I’ve met many men who are convinced that men and women are completely equal in modern society. This belief, when aired in public, is commonly followed by the complaint that, “women have it so easy”.
These are ludicrous assertions.
The belief that women have it easier than men is naïve. The claim that men have no special privilege in our society is so far removed from reality that proponents must rely heavily on male privilege (mainly the Privilege of Having No Privileges, see below) to back up their claims.
As evidence than men do enjoy extra privileges in our patriarchal society, below is a non-exhaustive list of male privileges, linked to related posts as I write them. These privileges strengthen men as a class and damage the lives of countless women in return (and in some cases, men as well*). Male privilege is a direct consequence of Patriarchy. These systemic privileges give men an incentive to support the current systems of oppression and discrimination, but men who extol or defend these privileges cannot be considered feminists, proponents of human rights, or good people.
This male privilege list is not the only one out there. Alas, a blog had the same idea years ago. Their male privilege list was itself inspired by Peggy McIntosh, whose White Privilege List inspired this whole shebang. Please add the name of a famous feminist to your reply to prove that you have read this post before commenting.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of overlap between male privilege, white privilege, and the myriad of other social strata in our society. Together, they form the interlinked systems of oppression and discrimination that maintain the hierarchical abuses of the status quo.
But maybe if enough of us point out these omnipresent acts of habituated injustice, we can start to confront and correct them in our daily lives.
One can always hope.
[NOTE: This list is an evolving project, so feel free to add your ideas for new privileges in the comments below. I credit reader contributions whenever I update the list.]
The List of Male Privileges
(In cases where there are related blog entries, you can click on thE title to view them.)
- Privilege To Murder – The vast majority of murders (of both men and women) are committed by men. In cultures throughout the world, men are raised to be able to fight and kill, while women are raised to be delicate and pacifistic. This inequality of power spills over into relations between men and women, where 85% of intimate partner victims are women. Of all the mass-shootings in the US, 40% started with the gunman killing his wife, ex-wife, or girlfriend. Women are typically more likely than men to die in gruesome ways (such as hanging, strangulation, burning, suffocation, and drowning). And in some cultures, such gruesome murders of female relations by men are still legal and condoned (see honor killings).
While the vast majority of men do not kill, the cultural narrative (perpetuated by everything from “true crime” stories, to horror movies, to video games) is that men have the capacity for gruesome murder when “pushed too far”, while women are portrayed as physically incapable of keeping themselves safe without the aid of men. (In contrast, when men are depicted as murder victims they typically die on their feet or while fighting back.) Thus men are taught to live their lives comfortable in their own strength to defend themselves, while women are taught that they are helpless targets. Women are constantly warned against being alone, traveling alone, or doing anything else without the protection of men. The media has also taught women to fear the potential anger of the men in their lives, lest they risk bringing down their wrath. Meanwhile, society offers little actual protection to women whose lives have been threatened by violent men, stepping in only after a murder is committed. This disparity violence between men and women creates a gendered terrorism that helps to underpin much of male privilege.
- Privilege To Rape – Destroying the life of another human being through a very effective form of torture. Statistically, women are far more likely than men to be raped, while men are far more likely than women to commit rape. Due to the many abhorrent cultural norms surrounding the crime of rape, rapists are rarely ever punished and retaliation against rape survivors is common. Some forms of rape (like prostitution and sex slavery) are either legal or the laws against them are largely unenforced. Since women are needed to perpetuate the species, rape is used far more often than murder as a tool to enforce male privilege.
- Privilege of Owning Women’s Bodies – The fundamental inequality between men and women in our society, reinforced through tradition, laws (or lack thereof), and rape culture, is the notion of the Sex Class: that the bodies of all women, by their very nature of being women, are sexually available to men at all times. This pernicious ideology manifests itself in several destructive male privileges, and through harmful social trends such as the oversexualization of women and girls, the acceptance of male sexual aggression as “natural”, the default assumption that women have given their consent to sex, prostitution and pornography, discrimination against women in the workforce, political movements to outlaw abortion and contraception, traditional marriage, and the conservative fight against the vaccination of girls for HPV. [h/t to IBTP]
- Privilege of Prostitution – The institutionalization of the rape of women through a global network of physical and economic violence.
- Privilege of Violence Against Women – Men are allowed to use violence to both defend themselves and to hurt women. 90% of violent criminals are male. In contrast, women’s self-defense is marginalized, with the few classes that do exist lacking forceful and effective techniques. Laws meant to protect victims of domestic violence (such as restraining orders, incarceration of violent batterers instead of probation, gun laws, etc.) are poorly enforced, but when women do retaliate against male aggressors with violence, the law comes down hard on them. When assaulted by a man, women are expected to acquiesce completely to the assault, to not seek retribution, to cover it all up, and to die quietly.
- Privilege to Hate Women – Men are allowed to use hate women as a class, and to make hateful and threatening remarks about all women with little recourse. This behavior is tolerated among male peers, and encouraged online where there is almost no enforcement of hate speech against women.
- Privilege of Sexual Harassment – Since all women are relegated to a Sex Class, any women can be subject to dehumanization, sexual harassment, threats of violence, and gender terrorism, with little to no social or legal recourse.
- Privilege of The Male Gaze – Men’s sexual perspective, embraced by society, normalizes the dehumanization of women and girls, and inoculates men from being dehumanized themselves.
- Privilege of Pornography – Men are provided with widespread access to prostitution-based propaganda that promotes their privilege to destroy the lives of women. Pornography has now spread to mainstream culture, further cementing women into the role of the Sex Class.
- Privilege to Make the Rules – The rulers write both laws and history, and so men throughout human history have written laws and revised history to benefit themselves at the expense of women.
- Privilege of Owning Religion – Religion codifies the rules of morality for the majority of people on this planet. The governance the world’s major religions has been the sole province of men throughout history, and the lead supreme beings in the vast majority of religious pantheons have been codified as male. Religion has, over the centuries, normalized the traditional behaviors and gender roles that benefit men. It has deemed these systems that marginalize women to be both divinely mandated and good.
- Privilege of Marriage – The purpose of marriage, as an institution, has been to sanctify the ownership of women by men. This has been the sole purpose of marriage for thousands of years, and continues to be in many countries today. While some progress has been made in bringing love and equality to the institution of marriage in more progressive countries, the division of labor between men and women in most marriages still reflect the traditions of men as bosses/owners and women as subordinates/property.
- Privilege to Define Everything – Men’s perspectives and values are the only valid ones in society. The intentions of men’s actions are more important to society than the actual effects their actions have on women. Men’s ideas about women supersede women’s reality. Men can declare themselves feminist when they decide to be, or even oppressed when convenient. Men’s claims will be taken as fair and objective, and will remain uncontested even when they make no sense.
[Thanks to Varnish Eater, acidbill]
- Privilege to Define Women – Men are the ones who routinely analyze, define, and judge women’s lives. Any discussion taken from an actual women’s perspective is seen as “unorthodox”. Men can define or scapegoat women however they like. From hysteria to insecurity, men can project their own worst qualities onto women and blame women for their own oppression. Women must constantly explain and defend their own thoughts and actions to men when they fail to conform to men’s expectations. Even then, men can reinterpret women’s explanations as they see fit.
[Thanks to Varnish Eater]
- Privilege of Not Being Judged – From not being criticized for their mistakes, to the sanctity of their personal choice, to neglecting their families, to getting away with murder, judgment is always restrained when it comes to men’s actions. Men can be criminals without punishment, vicious without scorn or loss of social status, and failures without fear of rebuke.
- Privilege of Physical Strength – Male beauty standards encourage men to build muscle, while female beauty standards strongly discourage women from having muscle. While men genetically have more upper body strength than women (and equal lower body strength), our patriarchal society does everything it can to further tip the balance in men’s favor. The demands of femininity push women to lose as much body mass as possible in the pursuit of ‘thinness’. Crash dieting, protein-free and fat-free diets, purges, diuretics, hot yoga, and long cardio sessions break down muscle and fat alike, leaving women with little strength left in their bodies.
With little fat and no muscle mass, women become weak, unstable, and more easily exploitable. Underweight women are at a considerable disadvantage when faced with physical violence from healthy men. Calorie-starved women also lose the physical stamina of their well-fed male colleagues. Dizzy, shaky, stressed-out, and constantly tired from starvation, these women are artificially disadvantaged in the workplace where their male colleagues can work harder, longer, and with fewer mistakes simply by having a body that they are allowed to care for. Women are also handicapped in their personal lives, where they don’t have the resilience to stick up for themselves. Men can get their way simply by being stubborn and waiting for woman to give up in exhaustion. [Thanks to Adria]
- Privilege of Default Gender – Men are considered by society to be the default gender. Men are rarely ever targeted, stereotyped, or held liable because of their gender. This default status is the mental framework used by society to ignore male privilege and male favoritism. Men are simply seen as human. Women, on the other hand, are seen as the exception to the all the male-centric norms of society. Gender stereotypes are always present in the perception of women.
- Privilege of Unquestioned Majority – Men are treated as if they were the only gender on the planet. Men can assume to speak for the majority, and their declarations are automatically assumed to have the backing of the majority. Despite being only half the population, men are given the overwhelming majority of resources, from medical research dollars, to media attention, to political representation. Women, despite being 51% of the population, are almost never given equal representation, are treated as a “niche audience” by corporations, and regarded as exceptional members of any group rather than the norm. Any attempts to advocate for equal representation of women is regarded as unorthodox and reactionary.
- Privilege of Women’s Invisibility – When convenient, men can treat women as if they don’t even exist. Men use this privilege to take credit for women’s work, to claim opportunities and resources for themselves by ignoring competition from women, and to ensure that the murders of women remain unsolved and undocumented. Men use “gender blindness” to ignore the oppression of women altogether. Any attempt to fight the abuse and oppression of women will be ignored unless men are similarly oppressed, at which point aiding the oppressed men will get priority care.
- Primacy of Men’s Comfort – From planning family vacations to deciding what distant suburb to live in, most decisions are ultimately decided with regards to men’s comfort levels. Even decisions made for women’s safety must not infringe upon men’s comfort levels. Women must make whatever personal and financial sacrifices are necessary to meet the decisions arrived at by men. All attempts at ending the abuse and oppression of women will be vehemently opposed if they inhibit men’s comfort levels in any way.
- Privilege of Freedom From Harassment – Men’s bodies are not aggressively sexualized. Men can expect to not be sexually harassed at work or on the street. Men do not have to be concerned about eating phallic-looking foods and can enjoy crude humor as it almost never threatens their bodies. Men can also legally remove their shirts in public. [Thanks to Anonymous]
- Privilege of Being Right – Men are given great allowances to pacify their egos in our society, from not being told when they are wrong, to silent acceptance of odious eccentricities. For women, the bruising of a man’s ego is a faux pas that must be avoided at all costs, even if it means silencing their own points of view. [Thanks to Twisty]
- Privilege of Safe Sex – Men are the initiators of sex, and can enjoy sexual privacy and no liability for their sexual history. Even Hugh Hefner’s sex is private when he wants it to be. In contrast, women are the targets of sexual advances, bear the entire burden of contraception and pregnancy, and are judged based on men’s sexual perception of them. [Thanks to Anonymous]
- Privilege to Speak – From blogging, to politics, to stand-up comedy, men have the privilege to speak publicly, with authority, and without harassment for doing so. From birth, men are taught to speak with authority, and that their words have value. From birth, women are taught to speak with deference, to let men interrupt, to not interrupt while men are speaking, to accept verbal abuse without complaint, and to be quiet in general. Men expect women to listen to them at all times, even if said women are their bosses or are busy doing something else. Women’s voices are dismissed as irritating, and women who speak publicly the are routinely subjected to hostility, harassment, and threats of violence. [Thanks to wiggles]
- Privilege to End Debate – Men can use their tyranny of speech to quiet everyone else.
- Privilege of Having No Privileges – When the abuse of male privilege becomes uncomfortable for men, they can choose to be oblivious of their privilege. Men can choose to be oblivious of some or all of their privileges, as is convenient. Men can claim parity where none exists, claim oppression whenever it is useful, and deflect any resentment which might impinge upon their social status. Men can even blame women for the harms they suffer under male privilege, and force critics of their privilege into silence.
[Thanks to Varnish Eater, acidbill]
- Privilege of Relative Safety – Men don’t live their entire lives in fear. There is no gender terrorism for men. Men can risk dropping their guard, or being alone. [Thanks to Anonymous]
- Privilege of an Inviolate Male Body – A man’s body is his castle. Men enjoy the sovereignty of self. They can expect to not be physically violated when attacked, and to not have their bodies controlled by government legislation.
- Privilege of Space – All spaces are by default men’s spaces. Men can establish male-only spaces in their homes, clubs, entertainment venues, online forums, etc. without complaint, and can demand entry into almost all ‘women-only’ spaces.
- Privilege of Privacy and Personal Space – Men can expect privacy and lots of personal space around them when in public. Men can also intrude upon a woman’s personal space whenever they want.
- Privilege of Having Only Male Attributes Valued – The vast majority of all protagonists present in society will be male, because masculinity is revered and femininity is reviled.
- Privilege to Network – Relations among men are valued by society more than relations between men and women or relations between women. From finding new clients, to nepotism, to inside jobs, men can trust their networks to help them out, and to gang up and push out females rivals.
- Privilege of Harassment – Men can be disgusting, obnoxious, hyperbolic, belittling, dismissive, and even violent towards women with little consequence. If a woman tries to confront a man’s behavior, he can always claim that his violent harassment was “a joke”, and counter with the claim that she should “toughen up”. At this point, society will become hostile towards the victim until she backs down, apologizes for questioning the man’s moral fiber, and acquiesces to the harassment.
- Privilege of Failure – From breaking household appliances to restarting careers, men are given the security to try, fail, and try again.
- Praise for Mediocrity – Men can expect their mundane accomplishments to be treated like heroic feats. Men can also wallow in the pitiful standards set for men’s behavior when it is convenient, with little repercussion.
- Privilege to Celebrate – Only men’s victories are celebrated in public, and the majority of people in these victory celebrations are men. Men are also allowed to be violent when celebrating.
- Privilege of Judge-Free Appearance – Men’s clothes “say” little about them, and men can be fat with far fewer consequences than women.
- Privilege of Control – Men are allowed to co-opt control of anything that a woman controls, whenever they want it. This is especially true in the domestic sphere, where men are allowed to make the choices for their wives and daughters. Men are also not responsible for anything that they do not want control of. This behavior is excused as part of men’s “natural leadership qualities”, and is never seen as rude or obnoxious by the larger society. [Thanks to Lilithc]
- Privilege to be Practical – It is normal for men to be comfortable and mobile when dressed. Women’s fashion is impractically expensive, time-consuming, and deliberately inhibits comfort, mobility, and safety. Utilitarianism is seen as a virtue in men, while women who forgo impractical clothing or embrace utilitarianism are chided for “letting themselves go”.
- Privilege of Having Potential – Men’s work is valued. Men are given many more opportunities to be successful, and are praised more than women when they succeed.
- Privilege of Baby Einsteins – Boys are valued more than girls. Society spends more time, attention, and resources on boys than on girls. Throughout the world, the parents of a girl are more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. Divorced women with girls are substantially less likely to remarry than divorced women with boys. Parents of girls are also much more likely to try for another child than parents of boys.
- Privilege of Scions – Heirs to power and property are almost entirely male, and have been for thousands of years. Heiresses are few and far between, and typically reviled by society.
- Privilege of Women’s Labor – From keeping house, to raising men’s children, to “PHT Degrees”, women’s unpaid and undervalued labor is the foundation for the easy lives of men. Men can also lay claim to the praise and rewards that result from women’s labor.
[Thanks to fff, acidbill]
- Privilege that Boys Can be Boys – Young boys are typically given the freedom to play and be a child, while young girls typically do household chores. The innocence of boys is protected, while 54% of girls will be sexually abused.
- Privilege of Extra Free Time – Unburdened with chores or other domestic responsibilities, men have much more time for leisure.
- Privilege of Career – Men are expected to have a career, while women are expected to sacrifice their careers in order to care for a man and raise his family. Similarly, a man is more likely to get hired and promoted in any given job than a woman. This favoritism towards men increases as the job becomes more prestigious.
[Thanks to Alas, a blog]
- Privilege of Men in Business – In addition to making more at the same jobs, men can expect to get farther in corporate America. Although women make up almost half of America’s labor force, in 2005 only 8 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, 67 of those 500 companies don’t have any women corporate officers at all, and the numbers are getting worse.
- Privilege of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) – Men are seen as having automatic ability in STEM fields, and are encouraged to explore them. Meanwhile, women are actively discouraged from these fields. Discrimination of women is rampant in STEM fields. Women make up less than half of all scientists and engineers in the US, and less than one-third of all doctorate and professional degree holders in STEM fields.
[Thanks to RedComet]
- Privilege of More Money – Even with identical qualifications, men still make 22% more than women when working the exact same job.
- Privilege of Family Fortunes – 90% of the world’s billionaires are men, and they didn’t get there by random chance.
- Privilege of All Things Designed By Men, For Men – Everything from car seats, to drugs, to women’s fashions are designed around men’s desires. Men’s bodies are the default template for all designed products, and the male body is the default Homo Sapien studied in medical centers. Men’s needs are the only requirements for a design (as an example, try using an iPhone with very long nails).
- Privilege of Tech – Boys get more time on family computers and more access to technology. Despite the Nintendo Wii, the majority of big-title computer games are designed to degrade women. Despite women making up a majority of Internet consumers, misogyny dominates the computer industry.
- Privilege of Internet Presence – Even though more people use the web to buy greeting cards than porn, everyone assumes that the primary use of the web is pornography. The Internet has been claimed by popular culture to be a giant men’s club, where men are free to harass, intimidate, violently threaten, and drive women off the internet with impunity. On the flip side, men can be vocal online with much less harassment and little-to-no threat of violence.
- Privilege of Ownership – Men can take the best of anything that is available, even if it belongs to someone else. Women who complain are castigated for being sensitive or “petty”. Plagiarism laws protect men’s work more than women’s work. When a man finds something for the first time, he can lay claim to “first discovering” it with little fear of correction.
[Thanks to Lilithc]
- Privilege of Trophy Wives – Using ritualized male privilege to enslave young women and abuse older women.
- Privilege of Good Medicine – Men get the best medical care and the majority of medical research dollars. Meanwhile, any areas of medicine that are exclusive to women (such as gynecology) are sidelined by modern medicine. The result is that many women-only conditions (outside of infertility) lack the body of research needed for effective diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. This leads to women having their conditions not recognized as legitimate diseases (and instead lumped together under amorphous disorders like IBS and vulvodynia) while being over-diagnosed with psychological issues instead of legitimate pain disorders. Even when diagnosed, women typically have to cope with harsher treatments and worse prognosis than should be tolerated in this era of modern medicine. Breast cancer, for example, remains one of the highest killers of women, with controversial detection procedures, little preventative medicine and harsh treatments that haven’t been revolutionized in over 50 years (but with plenty of progress in breast reconstructive/plastic surgeries!). Meanwhile, prostate cancer is now easily detectable, readily curable, yet receives similar funding (per death) as breast cancer. And testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers out there.
- Privilege of Labor – High paying labor-intensive jobs that do not require advanced degrees are all rife with misogyny and dominated by men. If any field becomes dominated by women, the work becomes underpaid and undervalued.
- Privilege to Be Unattached – Men can be single well into their 30’s and no one notices. Men also get far less harassment if they choose not to have kids. It is also acceptable for men to remain “bachelors for life” (although most eventually opt for the male privileges inherent in marriage). Women are under fierce pressure to get married and have kids sooner rather than later.
[Thanks to Anonymous]
- Privilege to Grow Old – Men can go gray, get fat, or age in any way they wish. For men, aging confers wisdom, respect, and/or “character”. Women get belittled as they grow older. They are under constant pressure to do whatever it takes, including surgery, to remain “young-looking”. Anything less, and a woman is admonished for “letting herself go”.
[Thanks to Debi Crow]
- Privilege of Hair – Men can have hair, on their heads or body, and do not have to take care of it. Women are seen as lazy, unhygienic, and disgusting if they do not remove or arduously style all the hair on their bodies. Men are allowed to be bald, whereas women must use wigs.
[Thanks to RedComet]
- Privilege of Expecting Women to Please Them – Men can expect smiles from all women at all times. Men expect women to drop what they are doing and be attentive to men while they are talked at. Women’s political views are seen as playthings for men to move around at will.
[Thanks to Flyinfur]
- Privilege to Eat – The consumption of food (especially desirable foods like deserts, alcohol, and meat) is only socially acceptable for men. As adolescents, boys are encouraged to eat, while girls are discouraged from eating. This lack of adequate nutrition results in girl’s growth being stunted in childhood, which has led to the false belief that women are “naturally” smaller than men.
- Privilege of Selective Misogyny – Also known as “benevolent sexism”, men can choose not to exercise male privilege over a particular woman at any time, as a reward for approved behavior, or for simple convenience. Men can selectively favor women, and decide which women deserve consideration/rights/empathy as is convenient to them. Men can also take away such favors and reassert their privilege at any time. This holding back of oppression is erroneously called “women’s privilege” by misogynists.
[Thanks to Varnish Eater]
- Privilege of Toys – Male-coded toys (whether video games for kids, or cars and smartphones for adults) are of higher quality and more diverse than female-coded toys. Female-coded toys have cheaper construction or are designed to train girls for domestic service and femininity.
- Privilege of Vocabulary – The very dictionary is stacked in men’s favor. Words that reference a group of people typically default to a male noun (chairman, mankind, you guys, etc.). Language makes it easy for any man to lash out at women, while the words needed to retaliate against men do not exist.
[Thanks to Jezebella]
- Privilege of Guns – Men are expected to know how to handle a gun. Boys are taught how to shoot from an early age by fathers and peers. AirSoft, paintball, laser tag, first-person shooter video games, army training, and all other gun-based social settings are regarded as realms for boys and men. Women are regarded as transgressors in these spaces, and face social harassment and violence if they try to participate. And even when women do get access to guns, they are typically steered towards shittier, misfire-prone weapons that will not stop an attacker under the guise that they are “lighter weight” and “better suited to women’s smaller hands”.
- Privilege of Pleasure – Entire industries, from the benign to the barbaric, revolve around men’s physical pleasure. Men’s physical pleasure is lauded my the media and condoned by moralists. In contrast, women’s physical pleasure is either demonized or denied to exist in the first place. Women are expected to please men, to fake their orgasms, and to degrade themselves during sex, and to engage in methods and positions that deny their own pleasure while serving the men they are with. Women are also left to cope with the consequences of men’s desires: they are routinely expected to bear the sole responsibility for birth control, and are expected to remain silent on any issues they have with male-centered sex (from a lack of orgasms and unmet physical desires, to painful sex, to chronic yeast infections, to rape).
- Privilege of Mobility – Men are given the freedom to see the world. Men can travel by themselves, move their residence wherever they want, and take traveling jobs (such as couriers and seamen) while leaving women behind to care for their family and children. Women are forbidden from traveling by themselves, under the pretense that doing so is too dangerous for them.
- Privilege of Passivity – With their lives relatively safe, free from negative judgments, and with the expectation for women to take care of them, men have the freedom to be passive, and are unaccountable for their passivity.
- Privilege to Say “No!” – When a man says “no”, it is accepted as final. When a woman says “no”, it is seen by men as a challenge, and its utterance is interpreted as the start of negotiations toward an inevitable “yes”.
[Thanks to Daisy P]
- Privilege to be an Outsider – Men are given the latitude and relative safety to reject social mandates. Men can say no to their families, ignore popular culture, reject social norms, and plow their own course in life. Counter-cultures cater to men, and form safe places and support structures for men. For women, the consequences of disobeying society and family are much harsher. Society is much more dangerous for lone women as well. Counter-cultures rarely offer a similar level of safety and autonomy to women, and in many cases are hostile to them.