Let’s talk about a phenomenon commonly discussed on the Left:
When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
This sentiment comes up frequently in feminist rhetoric, usually along with the truism that people rarely give up power willingly. The idea here is that people don’t often recognize the advantages they have, because these conditions are part of their daily lives and they have nothing with which to compare their own experience. This is the philosophy behind the concept of privilege checking. A white person, for example, is unlikely to acknowledge all the ways in which he doesn’t suffer the particular types of racism that affect black people, simply because he’s never suffered them. He doesn’t know what his life might be like as another race, so he might not realize some of the ways in which his life is different from theirs. When he’s talking to a cop who is less likely to perceive him as a potential criminal, it often won’t occur to him that the experience he has might not be a universal experience. He might argue, “I’ve talked to lots of cops, and I’ve never seen them behave this way.” His argument is sincere, but limited, because he hasn’t seen the way some cops treat other people.
Generally I agree with this sentiment and the importance of trying to think outside one’s own bubble to understand the experiences and perspectives of others. While I strongly disagree with the way privilege checking and its surrounding philosophy is used to shut down conversations and silence people perceived as privileged, a metric to determine someone’s credibility and moral authority on the victim hierarchy, its original purpose before identity politics and tribalism misappropriated it was to facilitate understanding between groups with vastly different experiences.
The white person in my cop example might roll his eyes when he hears about police brutality, feeling that the situation is blown out of proportion and that white people are under unfair scrutiny in the pursuit of more equal criminal justice. The cop himself might feel even worse when he is held to stricter standards that might prevent him from acting on a prejudice, but might also increase his risk of harm in the line of duty. In these ways and many others, it’s easy to perceive a move toward equality as a step away from it, if you are the one who was advantaged in that arena, causing you to feel harmed or attacked and oppose the change. When you feel this way, it’s beneficial to try to think outside yourself to understand the situation from the perspective of someone else.
While a lot of the above arguments might come across as uncharacteristic or unusually SJW-esque to much of my readership, the reason I bring this up is because I’d like to turn it around on one of the movements that likes to use this type of rhetoric the most.
If you’re a regular reader, you might already be familiar with my article “On Gender and Privilege,” in which I compare many of the statistics and phenomena used to identify racism against black people to the experiences of men and boys. I’ve said many times before that women are the white people of genders, but many women don’t see it that way. I would argue that this is due to a combination of confirmation bias and the fact that most women, by virtue of their singular perspective, don’t see the ways in which they are actually advantaged in western society.
When I say confirmation bias, I refer to the way women are taught by socially ubiquitous beliefs and references to expect that others will mistreat them on the basis of their gender. Because of this assumption, commonly held from an early age by many women and girls, universal human experiences and individual events will be interpreted through a very specific lens. For example, when someone refuses to take a man seriously, he is likely to interpret the experience as a single event, perpetrated by a single actor. He’ll think, “that person is an arrogant jerk,” and leave it at that. But for a woman, this is often interpreted as having a gender-prejudiced motive which represents not just the attitude of the actor, but of society at large, even when there is no evidence in the conversation itself on which to base this interpretation. While the man might think, “that person is condescending,” the woman will think, “that person is mansplaining.”
Similarly, if a man is passed up for a promotion, he may think, “nepotism is the worst,” or “my boss doesn’t appreciate all my hard work,” or “that person must have buttered him up somehow.” Or even “maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was.” A woman in the same position is more likely to presume that she was passed up because of a gendered prejudice on the part of her boss, conscious or unconscious (especially when that assumption prevents her from having to face potential shortcomings of her own). Now, repeat this difference infinitely, through bad communications, rude interactions, workplace misfortunes, poor treatment, and other unpleasant experiences throughout life. You can see how any negative interaction, to a feminist woman, might appear to corroborate her view that many people are prejudiced against women, regardless of whether or not any of those experiences came with evidence of that prejudice. And since she has never lived outside female experience, and she likely won’t listen to men about their own, she’s been unable to debunk this misinterpretation by comparing her experience to someone else’s.
Women are given by popular culture and ideology the cognitively distortionary tools to believe that they are disadvantaged beyond what an objective observation of their experience might suggest, and this exacerbates the effect described in the quote above. An individual is already unlikely to see many of the privileges they enjoy, by virtue of only having experienced life as themself. Add in a foundational belief that they suffer oppression or discrimination on a broad and institutionalized scope, and they are even less likely to see their own advantages.
As for women’s privilege, Fred Hayward put it well in The Red Pill:
“If women are so different from men that men can’t understand the female experience, and we need to listen to women describe it, then the male experience is so different from the female experience that you can’t understand it. You need to listen to us.”
Women have a great deal of social and institutional advantages that most of us simply don’t see, because we have no idea what it’s like to not be a woman. The result is that we often refer to many phenomena as misogyny when they simply aren’t. Sometimes this is a normal human experience being perceived through the lens of confirmation bias, sometimes it’s a move for equality that upsets a position of privilege and makes us defensive, and sometimes an advantage that a woman does not find satisfactorily advantageous is perceived as a disadvantage.
The following examples have come from talking to men about their own perspectives, or simply experiencing life while considering what it might be like to not be a woman. These are phenomena that are often perceived as examples of misogyny, which I will use to argue that the true underlying phenomenon is actually misandry or female privilege.
Growing Old and Online Harassment
Men don’t age better than women, they are just allowed to age.
We’ll start with something simple. This famous Carrie Fisher quote was meant to communicate the belief that women past reproductive age have lost all societal value, that actresses are washed up once they are no longer conventionally attractive, and that regular women are too.
I, of course, don’t agree that society stops valuing women once they reach middle age, and I think the likes of Betty White and Maggie Smith would agree with me, as they continue to be well respected and consistently employed figures in media entertainment, known for both their work as actresses and their charitable work off the screen, and continue to receive awards and recognition well into the years most people would have long sought retirement. No, they’re not being cast as protagonists in romance flicks, but neither are Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio.
So what’s really happening here? When you’re an attractive young woman in the media, you’re on the cover of women’s magazines, hired for commercials, known as iconically sexy, and you turn up in the fantasies of millions of men and boys. You’re the center of attention and an example of what to be, constantly interviewed about your lifestyle, nutritional regimen, and the beauty products you use in the hope that other women can be like you. You’re practically worshiped. What this looks like for regular, non-famous hot women is that people are extra polite to you in public spaces, they go out of their way to strike up a conversation, they buy you drinks, compliment you, laugh at your jokes, and are more willing to help you when you need it. You’re even at an advantage in interviews and the workplace. In short, attractive women get treated way better than other people.
Feminists will argue that this is merely self-serving behaviour: men are more polite, more giving, and more accommodating to attractive women because they have hopes of sleeping with them. My answer to this is so what? Not only is this nicer treatment not exclusively from men, but if someone goes out of their way to treat me nicely, I don’t really care why they’re doing it. The result is the same. I’d still be getting doors held for me, drinks bought for me, and help carrying heavy things. If I have to say “I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I’m not interested” a few times in exchange for almost universal better treatment, that’s a deal I’m more than willing to make.
But what happens to this attractive woman when she hits her forties or fifties and the free drinks start to dry up? She starts to feel invisible or neglected. She worries that she’s done something wrong, or that her time is over, or that she’s not valued as a human being anymore. I can understand where the feminists are coming from, for the same reason I can understand how a white cop might be concerned about reform in his field. It’s easy to see how, when Carrie Fisher aged out of her position of Hot Actress DuJour, or when Jane Smith the Regular Hot Lady stopped being greeted every day on the sidewalk, either of these women could feel slighted or ignored and criticize society for this, because neither of them realizes that now that they’re not hot women anymore, they’re being treated the same as everyone else. Meanwhile, the woman of average or lower attractiveness (let alone a man) would kill for a free drink or the kind words of a passing stranger, and to them, Fisher’s comment that women aren’t allowed to age comes across as entitled and ignorant.
It’s not that women aren’t allowed to age, it’s that attractive women who have aged no longer get treated better than the average person. To them, equality feels like oppression.
A similar phenomenon is the way women react to treatment in online spaces, particularly gaming spaces and anonymous forums. Women frequently report rudeness and harassment from other users in these contexts, and it has become a major feminist issue discussed extensively by people like Anita Sarkeesian. What the women who experience this treatment don’t seem to realize is that online shit-talking is a fairly universal behaviour, directed at anyone and everyone, regardless of their sex. But women are used to being exempt from the sort of banter-insults familiar between men and boys. Women aren’t used to being told things like “OP is a faggot” or given death threats for dying in a game, so when they enter online spaces where a culture of hyperbolic banter is already established, or where anonymity facilitates nastier treatment of all, they interpret this behaviour as targeted, gender-based harassment. Even though online harassment is understood to be experienced about equally by both sexes (while threats of violence are more commonly directed at men and sexual remarks at women — unsurprising that a troll will choose an insult they think will most likely bother or upset you).
Once again, women who are used to generally polite treatment feel targeted or mistreated when they experience normal treatment.
My boss is from a more conservative, traditionalist country. Recently he raised a lot of eyebrows by suggesting that the men should bring chairs in for the women before staff meetings, so that we don’t have to do it ourselves. Many of my coworkers over the next couple days, particularly male coworkers, were overheard complaining about the sexism of this request: how demeaning, to imply that women can’t carry their own chairs.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate being stood up for when I think it’s warranted. But I didn’t feel at all insulted by this incident. From where I’m sitting (comfortably, in a chair brought for me by somebody else), chivalry doesn’t look misogynistic. It isn’t a gesture to imply that women can’t open their own doors, must sit while men stand to preserve our fragile frames, or that basic tasks are beyond us. There is absolutely no reason to assume anybody thinks these things. (Are the rich perceived pathetically weak and incapable of cleaning their own houses?)
Chivalry is a code of conduct used to condition men to be women’s servants, in many of the same ways that nobility was served in older times. Holding doors, offering seats, standing while others sit, performing simple favours, and deflecting any suggestion that he ought to do otherwise are all typical forms of deference offered by a lord or lady’s attendants.
Men have been taught to serve women, and like my coworkers, they only question this when their service is considered offensive by their masters. It’s so hard to find good help these days.
The Military and Representation
When the military is all-male, women often see this as exclusionary or discriminatory. I see where they’re coming from. There is no reason to prevent a capable person from pursuing their interests.
This is related, I think, to women’s frustration with fiction, particularly of action heroes where male characters dominate, as well as the male majority in high profile careers. Women look to these things and hypothesize a glass ceiling preventing us from success in the fictional and non-fictional worlds.
A much simpler explanation is that throughout history, as it has been women’s burden and repressive role to bear children and manage domestic tasks, it has been men’s burden and repressive role to protect and provide for women, risking their health and giving up time with their loved ones to fulfill these demands.
Heroes in fiction (and in reality) are usually men because it is men’s blood we have always demanded, men who have been required, by norms or by conscription, to risk life and limb to protect their family, community, and country while women are kept safe. It is men who have been taught that it is honourable to fight and die so that women and children might live. Exemption from this requirement is an expression of love and compassion, not condescension. While fiction is thankfully more flexible than reality, it stands to historical reason that male characters are more often associated with these burdens.
As far as the military, it represents the very epitome of male disposability. Until very recently, like the Colosseum, the military has been an institution of male slaves, torn from their families and forced into a bloody death for the glory of their leader. A woman being angry that she hasn’t been asked to join the military is like a white person being angry that she hasn’t been asked to pick cotton.
Similarly, there will never be gender parity in any field of work as long as there is not gender parity in the social pressures for success. While women have the social freedom to pursue any career interest, men are viewed as failed husbands or failed men if they do not make a living that allows them to provide for their families. This pressure leads to the predictable male majority in fields that provide money and prestige at the cost of sleep, peace, privacy, and time with their families. Since women are not seen as deadbeats for doing so, they tend to pursue lower-stress careers with better hours, offering them more time and energy to spend with the people they love and on tasks they enjoy.
Which is to say, women are less represented as action heroes, scientists, elected representatives, and business executives for the same reason we are less represented on oil rigs, garbage trucks, the battlefield, and coal mines: women are not expected on pain of ridicule and ostracism to pursue these paths for the benefit of others. We have the advantage of pursuing them only when we are interested in doing so.
Transmisogyny and Homophobia
It is often said that trans women and gay men are ridiculed and discriminated against because they are feminine, and the feminine is seen as “less than.” This philosophy is also applied to any stigmatized male behaviour (cross dressing, interest in stereotypically female activities, showing emotions, etc.). It is said that there is a hierarchy of gendered expression, with masculine males at the top and feminine females at the bottom.
There are some major flaws in this interpretation. Most obviously, women aren’t stigmatized for feminine behaviour; they’ve historically been encouraged toward it. If the feminine were categorically stigmatized, women wouldn’t be encouraged to be feminine. They’d be punished for it. This makes it apparent that it isn’t femininity which is seen as “less than,” but deviation from one’s prescribed gendered role. This is most severe in males, since 150 years of feminism have granted women virtually infinite socially acceptable mobility along the gender spectrum. Trans women (seen as men by everyone who mistreats them) are significantly more stigmatized than trans men, and most reports of violence and murder in the trans community affect trans women. Meanwhile, gay men are subject to four times as much hate crime as gay women. Women who deviate from their gendered role, thanks to generations of activism and normalization, are at most congratulated, at least seen as standard. Women who wear pants, appreciate sports, or work outdoors are commonplace. Men who wear dresses, appreciate makeup, or knit sweaters are subject to ridicule, ostracism, and in some places even violence. This isn’t because masculine things are good and feminine things are bad. It’s because female deviation from pre-industrial roles has been painstakingly and relentlessly normalized by gender equality movements, while the male role has remained largely untouched and unexamined.
The phenomenon of transmysogyny, therefore, isn’t hatred of a trans woman for being a woman, and homophobia toward gay men isn’t hatred of the stereotypically feminine, but rather both are discrimination against a person perceived as a man who is behaving outside the narrow and repressive boundaries of the male role, a type of discrimination from which females have long since been liberated.
Dating, Romance, and Sex
Women are quick to describe the experience of relentless harassment, objectification, and other unwanted attention by men who want to date or sleep with them. This is treated as a major feminist issue.
I wrote about the heterosexual dating dynamic in my last article, and the criticism I received was largely based on its perceived bias, painting women as advantaged in the sexual marketplace. I did my best to detail as many pros and cons of both sides as I could, but ultimately I own this bias, because women are, unequivocally, advantaged in the sexual marketplace.
Women have been taught to see validation, appreciation, and the desire for love as sexist imposition. While a woman may experience a deluge of messages in her Okcupid inbox as pestering and reading them as a chore, a male user will stare forlornly at his empty inbox and wish for a shred of the validation women are accustomed to. He must put in endless effort, reaching out to as many women as he can in the hopes that someone will return his interest, knowing that few women will unless he is clever, funny, charming, thoughtful, handsome, and confident without being too forward. Meanwhile, she sits on a digital throne sorting through supplicating suitors, and has the nerve to call this a women’s issue because most of them fail to meet the unreasonable standards she has set to impress her.
If she does decide to meet someone, he is now met with the task of impressing her in person. He is expected to pay for her meals, drinks, and cover charges while they are out, unless she is a member of the particular branch of feminism which sees this as demeaning or an expression of the expectation of sex. If this is her interpretation, she fails to see that the expectation that he pays isn’t an insult to her, but a statement that her time is worth more than his. She has the privilege to eat and drink for free, because he knows that his task is to win her over.
In a relationship, she is to be treated like a princess, proven his worth, pampered, pleased in bed, and showered in gifts and affection. There is very little suggestion or expectation of the reverse. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and even weddings are about pleasing her and giving her a day she’s dreamed about. Even music indicates this dichotomy. When a woman is singing about pursuing the right man, she don’t want no scrubs, that don’t impress her much, and you gotta rub her the right way. When a man is singing about pursuing the right woman, he would buy a big house where they both can live, he’ll be your hero baby, and when a man loves a woman, he’ll give you everything he’s got. It’s clear: in love it is a man’s task to impress, provide for, protect, and make her comfortable. Reciprocity is not expected or required.
If she is on the street, she is likely to read staring, compliments, and even greetings as harassment or a demand of her time and attention. Instead, like a monarch of the ancient world, she expects men to avert their eyes and speak only when spoken to, a level of deference not due anyone else in a democratic society.
The idea that women are at a disadvantage in the dating scene could only be arrived at by the ignorance inherent in significant and staggering privilege.
It is common for women to interpret any perceived slight, inconvenience, or discomfort as sexist disrespect because women are used to being pampered, validated, and pandered to, usually without even realizing it. When any other group expresses this misconception, they are called privileged and told that their feelings are invalid, only felt due to their ignorance of the struggles of others from which they themselves have been exempt. Why is it, then, that when women are exempted from conscription, showered in gifts, given male servants, treated like princesses, and constantly validated, do we accept the argument that women are oppressed? How is this different from the white supremacist claim that white people are treated the worst of all?