Archive for February, 2012

“Female Privilege”

Posted in fail, Feminism, New Zealand on February 14th, 2012 by steph – Comments Off on “Female Privilege”

The biggest mistake I made yesterday was reading this article on The Good Men Project when I saw the link. I really knew not to expect anything from a post on the GMP, but I couldn’t resist. “I Have Female Privilege”. I should’ve just walked away from the computer and never read this, because cleaning up the resulting mess from my head explosion was just not a great use of my time.

So, apparently the world is now a “woman’s world”, and women have all sorts of privilege; “I know that battle has not been won everywhere. There are countries or cultures where horrendous things happen to you if you are female. But in my country and in my culture, and in many other western countries, I would suggest the tide has well and truly turned.”


1. I’m allowed to be far more open about my sexuality than a man is. In fact, if I’m bisexual, it’s encouraged (both male and females encourage it funnily enough). If I’m hetero, I’m allowed to make comments about how hot men are, compliment men without others thinking it’s harassment and generally can make lewd comments about any person, be them male or female, and it’s considered ok. I can say “I fancy him so much I’d  even rape him” or “I need to pull him into the storeroom and show him I mean it” or “He is mega hot” about any male whether  he is seventeen (I am forty) or seventy. I can sit in a Twilight movie and drool at Jacob (for instance), and not be seen as a dirty old woman.


As QoT said on twitter last night, “I have privilege because people are happy to objectify my bisexuality!”. Some fucking privilege it is that lesbians and bi women are still positioned as being wank-fodder for guys- it’s so great not having your sexuality taken seriously! Additionally, the reason women are allowed to make “lewd comments” is because our sexuality is still seen as non-threatening; and, in fact, women are actually shamed for their sexual desires (too high=slut, too low=frigid, and there is no ‘perfect medium’ because no matter what you do you will always be a slut or a prude to someone). Some privilege that is. I’m not trying to say that men have it much better- in some ways they do, and in others they don’t. For me, that’s a part of why I’m a feminist; trying to work against mainstream stereotypes of men always being horny and lascivious beasts, and trying to combat homophobia. But just because men have it bad in some ways, that doesn’t mean that women have privilege over them in that area.


2. If my partner and I were in a domestic dispute and both violent, or both shouting, and I hit him … if the police were called, my male partner would still be the one far more likely to be taken into custody for the night. If my male partner tried to report domestic violence, it would be harder for him to have the charges laid, than if I did so. In fact, while there is a charge of Male assaults Woman in my country, there is no Woman assaults Male. That would be classified instead as General Assault.


So, because men may not be believed if they accuse a woman of violence, women have privilege? Even though the actual facts also include the statistic that women are much more likely to be the victim of violence (perpetrated by a man) than men? If that is what female privilege is, then you can have it back, thanks. It’s so reassuring to know that in a “woman’s world”, women are at risk of violence (domestic, but also sexual violence and rape outside of domestic spheres). I mean, come on. Really?! REALLY?! Because surely in a woman’s world, we would be at very low risk of being victimized. Oh, but men might not be believed if they report being victimized by a woman- well, that does suck. But it is in no way an indicator that the world is a woman’s world; in fact, it is a sneaky little byproduct of patriarchy- you know, that system that positions men as the top dogs! Yes, that’s right: in the patriarchy, where gender stereotypes roam free, women are seen as weak, submissive, passive, and generally incapable of violence against men. In the patriarchy, a man being hit by his wife is as absurd as a talking horse. So no wonder he might not be believed if he claimed to have been hurt by a woman- it is a ludicrous role-reversal. So, this example of “female privilege” is really just male power and dominant positioning backfiring for men. To be clear: as a woman and a feminist, my ideal world would be one where acts of violence were all treated seriously; I don’t want to live in a world where a man who is hurt by a woman is not taken seriously because I don’t want women to have power and control over men. That attitude – that the only dynamic is one group having power over the other- comes from the perspective that the world is a zero-sum game, and that improving the lives of women means an automatic switcheroo so that men are now on the bottom. That is a fairly common false conceptualization of what the goal of feminism is, and seems silly when you consider how explicitly feminists state that we want equality (which, as you can see, includes the word “equal”. It seems obvious enough…).


3. If my relationship with the father of my children was to break up, I’m far more likely to get the kids. And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not, I get to choose whether the father’s name is on the birth certificate or not (and if he queries it, he’s the one who has to pay for the DNA test) and if he’s named as the father, he then has to pay child support, whether he was aware I was trying to have a child or not.


There is so much fail contained in this example. Firstly, the reason a woman might be more likely to “get the kids” is because in this world- the patriarchy!- women are positioned as the caregivers and often the primary parents, so who better to “give” the kids to than their figure of eternal love and nurturing?  This attitude is an attitude of the patriarchy, not of a “woman’s world”, so using this as an example of how women have all the privilege is just hilarious. A patriarchal attitude being used to explain how the world is no longer biased towards men- I find this very, very funny. Another clear example of looking at the small picture and not thinking about the larger causes and dynamics at play. And, to top it off, the idea that women usually “get” the kids is actually disputed- apparently, men not getting custody is often due to men not applying for custody, and when they do they often get it (in some form)- the whole “feminazis have infiltrated the justice system and the courts are female-controlled” line is most often spouted by good old MRA types who love to talk about the “gynocracy”.

And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not”

Oh, what a privilege to live in a world where if you did what this first example suggests you would be slammed as a gold-digging deadbeat single mum, and your parenting routinely criticized until the end of time. We do not live in a world friendly to single mums, and often it is actively hostile. So sure, you can “do” that, technically, but to pretend that it is an easy option, and to not mention the backlash that comes with that choice, is utter misrepresentation. And great, we can choose to “have the baby or not”. Sucks that while we may have that choice, the world we live in- which is apparently a woman’s world- is still generally not very positive about the choice of abortion, nor does it provide great support for parents. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The post is, apparently, about New Zealand (given that the writer is from here, and mentions “her” country early on) and other western countries: we’re apparently awash in the privilege to choose not to continue a pregnancy in New Zealand, where abortion access is not nearly as easy as people believe and where grounds for abortions are laid out in the Crimes Act (“Serious danger to the life or to the physical or mental health of the mother. Risk that the child would be severely handicapped, physically or mentally. Pregnancy as a result of incest or unlawful sex with a guardian. Severe mental subnormality of the mother.”). That is not what a “woman’s world” in New Zealand looks like to me, and if that is considered to be “female privilege”, then it’s a fucking joke. Other western countries aren’t looking to great when it comes to choosing not to have a child either- the reproductive rights of Americans are being chipped away at, and abortion providers in the USA continue to be targets of domestic terrorist acts (and yes, that is what clinic bombings and the murders of doctors is) committed by anti-choicers, and access to abortion services (choosing not to continue the pregnancy) is fraught for many people in many states of America. This is NOT what female privilege looks like. To argue that because women have “female privilege” because we are theoretically presented with choices about pregnancy  is 100% tunnel vision, full stop.


4. I’m allowed to be as education- and career-driven as I want to be, and push for the top, seeking equity and equality in everything. But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought. And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.


I’m allowed to be as education and career driven as I want, provided I make sacrifices in other areas of my life that a man would not have to, and put myself out there for criticism that a man would not receive. I can push for the top if I want to be called a ball-breaker, or have my ability to do the job questioned, or have it insinuated that I only achieved success because I used my sexuality and/or got the job because of sexual favours. I also may be the victim of sexual harrassment by coworkers, or be excluded from the old boys network that still exists in many places. And when I want to work and have kids, it’s considered “having it all”, whereas for men it’s called “being an adult” or not called anything at all. Hooray, female privilege! Life is so great.

But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought.”

Two words: BECAUSE PATRIARCHY. Patriarchy is why men are expected to take care of women, and it sets up a world where this is an acceptable dynamic. When women are viewed as needing to be looked after and provided for like a small child, of course you are expected to pay for their dinner. Chivalry -such as holding doors for women- is a product of the patriarchy, and doesn’t actually mean that it is a “woman’s world”: in fact, if you actually think about the situation beyond the superficial interaction, it is an example of how it is still a man’s world. Chivalry is patriarchal, and patriarchal means, by definition, that the world is a man’s world. I guess it sucks to be a guy who is so goddamn pleased with his superior status (as bestowed by the patriarchy), but then realises that this now means he is expected to take care of the people inferior to him as part of the deal.


“And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.”

Yeah, it does suck that the expected dynamic is women stay at home and men go to work. But guess what? Once again, that is actually not an indicator that it is a woman’s world and that women have the privilege, but it is a byproduct of patriarchal attitudes that say  “why the fuck would any red-blooded man want to stay home to fold clothing and change nappies? That’s women’s work!”. So yeah, another invalid example, and another case of looking at the small picture but not the bigger dynamic and what causes the small picture. As a feminist, I would love for it to be easier (both practically, in terms of support systems, but also in terms of reduced social stigma) for men to stay at home with their kids. Women being considered the default caregivers is not a privilege that women have, because it robs everyone of choice.


5. If I write an inflammatory comment, or a blog, or article, and a man questions anything in it, all I need to do to shut the conversation down is call him a bully, or say he’s a privileged male. I can also make disparaging comments about his sexuality, his economic standing, the size of his penis, and his ability to do pretty much anything in return for him disagreeing with me. I can do this, because when I do, I KNOW there will be a bunch of other women who will stick up for me.


This is obviously a joke, right? Or written by someone who has never been a woman in a comments section in the internet? Because, come on. That is basically the exact opposite of what it’s like to be a woman on the internet. Generally how it goes is: woman has opinion, man calls her a feminazi slut who is too ugly to even be raped, then rinse and repeat. “Men call me things” is a great example of how women are attacked for just existing online. Sure, you will often have many women to back you up against the guy, the usually all that means is that they all get threatened and abused too. Generally, when people accuse feminists of “ganging-up” on a guy, it’s because he had blundered into a conversation to denounce their opinions and use his manly male authority to tell them how things ACTUALLY are; i.e. man waves his male privilege about in a space that doesn’t kowtow in deference of it, and suddenly he is the victim when his actions don’t go down well.


Basically, this whole article about “female privilege” is a huge joke. Most of the examples are actually examples of the patriarchy in action, and are actually not all that privileged when considered in their wider context. It’s the equivalent of describing a wrecked car as fine because that one headlight isn’t damaged; you absolutely must look at the entire picture, and the author failed spectacularly. And, because of this myopic perspective and the insistence that seeing women using their privilege all the time “sickens” her, and the repeated talk about how women now have freedoms our ancestors did not (did you guys know we can go to university? And, like, own property and stuff? I think women are even allowed to vote and drive cars and wear pants!) just gives the impression of a woman desperate to ingratiate herself with men by proving that she thinks guys are great and actually have it way tougher than them, and how she’s brave enough to call women on our greedy, ungrateful attitudes and ignorance of our own good fortune. The statement in her author bio, “She considers herself both a feminist and a masculist”, doesn’t do anything to change that impression either.