*I should state here that I much prefer to use the words male and female to refer to biological sex and use man and woman to refer to the constructs of gender. For example, I do think that privilege checklists tend to refer to gender even though they are labeled as “male” or “female.” (I do understand that it is just not nearly as cute to say “man privilege checklist.”) I also think that those privileges would tend to address those who identify as cismen or ciswomen and not those who identify as transmen or transwomen, non-conforming, or other gender identities. Because of the constructs of language it is difficult to be perfectly clear at all times. In this piece, I am striving to use language that is commonly used and will use the terms that are most generally used to define them. I’m not altogether happy with that solution, but language is what it is.
Let me start this off by saying that I am not one of “those male chauvinist pigs” who so dislike people pointing at their own privilege that they insist on firing back. First off, I dislike labeling people in negative ways and would never call anyone a chauvinist or a pig, although the little ones (of each) are rather cute in their own ways. I much prefer to get to know people and why they believe what they do. Very often I can find something, even a very small something, that helps to explain logically why they have their beliefs, even if they are completely antithetical to my own. Secondly, and perhaps at least as importantly, I identify as a female and not as a male.
As a female, I know that I’m not fully aware of all the limitations that come with that status. Some of my friends who have experienced life identifying as men and as women tell me that they did not comprehend all the discriminations against women until they experienced another side. I know there’s that, and I know that people need to be made more aware of the discriminations that females face.
But so do all genders, yes, gasp! Even the male gender! And all genders have their own unique privileges, too. As someone who identifies as woman, I would like to stress my own privileges and focus on sharing them with other genders. I actually feel like a terrible person for saying this, but I love my privileges. I think my privileges far outweigh my limitations, and I, personally, would much rather have my privileges than any other gender’s privileges. I, however, think it’s only fair that every other person on the planet be able to also have the privileges that I so enjoy, regardless of what gender they identify with.a
We tend to think to look at just the one dominant (or more obvious?) privilege checklist and ignore that the flip side has its own privileges, too. I can’t speak to the flip side of many privilege checklists because, other than being an oh-so-oppressed woman, I come from a pretty privileged place. However, I did grow up in one of the most misunderstand and smallest ethnic minorities in the U.S. While there were many things that were not a privilege, there are countless other privileges that I had by rights of my minority status and that I would not have gained any other way. Believe me, I know that now that I no longer identify obviously with that minority. Yes, there absolutely were privileges that the dominant culture had and many sought to encourage me to ditch my culture because of those limitations, but there were so many privileges that I also had as part of my identity.b I think, and I can only speak from limited experience as a pretty privileged person, privilege checklists come in pairs, although it is probably true that one list will be longer than another.
I know well that it’s not at all the “done thing” to point out that there is female privilege. I either get shot down or ignored whenever I bring it up, usually from other people who identify as ciswomen. I don’t mind for myself. After all, I’m an adult, and I can take it. I also understand why so many dislike hearing about female privilege. There are many reasons.
Focusing on female privilege could seem like a slap in the face of those courageous trailblazers who have gone before us and continue to work to this day to make life as females better. And many of the privileges that we can now claim were fought for on the back and through the blood and tears of those people who would not take no as a final answer—ever. The way in which they never gave up hope should be recognized, and, I think, recognizing our current privileges actually does that. If we can look at our current female privileges and recognize how far we’ve come with the utmost gratefulness for those who’ve helped, how is that ever a bad thing?c
Another argument against recognizing female privileges comes with the acknowledgement that many will use it in the wrong way. Those who cannot identify as female and have tired of the constant haranguing with male privilege may well be the staunchest advocates for propagating a female privilege checklist. They may well brandish a female privilege checklist like a weapon to keep from changing themselves. However, to rephrase one of my favorite articles on another very controversial issued, just because something will be used wrongly is never a reason to abandon an argument. In this case, just because—I have no doubt—female privilege checklists have and will be used against femalese does not mean that the very real truth of female privilege should be ignored.f
The last reason that female privilege is not readily spoken of may be the hardest one to consider for those of us to whom a female privilege list would apply. Could it be that, just as some males—even the most supportive and introspective males—could find male privilege painful to contemplate, female privilege is also a painful issue to look into? Does it touch at something that we find hard to look at and makes us strike back in indignation? I think any privilege checklist is painful for anyone, those who find themselves as the underdogs but especially for those who realize that they are incredibly privileged. For me, though, just because something is hard is never a reason to avoid it, and, often, the simple act of not avoiding it will make it easier in the long run. Looking at female privilege may be harrowing for some of us. But, I think, the antidote to that ache can be found as we more closely “check our privileges” and muse over and act to share our own privileges with others.
This pointing out of female privileges, though, is important. First of all, the mindset of a privilege checklist considers others besides just the majority voices. While there are strains of feminism that focus on others (think lesbian and women of color feminism), some of it focuses solely on broader women’s issuese. While this broader focus is great and intends to include everyone, I would argue that it leaves out looking at some of the intersections of oppression that some within the group face. For example, the experiences of those who do not identify as cisfemale are largely ignored. Trans* identities would generally not be included in these discussions of supposedly “#YesAllWomen.”g Also, from what I can see, when those whose unique intersectionalities cause them to identify as women and another minority group point out that white, heterosexual, middle class, cisgender, able-bodied, younger women are privileged, comparatively, it is hard for us to respond as we expect men to respond to our remonstrances of male privilege. Looking at other perspectives besides just my own is always so good for me, and I can’t help but think that when anyone does that more it could benefit that person and the world in so many ways.
While it is not the “done thing” to address female privilege in many circles, there are some people who are beginning to point this out in a very kind and “wait a minute” fashion. I firmly believe that it will become more and more the “done thing” for all identities to be cognizant of their own privileges, and by sharing these privilege checklists that I can identify with, I am seeking to join the wave of tomorrow.
Here’s to the future!
This list could seem sexist in itself, but it does display some of the privileges we do have. I so appreciate the effort that went into this quite large list!
Another list, and it is excellent, along with the prelude!
Yet another slant, and I quite like the preamble in this one, too!
A short list but very true.
So many more… because there are so many females who do want to check their own privileges!
aDoes that redeem me from being a bad person at least a little bit? I hope so!
bBy the way, I like to think I wasn’t heavily influenced by people who told me I should leave but made my own choice in my own time and for my own reasons.
cYes, we’ve still got a long way to go. I need to remind myself of that and not settle into apathy, as the people who blazed the trail never did. But it will come, eventually; I will not give up hope.
dPick it out in one of my earlier posts if you like. Sorry, no freebies. It needs background, anyway.
eCome to think of it, I’m sure that male privilege checklists have been used in the same way, too, as wrongful weapons against another sex. That never stopped them from being propagated. I think that “weaponizing” or even applying any privilege checklist to another person is somewhat antithetical to their purpose of bridging boundaries. It would seem to me that privilege checklists are meant to be deeply personal and not directed at another person.
fEven though it might not sound like it, I do believe it is vitally important for people to look at issues that affect women, other than just their privileges. I just also believe that some of us need to be looking at minority issues, too.
gReally, if not actually all women are included, I wonder if a different hashtag might be applicable.
*Now here’s a little non-bonus rant about an issue that is a recurring theme. “Violence against women”—what is that? Don’t get me wrong. I work in a field that focuses on sexual assault and domestic violence. The vast majority of the people we work with do identify as female. But every other gender also faces violence, perhaps not in the same numbers, but any amount of violence is too much. Also, other gender identities don’t always have the same tools and will be mocked or outed if they draw attention to their own violence. Something niggling in my brain also wonders if, and this must come with a stereotype/possibly sexist alert, women have not learned to use manipulation and other kinds of actions that are not necessarily readily defined as violence because of the societal structures within which we exist. In other words, I wonder if women use “violence” in more “approved” and certainly less physically harmful ways sometimes. I also wonder if the violence against women movement is not somewhat lacking in depth in that it does not seem to focus on the issues of super-oppressed women who experience oppression on more than just one level. I would advocate for the usage of the term “violence against anyone,” rather than limiting it to a specific identity. After all, isn’t the goal to end all violence?