November 14, 2011

Is There Such A Thing As Female Privilege?

by Roland Hulme

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.