The invisible privilege of being male
In 1990, Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (the curious can read it online www.spokanehumanrights.org/ccrr/packet/article.htm). According to McIntosh, whites in the United States are “taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” To make systems more visible, McIntosh wrote a list of 26 invisible privileges whites benefit from.
As McIntosh points out, men also tend to be unaware of their own privileges as men. In the spirit of McIntosh’s essay, I’ve written a list based on McIntosh’s idea, but looking at a few of the invisible systems which benefit men.
I’ve shown this list to some men, and the usual first reaction is to be defensive and argue that men’s lives aren’t always easy. It’s natural to be defensive; but aggrieved male readers should realize pointing out male privileges is neither blaming men, nor saying that men’s lives are perfect.
1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are usually skewed in my favor. The better the job, the bigger the skew is likely to be.
2. My co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.
3. If I am never promoted, I can be sure it isn’t because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, it won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex.
5. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible.
6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
7. If I stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to benegligible.
8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark.
9. If I never have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
10. If I have children but don’t take care of them myself, my masculinity won’t be called into question.
11. If I have children and a career, no one will say I’m selfish for not staying at home.
12. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, won’t be scrutinized by the press.
13. Chances are my elected representatives are mostly men. The more powerful the elected position, the more likely this is to be true.
14. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
15. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped boys and men.
16. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.
17. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.
18. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
19. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
20. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won’t make me a slut.
21. My wardrobe and grooming are relatively cheap and consume little time.
22. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.
23. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
24. I can be loud without being called a shrew. I can be aggressive without being called a bitch.
25. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime.” Violence that happens mainly to women is called “domestic violence” or “violence against women,” and is seen as a special interest issue.
26. The ordinary language of daily life will always include my sex. “All men are created equal …,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he, etc.
27. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
28. I won’t be expected to change my name upon marriage, or questioned if I don’t change my name.
29. Every major religion in the world is led mainly by men. Even God, in most major religions, is usually described as male.
30. Most major religions say that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
31. If I live with a woman, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so she does most of the work. Especially the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.
32. If I have kids with a woman, she’ll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts.
33. If I have kids with a woman, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, we’ll both assume she should make that sacrifice.
34. Most of all, I have the privilege of being unaware of my privilege.Nothing in my daily life makes me aware of the privileges I benefit from because I am male.