I was on Radio NZ Nights last night, talking about male privilege, and some other forms of privilege. You can listen to the discussion here: Feminism – Male Privilege.
As usual, I had sent some notes to Bryan Crump before the discussion. I started with a definition of male privilege: social, economic and political advantages or rights that a made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. For background reading, I linked to tigtog’s excellent FAQ at Finally Feminism 101: What is male privilege?.
From there we quickly got onto Barry Deutsch’s male privilege checklist: The Male Privilege Checklist. The conversation segued all over the place from there, including the usual places: women and children first on shipwrecks, the privilege of beauty, and so on.
We didn’t get to John Scalzi’s Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, but Bryan suggested an excellent analogy. He thought that privilege is a bit like cycling with a tail wind. You don’t really notice the assistance at all: you just think that you’re peddling along at great speed.
I had been thinking about a few examples of privilege during the day, in preparation for the talk. I wanted to talk about white privilege, perhaps in connection with Peggy McIntosh’s famous white privilege checklist, but as it turned out, the topic came up in connection with a tweet from Morgan Godfrey that I had seen earlier in the day.
“Maori are bicultural by necessity, would be great if the rest of the country was too…”
I also talked about the planning that women go through about how they will walk home at night, in connection with a conference I am attending this weekend (Kiwi Foo Camp FTW!). I talked about how I had been offered accommodation in town, away from the conference venue, but in order to take it up, I would have to think through how I was going to get from the venue to my accommodation, which routes I would take, and how I could stay safe walking through a suburban street after dark. Bryan suggested that perhaps this on-going safety planning that women do is conditioned into us, in comparison to men feeling much more free to go where and when they will. I agreed that it was likely a matter of conditioning, but that didn’t take away the privilege of having that tailwind of not worrying about it.
Some other examples I had in mind but didn’t have the opportunity to mention:
– As a heterosexual woman, I enjoy the privilege of walking down the street holding my husband’s hand and not giving it a second thought, but a gay man would need to go through a process of checking his surroundings, checking who else was about, thinking about whether he and his husband were safe from attack before they could do such a thing, and possibly (probably, alas, in far too many streets in New Zealand) choose not to express their companionship by such a simple action.
– As an able bodied woman, I never, ever have to plan my routes around campus, or go around to a different entrance to a building, or ask for assistance from complete strangers to get up and down steps, whereas many disabled people have to go through these calculations every time they leave their home.
We talked a bit about privilege being a matter of context – a person can be privileged in some aspects of their lives, but not in others. That’s certainly my personal experience, and I know that many straight white men nevertheless experience real difficulty in other aspects of their lives. But really, see The Lowest Difficulty Setting.
A final note: as ever, a white person writing about white privilege and a man writing about male privilege are given far more credence than a black person or a woman writing about the same topics. As indeed, a white New Zealander talking about Pakeha privilege on Radio NZ might just be given far more credence than a Maori New Zealander talking about it…