At the base of every movement of the oppressed, there is one concept at heart: Privilege. The oppressed are so because their oppressors have some sort of trait or characteristic that grants them higher status in a certain society: They may be of a particular skin color, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, sex, or other identity. Social movements for equality start when the oppressed realize and understand the privileges of their oppressors and they work to make their oppressors realize their own privilege.
Privilege can take many forms: Political power, influence, monetary or economic advantages, preferential treatment, and even going through one’s daily life without having to worry about certain means of physical or emotional harm. The term “privilege” doesn’t just imply wealth or power—it also implies a sense of security, representation, and an understanding that one’s voice will be heard, no matter what.
As a guy, I’ll be the first to admit that I have certain privileges over women in American society. This list from an astronomer at UC Irvine who focuses on gender equality in scientific research sums up the daily advantages I have in American society: Everything from better job opportunities, representation in media and government, and a lowered expectation for familial obligations, such as child rearing.
Of course—as it is with the entire movement—when somebody calls out male privilege, the MRAs are right there to counter with their own “evidence” that shows that female privilege outweighs male privilege and that men are worse off than women. This is one of a few lists I have found that outline some of the aspects of “female privilege.” The ninety-seven-item list (the male privilege list from Irvine only has twenty-nine items) focuses on some of the most common arguments that MRAs use to “prove” that female privilege exists and that men are far more oppressed than women.
The MRA list contains many efforts to grasp at straws when searching for ways women have social advantages over men; it makes assumptions about one’s personal relationships that are overarching blanket statements; and it completely undermines what women are capable of and continue to face in our society.
I don’t have the time to refute all ninety-seven points. So, I will focus on some of the most overblown and down-right stupid.
Point #1: Men are taught not to hit women, but women are not taught to not hit men. The reason men are taught not to hit women more than the other way around is that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be the victims of intimate partner violence. Men are taught (at least, others try to teach them) not to hit women because, statistically, men are more likely to hit women than woman are to hit men.
Points #3-6: Men are disadvantaged in child bearing and rearing. The author makes the point that women are essential in the creation of new humans. But, apparently, ninth-grade sex ed went way over his head, because he fails to realize that both sperm and an egg are necessary to create a baby, and women only have one of those things. (Plus, if he’d ever talk to a woman about childbirth and pregnancy, I’m sure he’d be like me and decide that those are two things he’s glad he doesn’t have to worry about.)
I get what he’s saying: Men need women to create life, and—at least in modern times—it’s not necessarily the other way around: Women can visit a sperm bank. But there are options for men who want to have children without having a female partner: Adoption and surrogate mothers. Sure, these options may not be as obtainable for some, but the point is that they are out there—if a man without a female partner wants to have a child so badly, there are ways around our biology.
He also makes a point about women “abandoning” the responsibility of a child through adoption or abortion. He claims that men face a greater social stigma when they walk out on a child. However, 83% of single-parent households are run by a mother, compared to only 17% run by a father. Statistically, men are more likely to “abandon” their children. In addition, the author wants to complain about abortion, but that’s a completely different can of worms (that will probably get its own essay). To make it simple: When men get pregnant, then we can have a say about abortion.
Points 7, 18, and 19: Men have to register for the draft for military service. By simply implying that women do not have to join the military completely undermines the over 200,000 women currently serving in our armed forces. The author also implies that men have to serve in the military. While it is true that men have to register for selective service at age eighteen, there hasn’t been a military draft in the United States since the Vietnam War. And, given recent reports, it’s highly unlikely that we will ever have a draft again.
The author also makes claims about sexualized violence and court cases, which I’ve already covered (see links above). I would go on about more of the author’s points, but—unlike MRAs—I have better things to do than complain on the internet all day and piss-and-moan about how guys have it so bad in society.
He goes on and on about little knit-picky, crazy ideas that do nothing to further the awareness of real issues that men face; instead, the author is simply playing a game of comparable suffering with the female population and losing.
Privilege is a tricky subject—it requires one to look past his or her biases and to look at the world through an entirely new perspective. MRAs, however, have yet to internalize their own privilege; instead, they grasp at straws to find anything to complain about why it’s supposedly so bad to be a man. This does absolutely nothing to further the conversations men should be having about gender roles and how the idea of masculinity is not only harmful to men, but people of all genders, sexes, and sexualities.