18 Things Mark Saunders Seems To Not Understand (Because, Male Privilege)


I have a response up at the Daily Dot to the latest ridiculous assertion that “female privilege” exists:

Mark Saunders’ recent Thought Catalog piece, “18 Things Females Seem To Not Understand (Because, Female Privilege),” announces its ignorance right from the title. The only people who still call women “females” are scientists, sexists, and Ferengi. (I suppose these three groups may overlap somewhat.)But while it’s easy to poke fun at the ridiculous title, it’s a little harder (though not by much) to show how wrong Saunders is.

Consider the first item on the list:

“1. Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you.”

It takes such incredible chutzpah to turn yourself into the victim in that situation. Women are afraid of men because we’re taught to, because we’re blamed for anything that happens when we’re not afraid enough, and because of personal experience. Saunders’ male privilege means he’s never had to feel what that’s like, and he should be grateful. The most visceral fear of my life has been when I’ve been walking down a dark street alone and heard footsteps behind me, knowing that the first question I’d be asked if the worst thing imaginable happened would be, “Well, what the hell were you doing out there alone?”

It is not a privilege to live in constant fear of rape and death.

Keep reading here.

Relatedly, there’s this Storify of a Twitter rant I directed at Thought Catalog in response to the piece.

Comments

  1. brucegee1962 says

    Wow, that #1 is pretty amazing. You know who else is even more oppressed by that same thing? Godzilla. Poor oppressed little giant monster!

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Previously, I had the privilege of never having heard of Mark Saunders.

    Curse you for taking that away from me, Miri, you … female!

  3. Jacob Schmidt says

    I tried posting this there, but it won’t let me.

    Unfortunately, benevolent sexism limits women’s accomplishment and freedom by providing them with a narrow platform onto which they can squeeze to receive the benefits that it confers.

    This bugs the ever loving crap out of me when it comes to talking about privilege. When ever someone brings up “female privilege,” it’s almost always in narrow, specific ways that are often disadvantages in almost any another context. When its not those narrow, specific usually-disadvantageous-but-occasionally-advantageous things, its made up, or it ignores the actual experiences of women.

    • Onamission5 says

      Like getting custody of the kid/s after a divorce. Yes, that might seem like preferential treatment, all things being equal, in an amicable situation where both parents are willing and able to share equal responsibilities in child raising, have the same opportunities in education and employment, share very similar values to where they almost always agree when it comes to the children, and harbor no ill will toward each other that they’d use the child/ren to perpetuate, in such a scenario, the mother automatically being granted all the say in what happens with the kid/s just because she’s a woman would be a type of female privilege.

      Now let us take a moment and ponder the likelihood of all those things happening at once in this day and age or any prior, and have a hearty chuckle, then a long cry.

  4. says

    knowing that the first question I’d be asked if the worst thing imaginable happened would be, “Well, what the hell were you doing out there alone?”

    I once narrowly escaped a rapist.
    Well, I assume that he was out to rape me, but it’s probably me being a feminazi.
    Because it is of course totally possible that a guy who groped me, cat-called and harassed me while walking in the opposite direction and who then turned around and followed me to the unlit carpark and then tried to stop me from reaching my car might have been a totally friendly fellow who just wanted to chat with me, right?
    Anyway, I told exactly ONE person in meatspace. Her reaction? “Why the hell did you park your car there? Are you stupid?”

  5. BrainyOne says

    Yes, I’m well aware of the context, and I know the concept of “female privilege” is being used by MRAs and traditionalists alike (although for different reasons) to attempt to deny the reality of male privilege.

    But.

    Saying “female privilege doesn’t exist” is trivially, demonstrably wrong, when it is meant, as you mean it here, that there are no instances whatsoever of female privilege (as opposed to the other meaning the phrase sometimes has that males are advantaged on balance – e.g. male privileges outweigh female privileges, which I completely agree with).

    It seems you’ve missed the important distinction between the privilege granters and the privilege grantees. Or rather, you fail to take into account that the vast majority of men (while they do indeed possess male privilege) are in the latter, not the former, class – and they are granted these privileges precisely so that the former class can maintain its power. The vast majority of men, while they may have male privilege, are oppressed on some other axis (class, race, heterosexism, etc.), and have male privilege only because it was granted to them by the group with real power – and that, only so that group can keep its real power. It is analogous to a military dictator appointing subordinated officers, and they appoint further subordinates, who in turn command the enlisted men.

    In particular, I take issue with this:

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/02/09/faq-female-privilege/

    This is because being rewarded for not going against the status quo and being the recipient of institutional privilege are not the same thing.

    Yes, they are the same thing. Just why, does this author think, do the recipients of institutional privilege receive it? Out of the goodness of the hearts of those who grant it?

    The system of privilege uses that kind of reward system in order to perpetuate itself, but the existence of a reward isn’t proof in of itself of privilege.

    Now the author equivocates on what “privilege” means, and conflates a “privileged” class with a “powerful” class. They are not the same thing, as can be seen by the definition of “privilege” at the same site:

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/03/11/faq-what-is-male-privilege/

    Privilege, at its core, is the advantages that people benefit from based solely on their social status. It is a status that is conferred by society to certain groups, not seized by individuals, which is why it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege.

    So yes, in certain cases, the group in power will bestow advantages on females if it believes such will help maintain its power, just as it bestows advantages on males; and if the latter constitute “male privileges”, the former constitute “female privileges”.

    You are absolutely right about this:

    Unfortunately, benevolent sexism limits women’s accomplishment and freedom by providing them with a narrow platform onto which they can squeeze to receive the benefits that it confers. The minute a woman steps off of that pedestal, whether by having “too much” sex or not acting “feminine” enough or making a man feel threatened, all those nice platitudes about “the fairer sex” and “ladies first” disappear very quickly.

    At some level you do realize that men also have a similar “narrow platform”:

    Other items on the list are more legitimate and describe the ways in which patriarchy harms men by expecting them to be women’s opposites: for instance, socially penalizing them for being stay-at-home dads, pressuring them not to show emotion, and so on.

    But I disagree with this:

    However, these pressures exist for one reason only, and that is the fact that, in our society, the worst thing for a man to be is like a woman.

    Why the hell should the patriarchy care about whether men are women’s opposites or not, or if some of them are like women, if “men being men” is not as important to keeping the patriarchy in power as “women being women”?

    And this:

    Privilege is ultimately about power: who has it, who doesn’t, how those who lack it can sort of get a little bit of it by behaving in a way that those with real power approve of. Benevolent sexism is not a privilege, but a reward for not challenging someone else’s.

    In that case, neither is traditional male “privilege” a real “privilege”: it too is a reward for not challenging someone else’s power.

    • queequack says

      Who is this nebulous “group in power” who has the ability to “bestow advantages” on one gender or the other?

    • Tessa says

      Why the hell should the patriarchy care about whether men are women’s opposites or not, or if some of them are like women, if “men being men” is not as important to keeping the patriarchy in power as “women being women”?

      I am a bit confused by what your point is exactly, so I will first try to show what I think you’re saying here before I respond. If I am wrong in my interpretation, please correct me.
      Are you implying that saying that “the worst thing for a man to be is like a woman” means that it is also the worst thing for a woman to be like a man? And that the two are equal?

      Your “men being men” and “women being women” are not equal statements.

      Example: Men going into typically women dominated professions like nursing are seen as doing something beneath them or it is a sign weakness. Women going into professions dominated by men are seen as not as capable. Not knowing their place, and treated so. One is seen as stooping to a lower level, and one is trying to rise beyond what they should.

      Unrelated, but you really sound like you’re saying “the patriarchy” is some real entity that bestows powers to the masses.

      • BrainyOne says

        Are you implying that saying that “the worst thing for a man to be is like a woman” means that it is also the worst thing for a woman to be like a man? And that the two are equal?

        Yes to the first question, no to the second. Men pay societal penalties for doing “womanly” things, and women pay societal penalties for doing “manly” things. This does not imply that the penalties are exactly the same, or that the exact reason for the penalties are the same. What it does imply is that patriarchy has a vested interest in keeping men in their place, just as it does as in keeping women in theirs.

        Example: Men going into typically women dominated professions like nursing are seen as doing something beneath them or it is a sign weakness. Women going into professions dominated by men are seen as not as capable. Not knowing their place, and treated so. One is seen as stooping to a lower level, and one is trying to rise beyond what they should.

        Yes, but these examples are not as far off you seem to think. In both cases, whether you are man going into a female-dominated profession, or a woman going into a male-dominated profession, the implication is that there is something seriously wrong with you.

        • Tessa says

          Yes to the first question, no to the second. Men pay societal penalties for doing “womanly” things, and women pay societal penalties for doing “manly” things. This does not imply that the penalties are exactly the same, or that the exact reason for the penalties are the same. What it does imply is that patriarchy has a vested interest in keeping men in their place, just as it does as in keeping women in theirs.
          But your response was to: “However, these pressures exist for one reason only, and that is the fact that, in our society, the worst thing for a man to be is like a woman.”
          They’re not equal (as you agreed) so it’s still the worst thing for a man to be like a woman. The reasons for the pressure are why one is worse than the other.

          Yes, but these examples are not as far off you seem to think. In both cases, whether you are man going into a female-dominated profession, or a woman going into a male-dominated profession, the implication is that there is something seriously wrong with you.

          Stop pretending details don’t matter. The “something” is what’s important.

          Saying “female privilege doesn’t exist” is trivially, demonstrably wrong, when it is meant, as you mean it here, that there are no instances whatsoever of female privilege

          Care to give an example?

          Yes, they are the same thing. Just why, does this author think, do the recipients of institutional privilege receive it? Out of the goodness of the hearts of those who grant it?

          Nobody grants institutional privilege, it’s built into society. That’s why it’s institutional. This seems to be a common theme in your original response, so I am going to back up a little.

          It seems you’ve missed the important distinction between the privilege granters and the privilege grantees. Or rather, you fail to take into account that the vast majority of men (while they do indeed possess male privilege) are in the latter, not the former, class – and they are granted these privileges precisely so that the former class can maintain its power. The vast majority of men, while they may have male privilege, are oppressed on some other axis (class, race, heterosexism, etc.), and have male privilege only because it was granted to them by the group with real power – and that, only so that group can keep its real power.

          This isn’t how it works. You’re mixing up cause and effect. The people in power didn’t grant other men male privilege to stay in power. They have power because of privilege and stay in power because of it. Their power is an effect of privilege. They have male privilege for the same reason those who “are oppressed on some other axis (class, race, heterosexism, etc.)” have male privilege. Because they are male. But they have more privilege because they aren’t “oppressed on some other axis.”
          Those people in power didn’t go and grant all straight people straight privilege. Or white people white privilege. Or Cis people Cis privilege. And on and on. It’s institutional.

          • Tessa says

            Messed up the first blockquote.

            the part of the first long block of text:

            Yes to the first question, no to the second. Men pay societal penalties for doing “womanly” things, and women pay societal penalties for doing “manly” things. This does not imply that the penalties are exactly the same, or that the exact reason for the penalties are the same. What it does imply is that patriarchy has a vested interest in keeping men in their place, just as it does as in keeping women in theirs.

            Should’ve been blockquoted. Sorry.

          • BrainyOne says

            Stop pretending details don’t matter. The “something” is what’s important.

            In what context? Do you, or do you not, realize there is severe societal pressure on men to adopt the “male” role, just as there is on woman to adopt the “female” one? Ah, but you say, this is because the male role is seen as inherently superior to the female one. And I say, so what? This is just such a great consolation to men who want to be nurses, or non-custodial parents. Until you learn just a little empathy for members of dominant groups, your social justice activism will go nowhere. They are just as human as you are.

            Care to give an example?

            Are you really that clueless? You really think that, ceteris paribus, a man has as good a chance of winning custody of children as a woman? Or, a man and a woman both get drunk and have sex. Who gets accused of rape?

            Nobody grants institutional privilege, it’s built into society. That’s why it’s institutional.

            And just how did it get built into society, if not by the very powerful who built society in the first place?

            The people in power didn’t grant other men male privilege to stay in power. They have power because of privilege and stay in power because of it. Their power is an effect of privilege.

            When this is said of those privileged on all axes, I admit; when this is said of those privileged on only one (male privilege), I deny. It’s patently ridiculous to say black men had power in the antebellum South because of “male privilege”.

    • Ariel says

      A very interesting comment, if I may say so.

      As observed by earlier commenters (both queequack and Tessa), there seems to be indeed the problem with your notion of the class of “privilege granters”. In some cases, (e.g. the issue of military draft) you could try with some success to identify a ruling group, which takes decisions about the relevant regulations; but in other cases under discussion this is truly nebulous.

      Nevertheless, you make some good points which still stand, whether the above question can be answered or not. I liked especially the one about conflating “privileged class” with a “powerful class”. It all becomes completely messy if one further equivocates “a powerful class” with “a ruling class”.

      For comparison, see how historians talk about privileges. There were privileges of the townspeople; there were those of the gentry. The privileges (like: running their own affairs through the town council) made the townspeople as a group more powerful indeed, but not “powerful” in some absolute sense (one could say e.g. that they were more powerful than they would have been without these privileges, everything else being equal). They also had them as long as they didn’t challenge the status quo. In particular, privileges didn’t turn the townspeople into a ruling class – they didn’t make their position better (all things considered) than that of the gentry. And again, it was not the goodness of hearts of the rulers which explained these privileges! They were really a part of the existing order.

      Is there anything wrong with the historians’ way of using the word ‘privilege’? And if not, why something similar can’t be applied also to men and women?

      • says

        Is there anything wrong with the historians’ way of using the word ‘privilege’? And if not, why something similar can’t be applied also to men and women?

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it per se, but the sociological term “privilege” that both I and the author of the original horrible piece are discussing isn’t the same as the lay definition. It’s the same problem as there is with using the term “racism” in a very general way to mean “not liking someone because of their race.” Black people can dislike white people because of their race, but that doesn’t make it on par with anti-black racism. Likewise, there can be advantages to being female, but that doesn’t make it on par with male privilege.

        There are advantages to being Black, too. There are advantages to being queer. You can find an advantage in almost anything, but that doesn’t mean that those people are systematically granted institutional privilege over other people.

        • Ariel says

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it per se, but the sociological term “privilege” that both I and the author of the original horrible piece are discussing isn’t the same as the lay definition (…) You can find an advantage in almost anything, but that doesn’t mean that those people are systematically granted institutional privilege over other people.

          Yes, but I was talking neither about the lay definition nor about coincidental advantages. I looked rather at the way the historians – not laymen – are using the term. One characteristic feature of their usage is that privileges can be (and were) granted to groups which were not dominant (or ruling). They were also not ‘coincidental advantages’, far from it. Obviously the privileges of the gentry were different than privileges of townspeople and – paraphrasing Tessa – details do matter here and these differences are important (I don’t think any historian denies that!). Nevertheless, in spite of all these differences the historians found it convenient to apply one and the same term ‘privilege’ in both cases. If so, the questions would be:

          1. Assuming for a fact that sociologists reserve the term ‘privilege’ for dominant groups*, why do they do it?
          2. Why is it the sociological (and not e.g. historical) use of the term which should become predominant in our contemporary discussions? Does one have a right to correct someone not adopting your preferred (say, sociological) way of using the word ‘privilege’? If so, what gives one such a right?

          *I’m not a sociologist and I don’t know how prevalent among them it is. But I simply assume it’s prevalent indeed.

          As for 1, please observe that mere indication of differences between e.g. male privilege and (what is called) ‘female privilege’ is not enough. You can find a difference in almost anything. As I said, there are very important differences also between privileges of townspeople and privileges of the gentry. Historians are aware of such differences but this didn’t result in their dropping the term “privilege” and promoting expressions like “benevolent gentryism” instead. What’s the reason?

          My suspicion (I admit that I have nothing more than suspicion) is that the underlying reason has to do with how current – for us, now – a given issue is. Privileges of the gentry belong to the past. There are no battles to be fought over them, there are no current political issues involved. This is not so with male privilege. Here there is still a battle going on and the language war is a part of it. The sociologists you mention made their choice and to a substantial degree it was a political decision, not a scientific one. Do you agree?

          At the moment I have nothing to say about question 2.

          BTW, the piece you were criticizing is quite horrible indeed. No quarrel here.

  6. queequack says

    Congratulations on this Daily Dot thing you have going.

    […]it’s worth noting that the “butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard” attack is most often leveled at men who have said something sexist.

    Well, ok, but is it really? I suppose it’s true that that’s often the nominal justification, although I’ve noticed that as the fedora/neckbeard meme has seeped through the group consciousness of tumblr, it’s mostly become a sort of handy (and SJ-approved) pejorative that can be thoughtlessly flung at redditors or Richard Dawkins fans or straight white males or whatever. It’s sort of weird to call this a “female privilege”, because it’s mostly limited to tumblr and twitter and certain parts of the blogosphere, but I think he has a point, as far as it goes.

    I’ll grant that it’s a semi-effective insult (or it was, before overuse rendered it mostly meaningless), because many men are conditioned to measure their worth by their social dominance and sexual prowess, and to imply that they are a failure in those departments hurts pretty badly- especially when it comes from a woman. Idk, it just seems sort of ironic that the tumblr people are gleefully tapping into the same cultural and institutional structures that they claim to be fighting against.

    • queequack says

      And of course, there’s the fact that “neckbeard” is simply a metonym for “fat and slovenly”. It rolls off my back, because I’m not fat or unhygenic; I have friends, on the other hand, who have been hurt by that particular insult. Because they know what it really means.

      It’s a clever way to get around the SJ moratorium against attacking the Designated Oppressed.

      • says

        Right, that’s exactly why I refuse to use such insults and consider them morally wrong. None of my close friends in activist circles do it either. That’s not to say that nobody does, obviously, but I wish you’d stop skewering the entire “SJ” community based on the actions of assholes who haven’t thought their politics halfway-through.

        • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

          …why is “but we’re not all like that!” an acceptable response in this case?

          • says

            Because when people dismiss social justice activism because someone who may or may not be associated with social justice activism was mean to them, it keeps them from taking the claims of other activists seriously. I will not make excuses for social justice activists who are mean and oppressive with their insults, but I will not take responsibility for them, either.

  7. says

    hi! i don’t know if someone’s already mentioned this, but i actually published an article on thoughtcatalog to counter Saunders’. http://thoughtcatalog.com/alice-park/2014/05/33-things-males-seem-to-not-understand-because-male-privilege/ is where you can find it. and a caveat to all those who read, please PLEASE read the thing in its entirety (specifically, the last two paragraphs, which i now realize was poorly placed due to the literacy of our generation and how we tend to not read things beginning to end, hence the whole TL;DR thing i suppose)!

    • says

      which i now realize was poorly placed due to the literacy of our generation and how we tend to not read things beginning to end, hence the whole TL;DR thing i suppose

      The trouble is that if you write a long article and the wording of it alienates people right from the getgo, they’re unlikely to want to read it to the end. This has nothing to do with “our generation” and everything to do with, people have limited time and energy and probably don’t want to spend it on things that aggravate them.

      I saw the post and I agree with it, obviously; I just wanted to point that out. And the reason so many people found it aggravating was, well, male privilege.