Transparency note: I am female-bodied with some gendered privileges, an anarcho-humanist, a feminist, and above all, a radical mental health activist and advocate.
I have always been uncomfortable with the way that “male privilege” is worded, but until today I never could put how I felt into words.
I have been thinking about male privilege and what, specifically, it means and implies. It exists for many reasons, all of which are shitty reasons, but nonetheless reasons. So, I am sitting here contemplating these reasons. Let’s talk about my thought experiment for a moment.
Just for this thought experiment, I put the sexual domination/physical domination of females and women aspect of male privilege aside. This IS NOT to say it is not important, only that I am putting it aside for this particular experiment.
So, when I put aside the physicality of male privilege, what do you have left? You still have the social and psychological aspects of what is currently termed “male privilege”; the stereotypes that men are powerful, independent, aggressive, competitive, confident, strong, emotionless, stable, assertive, power-hungry, etc.
The problem with terming these social and psychological aspects as “male privilege” is that they are not determined by a person’s sex, but by a person’s embodied gender role—whether that gender role is consciously adopted or not.
Given this, I propose that these social and psychological aspects of “male privilege” no longer be referred to as male privilege, but instead, gendered privilege. If we really want to create change, we have to change the ways in which we speak about and address inequality, injustice, and privilege.
The above gendered privilege is not only available only to males—it is also available to others who exhibit those social/psychological traits. There is a strong interplay between social behavior and psychological processes here. If someone, no matter what their sex, is taught that to be “feminine” is unacceptable, they may grow up to exhibit socially-constructed “masculine” traits, and can in turn embody gendered privilege.
In this way, having gendered privilege, when all other things are created equal between two groups in question, means that the group with gendered privilege needs to step back and listen to the group without gendered privilege.
To continue to ignore or scoff at gendered privilege, regardless of the person’s sex, is not okay.
I propose that all feminists discuss gendered privilege openly, and share this knowledge with others so that those without this privilege can finally have their voices heard loud and clear.
- M. Osborn