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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