Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Male privilege checklist

Based on Peggy McIntosh's original checklist about white privilege, Ampersand created this male privilege checklist:

There are privileges which I would like everyone to have (positive privilege--which might be referred to as a right), and privileges which I would like no one to have (negative privilege). The privilege (which I have had) of having a good education and not being ruled by need, but having choices in how to spend my time is one I would like everyone to have. I don't see that as possible with the present economy and the present technology, and I don't see that changing even if we fight for any of the positive privileges in that list and against any of the negative privileges. There are also privileges that I would like some but not all to have (we can call these positive privileges too). The privilege to lead or manage for example, which should be based on talent and propensity. With that privilege comes responsibility.

How do we use our positive privileges? Do we just write about it and flagelate ourselves, or try to do something to make things better? Can we work for a world where everyone has a good chance to flourish? Can we be an example to the third world that affluence does not equal consumerism and exploitation? Or do we use our privilege to perpetuate the system that oppresses other people and rapes the planet? This reminds me of the (sometimes) christian tactic of continuing bad behavior by going to confession or admitting that one is a sinner. It's not enough to confess to being privileged. Let's do something positive with our (positive) privileges! I am trying to set up a system where everyone owns the means of production. That will not be enough--every individual will have to overcome selfishness and laziness--no system will be able to accomplish that.

I can empathize with women's experience of many of the positive privileges they don't have, but I don't feel like how I live perpetuates these privileges only for men; As far as the negative privileges, I don't have them and don't encourage anyone who does; on the contrary, I feel like there are more basic issues that perpetuate these things and other injustice and that I am trying to tackle. This list would have been revolutionary more than 40 years ago, but western society has moved on and there are more pressing issues.

It is hard for me to identify with many of these items, for example #1 (how do you know that sometimes job-competency is not higher in males on the average--e.g. auto-mechanic, especially jobs that were traditionally done by males? It might be hard to disentangle sexism in applicant selection from competency due to sex (by mostly cultural mechanisms). This does suck for women when they really are equal to or better than men at a job. I know one woman who really is better than most men at handyperson jobs. She faces some discrimination, but when she does get hired, her work speaks for itself and people then hire her because of her work. In any case I don't feel guilty if there are sexist male employers out there because I am a man. Should I feel guilty if there are racist brown-haired people because I am brown-haired?), #6 (I usually have reverse sexism about this one), #14 (I don't have any elected representatives) #20 (I don't watch TV or read newspapers) #26 (I don't buy much clothes), #27 (I don't expect anyone to groom themselves) #37 (I don't care about most religions), # 38 (That has not been my experience, except that I don't like vacuum cleaners or washing machines, would rather sweep and do laundry in a tub, and don't expect my partner to do it for me), #39 (not my experience), #40 (I have followed my 2nd wife to another state, giving up my career as an engineer), #43 (I was subject to violence from my first wife).

root causes vs symptoms

If you could wave a magic wand and get rid of male privilege, the system will still be there with all its nastiness. Not that you could do that, because male privilege is not a root cause, and so new weeds of enslavement will crop up from the roots of selfishness, laziness, empire, patriarchy, centralization of power, inability to produce basic needs locally, ownership of the means of production by a few people, and other roots.

some issues more important than male privilege
empire privilege
We in the west have the negative privilege to consume slave labor goods and rob the third world of its raw materials.

privilege to not work at manual or dangerous or menial jobs by western women in empire
My first long-term relationship was with a woman who worked in an all-women's carpentry crew. I met her again, 25 years later. She is now a hypnotherapist. There are very few middle class (and in the US, though to a lesser degree, working class) women who take on manual labor or dangerous jobs and even fewer who stick with them. Some of that is because they are discouraged from it (and the psychological dimension of privilege is an important one), but another part is because they have the privilege not to. I think this has far greater reaching consequences for consumerism (as previously discussed in this blog), for social justice, and for environmental stewardship than male privilege. I would say something not too different about middle class men, although the privilege is not as glaring as for women--this is an example of what I call the feminization of capitalist society. One might argue that capitalism is now mostly a feminine-energy enterprise, with the abilities to sit back and rake in the profits while other people do the work, with its encouragement to have no limits on resource use. This brings up another issue: why pick on the (mostly effeminate) men in the west, when patriarchy is much stronger (and the balance of masculine/feminine energies is more towards the masculine) in the middle east or south america? This is a reactionary, middle-class feminism.

land privilege
After 3 years of being unable to find land to create a community where people share agricultural work and produce their basic food, shelter, education and healthcare needs, I feel like land ownership is a far more important privilege than male privilege. Most of the land that I saw that could have been shared with other people is under private ownership of women who are mostly interested in making money just from ownership of that land without doing much work.

privilege to have custody of children, be a lousy parent, and make a profit from it
I did not even try to gain custody of my son when I got divorced. It was clear that the courts were heavily biased towards mothers. I will have paid $232K in "child support" (this also includes the period before the divorce), whereas I think I could have raised my son under much better conditions, without the abuse that my ex-wife put him through, with giving him good attention and role models, for much, much less than that. Money energy that could have gone towards land, tools and buildings. Money that my ex-wife did not need, except to spend on her wardrobe, appliances, electronic gizmos that only last a year, vacations, and a private school that teaches my son about wealth privilege.

A general imbalance towards feminine energies in present day western culture
The pendulum has swung too far towards the feminine. This is partially responsible for consumerism, rising costs of healthcare, government debt, war. I will elaborate in another blog entry, or see the 4 ingredients entry.

Talking about male privilege takes energy away from doing something about these other issues--a distraction, a red herring.


  1. You are soooo sleeping on the couch tonight.

  2. Hmmm. I didn't write the above, but I'll leave it there for comic value.