Male Privilege: Yes, It Is Real
When typing the heading to this piece I felt myself fighting back the words ‘no shit Sherlock’ and then wondered, ‘should I carry on writing this?’ Then I remembered why I wanted to write this and resolved to carry on bashing the keyboard relentlessly. You see, I have been told, sometimes by women close to me and very definitely by many men of varying degrees of closeness, that male privilege does not in fact exist. But, I know that it does. I experience it daily both as the beneficiary and the ‘victim’ of it.
As a part-time transgender woman, I make my way through the world, sometimes in the guise of a man and sometimes as the woman, I know myself to be. I am not ‘out’ at work and very few people I know socially know both iterations of me. I am therefore privy to much of the unedited, ‘normal’ male decision making, thought processes and behaviours that underpin society. I also enjoy some ‘passing privilege’ and am assumed to be a woman rather than the dreaded ‘man in a dress’ by many I meet socially. This changes at some point after meeting, but even after I have been discovered, being feminine means I am treated fundamentally differently to the way I am treated when presenting as a male. I know this because I experience it.
As a man, I can walk freely down the street, without fear.
As a woman I feel afraid to walk down the street, wondering whether I will be sexually harassed or worse, be the victim of a gender-based assault.
As a man, I can visit pubs and nightclubs (should I want to) at will.
As a woman, I am afraid to go to the mall at night, let alone a nightclub or bar alone.
As a man, I have little fear of my drink being spiked.
As a woman, I have to think about what I order, how it is delivered, who has opened it and where it is at any given time.
As a man, I can engage in debate and argument (both online and in person) and have my ideas respected (even when I am not agreed with).
As a woman I have my own arguments repeated back to me and I am regularly mansplained to.
The sad truth is that men think less of women and men dominate work and social spaces. Their ideas carry more weight, their voices speak louder and with more authority and they move through the world with little (if any) fear. Some women accentuate this. They listen more attentively to men, they reinforce the male ego and they often do not support other women in business. Some women even think those who experience gender-based violence were ‘asking for it’. I have experienced unwelcome sexual attention. It has happened to me in mid-winter wearing jeans and jackets, it has happened to me in summer wearing a skirt. I have never welcomed it. This proves that this is a fallacy. I am fortunate in that I have never had anything escalate to physical assault, but men feel empowered to act like this. This is not normal it is not acceptable.
We need to change the way we think. We need to change what we think. We need to assert our power in the face of this male privilege. Men get away with thinking it does not exist because that is the nature of privilege, it is so entrenched it seems normal. We, women, have no such excuse. We are in this together. We should stand together.
You can reach Daniella on her Blog , and on Twitter as well as in a business capacity, Priscillas Services – Assisting the Gauteng LGBT (especially transgender and cross-dressing) community, with make-up, accommodation, storage, fashion (personal shopping) and transformation services. Safety and discretion guaranteed. Fun and happiness assured. Johannesburg, South Africa.