this open letter is part I in a series of III, written to all of you decent men on The Avocado: those of you who understand that we women+ are fully formed human beings with inherent value – a mindset that women+ can’t take for granted in our fellow human beings. If you agree that we should be able to, then this letter is to you.
It is brought to you by Tiff & The Collective of Awesome: Flow, Heberta, Katie, Nonsequiturcat, Overcat, Pawnee Goddesses, Picturo, Ramen Episode, Rim, Riversong, Veronica Pepper, Wasp, and We Won’t Go Back.
You have probably heard the term male privilege more than you ever cared to. What it means in practice can be evasive to cis men, for the simplest of reasons: most often, male privilege consists of the absence of things.
There are a thousand things that women+ deal with on the daily, that you never have to go through. Male privilege is the absence of experiences and absence of precautions to take. In essence, male privilege is the absence of well-founded fear.
Taking the short walk home after dark, even if it means walking by that park with a row of low bushes facing the sidewalk. Male privilege: not having to take into consideration that it’s too easy to hide behind those bushes in the dark and jump you. Male privilege: not having to take the long way home when you are dead-tired but have to weigh that against the risk of being assaulted.
Speaking your mind in a work meeting, even when it means contradicting a male peer’s approach. Hell, speaking uninterrupted at all! Male privilege: not having to fear being ridiculed, not being told that you don’t know what you’re talking about, not having explained back to you how and why you are wrong about it even though you are the one with the degree in this very field and he is not, not witnessing the very same idea you have just been ridiculed or ignored for being appreciated, even celebrated, when a male colleague repeats it as his own.
Showing anger when somebody violates a clearly stated boundary of yours. Hell, setting that boundary in the first place! Male privilege: not being labelled “histrionic”, “emotional”, “over-reacting”, “mental”, “overly sensitive”, not being told, “You’re so cute when you’re angry!”
Wearing flat, comfortable dress shoes to work, paired with pants. Male privilege: not being told that your attire is “unprofessional”, not being told that instead, you should be wearing highly uncomfortable shoes that hurt, give you blisters, and over time might lead to bones growing in your feet where no bones should grow. Not being disciplined for putting your health first.
Bringing your own, washed face to the world. Male privilege: not being told that you really should apply some colour here, some colour there on your face, if you want to be taken seriously in the workplace. Male privilege: not being told that you could be so pretty, if only you looked different. Male privilege: not facing the expectation that, lest you are willing to risk being labelled anything from “weird” to “unfit for promotion”, you will spend an inordinate amount of money on products and procedures that serve no-one but the people making money off of it, oftentimes come with significant health risks, and overall boil down to, again and again and again: you are not enough.
Going through life knowing that overall, the world will treat you right on the daily, just as you are. Male privilege: not being told every day in a myriad of ways that the world would totally treat you right, if only you weren’t yourself.
Knowing that you’re safe in your body. Male privilege: not growing up with the knowledge and warnings of how men may turn on you in a second, not being schooled on how to “prevent” being raped, not being told, “You’re asking for it!” if you dare to wear shorts in hot weather.
Having it be a realistic expectation that if you report a crime committed against your person, you will be believed. Male privilege: not having to worry about the first question you will be asked being: “What were you wearing?” Male privilege: not having to weigh your own personal safety against speaking the truth, not having to worry about your community turning on you, not having to worry about being threatened, as opposed to being treated with compassion over the trauma you suffered.
Having empirical, tangible statistics and social sciences work in your favour. Knowing that when studies prove that so-and-so many men in 10 experience X, Y, Z, it is considered canon. Male privilege: not having to over and over again roll out the statistics on domestic abuse, not having to show, over and over again, the percentage of cases of sexual assaults committed by cis men against women+ whom they knew personally prior to the attack, not having to teach impromptu sessions on how trauma affects the brain, over and over again, every time a traumatising event has been inflicted upon one of us.
Since your male privilege shields you from a great many experiences, you cannot rely upon drawing from your own when relating to those of women+. That is a fact. You will have to simply believe us.