Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ssssh Male Privilege Is Meant To Be A Secret

When I wrote What About The Men, I did not expect to see such a display of male privilege in my comments section.  My basic point in writing that post was to say that it is important to get past the what about me whine. As I read through the hysterical (yes intentional choice of words) commentary, I could not help but think that the minute you point out privilege the first response is, no that does not apply to me.

image Of course the menz wanted to point out that they had never raped, beaten or stalked a woman and because they had never committed these very specific attacks, they were not in the least bit sexist.  This can be considered stage one of denial.  Simply because you personally have not performed certain behaviours does not mean that you have not benefited from unearned privilege, nor does it negate the fact that the acts in question are committed by men.  "Nearly one-third of all U.S. women report experiencing violence from a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund."  Over 5000 women and girls are killed every year by family members in so-called 'honour killings', according to the UN. So the menz are right, not all of them rape, abuse, and murder, but enough of them do it to make the world unsafe for women. 

Stage two of denial: To the stay at home dads that are diapering, folding laundry and cooking meals, domestic labour does not absolve you of male privilege. I know that you want a pat on the back for being secure enough in your masculinity to do "women's work" but you won't get one from me.  The very fact that you feel entitled to recognition for performing domestic labour that women have done for centuries is an exercise in privilege.

Stage three of denial:   Even though 95% of the worlds wealth is held by men because it is not equally distributed it is not privilege. Women don't want to go out there and compete like the boys.  Women want to nurture so we cannot be blamed if they don't succeed. 

Here we have a very western centred argument which is also mendacious.  Women outside of the western world are participating in micro businesses in an attempt to secure subsistence for their families. The majority of the worlds farmers are women.  Subsistence is the most important job that anyone can do, if you don't have nourishment you die.  Women work very hard, we just don't get rewarded for it. Without the free labour of women in the private sector the public sector would fold like a deck of cards.  Somehow though this all important labour is still not counted in the GDP and GNP.  I suspect the fear of factoring in the true cost would unbalance the already gender biased capitalist system.

As for not wanting to advance in the corporate world; what must be factored in is that women manage the majority of domestic duties, childcare and elder care, exactly how do you expect them to compete in professions that demand 100% commitment.  It is not like the male run government has socialized daycare, or organized communal kitchens, or a form of exchange for housekeeping.  The doting husbands that we are all supposed to worship are still not doing 50%, and men wonder why it is that women have difficulty managing career and family.  Here is a tip, there are 24 hours in a day and no matter how amazing your wife or partner is, eventually she has to sleep.  Apparently God rested on the seventh day so get off our collective backs, and do some damn laundry.

Stage four of denial:  These feminist are all so angry.  When they speak about men it is all so generalizing.  I am sick of these wild leaps of fantasy that have no basis in fact.  I would also like to know why all feminist work is so poorly written, and laced with profanities.

So I explained about the over work, domestic abuse, and rape, but hey these things just come with a vagina and I should have learned to accept my lot in life by now right.  When men rise up and speak out about tyranny they are worshipped as heroes and visionaries, when women do it about patriarchy we are illiterate ball busting bitches who just don't know our place.  Feminist theory is very much based in fact, and men simply don't like the results of the statistics.

Attacking the language is meant to discipline women.  Good girls don't say the F word, cursing is for men.  Even though profanity has gone main stream and is no longer considered shocking, when women use an expletive to reinforce a fucking point, it is still a no no. Finally referencing the quality of the writing, calling it simplistic or poorly worded without addressing the ideas presented, only proves to all reading your commentary that you do not have a legitimate response.

I have been writing womanist musings for almost 6 months now.  Many have come into my space not to engage in debate but to silence me.  How dare I, a woman of colour have the temerity to publicly speak my truth.  I have dealt with the cowards who have sent me hate mail.  My motherhood and my children have been attacked.  I have been called simple minded, and purposefully obtuse.  Someone even suggested that my education had left me brain washed.  From the topic of this blog I am sure you can all guess what I majored in.

Denying your privilege and heaping vitriol on those that labour in the cause of justice, is not only an act of privilege, it is an act of cowardice.  I stand before you defenceless with nothing but my words as a shield, seeking justice for those that we have forgotten.  Doing the 40 hour grind, with the habitual 3 beers and 1 date night per week, is a life of comfort.  It does not challenge you, it does not benefit the greater good.  When you die your commodities will pass on to the next generation if they are still in working order, but the person that daily fights for justice leaves a legacy of love.


Quixotess said...

Great post. I loved this:
"When men rise up and speak out about tyranny they are worshipped as heroes and visionaries, when women do it about patriarchy we are illiterate ball busting bitches who just don't know our place. "

Also, I had no idea that more than half of farmers are women. I believe you, but can you show me where you got that fact?

xxblaze said...

Great post! I always approve of putting teh menz in their place. They talk like we are just a bunch of uppity bitches that never confronted our own priviledge. Their statements assuring themselves that they are mighty and awesome and that everything they possess was won by the virtue of their awesomeness and not thousands of years of brutality is just pathetic beyond words. Some people are truly beyond help and understanding. It's better though, to continue pissing them off, even if they'll never get it.

uppitybrownwoman said...

I'm sad and angry that you had to write a post like this because men who supposedly read your blog don't want to acknowledge their privilege.

nia said...

Preach Renee!!!

Jewelry Rockstar said...

Yes, men absolutely have their privilege in this world. It's kind of funny trying to explain it to them though. Just like explaining White privilege to Whites. I think it must be hard to explain privilege to someone who was born with it, but also has their own life struggles to the point where it doesn't feel like they have gotten anything special.

Try to explain to an American living in a housing project that they have it better than most in the world. It would be very hard. They will never believe you.

tanglad said...

When I was teaching, I remember how resistant many of the men were to the idea of male privilege (I taught college sociology to working adults, ranging in age from late teens to late forties). Along the lines of *I* change diapers and *I* go to PTA meetings and *I* would never date-rape a woman. We (including other students who get it) work really hard to get them to see how their male privilege has a strong systemic component, that we live in a society that privileges their needs.

Many times, I could tell that the conversation is useless, that a male student will simply not budge. But there are times when I see the stirrings of thought, a hint that maybe the student might reconsider his position. It doesn't happen all the time, but often enough to keep me optimistic about the possibilities of change in the long run.

Sandalstraps said...


I'm going to tread dangerous ground here...

I am trying to own my male privilege and my white privilege. Simply put, by virtue of being a white, middle-class, well-educated man, I enjoy a great deal of privilege, and - after having been exposed to bell hooks and others - I am on the road to learning how to own that privilege. To be mindful of it, and in so doing, to stop accidentally or intentionally using it as a weapon against others, or as a tool for the perpetuation of privilege.

I also recognize that what you are responding to here is a very real phenomenon; men using their own private behavior to deny systemic problems and structural violence. Simply put, the argument that I as an individual have never committed some overt act of physical or sexual violence, therefore you feminists and womanists need to stop "whining" about patriarchy, is bullshit. I acknowledge it for what it is: bullshit. To use examples of private behavior (self-reported private behavior, no less) to undermine claims of structural violence and systemic oppression is dishonest bullshit. They are either lying to themselves, lying to everyone else, or both.

That said, part of this post hurt me. Now, perhaps I need to be hurt. No doubt part of owning privilege entails taking some licks. But I think something that you wrote here was unfair, and I look forward to your setting me straight on it, if in fact I need to be set straight for still clinging to my privilege:

To the stay at home dads that are diapering, folding laundry and cooking meals, domestic labour does not absolve you of male privilege. I know that you want a pat on the back for being secure enough in your masculinity to do "women's work" but you won't get one from me. The very fact that you feel entitled to recognition for performing domestic labour that women have done for centuries is an exercise in privilege.

Having not read through all of the comments on the post this is responding to, I'm sure I don't have the entire context for this quote. Also, though I am a stay-at-home Dad, this doesn't entirely apply to me, since I have never asked for anyone outside my nuclear family to respect or appreciate the work I do in and around the house. I don't need a societal pat-on-the-back, nor do I need the approval of anyone outside my family (that is, the family I participate in, not the family I own) for my domestic labor.

That said, as a stay-at-home Dad, I can say - at least anecdotally - that those like me who challenge the social construct of what it means to be a man find themselves on the wrong end of male privilege as relates to that aspect of our selves. I say that not to say that in other aspects of my life - and there are many - I don't benefit from privilege. Rather, I say that to say this: in my domestic role, and in that role only, my status as a man challenging the social construct of "man" puts me at odds with those men who virulently cling to patriarchy.

This is no less true for other men, who - many in stronger forms - challenge the social construct of "man." Here we can be allies, yet the paragraph referenced above read as a kind of hostility.

I don't want to make too much of that, nor to try to assert here some kind of privilege. I also certainly don't mean to say that you shouldn't be hostile. You of course have that right, and should assert yourself by any means you and you alone deem fit.

I just want to assert that though women are the primary victims of patriarchy, and though that should never be denied or minimized, men who challenge the social construct of "man" created and reinforced by patriarchy find themselves also - though in a different and often (but not always - see, for example, gay men, who are victims not only of heterosexist homophobia, but also of patriarchy, in that their very existence denies a certain essential myth of true manhood) lesser way.

I do not expect you to write on the plight of men who stand with you against and under patriarchy, nor do I claim any special status as such. But, if, in the midst of all the other great work you are doing, you can be sensitive to that, that would be welcome.

WeblogLearner said...

It is not the problem of men alone. Women have their own part. REVOLT! Yes! I am a woman! No one can hurt us without our permission. Are you hit? HIT BACK! Are you raped? Why? Study self defense. Your family is so dogmatic? REBEL! The thing is, change are difficult to be achived. SOme force are necessary. So women, it's our call... because no man wuld go down their thrown so we need to pull them down.

Quixotess said...

"Are you raped? Why? Study self defense."

The implication here, that all rapes can be prevented by the victim, is offensive in the extreme. Studying self-defense is not even close to a full solution to rape. For example, many women are raped when they are drunk, drugged, or passed out. Unconscious women can't fight back.

For another, most women are raped by people they know and trust to some degree. Would you be willing to fight back against your boyfriend? They can be feeling confused and shocked that someone they trust would violate them like that. Life just isn't so simple as "someone hurts me so I hurt him back."

Mostly, though, that you put the onus on women to prevent rape shows that you are not a friend to women. It is the responsibility of men to not rape, rather than the responsibility of women to fight back hard enough when men try.

Renee said...


Essentially what you are engaged in is victim blaming. It is offensive. Men are responsible for rape not women. It is the rapist to which you should attach your anger. Womanist Musings is meant to be a safe space for rape survivors and your commentary threatens that. This is your only not engage in victim blaming on this blog.

Jewelry Rockstar said...

"Men are responsible for rape not women"

except for the woman who raped DMX, hehehe...

I am sorry for the joke, I just wanted to lighten it up over here. It's so heavy. I know you are over here fighting for all womankind, but you can attract more bees with honey instead of vinegar. I know, I know, we all have our purpose and I believe you are living in yours. Keep living and growing.

Jana said...

Jewelry Rockstar:

Some things in life, like Rape CANNOT be lightened up, nor should they be. As for your honey and vinegar analogy, the Western world has had enough Honey, and are stuck in their ignorance. People like Renee, are not trying to attract bees per se, but trying to wake them the fuck up.

Jewelry Rockstar said...


If Renee is trying to alert everyone to male privilege, okay cool I'm fine with that. My point is every argument doesn't have to be an angry one. Sometimes you can say what you need to without being nasty and angry, which I think some of her comments were. I also think rape should not be mixed in with male privilege because it is a hostile and violent act. Most male privilege is exercised right in the home where a man and woman live together in the name of love. To bring up rape in this argument let's a bunch of "good men" off the hook for the male privilege the benefit from.

As for the joke, I stand by it. It actually is a demonstration of male privilege. DMX has an affair with a woman which produces a child, he tells a magazine and his wife that the woman raped him (she by the way believed it or least said she did). That fact that story has been entertained at all by his wife and Sister 2 Sister is an example of male privilege. So...stop thinking with your anger! Starting using all your sensibilities, and maybe we can stop some of this male privilege.

Fourth Wave Feminism said...

Renee: brilliant post. I'm in full agreement. I was horrified to see the (somewhat nonsensical) vitriol spewed in the comments section of your earlier post, and it's great that you posted this response.

The compelling thing about your argument is that it reflects the problem with most minority politics: those in the majority often do not understand "what all the fuss is about." (In saying this I, of course, realize that feminism is not technically a minority politic; however, patriarchal oppression has made it such despite the fact that women are actually in the majority in terms of hard numbers.) For example, the glaring falsehood--constructed and maintained by the racial majority--that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps in America regardless of your race. And that if you don't, you haven't tried hard enough (i.e. you're lazy). Or the idea that same-sex couples are seeking "extra privileges" when they lobby for marriage equality. Obviously, these issues aren't completely equivalent with--nor are they completely separate from, in my opinion--the tenets of feminism, but they occurred to me as parallel examples of blind privilege and its effects.

Also, @Sandalstraps: I know you were addressing Renee, but if I may, I'd like to respond quickly. My father was a stay-at-home dad, so I get where you're coming from, but I have a caveat. I'm sure it's very true that some stay-at-home dads feel the stigma of our patriarchal society. However, to me at least, feminism is a more global issue than whether or not one is at home doing chores. The idea that stay-at-home dads should be lauded by feminists (and I realize that's not entirely what you're saying) for taking care of the children/home negates the whole point. For me, domestic labor shouldn't be seen as "women's work" in the first place, so if I were to praise a man for doing chores just because he's a guy and that's not his societal "place," it would just be re-inscribing the idea that women belong in the home and men belong in the workplace.

Meadester said...

Renee, you condemn parents for spanking but I am willing to bet that your treatment of your children amounts emotional abuse more damaging than the so-called physical abuse of the average spanking parent. After all your children are boys, males, future men and clearly males can do no right, never deserve praise or kind words for anything. Your partner may get off on that sort of treatment, but your boys did not choose to be born to a man-hating mother. Of course, maybe you make exceptions for your own children. One can hope.

Renee said...


peridotash said...

I've been reading this blog for a few months now and it has become one of my favorite feminist blogs. Almost every post here is well-written and thought-provoking. To me, you make a lot of sense. I'm glad you won't be discouraged by those who get nasty in their attempts to silence you. Keep writing! You have people reading out here who appreciate what you have to say. Maybe we just don't comment often enough.

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