Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Male Privilege and me

Privilege.

Hello, I am a white, straight, male. This means I am the privileged member of the Patriarchy.  When I first started reading feminist blogs the whole Patriarchy thing really pissed me off.  It seemed this whole bugaboo with really bogus standards of existence: “Don’t believe in the Patriarchy? It’s because you are the Patriarchy!” I mean, I’m not sure that there isn’t a conspiracy which that couldn’t be applied to.  “Don’t believe in the Reptilians? It’s because you are one!”  “Don’t believe that Elvis is alive and the truth is being suppressed by a conspiracy? That’s because you are part of the conspiracy.”

Several (male) posters made this argument.  A lot of the responses were vindictive, cruel, and not particularly helpful.  With time, though, I heard some good data.  First of all, that the concept of the Patriarchy is the most misunderstood concept in feminist thought.  The Patriarchy as visualized is bunch of old white dudes with mutton chop side burns and full beards.  They’re these semi-immortals that have been locked in a boardroom since 1885.   They’re wearing old suits, sitting in overstuffed leather chairs.  There’s mounted endangered species everywhere from antelope to zebra.  The guy at the head of the table leans back in his chair and pulls a long drag on his huge, expensive cigar.

mutton1

“Boys,” he says with British accent, “we gotta do something about these feminists!”

General “Harrumphs!” ensue.  The men smoke cigars and drink bourbon from crystal glasses as they control and manipulate the whole world, sliding little brass tokens across a sepia world map.

The truth is both simpler and more complicated.   There is no boardroom.  This is not a conspiracy of the grand sort, this is a conspiracy of peers.  Friends take care of friends.  People feel most comfortable with people that look like them, act like them, value what they value.   That’s the basis of a whole lot of ‘isms, racism and sexism most obviously.  It’s not a purposefully conspiracy, it just happens.  Life is series of choices.  When we don’t force ourselves to think about, we make choices that are helpful to people like us.  The people that aren’t like us don’t quite advance as fast as we do.  With time, people think the backwardness of the people who “aren’t like us”, is accepted, a given.  It’s the way it was meant to be.  Then come moral statements.  They’re like that because they are morally inferior.  They don’t advance because lack the moral fiber it takes to succeed.   Because we don’t hold them down on purpose, it seems like the most reasonable explanation for their failure is themselves.

The Patriarchy is the end result of this advancing people just like us.  The tiny, top of the pyramid of exploitation. The reason that most people in charge of the world are white, straight, and male.  I am member of this privileged class.  I get that now, and I accept it.

But it would wrong to feel guilty for it.  I didn’t choose to be born the straight, white, male child of two college educated parents.  That which I did not chose, I will not apologize for.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  Now, if I use this position of privilege that fate granted me to fatten myself at the expense of others less fortunate, then I have done something wrong.  I have become the exploiter.   But on the other hand, I did not make this world.  I am not the person who said a white, straight, male’s opinion was more valuable than other peoples’.    And I will not take my “bully pulpit” and ignore it.  Me not using the position of privilege I have as the person I am to make the world a better place,  would be as wrong as me refusing to walk just because there are people out there who can’t.

I admit it.  Society privileges me.   And I vow to use that for good, and not evil, and never to feel guilty for it.

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April 16, 2009 - Posted by | feminism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. As a fellow male (and feminist), I can’t say I agree with you. The patriarchy isn’t just men looking out for other men in self-preservation. Maybe that’s how it was in its earlier stages.

    But at this point, it’s just inertia and natural societal evolution, to the point where even males are hurt by the patriarchy. We are now locked into the gender roles that were supposed to benefit us and keep women down, but by being locked in, we have lost of a lot of our freedom, the very freedoms that women have fought so hard to gain in the past thirty years.

    Comment by ubuntucat | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. I don’t feel that I said the Patriarchy consisted purely of self-preservation. Preservation and advancing people like you are not the same. Also, I said that was the beginning of a process which resulted in people believing that they were morally superior to those they exploited.

    Finally, this post is not so much about what the Patriarchy is, as it is about me realizing that I am actually privileged, and me choosing to use that privilege to make the world a better place instead of making my life easier.

    I agree by the way. Men have lost a lot of social freedoms because of the gender role we occupy. But, in a world where women still have their clitorises cut off to make them “faithful”, I don’t feel like I can run my mouth about my lack of freedom to be more stereotypically feminine.

    Comment by truthwalker | April 16, 2009 | Reply


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