Very few people know what it is to be a feminist. There is this evil, warped connotation attached to the word,that conjures up images of angry women burning their bras and emasculating men at every chance they get. Even with this misguided notion of what it means to truly be a feminist, I proudly proclaim myself to be one every chance I get.
I was a feminist before I knew what the word meant. I was raised the majority of my life by a single mother and I watched her do extraordinary things that from a young age taught me that women are every bit as capable of doing the roles that society tells them are reserved for men. Although I had male role models in my life, the one person who raised me to be a "man" was my mother. It was through her that I learned how to be a provider, a hard worker, a protector and how to run a household, all traits that the patriarchy tells us are only reserved for men.
As I got older I took those lessons and those examples from my mother and applied them to every aspect of my life. Its because of those lessons and those examples that as I got older, I was drawn to the idea of feminism and feminist thought. Its because of those lessons that I began to despise the patriarchy and began to take the unpopular stance that women were every bit as capable as men and should be treated equally.
Although I am a racial minority, the work ethic that my mother instilled in me, never made me see myself as a victim and it also allowed me to beat many odds. Unfortunately, bucking these statistics made me oblivious to how bad the odds are for women in society and how we as men benefit from this subjugation. I first learned about male privilege, when I was in college and I was studying feminist thought. The idea that I received an unearned advantage in life simply because of my gender, was a bad enough idea in concept, but I really didn’t see the affects of it until after I left college.
Once I joined the work force,I began to recognize the subtle effects of male privilege and how it gave me this unfair (still unearned) advantage in the work place. The leadership at all of my places of employment were majority male and as such there were certain unspoken "men’s only" spheres, that I later learned were affectionately called the "boys club." I did not apply for access to the "boy’s club," membership was bestowed upon me simply by way of my gender. Unaware of this I entered this sphere and began to enjoy it. I enjoyed those lunch time conversations about politics and sports, I liked heading out to happy hour with my bosses discussing our new projects over drinks, I didn’t think twice when we met up on the weekend and caught a basketball game or grabbed some beers and brats at the ballpark. I never thought twice about the fact that some of my female colleagues, who were equally as interested in the same activities, were never invited to these events. Eventually at one of these early jobs the idea was floated for me to apply for a promotion. On paper, I was a dynamite candidate for this job and I wasn’t surprised when I received the position. It never once crossed my mind that the same people in the upper echelon of the company, were the same people who were members of the “boy’s club.” It never occurred to me that I being a member of the club afforded me the opportunity to discuss ideas and sell myself to the power structure much more than my female counterparts. Not only was I an active participant in the very patriarchy I railed against, i was benefiting from that system.
So why do I hate my male privilege?
Being aware of my male privilege does not make me feel inadequate or insecure about my abilities. I still know that my abilities and work ethic (thanks mom), will open doors. That is not the reason I despise the privilege I get from having both an x and a y chromosome. The main reason, I despise this advantage is because of my younger sister.
When my sister first went to college she told me that I was a role model to her. She told me that growing up, I always set an example for her to follow and that she was proud of my success in college and in my career. How can I as her older brother tell her that even if she works as hard as I do, she may never achieve the same levels of success that I do? How can I tell my younger sister that, all things being equal, if we do the same job she will only make 77 cents for every dollar I make?
If you ask me why I hate my male privilege, my answers to you will be simple. I have a younger sister and I may be a father to a daughter someday. I don’t want to bring them up in a world that places more value on their male counterparts. I also don’t want to provide them with a world in which they have a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted and that their attacker has the privilege of having a 90 percent chance of never seeing any jail time. I hate my male privilege because it allows rape culture, wage disparity and gender inequality to exist. I hate my male privilege and I want to do everything I can to make sure my sister and her generation live in a world where it no longer exist.