Male Privilege

What does that mean?

My sisters and I sometimes discuss male privilege. Over the course of our own lives as women, we have seen how systems favor the man over the woman. One ongoing theme has been determining acceptable social behavior by people in the workplace. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. Both my sister and I experienced inappropriate sexual advances from men more than once over the course of our careers. Note that this law was passed in 1964. When I was working in an administrative position in a school district in the 90’s, the director of personnel who was in charge of enforcing the district’s sexual harassment policy made direct advances to me. We were both married. His words were: “I’d like to get to know you in every way possible.” There was no mistaking his intention.

Our society, through magazines, televisions, films etc., objectifies women. Our bodies are portrayed as objects of desire. Unconscious and gullible men and boys believe that is all that we are. When I was newly married, my ex-husband used to leave his Playboy magazines lying around. When he went off to work, I’d browse through them and wonder how I could possibly compare to those glossy images. I was nineteen and wondered if this was what a woman had to aspire to in order to win and keep a man. This, once again, was me as a young woman seeing myself through his eyes.

Equal pay for equal work is one valid point of contention. The gender pay gap still exists although according to recent studies, it is less than in previous years. In the film Made in Dagenham (England), taking place in the late sixties, the women had to prove that their labor was skilled labor. They were pretty much ignored and placated by the management of the Ford Motor Company until they went on strike. These women sewed the seats and other leather interior of the car. Their strike shut down the entire production line. They proved their worth. In 1968, the women received 92% of what the men were earning. By 1984, they received 100% of what the men were earning.

While men could advance on a job, women were not given the same opportunities for advancement. If she was young and married, there was the possibility that a woman might get pregnant and her priorities would change, therefore, she was not promoted into a position for which she was qualified. I don’t know if this is true presently…but it was so in the sixties, seventies, eighties and even the nineties.

In a nutshell, “Male privilege refers to the sociological concept that men are automatically granted certain privileges and advantages in politics, society and the workplace based entirely on their gender.” (Greenhaven Publishing) Additionally, a man’s access to these privileges could vary based on how closely he matches his society’s ideal male norm. In my opinion, male privilege is basically a class system. It allows power over…within the male privilege itself, there are layers or levels of power…white male being at the top…discriminating against men of color, men of other gender identification, men with lower educational advantages, men of poverty, etc. Women fall below all of these on the scale.

This favoritism has been a given within a patriarchal system. The underlying belief of man’s superiority and women’s inferiority is systemic and notable throughout societies and cultures.

I asked Daniel “If the world is working for the man, what’s his incentive to change himself or the way that things are?”

Daniel is at a stage in his life where self-awareness is a priority. He values his personal evolution. In his opinion, therein lies the hope for mankind. As people, male and female become more conscious, then large-scale change for the better is possible. But, how do you motivate that in men who see no need for change and don’t care about evolution. They can be the very ones with money and power on this plane at this time.

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A journal writing from November 20, 2015
As a rule, across the world, are men less “evolved” than women? Since they, within each culture and tribe or family system, are typically the privileged ones, does it seem then less necessary for them to evolve? If things are working for them (or seem to be as compared to women), why should they choose change? Evolution? Change often comes because something isn’t working for a person, for a civilization, culture or tribe. Out of necessity. What necessity is forcing the privileged male to change?
So long as women, whose evolution has been different, allow men to rule without consequence, then there can be no immediate growth even in the face of dire circumstances which are denied or minimized or mocked in some way.

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Do you have experiences of male privilege in your own life? Please do share them.

Here and Now and Change

I am here. It is now. Now has challenges. The climate changes and devastations, the ways we’ve been misusing the earth. There is a price to pay. Civil unrest. Political themes and schemes. A pandemic that seems to be ongoing without an obvious resolution.

There are things that bind me to life. There are times when part of me wants to escape. I have no wisdom for others. None. Today looks like winter due to the cast of smoke. I find myself craving winter. Winter like an oasis in a too hot, too fiery, too smoky, too long summer. We’re coming to dread summer in the mountains and in the lowlands of the west coast of California. Carefree times–no more.

How can I impose happiness these days? Where in my psyche is there an understanding of how to be in these very risky, uncertain times? I can’t feign happiness.

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“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

This seemingly opposite quote was coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Translation: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

There are times in our lives when we choose change. They are choice points and there can be an easy flow towards the choices. When I met the man I was to marry, it felt like I was in the flow–grown up, living at home, working at a steady job, meeting a man who wanted to marry me…accepting his proposal, moving away, having children. All of these seemed to be in a natural flow. However, in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t give a great deal of thought to the choices. I followed the strictures of a too restricted childhood. Everything was virtually mapped out for me and I complied without a great deal of thought. So while I made choices, while they seemed natural, in many ways, they weren’t my free choices.

At other times in my life, change was forced upon me it seemed. “Grow or die” sort of imperatives. I can look back and see where I made choices that supported growth. Returning to college in my thirties, taking creative writing classes through a woman’s re-entry program. These were self-empowering choices that helped me to make the next changes in my life. Through the creative writing class, I became enamored of poetry. Poetry became the connecting force to my deepest feelings and desires. This deepening of self-knowing helped me to make the choice to leave my marriage, finally. A change, a leap that I knew I must make.

How are you with change? If it is a guarantee that change is the only constant, why do we fight against it? I suppose it is a fear of the unknown. We have the familiar…it’s like the security of the womb before we’re pushed out into a larger world. What awaits us? We want to know something before we can really know it. This then calls upon our adventuring spirit. The admission of: “I don’t know. I am curious. Let’s find out what’s next.”

Then the second quote, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” One understanding is that yes, change can be thrust upon us by outside circumstances, turbulent times. However, in order to truly go forward, we must meet that change with our own deepest understanding and heart-wisdom. All of this is easier said than done.

I am, you are, we are enigmas to ourselves, aren’t we?