Myths of Male Privilege

Men's rights activist Herb Goldberg[24], for example, claimed in 1976 that "the myth that the male is culturally favoured ...is clung to, despite the fact that every critical statistic in the area of longevity, disease, suicide, crime, accidents, childhood emotional disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction shows a disproportionately higher male rate." He sees males as "oppressed by the cultural pressures that have denied him his feelings, by the mythology of the woman and the distorted and self destructive way he sees and relates to her, by the urgency for him to 'act like a man' which blocks his ability to respond ... both emotionally and physiologically, and by a generalized self hate that causes him to [not] feel comfortable ... when he lives for joy and for personal growth."

This topic has come up quite a bit around the trans blogs and I have sat back and read and chewed on this idea for a quite some time. The straw that broke my back about this was the Halloween post by Matt Kailey at Tranifesto about male privilege in the trans community. I have been trying to write this post for months and I think I am finally ready to say my piece.

Male privilege suggests there is some positive gain or some "have" men get that women "have not". I am unsure what exactly this is and from reading a lot off the comments following posts about male privilege I see that there is almost NEVER anything specific deiscussed just this giant ethereal myth like a giant secret that men have from women. Sure men might want to have a club where they can meet and just be a guy without a woman saying they have no right to congregate together because somehow it steps on their right to be involved in everything men are involved in. While I think that access to programs, and publicly funded events should have a genderless set of eyes when making policy, I do not feel like private clubs and associations should be obligated to make everything open to both/all genders. This of course gets tricky when we still have difficulty separating biological sex from gender.

I think it's interesting that we FTMs seem to carry a LOT of our socialized gendered upbringing "across the border" if you will. I am a lot older than a lot of the guys on here but I think that at least in my country (Canada) there is an argument to be made that women have a considerable amount of privilege especially in areas centred around the family.  Consider the following:

1. Women and men have nearly achieved equality in the workplace with a few exceptions. (another discussion for another day)

2. Men have been eliminated from the family unit. They have few rights when it comes to custody of their children (usually ALWAYS awarded to the mother) and are the ones most often sought after to pay child support with or without access to their own children.

3. Men pay alimony to ex-wives. This is based upon the fallacy that all men make more money than women and therefore need to support their former spouses (aside from child support) because women can't get a job of their own and support themselves.

4. It is still socially acceptable for women to make horrible demeaning and degrading jokes about men. Watch The View or any other TV show hosted by or starring women and it is apparent that men are still neanderthal sex maniacs who are only useful in that they can support a woman (see above). How many emails do you get from women that talk about killing men, dismembering them, disfiguring them or how to protect yourself from all the robbers/rapists/arsonists/child molesters who of course again are all men? Hilarious for sure.

5. Men are often seen as criminals when it comes to children. Many fathers/uncles/cousins can not go out in public with a child relative without at least some women glaring staring or surveying the situation. Most likely they're thinking he is a pedophile or sleazy creep. I can't offer to babysit for my neighbour, offer a kid a ride home during a -40 blizzard, talk to that adorable kidlet in line at the grocery store, or smile at a young girl dressed up in a fairy costume on her way to her first dance recital without risking a public scolding.

6. Mens bathrooms reek. Ladies rooms always have softer toilet paper, smell better and are generally larger and better decorated than the mens room.

7. In Canada there are places where the good jobs (government, large corporation, union, etc.) are given to qualified candidates in this order:  Aboriginal, natural resident of the province or territory, women, handicapable, and finally at the very bottom of that list is the healthy (white) male.

8. Men die younger because they generally have more physical and stressful jobs than women. They also have cultural pressure to "act like a man" which involves supressing their emotions, acting out in shows of masculine competition and performing stupid human tricks to amuse others. This takes a toll on men's health both mentally and physically and men are more likely to suffer heart attacks and depression than women though most won't seek treatment until it is too late. Men are more likely to commit suicide. That is not a privilege.

This is not a criticism, but just scratches the surface of issues facing men in today's society. Of course this is a way bigger knot when you introduce sexual orientation, transgender issues, race and culture, and socio-economic factors but seriously, I am still looking for exactly what specific privileges people are referring to when they talk about male privilege.

I would really like to know because as I see it, there is no longer even equality between the sexes, never mind privilege.


April said...

Wow, just had this discussion with a friend mere minutes ago, well said. I agree but as a guy could never say this.

I feel I lost nothing in terms of privilege transitioning to female.


PS. Enjoy reading your blog

Anonymous said...

I like this post. I've been thinking about the same issue a lot lately.

There is a huge amount of pressure put on men to be 'men' yet then of course they get town down (by women) for it.

I know a hand full of 'men' who take on enormous amounts of stress both physically and emotionally because of how they feel they 'must' be based on what's socially required of them.

I've gotten to see behind those curtains with a few of those people a few times and it really makes me even more disappointed in our society as a whole.

Kathryn Martin said...

I am sorry to say, but I am completely in disagreement with your post. The incidents of male privilege you describe in my view do not capture where the privilege really lies. If you read this article: http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/White-Male-Privilege.html with an open mind then you might understand what is meant by male privilege. I transitioned as a professional (lawyer) in April of this year and am 6 months pre-op with surgery dates set.

This last Tuesday I was at the receiving end of male aggression and privilege in a discussion about a policy issue. I was literally "put in my place" not by the cogency of his argument but by being more aggressive, louder, deliberately diminishing me by gender. It was so obvious, that all women and some men noticed it and commented about it afterwards.

Anonymous said...

The incidents of male privilege you describe in my view do not capture where the privilege really lies.
Actually, suicide and lifespan are very central to privilege. How could they not be?
What privilege is it to have greater levels of suicide and shorter lifespans? greater levels of homelessness

The feminist article you linked to was talking about 'white privilege'. Well a clear example of the privilege is the fact that white people LIVE longer than black people in America. And on the average are more materially wealthy than black americans.

Women LIVE longer than men(which is due to a large biological component i believe).

Here in the Uk(where hanging and poison is the favourite suicide method due to the severe restriction on gun ownership), the number of suicides by males is three times that of females