The privilege of calling out “male privilege”

If you are reading this article before 12:30 p.m., you can attend a lecture right here at Bellevue College in D-106 today about the pervasiveness of a somewhat ambiguous blight on our liberal culture known as “male privilege.” In theory, “male privilege” embodies the social, economic and political advantages granted to men on the basis of their gender. We are incessantly told we live in a binary world of first and second-class citizens, where men are institutionally treated better and afforded more opportunity while women are broadly oppressed. In reality however, we live in a more complex and gray world, where mistreatment happens in both directions. The phrase “male privilege,” in practice, is simply a conversational trump card to end debate, drawn from historical guilt and confirmation bias.

I’m not merely speaking from personal experience here. While I have been repeatedly told I don’t have a right to have an opinion on particular issues because of my own race and gender, my major concern is the general acceptance and dissemination of this idea, particularly in academics. When the educator and author Warren Farrell went to give a lecture about the crisis of boys in education at the University of Toronto, for instance, he was warmly greeted by about a hundred students ripping down posters, threatening and insulting him yelling, “You should be fucking ashamed of yourself, you fucking scum!” to Farrell, his audience and the police (male and female) attempting keep relative order. Farrell’s crime was to have written a book titled, “The Myth of Male Power.”

The very word that is used to defend this kind of behavior—“feminism”—betrays part of the problem here. Everyone I’ve talked to about the word has defined it as, roughly, equality between the sexes. If that’s all there is to it, then I proudly call myself a feminist. What a wonderful concept…but why call it that? Why limit this equality to the feminine by calling it feminism? Isn’t that a form of inequality in itself? Why not just call it “equality?”

It is because, as far as I can tell, many of these so-called feminists don’t want equality. The assumption that feminism is working off of is that in the status quo, women are treated as inferior to men, so their goal isn’t equal treatment in the legal sense, but the elevation of women. They cite things like gender stereotypes about driving ability, higher numbers of men in politics and expensive, uncomfortable clothing as absolute proof that this is the case.

I wonder why it is that men are forced to sign up for selective service and die by the thousands in combat, why women are treated with more leeway in court cases involving domestic abuse and child custody then men, why the prison population (which is so often cited as proof of racial discrimination) is 85% male, why our public schools undeniably favor women and why medieval notions of manhood—what it means to “be a man”—are to this day infused into our expectations of men; men are, after all, expected to pay for and protect their women. I wonder why, during all of this, comparatively minor issues in the opposite direction are sobbed over.

More importantly than any of that, I wonder why men who bring this up whenever women claim they are “oppressed” are immediately labeled as sexist. It is said that the beginning of all wisdom is calling things by their proper names and the name of this culture, the one that responds to disagreement by alleging “male privilege,” is nothing short of misandry.

It is true that women are victims of inordinately high levels of sexual crime, a subject I am in fact quite passionate about. Historically, sexism was the prevailing social norm in Western culture. In some non-Western societies, this remains the case to this day. These are extremely serious problems that warrant all of our support, and it’s an enormous step forward that the Violence Against Women Act has been making such headway this last week, but these problems aren’t any kind of warrant for shutting people out of conversation based on their gender by labeling them as “privileged.” That kind of discrimination is precisely what we’re all against, after all. At least in theory.