As you’ve probably gathered from previous posts, I loathe the cynical manipulation of the word ‘privilege’ when talking about ordinary people who should be granted the same basic rights and freedoms as everyone else, but I’ll concede the use of the term for this post while still disagreeing with the fallacy of redefinition involved in its use.
It’s a common claim across multiple strands of social justice that you have privilege for being white, or male, or heterosexual and that this makes life easier for you. Objecting simply gets you told to ‘check your privilege’ and is taken as evidence you have it (kafkatrap) and being white, male or heterosexual apparently means that your arguments, points, statistics and observations are automatically worthless.
It’s patently obvious to anyone with a passing interest in logic or debate that this is a fallacy with no place in debate, but more to the point is it true?
It’s genderweek so let’s restrict ourselves to the discussion in terms of that frame of reference. Gender.
Do men have it easier? Do men have it better? Is it purely down to gender or is anything else going on?
- Here’s some examples of what radical feminists consider male privilege: LINK
- Here’s some examples of what MHRAs consider female privilege: LINK
However, there’s another factor to a lot of these that doesn’t seem understood by either ‘side’ and that is that each side sees things through a different lens.
I’ll use two fairly important instances to make my point.
Gender Lensing: Divorce Court
From a feminist perspective the fact that women get custody so much more often isn’t a sign of female privilege, but rather a patriarchal imposition of the childcare role upon women and a judgement based on that bias. The same or similar with financial settlements, child support payments and their suggestion, perhaps, that women can’t cope without support, assistance and the involvement and care of a man.
From a men’s rights perspective this is an instance of female privilege. The assumptions favour the women, fathers frequently don’t get custody even if the woman is at fault, even if the woman is a drug addict or otherwise unfit mother. What the feminist might see as patriarchal role enforcement, the masculinist sees as in inherent bias in the system in her favour – surely a privilege?
To me such things should be settled based on merit, finances and fitness but it does expose the intellectual weakness of the concept of ‘Patriarchy’. When the system open and specifically works against the interests and desires of men how can it be called patriarchal? It’s a conspiracy theory term, one into which anything can be twisted with enough rhetorical gymnastics.
Gender Lensing: Military Service
From a feminist perspective putting women in light duty – if any duty at all – and their exclusion from the military in times past can be seen as yet more patriarchal oppression. Why shouldn’t they be able to serve their country, fully, in every capacity? Why shouldn’t they fight on the front lines? It can only be sexism preventing them from doing so.
From a masculinist perspective women have been granted special status (privilege) by being allowed to opt in to dangerous duty, but men not being able to opt out. Women being excluded from the draft would be another sign. From a man’s perspective this can be seen as a duty and imposition, not a right or privilege and so it goes for a great many other things as well. Men have been called ‘disposable’ and war is a situation that makes this abundantly clear. In exchange for these duties men were rewarded by society in the past. Now the rewards have been very much eroded, but the demands remain.
Is this reconcilable? Can each side see the other’s perspective and compromise, recognise that what they see as an advantage can be seen as a disadvantage by the other? I doubt it, but I hope.