I picked up this story from my roommate last night and asked permission to transcribe it. Zie repeated the entire thing to me this morning—it’s an anecdote about a conversation zie had with a close friend of zeirs a few years ago.
Lou liked talking about all the political shit with zem, all the things she was passionate about. Well, there was this guy who’d been stalking her for a week or so—he stopped after suddenly finding himself in a particularly violent crowd who happened to not be very understanding about this behavior of his—and Lou was speaking about how the reason men thought it was ever acceptable to do this was because men don’t see women as having these boundaries set up. For a guy, of course a woman doesn’t have boundaries, because he never observes them—or at least that’s how guys subconsciously think.
She said, guys didn’t have to fear having stalkers because the reason women can have stalkers is because they don’t have any boundaries, whereas the inverse was true for their stalkers: guys had boundaries that just so happened to include being allowed to stalk women.
That was part of male privilege, but no guy would really understand that, because to see privilege means you can’t have it. Or to meaningfully see privilege means you can’t have it, is what she said.
“And it just pisses me off, and that’s the reason I’m a lesbian.” She looked over and Aslan and said, “No offense.”
Aslan answered, “None taken. I understand I’m a guy, I have that privilege.” Zie then followed that up with, “and that’s just the way life is a lot of the time.”
And Lou looked at zem as if expecting zem to continue zeir sentence, but when zie didn’t continue, she prompted zem, “AND?”
Aslan replied, “And what? That was all I had to say.”
“And what does this mean to you? I’m not the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to change. I’m not the one who admits to being the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to do something about that.”
“What can you expect me to do?” Aslan pointed out. “I said I have privilege, but I’m a guy, what can I do about that?”
And Lou told zem, “Think about it. Think about what you did when you admitted that being human gave you privilege over animals. Now think about what you should do when being male gives you privilege over women.”
It took Aslan years after her death to think about what she said and what the meaning of that was, because the first thing zie said was, “What, so I shouldn’t eat out girls anymore?”
That’s when Lou decked zem. Really fuckin’ good. It still hurts thinking about it, said Aslan. And zie damn well started thinking about things differently after that.
But it’s still where most men stop. After admitting you have male privilege comes… What? I said I had privilege. There’s no AND. There’s just the statement and then nothing.
When you grow up with the people you have power over being actively involved in your everyday life, you unconsciously develop behaviors that continue that oppression. There are two ways that oppression can progress: passive, which is where the power structure is largely maintained through segregation, and active, which is when the power structure is maintained through direct browbeating from the privileged. Most of the time it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of male privilege, it’s a little of column B, a lot of column A.
Male privilege is actively maintained by men acting like total jerks to women so that when it comes down to it, women are too unsure, humiliated and intimidated to disagree in any meaningful way. It helps that men get to define reality for women, that even when a woman says, “I’m feeling threatened,” the man will just think she’s being too much of a pussy to admit he was right. The fact that men are so used to being right by popular opinion, and the aggressive way they react to having their rightness called into question, maintains the power differential between men and women.
The gendered power structure is maintained by men’s behavior. Men expect to be praised, so they have no qualms about being in the spotlight—they assume they are awesome. And they usually are given praise. When women venture out, they are met with silence at best and outright hostility otherwise. History is filled with glorified male idiots and brilliant women who kept their silence because they knew it’d never be listened to.
Especially you men who like to think they’re progressive and rights-oriented. You say you have privilege. AND? And, and, and?
Talking about it is not enough, because by talking you refuse to actually do. Where is your actual renunciation of privilege? When are you listening to people who call you out on being privileged even when you don’t want to hear it? Why are you still acting defensive when you’re told how to change your behavior? How do you even justify talking with women if you aren’t going to change your behavior so they don’t feel unsure, humiliated and intimidated into silence on whatever subject?
You have male privilege. AND?