" was based mostly on "skills" that I just didn't want to practice. I found some of the morally repugnant, so I just wasn't thinking like a "Real Man".

*I hate to call it The Patriarchy, even though it was almost exclusively men who made the rules - I prefer the less human-based term because those who did so weren't very human.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:31 PM on May 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Scalzi's "easy setting" metaphor is really how I best describe my life, I'm not sure why other straight white guys seem to get so upset about the idea

My main issue with it is that as a gamer I've always found easy mode not just to be easy, but to be laughably easy. No challenge at all. The hardest part about getting people to understand privilege is to get them to understand that isn't what it means. Their life can still be hard.

Scalzi lays out a good argument that accounts for that in his longer form explanation, but as a simple metaphor I've mostly seen it backfire. It does connect with a lot of people though so, *shrug*.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:33 PM on May 7, 2015


Women make up 50% of medical school enrollment and also 50% of law school enrollment.

Uh huh. And, in the US, less than a third of doctors are women. And they get paid less than their male counterparts, and the gap is widening.

It's the same in law. Fewer than a third of US lawyers are women. Only 19% of equity partners are women. And women lawyers get paid 80% of what their male counterparts make. Cite.

Medicine and law are not bastions of gender equity. Rather, they are a perfect example of how male privilege is expressed in the professional context.

That doesn't mean people aren't working to improve that, but men are very much still dominant in those professions.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:35 PM on May 7, 2015 [24 favorites]


Scalzi's "easy setting" metaphor is really how I best describe my life, I'm not sure why other straight white guys seem to get so upset about the idea.

Because it's a guilt trip.

Look, no metaphor is perfect, but this one has a particularly insidious reading.

In the context of video games, "easy mode" is never the default selection. In order to access easy mode, you must make a deliberate choice to do so.

Therefore, the implication of the metaphor is that you're playing the game on "easy mode" because you're weak. More difficult, more risky, more rewarding options are available to you, but you've chosen the easy path. The path that is specifically made available to and tailored for the less experienced, the less skilled, the young. You chose easy mode? Fucking chickenhawk. Toughen up and play the real game.

This is why the "privilege" tag rankles the "low-information voters" in society. They think you're saying that they don't deserve any respect and you should feel guilty for the choices they've made. But the privileged didn't choose their life. It was handed to them.

This is why I do not deny privilege exists, but think the word choice and the "easy mode" metaphor is doing more harm than good.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:02 PM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


CPB has it. Scalzi's metaphor is insulting. It's almost a dog whistle; the more familiar you are with video games the more insulting it is.
posted by Justinian at 5:09 PM on May 7, 2015


(It's also making the mistake I addressed earlier which is to apply privilege to individuals without narrowing the context sufficiently.)
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on May 7, 2015


It's almost a dog whistle; the more familiar you are with video games the more insulting it is.

people who like Scalzi's metaphor are n00bs and casuals. they love camping with AWPs
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:16 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


xxx360noscope_n00bzxxx
posted by Justinian at 5:24 PM on May 7, 2015


I like to think of it as the majority get to play on default normal mode and those in the higher economic percentile in general (born into or earned) get to play on easy mode. Women's default mode is set higher.
posted by Jalliah at 5:38 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was going to harsh on the article in the OP for being kind of pre-101 and been-there-done-that, until I came and read this discussion, which is just seriously wtf
posted by threeants at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


Recently I had a stupid little donnybrook in a Metafilter thread about gender, and swore I was taking some time off from such discussions because they seem to only lead to more stress for everybody. I haven't read through this whole thread, and I'm only breaking my embargo on gender discussions because an analogy occurred to me the other day that shifted my thinking a bit. I'm hoping something in it may be useful to people who have a lot of problems with the idea of male privilege, and to people who are frustrated with people who have a lot of problems with the idea of male privilege.

The analogy is: men are Americans. (Again, analogy. Work with me here.)

Americans, as a nation, enjoy many privileges. You can say that Americans are fat from cheap junk food and they take for granted their access to drinkable water and electricity, and you can talk about how they are screwing over the planet with their cars and their wars and all sorts of things. And you won't be wrong, as long as you are talking about Americans as a monolithic group.

But an older woman sleeping in her car, or a black man locked up in prison, may give you a lot of push-back when they hear about all the privileges they enjoy as Americans. There are many millions of Americans sleeping on the street, millions in prison, millions living lives of pathetic want. You tell that lady living in her car how fat and rich she is, and I bet you'll get a fight. If that man in prison tells you about how he was systematically dicked over by his country, and you hit him with a LOL and a #NOTALLMERICUNZ, he's going to think you are a smug, callous, prejudiced asshole. If you tell him that the NOTALLAMERICUNZ argument has been made plenty of times before and we don't need to hear it anymore thanks, you may have a real fight on your hands. That guy is not Donald Trump, and he may well object to being classed with Donald Trump just because they were born in the same country. (He may even say that he was effectively NOT born in the same country as Donald Trump.)

Americans are complex. There are the 1%, and there are the people at the very bottom of the 99%. You can say that many of the people at the very bottom of the 99% enjoy all sorts of privileges, but somebody who is working multiple shitty jobs and who is still broke may not have a lot of patience if you tell them how they're wallowing in privilege.

The thing is, being a man sucks, for a lot of men. Being an American sucks, for a lot of Americans. You can tell broke Americans about how miserable life is for people in other countries, and some of them will feel sad or guilty and some of them will shrug and wonder what the fuck they're supposed to do about it and some of them will get angry because their lives suck shit and they feel like you're trying to lay a bogus guilt trip on them. (The analogy begins to fray here, because men accused of privilege will sometimes point out the many privileges that they believe women enjoy, while it's hard to imagine that an American accused of privilege would counter that people in other countries enjoy a lot of privileges that Americans don't.)

When men say not all men, they are saying it for a reason. Your argument truly may not apply to their lives, or the lives of the men they know. You may say they are just a vanishingly tiny speck in the vast sea of male privilige, but you are still telling them that their experiences don't count and you understand what being a man means better than they do.

When people say men, as a group, enjoy a lot of privileges, privileges that all too often go unexamined, that's quite true. Men need to examine these things, and society needs to change in fundamental ways. If you tell a ruined, miserable man about patriarchy and how its pernicious effects have harmed women and men, you may find an ally there. Tell him he's a whining manbaby sitting atop a mountain of privilege, and you'll just walk away hating each other.

I'm posting this, and I'm not reading the responses. I've had too many tense hours over this stuff lately, and I don't want to waste any more of my life arguing about gender. I want men, women and everybody else to get along better. That's hard work, and requires real empathy on all sides. I'm putting this out there in hopes that it may help somebody somewhere.

Being a man sucks, all too often. So does being a woman. So does being somebody outside the binary. Life sucks. And somebody somewhere always has it way worse than you do, no matter how much your life sucks. You're always privileged, compared to somebody. Yes, you.

The one thing we can agree on? Donald Trump is indeed a pompous, privileged sack of shit. It's not much, but it's a start.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:57 PM on May 7, 2015 [27 favorites]


oozy rat in a sanitary zoo: "For all the education I have, for all the hard work I've done, I still make minimum wage, drive a car that's about to die and struggle to make it."

I don't have a car. I mention this not to one-up you, and not because I think you should feel guilty for having a car. But if, for example, you were picking a meeting place for the two of us, or for a group, I'd want you to consider that some people don't have cars. That's my analogy for privilege. You don't need to go around feeling guilty and apologizing for being having a car. Just try not to take for granted that everything that comes easy for you comes as easily for everyone.

(Of course, I have the option of buying a car, much more easily than changing gender, and I choose not to because for me the financial benefit of not paying for all the car stuff outweighs the benefit of being able to get any random suburb or industrial park at a moment's notice. It's not a perfect analogy.)

For an example where you could be on the other end, imagine someone who makes more money than you invites you out to the fancy martini bar what sells only $20 martinis. To someone who makes enough money, they can shrug it off, but that's expensive on minimum wage. Maybe you turn them down and they think you're anti-social. Maybe they think "what a tightwad!" Maybe you'd rather they remember that not everyone has as much money as they do. There is a difference between asking for some consideration for that fact and demanding they feel guilty for that fact. Do you see the distinction I'm making?
posted by RobotHero at 5:58 PM on May 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


The one thing we can agree on? Donald Trump is indeed a pompous, privileged sack of shit. It's not much, but it's a start.

He's a victim of affluenza. Check your not-billionaire privilege!
posted by Drinky Die at 6:02 PM on May 7, 2015


I was going to harsh on the article in the OP for being kind of pre-101 and been-there-done-that, until I came and read this discussion, which is just seriously wtf

No kidding. The article seemed kind of tiresome when I read it, but reading through some of the comments here I can see that if anything it was pitched way above its audience.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


I find that the "easy mode" metaphor absolutely functions as a dog whistle (in the literal and not the political sense).
Have you been so steeped up to your eyeballs in the toxic masculinity that is gaming (especially FPS) culture for so long that you will find any insinuation that you played on anything other than HERO mode to be an insult?
Come out come out wherever you are.
(And yes, that was a spin off of camping.)

Especially because the implication is that the offended male player in question didn't just get schooled by *gasp* a girl *the horrors*! But she actually was playing on a harder mode.
posted by susiswimmer at 6:59 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The thing is, as much joy as you may take in using it to insult gamers...that wasn't what Scalzi was aiming for. He was trying to reach out to them.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 PM on May 7, 2015


And his intentions are exactly as you describe- all well and good. The results were unfortunately perhaps not what was hoped for.
posted by susiswimmer at 7:10 PM on May 7, 2015


He was trying to reach out to them. [gamers]

Not specifically gamers, no, just straight white males. The original here, which starts:
"I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?"
[emphasis mine]
I suspect he picked a "video game" analogy because a huge number of (like, I suspect, virtually all) straight white males under 60 have played video games in one form or another at some point in their lives, entirely likely more than have participated in organized sports outside of something enforced in gym class at school. Video games are a common cultural phenomenon whether you're a "gamer" or not. 50 years ago he would've likely used a baseball metaphor.

Which also means that Justinian's claim that the analogy is insulting to experienced gamers is entirely missing the point of jscalzi's blog post.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:36 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Baseball actually has one of the better metaphors. "Born on third and think they hit a triple."
posted by Drinky Die at 7:46 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


True, but baseball is not the common interest for men it once was.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:56 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wasn't arguing, but I do think that particular metaphor would be 100% understood in the US. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 7:58 PM on May 7, 2015


Which also means that Justinian's claim that the analogy is insulting to experienced gamers is entirely missing the point of jscalzi's blog post.

Errr, no, I understand his point completely. It's not particularly complex.

But what he intended and what he actually conveyed are not the same thing. Death of the author and so on.
posted by Justinian at 8:15 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't see why the concept of privilege needs a metaphor in the first place. It's not a hard concept. Metaphors are useful for the group of concepts which are difficult to convey, of which privilege is not a member.
posted by Justinian at 8:17 PM on May 7, 2015


The originator of the concept presented it as a metaphor, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:
I have come to ses white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.
posted by jaguar at 8:42 PM on May 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


The discussion here is actually pretty important: sometimes it isn't the method of the message, it's the willingness of the listener to actually understand.
You've tried straight forward. You've tried eight different metaphors. You've tried the truth (again). Eventually the speaker realizes the audience just doesn't want to get it.
I enounter this all the time in my job. Perhaps it's why I have little patience left for it in my private life.
posted by susiswimmer at 8:49 PM on May 7, 2015 [21 favorites]


Upton Sinclair: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

Not a salary in this case but the principle is the same.
posted by Justinian at 9:12 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


But what he intended and what he actually conveyed are not the same thing.

Your objections to the essay hinge on the reader's familiarity with video games, to quote, "the more familiar you are with video games the more insulting it is." But Scalzi was looking for a metaphor to help explain privilege to a generic/average straight white male, who is likely to have video game experience enough to grasp the metaphor, even if that experience began and ended with the Atari 2600 when they were 14. If "experienced gamers" find that insulting, then maybe they're not the target audience.

And objecting to nit-picky details about how the analogy is not 110% accurate is both de-railing a discussion away from the actual point of the analogy and missing the forest for the trees.

Metaphors are useful for the group of concepts which are difficult to convey, of which privilege is not a member.

There is significant evidence in this thread alone that privilege is a difficult concept for people to acknowledge as real. Clearly some people might find an analogy useful.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:13 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


They aren't acknowledging it as real not because they don't understand it but because they don't want it to be true.
posted by Justinian at 9:18 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I didn't grow up rich, had a middle-income family with WWII vet head-of, and I never made as much money in my best year (adjusted for inflation) as my father did in his best year. Still, my Capital-P-Privilege was a Safety Net beyond anything some much more 'Welfare State-ish' nations could offer. Your Mileage WILL Vary, but I didn't need to be the child of a millionaire to be Living on Easy Mode. I did do a few things that made it harder on myself, but nothing that ever pulled that Safety Net out from me. Again, Your Mileage WILL Vary, but my greatest regret is that I didn't use that Privilege more effectively.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:23 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


They aren't acknowledging it as real not because they don't understand it but because they don't want it to be true.

Are you saying that people are intentionally and consciously denying the existence of privilege because they don't want it to be true even though they know in their heart of hearts that it is real?
posted by soundguy99 at 9:29 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes?
posted by Justinian at 9:42 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Alternatively, some may be stupid or self-deceiving.
posted by Justinian at 9:42 PM on May 7, 2015


Well, there are a lot of people intentionally and consciously denying the existence of privilege because they fear losing it if they admit to it. Let me just say (again from personal opinion, Your Mileage WILL Vary) it didn't happen to me... yet.

And what should I see when I look at the Web Design Geek Haven known as A List Apart today? “I’m going to talk about privilege,” I replied when my wife asked what I’d be publishing for my next column.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:54 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Justinian, are you really not open to the possibility that some people are genuinely unfamiliar with the concept of privilege, or are blinded to their privilege by their privilege?

And if you're not, then why even have these discussions in the first place? Why have the Scalzi essay or the piece that's the subject of the post? Why object to how these and other essays might be written?

If everyone disagreeing with the concept of privilege is either stupid or self-deceiving or consciously denying for personal advantage, then it's all a big waste of time and energy, the only worthwhile response would be to say, "Fuck ya, then, you unrepentant morans, sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up and catch up when or if you can." In which case you objecting to the thrust of the Scalzi article is an even bigger waste of time than Scalzi writing it in the first place. D'you see what I mean? If you want to debate the tone or style or analogies used in "Privilege 101" pieces, then you are intrinsically allowing for the possibility that these pieces might contribute to changing someone's mind, because if no piece of writing is going to convince the deniers then why object to how it's written? But if you're going to allow that people's minds might be changed, then arguing about how Scalzi's very generalized analogy is a mistake because it doesn't reach a very specific subset of the privileged is missing the point that it's intended for a general audience.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:37 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now you're mixing two different sets of people, those unfamiliar with the concept and those familiar with the concept but who deny it exists. Some people are unfamiliar with the concept but, by definition, they don't deny it exists since you have to be familiar with a concept to accept or deny it.

Strained metaphors do nothing for either groups of people, though, since it's a simple enough concept. At this point making new metaphors is more about feeling clever than it is illuminating the topic. Anybody with a basic understanding of the English language should have no problem grasping the concept of privilege. Whether they accept it as a true reflection of society may be a different matter and a metaphor isn't going to change that position.

"Oh, I rejected the very idea of privilege but now that you compared it to a baseball game I see how wrong I was!"
posted by Justinian at 12:08 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Oh, I rejected the very idea of privilege but now that you compared it to a baseball game I see how wrong I was!"

Well, yeah, but at the same time repetition and restating can and does work in getting a message across to people who do not want to hear it, consciously or otherwise. We've seen examples of it working right here on Metafilter, of people objecting to the concepts of privilege or cis as opposed to trans were in yet another interminable discussion it suddenly clicked for them.

Not with everybody of course, there always will be people willfully rejecting the whole idea of privilege or who don't see how it applies to them when they're struggling themselves.

Explaining privilege once and then move people from the "don't know it" to the "don't want to know" it column is a bit too harsh. The idea of privilege is simple enough to get, the difficulty lies in seeing it in your own life, even when you are willing to accept it. The thing about is after all that it works in invisible ways, easily deniable ways and often without any conscious action on the part of the person profiting from it.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:13 AM on May 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Look, no metaphor is perfect, but this one has a particularly insidious reading.

In the context of video games, "easy mode" is never the default selection. In order to access easy mode, you must make a deliberate choice to do so.

Therefore, the implication of the metaphor is that you're playing the game on "easy mode" because you're weak. More difficult, more risky, more rewarding options are available to you, but you've chosen the easy path. ...

This is why I do not deny privilege exists, but think the word choice and the "easy mode" metaphor is doing more harm than good.


That particular insulting implication hadn't occurred to me on my first read of Scalzi's piece about playing life on easy mode, so it is helpful for me to hear your interpretation. But I went back and reread his post. The final two paragraphs of SWM: the lowest difficulty setting say:

"Oh, and one other thing. Remember when I said that you could choose your difficulty setting in The Real World? Well, I lied. In fact, the computer chooses the difficulty setting for you. You don’t get a choice; you just get what gets given to you at the start of the game, and then you have to deal with it.

So that’s “Straight White Male” for you in The Real World (and also, in the real world): The lowest difficulty setting there is. All things being equal, and even when they are not, if the computer — or life — assigns you the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, then brother, you’ve caught a break."

posted by puddledork at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Going back to the 'men on average die five years before women' thing:

"Differences in life span between males and females are commonly observed across many species. For example, where the heterogametic sex (XY sex chromosomes) is male, as in humans and Drosophila, females tend to live longer than males. Similarly, in Caenorhabditis elegans, where the hermaphrodite has two X chromosomes (XX) and the male has one (XO), the hermaphrodite tends to live longer. In contrast, in most bird species, where the heterogametic sex is female (ZW sex chromosomes), males tend to live longer than females."


The abstract
posted by LindsayIrene at 7:40 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Justinian: "Now you're mixing two different sets of people, those unfamiliar with the concept and those familiar with the concept but who deny it exists."

But don't forget people who deny what they think it is instead of what it actually is.
posted by RobotHero at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is going on here? Like seriously, what is going on.

Are there people on here trying to argue that a) male privilege doesn't really exist, b) we don't live in a patriarchal society, and c) we're all suffering equally?


No kidding. Sexism is like The Last Frontier here at Metafilter. I've kind of always suspected as much but never before has there been such blatant evidence of the fact.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think a more apt video-game related metaphor would not be Easy Mode, but playing with hacks and tool assists that other players will never have access to, and in fact came with your copy of the game. And then sneering at players without these assists to "git gud" if they want to score better, on the presumption that since we're all playing Normal Mode there's no excuse for their poor performance other than lack of effort.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think there's also some sort of Puritan Work Ethic / American Dream / Rags to Riches / Real Gamer / Self-Worth Is Deserved Success mentality that means when you say to some people, "I think you had it easy" they keep trying to translate that into, "You are a bad person and should feel bad."
posted by RobotHero at 1:39 PM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?"

Without that special word the thought exercise of challenging the core attributes which people cannot change about themselves isn't so relevant anymore (as if alienating moderates ever was). The average Joe measures success in his ability to attract women, but by way of privilege and its synonyms. So this agitprop may backfire twice by first flattering the wannabes, then by owning the low expectations of those blaming their problems on their non-SWM status. The irony is that the slacker SWM who opted out of the system is branded a lazy underachiever, probably just what his SWM dad always told him.
posted by Brian B. at 9:09 PM on May 8, 2015


the thought exercise

It's a hell of a lot more than a thought exercise. Real actual human beings have to deal with their own lack of privilege and the shit attitudes and oblivious cruelty of those with privilege every. single. day.

the core attributes which people cannot change about themselves

And what, pray tell, might those "core attributes" be?
posted by soundguy99 at 10:53 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


STR, DEX, CON and so forth.
posted by Justinian at 4:45 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


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