Creative Destruction

June 27, 2006

Do white men really benefit from ‘privilege’?

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Daran @ 12:47 am

I recently indicated that I wanted to criticise the concept of ‘privilege’ as articulated by feminists independent of the various framing devices used by them. The substantive portion of my recent comment over on Alas in response to Barry covers some of what I want to say, and, with a little minor editing, seems worth promoting to the status of a blog post.

Ampersand:

Thinking seriously about systematic racism means that Whites have to admit that even if they don’t personally hate black people, they have almost certainly benefited from racism in some manner.

I’ve asked before how I’ve benefited from my alledged gender/race privilege, etc. The answers usually fall into two categories:

Firstly, I don’t suffer as much (or at all) as women/PsOC from things like racial abuse, the risk of rape, etc. I would dispute the ‘not at all’ contention. Even if I am not directly harmed or at risk, anything which directly harms or threatens my non-white and female friends and family is an indirect threat or harm to me. Also many of the identified ‘privileges‘ describe lower levels of direct risk and harm to me which are not zero.

I don’t dispute the ‘as much’ part with regard to race – I can not think of a single systemic comparative advantage enjoyed by PsOC over whites (other than initiatives such as AA, which are intended to ameliorate their comparative disadvantage) – however there are many systemic comparative advantages enjoyed by women over men which are trivialised and excluded from the discourse by framing devices such as ‘disadvantage’ vs. ‘privilege’ used by Barry and other feminists.

However not suffering as much as another person can hardly be considered a “benefit”. It’s a smaller disbenefit.

The other category is one of alledged positive benefits, such as enhanced educational and career opportunities. The argument usually goes that systemic racism/sexism tends to exclude women and PsOC, whether directly (an equally capable and qualified woman etc., isn’t given the position because she’s discriminated against directly) or indirectly (she never becomes qualified, and/or she doesn’t apply for the job, etc). Therefore there are more places available for white men such as myself.

I accept the premise but not the conclusion. It seems to me that for this argument to be valid, there needs to be another premise – namely that the total available opportunity is fixed, or at least is not significantly diminished by the systemic racism/sexism. This I do not accept. I would argue that giving women and PsOC, greater access to the productive economy would create more educational and career opportunities for everybody.

The argument I make here also appears to be logical equivalent to a position taken by some (many?) feminists and liberals (I believe Barry is one of them) with respect to immigrants/migrant workers. In response to complaints from opponents that these people are “taking jobs from American citizens and sponging off welfare”, liberals respond that they make a net contribution to the productive economy and thus do not harm the prospects of American citizens.

If you agree that allowing immigrants etc., (mostly PsOC if you so class Hispanics), access to the US productive economy would improve it to the net benefit of American citizens, then it is incoherent to simultaneously argue that allowing women and PsOC., who are already citizens greater access to that economy would not benefit white men too. And if you allow that white men will benefit overall, then you abolish the second category of alledged benefit from systemic racism and sexism. These -isms do not give white men men greater educational and career prospects. They just give us a larger share of a much smaller cake.

Update: Dianne points out, that “not every immigrant is the classic immigrant from a poor/oppressive country looking for new opportunities.” My understanding is that it is just this class of (im)migrant which is at issue in the immigration debate, so my substantive point stands. Mia Culpa, however, for an egregiously classist and racist stereotype.

Update 2 Originally in the above I used “POCs” as the plural of “POC” – Person Of Colour. I mentally sounded it as “pee-oh-sees”. It honestly never occured to me that it might be read as “pocks”, or even worse, “pox”. “POC” appears to be fairly standard in these discourses and I shall continue to use it, but I have amended the plural to PsOC – Persons Of Colour. I apologise for any offense this may have given. Thanks to JR at Feministe for pointing this out.

Updated (27 September) to add this list of links to the entire ‘Privilege’ series of posts, which I shall keep updated from now on:

“Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices
Do white men really benefit from privilege?
More on Privilege
Selective Service – Privilege part 4

35 Comments »

  1. Good consistency lock.

    Comment by Robert — June 27, 2006 @ 12:55 am | Reply

  2. Good consistency lock.

    Eh?

    Comment by Daran — June 27, 2006 @ 1:02 am | Reply

  3. Consistency lock is a term used in negotiation, or persuasive argumentation. You put the person you’re addressing in a consistency lock by getting them to articulate two mutually contradictory positions at separate times, and then noting the inconsistency and requiring them to address it. It’s the most powerful aggressive negotiating tactic (well, behind “do it my way or I’ll kill your family”), but it does require you either have the advantage in facts on the ground, or be much much better at logical disputation than your counterpart.

    You’ve got the facts-on-the-ground advantage in this case; there really is a fundamental conflict between expressed lefty beliefs on immigration and privilege.

    Some day I’ll blog about the class on negotiation I took a few years ago. Remarkable man, remarkable class.

    Comment by Robert — June 27, 2006 @ 1:55 am | Reply

  4. You put the person you’re addressing in a consistency lock by getting them to articulate two mutually contradictory positions at separate times,

    I didn’t get them to do anything.

    You’ve got the facts-on-the-ground advantage in this case; there really is a fundamental conflict between expressed lefty beliefs on immigration and privilege.

    I think the argument that (im)migrant workers improve the economy to the benefit of citizens in general is weaker than the comparible argument about economically engaging women and POC citizens I make above. (im)migrants increase the population, but bring little in the way of natural resources to the country, so the resources per capita is reduced, while earned wealth is directed out of the country. That doesn’t prove that (im)migrants are bad for citizens on balance, but if they’re not, then the argument I make above is even more compelling because engaging women and POC citizens in the ecconomy does not have these drawbacks.

    Comment by Daran — June 27, 2006 @ 2:34 am | Reply

  5. I’m not sure that earned wealth is really directed out of the country. As I understand it, what often happens is that immigrants send money home, and that it then just circulates around their home countries because it’s superior to the local currency as a store of value. If true, that’s a great deal for Americans, because we get labor in exchange for some scraps of paper that cost next to nothing to make.

    In the worst case scenario, they send cash back home, hold it for a while, and then spend it. But this isn’t such a bad deal, either, because we get their labor right now and don’t have to pay them back (in the form of exports) until later.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — June 27, 2006 @ 2:44 am | Reply

  6. Assult is fraught with complexity & I’m tired. so let’s solve the problem of economic inequity.
    Here & Now.
    Start from the bottom up. Is it unfair for women execs to earn less than male counterparts? Take a number, chicky-babe! Let’s first address the inequity suffered by those who do not earn Enough in their 40 hour+ work week, and our counterparts who do.
    Raise the minimum wage to $10 — after taxes — and add another $5 for each dependent.
    They say inflation will then skyrocket, as though it were a incontestable law of physics.
    They lie.
    If you can survive for less than $10, Speak Up — I want to know your secret. Is $5 even enough to raise a child?
    My other Quick Solution is to institute a Maximum Wage. Hey, I want a million bucks as much as the next guy. shit I want 2 — one to spend & one to Flip. But no part of me has ever wanted to be a billionare.
    I think there’s something Wrong with people who do.
    If you make 5mil in a year, that’s Plenty — for real. After that, why not take some responsibility for the Planet you inhabit, and circulate your un-needed currency on your planet’s behalf?
    Place be falling apart @ the seams…

    Comment by Mike E — June 27, 2006 @ 3:43 am | Reply

  7. Hi long time reader first time poster!

    Have just read through the thread over at Alas.

    I just wanted to pick up on a point that was made in the thread, (I didn’t post there as I am not the greatest supporter of feminism, and I know that Barry likes to keep it pro-feminists)

    It was pointed out that a sign of white privilege was that a person of colour was more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. I think it was Robert who used himself as an example.

    I do not deny that this can be an indicator of racism within the system.

    So if this is the case, the fact that in the UK 93% of Stop and Searches by police are carried out against men demonstrates clear sexism within the system against men?

    And they wonder why the crime stats show that men commit the most crime, if men are the only ones being policed, then they are always going to be shown as the biggest contributors to crime.

    Just thought I would add this to the discussion.

    Love the site by the way, I think it’s great when differing views are able to come together and have discussions in a non-hostile site.

    Comment by Wookie — June 27, 2006 @ 4:26 am | Reply

  8. Hi, Wookie, welcome to the blog.

    So if this is the case, the fact that in the UK 93% of Stop and Searches by police are carried out against men demonstrates clear sexism within the system against men?

    Do you have a cite for that statistic? All I have been able to turn up after a few minutes Googling is this report which states that “Most were young men, with a median age of 21 or 22.”, but provides no further analysis (in contrast to the detailed analysis of every other personal characteristic of those stopped and searched.) Scanning through the report, I can find only one other mention of the gender differential. I also notice that every single one of the individuals whose stop and or search incidents were discussed whose gender could be discerned was male.

    Yet the Discussion is written in gender neutral language, as though the burden of this intrusive police action falls upon both genders equally. So we have another example of how the male is effaced and female privilege is rendered invisible.

    And they wonder why the crime stats show that men commit the most crime, if men are the only ones being policed, then they are always going to be shown as the biggest contributors to crime.

    Probably both: “For the third most important area of public concern identified in Figure 2:1 was that the police should do something about ‘youths hanging around on the street’. It was apparent from interviews with officers (and discussions with the young people) that – especially in areas where this was perceived to be a local problem – searches were being used as a way of meeting this perceived need. Since a proportion of searches which are primarily intended to break up groups of young people will produce arrests (mainly for possession of drugs), this blurs the boundary between the use of the power for crime control and for social control.

    Young people without previous criminal records stand to be criminalised as a result; and the group identified by the study as being most at risk for these reasons is a demographic bulge of young people from the poorer Asian groups. Their socio-economic circumstances (including high levels of youth unemployment and serious overcrowding) are likely to amplify their presence in the street population in certain areas. Unlike the equivalent cohort of black young people 20 years previously, this bulge will not simply pass through . Rather the numbers in succeeding cohorts become larger.”

    What’s the betting that these “young people” are, in reality, overwhelmingly “young men”?

    Comment by Daran — June 27, 2006 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  9. Barry likes to keep it pro-feminists

    Actually he decides that on a post by post basis. That one hasn’t been marked pro-feminist only, so as long as your courteous and can back up any criticisms you make of others, you should be OK to post there.

    Comment by Daran — June 27, 2006 @ 7:13 am | Reply

  10. Here is where I got the Stop and Search Figure:

    http://www.gnn.gov.uk/content/detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=182638

    The proportion of stop & searches of male persons is 93.7% (227,994 rolling year), with just 12,367 women being stopped & searched.

    These are the figures for just London, but I think it is reasonable to say that this is probably the same across the UK.

    They estimate that over 1 million stop and searches happen each year in the UK.

    The article also states that of those Stop and Searches 10.9% lead to an arrest, so again across the country that would mean over 100,000 arrests leading from Stop and Searches

    The reason that I bring it up, is that in the UK media it is often stated that because black and Muslim men are disportunatly stopped compared to the population percentage they represent, this is a sign of racism within the system. I would probably agree, and that leads as I have stated to the fact that as a young man walking down the street my chances of being hassled by the state are massively higher than that of any woman of any race. Is this not sexism, or gender profiling

    I guess Barry can add that to his male privilege checklist!!

    Actually sorry for being flippant, I really would like to know Barry’s view on this.

    Sorry if I cannot reply straight away, but my net access is limited at the mo.

    Comment by Wookie — June 27, 2006 @ 8:20 am | Reply

  11. I can’t really comment on UK crime figures. But, talking about the USA:

    1) I think it is true that there is discrimination against men in the US Justice system. This is particularly apparent in studies of sentencing disparities.

    2) Nonetheless, I don’t think the experience of being white male in the US is in any reasonable way comparable to being black (and especially not to being black and male) in the US, when what we’re talking about is frequency of police harassment.

    If you’re suggesting an equivalence between how blacks are abused by cops, and the alleged abuse of white men by cops, then that implies a total lack of understanding of how pervasive and abusive cops are towards racial minorities, especially blacks. (At least, in the US).

    3) I think class issues have a lot to do with who gets stopped and searched, as well. My guess – and there are no statistics measuring this, alas – is that a vastly disproportionate number of white men who get stopped and searched are lower-class. (Class, in this instance, refers not only to how much income one has, but also to what class one was raised in.)

    4) However, I think it should also be acknowledged that the large majority of violent criminals are male (in the USA, 90% of known murders are committed by men), and even in a totally nonsexist justice system the overwhelming majority of police attention on violent criminals would wind up focused on men.

    And that’s not because men are disproportionately poor (they are not), disproportionately stuck in lousy schools or broken families (they are not), lacking job opportunities compared to female counterparts (they are not), or because men live disproportionately in neighborhoods that the police focus harassment on (they do not). The equivilence between blacks and men that you are implying ignores that while blacks have every material disadvantage compared to whites, the same cannot be credibly said of men compared to women.

    Men are simply more likely to be violent criminals, despite their average material advantages compared to similarly-situated women. Can that be changed? I hope so. But it would require an extremely radical alteration of our entire society, and especially how we raise male children.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 27, 2006 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  12. (im)migrants increase the population, but bring little in the way of natural resources to the country, so the resources per capita is reduced, while earned wealth is directed out of the country.

    I think that this claim is very open to dispute. First, not every immigrant is the classic immigrant from a poor/oppressive country looking for new opportunities. Some immigrants are quite wealthy. Indeed, some migrate for tax purposes. And then there is the notorious “brain drain” of academics heading from India, China, and Europe to the US (as well as, recently, from the US to Britain: thanks, GWB and congress for limiting stem cell research and knocking the US out of the uncontested #1 position in research biology…but that’s another rant…anyway, Britain is importing academics as well, so the argument goes there as well as here). These people definitely bring physical as well as intellectual and personal resources into the country.

    Then there are the economic and political immigrants. I’ve worked with a number of them and in my experience, they are smarter and more motivated than natives. They have to be to get to the new country from their old one. These are people who have overcome major physical and political obstacles. They are highly motivated to do well in their new country. In general, the loss of their contribution to the economy would probably be greater than the loss of an equal number of native born citizens to the economy: migrants have been selected for the most able and motivated whereas the native born population, whether white or minority, male or female, is unselected.

    On the other hand, I don’t see where the argument that engaging women and minorites in the economy enhances the country’s wealth directly comes from–these are people who are in the country regardless so they aren’t bringing direct wealth into the country the way, say, Bill Gates or Jose Garcia (a theoretical Central American immigrant who might transport $2 worth of worldly goods along with himself over the Rio Grande when he immigrates) would bring wealth to a country if he immigrated there.

    Certainly, if minorities and women are fully engaged in the economy and have the same resources available to them as white men, then social wealth will be enhanced. But if it is not, the loss is only the loss of potential talent, not the physical loss of the wealth new people bring to a country.

    Anyway, I quite agree that sexism and racism are, in the end, no real benefit to anyone, including white men. So glad you recognize that. Off you go to the pro-feminist, pro-civil rights end of the discussion then.

    Comment by Dianne — June 27, 2006 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

  13. Sorry, got distracted on the immigration issue and forgot to address the actual overall theme of the article.

    And if you allow that white men will benefit overall, then you abolish the second category of alledged benefit from systemic racism and sexism. These -isms do not give white men men greater educational and career prospects. They just give us a larger share of a much smaller cake.

    While life, the world knowledge base, and the economy in general are not zero sum games, there are many zero-sum games involved in each of the above. For example, white men have a definite edge when it comes to getting jobs, grants, etc. This is a well described phenomenon. Subconcious–and concious–prejudice, early training, and expectations give men a large advantage in such competitions. It’s going to be hard to convince them to give that up in return for a theoretical benefit from “a larger cake”. Implementing social changes that would lead to actual equality would be even harder, since they would have initial costs. Do you have a proposal for making such social changes?

    Comment by Dianne — June 27, 2006 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  14. Dianne:

    First, not every immigrant is the classic immigrant from a poor/oppressive country looking for new opportunities.

    Good point. I’ve updated the original post in light of this remark. However it’s just those ‘classic’ immigrants which are at issue here.

    Then there are the economic and political immigrants. I’ve worked with a number of them and in my experience, they are smarter and more motivated than natives. They have to be to get to the new country from their old one. These are people who have overcome major physical and political obstacles. They are highly motivated to do well in their new country.

    Another good point. Can you quantify this in any way?

    In general, the loss of their contribution to the economy would probably be greater than the loss of an equal number of native born citizens to the economy: migrants have been selected for the most able and motivated whereas the native born population, whether white or minority, male or female, is unselected.

    On the other hand, I don’t see where the argument that engaging women and minorites in the economy enhances the country’s wealth directly comes from–these are people who are in the country regardless so they aren’t bringing direct wealth into the country the way, say, Bill Gates or Jose Garcia (a theoretical Central American immigrant who might transport $2 worth of worldly goods along with himself over the Rio Grande when he immigrates) would bring wealth to a country if he immigrated there.

    Bill Gates certainly would, but as I said before, he and his ilk are not at issue. Jose Garcia’s personal effects, whether worth $2 or $2,000 benefit nobody other than Jose Garcia, unless he sells or gives them away. I suspect the amount cash and mercantile property being brought over the border by the Garcias of this world is relatively insignificant. Rather I expect his intention, if he intends to return at all, is to take away with him more than he brought. Likewise, I don’t imagine that many Garcias arrive with a sack of coal on their backs, so his contribution to national resources is zero.

    The major contribution Garcia can make to the economy is his labour.

    If Garcia remains out of the country then he produces no wealth, consumes no wealth, and consumes no resources as far as America is concerned. If he enters the country, then he consumes both wealth and resources. If we neglect the property he brings with him, and I think we must, then for him to make a net contribution to society he must produce through his labour enough wealth to pay for his entire consumption.

    The situation is different for Jess Black, an economically excluded citizen. If she remains economically excluded, then she consumes wealth and resources. She probably also produces some wealth, because her exclusion is unlikely to be complete. If she ceases to be excluded, then she will produce more wealth, probably consume a little more to, but its only the difference between her before and after consumptions that needs to be covered by her increased production.

    Anyway, I quite agree that sexism and racism are, in the end, no real benefit to anyone, including white men.

    I’m sure it benefits some people – the people right at the top. What it doesn’t benefit is most white men, or white men generally. Still less does it benefit men who are not white, or whites who are not men.

    So glad you recognize that. Off you go to the pro-feminist, pro-civil rights end of the discussion then.

    I’ve always been at the civil rights end. As for the pro-feminist side, well I notice that you are the only feminist who has agreed with me on this point, or even attempted to address it. Over at Alas, All I see from feminists is the same “You want to hang onto your privilege” and “You benefit from racism and sexism.” rhetoric as that which prompted this post, over and over again. I’m certainly not pro that.

    While life, the world knowledge base, and the economy in general are not zero sum games, there are many zero-sum games involved in each of the above. For example, white men have a definite edge when it comes to getting jobs, grants, etc. This is a well described phenomenon.

    So why keep on describing it? Why not start describing the mechanisms by which these prejudices harm nearly everyone instead?

    Subconcious–and concious–prejudice, early training, and expectations give men a large advantage in such competitions. It’s going to be hard to convince them to give that up in return for a theoretical benefit from “a larger cake”.

    It will be, if you keep telling them they benefit from it.

    Implementing social changes that would lead to actual equality would be even harder, since they would have initial costs. Do you have a proposal for making such social changes?

    I don’t advocate equality; I advocate fairness. if PsOC or men are being unfairly targetted by police stop and search tactics, then you could bring about equality by unfairly targetting whites and women. Me, I’ll go for a solution that decreases unfairness every time.

    I don’t pretend to have a solution to problems that have taxed greater minds than mine. I remain convinced that feminist blame-rhetoric is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Edited as per update 2 above.

    Comment by Daran — June 28, 2006 @ 3:42 am | Reply

  15. Amp wrote “If you’re suggesting an equivalence between how blacks are abused by cops, and the alleged abuse of white men by cops, then that implies a total lack of understanding of how pervasive and abusive cops are towards racial minorities, especially blacks. (At least, in the US).”

    I do not get why you are suggesting that I have said this, other than to try and shut down the discussion by implying that I am racist!

    I make it clear in my post that I feel that there is racism within the system of Stop and Searches, but like Darren, I would attribute it more to an attitude of individual officers and their own prejudices. This does not change the fact that it is disgusting and needs to be eliminated. I also do feel that race relations in the UK and US may have some differences

    I have only compared white men to black men as a comparison, in relation to Statistics and how they are used.

    I was actually comparing men and women not BME and white

    When they’re statistical difference that disadvantages women or BME (Black Minority Ethnic) People, those stats are used to show discrimination or at the least start a discussion on the subject.

    But then when you have a massive statistical difference, such as the Stop and Search figures that show a disadvantage between men and women of any colour it is either ignored or we have individuals like you trying to explain this difference away.

    You talk about that it could be a class thing, but class consists all races and all genders, so if the police are targeting individuals based on class, again the male and female Stop and Searches should be the same.

    Then you go onto, that men commit more violent crime. I do not feel that this is relevant to Stop and Searches as they are not about stopping violent crime.

    And as I have stated early if police in their overall policing are targeting males massively more than female, and the overall attitude is men=violent, they are always going to catch more men, just the same as when police disportunatly target BME people then the racists say “look the figures show they are more likely to be criminals”

    Feminism claims that women are oppressed in our patriarchal culture. Surely in all cases where a group is oppressed the tools of the state are used to keep this oppression in place, Tools of the State such as the police. So why in our oppressive culture on women do the tools of the state give them a free ride, in terms of them targeting them? I would have thought that in a society that oppresses women they would be the ones targeted by the police.

    Not one of my female friends has ever been Stop and Searched, all my male friends have including me twice.

    Comment by Wookie — June 28, 2006 @ 4:21 am | Reply

  16. Piny explains the contradiction by saying that men are unable to perceive/comprehend the enormous benefit they would gain by having a non-privileged world. Yeah, that’s persuasive.

    Comment by Robert — June 28, 2006 @ 4:24 am | Reply

  17. Just noticed your amendment regarding the use of POC,

    You will have noticed that I have used the term BME (Black Minority Ethnic) which is the term we use within the Voluntary sector in the UK.

    Comment by Wookie — June 28, 2006 @ 5:28 am | Reply

  18. Yeah, that’s persuasive.

    What you lack in a logical rebuttal, you attempt to make up for in snideness.

    Comment by Ampersand — June 28, 2006 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  19. Amp, what’s the logical rebuttal to “men are stupid”?

    Comment by Robert — June 28, 2006 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  20. “Men are stupid” is not the argument that was made, Robert.

    [Edited by Amp to delete needless snark, which was really just put in there because I’m having an aggrivating day at the drawing board.]

    Comment by Ampersand — June 28, 2006 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  21. Piny argues that men’s interest in the current system is “overwhelmed by a larger calculus they aren’t paying any attention to”. I suppose he could be arguing that men are inattentive or unperceptive, but “stupid” would seem to be the right word – too dumb to see what’s good for us.

    Comment by Robert — June 28, 2006 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  22. However not suffering as much as another person can hardly be considered a “benefit”. It’s a smaller disbenefit.

    Exactly. This is a very important point. What I understand “privilege” to be is some kind of advantage someone has, which they have no right to have. Hence, it doesn’t make much sense to say that men are “privileged” because they are less likely to be raped than women. That would imply that men’s lower chance of being raped is some kind of advantage they are not entitled to. In reality, everyone is entitled to not be raped, so absence of rape is not a “privilege” as I understand the word.

    I like my understanding of the word privilege (advantages that one is not entitled to), because it makes clear why it is unjust for one group to be privileged over another. Yet not everyone uses the word “privilege” that way. “Privilege” is often used to describe any difference in position of one group relative to another on some dimension. I will try to illustrate why this definition is fishy to me by comparing two situations:

    (a) The stereotype that males are more intelligent and competent than women, and (b) the fact that females are more likely to experience sexual assault than males. I think these situations are fundamentally different, and cannot be conflated together under the term “male privilege.”

    (a) is what I would call a justifiable case of “male privilege.” Being assumed to be more intelligent and competent solely based on sex is morally and intellectually indefensible, and that view will ascribe advantages to males over females which they are not entitled to.

    (b) is what some people would also call “male privilege,” but I argue that it is not according to my definition of privilege, because everyone is entitled to not be sexually assaulted. What about the “any relative difference in the situations of two groups = privilege” definition that so many feminists/leftists seem to use? I think if we try to apply this definition, we will see that it is lacking.

    First, when feminists/leftists use the word “male privilege,” they assume that it is something morally problematic. Hence, if they say that men getting sexually assaulted less than women is “male privilege,” then they are saying that it is a problem that men get sexually assaulted less than women. In other words, the problem is that it’s unfair that women get sexually assaulted more.

    Yet “unfairness” is not the problem (because that would imply that if we fixed the unfairness by having men be sexually assaulted at the same rate, everything would be fine). The problem is women getting sexually assaulted at all, regardless of how much men do or don’t get sexually assaulted.

    The problem is not the relative difference in positions on some scale of how likely men and women are to be sexually assaulted. The problem is the high absolute position that women are at on that scale. Hence, it is more productive to conceptualize the higher rate of female sexual victimization as “female disadvantage,” rather than as “male privilege/advantage,” because that rate would be a problem even if males were sexually assaulted at the same rate.

    Does this make any sense?

    It could be argued that no feminists actually hold the definition of “privilege,” that I ascribe to them, yet I think it is implicit in their arguments. I can’t think of any other reasons that males being sexually assaulted less than females would be called “male privilege,” except for the ridiculous view that the sexual assault of females directly benefits males, which I think Daran refutes here:

    Even if I am not directly harmed or at risk, anything which directly harms or threatens my non-white and female friends and family is an indirect threat or harm to me.

    Furthermore, the sexual assault of females does harm males collectively by contributing to a wide distrust of male sexuality.

    Comment by Aegis — June 28, 2006 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  23. So glad you recognize that. Off you go to the pro-feminist, pro-civil rights end of the discussion then.

    This was part of my original interest with feminism and civil rights too. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that even the most moderate and humane feminists and “anti-racists” tend to consistently side with the woman-firster, anti-white sentiments coming from their allies, or pretend that these do not exist within their movement (until push comes to shove, when the double standard is exposed).

    Comment by Tuomas — June 30, 2006 @ 12:14 am | Reply

  24. This was part of my original interest with feminism and civil rights too. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that even the most moderate and humane feminists and “anti-racists” tend to consistently side with the woman-firster, anti-white sentiments coming from their allies, or pretend that these do not exist within their movement (until push comes to shove, when the double standard is exposed).

    Same here. This experience has not been universal; there are some feminists who occasionally break the mold (e.g. Ampersand), but they are the exception, not the rule.

    Comment by Aegis — June 30, 2006 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  25. […] “Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices Do white men really benefit from privilege? More on Privilege Selective Service – Privilege part 4   […]

    Pingback by “Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices. « Creative Destruction — September 27, 2006 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

  26. […] for exacerbating the suffering of men. Furthermore, she questions feminist overestimation of the benefits of patriarchy to men and the portrayal of men as patriarchal automatons. hooks is on a roll here. But soon we run […]

    Pingback by Feminist Critics — January 13, 2007 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  27. […] Dianne points out, that “not every immigrant is the classic immigrant from a poor/oppressive country looking […]

    Pingback by Feminist Critics — June 18, 2007 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  28. […] by the “You don’t want to give up your privilege” trope, and the claim that men “benefit”, which only makes sense if privilege is understood so by the person making this comment. (Maia, […]

    Pingback by Feminist Critics — June 18, 2007 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  29. […] and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices Do white men really benefit from privilege? More on Privilege Selective Service – Privilege part […]

    Pingback by Feminist Critics — June 18, 2007 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

  30. […] shouldn’t have.” (Daran, as usual, had an excellent review of the issue in one of his Creative Destruction […]

    Pingback by Female Privilege | Feminist Critics — June 8, 2008 @ 10:31 am | Reply

  31. […] at Feminist Critics points to a creative destruction, and then responds with more than a few articles of Female […]

    Pingback by House of Eratosthenes — July 11, 2008 @ 7:26 am | Reply

  32. […] the group shouldnt have. (Daran, as usual, had an excellent review of the issue in one of his Creative Destruction posts.) I have reservations about the term. I use it here primarily as a rebuttal to those who DO […]

    Pingback by Male privilege vs female privilege - antimisandry.com — September 5, 2008 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  33. I agree with you that exclusion of ‘others’ (non-white guys) from the labour economy, or social services is not really beneficial for those who participate in it. But, there are two problems with what you are saying, from how I see it at least.

    The first is that you are assuming the economy is operating on economic laws which people are merely driven by. This is a bit of a stretch. Why? Very good question, and it’s linked to my second problem with what you are saying. I agree with you inasmuch as assuming that there are economic laws then systemic exclusion does not go towards the greater good, but I disagree that systemic exclusion is a rational kind of thing. So, to answer the why, I would argrue that the market economy is not really a rational arrangement of things- by saying this I mean that it is just one way out of many other possible ways of organizing things. So what I would argue is that both the market economy and the racism/sexism/ ‘anyother’isim which people act upon are made up by them as they act upon the idea. Since these things are made up by the same people (us white guys of some vaguely European ancestry), then the systemic exclusion from the economy benefits us because it defines who we are in opposition to who we are not.

    Although, to be fair, I really liked your entry and it got me thinking. So good job, you are good at what you do.

    Comment by Jake MacKenzie — November 9, 2008 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  34. […] for exacerbating the suffering of men. Furthermore, she questions feminist overestimation of the benefits of patriarchy to men and the portrayal of men as patriarchal automatons. hooks is on a roll here. But soon we run […]

    Pingback by Hugh Ristik: Sleazy Hypocrite? « Lady Raine — March 22, 2010 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  35. […] the group shouldn’t have.” (Daran, as usual, had an excellent review of the issue in one of his Creative Destruction […]

    Pingback by Female Privilege « Geoff's Blog — July 21, 2011 @ 3:32 am | Reply


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