Feminism

Men have it hard, too.

Today, I had the privilege to engage in a discussion about male privilege with a man who was tired of being accused of mansplaining. Ironic, because the context of the conversation was pretty much the definition of mansplaining. My point – admitting that you are privileged or that male privilege exists doesn’t mean that you are claiming that men don’t ever experience challenges or face sexism. When someone who is not a cisgender man says the words – “stop mansplaining!” or makes a joke about “male tears,” I guarantee that they are doing it out of a sense of self-preservation or preservation of self in a “man’s world,” rather than a desire to promote a subversive feminist agenda or to make you feel less than.

I acknowledge that there are many situations that are challenging for men – even white, heterosexual, cisgender men (like the person with whom I was talking). I acknowledge that individual men may experience discrimination or have unfair or horrible things happen to them. But does that mean that even those men who have experienced hardship or discrimination aren’t privileged? My response was: “no.”

I don’t understand how one can claim that men don’t have privilege in our society or that acknowledging that privilege is harmful. In an attempt to generate some empathy, I provided some examples:

  • Have you ever had to schedule your walk to the store or morning run because you are worried about the possibility of getting raped?
  • Have you ever even thought about being raped?
  • Have you ever been hired for a position and realize that all of the other people (of another gender) in the same position and with less experience than you make $20K more?
  • Are members of governing bodies in your local, state and federal government predominately your gender?
  • Are the people in leadership at the place you work?
  • Have you ever been gaslighted within the context of a relationship and made to believe that what you are feeling is just being an “over-emotional member of your gender?”
  • Have you ever faced judgement and discrimination for being a single mom, while seeing everyone fawn over a single dad for being a rock star parent?
  • Have you had countless people comment about your appearance, as if it’s a value or your only contribution to the world?
  • Have you ever been catcalled?
  • Have you ever been asked by customer service if they can speak to your husband regarding the topic YOU contacted them about?
  • Have you ever been coerced to have sex or engage in romance because of expectations of sexual favors in exchange for kindness?
  • And when you say “no, thanks,” get accused of putting someone in the “friend zone?”
  • Have you ever been told that you just don’t have a sense of humor, because members of your gender don’t get jokes, when you don’t laugh at a rape joke?
  • Have you ever been asked in a job interview when/if you planned to start a family?
  • Have you ever been called a bitch or a cunt for standing up for yourself?

 

I could go on. All of these things have happened to me, many of them recently, and I am white, educated and privileged. Sexism is pervasive, internalized and systematic.

To continue the conversation, I would like to invite you to share your examples, your lived experience, in the comments below.

Can men understand what it’s like to not be men? To not experience privilege? Probably not, but I believe that they can acknowledge that privilege and try to have some empathy. That they can acknowledge that just because they have it hard doesn’t mean they aren’t privileged? Here’s hoping.

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Steph

Steph

Steph recently traded single parenthood to two awesome kids (3 and 7) for marriage to a great guy with two awesome kids (5 and 10). Their adventures in parenting are set in a tiny town in the middle of a corn field. Their newest edition is due in February 2017. In late 2015 she left her stressful, more than full-time job with a victim services agency to pursue writing and activism. When she's not busy writing, chasing kids around, cleaning up messes and engaging in social justice warfare, Steph enjoys snuggling, making pies, engaging in debates on the internet, yoga, and fitness. A recovered natural parent, Steph now considers herself a semi-crunchy peaceful parent and trusts science, evidence and common sense to lead the way. She has been actively involved in the reproductive and women's rights movements for more than 20 years and is a passionate pro-choice feminist.

32 Comments

  1. April 8, 2015 at 1:47 pm —

    Some examples from my life:

    *Have you ever been told that you have no standing to discuss a billing issue with your bank because your husband’s name is first on the supposedly joint account “because that’s how they do it”, even though you set up and handle all of the bill paying and make most of the money in the account?

    *Have you ever had a man try to tell you the “real truth” about something you are an acknowledged expert on and then be shushed when you try to correct him?

    *Have you ever been scolded by random strangers when eating or drinking something generally legal and acceptable in public?

    • April 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm —

      Actually… yeah. Because all of the paperwork on our banking account at 5/3 goes through my wife because hers is the name on the mortgage not mine, we have had problems with me gaining full access to our mutual account. Which baffled both of us, we’re Married for fuck sake. If it comes down to brass tacks at the hospital I’m allowed to unplug her. Yet making changes to our joint checking account evidently requires her say so because she’s the “primary account holder”. I hate our bank.

  2. April 8, 2015 at 1:50 pm —

    Have you ever had your outfit criticized for not being “age appropriate”? or for being “too revealing?”

    • April 8, 2015 at 1:53 pm —

      Related, have you ever been told that you are unprofessional for wearing a pantsuit?

      • April 8, 2015 at 1:54 pm —

        Have you ever been forced to wear a skirt and panty hose to work, when pants would have been an appropriate choice?

  3. April 8, 2015 at 1:56 pm —

    Have you ever been warned not to be alone with a senior staff member because they have a widely known reputation for sexual harassment that no one will take action about?

  4. April 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm —

    Have you ever been told by a board member – “I guess only young attractive women are hired to work here.” And then when you tell your supervisor, you are told to learn how to take a compliment?

  5. April 8, 2015 at 4:33 pm —

    No, yes, no, yes, complicated (local office they are mostly women but corporate mostly men), no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

    So men totally have it hard too…
    One thing I’ve tried to do is gender neutralize my profanity against people I don’t like. Everyone is an asshole, women aren’t bitches, they’re also assholes! Women aren’t assholes for being assertive, they’re assholes for spreading a vicious rumor and acting like shit to people, same as a man would be!

    There was a post on Gawker about the black man who was killed by a cop for running away from a traffic stop after getting Tazed, and when someone commented that white people are a huge problem, some guy came in and started talking about how non-racist he was. At first I was a little sympathetic, but really, doing the things he described himself doing isn’t going above and beyond, it’s being a decent human. And to come on a post about a black man being killed and complain that NOT ALL WHATEVER, really really misses the point.
    Of course life is hard for 99.9% of society, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same hard, and in the same or even similar ways!

    tl;dr: I have it easy because I’m a man. Men need to grow up and accept how much better they have it.

  6. April 8, 2015 at 5:55 pm —

    Have you ever been unable to finish a sentence/point in a meeting only to be interrupted repeadedly, then get a reputation for being “pushy” when you finally speak over someone to finish your statement.

  7. April 8, 2015 at 6:57 pm —

    Have you ever been told that you can’t talk to a billing person on the phone about your child’s medical bill even though it’s your insurance, your child (!!!), your money that pays the bills, and YOU are the one who took him to the appointment in question because for some UNKNOWN reason they have your male partner’s name as “responsible party” and you refuse to explain “the nature of your relationship” to this stranger on the phone?

  8. April 8, 2015 at 7:03 pm —

    Have you ever had to schedule your walk to the store or morning run because you are worried about the possibility of getting raped?

    Yes. Although the fear was less of rape specifically, more of being attacked or robbed of my possessions.

    Have you ever even thought about being raped?

    Yes, several times.

    Have you ever been hired for a position and realize that all of the other people (of another gender) in the same position and with less experience than you make $20K more?

    Yes. I made the experience in academia numerous times. Not that they did make more money, they got the position while I didn’t get it. At the same time they were significantly less qualified than me. I have been overlooked countless times and had a very hard time finding an academic position.

    Are members of governing bodies in your local, state and federal government predominately your gender?

    No.

    Are the people in leadership at the place you work?

    No.

    Have you ever been gaslighted within the context of a relationship and made to believe that what you are feeling is just being an “over-emotional member of your gender?”

    No, but I have been characterized as a typical uncommunicative member of my gender.

    Have you ever faced judgement and discrimination for being a single mom, while seeing everyone fawn over a single dad for being a rock star parent?

    Being a single parent was often difficult for me, especially when I needed daycare at work.

    Have you had countless people comment about your appearance, as if it’s a value or your only contribution to the world?

    Yes, but it doesn’t bother me. I go to the gym and I’m happy when people comment on my biceps. It means all that hard
    work has a payoff. 🙂

    Have you ever been catcalled?

    What’s that?

    Have you ever been asked by customer service if they can speak to your husband regarding the topic YOU contacted them about?

    I haven’t tried that yet. I’ll keep you posted!

    Have you ever been coerced to have sex or engage in romance because of expectations of sexual favors in exchange for kindness?

    You mean the “I did something for you, now you do ‘something’ for me” thing? Countless times!

    And when you say “no, thanks,” get accused of putting someone in the “friend zone?”

    I did not have the guts to decline yet, but I would expect hurt feelings.

    Have you ever been told that you just don’t have a sense of humor, because members of your gender don’t get jokes, when you don’t laugh at a rape joke?

    You mean like this:
    There is this train conductor who tells his buddy a little story:
    “There was a naked woman on the train track. I saw her just in time and hit the breaks”
    Buddy: “Oh my god. Did you call an ambulance?”
    “No, I had sex with her.”
    Buddy: “Really? Did she also give you a blowjob?”
    “Nope. I couldn’t find the head…”

    I don’t find this funny at all…

    Have you ever been asked in a job interview when/if you planned to start a family?

    Yes.

    Have you ever been called a bitch or a cunt for standing up for yourself?

    Have been called a dick. Does that count?

    • April 8, 2015 at 7:16 pm —

      I don’t what gender you identify as, but I would like to live in the place where you live where the members of your local, state and federal government are women.

  9. April 8, 2015 at 7:17 pm —

    have you ever been told to redo an apartment application because you put yourself on it as head of household? have you ever been told you can’t move into an apartment without your husband there? have you ever turned down a sexual advancement and been called a cock tease just because of the way you were dressed? have you ever had someone react in shock when they found out you drive a stick shift? or a semi truck, a tractor, a fire truck, or can back up a horse trailer? have you ever had someone get turned on by the idea you know how to castrate a pig??? have you ever had to worry about your significant other having sex with you when you are asleep?

  10. April 9, 2015 at 11:57 am —

    Well, did you ever go on a date with the unspoken expectation that you’ll be picking up the tab for the night? How about this being the expectation throughout an entire relationship?

    I never heard of “privilege” until I went to college (which was several years ago). Male privilege, white privilege, rich-privilege… it went on and on. Of course I was a white male…but I grew up without much money. I went to rotten school districts. I had to work my backside off to get into college. I dealt with navigating a world of rival gangs, people who, if they came to school, would likely be drug-addled, and sometimes carrying knives (guns were pretty uncommon, but not unheard of. It’s just too hard to conceal them on your person without arousing suspicion). We even had a bomb threat called in to the school for the sole purpose of causing an evacuation to give two people a crowd to block security from breaking up a fight. Messed up times.

    And then, I walked out of that world, only to have it implied that I had it easier than other people who didn’t get into such a nice university…and I usually hear it from people who never worried about whether or not some drug-addled moron might knife you just because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Did I avoid going out at the wrong times for fear that I might get attacked? Absolutely. It even happened a couple times while I was minding my own business. And here I was, being given lectures about “diversity” from people who didn’t have friends of another skin color (the campus had a huge racial disparity; so did my neighborhood, but I was the minority growing up…and yes, that did cause problems for some of the locals who were sure that I was somehow “keeping the black man down” by minding my own business and hitting the books), who hadn’t had their school looked at by the college testing boards because somebody in their school scored unusually high SAT scores, and who didn’t have most advanced placement tests offered because students couldn’t afford the fees to take the tests (my money from my job in high school went to helping feed my family, so I couldn’t pay for them myself. Despite working 30 hours a week for more than 2 years, and full-time when school wasn’t in session, I could only barely afford books when I got to college in the fall).

    Yes, privilege absolutely exists. And yes, I’m sure I’ve benefited from it. No, it doesn’t deny what I went through…but I think that, before people comment on other privilege, they ought to check their own at the door first. I acknowledge my benefits. People using the word “privilege” rarely acknowledge their own.

    Now:
    –I currently work for a preschool program administered by a school district. It is a female-dominated profession. Specifically, out of 92 staff members, I’m the only full-time male (the other guy is shared with another department). The supervisors? All women. The superintendent of the district? Female. The person who oversees the state level office? Female. The person before her? Female, and nobody came before her because she founded the department. I get it.
    –I work for less than most of the other people in my unit. I have some very high responsibilities, but as public institution, we it’s a matter of public knowledge about how the pay schedules are organized. I know how much others made. I make far less, even compared to people with lower responsibility. My boss has made it completely clear that she refuses to address this disparity (but I did win the fight to grow out my hair, which policy explicitly prohibits men from doing. I had to reference the sexual discrimination policy to win that disagreement). I understand your pain here as well.
    –I do deal with people making comments about my appearance, even at work. My boss even pointed out that a woman in another department was attractive, my age, and single when she knew I was going through a divorce, like I would be ready to jump at the first pretty available woman when I’m dealing with serious emotional turmoil. The idea that I’m expected to be “ready to go” for an attractive woman makes me out to be very one-dimensional. She never makes a comment like this to the single women in our department.
    –My ex-wife, for almost the entire time we were together, made more money than I did (and, because her parents paid for her education, she wasn’t burdened with student debt either). Ever have people lreat you like there’s something wrong with you because your spouse makes more than you do?
    –When our daughter died, my wife got immediate support and compassion. She was offered a counselor to talk to from the hospital, while I was given instead paperwork to go through regarding everything that had happened. I, as the man, was expected to take the emotional hit, take care of all our problems, including the financial aspects that arose with her not going to work for several months, and take care of my wife’s emotional needs. And I rose to that challenge as strongly as I could…and it took 3 years of therapy to recover from the damage done from my being unable to take time for my own grieving (to this day, my ex-wife refuses to acknowledge that I felt any grief at all, all because I was felt it was my duty to be strong for her).
    –I’ll give you just one more from this past fall, although I have no doubt this goes both ways. I walked into an Ulta to buy my girlfriend something she wanted for our anniversary. The salespeople treated me like I was clueless and tried to up-sell me. It didn’t work, but they never acted like that when I was there with her. I’ve had the same problem with a kitchen supply store, but only when I walk in by myself, never with a woman by my side. I imagine women get the same treatment in male-dominated businesses.

    No, it isn’t fair. But we can’t act like women aren’t deriving a little benefit here at male expense with the expectation that men are to be invulnerable, strong, and protective, who can take care of any and every problem (that doesn’t involve beauty or the kitchen), and who are looked down upon when they don’t succeed with their head held high. Feminists acknowledge this problem and seek to change it, as they should. But I’m sure you can understand why men get miffed about hearing about “privilege” by women who don’t acknowledge that there are situations in which they also derive some benefit (fewer benefits to be sure, but many women rarely acknowledge any situations at all in which they get better treatment). No, men can’t understand what it’s like to not be a man…but can women understand what it’s like to not be a woman?

    • April 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm —

      This isn’t about men not having hard times. In fact, I acknowledge that in the article. It’s about women overall having it worse off. Which they do. You can’t seriously be comparing your discomfort shopping at ULTA with the kind of systemic discrimination and violence that women face on a daily basis? Seriously? Yes, I might get served first at a bar by a male bartender, but if that happens because he wants to have sex with me, does that make my status greater or less than yours? I don’t personally expect men to be invulnerable, strong and protective. I can and do take care of myself and seek out men who don’t fit that mold. All of these things – the gender roles that are imposed on both men and women and the differences in expectations about showing emotion and vulnerability and what we should want and desire. They are all a product of the patriarchy. It hurts us all. By posting this – “but, men DO have it hard and women have it good sometimes” rant, you feed into the same system that has hurt you.

      • April 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm —

        Steph, I really have to ask, in all fairness, if you actually read what I typed. I was talking about the overall tone of your article.

        I didn’t even have discomfort at Ulta; it was about the underlying assumption that I needed help and could be upsold just because I’m a man….and I also explicitly acknowledged that women likely experience the exact same thing in male-dominated services. I didn’t make any comparisons. I posted several examples, just as you did in your original article. You picked the easiest one to attack, changed the experience to be about my comfort level (which I didn’t mention, nor did you correctly assume), and seemed to take it that I was comparing all of the systemic disadvantages women face to my being treated differently in a store. You made that comparison, not me. Did I claim that I have it as bad as women? No. I stated the opposite. I pointed out that women do, in fact have it worse.

        My theme was probably most clearly stated with this sentence: “But I’m sure you can understand why men get miffed about hearing about “privilege” by women who don’t acknowledge that there are situations in which they also derive some benefit (fewer benefits to be sure, but many women rarely acknowledge any situations at all in which they get better treatment).”

        I’ll give an example from feminism’s history: Karen DeCrow fought against gender bias in child custody battles, even though that bias strongly favored women. Contrast that with NOW’s national resolution in 1999, stating unequivocal support of the women in all custody and divorce battles (the resolution is available at NOW’s website. I encourage reading it to confirm that I am not taking what they voted for out of context). The former acknowledges a gender-based advantage in our legal system and takes concrete steps to fix it. The latter did the exact opposite. What message is each side sending? Which one sounds like they’re really fighting for equality and acknowledging how the patriarchal system hurts everybody? But does that mean Karen DeCrow and her supporters thought that women don’t have it worse? Of course not.

        Gender roles imposed by society are ruthless and damaging to everybody. Women do have it far worse. But as I stated before, when talking about privilege, the first thing a person should be doing is acknowledging their own advantages. Just because women have it worse overall doesn’t mean that they don’t get some perks that men don’t get to see. If you want to get men to “get with the program,” you’re going to have to show them that they have something to gain by rejecting this element of our society as well. I understand that. Not nearly enough men agree.

  11. April 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm —

    Thank you JT. That was heartfelt and made me cry. I was raised like a man, so I kinda get it. I was also raised dirt poor and had to deal with overwhelming peer abuse from parents on down in our public school. Even though my mother is native/looks native, us kids didn’t inherit her looks. She made the choice to send us to the white school because she was afraid we’d be physically abused, possibly killed, in the native school. I don’t know if she was right or not. I just know the white school had its own problems. Where my privilege came in was that I could/can pass for white. And my parents were ALL about education. I can tell you right now, I would still be there if they had not been that way. And I’d probably be living the life my fellow students and their parents expected of me – stripper/hooker with a bunch of kids. That’s what happens when your mother is an unapologetic ex-stripper (and genius). And most likely traded sex for money and gifts in order to buy us kids clothes and school supplies. My father and mother loved each other so much, but it didn’t keep the community from making my mother out to be a witch/devil who was taking advantage of my dad. Didn’t matter dad never had a pot to piss in, as they say. Any real money we made was due to mom. Eventually she invested in a trio of pigs and we started raising feeder pigs. We had reputation hogs so their sale helped make up for the corn loss. With cattle we were lucky to break even. Course the horses were always a loss. Did I have to worry about physical confrontations? I probably should have been. The rumors going around about us said our mother sold us girls to men for money. We had no clue. And, therefore, I wasn’t afraid. I was a working farm/ranch kid which means I was way stronger than I looked. My mother also had all us girls take self defense courses (and first aid and cpr) whenever they were offered. And outside of that, never let us out of her sight if we ever left the homestead. I went off to college with little to no idea how men treat women in the ‘real world’. I was immediately taken advantage of by a virgin hunter. I was anally raped by a boyfriend. I went on to sleep with way too many men because I didn’t know I could say no. I was told that being a cock tease was the worst thing a woman could be. But no one told me where to, or that I could, draw the line. I didn’t know at the time that acquiescing to sex because I was afraid of how a man may react if I said no, was akin to rape. I eventually figured it out. I eventually swore off men altogether for many, many years. Such a sheltered upbringing didn’t do any favors for my two sisters, either. My youngest sister was raped at 14 by a man at a Jaycee convention (state refused to press charges because my sister was embarrassed to have fallen victim to a man and said there were three men). My middle sister fell into a three year abusive (physical and verbal) relationship.

    Being raised as boys gave us girls an insight into what men face as well. We were taught to be ladies, but hold our own. We open doors for people. We don’t expect men to pay for everything. We drive stick shifts. And I see the discrimination with my husband. Little things like my him being judged as not being a ‘real’ man because he doesn’t like guns, sports or cars. He’s been accused of being pussy whipped, to which he answered, “Damn right, and proud of it!” Stack on top of that his being pansexual. At my supposed sluttiest, I never got the disgust he gets sometimes when that information is shared. Now he is a huge feminist himself. He works in the trucking industry and sees blatant sexism and racism every day. He’s finally far enough along in his career to feel more comfortable about calling it out when he sees it. Because he is a big, blond, white guy, he is often confided in by racists and sexists… which always surprises him. Thankfully he gives off a trusting vibe to women. They go him for advice. Like just the other day a new female driver went to him to get advice about reporting a felling driver for sexual harassment. My husband was shocked she would even consider NOT reporting it. Even though he is aware that reporting sexual harassment often times comes back to haunt the woman in the form of more harassment, demotion or being fired.

    It’s time we changed things for the better for both ‘sides’. I know my husband I would like to see a future where there are no ‘sides’. At least where gender is concerned.

  12. April 9, 2015 at 9:20 pm —

    Thanks, Trish. I’ve known other women, especially early in college, that also felt the “need” to give in to sexual advances. Fortunately, at least the women I knew figured it out, and I’m glad you did as well.

    I agree that we would like to have a world with “no sides” in this issue. At least, no issues where gender matters in regards to how society treats people. I also resonate with your husband about not caring about that stuff…and it’s hard for my fellow Pittsburghers to understand a disregard for sports!

  13. April 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm —

    A friend from group therapy sent me this link and said, “I think you should answer her questions, lol.”

    I think my friend is right. I am a 30 year old male. Convicted felon (marijuana possession escalated to “distribution”).

    ————————————————————————

    Have you ever had to schedule your walk to the store or morning run because you are worried about the possibility of getting raped?

    In prison I was unable to schedule anything for myself or control my own movements. If I had been able to do so, I certainly would have avoided the areas in prison where rape was most likely to occur.

    Have you ever even thought about being raped?

    Before I was raped in prison I thought about the threat of it very often. After I was raped the first time I thought about it even more. I still think about it.

    Have you ever been hired for a position and realize that all of the other people (of another gender) in the same position and with less experience than you make $20K more?

    No. I work as a dishwasher. My co-workers who do the same job all make minimum wage, the same as I do. Outside the kitchen, women servers make better tips than men servers. My supervisor is a woman. I don’t know how much money she makes.

    Are members of governing bodies in your local, state and federal government predominately your gender?

    Overall, probably, but they don’t listen to me. Partly, I suppose, because I can’t vote.

    Are the people in leadership at the place you work?

    No.

    Have you ever been gaslighted within the context of a relationship and made to believe that what you are feeling is just being an “over-emotional member of your gender?”

    I have been psychologically abused in the context of a relationship. I did not notice a gender-based component to the abuse, no.

    Have you ever faced judgement and discrimination for being a single mom, while seeing everyone fawn over a single dad for being a rock star parent?

    No. However, I have faced “judgment and discrimination” partly for being a man, while the criminal justice system does routinely “fawn over” women. “By “judgment” I mean that a judge sentenced me to be kept in a cage. By “fawn over” I mean that the same system is much easier on women facing the same charges (if they face any charges at all).

    In 2012, University of Michigan assistant law professor Sonja Starr first examined the racial disparity in custodial sentences (Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences). She discovered that black defendants receive longer sentences than white defendants. Then she looked at gender disparity (Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases). She discovered that it is actually six times worse to be male than it is to be black.

    I was considered a danger to society by the court partly because I am a man. A woman in the same legal position as I was would likely never have seen the inside of a state or federal prison. She would likely not have been branded a felon at all. Not only would she not have served hard time, as I did, but also today she would have an easier life than I do — free to get a good job, vote, etc. For the same crime.

    Huffington Post story:

    Men Sentenced To Longer Prison Terms Than Women For Same Crimes, Study Says

    If you’re a convicted criminal, the best thing you can have going for you might be your gender.

    A new study by Sonja Starr, an assistant law professor at the University of Michigan, found that men are given much higher sentences than women convicted of the same crimes in federal court.

    The study found that men receive sentences that are 63 percent higher, on average, than their female counterparts.

    Starr also found that females arrested for a crime are also significantly more likely to avoid charges and convictions entirely, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted.

    Other research has found evidence of the same gender gap, though Starr asserts that the disparity is actually larger than previously suspected because other studies haven’t looked at the role of plea bargains and other pre-sentencing steps in the criminal justice system.

    Yes, as you can probably tell, reform of the criminal justice system is my personal “hobbyhorse.” I recognize that it is not the only aspect of society that matters.

    However, it does matter, and it is a gendered issue. It is gendered in terms of the victims of the state as well as gendered in terms of who cares about the issue. Most grassroots reform activists are former inmates, and of course most of us are male, because 93% of all inmates are male. The women involved with the reform movement tend to be family members of male inmates, not former inmates themselves. (This is not to disparage women activists in our movement in any way. I’m extremely grateful that they exist, not least because they are far more likely to get women to pay attention to this issue than men activists can manage to do.)

    Do women not smoke pot and snag Vicodin from friends? Of course they do. They are just far less likely to end up in prison for it.

    Have you had countless people comment about your appearance, as if it’s a value or your only contribution to the world?

    I entered prison young, and looked younger. The price I paid for being “pretty” was considerably more than comments. But, yes, I got comments.

    Have you ever been catcalled?

    Yes. Daily. By men who wanted to rape me. And some did.

    Have you ever been asked by customer service if they can speak to your husband regarding the topic YOU contacted them about?

    No.

    Have you ever been coerced to have sex or engage in romance because of expectations of sexual favors in exchange for kindness?

    Yes. This is a very common tactic in prison. Also, I have bargained my way to an easier rape. I learned my lesson the first time.

    And when you say “no, thanks,” get accused of putting someone in the “friend zone?”

    I cannot recall ever hearing the term “friend zone” in prison. To say “no, thanks” to rape does not make the other inmate your friend.

    Have you ever been told that you just don’t have a sense of humor, because members of your gender don’t get jokes, when you don’t laugh at a rape joke?

    Sort of. In prison, I was a rape joke. After I was turned out, other inmates openly laughed at the blood stain on the seat of my pants. I would regularly be on the receiving end of rape humor after that. But I was never specifically told that I did not have a sense of humor because of my gender, that I can recall.

    Have you ever been asked in a job interview when/if you planned to start a family?

    I rarely can get a job interview. I am a felon. Employers have to accept my application, but I have to reveal my felon status on it, so I don’t get many interview calls. My current employer asked, in a patronizing way, if I planned to go back to prison, but she did not ask if I planned to start a family. I would like to start a family one day, if I can get a job that pays more than minimum wage.

    Have you ever been called a bitch or a cunt for standing up for yourself?

    Yes.

    ————————————————————————

    Steph,

    All unfairness matters. I don’t mean to devalue the unfairness you have received. But this article has the sarcastic headline “Men have it hard, too.” You explicitly state in a comment that “It’s about women overall having it worse off. Which they do.” And I guess they do by your standards.

    But before you award yourself a gold medal in the Suffering Olympics, maybe you should visit a prison or two. The suffering of prison inmates is gendered to the tune of 93%. How much does routine gang rape over the course of years count against the rudeness you suffered from a customer service representative? I will readily acknowledge that rudeness matters. But you have invited a comparison and contrast exercise. You have invited your readers to compare your personal suffering with their own.

    So please compare yours with mine. And please keep in mind that most inmates are illiterate or semi-literate (I know because I acted as a “prison lawyer” when my only qualification was literacy). Therefore, these men would never be posting in a privileged space like this. It’s just by chance that I discovered your article.

    My experience is not just my own. It is the experience of literally millions of men.

    Sincerely,
    Joseph Yard

    • April 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm —

      Joseph,

      Thank you for taking the time to write.

      We really appreciate how clearly you’ve shown that the threat of rape that women experience on the street in public is similar to the threat that men experience in prison.

      Your conclusion isn’t really borne out in your argument though, you may want to reconsider your approach.

    • April 10, 2015 at 11:39 pm —

      I am confused as to how the horrible things you’ve endured in prison are relevant to a discussion of male privilege. Clearly you understand that the fact that you have experienced bad things doesn’t change how our society in general mistreats women.

      • April 12, 2015 at 5:46 pm —

        So you missed the part about the gendered element of prisons? He admitted that his focus was kind of narrow, but I don’t think it should be so casually dismissed.

        • April 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm —

          I want to preface this by saying that I thought the OP was thoughtful, and I mostly agreed with it.

          I think I get the basic argument–patriarchy is a system that broadly elevates men over women, but hurts men to a lesser degree (a few men not so much lesser) in the process. But too often in social justice spaces I see that used as a way to just dismiss men’s issues. I’m not talking about situations where a women’s issue alone was the topic of discussion and MRA’s come barging in to derail. I mean threads like this where men’s issues are on topic. It doesn’t help that the loudest supposed men’s advocates are mostly concerned with tearing down feminism and women.

          The specific social justice definition of privilege is weird to me. It doesn’t seem inaccurate to describe the current state of the criminal justice system–and much of education*–as “white female privilege” even if the situation ultimately comes from patriarchy. Even though men are more privileged overall.

          *Though maybe boys’ poorer academic performance comes from conditioning outside of school itself–still, as with the extra-vocational messages women get that diminish their workforce attendance, the results are the same.

  14. April 11, 2015 at 5:50 am —

    Yeah. I’m not sure what life in prison has to do with life in the real world. How long would a woman last in general population at a men’s prison? Just wondering…

  15. April 14, 2015 at 12:35 am —

    Have you ever had to schedule your walk to the store or morning run because you are worried about the possibility of getting raped? No. And neither should anyone else. Statistically speaking it is highly unlikely that I would be grabbed by a stranger on the street. Don’t let fear make you victim.
    Have you ever even thought about being raped? I was and for years I obsessed over it. Then I educated myself and I’m not afraid anymore.
    Have you ever been hired for a position and realize that all of the other people (of another gender) in the same position and with less experience than you make $20K more? If they had been with the company for years I would expect and want them to make more. That means the company gives raises. The one time I found out a man was making more than I did at the same job with the same seniority, I went to my boss, ask, politely why that was and I left with a raise putting me 10% over my male co-worker. Companies want to make money and will pay anyone as little as they can get away with. Dudes ask for raises more often. You gotta fight for your money.
    Are members of governing bodies in your local, state and federal government predominately your gender? No. That is a genuine issue. But there also isn’t a portionable representation of all races, religious and non-religious groups or sexual orientation.
    Are the people in leadership at the place you work? It is about 60/40 male to female. I supervise a team of 12 male data scientists and database managers in India.
    Have you ever been gaslighted within the context of a relationship and made to believe that what you are feeling is just being an “over-emotional member of your gender?” Yes, but he was a sociopath. My gender meant very little to him.
    Have you ever faced judgement and discrimination for being a single mom, while seeing everyone fawn over a single dad for being a rock star parent? No. If anything I get more leeway at work for my kids’ doctor’s appointments, school events and what not. My male boss is very compassionate about the fact that I’m the only parent. I have seen a single dad act proud after dressing his daughter and braiding her hair and have his mother tell him “What do you want? A cookie?”
    Have you had countless people comment about your appearance, as if it’s a value or your only contribution to the world? I hear that I’m smart and/or funny more often than I hear anything about my appearance. But I’m pretty average looking, so that is cool.
    Have you ever been catcalled? Yes. Most of the time it is annoying but every now and again, I’m honest enough to admit on days I’m a little down, it is a little pick me up to hear.
    Have you ever been asked by customer service if they can speak to your husband regarding the topic YOU contacted them about? That has never happened to me ever. Not when I was married. Not when I was single. In college (in the 90’s) when I worked at a few different call centers they trained us specifically never to do that.
    Have you ever been coerced to have sex or engage in romance because of expectations of sexual favors in exchange for kindness? No.
    And when you say “no, thanks,” get accused of putting someone in the “friend zone?” Not that I am aware of.
    Have you ever been told that you just don’t have a sense of humor, because members of your gender don’t get jokes, when you don’t laugh at a rape joke? I laugh at rape jokes if they are funny. Sarah Silverman has several funny rape jokes.
    Have you ever been asked in a job interview when/if you planned to start a family? No. That is illegal to ask. Any HR person worth their salt knows that. I’m not even in HR and I know that. If anyone is asked that then they need to report it.
    Have you ever been called a bitch or a cunt for standing up for yourself? Yes and I think it is funny. That has pretty much always takes the wind out of their sails when I laugh.

  16. April 14, 2015 at 2:54 am —

    Emily Sexton April 8, 2015, 1:47 pm Reply
    Some examples from my life:

    *Have you ever been told that you have no standing to discuss a billing issue with your bank because your husband’s name is first on the supposedly joint account “because that’s how they do it”, even though you set up and handle all of the bill paying and make most of the money in the account? No, but I always kept my own account.

    *Have you ever had a man try to tell you the “real truth” about something you are an acknowledged expert on and then be shushed when you try to correct him? No. Not on any subject I am an expert on.

    *Have you ever been scolded by random strangers when eating or drinking something generally legal and acceptable in public? Good, gawd no! I’ve heard several people say that has happened to them but I’ve never witnessed it past high school.

    Have you ever had your outfit criticized for not being “age appropriate”? or for being “too revealing?” Once by a female boss. She thought my sweater was too tight. For a week after that I wore my teenage daughter’s sweaters. She never said another word. We worked together for another 5 years without any issues.

    Have you ever been forced to wear a skirt and panty hose to work, when pants would have been an appropriate choice? Jeezus, I had no idea companies still did that! I thought that stopped in the 80’s. Maybe, I’ve just been lucky. But no, pants have always been an option.

    Have you ever been warned not to be alone with a senior staff member because they have a widely known reputation for sexual harassment that no one will take action about? No, you know, to be fair I stay at companies 6-10 years so I haven’t worked very many places but the few I have worked at were terrified of litigation.

    Have you ever been told by a board member – “I guess only young attractive women are hired to work here.” And then when you tell your supervisor, you are told to learn how to take a compliment? Holy crap! Seriously, lawyer up. If you can’t afford one check out your local legal aide office. There are laws to protect us from harrassment.

    Have you ever been told that you can’t talk to a billing person on the phone about your child’s medical bill even though it’s your insurance, your child (!!!), your money that pays the bills, and YOU are the one who took him to the appointment in question because for some UNKNOWN reason they have your male partner’s name as “responsible party” and you refuse to explain “the nature of your relationship” to this stranger on the phone? That is bordering on a HIPPA violation. Ask to speak to a supervisor.

    have you ever been told to redo an apartment application because you put yourself on it as head of household? No. I’ve always been the legal head of household.

    have you ever been told you can’t move into an apartment without your husband there? No. Why would they require that? Do you live in the rural south?

    have you ever turned down a sexual advancement and been called a cock tease just because of the way you were dressed? No. I’m begining to feel very lucky I’m only marginally attractive.

    have you ever had someone react in shock when they found out you drive a stick shift? Not shock. Maybe a little surprised because most cars are automatic transmissions.

    or a semi truck, a tractor, a fire truck, or can back up a horse trailer? Can’t do any of those.

    have you ever had someone get turned on by the idea you know how to castrate a pig??? Wait. What? I think that one crosses over the line from sexism into some kind of fetish.

    have you ever had to worry about your significant other having sex with you when you are asleep? That is terrifying! No! That wouldn’t be sex it would be rape. Consensual partners want postive responses from one another.

    • April 15, 2015 at 10:44 am —

      The apartment fiasco, with the application and moving in, happened in Phoenix, AZ. Arizona is a bastion of conservatives who have moved there from the more progressive West coast states. Worst place we’ve ever lived, too. Thankfully, one of the best women’s hospitals in the country, though.

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