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Oct 08 2011

The Disadvantages of Being a Man

Before I start on this post, nothing I say here is intended to be a slight on people fighting for equality from the perspective of other genders or sexes. I intend this as an acknowledgement of the many ways that men are disadvantaged by the same societal mores that disadvantage women in other, additionally serious (and in many instances more serious) ways. I am a feminist as well as an egalitarian, and I approach these issues with those ideals as my starting point. This is in no way an attempt at drawing a false equivalency between the issues the various genders and sexes encounter.

The patriarchal society we find ourselves in today is a significantly eroded one, where the patriarchy finds itself under attack from almost every angle, but it remains a patriarchy still. Thanks to the monumental efforts of the feminist and civil rights movements, not to mention the recent secular pushback against religious authoritarianism and its adherents’ less than progressive ideals about women’s role in society, what was once a society that prided itself on its white male hegemony is now a more pluralistic one, though far from egalitarian. This patriarchy still exists, and societal pressure for men and women to conform to specific gender roles still has the very inertial effect on forestalling progressive change.

And while these gender roles have many powerful side-effects with regards to women and their sexual self-determination, men are not wholly insulated from the splash damage. In fact, I strongly believe that these gender roles are largely responsible for all of the gender related issues that all sexes and genders experience today.

As you might be aware, comments on my last Problem with Privilege post got overrun by a commenter who was less interested in the specifics of Watson’s story or the fallout from it, than he was in changing the subject to every way that men are disadvantaged by society. In amongst the dross of “women have it so good”, he actually made some decent points that can be backed up with real statistics, but it takes an iron constitution to dig through all the anti-feminist bile to pull out the truth. The man has been fighting feminists for 20 years so I fully expect that most of this bile comes from simple hatred. I have too many interests in my life, and too many varieties of woo to beat on, to devote so large a chunk of it to one specific topic, but I have to admire his dedication to the cause he claims in that thread, twisted though it might be.

So, I’ve taken it upon myself to attempt to sift through what he’s posted and pull out the relevant bits about how societal gender roles disadvantage men. I’ll be referring to more resources than just his comment thread though, because I’ve talked about the disadvantages of being a man in the past. Interestingly, so has Greta Christina, making her on this topic a sex-flipped version of myself, where I often talk about the disadvantages of being a woman despite being a man. I disclaimer my discussion of the disadvantages of being a man with the caveat that I don’t believe these disadvantages taken in aggregate bring the sexes to any manner of parity in our society. But I’m not planning on putting them on a scale anyway, because I strongly feel the best way to overturn both sexes’ disadvantages is to attack the structure that caused both in the first place.

Our patriarchal, patrilineal Western society, if you trace it historically, sprang from other patriarchal and patrilineal societies throughout the ages. Most of the issues we see today in gender disparity have spanned much of the globe through colonialism, imperialism, through every way that humanity spreads its tendrils to gain control over every foothold this planet allows us. So when I talk about the Western patriarchal society, I fully understand that other societies have identical or near identical problems, and that these problems can trace their origins to the same place. But I can only speak from local experience, so if I miss any unique situations that temper or modify this society’s mores or issues, feel free to bring them up in the comments.

With the importation to the New World of the patriarchal society, ideals of gender came with it. Men were soldiers, explorers, farmers, breadwinners; strong, fearless, and brave, an idealized Superman. Women were men’s support structure, creating textiles, tending the home, providing meals, and raising children — the idealized Madonna. Only men could be landowners, only men could vote, and only men could be politicians and make decisions that affected the course of society. This patriarchy eroded significantly through women’s suffrage, but the idea that some jobs are men’s jobs and some jobs are women’s jobs lingers. Men obtain employment more frequently in dangerous jobs than do women, even today, and they are injured proportionally.

Men are also the primary source for Canada’s standing army, with women comprising roughly 15% of all military personnel. They only comprise 2% of combat positions, though. It is therefore no surprise that the number of men killed in active duty far outstrips the number of women, even if the addition of women to active duty is relatively new — Canada only opened all military positions to all sexes in 1989. Well, all positions except submarines, which were only opened to women in 2000. (Something about “going down”, I expect.)

So men being the brave, the strong, the bold, also by extension became the cannon fodder. On sinking ships, the cry of “women and children first” was intended in part to maximize the number of people saved due to women and children being smaller and requiring fewer resources, and in part to preserve our species by ensuring the commodity of women’s collective uteri and child-rearing skills are not lost. The same gender roles that require from men stoicism in the face of death assumes that women are frail and weak and must be protected from the same danger. This misguided gender chivalry has likely resulted in untold numbers of male deaths through the ages. We are, thankfully, slowly growing more progressive in this respect, but women still do not choose to join the military or give up their lives to save a man, because the warrior job and the chivalrous duty is enculturated in men and women alike to belong primarily to men.

On the topic of child-rearing, after a divorce, historically women got the children and men got child support payments. Once a man has a child, he is assumed responsible for life for the resources to bring the child up, but absolved of any direction of that child’s upbringing — because his role is breadwinner, not child-rearer. It is a relatively modern phenomenon that men want significantly more to do with their children than being the disciplinarian or aloof breadwinner, who is in absentia much of the day and interested only in the newspaper and his pipe, or carrying out the belt-whipping prescribed by the mother, when he gets home. Incidentally, the isolation of the father from the family is also a relatively modern (e.g. post-industrial revolution) convention, where it was very much based on class in Victorian times. Even today, despite this trend toward more progressive child-rearing equality, single fathers are relatively rare because in most divorces, the vast majority of settlements end with child custody being given to the mother, and even in those that go to court, the mother is granted sole custody the vast majority of the time.

To men who are enculturated to believe that their gender role does not involve child-rearing, this is fine. To progressive men who want a hand in raising their children, this is horrific. In most cases, they will have little or no ability to direct the upbringing of their biological offspring, and no recourse to, say, make their financial support contingent on the child’s upbringing being negotiated mutually between their and the mother’s wishes. (This is probably a good thing, in that deadbeats would use how the child is reared as an excuse to not pay.) And women paying spousal or child support is quite rare, though it does happen in cases where the man gets custody and the woman makes more than the man. The facts that women rarely make more than men and that men rarely get custody work in concert to make the situation so exceedingly rare. And by rare, I mean between 0 and 4% of spousal/child support involves a woman payor.

In cases where the man does get custody of the children, as with my own family, the father still quite often has to pay the mother an exorbitant amount of money despite any potentially criminal or morally questionable activity that happened in the process. Infidelity (even repeated) does not nullify your right to alimony, no matter how unpalatable that fact might be to some or most people.

And even on the topic of rape, where women are victims a marked majority of the time, men do not comprise a small proportion by any measure, at roughly 10% of all victims. Those men that are raped are grossly unlikely to speak up. Underreporting is a major problem with both sexes. If a man is raped by a man, their stories are dismissed as covering for their latent homosexuality. If they’re raped by women, people scoff — how could a man possibly be forced into penetrating a woman if he’s not aroused? These of course discount the possibility of obtaining consent under false pretenses, or circumventing consent by the use of drugs or alcohol on the person, or any manner of coercion that does not involve violent assault. And men refuse to report primarily because the gender role of being strong, brave, and fearless, entails never losing control. Rape is about control, far moreso than sex. If a man is raped, he has lost control, and admitting such is tantamount to emasculating him.

Men also have the edge on women with regards to being victims of violent crime, though barely so.

via Statistics Canada

This is without breaking out the types of violence. We already know that the vast majority of reported rapes and domestic violence happen to women, though domestic violence against men is likely also underreported. A Statistics Canada report puts actual rates of domestic violence at near parity, with women experiencing very slightly more (7% vs 8% of the population, counting both physical and psychological abuse). The severity of the physical abuse differs greatly though:

In the 1999 GSS findings, abused men were more likely than abused women to report having had something thrown at them or having been slapped, kicked, bitten or hit. In the 1987 Canadian survey, similar proportions of women and men reported inflicting both minor and severe physical abuse on their partners. According to the 1999 GSS, however, abused women were more likely than abused men to report experiencing severe forms of violence, such as being beaten, sexually assaulted, choked, or threatened by a gun or knife or having had such a weapon used against them during the previous five years.

(See the original for footnotes.)

It has been suggested that dividing domestic violence shelters up into ones that serve men and ones that serve women is a form of “sex segregation”. This I think co-opts the civil rights movement’s struggle to end segregation between black- and white-only services, where the problem was so pervasive they had white-only and black-only water fountains. The comparison between segregation of domestic violence shelters and segregation of all public services is akin to comparing apples and main-sequence yellow dwarf stars. Yes, the former is a potential issue, but they aren’t comparable. Accordingly, I will not use the term “segregation” to describe this division of labor, especially where it is for purely pragmatic reasons like respecting the battered person’s potential fear triggers being around a member of the opposite sex — a function of the post-traumatic stress disorder they likely have from oftentimes years of abuse. I’d like to touch on this topic briefly here, though it merits its own post at some point in the future as it’s a complicated topic without an easy answer.

There are major disadvantages to our current approach, especially as concerns specific cases like young boys being disallowed from seeing their mothers in a battered woman’s shelter, where many US state laws explicitly prevent males over the age of 12 from being present. There are also disadvantages in that homosexuals must avail themselves of existing services, and are not spared those potential triggers — if you’ve grown accustomed to being beaten by men, and must take shelter with other men, unless you can somehow isolate the victim, they are forced to live through the triggering. Additionally, homosexuals are not spared the potential situations where their abusers may lie to gain access to the shelter and thus to their victim.

If there was a way to build a unisex domestic violence shelter that was somehow impregnable by abusers, that could still protect the victims suffering those sorts of PTSD reactions from members of their partner’s sex, it would be a great boon on society to service all genders and sexes equally and provide the support structures that we all need in those situations. I don’t see it as particularly feasible at the moment, especially where existing shelters already can’t handle same-sex abuse adequately, so separate domestic violence shelters for heterosexual and homosexual men and women seems unfortunately the best way to handle the situation at the moment. Some more leniency with regard to self-direction by the victim of who can and cannot see them, perhaps with special visitation rooms so these victims’ children don’t make other victims feel unsafe, would be wonderful. It’s a complicated situation though, and not one that can be solved solely through allowing equal and unfettered access to every domestic violence shelter, which would of course cause all manner of abuse of the system and completely erode any safety provided. More to the point, the people complaining that these domestic violence shelters don’t cater to all victims are not pushing to open shelters that cater to the grossly under-supported classes of domestic violence victims. They are, in fact, more often interested in stopping feminism than in working to better men’s lot in those situations where men are at a disadvantage.

I’m certain there are any number more disadvantages men face in society, and again, I’m certain that they all stem from the self-same patriarchy and societally enforced gender roles that disadvantage women and the various LGBTQ communities. Many of these disadvantages would evaporate of their own accord if gender roles simply did not exist the way they do, but they are so entrenched now that it is an uphill battle.

Being an egalitarian, as I claim to be, involves recognizing the ways that society has enforced certain conventions that disadvantage all genders and sexes, while being a feminist involves recognizing that women have to contend with the vast majority of these disadvantages. These two labels are wholly compatible, and I wear them both proudly. An acknowledgement that we all have privilege over one another in some way is not an admission that these privileges are equal, or that they balance out. Sure, women have never had to “deal with mange”, e.g. the problems listed here, no matter how serious these problems actually are, but when you control the AC, you have the ability to control how these situations play out.

I strongly suspect there’s a reason men have not done more to overturn the patriarchy and the gender roles that give them priority access to politics, money, influence, and justice, despite all these injustices I’ve listed herein. And I suspect that reason is that the people in power recognize that male privilege outweighs female privilege in toto.

122 comments

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  1. 1
    martha

    2 Relevant Experiences:

    As an 18 year old I found it very traumatic to take on board the idea that rape & domestic violence were commonplace in my city. I realized that there was a whole crappy dimension of male/female relations no one had told me about and that most of the discussions I’d witnessed about the reasonableness or unreasonableness of feminist demands hadn’t taken into account. Some 10 years later I participated in a coffee shop salon kind of thing with some gentle ex-hippie kind of guys who talked about having been in fact physically attacked during the anti-war movement and pointed out that we all had reasons to fear violent men. That helped make the male/female issues divide seem less rigid to me.

    In my twenties I wandered around the country a bit, alone, on a bicycle. I realized I was vulnerable and was, I hope, correspondingly cautious. But I gradually came to the conclusion that while, if I was attacked (I wasn’t), it would probably be more catastrophic than an attack on a man, still, as a white, female stranger, I was less LIKELY to be attacked than a man in the same position. Strangers (notably including cops) were almost always helpful & protective. Being able to evoke a not-very-reliable helpful & protective reponse from strangers is not a huge advantage, all things considered, but I’ll take what I can get.

  2. 2
    Michael Fisher

    …women still do not choose to join the military or give up their lives to save a man, because the warrior job and the chivalrous duty is enculturated in men and women alike to belong primarily to men

    I do not know the truth or otherwise of your statement. How do you know it’s true? Is it possible that you want it to be true for ideological reasons?

  3. 3
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    ObPedant: “Historically” men got the kids after divorce. Unless you are referring only to quite recent history – your chart starts in 1978, but I think the shift to women started earlier in the 20th century. In the 19th century children belonged absolutely to their father; women could not be considered for custody. In the UK this changed sometime in the 1880s – married women’s property act.

    BTW, you might like to have a look at Jadehawk’s Toxic Masculinity posts.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    Michael: I am actually asserting so, as a consequence of the statistics. It’s certainly not the whole picture. I’m sure the likelihood of being raped with little chance for justice might have something to do with it as well.

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    Alethea: true, I’m not 100% sure when the shift to women being the default for children’s custody started happening, but it was a rather abrupt swing, I’m certain. At least as far back as the post-industrial era, the same 50s-ish timeframe when the nuclear family lie started to dissolve, I believe men were still getting custody of the children as they were the breadwinner, but were basically expected to remarry or hire a nanny. Anyone have statistics on this?

  6. 6
    martha

    “BTW, you might like to have a look at Jadehawk’s Toxic Masculinity posts.”

    Thanks! I just about died laughing (at the first one, anyway).

  7. 7
    aspidoscelis

    “I strongly suspect there’s a reason men have not done more to overturn the patriarchy and the gender roles that give them priority access to politics, money, influence, and justice, despite all these injustices I’ve listed herein. And I suspect that reason is that the people in power recognize that male privilege outweighs female privilege in toto.”

    As a guy who isn’t a feminist, I find that many of the reasons I stay away are terminological and conceptual. If the goal is to move towards gender equality and treating people as individuals rather than as members of certain genders & sociocultural groups, words like “feminism”, “patriarchy”, and “privilege” simply need to be abandoned. Those words do not effectively communicate the intended goal. If gender equality, rather than the advancement of one gender over another, is the goal, “feminism” and “patriarchy” are the wrong words. If treatment of people as individuals rather than as members of certain classes is the goal, “privilege” and “patriarchy” are the wrong words.

    And then there are the concepts. Considering only the concept of privilege for the moment, my impression is that this concept is usually treated in a fashion that ignores complexity and particularity. For instance, comments in the various FTBlogs have frequently suggested that elevator guy’s actions were particularly inappropriate because male privilege places him in a position of power relative to Rebecca. Underlying this is the assumption that the relative power held by people can be determined simply by examining their genitalia. This approach -may- work in average across the population as a whole, but it fails utterly in any particular example. You can imagine any number of inequalities in other factors (strength, wealth, social prestige, etc.) that would outweigh gender averages. Treating elevator guy as a generic, average man and Rebecca as a generic, average woman and reaching conclusions about their relative power & social advantages on this basis is absurd. Interactions between them should be viewed and evaluated based on each as individuals, because they are individuals and not averaged stereotypes. A similar example is found in Rebecca’s post “The Privilege Delusion”, from which comes this sentence: “Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!” Viewed through the paradigm of privilege, Richard Dawkins seems to be not a particular person with particular experiences, opinion, and thoughts, but a generic member of a stereotyped category whose views should be interpreted (and, in this case, dismissed) on that basis.

    All that said, I think I agree in general with the goals of feminism (at least, as I interpret them; see second sentence), but find some of the terminology poorly chosen to communicate those goals and some of the concepts (especially that of privilege) inconsistent with their realization. I’ve responded here because I think these problems are made particularly apparent at several points in this post, particularly the following transition:

    “[...] I strongly feel the best way to overturn both sexes’ disadvantages is to attack the structure that caused both in the first place.

    Our patriarchal, patrilineal Western society [...]”

    One hand giveth, the other hand taketh away. It’s hard for me to avoid the impression that “the structure” is “men”. I do greatly appreciate the effort you’ve put towards a more realistic view of the situation, though. It is not as simple as “men have it good” nor “women have it good”.

    P.S. At least a brief disclaimer seems necessary given the vitriol in other discussions on this topic: AFAICT, EG’s actions were rude & creepy, but I don’t have a strong opinion on the topic, having not been there. Rebecca has said some things that I disagree with, but I do not harbor any ill-will towards her and do not agree with or support those who send her threatening emails, use juvenile slurs against her, etc.

    P.P.S. Also, my apologies on the length of this.

  8. 8
    Michael Fisher

    Jason quote:

    Michael: I am actually asserting so, as a consequence of the statistics. It’s certainly not the whole picture. I’m sure the likelihood of being raped with little chance for justice might have something to do with it as well.

    No. I don’t mean that ~ these sorts of conversations are very difficult. Forget about the armed forces

    Here is your quote again:

    …women still do not choose to join the military or give up their lives to save a man, because the warrior job and the chivalrous duty is enculturated in men and women alike to belong primarily to men

    My questions: How do you know that women today will NOT give up their lives to save a man as readily as a man would ?
    And IF that is true how do you know this is due to culture rather than nature ?
    Do you believe that male behaviour & female behaviour are different because of culture (your quote makes me think that you think so) ?

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Michael: You didn’t need to quote it back at me twice, unless you think I don’t remember what I said. The first time was enough to explain what you were referring to.

    That you’re unclear on what I’m suggesting here does indicate that perhaps I should clarify that paragraph. The military thing is a separate issue, I agree, but the question of chivalry is in fact fundamental to the part of that section referring to “women and children first”. And I referred to that explicitly because it is among the claims that the troll on the other thread made.

    Would a woman refuse to allow the “women and children first” approach to saving people on a sinking boat? Possibly. The fact that the meme persists, along with the one about a captain (a “man’s job”) going down with his ship, suggest otherwise.

    Without a study of all women and their reaction to those memes, though, they are just assertions.

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis: Privilege is not a term unique to feminism, as I’m sure you can tell when it’s used in other scenarios regarding race, sexuality and class. It is also not a club to use to end an argument, nor does it reflect on the character of the person except where they are blind to their privilege.

    The fact that I am privileged in being a white male heterosexual who was brought up Catholic and bilingual in a French Catholic dominated area in North America where there are no wars going on presently and no resource scarcity to speak of, describes a very large number of ways that I grew up in a relatively well-off position. Those privileges mean only that happiness, prosperity, safety and security, etc., are slightly (or in some cases significantly) closer to me than they might be to others.

    As for feminism, if you recognize that men are afforded special rights in society in any number of ways, especially if you recognize that women are afforded certain other special rights which do not balance out, then you’ll fight to tip the scales til they’re more equal. As an egalitarian, my utopia involves none of these privileges would exist for anyone. Everyone would be totally and completely equal and would be judged on their own merits, not the merits ascribed to them by some enculturated gender roles. If a woman is the better person for the job, she should get the job. If the job has a set salary, the woman should not be paid less.

    If a job is dangerous, the proclivity toward giving it to men when there are equally qualified women is a little disturbing and echoes that chivalry I was talking about earlier. My wife works at a vineyard with a nearly uniformly female gender distribution in the viticulture division. A few years ago, this wasn’t the case, there was one girl and three to four boys, and after the boys left or were fired for various reasons, girls were given a chance and have outstripped the people they replaced in terms of talent and productivity. These women were hired for traditional “gruntwork” jobs that men tended to get. And the boss still has a tendency of trying to hire a boy to “do the heavy stuff” that he doesn’t want the girls to have to do, never mind that they’re getting by just fine as it stands.

    I do worry that one day my wife will be run over by a harvester. But that’s just because I’m not there to protect her. Like the stupid chivalrous man that I am.

  11. 11
    martha

    My husband just showed me this:

    http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/crime_and_courts/article_e77da154-ee83-11e0-b4ea-001cc4c03286.html

    A man calls the police because he believes a prostitute cheated him. Oh, the trouble your unexamined assumptions of privilege can get you into!

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh. Patriarchy. Right. Sorry aspidoscelis, I didn’t mean to leave that off. I got off on a tangent about my wife. That often flusters me. :)

    The term patriarchy is actually a term of art in sociology. It describes societies that are run primarily with a man as the head of the social unit (family, village, tribe, etc). The opposite term is “matriarchy”, and there are matriarchal societies in history (though relatively few). My saying that our society is patriarchal should be relatively self-evident. It does in fact indicate that men “run the show”, though to a significant degree less than they have in the past. I’m not saying “destroy men”, I’m saying “destroy the structure that defaults to men having all the power”. And the way I’m saying to do that is to destroy the gender roles that call men “strong and brave and fearless” and that define leadership jobs as “man’s jobs”, and relegate women to support and baby-making roles and “women’s jobs”.

    Also, the idea that the words patriarchy and feminist need to disappear are actually parallel to the idea that the word “atheist” needs to disappear. And it would, as soon as the religious aren’t around exerting their privilege any more. Once atheism is the default, and superstition disappears utterly (as though that’ll ever happen), nobody will be “atheist”, because atheism defines itself as lacking a theistic belief. Every one of us is an afrunkist, where “frunkism” is any arbitrary belief that has not yet been invented. (Nor do I feel like inventing one to give you an example, because then we’ll REALLY be afrunkists and that analogy loses its power.)

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    You are a WAY more conscientious and thorough blogger than I am, Jason. I would have left that guy to twist in the wind. While I try to be fair whenever I can, that usually doesn’t extend to what must have been at least a couple of hours worth of work. You have my thanks and admiration for this one.

    AND MY AXE!

  14. 14
    aspidoscelis

    Re. Jason, post 10:

    “Privilege is not a term unique to feminism, as I’m sure you can tell when it’s used in other scenarios regarding race, sexuality and class. It is also not a club to use to end an argument, nor does it reflect on the character of the person except where they are blind to their privilege.”

    I know it is not unique to feminism, but I do see use of this concept as a problematic aspect of feminism. And it is used as a club, although perhaps we agree that it should not be.

    In any case, I would go further. So far as I can tell, all data indicating the existence of privilege between gender groups yields differences in averages. Attributing the mean of a sample to a particular member of that sample is one of the most basic Statistics 101 errors. Any use of the concept of privilege to compare particular individuals is based on this error.

    If we said:
    “Canadian men are, on average, 5’8″ tall. Jason is a Canadian man. Therefore, Jason is 5’8″ tall.”

    However, substitute:
    “Canadian men are privileged relative to Canadian women. Jason is a Canadian man; Kathy is a Canadian woman. Therefore, Jason is privileged relative to Kathy.”

    In the first case, the error is obvious. In the second case, we have problems… but, put “on average” in there, and it should be clear. In discussions of privilege, I think it is common to omit and forget the “on average”. However, when we remember to put it in there… the concept of privilege ceases to have any valid applicability to real cases with particular people.*

    “As for feminism, if you recognize that men are afforded special rights in society in any number of ways, especially if you recognize that women are afforded certain other special rights which do not balance out, then you’ll fight to tip the scales til they’re more equal.”

    The difficulty is how one goes about decreasing inequality between groups that doesn’t promulgate the basic error that we should be viewing people as members of those groups rather than as individuals. I consider the concept of privilege to reinforce rather than diminish that basic error.

    And, yes, this was way too damned long again. I may have to be witty on the next one.

    * Note that I take your fairly indefinite statement regarding your own privilege to suggest that you are at least partially aware of this. I’m just trying to be clear about my objections to “privilege”, rather than suggesting you are making this particular mistake!

  15. 15
    Michael Fisher

    Jason. I’m not comfortable with what you have written in quite a few places, but I chose a small set of three questions to get a sense of how much of your world view is evidence-based & how much is to do with your beliefs/ideology.

    Now you tell me that small section I asked about is built on assertions . How is this dear reader supposed to know what is/isn’t an assertion in your writing ? I can’t see the point of continuing to ask you questions because I believe that some of your statements are wishful thinking grounded on unfounded assumptions.

    Like you ~ I believe that women & other groupings of people are not getting a square deal. But IMO the poor reasoning, language & concepts used in the writings & speech of the various equality movements isn’t helping ~ It serves to drive a wedge between the savvy politically tuned-in activists & their constituency

    I like you Jason. Your thoughts are interesting to me & I will continue to read your stuff, but with a pinch of salt. Thank you for going to the trouble of replying to me.

  16. 16
    Jason Thibeault

    I think you misunderstand me, Michael. I did not build a section of the post on assertions (e.g., things that are ideologically driven). I made assertions built on other bits of evidence, which I itemized. That IS the point of writing things to try to convince people of a viewpoint, is it not? Otherwise I could just hand you a sheet of facts and expect you to draw the same conclusions.

  17. 17
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis: yes, some people use privilege as a club. No, it’s not a good idea. My assertion that “it is not used as a club” refers only to my own writing. (And some others who are rationally minded and don’t wish to overreach TOO much, I suppose, but I can’t vouch for them without you asking me about specific people.)

    I do agree that one cannot assume that everyone with privilege is better off than everyone with less privilege. As I stated, privilege indicates how one started off, not how far one has climbed since. A white male in Canada has far less to climb toward happiness, prosperity, security, etc., than does a black woman, for instance. And a black woman in Canada has less of a climb than a black woman in, say, Georgia, where I understand racism is rife. But point to a specific black woman in Georgia and she could very well be far more prosperous, safe, etc., than I am presently. The point is not about the individuals, so much as the playing field they’re on and whether some aspects of that playing field are tilted against them from the outset. I think we can address these issues without delving too far into examining each individual case. Yes, there are some people in the unprivileged classes that don’t necessarily need the playing field tilted back their way because they’ve already managed to make it to the top. The goal is not to give those people more, it’s to keep from giving other members of their classes less.

    Get me now?

  18. 18
    aspidoscelis

    Regarding patriarchy:

    There’s a fine line somewhere between objecting to a social structure in which the people in charge are traditionally male… and objecting to allowing people with penises to be in charge. I tend to feel that pejorative uses of “patriarchy” rather obscure that line. If nothing else, such usages will tend to alienate some men unnecessarily. Go a step further and say something about feminists overturning the patriarchy, and your chances of accurately communicating your meaning to men who are not already feminists are rather slim. See below.

    Regarding the word “feminism”:

    If you replaced “feminism” with “equalitarianism” (or some less hideous synonym thereto), I would agree. However, using “feminism” as a synonym for “equalitarianism” is akin to using “Episcopalian” as a synonym for “atheist”. A term that implies partisanship within a particular field is not well suited to indicate rejection of the field as a whole.

  19. 19
    aspidoscelis

    I’m in danger of becoming of threadhog (or maybe it’s too late for that), so I think I’ll stop with this one. In any case:

    “I think we can address these issues without delving too far into examining each individual case.”

    I disagree. All change in the world comes down to particular people in particular situations. We can neither help nor harm people in the abstract, only in the particular.

  20. 20
    Aliasalpha

    In regards to the abuse shelters, would it be practical to split them up not by the gender of the person needing help but by the gender of the person they need protection FROM? It’d still have the mixed gender and potential trigger issues but would that be as strong if everyone in the building was in the same boat?

    I don’t really know much about how they work, the closest I’ve ever known to someone needing that help was my best friend but her only option in rural australia in the late 70s was a catholic convent so you can probably guess how helpful that ended up being…

  21. 21
    DiscoveredJoys

    I’d just like to echo my approval of aspidoscelis’ comments.

    I certainly support the concept of equality for all, but when I hear terms like ‘feminism’, ‘male privilege’, and ‘patriarchy’ I find that they are polluted in my mind by association with the polemicists that use those terms as one-gender clubs. I get the same sense from the phrases that MRAs use too, although they have fewer hot button words.

    Are some men privileged in our Western societies? Yes. But, for instance, the ‘glass ceiling’ keeps almost identical numbers of men out too. Treating the ‘glass ceiling’ as an exclusively feminist problem is doing a disservice to concepts of equality.

  22. 22
    Jadehawk

    Are some men privileged in our Western societies? Yes. But, for instance, the ‘glass ceiling’ keeps almost identical numbers of men out too. Treating the ‘glass ceiling’ as an exclusively feminist problem is doing a disservice to concepts of equality.

    if you’re going to use examples, try to make them accurate ones. The glass ceiling simply doesn’t work the way you claim: http://hbr.org/2010/03/women-in-management-delusions-of-progress/ar/1

  23. 23
    speedwell

    Aliasalpha said:

    In regards to the abuse shelters, would it be practical to split them up not by the gender of the person needing help but by the gender of the person they need protection FROM? It’d still have the mixed gender and potential trigger issues but would that be as strong if everyone in the building was in the same boat?

    Well… I have one piece of interesting anecdotal evidence. Years ago, when I escaped an abusive marriage and was in a shelter for battered women, one of the other women staying there discovered that a close male friend of hers was trapped in a relationship with a violent woman who had threatened his life and harmed him with knives and by throwing canned goods at him. He had been to the hospital and been laughed at, the whole nine yards, and was honestly in fear for his life. After listening to his story, the five women at the shelter unanimously agreed to ask the shelter management to allow him a safe space. The shelter management disagreed, even in the face of our petition.

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    DavidByron’s still throwing rants against the moderation wall, and though I suggested I would let him out, I’m loath to do so with this one considering it’s probably twice as long as my original post, and can be summarized thusly:

    You’re wrong! You’re scared of feminists! You’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong! What would it take to convince you that you’re wrong? You’re wrong! You’re wrong! Good job listing ways men are disadvantaged, no, seriously. Anyway, back to my thesis. You’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong!

    What do you folks think I should do with this?

  25. 25
    speedwell

    Jason, I suggest you allow him to post according to the same rules the rest of us follow. That is to say, to be cleared, his post must be respectful (of you, of women, of men, of scholars, etc.), supported by evidence, calmly and objectively stated, and original (i.e. not a repeat of something he previously posted in the thread, except to clarify it).

  26. 26
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis:

    If you replaced “feminism” with “equalitarianism” (or some less hideous synonym thereto), I would agree. However, using “feminism” as a synonym for “equalitarianism” is akin to using “Episcopalian” as a synonym for “atheist”. A term that implies partisanship within a particular field is not well suited to indicate rejection of the field as a whole.

    More like using “apatheist” (don’t care about gods) as a synonym for “atheist” (doesn’t believe in gods), considering Episcopalian and atheist are diametrically opposed, since Episcopalians believe in a god and atheists do not. As I stated in the second to last paragraph of the original post, feminism and egalitarianism (“equalitarianism” is kind of a silly word) are wholly compatible in that feminism just recognizes that the scales are tipped against women at the moment. If the scales were tipped against men when all things are considered (though as I point out in the original post, in some things they certainly ARE tipped against men), then I would probably be a masculinist.

    At the moment, with the vast majority of the power concentrated in men’s hands in matters regarding politics, finance, sexual and reproductive self-determination, justice, et cetera, being a feminist does not imply being anti-man, and I would gladly stop being a feminist in much the same way as I would stop being an atheist just as soon as the terms are made moot by virtue of egalitarianism being achieved.

    By the by, DavidByron has apparently taken a shine to you, and thinks that I’m going to have to ban you because of your fear of posting too much. You have not posted even within a level of magnitude near as much as he has, where I could get two thousand words spread across six comments spread across ten minutes from him. Don’t ask me how. I think he has a TARDIS. Anyway, I want you to know that, despite the troll pouring poison in my ear like some kind of antifeminist Grima Wormtongue suggesting that I should do away with you like I did him, I do not find you to be any sort of trollish influence, especially not just by virtue of your disagreeing with me. You’re certainly not arguing in bad faith like he has, and you’ve done a good job of presenting your case rationally and calmly, for which I give a great deal of credit. (This sidebar comment is as much for him as it is for you. I know he’s still reading, because he’s still commenting, they’re just not making it through.)

  27. 27
    tarian

    Many of these issues fall under the shorthand “patriarchy hurts men too”; or, if the language is getting in the way of the discussion, we can call it “traditional gender roles hurt everybody”. In the U.S., women still aren’t allowed into ground combat forces. (This despite the nature of modern warfare where support troops are at risk of IEDs and gunfire, too.) Sucks for the women who want that job, because without it they’re at a disadvantage when promotion rolls around; also sucks for the men who’re disproportionately ending up injured or dead. Another US-centric example: we do not have mandatory paid parental leave. *Parental* leave, not just maternal leave; since women are expected to shoulder all of the care of their infants, even where companies voluntarily offer paid maternal leave, often there’s no paternal equivalent. Men who really do want to take part in their young children’s lives can’t, because they’ll lose their job (or can’t afford to take the loss of pay). Discussions of work-life balance typically center women; what, men don’t have a life? Again, it’s the flipside of the same gender trope that says men provide, women nurture. Sucks for both men and women who want a family *and* a career. The same force that contributes to women earning less than men (having to take time out of career for family; this is not the only factor at play, but it’s there) also means that some men don’t have the “luxury” of family-centered life. These are all things that feminists want to fix. (We’re on your side, guys!)

  28. 28
    drlake

    I find discussions of privilege interesting, in part because of both the way some object to the term itself (such as on grounds discussed in the comments above) and the way others object to it even existing, on the grounds that there is a way the privileged group isn’t privileged (see DavidByron).

    Speaking as a white, middle-class male who was raised Presbyterian, it took me a long time to really start to understand my privilege. This was in part because I saw the downsides of being male, such as the social norm that I make myself vulnerable by asking a woman out, giving her power over me. Like many aspects of gender privilege in American society, that one has been breaking down over time, but it still exists.

    The hard part about identifying the privileges one benefits from is that to that individual, they are normal. It is only by learning about the experiences of others that the patterns of privilege start to become clear. As a college professor, I have found that my female colleagues get challenged by students more often and have to deal with more behavioral problems. While there are certainly individuals for whom that isn’t the case, the pattern is clear so I’m comfortable saying I’m privileged not because of any exceptional abilities on my part, but due to my identity.

    That points to a problem with the underlying logic of looking at individuals as evidence for or against privilege, because privilege isn’t about individuals, it is about groups. Male political candidates have an intrinsic advantage over female candidates, for example, because they are viewed as possessing stereotypically masculine traits which are (conveniently) also viewed as desirable for political leaders. Women, on the other hand, have to fight against the stereotype because the traits they are stereotyped with are considered disadvantages for leaders. As a result, women are viewed as less credible candidates and face an uphill fight getting elected.

    Of course, our discourse on the issue gets in the way sometimes for two reasons. First, because people commit the logical fallacy of reasoning from the individual to the group, arguing that because they can point to an individual for whom this is not the case, therefore privilege is not present. Second, because to discuss privilege requires a certain amount of generalizing and stereotyping in the other direction. For example, when I teach my students about feminist perspectives on politics, they see the authors as stereotyping males at the same type they are critiquing the practice of those who stereotype females, and understand it as hypocrisy.

    That leads us to a different fallacy, which is to suggest that if we stopped using terms like patriarchy, feminism, and privilege the behaviors they represent would no longer exist. Of course, that is completely false. The behaviors and social patterns we describe with those terms pre-date our invention of the terms, and would persist whether we talked about patriarchy (for example) or not. The ONLY way we can break down the social privilege is by labeling it, describing it, and talking about it. I doubt we can ever eliminate it completely since I’m of the opinion there will always be bigots of every stripe, but at least we can reduce it and make its overt manifestation socially unacceptable.

    Hmm, I had more to say on this than I thought…

  29. 29
    Bruce Gorton

    @tarian

    Oddly enough I know a few South African businesses where paternity leave does exist – but not a lot of men take it because either they aren’t aware of it or it is such a culturally novel situation that they don’t think of it.

  30. 30
    DavidByron

    “For example, when I teach my students about feminist perspectives on politics, they see the authors as stereotyping males at the same type they are critiquing the practice of those who stereotype females, and understand it as hypocrisy.”

    Maybe he then just bans them from his classes. Even people subjected to feminist cant can tell you’re full of shit and sexist. That’s pretty funny. I guess I really shouldn’t worry about feminist bigotry if young people are seeing through it for the sexist crap it is — even with an authority figure telling them to just belieeeeeeeeve. Even while they receive absolutely no help to get it. They are just figuring it out for themselves.

    You won’t be persuaded but you will grow old and die and the next generation won’t have anything to do with your crap. That is how most bigotries are eradicated slowly.

    Anyway thank him for a beautiful little anecdote there, all the better for its source. I think I’ll leave you to your little feminist ghetto now since you obviously do not wish to subject yourself to any voice of disagreement.

    Edit by Jason: I’m letting this one through just to see if he sticks the flounce.

  31. 31
    drlake

    What DavidByron fails to understand, besides the obvious fact that privilege exists and he has benefited from it, is that unless bigotry and prejudice are confronted they don’t die out. It is only because of the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement, the Womens’ Rights Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement that white privilege, male privilege, and heterosexual privilege are in decline. Burying your head in the sand and pretending that they aren’t real, as he apparently prefers to do, just perpetuates the system of privilege.

    What he also fails to understand is that the only way to attack such systems of privilege involves describing them in ways that resemble stereotypes. Fortunately, most of my students aren’t so clueless so they actually understand the difference between a feminist scholar describing a system in terms that resemble stereotypes, and an individual actually stereotyping others like DavidByron is doing with his attacks on those of us who want to do something about the discriminatory and unjust system we live within.

    I’d say he flounced his landing, as expected.

  32. 32
    Pteryxx

    @drlake:

    What he also fails to understand is that the only way to attack such systems of privilege involves describing them in ways that resemble stereotypes. Fortunately, most of my students aren’t so clueless so they actually understand the difference between a feminist scholar describing a system in terms that resemble stereotypes, and an individual actually stereotyping others…

    Could you elaborate on this? I thought the systems of privilege essentially WERE stereotypes. Is it more like determining whether a given insult is being used as a slur or is being reappropriated?

  33. 33
    karmakin

    Yeah, we kinda have to talk in terms of trends if we’re going to have any sensible discussion on any of these issues. And yes, they’re going to look like stereotypes. Get over it. What it doesn’t mean, is that you automatically link every member of said group as automatically being said stereotype. That’s bad. Don’t do it.

    As I mentioned in the previous thread, when people talk about the patriarchy, focus not on the “patri” party of it but focus on the “archy” part of it. That’s the important part. A matriarchy would be just as bad.

    Finally, privilege shouldn’t be used as a weapon, usually. But sometimes you just gotta wield it, when people not only refuse to acknowledge it, but actually work towards strengthening it. Being privileged doesn’t make you a bad person. And to be honest, I think we all understand that in a lot of situations, refusing privilege isn’t realistic (for example, if you’re offered a job while unemployed).

    You just have to understand the privilege and culturally work to change it.

  34. 34
    Greta Christina

    There’s a fine line somewhere between objecting to a social structure in which the people in charge are traditionally male… and objecting to allowing people with penises to be in charge. I tend to feel that pejorative uses of “patriarchy” rather obscure that line.

    aspidoscelis @ #18: I’m sorry you feel that way. But the fact that you feel that way does not make it true.

    a) The fact is that, in Western culture, we have a social structure in which the people in charge are traditionally male. Therefore, opposing this structure means opposing patriarchy.

    b) I know of virtually no self-identified feminists, or self-identified opponents of patriarchy, who object in any way to allowing people with penises to be in charge. There are a handful of fringe whackjob separatists who think the world would be better if women ran everything, but they don’t represent the mainstream of feminism, or even the most common radical versions of feminism.

    To say that opposing patriarchy means objecting to allowing people with penises to be in charge is a straw man. (Straw person? Whatever.)

    Finally: I would be a bad ally if I didn’t mention that equating “penis” with “man” is problematic for transgendered people. But that’s a bit of a tangent, and I don’t want to hijack the thread. So I’ll just mention it in passing.

  35. 35
    drlake

    @Pteryxx

    Stereotyping = Stating that all individuals of a certain group exhibit the same trait. E.g. DavidByron basically stating that feminists are bigoted against men. I’m sure some are, but what he is doing is stereotyping feminists as a way to delegitimize their arguments, rather than actually thinking about what they are saying.

    Not stereotyping = Stating that we live in a patriarchal system characterized by social biases towards stereotypically masculine values and against stereotypically feminine values. Many feminist scholars discuss what the stereotypically masculine and feminine values are, which is quite different from stating that men have some characteristics and women have others as intrinsic to their gender. They would probably agree that men and women are socialized into gender roles possessing stereotypically masculine and feminine characteristics, but that isn’t the same as to claim that all individuals with a similar identity share the same characteristics.

    Now, you are right in that one way oppressed (for lack of a better term) groups deal with negative stereotypes is to grab onto them and try to make them positive rather than negative. For example, “slutwalks”. But that wasn’t what I was referring to when I was talking about feminist scholarship.

    As an aside, I’m not a feminist scholar by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t always agree with them, but I do use their writings in some of the classes I teach because it is valuable for the students to gain some insight into that perspective.

  36. 36
    Greta Christina

    If they’re raped by women, people scoff — how could a man possibly be forced into penetrating a woman if he’s not aroused?

    Jason: You pointed out false pretenses and alcohol/ other drugs as ways of circumventing consent. I’d also like to add: Sex doesn’t necessarily equal an erect penis. Men can be raped, by people of any gender, in ways that don’t require their erection.

  37. 37
    Art

    Patriarchy with its origin perhaps 20000 years ago may, seems likely to me, to be a social adaptation that allowed marriage and, with it, the ability to raise/ rebuild a large army quickly so you could conquer land and resources.

    Religion, particularly the male oriented religions, were a doubling down in this theme and those societies which adopted the whole patriarchy/marriage/male God matrix found themselves at an advantage in military/expansionist/empire building/gross exploitation of nature against societies which hadn’t gone that way.

    With the desirability of warfare with massed armies/ territorial expansion/empire building/ and gross exploitation of nature declining the advantages have been decreased while the disadvantages have remained constant. Woman’s suffrage marks the break even point as some time prior to 1920. No great coincidence that that time period marks a shift in methods of warfare and production, both industrial and agricultural, away from mass use of physical labor to get the jobs done.

    It has been less than a century but it does seem the usefulness of patriarchy/marriage/male oriented religion has run its course and will be in decline for the foreseeable future. Patriarchy has been around for many thousands of years. To see it decline so much in less than a century is remarkable.

    Patriarchy was a cultural adaptation to a specific set of pressures, likely the need to compete over land and resources. The decline of patriarchy is also a cultural adaptation to a specific set of pressures, the need to maximize the potential of the other 50% of society.

    It is also a shift in levels of specialization. Gender roles are another form of specialization, like guilds and castes, and the decline of gender roles is a return to the role of human being, both male and female, as a much more general-purpose machine.

  38. 38
    Ys

    I completely agree that the patriarchy hurts everyone, just in different ways.

    Men are horribly disadvantaged by socialised gender roles if they don’t fit the traditional “masculine” norms. The focus on physical strength and ability is damaging for guys who are short, skinny, infirm, etc., or those who just aren’t into the “let’s whack each other with sticks until someone cries” type of games. They are stigmatised within their own gender by the use of derogatory terms with feminine connotations(pussies or sissies) and get treated as lesser beings deserving of different types of abuse. That’s not cool.

    I think it left a gaping void for men when society shifted from the model where men were the breadwinners and women were the homemakers. Women were suddenly free to go out and be whatever they wanted to be (released from strict gender role expectations), but men didn’t seem to gain a corresponding freedom from gender expectations. We still have societal expectations for men to work and make a good income – so where does the stay-at-home dad fit into that? We still have societal expectations that men will perform the heavy lifting and dangerous jobs – where do the male kindergarten teachers fit into that model?

    Men need to go through that release from strict gender roles. Both genders have clearly contributed to the expectations that men would continue in those outdated roles, and I find it depressing that we’re having such a difficult time breaking the model. We no longer live in a world where a man’s sole purpose in life is to defend the family 24/7 – he is just as free to pursue his dreams and goals as women are now supposed to be.

    One point, though, about dangerous jobs and soldiering: I would expect (expectations!) that men would hold more of these positions than women. Men tend to be larger and stronger, and can generally run faster while carrying heavier burdens. Not to put too fine a point on it, but people need to be capable of certain physical feats to perform particular types of work. If they cannot perform those feats, then they will endanger others because of their lack of strength/stamina/whatever.

    Firefighters need to be able to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time so they are less likely to get killed in the line of duty (especially those who fight wildfires). If someone can’t handle the speed/strength requirements, that person is a hazard, not a help. The same would apply for fighting: if you cannot handle the load required or don’t have the physical skills, you’re going to be a liability to your unit. I’m not saying that there should remain an *unequal* burden for men vs. women, just that whoever applies for these types of positions needs to have the appropriate physical skills to handle the work without endangering others. Whoever can handle the work should be allowed to do it.

    One final note, about rape – no one brought up prison rape. It is just as horrible as any other rape, yet it’s become even more of a pervasive running joke than rape jokes about women. We don’t think of women being raped in jail – it’s all about men sharing a cell with a big black guy named Bubba (which is a whole ‘nother discussion on relative privilege and racism, etc.). It’s probably considered the most degrading possible thing that a man could have happen to him…yet it’s a running joke EVERYWHERE. I cannot conceive how hurtful and damaging that is for the victims of this crime…and where are they supposed to turn for any sort of consideration or compassion?

  39. 39
    'Tis Himself

    drlake #28

    That leads us to a different fallacy, which is to suggest that if we stopped using terms like patriarchy, feminism, and privilege the behaviors they represent would no longer exist. Of course, that is completely false. The behaviors and social patterns we describe with those terms pre-date our invention of the terms, and would persist whether we talked about patriarchy (for example) or not. The ONLY way we can break down the social privilege is by labeling it, describing it, and talking about it. I doubt we can ever eliminate it completely since I’m of the opinion there will always be bigots of every stripe, but at least we can reduce it and make its overt manifestation socially unacceptable.

    This is sometimes referred to as the head in the sand fallacy. The claim that the word privilege is somehow pejorative does nothing in the fight to end privilege. Privilege exists. I’m a white, cis-heterosexual, economically comfortable, adult male with a Harvard graduate degree. All of these give me privilege over blacks, non-heterosexuals, transsexuals, the poor, minors, females and non-college graduates. It doesn’t matter if I use the word privilege or not, I’m privileged in many different ways. So to object to the specific word privilege doesn’t end my privilege nor does it excuse not doing anything to bring people up to my level.

  40. 40
    aspidoscelis

    In response to comment 41:

    I think this reflects an underlying assumption that if a concept or term describes something that exists, its other deficiencies are irrelevant and it must be accepted as is. This results in a false dichotomy: accept the term and the conceptualization it represents, or deny reality.

    As an example using a term we would presumably both object to, one need not deny that a person is Diné and female to reject referring to her as a “squaw”. Obviously there are other options.

  41. 41
    Ani Sharmin

    Thanks very much for writing. These gender roles definitely do hurt everyone regardless of gender.

    They are, in fact, more often interested in stopping feminism than in working to better men’s lot in those situations where men are at a disadvantage.

    I really get upset when people, instead of actually trying to fight against unfair treatment of men, just act hatefully against feminism. I don’t get angry at the people who fought for equal rights for African Americans, just because I’m part of different racial minority. Rather, I take inspiration from them.

  42. 42
    Knative

    I was going to ask about prison rape. Does that get counted in the stats, because that seems like it is really prevalent. It kind of bugs me that some people are OK with it going on because prisoners “deserve” it.

  43. 43
    Dan M.

    Prison rape is certainly something to list as a primarily male disadvantage, but it does, I think, differ from the cultural assumptions that underlie rape of women. To perhaps overstate it, on one hand the patriarchy says “women are there to be raped by men”, and on the other it says “it’s bad for a man to be raped in prison”. It seems like in only one instance is the victim considered to matter.

  44. 44
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    aspidoscelis
    Concerning privilege. Of course it doesn’t say much about 2 individuals of whom we only know their sex.
    Try thinking about it more as in science: you can examine privilege best when the rest of the cicumstances is equal. The different outcomes then are due to privilege.
    I’ll give you an example: I used to live in a road that “started with the brothels and ended with me”.
    So, walking home in the evening or at night from the city centre meant walking past the brothels.
    For my then boyfriend- now husband, the experience was the following: The ladies would call out at him, inviting him in for some adult entertainment. Even though he knew perfectly well that they were only interested in his money, it was kind of flattering and funny.
    For me the experience was this: Men would ask me for sex. Sometimes they’d already touch me in places I consider private. When I told them I’m no prostitute they’d sometimes think I only needed a litle “persuasion”. It was scary and made me feel unsafe.

    Custody of kids
    I suspect that it might have something to do with the “working middle-class housewife”, i.e. the women how stayed at home and took care of the household and the kids as opposed to the Victotian households where the work would have been done by nannies and servants and cooks. After a divorce the bread-winning ex-husband had nobody to look after the children while she had nothing else to do anyway.
    For anybody interested in nice fiction based on the topic of Victorian divorce laws: Philip Pullman’s 3rd Sally Lockhart book deals with this.

    Work related deaths
    The statistics are a tiny bit screwed, mostly because prostitution usually isn’t included. What’s also not included are deaths and accidents related to “being a housewife”.
    Which doesn’t mean that the vast majority of dangerous jobs isn’t held by men.
    The reasons for this are diverse. Physical ability*, traditional gender roles, chilly work climate for women, negative view on women doing that work are some of them.
    *This is actually a point where MRAs score a winning ticket: If the physical tests mean that 95% of women will fail thm as opposed to 50% of men, and therefore the dangerous work is done by men, it shows how society hates men. If the physical requirements are different for men and women so women have a better chance at getting into those fields, it shows how society hates men.
    I’m not saying people here are making that claim, I just want to raise awareness that this point needs to be discussed with all the information at hand.

    maternal vs. parental leave
    I think that both things have a place and should not be conflated. I’ll try to explain using the German model.
    In Germany, women get 6 weeks before the due date and 8 weeks after that of paid maternity leave. This time, however, is not about caring for the infant and painting the nursery, it is about protecting the woman’s and the baby’s health, to prevent premature births and to make sure the woman can recover from birth. So the “benefit” is linked to the biological reality of childbirth, not to benefits women get for their gender. (Just like I don’t get to complain about not getting free screenings for prostate cancer)
    After those 8 weeks either parent can take up to three years of unpaid parental leave to care for the kid. The company can’t fire them for that and have to take them back after those three years.

    The advantage of being a housewife
    Well, kind of. I think the still existing traditional housewife role shows the biggest plus of being a (married) woman and at the same time how much society hates women.
    Well, now, since this post is about the problems of the men, I’ll try to focus more, but I can’t do one without the other.
    Married women who lose their jobs become housewives. Married men become unemployed. For the women there still is this role to fall back on. It is an accepted and respected role, they can still draw some self-esteem from being the one who does all the chores at home.
    For men, it’s the other way round. Not only have they lost the place society has for them, doing the job of a housewife adds to their damaged self-esteem and makes them feel even more worthless. If they tell about it, they get laughed at. A woman who tells about the wonderful trick she’s found out to get stains out of T-shirts will mostly get an open ear, even praise, a man will get ridicule.
    It tells much about the misogyny rampant in society that every time a man associates with something considered to be a female domain, they are still seen as weak, worthless, not real men.

  45. 45
    'Tis Himself

    aspidoscelis #42

    I think this reflects an underlying assumption that if a concept or term describes something that exists, its other deficiencies are irrelevant and it must be accepted as is. This results in a false dichotomy: accept the term and the conceptualization it represents, or deny reality.

    I fail to see how the argument “the word privilege makes me uncomfortable so the concept doesn’t exist” is at all tenable. Fine, you don’t like the word privilege. Let’s call it aspidoscelisrejectsrteality. There is such a thing as aspidoscelisrejectsrteality and whining about a different word doesn’t do anything to fix the underlying social problem.

    As an example using a term we would presumably both object to, one need not deny that a person is Diné and female to reject referring to her as a “squaw”. Obviously there are other options.

    “Squaw” has pejorative connotations. “Privilege” does not. You have to show that anyone other than you finds the word disparaging before the rest of us start using “aspidoscelisrejectsrteality.” Back in post #7 you wrote:

    Considering only the concept of privilege for the moment, my impression is that this concept is usually treated in a fashion that ignores complexity and particularity.

    You then go into some detail about how Elevator Guy and Rebecca are individuals rather than stereotypes and somehow the interaction between the two of them was not the result of Elevator Guy’s male privilege but rather due to something you don’t actually explain but you think isn’t privilege and besides you hate that word so the interaction could not possibly have been privilege aspidoscelisrejectsrteality. Then you retreat further from reality by bringing up Dawkins. You said:

    A similar example is found in Rebecca’s post “The Privilege Delusion”, from which comes this sentence: “Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!” Viewed through the paradigm of privilege, Richard Dawkins seems to be not a particular person with particular experiences, opinion, and thoughts, but a generic member of a stereotyped category whose views should be interpreted (and, in this case, dismissed) on that basis.

    Dawkins is a wealthy old heterosexual white man. Which means his social status is higher than a poor young GLBT black woman. Sorry, but that’s how the system works at present. Dawkins fits the stereotype quite nicely (as do I, as I pointed out in my post #41). Two privilege differences between Dawkins and me is he’s wealthier than I and he went to Oxford rather than Harvard. Other than that, our privileges are pretty much identical. We are members of a stereotyped category. One major contrast between Dawkins and me is that I understand and accept my membership in a privileged class. That’s why, unlike Dawkins, I don’t metaphorically pat Rebecca on the head and say “lots of women have it worse than you, run along, little girl.”

    Privilege is real. Claiming that certain individuals do not have privilege is rejecting reality. Why is rejecting reality so important to you? And no, this is not a facetious question. You go to some length explaining that you do reject reality but you don’t explain why you do so and why you feel it’s important that the rest of us reject reality along with you.

  46. 46
    Miranda

    Married women who lose their jobs do not automatically become housewives, as I can attest to from personal experience. When I lost my job I became unemployed. In fact I encounted mostly pity after losing my job, “don’t worry you’ll find another job, you won’t be stuck at home forever.” Weather I wanted to be at home or had discussed the possibility of staying at home with my spouse was never even considered.

    While I agree that society seems to view women who stay at home more favourably then men who choose to stay at home I disagree that it is an accepted and respected role for women to fall back on.

    It is a common attitude that women who choose to stay at home are lazy people who don’t want a career or simply want someone to take care of them. It has even become a recent trend that women who choose to stay at home are expected to find a way to work from the home, by creating their own business or caring for other peoples children.

    I have personally encounted the attitude that because I choose, enjoy and, in fact, want to be a homemaker that there must be something wrong with me. I have encounted disgust, pity, and it has even been implied that I must be anti-feminist. I feel very lucky to have had the choice to stay home and I feel equally as lucky to be able to stay at home and care for my son and take care of my husband.

    Don’t get me wrong here, I believe think that men should have equal opportunity to be able to stay at home and care for their families if that is their choice. Weather the man, woman or neither stays at home should be a personal choice made between each individual couple and should really be nobody elses business.

    My main point is that the idea that it is universally acceptable for a woman to stay at home where it is considered universally shameful for a man is just not true.

    That’s just my two cents.

  47. 47
    Jason Thibeault

    Miranda: you may be surprised by this, but Canada’s actually pretty progressive about the housewife thing. We’re further along the egalitarian curve with respect to that than the States, I’d suspect.

    When our co-bride-and-grooms Mark and Sara got married, Sara kept her name, but Jodi took mine. People were more surprised at Jodi than Sara. They asked her why she’d take my name when she was such a progressive, pro-feminist person? The answer: she liked my name better. Having the choice means being able to choose the thing that is considered “not feminist”. Giving people the choice is paramount.

  48. 48
    aspidoscelis

    In response to post 47:

    “I fail to see how the argument “the word privilege makes me uncomfortable so the concept doesn’t exist” is at all tenable. Fine, you don’t like the word privilege. Let’s call it aspidoscelisrejectsrteality. There is such a thing as aspidoscelisrejectsrteality and whining about a different word doesn’t do anything to fix the underlying social problem.”

    I don’t think you’ve understood what I was saying. The choice of how to conceptualize an aspect of reality and what terms to apply is a problem independent of the mere existence of that aspect of reality.

    ““Squaw” has pejorative connotations. “Privilege” does not. You have to show that anyone other than you finds the word disparaging before the rest of us start using “aspidoscelisrejectsrteality.””

    The two cases are not entirely analogous, but I figured they were close enough. I consider the conceptual difficulties underlying “privilege” to be more problematic than its pejorative connotations, but the gist is: there are reasons to object to terms other than rejection of any reality that they represent.

    As for whether pejorative connotations exist, the concept of “privilege” is at least sometimes used to dismiss the opinions of others. I consider such usage pejorative, as it devalues people based on their group membership. I also note that in discussions of feminism on the FTBlogs, non-feminists often object to the term “privilege”. It is at least worth considering that this may be because they find the term to be used pejoratively, rather than merely because they are hateful misogynist bastards (which, unquestionably, some of them are!).

    “Dawkins is a wealthy old heterosexual white man.”

    I certainly do not object on that point.

    “Why is rejecting reality so important to you?”

    If this is not facetious, the question indicates that you haven’t understood my previous posts. As they are rather lengthy, I will not repeat them here.

  49. 49
    Miranda

    I’m not surprised that Canada is more progressive than the states. For example: Nathan had the option to take parental leave when we had Jack.

    The stuff I’ve mentioned is stuff I’ve actually personally encounted in some way. Perhaps it’s just the particular groups of people that I was around at the time we had some of these opinions which coloured my experiences. It’s hard to say.

    I have a friend who was recently got married and told me she was sick and tired of the question “so what’s your new name?” Apparently the people she has encounted can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that she wants to keep her name and, in fact, never considered changing it in the first place.

  50. 50
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Miranda
    Sure, they become “only” housewives (or can become), and yes, they are supposed to “do their little”, but it’s still a possibility that is more open to women than men.
    “Self-respecting heterosexual men” are frankly not allowed* by any standard to sell crafted handbags from home or change other people’s kids’ diapers.
    They are, of course, allowed to be master designers of insanely expensive handbags.

    Oh, please don’t mention changing names. I didn’t take my husband’s name ( I would have if it were easier to spell than mine), but by now I react to it. It’s amazing that people will listen to you spelling your name and then take a breath and use your husband’s. Or, if they understand, suppose that we are not married and I therefore don’t have the legal right to act in his name.

    *Not an actual law, of course.

  51. 51
    Worldtraveller

    Re: name changes and marriage.

    Amusingly enough, I took my wife’s name when we got married. Interestingly, it took her family longer to come around than mine, maybe because my family was already used to me ‘being wierd’.

    It started as an offhand comment by her, saying it would be easier to change my name than hers, because so much of our paperwork was in her name (we lived together for about 4 years before marrying, and I had really bad credit when we met).

    Anyway, we do some things that are ‘traditional’ gender roles, but we both recognize when we do and are very egalitarian about our relationship in general. With her working on her PhD, I hope to become the ‘minor’ breadwinner in a few years. :-)

  52. 52
    witless chum

    Ys at 41:
    “One final note, about rape – no one brought up prison rape. It is just as horrible as any other rape, yet it’s become even more of a pervasive running joke than rape jokes about women. We don’t think of women being raped in jail – it’s all about men sharing a cell with a big black guy named Bubba (which is a whole ‘nother discussion on relative privilege and racism, etc.). It’s probably considered the most degrading possible thing that a man could have happen to him…yet it’s a running joke EVERYWHERE. I cannot conceive how hurtful and damaging that is for the victims of this crime…and where are they supposed to turn for any sort of consideration or compassion?”

    Well, for what it’s worth the only people I’ve read pushing back against the notion that prison rapes jokes are okay and high-larious are feminists of both genders.

  53. 53
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, for what it’s worth the only people I’ve read pushing back against the notion that prison rapes jokes are okay and high-larious are feminists of both genders.

    Well, those who petitioned to change the antiquated rape definitions of “man putting penis into vagina” to include other forms and male victims were also feminists.
    It’s not so much an issue of men vs. women, but rather of patriarchy vs. feminists.

    fastlane
    Well, I told him I didn’t know how he would call himself after our wedding, but I would call myself exactly like I did then. He wanted to keep his name, I kept mine. The kids have his name. I can understand that with the patriarchal tropes surrounding kids and fatherhood it was more important for him than it was for me. Nobody would ever question my status as their mother, even though I don’t share their name, but people would question his status as a father if he had a different name.

  54. 54
    Miranda

    I did say that it is still considered more socially acceptable for women to be homemakers than men. My point was that it is not currently universally acceptable for women to be homemakers anymore. There is an attitude that women should want more than to be homemakers.

    Interesting enough I actually know a man who used to sell hand made bags at the local farmers market.

  55. 55
    Greg Laden

    MRA = Winging bitches worried about first world problems. No graph of modern workplace injury stats by sex should be produced without data from 19th century Lowell as a baseline. “The number of men murdered by intimates dropped by 75% since 1976. The number of women killed by intimates was stable for nearly two decades.” (bjs) And so on.

    I am not impressed.

  56. 56
    aspidoscelis

    In response to Greta, #35:

    Maybe I should clarify slightly. So, backtracking to my original purpose here, Jason wrote in the original post: “I strongly suspect there’s a reason men have not done more to overturn the patriarchy [...]“. Personally, I strongly suspect that among the various reasons are terminological and/or conceptual problems. So, one of the things I’ve been hoping to get across is that some of the standards terms in feminism (including, of course, “feminism” itself) are frequently misunderstood, misapplied, or used in fallacious reasoning. For instance, you write:

    “To say that opposing patriarchy means objecting to allowing people with penises to be in charge is a straw man. (Straw person? Whatever.)”

    I’m going to speculate that this is not the first time you’ve had to address this kind of misconception in discussions with non-feminists. If so, it may be worth considering that promoting gender equality using terms and concepts that are–or are likely to be interpreted as–gender-loaded, based on stereotypes, anti-male, etc., is likely to antagonize rather than convince.

    If a word isn’t communicating what you want it to communicate, there’s only so much you can do by way of more carefully defining the word. At some point the best course of action is to find a more effective word. In my opinion, discussion of overturning the patriarchy is not an effective way of communicating that you’re interested in promoting gender equality. Yes, I understand how those words can be used to communicate precisely that. The question is whether or not they in fact do so when either the speaker or the listener is not a sophisticated feminist.

  57. 57
    Stephanie Zvan

    aspidoscelis, I am very slightly younger than radical feminism. I have seen what has been accomplished by that movement in that time. It is not small.

    I have also seen, in that time, a regressive movement come to life and to power. I have seen, over and over, that they are willing to lie and to brand their enemies with those lies.

    Anyone who wants the language of the movement to change is going to need more than concern. They will have to demonstrate that this language change will actually make more of a difference than simply reaching out and education people on those terms, and they will have to find a way to convince activists that the new terms, whatever they may be, won’t simply be twisted by the regressive movement exactly the same way the old were.

    You up for that?

  58. 58
    aspidoscelis

    Re. Stephanie, #60:

    “You up for that?”

    Nope, not one bit. Determining the future course of feminism is a job for feminists. I can give you my input as a non-feminist, but that’s as far as it goes.

  59. 59
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Nope, not one bit. Determining the future course of feminism is a job for feminists. I can give you my input as a non-feminist, but that’s as far as it goes.

    Ahhh, but you’ll be ever so glad to point out where we went wrong (in your opinion) and that you told us so.

    Yes, I understand how those words can be used to communicate precisely that. The question is whether or not they in fact do so when either the speaker or the listener is not a sophisticated feminist.

    Well, do you think we should get scientists to find another word for mutations because most people think about X-men and huge turtles and creationists will never stop abusing the term? Or should we just try to educate people better to the actual meaning of it?

  60. 60
    Jadehawk

    Well, do you think we should get scientists to find another word for mutations because most people think about X-men and huge turtles and creationists will never stop abusing the term? Or should we just try to educate people better to the actual meaning of it?

    ditto for the word “theory”, the economics-specific meaning of “efficiency” and “rational”, etc. etc.

    Seriously, since when do academic disciplines let the ignorant dictate their vocabulary?

  61. 61
    'Tis Himself

    aspidoscelis #50 (Notice how I give you the courtesy of mentioning you by name. You might consider giving me the same courtesy. Also learn to <blockquote> or otherwise distinguish what you’re quoting from what you’re saying.)

    I don’t think you’ve understood what I was saying. The choice of how to conceptualize an aspect of reality and what terms to apply is a problem independent of the mere existence of that aspect of reality.

    I understand your point. What I don’t understand is how the word “privilege” gets you all wound up. It’s a non-pejorative, non-derogatory, non-humiliating, non-malevolent word. Dictionary.com has as the first definition of privilege:

    a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich.

    While we could quibble about the word “most” in this definition, it’s a succinct description of privilege as used in our (or at least my) discussion.

    I consider the conceptual difficulties underlying “privilege” to be more problematic than its pejorative connotations, but the gist is: there are reasons to object to terms other than rejection of any reality that they represent.

    You have complained several times that you have objections to the word “privilege.” What you’ve completely failed to do is explain what these objections are. You say there are “reasons to object to terms” but apparently I’m supposed to guess what these reasons are, at least in the case of “privilege.”

    As for whether pejorative connotations exist, the concept of “privilege” is at least sometimes used to dismiss the opinions of others. I consider such usage pejorative, as it devalues people based on their group membership.

    Perhaps I’m just dense but I’ve not seen these supposed occasions when “privilege” is used to dismiss others’ opinions. I have seen peoples’ opinions dismissed because they refuse to accept the concept of privilege, particularly male privilege. But that’s an entirely different subject.

    I’ve previously described how, because of different attributes, I’m a member of various privileged groups. Please explain to me how this “devalues” me. I’s jest a pore iggerant Harvard gradumate, I don’t unnerstand what you is sayin’.

    I also note that in discussions of feminism on the FTBlogs, non-feminists often object to the term “privilege”. It is at least worth considering that this may be because they find the term to be used pejoratively, rather than merely because they are hateful misogynist bastards (which, unquestionably, some of them are!).

    Okay, other people have the same or similar whines about “privilege” that you have. So what? I’m asking YOU what your objections are. I’m not calling you a hateful, misogynist bastard. I’m questioning why you object to one specific word.

    “Why is rejecting reality so important to you?”

    If this is not facetious, the question indicates that you haven’t understood my previous posts. As they are rather lengthy, I will not repeat them here.

    Obviously you didn’t read my previous post #47 where I said: “And no, this is not a facetious question.” Perhaps I’m not the one with reading comprehension problems.

    I’ve read your previous posts. I’ve even quoted from them. I still don’t understand why you object to the word “privilege.” You whine it “devalues” others and “creates stereotypes” and things like that but you don’t actually explain how the word does these things. More and more I’m convinced you’re trying to remove one of the stronger feminist arguments by pretending the word used has negative connotations.

  62. 62
    aspidoscelis

    Re. ‘Tis Himself, OM, #64:

    Explaining why I find “privilege” objectionable was largely the focus of my posts 7 and 14. I’m not sure how to address your suggestion that I haven’t provided any kind of explanation. I have. Maybe it’s not a great explanation, maybe it requires further clarification, but it is there. If there are aspects you would like me to clarify, I may be able to oblige. If, on the other hand, you deny the existence of any explanation on my part, we are at an impasse.

  63. 63
    Dan M.

    So, I have a question on the original topic. Looking at the comic quoted here, which makes the tired joke that women never mean what they say, I do wonder how harmful to men it is to buy into this belief and the other beliefs that underlie the joke. I know Greta has written some about how emotionally stunted the patriarchal man is, and obviously shoehorning oneself into that is mentally damaging.

    I guess my more direct question is this: If you’re performing masculinity with a female partner who performs femininity to conform to patriarchal norms, is one of the effects of that really having expression by the woman fail to mean what the same expression would mean to the man? Or is that entirely a lie, even from the perspective of inside the system, used to justify more abuse of women?

  64. 64
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Dan M.
    I thikn there are several things at work here.
    First I’d say that those missunderstandings simply don’t happen when we’re talking about serious stuff.
    In sex, yes means yes and no means no and you can easily tell when a verbal “no” just doesn’t mean no but “please go on exactly like that”. People do play games and they are both aware that they do. Nobody in their right mind could take a crying woman who begs you to stop as somebody who wants you to go on, enjoying herself mightily.
    People who are into those kind of games usually establish safe-words first, and those are usually not “no” or “stop”.
    That’s just a misogynis excuse.

    As for more ordinary stuff, communication theory can work wonders if both sides.
    Men and women often use communication differently.
    The patriarchal interpretation of this is that “women don’t say what they mean”, as if they were doing it “wrong”.

    I’ll give you a simple example a lot of people in a relationship find familiar.
    A couple is sitting on the sofa.
    She askes him: “Don’t you find it could in here?”
    He: “No”
    ….
    She: “I really think it’s cold in here”
    He: “hmmm”

    After a while, she gets up, closes the window herself and is angry.
    He feels unjustly attacked.
    If she wanted him to close the window, why didn’t she say so? Clearly, women never say what they mean.
    She is upset. She clearly communicated her wish. He jsut didn’t want to do her a favour.
    Clearly, men are insensitive.

    What has happened? They both communicated on different levels, ignorant of the fact that the other one was not where they were themselves.
    He thought they were talking on a facts-level, about the room temperature. Because men are conditioned to talk about facts, be bold and forward.
    She was communicating on a level of appeal. Her “it’s cold in here” was a clear information because women are conditioned to react to those subtle hints, to care for others “read their wishes from their eyes” and also to never be bold about their own wishes.
    So I think, yes, that meme hurts both, men and women, because it causes pain and damage.
    I can only speculate on how a man must feel who thinks that he can never get a clear communication from a woman, who thinks that he may always do wrong. It must plant a poisonous seed of mistrust in their relationship.

  65. 65
    Jason Thibeault

    Dan@66 / Giliell@67: as another commenter pointed out on the Privilege posts, that’s indirect speech — making statements about things instead of simply asking for the thing you want. It’s pretty much the same sort of thing Elevator Guy was engaged in when he asked Rebecca to “coffee”. The likelihood of his “coffee” being literally coffee is actually significantly lowered by the confidence with which he approached her, and the context during which he approached her. Both of those lead to the subtext of coffee not meaning coffee.

    Not to turn this into another Elevatopalooza thread.

    And yes, the gender roles that puts women at a distinct disadvantage in simply stating their desires lead directly to situations like that. I would take the “it’s cold in here” as a suggestion to do something about it, because I’ve been conditioned to respond by trying to fix things that people complain about (especially when my wife complains about something, because she doesn’t usually).

    As a corollary, this conditioning gets me into trouble when some people complain about something and are actually looking for sympathy, not ways to fix the problem.

  66. 66
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis / Tis Himself: there are real meanings to these words, agreed upon by general consensus, and the terms of art used in the psychological sciences. Just because someone else comes along and turns “feminist” or “privilege” into a bad word doesn’t mean we should stop using it, any more than we should stop using “atheist” just because the word turns people’s ears off to whatever comes after it. It was a word first, then it got morphed into a slur by people with a vested interest in tying those formative ideas with negative emotions, then the people who had the labels applied to them retook those slurs.

    I’ve been stewing on a post about “owning the slur” for about three months. Every time one of these conversations comes up, I wish I could point to it. It’s a shame I haven’t written it yet.

  67. 67
    Pteryxx

    Because men are conditioned to talk about facts, be bold and forward.
    She was communicating on a level of appeal. Her “it’s cold in here” was a clear information because women are conditioned to react to those subtle hints, to care for others “read their wishes from their eyes” and also to never be bold about their own wishes.
    So I think, yes, that meme hurts both, men and women, because it causes pain and damage.

    I’d add, women are conditioned to produce those subtle hints more than men are. Women who speak directly are more likely to be labeled as “pushy” or “overbearing” where men are “assertive”. IIRC, there’s also a correlation between indirect speech and social status generally: men will use indirect language more when speaking to their boss than they will to their subordinates, for instance.

    Also, indirect refusal in a (female-to-male) sexual context is more likely to be misinterpreted (I’d rather not say “misunderstood” here) than generally. See: Mythcommunication, subtitled “It’s not that they don’t understand, they just don’t like the answer.”

  68. 68
    'Tis Himself

    aspidoscelis

    Here are direct quotes from your posts #7 and #14 concerning privilege, along with my commentary:

    If treatment of people as individuals rather than as members of certain classes is the goal, “privilege” and “patriarchy” are the wrong words.

    You begin with a bare assertion. Let’s see if you support it with evidence.

    Considering only the concept of privilege for the moment, my impression is that this concept is usually treated in a fashion that ignores complexity and particularity. For instance, comments in the various FTBlogs have frequently suggested that elevator guy’s actions were particularly inappropriate because male privilege places him in a position of power relative to Rebecca. Underlying this is the assumption that the relative power held by people can be determined simply by examining their genitalia. This approach -may- work in average across the population as a whole, but it fails utterly in any particular example. You can imagine any number of inequalities in other factors (strength, wealth, social prestige, etc.) that would outweigh gender averages. Treating elevator guy as a generic, average man and Rebecca as a generic, average woman and reaching conclusions about their relative power & social advantages on this basis is absurd. Interactions between them should be viewed and evaluated based on each as individuals, because they are individuals and not averaged stereotypes. A similar example is found in Rebecca’s post “The Privilege Delusion”, from which comes this sentence: “Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!” Viewed through the paradigm of privilege, Richard Dawkins seems to be not a particular person with particular experiences, opinion, and thoughts, but a generic member of a stereotyped category whose views should be interpreted (and, in this case, dismissed) on that basis.

    No evidence there. I see a lot of verbage about how Elevator Guy, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Dawkins are individuals and supposedly “privilege” is about stereotypes, but nothing that shows that, for instance, Dawkins doesn’t fit into the “wealthy old heterosexual white man” stereotype. Are you saying Dawkins isn’t a wealthy old heterosexual white man? Or are you’re saying that wealthy old heterosexual white men don’t have privilege? I assure you that both of these statements are true.

    Moreover, you’re missing Rebecca’s point about Dawkins. He dismissed her complaints about how some men treat women with a long-winded sneer which confirmed Dawkins’s unthinking acceptance of his male privilege.

    I find your attempt to deny Elevator Guy’s privilege quite frustrating. It becomes more and more obvious that you don’t understand the concept of privilege. Elevator Guy and Dawkins have social standing which Rebecca doesn’t. This social standing is given to them because they’re men. You’re correct in a trivial way when you say Elevator Guy and Dawkins are individuals and don’t use their privilege in the same way. Dawkins is much too couth to try to hustle a woman young enough to be his daughter, especially in an elevator at 4 AM. Men use their male privilege in many ways and not all men use the same ways.

    Next quote:

    I know it [privilege] is not unique to feminism, but I do see use of this concept as a problematic aspect of feminism. And it is used as a club, although perhaps we agree that it should not be.

    More assertions. You complain that privilege is “problematic.” I’m thinking that your problem with it is you don’t want to admit male privilege exists, so if you denounce it as problematic then you can dismiss it. And you completely fail to show how it’s “used as a club.”

    So far as I can tell, all data indicating the existence of privilege between gender groups yields differences in averages. Attributing the mean of a sample to a particular member of that sample is one of the most basic Statistics 101 errors. Any use of the concept of privilege to compare particular individuals is based on this error. [emphasis in original]

    Black men receive longer prison sentences for the same crimes as white men. It’s not an error for me to compare a particular black man’s and a particular white man’s sentences as evidence to support this statistic. That’s what’s called a “data point.” Similarly, on average women have lower salaries then men. I happen to have a woman boss whose salary is more than mine. This individual case is not characteristic of the general situation. In general, men have privilege which women don’t, even though in certain instances a particular man does not have a specific privilege over a particular woman. You really need to reread your Statistics 101 book.

    The difficulty is how one goes about decreasing inequality between groups that doesn’t promulgate the basic error that we should be viewing people as members of those groups rather than as individuals. I consider the concept of privilege to reinforce rather than diminish that basic error.

    Now I’m convinced you’re just trying to deny the existence of male privilege by using bogus objections to it. However I admit there is the slight chance that you’re just particularly poor at articulating your objections to the word “privilege.”

  69. 69
    aspidoscelis

    Re. ‘Tis Himself, OM, 71:

    You begin with a bare assertion. Let’s see if you support it with evidence.

    Both “privilege” and “patriarchy” are terms that address properties of groups, rather than properties of individuals. Hence, they do not provide a worldview that emphasizes individuality.

    I see a lot of verbage about how Elevator Guy, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Dawkins are individuals and supposedly “privilege” is about stereotypes, but nothing that shows that, for instance, Dawkins doesn’t fit into the “wealthy old heterosexual white man” stereotype.

    Dawkins’ renown is due to his public advocacy of ideas regarding science and religion that happen not to be typical of rich, old, heterosexual, white men. So, no, he does not fit the stereotype.

    Moreover, you’re missing Rebecca’s point about Dawkins. He dismissed her complaints about how some men treat women with a long-winded sneer which confirmed Dawkins’s unthinking acceptance of his male privilege.

    AFAICT, his comment was directed at the Pharyngula commenters. However, if Dawkins says something wrong, reject it on the grounds that it is wrong. Assuming that his statements were due to his group membership and then dismissing them based on that assumption both ignores his individuality and is pejorative towards the group to which he belongs.

    I find your attempt to deny Elevator Guy’s privilege quite frustrating.

    I have not claimed that EG does or does not have any particular advantages or higher social standing relative to Rebecca. We don’t know that simply from their respective genders.

    Black men receive longer prison sentences for the same crimes as white men. It’s not an error for me to compare a particular black man’s and a particular white man’s sentences as evidence to support this statistic. That’s what’s called a “data point.” Similarly, on average women have lower salaries then men. I happen to have a woman boss whose salary is more than mine. This individual case is not characteristic of the general situation.

    I was not addressing our ability to infer differences in group averages from a single pairwise comparison. I was addressing our ability to infer a single pairwise comparison from differences in group averages. In a simpler case dealing with a single individual and a single group mean, the first kind of reasoning would look like this:

    1) “Jason is 5’8″ tall. Jason is a Canadian man. Therefore, Canadian men are, on average, 5’8″ tall.”

    The second would look like this:

    2) “Canadian men are, on average, 5’8″ tall. Jason is a Canadian man. Therefore, Jason is 5’8″ tall.”

    However, both are very poor reasoning. In the case of a male employee earning less than his female boss, reasoning of the first type would lead us to conclude that, on average, women earn more than men. Reasoning of the second type, OTOH, would lead us to conclude that the male employee earns more than the female boss. Both conclusions are incorrect. That you are aware of such non-representative cases but nonetheless consider it appropriate to assume individual samples are representative of group means… is baffling.

    Now I’m convinced you’re just trying to deny the existence of male privilege by using bogus objections to it. However I admit there is the slight chance that you’re just particularly poor at articulating your objections to the word “privilege.”

    If those are the options, I’ll opt for “inarticulate”.

  70. 70
    Dan M.

    @aspidoscelis

    Both “privilege” and “patriarchy” are terms that address properties of groups, rather than properties of individuals. Hence, they do not provide a worldview that emphasizes individuality.

    Your second sentence does not follow from your first, unless “worldview” is doing a lot more work than it does normally. And for privilege, the first sentence isn’t even true; individuals have privilege, though generally they have it due to membership in a socially significant group.

    You seem to be trying to get at the fact that privilege and patriarchy are properties that depend for their existence on groups, which is certainly true. But an ethical system that values individuals can still reference these concepts, in just the same way that an ethical system that values life can reference murder.

    Realizing and admitting that there exists something bad does not by itself sustain that bad thing. So long as the bad thing does exist however, a system that puts value on ending the bad thing should continue to name it, as a pragmatic prerequisite to removing it.

    Or do you also thing that we should prevent future murders by repealing all laws that mention homicide?

  71. 71
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Both “privilege” and “patriarchy” are terms that address properties of groups, rather than properties of individuals. Hence, they do not provide a worldview that emphasizes individuality.

    Well, you know, if we lived in a world where people were only acting as individuals, not influenced by biases, prejudices and such, you’d have a point.
    Is the fact that in my life many men have touched me without my consent, but never a woman, while my husband has never been touched like that by either men or women due to “individual characteristics” or due to our sex?
    Has the fact that male sales assistants in DIY and car part shops treat me like I had an IQ of about room temperature (Celsius) and constantly assume that what I’m saying isn’t what I want or correct while they treat my husband with respect due to our individual knowledge about cars or due to our sex?

    However, both are very poor reasoning

    Yes, and they only exist in your head, something that is universally known as a strawman.
    Because that’s not the way data is compared.
    The real reasoning goes rather like this:
    Canadian men are on average 5’8″ tall, while Canadian women are 5’3″ tall.
    Therefore, if all we know is that Jason is a Canadian man, and June is a Canadian woman, it is likely that Jason is taller than June, but not certain.
    And if men earn more for the same work than women, it is likely that if Jason and June are doing the same work that Jason is earning more than June.

  72. 72
    Dan M.

    Giliell@67,

    You’ve given a good description of the sit-com version of the problem I was asking about. I was well aware of that narrative of how women fail to communicate to men. What it doesn’t answer is whether that narrative has any truth to it.

    Jason and Pteryxx both suggest that men, even men badly infected with heteronormative masculinity, are quite capable of using and understanding indirect speech. I think they answer my intended question better than does your description, and they answer it in the negative.

    I was hoping for actual statistics that were a little more on-point to the “ordinary stuff” than the Mythcommunication article, but even without them, I think I’m going to presume that the “man-cannot-understand-women” meme is not generally a harm to men, but instead a canard.

  73. 73
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    On communication again:
    Yes, communication is wonderful, nuanced, extremely creative and surprisingly often working.
    Indirect speech is a tool that allows us to circumnavigate things to give both sides a bit of a breather, but it can also be used as a means of passive-agression.
    Let’s take the “coffee” example:
    Please note that my premise here is that the two people actually know each other and have spend some time together.
    We can use it to suggest a change in the relationship while allowing the other person some room.
    If we make the proposition as “Do you wanna come up and have sex?”, we’re not only bold, probably already making the other one really uncomfortable, but we’re also burning bridges.
    It leaves little room for “I’m not sure if I really want to make that change now”, or “I really like you, but I don’t find you sexually attractive”. You have to make a huge step there and then, all or nothing.
    Asking for “coffee” allows for that more easily:
    “Oh, thank you for the invitation, but tonight I’m really tired. May next time. How do you think about cinama on Saturday?”
    “Oh, no thanks, not tonight. Maybe some other day at Starbucks’?”
    It allows us to formally retreat to the “coffee” fact level, even though we all know that it’s not true.
    The person who made the proposition doesn’t have to feel that rejected, the other person doesn’t have to feel pressured.
    What is stupid is to suggest this doesn’t happen and work.

    It works so well that parents often run into trouble when they’re using that on their children who have not learned yet about those things. When the kids react to the literal message, they’re flabbergasted.

    Also, indirect refusal in a (female-to-male) sexual context is more likely to be misinterpreted (I’d rather not say “misunderstood” here) than generally. See: Mythcommunication, subtitled “It’s not that they don’t understand, they just don’t like the answer.”

    That’s where it becomes stupid and misogynistic.
    Acting as if humans were computers that need to be told exactly what to do when and if you put a 1 instead of a 0 it changes everything.
    They bloody well know.
    But the trope that “women never say what they mean” is a wonderful excuse and society is buying into it.

    And yes, the gender roles that puts women at a distinct disadvantage in simply stating their desires lead directly to situations like that. I would take the “it’s cold in here” as a suggestion to do something about it, because I’ve been conditioned to respond by trying to fix things that people complain about (especially when my wife complains about something, because she doesn’t usually).

    As a corollary, this conditioning gets me into trouble when some people complain about something and are actually looking for sympathy, not ways to fix the problem.

    Funny enough, that happens around here, too, with the traditional gender roles often reversed.
    My husband is great in asking questions instead of asking a favour and he has the habit of messing up the questions themselves.
    But it would be wrong to say that the frequent short fights that follow are only his fault.
    There’s whole lot of things that can go wrong on the way from one brain to another.
    He’ll ask “what’s for dinner” once, meaning “what’s for dinner” and I’ll answer him.
    He’ll ask a second time, meaning “I’m really hungry, is it possible that we have dinner early today?”. What I understand is “I asked you the question before, but I didn’t bother listening to you when you answered me”.
    Yet, when the roles are reversed and therefore fit the “women don’t say what they mean” trope, the blame is exclusively on her side.

    aspidoscelis
    See, we’re totally able to talk about individual cases. But we’re also capable of seeing “the bigger picture”, while you’re remaining with your nose 10cm from a pointillistic picture claiming that it’s only individual dots and not a scene at a lakeside

  74. 74
    Dan M.

    Entirely off-topic, but I find it interesting that in the US (and UK?) obvious things are metaphorically 1, 3, or 6 inches in front of the person failing to see them, not 10cm (4 inches) like wherever Giliell is from. (Is Quebec too obvious a guess?)

    Maybe I just need to talk to more people from metric countries.

  75. 75
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Is Quebec too obvious a guess?

    *lol*
    You’re a mere 5500km off target :)
    So, to answer the “science back-up” question, I got my knwoledge from here: Schulz von Thun
    No English version avaible, but you’re now allowed to guess my origin again.

    I found another interesting paper which touches the subject:
    http://csdc-cecd.mcgill.ca/gmp/pages/publications/TalkingTough.pdf

  76. 76
    Jason Thibeault

    I just posted a Youtube video where a very 90s woman explains how to manipulate men. This is salient to indirect speech.

    Interestingly, I haven’t gotten any emails from this thread in the past twelve hours, and I own the blog. Anyone else having email subscription problems with FtB?

    DanM@77: every country but the US uses Metric. Scientists in the US use Metric. The UK uses some weird combination of Imperial, Metric and whatever the hell “stones” is. So, yeah.

    aspidoscelis:

    I have not claimed that EG does or does not have any particular advantages or higher social standing relative to Rebecca. We don’t know that simply from their respective genders.

    We do, actually, know that. By establishing their respective genders (he’s a heterosexual male), we know that the playing field is tilted his way in two respects. We might not know where this individual is on the playing field but we do know the tilts. We also know that many heterosexual males consider the tilts in their direction to be “natural” and take advantage of them to make passes at strangers knowing nothing bad will come of it. This means Elevator Guy’s chances of taking advantage of the tilt of the playing field are significantly greater than if he was, say, a lesbian approaching Watson in an elevator at 4am.

  77. 77
    Jason Thibeault

    Link is busted, Giliell. Did you mean this?

  78. 78
    aspidoscelis

    Jason, #79:

    I have not claimed that EG does or does not have any particular advantages or higher social standing relative to Rebecca. We don’t know that simply from their respective genders.

    We do, actually, know that. By establishing their respective genders (he’s a heterosexual male), we know that the playing field is tilted his way in two respects. We might not know where this individual is on the playing field but we do know the tilts.

    We may actually agree. What I’m suggesting is precisely that “we might not know where this individual is on the playing field”–although, rather than “might not”, I would have said “do not”.

    However, then I’m a bit confused by your earlier “We do, actually, know that.” Oh well…

  79. 79
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Jason
    Ahh, yep, that’s him, or better said his model of communication. There’s more to it than the basics, but I think it’s a damn helpful tool.

  80. 80
    aspidoscelis

    Giliell, #74:

    Yes, and they only exist in your head, something that is universally known as a strawman.
    Because that’s not the way data is compared.
    The real reasoning goes rather like this:
    Canadian men are on average 5’8″ tall, while Canadian women are 5’3″ tall.
    Therefore, if all we know is that Jason is a Canadian man, and June is a Canadian woman, it is likely that Jason is taller than June, but not certain.
    And if men earn more for the same work than women, it is likely that if Jason and June are doing the same work that Jason is earning more than June.

    If it is a strawman, you may wish to let more feminists know.

    For instance, my statement that we do not know EG’s status relative to Rebecca from gender alone is based on the reasoning you are describing. We may reasonably make educated guesses about what is likely, sure; as for knowing that one person is in a position of power relative to another due to gender alone, no, it just doesn’t work. However, there does not seem to be unqualified agreement with me on this point.

  81. 81
    Jason Thibeault

    The concept of privilege is entirely about probabilities, aspidoscelis. It’s about figuring out how likely it is that a person is in an advantageous position based solely on the ways the playing field is tilted in their favour. This is sophistry, pure and simple.

    Let me give you a way that being privileged affects probabilities even without knowing the individual cases.

    A woman in a business suit and a man in a business suit each walk by a construction yard. The woman is more likely to receive catcalls from the construction workers, even if the construction workers were evenly gender-distributed. The man might feel bad that he didn’t get catcalled, because gender roles suggest that any man that is the recipient of unexpected sexual attention is “lucky”. The woman, on the other hand, does not necessarily view the sexual attention as making her “lucky”.

    The man in this scenario is privileged in not having received catcalls and not having anything to fear even if he does.

    This does not imply anything about these people’s station in life, you’ll notice.

  82. 82
    aspidoscelis

    Jason, #84:

    The concept of privilege is entirely about probabilities, aspidoscelis. It’s about figuring out how likely it is that a person is in an advantageous position based solely on the ways the playing field is tilted in their favour. This is sophistry, pure and simple.

    I am in complete agreement with your last sentence.

  83. 83
    Jason Thibeault

    You agree that you’re engaging in sophistry by saying you can’t determine anything about individuals by knowing that they’re in privileged groups?

  84. 84
    aspidoscelis

    I was exploiting the ambiguity of “this” to make an attempt at humor.

  85. 85
    Jason Thibeault

    I see. By calling the question of privilege itself sophistry. Levity aside, is this how you actually view the concept?

  86. 86
    aspidoscelis

    I intended to suggest that the rather convoluted reasoning that’s become involved in attempts to avoid the fallacy of inferring an individual’s characteristics from group averages is sophistry. Apparently I failed. Oh well. Taken collectively, these attempts (by yourself, ‘Tis Himself, OM, Giliell, Dan M.) make it essentially impossible to nail down where or how this fallacy is made, but don’t materially address whether it is made. I find myself in a maze of twisty little definitions, none quite alike…

    I do think the concept “privilege” describes as aspect of reality but do not think it does so in an effective manner.

  87. 87
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    aspidoscelis
    I think I’m beginning to understand where this goes wrong (or I’m just too tired):
    You seem to imply that all we know about RW and EG is that one is male and the other one female. Which is not the case. We know a whole lot more facts which I’m not going to repeat here.
    And yes, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

  88. 88
    aspidoscelis

    Giliell, 90:

    My understanding of the concept of male privilege has been that we don’t need to know more than gender to establish that a person does or does not have male privilege. Perhaps I am incorrect in this.

  89. 89
    'Tis Himself

    My understanding of the concept of male privilege has been that we don’t need to know more than gender to establish that a person does or does not have male privilege.

    That’s correct. Men have privilege that women don’t.

    So what’s your problem with “privilege”?

  90. 90
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    My understanding of the concept of male privilege has been that we don’t need to know more than gender to establish that a person does or does not have male privilege. Perhaps I am incorrect in this.

    As ‘Tis said, so it is.
    And as established before, this means certain things. This means that the probability to be assaulted and raped when you walk to your car that’s parked in a dark place is much lower than that of a woman. It means you’re likely to be taken serious by other men. It doesn’t mean those are absolutes.
    The fact that you have male privilege also doesn’t mean you necessarily behave like a privileged jerk.
    But from what we know of EG, we think we can safely tell that his privilege was showing.
    From the way Dawkins behaved we know his privilege was showing. They were both lacking a life-time’s worth of experience of how it is to be at the receiving end of those things.
    That’s not their fault.
    But they were also lacking the thought and insight and critical reflection of their privilege.

  91. 91
    aspidoscelis

    ‘Tis Himself, OM, 92:

    So what’s your problem with “privilege”?

    Not this again…

    Giliell, 93:

    But from what we know of EG, we think we can safely tell that his privilege was showing.
    From the way Dawkins behaved we know his privilege was showing. They were both lacking a life-time’s worth of experience of how it is to be at the receiving end of those things.
    That’s not their fault.
    But they were also lacking the thought and insight and critical reflection of their privilege.

    That seems very tidy on the surface, but I see a severe conceptual quagmire hiding in the intersection of privilege and misunderstanding of different viewpoints. I may have to leave it be rather than wading in, though. Perhaps another time.

  92. 92
    Dan M.

    I’m well aware that lots of places use metric, but it is negatively correlated with the large anglophone countries. I think Canada may be the largest majority-English-speaking country that uses metric consistently, as I’m under the impression that the Australians also use some of the UK’s hodge-podge. What I found interesting was that the metric idiom was base ten rather than having a multiple of 3 like the English-derived unit systems have, and the fact that 10cm does not come out to a “round” number of inches amused me. Maybe it was just to idiosyncratic a thing to express amusement about.

    Giliell, in defense of my geographic guess, your username has French in it and we’re on a Canadian blog.

  93. 93
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    , but I see a severe conceptual quagmire hiding in the intersection of privilege and misunderstanding of different viewpoints.

    No, that’s mythunderstanding again.
    Tell me, where’s the room for misunderstanding when Rebecca Watson says several times: “I want to be left alone”, and specifically “I’m tired and I’m going to bed now”*
    Or, for that matter, when in the original threads on Pharyngula, after lots of women explained carefully why there was bad in the situation, understanding that, because of his privilege, EG might have been completely ignorant as to why his actions were creepy, this needs to be adressed so men can learn from this, Dawkins wades in telling all those women and RW specifically to stop crying, silly girls, nothing happened, look over there, if you think women have it bad here I’ll show you where women have it bad?
    If there is misunderstanding, it is because of privilege. Because the privileged don’t know why a situation that holds no bad for them is therefore not “zero bad”.
    I’ll give you an example that’s easily understood:
    Recently, my rather new washing machine broke.
    Because I have middle-class privilege, this was a nuissance, but not a catastrophy.
    For poor people such a thing is a catastrophy. They cannot even cough up 100 bucks for a used one that devours energy like a HUmmer car, leave alone the 500 I paid for a good, energy efficient one.
    But if I now said that poor people are to blame themselves for having a high energy bill since they use old applicances or told a poor woman to stop crying, silly woman, it’s only a washing machine, you’d rightly call me an ignorant, arrogant, privileged middle-class asshole and probably remind me of what happened to the last prominent person in history who made such a stupid privileged suggestion regarding the consumption of cake.

    Dan M
    Hihi. The nym is a Pharyngula thing. It’s also mock-French (bonne should go before choses).
    Well, having a decimal system, it makes sense to use tens and their multiples.
    You do it too, just think about money. when was the last time you asked somebody for 9$?

    *And there’s nothing in there to suggest that she said “Oh, I’m going to my cold and lonely bed now aaaaaall by myself *wink, wink*”

  94. 94
    aspidoscelis

    Giliell, 96:

    As I said, I think I’ll leave that quagmire be. You might at least wait until I explain my objections before offering a rebuttal!

  95. 95
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis: I understand that privilege is a rather nebulous concept, and that you feel like you’re in a series of Zork tunnels instead of being given a clear-cut definition, but as Stephanie offered so long ago @60, perhaps you could suggest some different word or definition to describe that thing that you understand privilege to be referring to?

    The main problem here is that we’ve pointed to resources that offer functional definitions, and we’ve all been forced to paraphrase those functional definitions repeatedly to get a certain point across — that privilege describes groups, not individuals, and that you can use properties of a group to abstract onto individuals that are members of that group. If you don’t like the definitions, if you object to the concept itself, I think it behooves you to provide your definitions instead of wading back out of the quagmire leaving us all thrashing in it. Especially when it wasn’t really a quagmire to begin with, until you came along to say that it was all too nebulous to get.

  96. 96
    aspidoscelis

    Jason, 98:

    Well, I’ve been thinking about it a bit & if I come up with anything brilliant, I’ll let you know. However, the existing terms & concepts have had a few decades to be elaborated upon & entrenched. Rome wasn’t built in a day & all that… and if feminism is Rome, at the moment I’m limited to being a member of the barbarian horde. :-)

  97. 97
    Jason Thibeault

    The other possibility is to join Rome, aspidoscelis. We have aqueducts! And circuses!

  98. 98
    Pteryxx

    An entire chapter of Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson turned up in a related discussion over on Pharyngula.

    When I go into a store, for example, I want to be waited on right away and treated with respect even though the clerks don’t know a thing about me as an individual. I want them to accept my check or credit card and not treat me with suspicion and distrust. But all they know about me is the categories they think I belong to — a customer of a certain race, age, gender, disability status, and class — and all the things they think they know about people who belong to those categories. I don’t want to have to prove over and over again that I’m someone who deserves to be trusted and taken seriously. I want them to assume all that, and the only way they can do that is to perceive me as belonging to the “right” social categories.

    This is simply how social life works. By itself, it’s not a problem. What many people resist seeing, however, is that on the other side of the same social process are all the people who get put into the “wrong” categories and ignored or followed around or treated with suspicion and disrespect regardless of who they are as individuals.

    I can’t have it both ways. If I’m going to welcome the way social categories work to my advantage, I also have to consider that when those same categories are used against others through no fault of their own, it then becomes my business because through that process I am being privileged at their expense.

    The entire excerpt is here: link to comment

  99. 99
    Pteryxx

    Re the original topic, “Disadvantages of being a man”, here’s one of my favorite articles on a real-world example. On oil rigs, hypermasculine culture contributes to accidents and injuries, but changing to a cooperative workplace culture resulted in, not only improved safety, but increased emotional expression.

    Quotes from rig workers: it used to be that the “guy that was in charge was the one who could…out-intimidate the others…intimidation was the name of the game.” “They decided who the driller was by fighting. If the job came open, the one that was left standing was the driller.” But after the change in doing business: “we had to be taught how to be more lovey-dovey and more friendly with each other and to get in touch with the more tender side of each toher type of thing. And all of us just laughed at first. It was like, man, this is never going to work, you know? But now you can really tell the difference. Even though we kid around and joke around with each other, there’s no malice in it. We are…kinder, gentler.”

    Source

  100. 100
    aspidoscelis

    Damn, I’m having a hard time leaving this thing alone. It keeps niggling in the back of my mind. OK, I think (but am probably wrong!) I’ve got a handle on what’s going on. I have two suggestions regarding use of the term “privilege” in the context of gender:

    1) “Privilege” is a descriptor of society, not of individuals. It should be used accordingly.
    2) Privilege is context-dependent, not universal. Coherent usage should indicate what manner of inequality is meant, given that inequalities in society do not uniformly favor one gender.

    Unless explicitly corrected elsewhere in context, a statement like “elevator guy has male privilege” violates both.

    What might reasonably be meant by “elevator guy has male privilege” in the present context might be: “elevator guy lives in a society in which men are less likely to be propositioned in an uncomfortable or threatening manner, sexually assaulted, or raped”. I suspect that many commenters in this thread are assuming that everyone knows that a brief statement to the effect that “elevator guy has male privilege” should be taken as shorthand for an expanded statement like that given above. So far as I can tell, this assumption does not hold. The obvious errors are: 1) that EG in fact has the average traits or advantages of male gender in our society; 2) that male privilege is a universal advantage of maleness in our society. If you read through the various comments on the topic on Pharyngula et al. you can find numerous examples of both of these misunderstandings by non-feminists and by feminists. Jason’s original post interested me largely because it corrects error “2″. This is a rare event on the FTBlogs.

    The confusion I think I’ve been stumbling over is whether errors “1″ and “2″ arise from misunderstanding or misuse of “privilege” or are inherent in the concept itself. I’m starting to think that the former is the case, but that usage is so frequently vague, grammatically misleading (“X has Y” is usually used to indicate that Y is a possession or characteristic of X, not that Y is characteristic of X’s society; if the latter meaning is intended when Y is privilege, the grammar is perverse), or incorrect that it’s a bugger to sort out. This still leaves me pessimistic about the term “privilege” as part of coherent communication, but were suggestions “1″ and “2″ given above followed, I can imagine it happening.

  101. 101
    Jason Thibeault

    1. is correct, privilege is a descriptor of society as a whole, but it has side-effects on individuals depending on whether they’re in the group with privilege or not. Being privileged might mean that Elevator Guy is unaware, because he’s not subject to sexual harassment and such, that he is actually making girls uncomfortable by approaching them in seemingly-predatory manners. He could be the nicest, sweetest guy in the world, getting all the clues wrong and just being generally hapless, but he’s still made Watson uncomfortable by what he chose to do.

    Privilege also manifests in the backlash Watson received when she said “don’t do that, it’s creepy”. Male privilege is so enculturated in pretty much every member of our society that even women have stepped up (e.g. Stef McGraw) to say “how dare you attack this man as a rapist for just wanting to flirt” or “how dare you try to deprive men of their right to sexual self-direction” when all she said was “don’t do that, it’s creepy.”

    Also, 2. is sort of correct. I say sort of, because just saying there are privileges that both genders enjoy, does not make these privileges even. Women definitely get the short straw on this — even though male gender roles hurt men significantly as I’ve shown in the original post, these don’t compare even taken altogether to the lack of power, sexual self-direction, workplace equality, et cetera, that women face. Just look at what happens when someone IS raped in, say, a dark alley, or alone in an elevator. How much of the onus of responsibility is placed on the victim for being alone, or for dressing “slutty”?

    So just acknowledging that there are privileges that both genders enjoy does not mean these privileges are even. We are still in a patriarchy. It’s all about the manly-men first, non-manly-men as an afterthought.

  102. 102
    aspidoscelis

    Re. suggestion “2″:

    I don’t think being specific about what kind of privilege you’re talking about in a discussion would in any way imply that total privileges for each gender are equal. You would have expressed yourself more clearly and limited the possibility for the misunderstanding that you believe one gender to be privileged on all issues. Given how frequently I think that misunderstanding is a problem, this seems a substantial improvement… and I’m not really seeing the downside.

  103. 103
    Jason Thibeault

    I agree — specifying how a particular privilege is impacting the situation rather than just saying “privilege” as a shorthand is necessary at least once, and as early in the conversation as possible. Using it as a shorthand thereafter is acceptable in my books, though. It’s the same thing as when you define a word, acronym or usage of a phrase at the beginning of an essay, you can use it thereafter without having to explain it over and over.

  104. 104
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    aspidoscelis
    OK, I’ll try again.

    I disagree with both your suggestions.
    It seems we need to explain the term more carefully.

    1) “Privilege” is a descriptor of society, not of individuals. It should be used accordingly.

    That doesn’t make sense at all. Society is composed of millions of individuals. We cherish, we value individuality, but to be honest, we’re much less so than we’d like to think.
    Did you read the excerpt posted above?.
    Privilege is something that you automatically get as a member of a group. There are many different privileges and most people don’t have all of them (RD, for example, has almost all of them), and in different situations differnt privileges will have a different value (white privilege can override male privilege, male privilege can override straight privilege or any combination of those factors)

    2) Privilege is context-dependent, not universal. Coherent usage should indicate what manner of inequality is meant, given that inequalities in society do not uniformly favor one gender.

    I’ve written above that there are many forms of privilege and that they “interact”, and yes, of course, they interact with the privileges of other people, so, yes, they play out differently in different situations.
    But privilege isn’t something that appears and then disappears again. It’s something that is with a person all the time and therefore shapes their experience.
    EG has male privilege, which means he grew up in a world that it much less scary than that of RW or mine.
    True, not all women are assaulted and men are raped, too, but that doesn’t negate those effects.
    I have never been assaulted or raped. I once escaped a sexual assault and in every instant of that “episode” male privilege worked to his advantage and against me.
    But I’ve been subject to a life-time’s worth of teaching how I must avoid being raped, what to look out for. And I know that those aren’t exagerated stories like having to look out for people who want to bomb the bus I’m sitting on.
    All the stories of all the women who have been raped, most often by dates, partners and husbands, the statistics and the research, they all tell me that this is real. My own experience tells me this is real.
    I suppose that if decent men read about women being raped, especially by their partner, they become angry.
    I become scared.

    So, yes, the world in which EG grew up is a world that holds a lot less danger, worries and anxiety. And because (and I think we can safely extrapolate it from his behaviour) he never actively thought about the fact that his world might be fundamentally different from the world in which RW lives, he wrongly mistook his world for reality.

    If you read the excerpt above about white privilege, the white men in the experiement would make the experience that the world is a place with friendly people and polite clerks. Nothing extraordinary happened in that experience. It’s just same everyday business. Sure, every individual instant was an expression of white privilege, but the complete experience of the world as being such a nice place is privilege, too.

    BTW, this thread has some pecularities:

    A) Suddenly we’re talking about male privilege again instead of focussing on the ways this hurts men.

    B) In a thread especially about the woes of men, nobody has brought up male infant circumcission*, which is usually a popular derailment tactic in threads about women.
    Somehow it seems that this isn’t the real issue for those people and merely a lever for derailing.

    *Just for the record: Completely against it. I’m European, I’m not culturally indoctrinated into the practise, so I’m simply abhorred by the practise

  105. 105
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    BTW, if I thought that all those problems were due to individuals and individual situations, my view of mankind (and I mean it as only the men) would be much worse than it actually is. It would mean that 99% of men are actual assholes.
    Why? Because at some point they all behave like assholes.
    Instead of that, understanding that they’re not acting like this because they’re assholes but because they’re privileged and don’t know that they’re acting like assholes, I can try to work with them, make them aware, share my experience.
    It allows me to understand why good guys fuck up on many levels.

  106. 106
    Jason Thibeault

    Giliell: In the MRA’s defense (*shudder*), I don’t see a single one on this thread. I’m sure one of them would have brought up circumcision if any of them actually cared about men’s rights enough to discuss them here. They are solely and primarily about stopping women from winning back rights, as far as I can tell.

    (And yes, I’m against circumcision, not only because it’s a religiously motivated, invasive and dangerous operation that provides no real benefits, but also because I didn’t have a choice in the matter myself because I was way too young to say “no way”. Or to say anything, really, aside from “waaaah”.)

    We’re talking about male privilege again, mostly because it’s the most readily accessible to all parties to be able to explain what privilege itself is. The ways in which privilege hurts men are far less commonplace — pick an average man, and he is very likely not affected by any of the scenarios set forth in the original post, aside from gender ruoles and the idealized Superman image prescribed in them. And this role is a generally positive one, even if the average man can’t live up to it.

    I also suspect the places in which you and aspidoscelis disagree are far less of a disagreement than either of you think. I see significant overlap between what aspidoscelis says in his two points, and what you’ve said in @111. You only apparently disagree in scope of applicability. As do I — privilege is “granted” to people in the in group not because someone judges them at birth to be worthy of that privilege, but because they hit the genetic lottery and were born into the positions of privilege. They were born on third base. The trick is getting them to understand that they didn’t hit a triple.

  107. 107
    mouthyb, whose brain is currently melon-balled

    Privilege also happens in these discussions with people who assume they don’t have to look at evidence or be accurate to talk about the subject.

    I read these discussions because I am not male, and because I wish to condition my mind to be sensitive to the ways in which men are affected by this far-reaching social problem; it helps me battle the communication gap which asserts that we cannot be vulnerable to one another by biology or *handwave* some a priori category which cannot be argued with, because ___________.

    On the subject of privilege: it’s a surprisingly precise concept for a broad spectrum of human behavior and social organization. It means the systematic series of advantages given a person because of their membership in a group.

    For a social concept, that’s a VERY elegant definition. It’s also overwhelmingly borne out in the data we have on application, though we seem to not like to talk about it.

    People don’t like it because it interferes with their idea that they are independent and have earned everything themselves, through their own effort, and asks them to consider their witting and unwitting complicity in cruelty. And people who gain from it tend to be able to completely ignore sections of it (or, if they gain enough from it, the whole thing.)

    And yes, the exercise of privilege is cruel.

  108. 108
    spartan

    BTW, this thread has some pecularities:

    And to me at least: C) This is the calmest discussion on a feminist topic I’ve ever seen. Where’s the ‘Misogynist!’? No ‘Misandrist!’? No ‘feminazi’? Can it rightly even be called a thread nowadays without even one utterance of ‘douche!’?

    Fascinating discussion, well done by all.

  109. 109
    melior

    I’m a bit late to this thread, but I’d like to add my appreciation for aspidoscelis for his articulate and patient explanation of a viewpoint I share. I was privileged to be brought up (along with three sisters) by wonderful parents who were highly empathetic to the cultural disadvantages that burden women and minorities, and as a young adult I was inspired to enthusiastically embrace the civil rights and gender equality movements. I’d like to think if my parents had been born a generation later, they would have similarly supported the recent shift in public acceptance of LGBT rights.

    Although I don’t share the same level of discomfort with the specific words “privilege” and “feminism” that aspidoscelis feels, I think the focus on language obscures his most important point. I rapidly lost interest in the neverending Pharyngula and Greta Christina threads on the elevator drama precisely because they devolved into tediously repetitious exchanges between angry misogynist assholes and target-indiscriminate Ellen Jamesian attackers who quickly labeled any commenter as belonging to one or the other category.

    The key takeaway for me (and aspidoscelis, as I read his comments above) that I think many miss is the harmfulness to the cause of the shrug/not my problem attitude towards the many, many sympathetic privileged potential allies who get sprayed in the indiscriminate crossfire driven by the hurt and anger of past wounds.

    If you are privileged (hah!) never to have been labeled on sight as a racist oppressor based on nothing more than your skin color, never to have been bitten by a dog who was horribly abused as a puppy, or never to have been given a dirty look by a woman who you held a door for, it may seem trivial and beside the point to care. I don’t need or want sympathy for experiencing these things, as I understand where they come from and they really don’t hurt me at the end of the day. But denying that they do significant harm to accomplishing the goals we share seems to be endemic, and that makes me sad.

    I’ll likely be flamed for saying it (and here I should give ‘Tis Himself, OM the courtesy of mentioning him by name), but if you feel the urge to post an attack on my thoughts here as the rants of just another DavidByron, take a bit of time first to read or watch The World According To Garp again, you just might have missed something the last time.

    We need all the allies to the cause we can get, and in the end this may determine how many generations it takes to succeed.

  110. 110
    Dhorvath, OM

    One could as easily argue that we need the best allies we can get and that may determing the duration of our efforts. I am nervous to call anyone an ally who will only help if they are treated in specific fashion by everyone they encounter.

  111. 111
    Pteryxx

    As Dhorvath said. Of all the people who’ve held a door for a woman (or an elder, or someone disabled) and gotten a dirty look in response, I’d rather have the ones who thought to themselves “What was that for? Maybe I goofed. Oh well, no big deal.” and NOT the ones who thought “What was that for? See if I ever hold a door for one of YOU people again.” I don’t want allies who care more about other people respecting them than they do about the other people. Whether or not they hold the damn door.

  112. 112
    'Tis Himself

    melior #114

    I’ll likely be flamed for saying it (and here I should give ‘Tis Himself, OM the courtesy of mentioning him by name), but if you feel the urge to post an attack on my thoughts here as the rants of just another DavidByron, take a bit of time first to read or watch The World According To Garp again, you just might have missed something the last time.

    No flaming. I just don’t understand why folks dislike the WORD “privilege.” That’s what I’m trying to get aspidoscelis to explain to me. He claims, and I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his claim has some basis in reality, that he understand the concept of privilege and that it has validity. What he objects to is the WORD “privilege.” I quote from his post #7:

    If treatment of people as individuals rather than as members of certain classes is the goal, “privilege” and “patriarchy” are the wrong words.

    Since you’re in agreement with aspidoscelis then perhaps you can explain to me what the problem is with that particular word.

    BTW, I wasn’t impressed by the book The World According to Garp and I’ve never seen the movie. Perhaps you might explain what you’re trying to say without reference to a mediocre book.

  113. 113
    aspidoscelis

    ‘Tis Himself, OM, #117:

    Quoting from myself: “I do think the concept “privilege” describes an aspect of reality but do not think it does so in an effective manner.”

    As another analogical stab, I might liken it to a geocentric view of the solar system. Most (presumably all, given a sufficiently sophisticated model) of the objective facts about the relative motion of the planets & sun can be accurately described in a geocentric view… but it’s not a particularly helpful view of the situation.

    Obviously there’s plenty of room for disagreement with my opinion that “privilege” has approximately the same status… and, if I am correct, we do seem to be lacking a handy Copernicus to indicate the way out.

  114. 114
    aspidoscelis

    melior, #114:

    I rapidly lost interest in the neverending Pharyngula and Greta Christina threads on the elevator drama precisely because they devolved into tediously repetitious exchanges between angry misogynist assholes and target-indiscriminate Ellen Jamesian attackers who quickly labeled any commenter as belonging to one or the other category.

    The key takeaway for me (and aspidoscelis, as I read his comments above) that I think many miss is the harmfulness to the cause of the shrug/not my problem attitude towards the many, many sympathetic privileged potential allies who get sprayed in the indiscriminate crossfire driven by the hurt and anger of past wounds.

    I guess we disagree a bit in the importance of terminology and underlying concepts in creating that dynamic (and I’ll readily admit I can be a bit obsessed by that particular aspect of any topic), but I’m in agreement otherwise.

    I’d also like to echo the sentiment that I’m quite glad that this unpleasant dynamic has not been recreated here.

  115. 115
    'Tis Himself

    aspidoscelis #118

    I understand now. I was working under a misapprehension. I thought you understood what privilege was. I was wrong. You don’t have the faintest idea as to what privilege is other than you’re against it. I won’t pursue the matter any more.

  116. 116
    Jason Thibeault

    aspidoscelis: if you think privilege is as like the geocentric model, something that describes reality in a roundabout backward way that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, then you must think there’s a simpler, more elegant model to present that holds the same explanatory power.

    Since you’re positing it, be Galileo. Show me something that explains the situation better than privilege does. You can’t just say it’s a flawed model without at least positing how it’s flawed, and you’d be a luminary if you showed a better one.

    And… go.

  117. 117
    aspidoscelis

    I already said we didn’t have a handy Copernicus (nor Galileo)… leastways, if there is one hiding out there, I’m not aware of it.

    It is worth mentioning that the common view of geocentrism as an obviously empirically wrong model is, I think, rather overstated. It withstood close scrutiny by a lot of smart people for a very long time and, to the extent that I understand the relevant physics (which, also, could easily be overstated), it isn’t empirically incorrect (although specific models used by Ptolemy et al., were).

  118. 118
    aspidoscelis

    We could also extend the concept of privilege to our views on geocentrism, but that’s probably a bad idea and I will refrain.

  119. 119
    Jason Thibeault

    Hard physical science like the mechanics of this universe is certainly up for empirical testing and some models are more correct than others. No matter how good the old models of the solar system were, they were prone to error because they made a presupposition — that the Earth had to be the center, because in our egotism we thought our fixed frame of reference had to be THE fixed frame of reference.

    If you want a comparison, consider that before privilege was first described, we generally considered a natural order where the stratification of society was part of human nature. Sure, the odd person here and there decried the inherent prejudices, revolutions were fought over them, et cetera, but nobody actually studied it as a science. I posit that social and other squishy sciences are just as much sciences as the hard ones, though. They’re just more difficult to study because they involve way more variables.

  120. 120
    'Tis Himself

    I posit that social and other squishy sciences are just as much sciences as the hard ones, though. They’re just more difficult to study because they involve way more variables.

    Speaking as an economist, i.e., a social scientist, this phenomenon is generally accepted in the social sciences.

    At the Cosmic Variance blog Sean Carroll considers some differences between natural and social science:

    [I]n the public imagination, natural scientists have figured out a lot more reliable and non-obvious things about the world, compared to what non-experts would guess, than social scientists have. The insights of quantum mechanics and relativity are not things that most of us can even think sensibly about without quite a bit of background study. Social scientists, meanwhile, talk about things most people are relatively familiar with. The ratio of “things that have been discovered by this discipline” to “things I could have figured out for myself” just seems much larger in natural science than in social science.

    Then we stir in the matter of consensus. On the very basics of their fields (the Big Bang model, electromagnetism, natural selection), almost all natural scientists are in agreement. Social scientists seem to have trouble agreeing on the very foundations of their fields. If we cut taxes, will revenue go up or down? Does the death penalty deter crime or not? For many people, a lack of consensus gives them license to trust their own judgment as much as that of the experts. To put it another way: if we talked more about the bedrock principles of the field on which all experts agreed, and less about the contentious applications of detailed models to the real world, the public would likely be more ready to accept experts’ opinions.

  121. 121
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    melior

    The key takeaway for me (and aspidoscelis, as I read his comments above) that I think many miss is the harmfulness to the cause of the shrug/not my problem attitude towards the many, many sympathetic privileged potential allies who get sprayed in the indiscriminate crossfire driven by the hurt and anger of past wounds.

    Hmmm, well, we’re here now, and we’re listening.
    I think the source of that problem, at least during internet discussions, might be that the privileged potential allies have the habbit to bring those up during discussions about the problems of the less-privileged groups, insisting that people need to listen to them now.
    Or that the things are totally comparable.
    Yes, I admit that this will get the Horde fully armed and ready to charge.

    If you are privileged (hah!) never to have been labeled on sight as a racist oppressor based on nothing more than your skin color, never to have been bitten by a dog who was horribly abused as a puppy, or never to have been given a dirty look by a woman who you held a door for, it may seem trivial and beside the point to care.

    Oh, you have no idea how well I know that problem. I’m German and I can hardly travel in Europe without meeting people who hold resentments against me because of German fascism.
    Oh yes, it hurts. Not only am I way too young to bear any responsible for those crimes, not only do I have a long history of anti-fascist activism, also I lost many members of my family fighting against Hitler.
    But I understand why those people need to be careful with me. Although I’m completely innocent of those crimes, I accept the responsibility I got handed when I was born German. It’s my job to fight for a world in which “German” isn’t automatically connected to “fascism” in any but a historical sense.
    But really, going into a discussion about the victims of German fascism saying “but what about me, it hurts me when people judge me for being German” would be true assholery.

  122. 122
    SayNoMore

    ” But I understand why those people need to be careful with me. Although I’m completely innocent of those crimes, I accept the responsibility I got handed when I was born German. It’s my job to fight for a world in which “German” isn’t automatically connected to “fascism” in any but a historical sense.”

    You could start by refusing to accept a world in which racists automatically connect your ethnicity/nationality to fascism.

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