The male and female privilege checklists

by on July 3, 2008 at 8:35 am in Education | Permalink

Here is the male privilege checklist.  Here is the female privilege checklist.  Robin Hanson, scientist, continues: "The next obvious step is to assign point values to such privileges, so we can add them up and compare totals."  You can imagine how much fun we had at lunch on this topic and yes a woman was there too.   

Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 8:57 am

“robin hanson, scientist”

you never say such things about anyone but Robin. Is Robin an idiot that you try to support or do you have a man crush on him?

At least this time you didn’t say amazing.

Tyler Cowen July 3, 2008 at 9:03 am

Robin is an *amazing* scientist, in case there was any doubt…thanks for the clarification…

Richard July 3, 2008 at 9:45 am

Another female privilege: If I am convicted of a crime, I likely will be sentenced to fewer years in jail than the average male convict is for the same offense.

Slocum July 3, 2008 at 10:08 am

The female privilege list seems rather incomplete and slanted toward a female perspective — by which I mean that the ability to wear ‘open, vulnerable clothing’ doesn’t interest most men in the slightest. And all of the intimacy items seem written from a female’s perspective. Which is to say, though it may mystify women, one can have an intimate male relationship without hugging and sobbing. The actual (implicit) female privilege in these items is the general presumption that female relationship patterns are ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ and that males should aspire to emulate them (in place of their current ‘stunted’, ‘unhealthy’ male patterns).

What’s missing from the list are things like the female legal advantages in divorce, child custody, domestic violence and even criminal proceedings. There is no possibility whatsoever that a group of female students would have received the legal treatment of the Duke Lacrosse players (some are presumed more innocent than others).

What else? In those cases where professions remain male-dominated, that is a problem to solve (e.g. engineering, hard sciences). But the fact that Veterinary students, for example, are now 80 percent (80!) female is not a problem to be remedied.

Decades ago, when females still underperformed males in education, this was a sign of a problem with the system (e.g. hostile classroom environments, too much competitiveness, biased standardized tests). Now that boys substantially underperform, this is taken as a sign of problems with boys themselves (e.g. insufficient attention spans). And how many school systems are worried about their grossly unbalanced teaching staffs and the effects this may have on boys?

Also missing are the relentlessly positive messages that females now receive about their sex. These are nicely captured by the ‘Althouse Rule’:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2005/11/scientists-remember-to-portray.html

And ‘The Onion’:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/women_now_empowered_by_everything

In general, the ‘the female privilege checklist’ focuses on personal items (some of which are dubious) and misses the most significant female privileges (and those most subject to change) which are legal, social, and political.

katiet July 3, 2008 at 10:40 am

slocum the male list is also written from a female perspective. a hostile feminist perspective! 19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

For real? Like anyone says, “what a crummy day. I missed the bus and my dog is sick. Let me examine these situations for sexist overtones.”

josh July 3, 2008 at 10:52 am

How about never having somebody use the phrase “man crush” in relation to you.

Matt Blank July 3, 2008 at 11:19 am

From the male list: “25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.”
If a man deviates from the norm of casual or business attire (too tight or too colorful) you’re labeled as being gay.

“41. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.”
If I recall there was a study that for men, viewing sexual imagery increased impulsive purchasing where as for women, there was little to no affect. This could explain why the media is filled with sexual imagery geared towards men.

Gary July 3, 2008 at 11:45 am

Someone should submit this article to digg.com. I see it as prime digg material. Robin Hanson has become one of my favorite scientists/thinkers.

Michael Foody July 3, 2008 at 11:50 am

Many of these boiled down to: Women and men both have certain gender roles laid out for them, failure to conform to those gender roles will create certain cultural resistance or consequences. Within this broad category of gender non-conformity consequences there are a couple factors that can make things better or worse. One if one gender role is more satisfying. I think generally both gender roles would on average be more agreeable to those of the gender assigned the role even in a culture neutral petri dish. I am just guessing though and will never know.

Then I would look at the amount of individuals who have preferences different from what is typical of their gender. I have no idea which gender is most likely to have preferences that run counter to cultures expectations. On one hand I expect it to be men because men are more likely to deviate from the norm in just about every way when compared with women on the other hand in America at least women more often do deviate dramatically from their gender roles. It seems that their are more women who flout gender norms to pursue prestige careers than there are men who flout gender norms to be primary care givers.

Finally I would look at how big a cost a person pays for deviating from their gender role. My sort of circuitous point is that none of this you can measure. For example if you asked people which gender they think is better to be, I bet more women would say men than men would say women. Should we take this as proof that the male gender is preferable, or that there is a higher cost for a man who deviates from it and men are sensitive to that cost?

ziggurat July 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Men have the privilege of dying 7 years earlier then women, on the average. Cheaper annuity rates. Less worry of outliving one’s money. Easier to fine mates in old age. Don’t have to die alone as often.

Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 12:28 pm
Peter July 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Men have the privilege of dying 7 years earlier then women, on the average. Cheaper annuity rates. Less worry of outliving one’s money. Easier to find mates in old age. Don’t have to die alone as often.

Women’s longer life expectancy is of course a major type of female privilege. On the other hand, there’s some evidence that the gap is starting to shrink a bit, most likely because more women are smoking.

If one has a choice between (a) living to 85 in more or less decent shape, and then going quickly; or (b) living to 90, with the last five years spent senile and wearing adult diapers in a nursing home, I’m not altogether certain that (a) is necessarily the less-desirable option even though it involves five fewer years of life. The relevant point to the present discussion is that (a) may be somewhat more characteristic of males while (b) is somewhat more characteristic of females.

Fernando Valdez July 3, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Mexican Law also allows women to keep their maiden’s name when they marry, if they so desire. Some do.

A Berman July 3, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Meter,
If this list is women’s privileges that men do not suare, then #13 probably refers to male circumcision, which is, apparently in the author’s view, a mutilation.

Cliff July 3, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Patrick,

More men than women get raped each year. Are you sure rape is not included in the category of violent assaults?

Also, I do not believe that the jobs that maim and kill people are the most prestigious jobs and that men are outcompeting the throngs of women trying to get these jobs, due to sex discrimination.

HMG July 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

It’s disingenous to equate circumcision (by calling it a “mutiliation”) with FGM. It’s like comparing a deep scratch with a stab wound. Circumcision is a lot more common, but it’s also a lot less damaging. FGM is closer to something like castration.

I would say I agree with only about a fourth of the list as being genuine advantages for women over men. Several of the items on the “female privilege” list aren’t really privileges, but rather side effects of some female disadvantage. For example, #9, “My chance of suffering a work-related injury or illness is significantly lower than a man’s.” is only true because women are generally not hired or not allowed to train/be educated for those kinds of physically dangerous jobs as often as men.

Imagine someone in the 1920s using “If I am a woman, I have a much better chance of being a secretary, nurse, or teacher than a man would” as evidence of female privilege. Yeah, taken literally it’s a true statement, but it only supports the anti-feminist;s point if you think about it shallowly and ignore that it’s because women basically weren’t allowed to do anything else. This situation has gotten better with time but men still have a wider selection of culturally–approved careers available to them.

There’s similar problems with most of the rest of the list. #2 (higher suicide completion rate) stands out especially, since it’s clear that the author knows that women also are muchmore likely to be driven to suicide ATTEMPTS. Most people, knowing these two facts, would not count either sex as especially advantaged over the other re: suicide, but the author of the FPList tries to make this a point of Female Privilege. It comes off as dishonestly looking for execuses to whine about women, honestly.

HMG July 3, 2008 at 4:10 pm

More men than women get raped each year.
Citation, plz.

Also, “Making a sexual advance before the other party deems it okay, which is fully arbitrary, will not get me deemed a pervert with serious social and legal consequences.”
Indeed; instead, women who do this get called sluts, and shamed about it constantly. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything, here.

Andy July 3, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I am a man, and I would much rather get raped than beaten violently (assuming the rape doesn’t involve violent beating).

Zephyrus July 4, 2008 at 12:18 am

Well, Andy, you’re in a distinct minority there.

The idea of a counter list of female privileges is silly. The idea seems to be “men and women both have advantages and disadvantages, therefore we shouldn’t do anything about said privileges.”

Speaking only for my feminist self, the issue is that we exist in a deeply gendered society. Whether the female privilege checklist is accurate is besides the point. Obviously sometimes sex will end up interacting with its social context in such a way as to benefit a woman over a man. Eg the draft, men being expected to be “manly” with its consequent negative aftereffects. Most feminists I know want to undermine _all_ of these gendered roles and expectations. What the sexist norms do is undermine human freedom and autonomy.

People who have an image of feminists as nasty old women who believe in a list of actions for men and women and who want merely to score more points for the women team have bought a bit much into media mythology. Think a bit.

Frank July 4, 2008 at 1:48 am

Everybody relax! Is there nothing intelligent, educated men and women can agree upon?

Yes, comparative advantage, it’s a changin’[on account of technological advances, duh]. The noise is in part about the new roles, new roles being defined from at least the 1750′s, probably earlier.

And about rents! Women lining up to be coal miners? No. Women lining up to be high level bureaucrats? Yes.

This process is normal. It’ll have sorted itself out, temporarily, by 2038. Let the games continue.

Alistair Morley July 4, 2008 at 7:24 am

One amazing thing in the list is the authors never comment on physiological differences. Men are stronger than women, more spatially aware, taller, and take more risks, Women are better emotional readers, have better verabal-liguistics, live longer, resist cold better etc.

Perhaps they don’t class these differences as priveleges, but they certainly count as “advantages” in many contexts (and disadvantages in other).

I suppose the lack of context to the items in the list is what worries me. Perhaps the definitions of “privelege” and “advantage” need to be clarified. They are probably meaningful, but under-defined. Others have pointed out that an advantage or social benefit enjoyed by members of a group is not necessarily a privellege, in the sense of it being an unjust action by anyone.

Chuck E July 5, 2008 at 10:42 am

There’s similar problems with most of the rest of the list. #2 (higher suicide completion rate) stands out especially, since it’s clear that the author knows that women also are muchmore likely to be driven to suicide ATTEMPTS. Most people, knowing these two facts, would not count either sex as especially advantaged over the other re: suicide, but the author of the FPList tries to make this a point of Female Privilege. It comes off as dishonestly looking for execuses to whine about women, honestly.

Dishonest? As soon as someone can 1) define “suicide attempt”, and 2) measure the number of “attempts” without double- and triple-counting the “attempters”, I’ll start to buy into this conventional wisdom that women are more likely to attempt suicide.

In other words, a lot of gestures intended to get (much-needed) attention are labeled as suicide attempts even though they really had no chance of succeeding. And if the same person “attempts” over and over again, this gets counted over and over again.

When someone is successful the first time, they get counted *once* in these stats of successful suicides. No surprise that the group with the higher “successful” suicide rate has a lower “attempt” rate!!

bobs July 6, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Michael Foody wrote: “Many of these boiled down to: Women and men both have certain gender roles laid out for them, failure to conform to those gender roles will create certain cultural resistance or consequences.”

Zephyrus wrote: “Most feminists I know want to undermine _all_ of these gendered roles and expectations.”

Let’s assume that the disadvantages arise when people do not want to play the gender roles expected of them and that people who want to play those roles see no disadvantage. The people who are unhappy with current roles will try to change the rules of the game. They will see such change as a way of improving their situation, of “leveling the playing field.” However, is this a win for all, or do we have a zero-sum (or even a negative-sum) situation? If the rules (roles) change, then those who previously were happy with them may be less happy with the new rules (roles). They will lose. (For example, women who want to stay home as housewives lose when the norm becomes career–they lose status and relative income.) Those who want the change may say that the people who oppose change suffer from “false consciousness,” but that is a tremendously arrogant position.

Just a possibility.

Sweating Through Fog July 11, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Having written a Female Privilege List of my own, and having debated the merits of the male and female lists, I decided that the next step was to write a list of the privileges that would be won if either the male or female list “won”. Here it is – the Victim Privilege List

Brendan July 26, 2008 at 8:49 am

9. My chance of suffering a work-related injury or illness is significantly lower than a man’s.

10. My chance of being killed on the job is a tiny fraction of a man’s.

Which are both, of course, only true because:

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

So, 9 and 10 are, once again, some sweet privileges.

Very few women apply for jobs as firefighters or police officers because these jobs are physically very dangerous yet don’t pay well. Even fewer women apply for jobs that expose them to conditions unsanitary enough to put their health at risk, while offering few benefits, paltry pay, and less-than-zero prestige, yet are absolutely essential to the everyday functioning of our society: how many women apply to become garbage collectors, and how many are refused hire because of their gender?

Prestige, my ass: men do the dirty work that women refuse to do. How many feminists have demanded that young women be required to register for selective service?

Alex February 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm

The only problem I have is that the male privilege checklist is civil, comments included, whereas ONE LOOK at the female checklist shows an overwhelming amount of hatred. I think that says a lot, actually. But overall, it is important that everyone continue to fight for equality. Weather you believe feminism is for superiority or not, you have to admit that women still have much to want for and men still have much to want for. A couple more years to decades and we should have it figured out and done correctly where the what matters about a person isn’t affected by what organ is in between your legs, what skin color you are, who you like, and so on.

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