On Female Privilege

You mention male privilege in a blog post, and it’s inevitable: Someone else (usually male) will start asking about female privilege. If men have privilege, don’t women have privilege too? And does that undercut the idea of male privilege as a type of gender subordination which is built into society? (Because, the implication goes, we all have privilege — and so feminists should stop complaining about male privilege.)

And, so, predictably, some critics of feminism, “men’s rights” blogs, and the like have assembled lengthy lists of female privilege. (Women get their dates paid for — it isn’t fair!) And it’s true that there are areas where, taken on a stand-alone basis, male and female treatment appears to favor women. As we’ll see, I don’t think these areas really provide an analogue to male privilege.

We’ll start with the obvious, descriptive matter: Some areas exist in which women have some advantages. For one obvious example, some bars offer free drinks to women on some evenings. (Ladies night.) Looked at in isolation, these could be viewed as areas of female privilege. However, in context, it seems evident that this apparent female privilege fills one of two roles.

First, in many cases, the alleged privilege is actually a thinly disguised direct benefit to men. Why do women get free drinks on Thursday nights? Because many men see women as sexual objects. And so the apparent female privilege there is actually a smoke screen, to conceal the fact that women are being objectified and held out as bait to attract men to the bar, a script which is built on assumptions about male earning power, and norms of sexual interaction which cast men as subjects and women as objects. Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon notes how this plays out:

The women of New York get to continue to enjoy “Ladies Night” specials, thanks to a judge who earlier this week struck down a lawsuit alleging that attempts to attract chicks with discounted drinks are unconstitutional. It’s a decision plenty will no doubt be toasting tonight — but I fail to see this as a victory for femalekind.

In the past, judges have ruled in similar cases across the country that “Ladies Nights” are A-OK. The legal argument is one thing — and a very complicated thing at that — but just how okay is it politically and philosophically?

Clubs promote drink discounts to attract more women — because that means more men will show up. I believe the technical term for this is: Sex sells.

Commenter allgoodtees makes a similar point in an excellent comment:

Just about anything that can be put forth as so-called female privilege has roots in misogyny.

Commonly Cited Female Privilege: When custody arrangements are made during a divorce, rarely does a woman have to fight for the right to be with her children.

Misogynist Roots: Women have always been considered the primary caretakers of children, and are pressured from every side to do so to the point where men who are observed publicly tending to their own children are often asked if they’re “babysitting” them until their wife gets home. If men and women were equally considered to be caretakers, custody arrangements would more than likely be equally considered.


Commonly Cited Female Privilege: Women can be around large groups of young children and not be suspected of being a sexual predator.

Misogynist Roots: See above; if men and women were equally assumed to be caretakers of children, a man wanting to be involved with childrens’ activities (as anything other than “coach”) more than likely wouldn’t be viewed with suspicion.


This hurts men too, in very detrimental ways.

Commonly Cited Male Issue: Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women.

Misogynist Roots: “Big boys don’t cry”, “Man up” – Expressing emotions is something routinely coded as female (less than), so men are more likely to bottle them up and less likely to seek therapeutic help if bottling them up fails to work. If being emotional were a human thing instead of a woman thing, I’m willing to be those statistics would level out in time.


Commonly Cited Male Issue: Men are sexually assaulted, but there is far less attention paid because they are even less likely to report it than women.

Misogynist Roots: Because sexual assault is overwhelmingly a crime that happens to women at the hands of men, men who are raped have been “made the woman” (less than). Because of this, not only are they less likely to report it, but because of this attitude, they are less likely to be taken seriously by the police.

If men were truly concerned with raising awareness of this issue, the best way to do it would be to form their own organizations and fight for the recognition of this crime. They would seek out funding to form shelters for men who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence instead of routinely coming into discussions of the victimization of women and, politely or otherwise, ask that they be given equal consideration.


I think that covers a few of the bases.

It’s a point that has been made before on feminist blogs, and I agree entirely. It’s often the case that alleged female privilege merely repackages male privilege; the alleged benefits to women are extremely limited and subject to caveats, and don’t really help women very much.

I’ll go further, though, because I don’t think that all instances of female privilege are so directly linked to patriarchy. I think it’s possible that some instances of female privilege actually do award some benefits to women, without a direct and immediate tie to male privilege. That is, I think that in some cases, we could say that female privilege is “real.” But, as I’ll explain, I think those cases are probably even more pernicious.

Let’s take an asserted case of female privilege — for instance, draft immunity — and assume arguendo that it is a real instance of privilege. (I realize there are arguments that this is not a real privilege, but let’s assume it is for the moment.) Why would a real female privilege exist in society, and what might it mean?

First, an instance of female privilege would have significant potential masking effects on male privilege. There are hundreds of examples of minor societal norms — men paying for the date, men taking the combat roles in the military — which potentially give a small tangible benefit to women. These little trifles may create a perception that privilege is available to everyone: “Men get some privileges, and women get others. Hey, I guess it’s all just a wash!”

So the first negative consequence of a “real” female privilege would be to muddy or blunt arguments about male privilege. (And we’ve seen it happen, on the recent male privilege post.) This would be an incredibly misleading perception, because male privilege is the real prize, and any female privilege (such as it is) is a ragtag collection of shitty consolation prizes. Women don’t get to be CEO or President or Senator or general — but hey, they get their dinner paid for on that date. Go, female privilege! And yet the existence of any potential privilege can be a distraction from the reality that every important real privilege is reserved for men.

So in fact, a “real” female privilege could be even more pernicious than an obvious false female privilege (like Ladies Night), because it could have this masking effect.

It doesn’t stop there, though. I think there’s an even worse effect, which is the real dark side of female privilege: Female privilege (or the perception of it) is the primary reason used to convince women to buy in to and support the patriarchal system.

If women as a group truly felt like they got nothing from the patriarchy, there would be revolution in the streets. Women would not stand for a system that was stacked 100 to 0. But when it’s stacked 90 to 10, suddenly there’s the possibility that women will start to feel _ownership_ of their small plot of land. (Commenter PrometheeFeu compared it to a caste system, and that’s a great comparison. If society can convince the subordinated group that they’re lucky and blessed to have the special caste privileges of the lower caste, they’re much less likely to fight the system.)

Does it work? Frighteningly well. Because it turns out that many women don’t support feminism or gender equality. In fact, they’re often the most active voices against equality. Who opposed the ERA? Phyllis Schlafly, that’s who — a woman, and tens of thousands of other women who she mobilized. Fast forward thirty years, and the same struggle plays out, as a surprisingly large number of women today decide that they would rather not be feminists.

Why do women fight against gender equality? There are a variety of reasons; but if you spend any time reading Phyllis Schlafly or Helen Andelin or their blog successors today, it seems clear that many women believe that feminism or gender equality will undermine their special role as women. That is, they are attached to the benefits that their patriarchy-provided role provides — a type of cultural validation for some women who accept existing gender norms — and they don’t want feminists to take that away.

This desperate attempt to retain the perceived benefits of female privilege drives much of the (shockingly common) anti-feminist women’s writing. (And given the overall power structure, it’s easy to understand the desperation that drives that kind of writing. Members of subordinated groups may be understandably desperate to hang on to the few benefits that they do have — the things that they see as privilege.)

I have to think it would be different if we were selecting rights from behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance. Door number one is membership in a group with a 90%+ chance of being on the Supreme Court, a 100% chance of being President, a 90% chance of being CEO or major business leader, an overwhelming majority in generals and scientists and the wealthy and powerful. Door number two is membership in a group that gets free drinks on Thursday, draft immunity, occasional compliments about being pretty, and affirmation and validation about the importance of the feminine role. No one in their right mind would choose Door Number Two.

But that’s not how it goes. Instead, women are given a bundle of disadvantage at birth, with a few shiny trinkets thrown in, and then patriarchal institutions tell those women, “your feminine role as women is so special.” And many women — especially women who don’t work or go to school, and so may lack some other common avenues of validation — buy into that idea. And like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, they will then fight to the death against their own liberation.

Female privilege, if it exists, is a ragtag combination of consolation prizes to keep the women quiet and content in a system which subordinates them. Real power remains in the patriarchal power structure. The existence of possible female privilege in areas like the draft doesn’t disprove this; the pitifulness of female privilege simply reinforces the original point.

Meanwhile, female “privilege” is employed as a tool to keep women from challenging their own subordination. And it’s frighteningly effective.

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56 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Looks like we were typing at the same time, but I just left a comment (#37) to your previous post to the effect that it seems simplistic or even wrong to say that the greater likelihood of women being granted custody of children “has its roots in misogyny.” (I avoid calling this a “privilege,” however.)

  2. allgoodtees says:


    Women being awarded custody of children “by default” in divorce is one of the supposed privileges most commonly cited by men who insist have it so much worse when it comes to sexism. Second only to the vast anecdatabase of false rape accusations, it’s one of the first things to be brought up to discount any discussion of male privilege.

  3. A. Gerapdt says:

    I don’t think you and the commentator you praise know what misogyny means. It means a hatred of women. What do any of these examples have to do with hating women? And who are the haters? And how do you know they are motivated by hatred? And is the suggestion that women who don’t support radical feminism are somehow also engaged in hating women? (Or hating themselves maybe?) Your claims would be much more powerful if they used words accurately and if they reflected some sense of proportion.

  4. Lindsay Park says:

    Brilliant and insightful. Thanks for this excellent write up.

  5. AYY says:

    I don’t understand what you think is wrong with ladies’ night. The lady gets free drinks, and a larger selection of male potential companions than she would get by staying at home. How’s this any different from any other setting where men and women go to meet?

    I also don’t understand what you mean by saying she’s being objectified–if she doesn’t bring something to the table she won’t be getting much in the way of male companionship–or for that matter what’s wrong with being dangled out as the bait. After all she wouldn’t go if she didn’t want to. Doesn’t she have the right to do so? She just might think she knows better as to what’s in her interests than the feminists do.

    As for women not getting to be CEO, or President, or senator, your state has two female senators. The female candidate in a neighboring state lost to a white male who was backed by liberals. A female CEO ran for governor of your state, but she lost to that tool of the patriarchy, Jerry Brown. As for becoming President, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann poll very well with white males, but not so well with feminists.

    As for the comment you quote, if women are caretakers of children it means that women socialize boys, and thereby have power over men. They (as a group) might be happier doing that than being CEO”s, or President.

  6. Milo says:

    The ordinary rank-and-file man, unlike the ordinary woman, is obligated to serve in the military if called, far more likely to go to prison, and virtually certain to have a 10 to 20 percent shorter lifespan.

    Even so, they probably have it better than women, but it should be possible to recognize the disadvantages of women without making light of the disadvantages of men. It’s not a competition.

  7. allgoodtees says:

    @A. Gerapdt

    What do any of these examples have to do with hating women? And who are the haters? And how do you know they are motivated by hatred?

    What else would you call the idea that our culture doesn’t in fact value women as anything but mothers and sexual outlets?

    Who else would get so angry at women speaking out against that prevailing attitude that they’d try to derail a conversation about it into taxonomy (as another dude also tried in the last post)?

    Why else would men get so angry at the idea of a truly equal society if they didn’t see women as lesser not-men creatures that should be happy with the value conferred upon them by men?

    And is the suggestion that women who don’t support radical feminism are somehow also engaged in hating women?

    This isn’t a radical feminist opinion, the idea that women are people and should be respected as such whether or not you agree with us.

    People that don’t support feminism are usually unaware that they’re perpetuating a system that treats women as lesser creatures than men – they’re unaware because it doesn’t affect them. Once they are made aware of the ways women are treated in today’s world and then don’t support the idea of equality, including calling out other men when they see these attitudes? That’s when they’re actively engaged in keeping women “in their place”, especially when they come to blogs and message boards that discuss feminism and try to claim that their points would reach so much more people if they would just try harder to make sense.

    It’s not that women aren’t making sense. Men just don’t like what they’re hearing.



    I’m not touching the Ladies Night thing because the very idea that free drinks for women (ie, diminished capacity for consent) is one of the better way to get men to come to a bar nauseates me.

    As for women not getting to be CEO, or President, or senator, your state has two female senators.

    The percentage of women in political power is pitifully small.

    The percentage of women in corporate power is also pitifully small.

    Your reasons for that are…women aren’t trying hard enough? As opposed to any woman wanting to get close to that brass ring have to run a gauntlet of sexual harassment, claims that she slept her way to power, and demands, in jest or seriousness, that she should get back into the kitchen where she’d obviously be happier?

    Because that seems to be crux of it:

    if women are caretakers of children it means that women socialize boys, and thereby have power over men. They (as a group) might be happier doing that than being CEO”s, or President.

    Get back to the roles we allow you, ladies, until we need you for more sex.

    This isn’t about gaining power over men. It never has been. It’s about wanting the same things, and having to fight long and hard for the same things that are at present only the birthright of men.

    It’s about wanting control over what happens to my body.

    It’s about wanting the default state of sexual consent to be “NO” instead of “just get a few drinks in her and nobody will believe her if she ‘cries’ rape”.

    It’s about wanting to walk down the street without being reminded with every catcall and grope that, once I step outside, I’m only there because men want something to look at/touch.

    It’s about being given entire swaths of advice on how not to “get raped” as if it’s a pothole I can just avoid if I do the “right” things, and any attempt by women to tell men not to rape me is met with this wall of resistance at the idea of men changing their behavior to let women feel safe.

    That would make me even happier than being CEO or President. And, I’m willing to bet, it would make a lot of women happier as well.

  8. allgoodtees says:


    The ordinary rank-and-file man, unlike the ordinary woman, is obligated to serve in the military if called

    The average woman in the military, particularly if deployed in a combat zone, is more likely to be raped by her peers than be injured in her service.

    Women aren’t drafted because women aren’t viewed as capable soldiers. Women aren’t allowed to serve in certain areas because apparently their very presence would be a distraction to the men who also serve.

    I would gladly sign up for the Selective Service if it meant that men who use the draft as a way to deny women equal rights would then fight for equality.

    far more likely to go to prison

    Men are the ones who commit the majority of crimes where jail time is the penalty.

    and virtually certain to have a 10 to 20 percent shorter lifespan.

    Men are the ones employed in more dangerous occupations and serving in combat.

    You’re right, this isn’t a competition. So instead of coming to a blog post about the idea of “female privilege” only seems to keep women from pursuing equality and talking about how men have it worse, why not listen to womens’ experience and understand that by focusing on women, it’s not taking anything away from men?

  9. Brett Bellmore says:

    And then just as inevitably, some feminist will come along and tendentiously ‘explain’ why nothing that looks like a female privilege could ever actually be such, because women are the oppressed, and nothing that looks like a privilege is really one, unless you’re on top.

    Sounds like nothing so much as a person who doesn’t want to deal with the complexity of the real world, where hardly anything is black and white. Where social institutions which treat men and women differently sometimes do so to the advantage of men, but also sometimes to the advantage of women.

    Here’s the alternative spin: Long ago we had a patriarchal culture, where women were protected in a variety of ways, but also held down. Over the years, women managed to change that to a large extent, and are not held down to nearly the same extent, if at all. But they kept the protections, anyway.

    Resulting in a society where women can run for President, AND not be drafted and sent to be shot at. A society where women can unilaterally force a divorce, AND still walk off with the children and alimony. A society where a woman can enjoy one night stands, AND cry rape afterwards if they feel like it. Even lie about using birth control, AND then demand child support.

    A society where the average guy, who’s never going to be a CEO, has to tread carefully around women, who have equal rights, but kept all the benefits that used to go along with being second class citizens.

    And where feminists must deny all this, because they need the outrage to fuel their cause, and a nuanced understanding of the situation might damp the outrage, and even lead to demands that women give up some of their, yes, privileges.

  10. A. Gerapdt says:

    “What else would you call the idea that our culture doesn’t in fact value women as anything but mothers and sexual outlets?”
    Again, who is doing the hating? Culture? Culture can’t hate. (I don’t know what you mean by “the idea” — whose idea? yours?) You haven’t shown why any of these examples represent misogyny. If you can’t, it would be wise to drop the assertion.

  11. allgoodtees says:

    @A. Gerapdt:

    A culture that only values women as sex objects and mothers and claims equality is “special treatment” clearly hates women, especially women who question their treatment at the hands of this culture.

    Men who get angry at the idea of women speaking out against the status quo (which marginalizes them and privileges men) and pursuing equality hate women.

    Why would men get this angry? Because if women gained the equality they’re seeking, men would lose the privilege of being able to treat them as “less than” or as not-men (and thus undeserving of basic human decency) – and they hate that.

    Some women hate the idea too, because, as was stated above, they would lose the only status that men have granted them and told them they should value. That’s a scary prospect, because to step out of that role means that they’d face the same derision, scorn and threats that feminists get when they speak up.

    When men stop hating women and trying to relegate them to positions that wouldn’t threaten their privilege, then maybe progress can be made. The fact that you’re demanding I meet your criteria regarding the word “misogyny” before you’ll deign to consider the blog post and its assertions tells me that I’m done engaging with you.

  12. PrometheeFeu says:

    @Kaimipono D. Wenger:

    I broadly agree that one effect of such female privileges no matter how small they are is to mollify activists. However, your language leads me to believe there is some intentionality involved in creating these privileges. Am I reading that right? If so, whom do you perceive as being the bearer of that intention? (Full disclosure: I have my bias as a methodological individualist and so I may simply be reading a metaphor too literally.)

  13. A.J. Sutter says:

    @allgoodtees#2: Thanks. I understood this. A point made in my referenced comment, though, was that I don’t necessarily share in this attitude, and refrain from calling it a privilege. The issue I raised, to which you have responded in this thread, was the aptness of “misogyny.”

    @A. Gerapdt#3: I thought so too, but apparently sweeping generalities about what “men” think are deemed far more probative than nuance in this discussion.

  14. allgoodtees says:


    apparently sweeping generalities about what “men” think are deemed far more probative than nuance in this discussion.

    Then I guess I’ll just bow out and let the men have a more academic and nuanced discussion about this without my emotional reactions clouding the issue. Just remember, you have the privilege of having that discussion about womens’ real lives and experiences in such an abstract way, and can then return to your existence as if nothing happened.

  15. Alex Trenton says:

    “Women don’t get to be CEO or President or Senator or general — but hey, they get their dinner paid for on that date.”

    You have to balance this with: women don’t get to be drafted and shot at, they don’t get to serve on death row, they don’t make up 95% of the prisoners, they don’t make up nearly as many of the homeless and mentally retarded, they mostly don’t work in jobs where 90% of the on-job deaths occur.

    The crucial fact you miss is that men are more risky than women are. Put bluntly, more men than women take the risks and personal sacrifice of trying to rise to the top of business and government (two realms that men created in the first place), while more men than women also take the risks of committing crimes, using drugs, getting in fights, working dangerous jobs, etc. This means that there are more men at the top, yes, but also more men at the bottom.

    Life is complex. Don’t try to rewrite all of human culture as “men being mean.”

  16. Kaimi says:

    Oh, joy. The defenders of embattled masculinity have arrived.

    You have all convinced me. The real issue is that society doesn’t give sufficient advantage to men. I guess the feminists can pack up and go home now.

    A decade ago, I sat in constitutional law as the class discussed the nuances of some 14th Amendment case involving discrimination. Several white students wanted to push hard on the idea that equality, and the 14th Amendment, and the 64 Act, all meant that affirmative action was bad. The class kicked around theoretical issues for five or ten minutes. And then, one of the few African-American students in class raised his hand, and said: “The 64 Act wasn’t put in place because white people weren’t getting jobs.”

    Subordination matters.

    Take a look at this list. Read down the names. Sheldon. Richard. Daniel. Anthony.

    (No, the list is not entirely male. 12 out of 500 are women.) Or this list. Or this article. Or this one.

    Goodness. It’s tough out there for a man.

  17. PrometheeFeu, I think that Danielle’s earlier post (which started the whole conversation) explains pretty well that not all discrimination is the result of active malice. It can be unintentional. It can be the result of carelessness or oversight.

    No, I don’t think that the men of the world have a Misogyny Council every other Thursday where they fiendishly plot ways in which they can subordinate women.

    But a lot of men, out of nothing more than typical individual cost-benefit assessments, are willing to use structures that subordinate women. Why wouldn’t they?

  18. Brett Bellmore says:

    And women theoretically devoted to equality are quite ok with women being more equal than men in a number of areas, like divorce law, or the weight of testimony in rape accusations. We’re none of us angels, here.

  19. Orin Kerr says:


    I am a bit puzzled by your example of the proper interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in your law school class a decade ago.

    As I understand it, the debate is over the proper level of generality of the prohibition on “equal protection of the laws.” Do you interpret it as requiring a general principle of non-discrimination, or as only requiring a principle of non-discrimination against certain groups based on their historical treatment?

    Given that debate, which is what I assume you were debating in class, I don’t know why the student comment about the purpose behind the ’64 act is relevant. How does that comment shed light on the proper level of generality in interpreting the 14th Amendment?

  20. Alex Trenton says:

    OK, Kaimi, now answer my point: I could provide similar lists of death row inmates, firefighters killed on the job, homeless people (mostly men), etc.

    What’s so hard to grasp about the fact (undeniable) that men as a class are more variable than women are? More men at the top, more men at the bottom.

    And if you really want to look at who is privileged in society, look at all those CEOs’ wives. They get to enjoy vast amounts of money while the CEOs are working 80 hours a week.

  21. Alex Trenton says:

    “Just about anything that can be put forth as so-called female privilege has roots in misogyny.”

    That is the essence of unscientific thinking. It’s completely unfalsifiable: no matter how disadvantaged men might seem, someone with an ax to grind can always come up with an inventive theory by which it’s really men that are being privileged. (“Too many men on death row? That’s rooted in misogynystic beliefs that men are more responsible for their actions than women are.” Never mind that it’s not exactly a privilege to be killed.)

  22. allgoodtees says:


    No-fault divorce protects domestic violence victims, regardless of gender, from having to prove allegations of abuse to a court before they’re allowed to legally separate from their partner.

    No-fault divorce can be petitioned by either party.

    Studies have shown a correlation between adopting no-fault divorce and a decline in domestic violence rates and the rates of female suicides with very little change in actual divorce rates overall.

    So one could argue that the specific female ‘privilege’ gained from no-fault divorces is to be able to escape much more easily from a controlling abuser. Women aren’t ‘more equal’, just more able to escape without having to prove to a judge they have reason to be afraid and want out.

    That is, if her husband doesn’t kill her, as is frighteningly common if a woman tries to leave an abusive relationship.

    I won’t even get started on rape and what women have to go through to even get the legal system to pay attention (see above comment regarding the supposed anecdata that men’s rights advocates cite regarding false rape accusations).

  23. dankrist says:

    This post was awesome, Kaimi, and explained excellently a subject that can be very difficult to dissect.

    Why is there so much dedication and fervor by some of you to deny male privilege? When it’s been stated that no one blames you as an individual for a socioeconomic structure you didn’t design? Why do you want to defend a system that oppresses women? Is it because you personally believe women are less than men and men deserve they’re superior position? Because any other explanation does not make sense to me.

    Brett, you said “and nothing that looks like a privilege is really one, unless you’re on top.” And I know you disagree with this, but actually, it’s correct. Kaimi and allgoodtees have both done a great job of parsing out why – but for some reason you don’t want to listen. Your comments suggest that you aren’t interested in working towards women’s equality because in 3 out of 100 situations you see them as having a “privilege.” Doesn’t that seem ridiculous to you? You deep resentment of women having those 3 while you have the other 97?

    And, this is a bit of an aside, but I would really appreciate it if you stopped referring to the way women are treated when they make accusations of rape as an example of their privilege. First of all, the majority of rapes go unreported and the number of false rape accusations made are statistically much lower than false reporting of almost any other crime. Second, women’s testimony in trial for rape does not have more weight than the man’s. Often it has less after she is subjected to questions about what she was wearing, how often she’s had sex in the past, whether she said yes to this particular man in the past, etc. It really goes on and on, though none of these things are related to the criminal issue of whether, in this instance, she was forced to participate in sex acts against her will. So stop with this. It’s a red herring.

    And no, feminists are not ok with women “being more equal than men.” Feminists see the way patriarchy an misogyny harm men along with women and want that to end as well.

  24. allgoodtees says:

    @Alex Trenton

    That is the essence of unscientific thinking.

    Careful, true colors are showing.

    Men = Capable of breaking this down scientifically (logical, reasonable)

    Women = Someone with an axe to grind (overemotional, irrational, incapable of such detachment)

    Men can talk about this in abstract, detached, observational ways because they are not the ones being marginalized by the attitudes they’re discussing. Asking women to set aside their emotions (ie, look at this like the men do, dear, and you’ll understand) is impossible, because it’s their life you’re discussing, and the ways these attitudes impact their life.

  25. Alex Trenton says:

    Kaimi has just as much of an ax to grind, so stop with the silly attempt to paint my comment as somehow directed against you as a woman (if you in fact are one).

    Moreover, it’s not marginalizing anyone to point out that if you think about the whole picture, neither gender has an overall advantage. There are ways that some men (and some women) are advantaged, just as there are ways that some men (and some women) are disadvantaged.

    I mean, if you’re keeping score, how many CEO spots occupied by males make up for the fact that death row is all male?

  26. allgoodtees says:

    @Alex Trenton

    So if there were more women on death row, would you then work towards equality? I also don’t see how more men on death row is somehow a burden women should bear.

    See, the whole picture includes a culture that expects men to be macho, be the provider, to take greater physical and occupational risks with which to gain status and support a family (though he won’t be questioned if he chooses to stay single or not have kids), and also includes the expectations that women are to be gentle and nurturing, self-sacrificing and maternal. Which role allows for greater variety? Hint: It’s not women, which your “(undeniable) fact” supports.

    That picture? Hurts men and women in different ways. Men and women both take great risks by speaking out against those roles, let alone trying to step out of them. Feminism is trying to do away with that picture and instead create one in which men and women are equals in risk and in social regard.

    Why fight that? What could men want to protect so badly that they turn “feminist” into a dirty word?

  27. dankrist says:

    No, Alex, the point is that if you look at the whole picture men have the overall advantage. Even accounting for the challenges they face. Even accounting for the privileges you think women have. It seems more like you are the one having trouble seeing the forrest for the trees.

  28. Orin,

    As I recall we were discussing either _Bakke_ or _Adarand_. Class discussion had moved beyond the specifics of the particular case, and on to the meaning of the 64 Act and EQP, because the same general issue comes up in both 64 Act application and EQP application. As you note,

    the debate is over the proper level of generality of the prohibition on “equal protection of the laws.” Do you interpret it as requiring a general principle of non-discrimination, or as only requiring a principle of non-discrimination against certain groups based on their historical treatment?

    If one adopts the broader level of generality, there is no reason why white applicants shouldn’t be able to use EQP to contest affirmative action. And ironically, that’s largely how the Reconstruction amendments get used today — as a tool to advance the education or employment of white individuals. And this ignores the reasons why EQP and the 64 Act were necessary in the first place — because of a history of institutionalized racial subordination targeted at Blacks.

    The same sort of equivalence argument has been offered here, in a lot of comments which argue that “women have privilege too!” And it’s true that if you take the concept of privilege and abstract a level of generality, you can try to do the same.

    And just like applying EQP or the 64 Act to white job applicants, that act of cooptation ignores the context and the original, antisubordination purpose of these ideas.

    Context matters. Remove context, and you can abstract the Wizard of Oz (famously) into the description, “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

  29. Alex Trenton says:

    No, dank. There’s no objective way to analyze the whole picture that way. Some men have great advantages in the worlds of business, government, and sports (all of which, by the way, are arenas that men basically invented).

    Other men have huge disadvantages in being much more likely to die on the job, much more likely to be homeless, much more likely to end up in jail, etc.

    That’s the point: men are more variable. They have more freedom to rise to the top, but they also have much more risk of ending up at the very bottom of society.

    There’s no objective scale on which one can tally up the advantages and disadvantages, and then give a clear “win” to the entire male gender. For every man you can point to who looks advantaged, I’ll point to a man who is in jail and will be unemployable for the rest of his life, or who died on the job.

    * * *

    With greater risk comes greater rewards, but also the possibility of losing everything. Men like risk more than women. That’s all of human culture in two sentences.

  30. And to build on dankrist’s point — the problem with rape is NOT that some men are sometimes prosecuted for it.

  31. hoops says:

    So nice to know that”female privilege” is the new, modern name for keeping women on a pedestal. And here I thought that notion was discarded in 1920. Silly me.

  32. PrometheeFeu says:

    @Kaimipono D. Wenger:

    I think that Alex has made a good point. I’m not sure how your link between misogyny and “female privilege” is falsifiable.

  33. PrometheeFeu says:


    “Men can talk about this in abstract, detached, observational ways because they are not the ones being marginalized by the attitudes they’re discussing. Asking women to set aside their emotions (ie, look at this like the men do, dear, and you’ll understand) is impossible, because it’s their life you’re discussing, and the ways these attitudes impact their life.”

    You are simply wrong. There are many women who feel passionately about this and are able to remain abstract, detached and observational about it. Many people are able to overcome the way a particular topic affects them in order to participate rationally in a discussion. Furthermore, I would not describe the reaction of all men to this series of posts to be detached, abstract and observational.

  34. KN says:

    Female in accord on both points with PF’s comment #33 (and, not coincidentally thinking the benefit of reading these comments is vanishing, though I do appreciate the posts and the experience behind the feelings).

  35. hawkgrrrl says:

    Great post, Kaimi. Well said!

  36. dankrist says:

    Alex, once again, you are the one who is failing to analyse the whole picture. You are selecting a few areas in which men notably struggle. I could do the same thing with women. More women than men are in poverty. Fewer women are likely to receive unemployment insurance payments. More women are victims of domestic abuse. More women are victims of rape. More women are victims of human trafficking. Women are paid less for the same work.

    You are hinging your argument on the idea that the spectrum of success for men is broader and that somehow proves that male privilege doesn’t exist. This is faulty. Men and women both face severe and terrible obstacles. Acknowledging the existence of male privilege doesn’t deny this. And the inability of some men to succeed doesn’t disprove male privilege. In fact, it draws our attention to other forms of privilege like race and class that can be significant achievement obstacles.

    What we see is that women and men are both at the bottom of the social and economic ladder but it is mostly men who are at the top. This isn’t because men like risk more than women (what a grossly reductive contention). It’s because women have been marginalized and oppressed for many many many years. And even now, women have a more difficult time climbing the ladder because of their gender and the privileges that society’s gender assumptions give to men.

    You can’t disprove the existence of a gender bias by pointing to a man on the bottom for every man on the top. For every woman on the top I could point to 20 on the bottom because there are so few women on top. The more accurate comparison, though, is to compare the top to the top for each gender and, as the articles that Kaimi pointed out, along with numerous other studies, all demonstrate the ratio of powerful men to powerful women is far far far from being 1 to 1. This is at least partly attributable to male privilege.

    Historically and presently, men hold the majority of political and economic power. Women have a demonstrably more difficult time inheriting or accessing that power than other men. This is the objective measure by which one can award the “win” to the male gender. It really isn’t that hard.

    Again, I fail to understand your ardent desire to deny male privilege. The only thing correcting our willingness to award unearned social benefits to men (at least the vast majority of them, if you still want to entertain the idea of “female privilege”) and correcting our structural and social subordination of women will do to you is require you and other men to compete equitably with women. This, I think, can only really bother someone if they somehow still believe women are less than they are.

    One last thing, because there’s only so much explaining anyone can handle. It bears repeating that a huge part of male privilege is the ability to ignore its existence.

  37. Alex Trenton says:

    “Historically and presently, men hold the majority of political and economic power. Women have a demonstrably more difficult time inheriting or accessing that power than other men.”

    Well, historically, men have created most of the political and economic power in the first place. Politics and economics are just the names we give to the realms that men have created for themselves. If you name the areas of life that women are more interested in, you’ll find more women being successful there. None of that is any surprise.

    Anyway, do you understand the concept of an average? If you made a graph of “how successful people are with their lives,” women would be bunched up in the middle compared to men, who would have longer tails at both ends. But the average would still be about the same. More men at the top, yes. But more men at the bottom.

  38. allgoodtees says:

    @Alex Trenton

    Well, historically, men have created most of the political and economic power in the first place. Politics and economics are just the names we give to the realms that men have created for themselves.

    The question I keep wanting to ask you is ‘why?’. Why are these realms considered men-only? Why weren’t women involved with men in the creation of politics and economics?

    Focusing just on the USA here, the people that first formed the colonies were religious puritans, which focused on the men being leaders and the women as subservient and submissive to men. The women that attempted to step out of these roles were beaten back into them or accused of being witches or possessed or crazy and punished for these aberrations. The women that stayed in their roles were too busy with managing the homestead and raising the children to get involved in political or economic endeavors. Since they didn’t have the right to own property, there was no capital to start a business. Since they didn’t have the right to vote, they couldn’t participate in any form of government.

    Politics, economics were created by men on the backs of women. It was only when enough women fought for the right to own property and vote (and enough men maybe realized that they should have had these rights to begin with) that it was grudgingly given to them in hopes that they wouldn’t ask for more.

    How in the world can you hold up politics and economics as this great male achievement when women barely had the rights to speak for themselves, let alone participate in the formation of either realm?

    You know what rights women didn’t have until 1993 (when the last of the 50 states removed the exception from the statute)? The right to say no to their husbands when they wanted sex. Even now, more than half of US States consider marital/spousal rape as spousal abuse, battery or assault, not rape.

    Rights that men are given by default women have had to fight for, and still fight for to this day. And the response to that fight is the same now as it was back then – Go back to the roles men have designated for you (poontang/babymaker), be happy with them and shut up. Haven’t we given you enough already? The penalty for continuing to speak up against that response can be found at #mencallmethings and #ThreatoftheDay, and sometimes in the hospitals and cemeteries.

    Tell us again how women have it so good?

  39. Mike says:

    The average woman has more privilege than the average men.

    The best men have more privilege than the best women.

    Alpha males rule everyone.

  40. Orin Kerr says:


    I appreciate the response, but I wonder how much the answer that “context matters” merely restates the conclusion. It seems to me we have a conflict between a general principle and a general principle as limited by the context. So one side says context matters; the other side says the principle matters; and neither is really talking to the other. Or so it seems to me.

  41. Casey says:

    How is a comment as ignorant as Mike’s allowed on here?

  42. Casey,

    Actually, I think it’s a useful reminder of how some folks think. (And it seems to be pretty obviously out of line with reality, almost to the point of self-refuting.)

  43. BL1Y says:

    Men are 17% more likely to be the victim of any violent crime, and 400% more likely to be murdered.

    I’d like to see Kaimi spin this as a male privilege.

  44. BL1Y says:

    allgoodtrees seems to be out of touch with history.

    “Politics, economics were created by men on the backs of women.”

    No, politics and economics were created by the powerful (more often men, but also many women) on the back of the weak, consisting of the vast majority of all men and all women.

    “Rights that men are given by default women have had to fight for”

    This would be true, if you ignore the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, and every other time men had to fight for rights. But, apparently getting rights first is the same as never having to fight for them.

  45. Magnolia says:

    Except for that historical part where the men couldn’t fight for those right without the support of the women and then denied those rights -to- women when they got them and caused women to not only suffer for the first battle but fight the second.

    Apparently, Men totes did it all on their own and completely invited women along to fight with them but they choose to defer and then realized their mistake later.

    Oh wait..that totally didn’t happen.

    Provide stats for your other conversation because frankly the 400% more likely to be murdered sounds hinkey.

  46. Alex Trenton says:

    The thing about these conversations is that just about any “privilege” can be reconstrued as a disadvantage, or vice versa. It all depends on your idiosyncratic preferences. Thus, it’s silly to pretend that you’re finding some objective truth when you whine about privilege.

    Consider the often-noted fact that women are more likely to stay home with children.

    If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the company of children all that much, and who enjoys earning one’s own money and having the admiration one wins through a successful career, then this situation seems like a horrible disadvantage for women and a privilege for men.

    But if you’re the type of person who really likes your children and doesn’t want to have them raised by someone else, and if you happen to enjoy being able to live comfortably without having to work, then this situation seems like a horrible disadvantage for men and a privilege for women. (After all, men are having to go out there and suffer the stresses of the workplace, plus all the time spent working away from family, only to end up on their deathbeds someday wishing they had made more time for their children.)

    There’s no objective “privilege” or “disadvantage” here. It all depends on your personal preferences.

    The problem with most feminists and mens rights advocates is that they are exceedingly self-centered: they find it impossible to imagine that anyone else really does have different preferences from themselves.

  47. BL1Y says:

    Magnolia: I never said that men didn’t receive help from women (Lord knows where we’d be without Abigail Adams), but allgoodtrees did in fact say that men didn’t fight for rights, they’re just defaults that apparently sprang up from the state of nature and landed on our heads.

    For the murder stats, here you go: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/gender.cfm

  48. Valerie says:

    Interesting article. I agree wholeheartedly. Every “privilege” is just to get women to be quiet. Phallic worshipping is the world religion. See Penn State if you need proof.

  49. Magnolia says:

    BLIY frankly, if you want to examine progress…those rights were inevitable. I think that allgoodtee’s might have been implying that. Perhaps her wording was wrong.

    Even historically though, when those rights were accrued, women had to fight twice where men fought once. So while allgoodtee’s might have skipped a few steps…I’ll make the point for her.

    and …really? that’s your female privilege argument? Men are 10 times more likely to commit murder, and 4 times more likely to -be- murdered. And you’re going to use that as an argument that women hold privilege? why is it that men are 10 times more likely to kill? Does the reason that men are ten times more likely to kill have anything to do with the higher rate of men dying by murder? Perhaps gangs which are notoriously sexist? or hell most of the criminal enterprises which aren’t known for their fair and balanced hiring practices play a role in this?

    Oh look! there’s a handy little chart that breaks down relationship to murderer!

    Victim/Offender relationship Male Female
    Total 100.0 % 100.0 %

    Intimate 5.0 % 30.0 %
    Spouse 3.0 18.3
    Ex-spouse 0.2 1.4
    Boyfriend/Girlfriend 1.8 10.4

    Other family 6.8 % 11.8 %
    Parent 1.3 2.8
    Child 2.1 5.4
    Sibling 1.2 0.9
    Other family 2.2 2.8

    Acquaintance/Known 35.3 % 21.8 %
    Neighbor 1.1 1.3
    Employee/er 0.1 0.1
    Friend/Acquaintance 29.4 17.0
    Other Known 4.6 3.4

    Stranger 15.5 % 8.7 %

    Why it looks like the men leap ahead with the acquaintance, friend, and stranger departments! Which would totally support the man being more likely to commit a violent crime and be the victim of one!!

    Please. that argument is completely disingenuous.

    @Alex Trenton. Which is why Feminism supports the idea that if you don’t want to be home with your kid? you don’t..and that if you do and can? you do. Equality for everyone isn’t ignoring different preferences..it’s allowing for -ALL- preferences.

  50. BL1Y says:

    Mangolia: Are you really arguing that the reason men are more likely to be murdered is because they did something or got themselves into some situation that caused it, and so it’s probably their fault?