Sex & Society » Womens rights; Society » Politics, Politics, Women: "Is There Such A Thing As Female Privilege?"

EdenFantasys Store

Is There Such A Thing As Female Privilege?

Is There Such A Thing As Female Privilege?
  •    
  • Print
  • E-mail
In the sex positive talk space we hear a lot about “male privilege” but rarely — if ever — discuss what privileges women have that men don’t.

  What is female privilege?

For a start, female privilege means, as a woman, you’re likely to live longer. Women on average live 5 to 10 years longer than men. They’re also 40 percent less likely to die from cancer than men and 1,300 percent less likely to die in a workplace accident.

As a woman, you’re also significantly less likely to become homeless, commit suicide or become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Men are far more likely to be victims of violent crime or murder. In fact, men are even the ones most likely to become the victims of domestic violence (among dating couples) — a fact that astonished me when I learned it.

Feminists cite the earning disparity between men and women as an example of male privilege — but look at it from the other direction and you’ll see just as sharp a gender gap. There are nine times as many men in prison than women.

All of these statistics are independent of what feminists call “benevolent sexism” and what male activists call “male disprivilege” — the way society demands men treat women.

Male disprivilege reveals itself in the old tropes – like how a man is still expected to pay for dinner when he’s out on a date with a girl, or hold the door open for her.

More significantly, this is why judges are more likely to award mothers custody of their kids then men, and why men fill the majority of physically demanding, more dangerous manual jobs like construction and armed service.

And while women complain of the expectations society puts on them, men are faced with the same challenges. A woman can embrace a stranger’s child without raising alarm — a man who does so would be considered “creepy.” Two women can crash out after a party in the same bed — or even snuggle — and nobody would question their heterosexuality.

More significantly — and ignoring the fact that all violence should be considered unacceptable — a man is chided for shying away from physical confrontation, yet given the contradictory rule that “you should never hit a woman.”

(Shouldn’t you try to avoid hitting anybody, period?)

Women complain about the way society demands they conform to body standards — but what about the most brutal body standard of all — circumcision?

Millions of boys are brought into this world by having their foreskin brutally torn off — often without anesthetic. Meanwhile, altering a girl’s genitals can land somebody in jail for years (a federal law that applies only to one gender doesn’t seem to support the notion of “equal protection under the law”).

And lets not forget the biggest female privilege of all — the fact that women are born with the ability to grow and give birth to another human being.

They can bear children. They can create life. Feminists can scoff at the concept, but this is a privilege of such mind-boggling significance that it essentially blows everything else I’ve mentioned out of the water.

And I’ve barely scratched the surface.

  Why should we talk about female privilege?

As a community, we need to acknowledge that female privilege exists. It’s real.

In fact, it’s every bit as real as male privilege; yet as a community, we seem reticent to even acknowledge it; and even less likely to talk about it rationally or openly.

I believe one of the reasons that the sex positive community in general (and feminists in particular) doesn’t like to acknowledge “female privilege” is because they believe doing so somehow “cancels out” the inequities created by “male privilege.”
But that’s not true.

And that’s something important — revolutionary, even — that we need to incorporate into the adult discussion about gender and equality.

Men and women are equal, yes – but they’re different; and the fact that female privilege exists doesn’t mean male privilege doesn’t.

The fact is, you can’t line up male privilege and female privilege and expect to connect the dots. They don’t exist like that. Take the female privilege of giving birth, for example — there simply isn’t an equivalent male privilege. That’s why acknowledging one doesn’t eliminate the important of addressing the other.

And even today, many of the perceived “inequalities” created by so-called male-privilege are being addressed — so much so, that the concept of “the patriarchy” might be flipped on its head within our lifetime.

Today, for example, more women graduate college than men. Twice as many women get a post-graduate degree than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to find a job after leaving college and 51 percent of all business and financial professionals are now female.

Women might be a boardroom rarity today; but that will be very different in ten years time. In all other aspects of society, women are already eclipsing men professionally.

Even as recently as 2008, women fared better than their male counterparts in the recession; 30 percent less likely to get laid off. Even with unemployment rates as high as they are currently, women are almost 20 percent less likely to be unemployed than men (and that’s even including those who choose to be. The choice to be a “stay at home mom” without being judged, of course, is another female privilege).

It’s no longer a man’s world, and becoming less and less so every day. When the gender rebalance has happened, the question will be whether feminists will put their money where their mouth is and address female privilege as seriously as they did so-called male privilege.

Our Top Stories Being Recommended on Facebook

Comments

Jezzy  

Yes, some women believe it is a curse because they don't want to have children - SHOCKING ISN'T IT? Yes, it's unfortunate that some cannot adopt (even privileged cis white men such as yourself, since salary is a huge factor in being able to adopt). And you know what? A man only needs a woman in order to have a baby. This isn't a "privilege", it's called "biology". Would you like to go complain to birds about their "bird privilege" because they were born with wings? Your argument makes just about as much sense.

You think this is such a "privilege"? Yes, let's celebrate something that can cause a uterus to collapse, and has killed millions throughout the thousands of years humans have been in existence and continues to do so today. I just can't even comprehend your immense ignorance. You only see women as things to spawn children, and your response reflects this. You obviously never even consider what a woman goes through.

You obviously think those 9 months of carrying a child are all sunshine, baby showers, and balloons, and never think of the discomfort, vomiting, and immense pain that comes with the entire process.

But what am I saying? I'm so glad to have a "privilege" that gives me one more thing to worry about after I'm raped, whether or not I'll even have the right to terminate a fetus of the man who assaulted me. I'm so glad to have the "privilege" to have a part of my body tampered with and controlled, to be forced into pregnancy by abusive boyfriends who will hold the safety of the child over my head should I try to leave, who will force me to have a baby before I'm emotionally and financially ready for one. I'm SO glad that you have pointed out these immense privileges that I, a high and mighty woman, possess over a man, the one who does the controlling in the above situations.

You know what I've noticed? The men who bitch and moan about women having the "privilege" to give birth are the ones who have such awful views and personalities that no one wants to have children with them in the first place. I can only wonder if your senseless banter comes from similar bitterness.

11/21/2011
Niki Nichols  

The ability to give birth is hardly a privilege as you describe it. Not only do you completely disregard the large portions of the female population who suffer from infertility, you also completely ignore the fact that the very fact that we can reproduce has been, and continues to this day to be used as a vehicle to control women.

Case in point: Abortion was illegal until quite recently in our history, and is outright banned in many countries. And despite it being legalized in the states, a woman's right to choose is constantly under attack - abortion and birth control are more expensive than ever before. (I pay 88 dollars a month for the birth control pills my insurance refuses to cover because of the "privilege" of my fertility - meanwhile drugs like viagra are fully covered.) Women's health centers are being stripped of funding and closed left and right. More laws than ever are being passed with the sole intent of controlling women's reproductive rights. Google TRAP laws and get informed.

Giving birth is far from a privilege when you are forced to do so. Are you really suggesting that we should feel privileged that we are coerced, forced, and pressured into giving birth, solely because some people cannot do so?

I could also go into the numerous reports of doctors and nurses outright ignoring the wishes of pregnant women in regards to their medical care, forcing medications which are not remotely medically nessesary and oftentimes harmful to the health of the woman and child in favor of getting the labor over with and the woman out the door as fast as possible.

I could write a book on the fact that you seem to think the fact that lesbian and bisexual women are treated as nothing more than eye candy and sexualized commodities for men to oogle at as some kind of privilege, but I frankly don't have the patience at this point.

Lesbians and bisexuals are treated with such reverence only to the point that they provide sexual excitement for men who are watching - women who don't fit the "lipstick lesbian" category are treated just as terribly as gay men.

11/21/2011
mswyrr  

Dude, I will fucking trade my ability to give birth and longer life span (which won't necessarily happen because of health issues due to lack of medical care) for your male privilege any day of the fucking week. I'd rather be at risk for the kind of violent crimes people like you tend to suffer from then live in rape culture as a woman. You don't even begin to *comprehend* the pain of being a woman in rape culture. It would drive you fucking mad in a matter of days.

The fuck is wrong with you?

11/22/2011
Narcissax  

Niki Nichols: "all of your examples could be switched around and prove precisely the opposite point."
Yes, yes, it could. That however does not mean that the privilege is non-existent. I would not speak of an "opposite point" as it seems that then the two points can negate one another, while the privileges both exist.

Jezzy: "Aw, how cute. You don't get around the internet much, do you darling? Caps lock is often used to show how utterly ridiculous the target is"
Verging off topic here, but I just have to reply. Besides the fact that your tone here is incredibly degrading, you are also wrong. All-caps is the equivalent to shouting or yelling. Search for "netiquette" if you do not believe me.


It's obvious most people here view it from either the male perspective or the female perspective and seem unwilling to view it from the other one. I think a lot of common ground could be reached if people would just be willing to try a different viewpoint or different focus. Perhaps then a lot of (perceived?) misogyny and misandry can be evaded, because they are both too apparent in this discussion.

11/22/2011

Jezzy - the wonderful thing about society is that we are working at making it more equitable. As I mentioned in my article, discussing female privilege doesn't invalidate the concept of male privilege. Things you mention - like access to birth control that is 99% effective, and the right to have an abortion (which is under assault, but which even people you label "misogynists" like myself are fighting to defend) - help give women more control and choice over if, when, how and with whom they have children.

mswyrr - It's a pity that the ability to trade those "abilities" could never happen, because there are many men who would probably take you up on that offer; which perhaps illustrates why what you disregard so easily could be considered a privilege by some. Feminist theory states that many men don't recognize male privilege because they have only ever lived in possession of it. I think your commentary validates the theory that female privilege works in much the same way.

Narcissax - Smart words, as always. I wonder if the sex positive community banned the use of the words "misogyny" and "misandry" for a week whether we'd all suddenly realize we might be on the same side!

11/22/2011
Jezzy  

@Narcissax
Notice the use of the word "often" - I didn't say "always." Trying to put strict labels on "netiquette" is incredibly silly. It's like trying to define the entire internet itself. For instance, in my neck of the internet woods, this gentleman would be eaten alive within 5 minutes of him posting such drivel. Here, it seems that such manspalining is welcome. Considering there are varying degrees of what is tolerable depending on where you go, your attempt to tell me that caps lock is only viewed as one definite thing is ridiculous.

@OP
Yes, let's celebrate things that haven't happened yet, I mean, it's like they've already happened so we can disregard them! We're [not even close to being] out of the recession! Yay! Gays are [still struggling to be] treated as first class citizens like the rest of America! Yay! Come back in another thousand years once women are equal in every sense of the word. Until then, you're lame attempts to say that women have "privilege" are ridiculous. I mean, you can't even respond to my entire comments because I've shut down your argument like a terrible play. Even your response above shows that you have absolutely no intention of dropping this whole privilege thing in terms of biology, and you're trying to tell me that pregnancy is not used as a tool to control women, but the fact that contraception exists means that we're oh-so-privileged. Yes, please, tell me how I'm so privileged that my BC isn't covered by insurance, even if it's medically necessary due to cramps or heavy bleeding (still not seeing you jumping at the chance to have those lovely symptoms. hmm...), but your unnecessary-to-live-comfortably viagra is. Not to mention, when was the last time that a pharmacist refused a man viagra, yet women are sometimes refused birth control because it's assumed that she must be sleeping around if she's on the pill?

Stop making excuses. There is no such thing as female privilege. You need a woman's studies class, and you need it now. Come back when you're not an ignorant misogynist.

11/22/2011
Niki Nichols  

interesting how the OP has chosen to entirely ignore my very valid explanation of precisely why the ability to give birth is FAR from a privilege for women - and in actuality, used as a tool to control women. i guess its easier to just cherry pick facts and ignore those that you have no explanation for.

While I'm at it, I'm quite curious as to where you got the statistic that men are more likely than women to be victims of domestic violence (and really, as a writer you shouldn't need to be reminded how important it is to cite this type of information if you want to be taken seriously). Anyone can become a victim of domestic violence - regardless of gender. However, I simply cannot find any studies that support your statement. In fact, almost every study suggests the exact opposite.

This site has a rundown of some statistics on domestic violence that you may want to get acquainted with: [http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32347]

-The majority (73%) of family violence victims are females: 84% were spousal abuse victims and 86% were victims at the hands of a boyfriend (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005)

In fact, the only portion of the population where men are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence at the hands of their partners is in the homosexual community. In 2003, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or transgender people experienced 6,523 incidents of domestic violence; 44% were men, 36% women and 2% transgender (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2004). Incidentally, those 44% of men were victims of domestic violence at the hands of their MALE partners. What does this have to do with female privilege exactly?

Some more information, if you're still not convinced:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women. The National Crime Victimization Survey consistently finds that no matter who initiates the violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured than are men. ([http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/studyg/domestic.html#6])

And an interesting finding - women are far more likely to be arrested for a single incident of domestic violence than a man, despite there being far more incidents of men perpetrating domestic violence, to the tune of 1 in every 3 female perpetrators being arrested, vs 1 in 10 male perpetrators: [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6100244/Women-more-likely-to-be-victims-of-domestic-violence-but-more-likely-to-be-arrested.html]

11/22/2011
Jun Kaf  

Citing studies by the US Department of Justice on difference between male and female domestic violence rates is USELESS. Up until very recently, the DOJ flat out REFUSED to fund studies on MALE victims of DV. It's a bias that cannot be accepted as legitimate.

Some studies do show male and female levels of DV to be more equal than once believed.
[http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm] - "SUMMARY: This bibliography examines 282 scholarly investigations: 218 empirical studies and 64 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 369,800. "

11/24/2011
redsugar  

Wow this article is such bullsh*t, I don't even know where to start.

12/03/2011
Jaimes  

Nice article, Roland. Yes, there are differences between men and women, and each has their own set of privileges. I don't agree that a woman should be the iron fist of the household, and that husbands and boyfriends are meant to be treated as pets and waiting servants. Unless, of course, y'all have an awesomely kinky s/M thing going on. Then have fun!

The women of my family, while I love and adore their charm, brilliance and confidence, do not treat their SO's as equals. They simple EXPECT their men to do whatever chore, errand, or little favor they ask. They get offended by movies that are obviously made for guys, and they look for anti-feminist sentiments in conversation, so they can stop all discussion dead in its tracks to express why some benign phrase is sexist. It just doesn't make sense to me. My husband, my main main, my partner, should be exactly that: my PARTNER. Not my servant and not some piece of stereotypical scum who is looking for any way he can to hold me down.

My family worries that my husband is controlling and manipulative because I say "please" when I ask for a favor, and just as he jumps up to help me after I ask nicely, I jump up to help him when he asks nicely. It's ridiculous how they treat him, simply because we treat each others as equals, and that I am not obviously in control of every aspect of our lives. We share. Every person, every couple, should be able to lay out their dynamic on their own terms.

Just because I'm female, MUST I identify with feminists? No. Just because he is male, MUST he be against feminism? No. Just because he is male, does that mean he MUST feel guilty because he has a penis, and not the holy, all-knowing vagina? Certainly not.

I feel that in this age where it takes nothing but a few keystrokes to share your complete manifesto with the world, people have become too dependent on being able to accurately label their beliefs in order to feel whole. "I'm a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal", "I am pro-life." "I have very strong faith." "I don't express faith." "I am a feminist."

We are too concerned with being labeled hypocrites if we disagree with any part of our label's mantra or code that we will fight, bicker, blame and flame ANYONE who begs to express a differing opinion.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own beliefs, that deep down we forget they are all just ideas. Ideas can change. Ideas can grow. Ideas can be shared. Beliefs are rigid. They are stagnant through overly precise classification. Beliefs must be preached. Tell me. When you think about the people around you, the people you have a direct impact on, would you rather they describe you as unwavering and unerring in your beliefs, or open-minded and free with the exchange of ideas?

Ideas make people think. Beliefs make people feel. Yes, feelings can be far more intense than thoughts, and I think that is why people will die for their beliefs, but people will compromise, share and explore the farthest extent of ideas. Take a spin of the globe and blindly put your finger down somewhere, and you'll find people willing to kill each other for their beliefs. Look at any hub of technology, of freedom, of prosperity, and you'll find that it began with people who were able to simply share and execute good ideas.

So riddle me this, you who are militant about the negative culture you feel is being placed square on your shoulders, which would you rather spend a lifetime carrying on your shoulders? Something heavy and cumbersome, which is prone to attack and challenge, or something light and free-flowing, that moves and changes with you, helps you grow, can foster intelligent and probing conversations, and doesn't challenge people to rethink how they view the world, but simply offers another perspective without demanding it be accepted?

I don't know about you, and in fact, I would be very interested to hear different IDEAS on the subject, but I prefer to be a woman of logic, of thought; rather than a woman of emotion. If you prefer to be a person of beliefs, and it makes you happy and healthy, and keeps the people around you from harm and judgement, I celebrate you. You are doing it right. You are sharing something you feel, and you are curious about the way others feel, as well. Keep going.

To the Negative Nancy's, who wave your beliefs around like a tribal spear, unwilling to reconsider the way you look at the world, and expect people to agree and prove to you that you have it all right: it already gotten old. It's mean. It's hurtful. And by golly, it's an easy thing to change if you just stop your ravenous hunt for someone that offends your beliefs. Just for just 5 minutes. Stop, take a deep breath, and realize that the anger and wounded, unbending pride just aren't worth a lifetime of negativity.

05/17/2012
Jaimes  

Once again, Roland, I really enjoyed your article. It's nice to read the thoughts of a man who is not ashamed to be a man simply because modern society feels it is his debt to womankind.

By the way, my dear Negative Nancy's, you are freely sharing, some might call it screaming, your opinions about why you feel oppressed in this incredibly free and ever-growing and developing society, whilst forgetting women who are being forced to marry their rapists, 10 year-old girls being forced to wed a 50 or 60 year-old man, women who suffer life-altering or even life-ending scars from acid attacks. You are taking for granted, and even forgetting, women who must cover themselves at all times, never make eye contact with a man who is not their husband, women who must shuffle behind men for fear of physical punishment, and women who must sit idly by as their adulterous husbands loom over them the immediate threat of death should they too err from their marital fidelity.

I suggest we all enjoy the privileges we have, whether they be male or female, because at least we are free to discuss them. We are at least free to have them. We are free to stand up and express our ideas or beliefs, even if it is contrary to popular or doctrine thought. Maybe we can all get behind changing the world for those women I mentioned above, instead of whining about the pressure put on us to wear makeup and constantly diet. I know I am trivializing what you believe is being done wrong, but in comparison with those women I mentioned above, it IS trivial.

05/17/2012
ANewWay  

The best overall set of facts on this issue is Warren Farrell's book, The Myth of Male Power.
Why almost 100% of feminists are violently opposed to having their beliefs challenged is explained by Howard S. Schwartz in, The Revolt of the Primitive and Roots of Political Correctness. Camille Paglia also has described gender politics in articles like "No Law in the Arena," from her book Vamps and Tramps.

05/24/2012
7Miles  

I don't understand why this article has been so passionately attacked. The author never belittled the challenges that women face or said that all women share all of the privileges listed. Just as not all men share all of the privileges associated with men . My overall impression was that despite those challenges us women do have things to be thankful for. For me it was a welcome and much needed reminder.

08/20/2012
  • 2
Total comments: 33

Forum

No discussions yet.

What's Hot

Sexis in your inbox

Keep up on new articles, projects, columns and more