Female Privilege

The other night I went over to a friend’s place and was introduced to someone new. It turns out that we had worked for the same company, and he mentioned the owner’s name. I said he was a sweet man, and he asked if I was joking, saying the man had no heart. I said I found him to be excellent and that he spoiled me for Christmas when I worked there.

Someone else piped up that it was because I was a woman, and it left me with this heavy feeling of hurt and disappointment and awareness. As a woman, I do have privilege. Men and women treat me differently than they’d treat a male counterpart. Men, especially older men in managerial positions, have always been exceptionally kind to me.

Now, firstly, I’m a nice person. I enjoy talking to people, especially about issues and literature, and I have an easier time talking to older men. Older women I’ve spent time around often talk about their home life – family, cooking, children, houses – none of the things that I particularly am interested in. The older men I’ve spent talking to often have hobbies and interests that are more in line with mine, such as books and movies.

I didn’t have that in common with the owner of this company, though. I just liked that he brought me and the rest of the office staff tea and coffee, that he remembered my orders, that he’d order extra catering to feed us. The office staff was mostly women, where as the ‘blue collar’ workers were almost exclusively men. I know they didn’t get the same perks we did, but they were often working out in the field. It didn’t really occur to me that he might be treating them differently.

But all of my reasoning wasn’t relevant. I have been treated differently because I’m a woman, and I enjoy privileges because of my gender, but it is hard as fuck to be called on that. It’s not fun to admit your privilege, or to have others think that you were only able to attain what you have in life because of that privilege. It’s a hard pill to swallow that perhaps you only got that promotion or job because of your gender, or race, or class. It is, after all, not something we chose in life. And we likely worked hard for what we’ve had to attain and hate for people to ‘belittle’ us like that.

But it is something that molds our experiences, and while it’s not fun to have to admit it, it’s better to be cognizant of it. Once we can admit to our privileges and recognize them for what they are, we become more aware of our world and how our biases and preconceived notions and privileges shape our lives.

From there, we’re better equipped to improve the lives of others, and ourselves.

 If you liked this, check out these related posts!:

White Privilege and Fiction - I’ve grappled in the past with my privilege while writing.

Racism in Scifi/Fantasy - Racism in Science Fiction and Fantasy requires us to really understand what we’re presenting to the readers.

Drow Society - Drow are a fantasy race that have a matriarchal society, but how much of the writer’s backgrounds are influencing their culture?

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7 comments

  1. Claire says:

    I hope to god this was written in irony.

    I don’t see any privilege or point to this article aside from the personal anecdote. Hun, you write amazing articles (I found this stupendous, fantastic blog through your drow article). However, there are no or at the least, very few privileges that can really be associated with womanhood. Also, this article takes a gender-essentialist and (seemingly) middle-class standpoint wherein it is assumed that the middle-class, cis-woman’s experience is the universal one. And to be treated differently as a woman, even in kindness is often an indicator of women being seen as infantile or less than men (Eg. Benevolent misogyny/sexism, misogyny that is not immediately recognizable as damaging or harmful). Not all sexism should be in-your-face to be counted as harmful, even if well-meaning. Sure, a co-worker remembering things especially for you is nice but it is hardly a universal experience for women.

    I’d suggest reading these blogs and this article to see what I mean, they won’t take much time out of your day and are super-informative.

    http://actuallythisismaleprivilege.tumblr.com/

    http://aboutmaleprivilege.tumblr.com/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambivalent_sexism

    AMP Includes Trans and genderqueer, coloured, disabled/non-neurotypical, and mixed-class perspectives from it’s submissions.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, I think you mean well by this but this article is not the best you’re ever written but you’re still amazing asdfghgfdsdfg

    • Jumwa says:

      I interpreted it as her speaking to men and saying, in essence, “look guys, I know it’s hard to have someone point out that your accomplishments or experiences are in part due to innate privilege you have, but suck it up and move on.”

      I did not see it as her saying she or women in general were particularly privileged at all. Just employing a method of using a personal anecdote to try and bridge a gap of misunderstanding that separates so many privileged men from seeing the truth and behaving accordingly.

      I don’t know how you saw gender-essentialism in the post though.

      • Claire says:

        OH GOD. Okay I read that post way-wrong. 0.o WTF was I thinking. I apologise to the author if that is the case (it probably is) I probably didn’t read the article properly. It’s 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Farenheit) where I am and I have no air-con so am addled by severe heat delirium. ‘Still my fault, but I’m not on the ball at the moment. *Massive facepalm*

        • Anjasa says:

          Don’t worry about it! I was mostly afraid that I just poorly worded the post.

          To clarify, yes, I am trying to find a way to bridge the gap for these people who think that they are entirely their own experiences and other people’s biases and tastes don’t come into play. There’s a lot of people that deny the concept of privilege, and this is one of the few things I’ve experienced personally that I feel could demonstrate it.

      • Claire says:

        As for the gender essentialism I thought she meant because of her experiences they where universal, Re-reading the article IDK where the F*** that came from.

  2. Gareth says:

    I think this is the biggest problem with how feminism is presented. When I first heard about Male Privilege, my first instinct was to call bull and stop listening. I was already a supporter of feminism (I label myself as an Egalitarian, but that’s another topic altogether). Alot of feminism these days seem to be about confronting male privilege and trying to change it, which is a good thing

    The problem being that trying to tell someone that what they have in life isn’t because they worked for it, but because they were born with it, and often put in the context that because they have privilege others don’t, alienates them. Most articles that point out Male or White privilege directly correlates me having privilege to women suffering because of it. And if I hadn’t been open to feminism before I read the article that I did, I don’t know if I’d have been as open

    There has to be a nicer way to say it. A softer way. Because even if we shouldn’t HAVE to say it in a nicer way, more people need their eyes opened, and most places that talk about Privilege don’t help that. Not one bit

    • M. Keep says:

      No one wants to hear their success isn’t just based on how awesome they are, and yea, that is a really bitter pill to swallow. It brings up a lot of negative thoughts, and baggage, that we never realized we had.

      It does make people defensive, because I worked hard to get where I am, but I know that things would be different – for better or worse – if I was in a different body.

      I like thinking about assumptions. Picture a successful manager. Picture a fast food worker. Picture a welfare recipient. Picture a parent with five children.

      Now, look around at your world. Were you right? And was it because you were surrounded by these examples? And did those people get where they were, in part, because of other people’s assumptions about how hard working or intelligent they are?

      Perhaps a retooling is needed, some way to say “You’re not at fault, but you’re benefiting from something you don’t even realize is there, and the way to help it is to recognize that people assume different things about different races and groups, and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.”

      It won’t be until we start questioning our assumptions about others, after all, that we’ll make progress.

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