I argue in DEFINE YOUR WAY TO INFALLIBILITY that there are two types of feminism, Definition Feminism (which is the theoretical pursuit of gender equality), and Action Feminism (the practical representations of it). My contention is that, while Definition Feminism is a noble goal, Action Feminists are—like all of us—fallible (both intellectually and morally), and so should be subject to scrutiny like all of us.
However, I believe that Action Feminists have been masterful in silencing criticism via the simple technique of hiding under the noble definition of the movement they claim to represent. (Who, after all wants to criticize a person who assures us they’re helping the disadvantaged people of our world?)
I list in the sequel post, THE INFALLIBILITY CLOAK, eight ways in which Action Feminists intimidate dissent with appeals to their moral superiority, and I would like to expand here on perhaps their most hostile means of self-protection, their use of the term “male privilege.”
Proponents of the all-encompassing phrase “male privilege” often insist that it is not an insult to men: instead, they say, it is merely meant to ask men to “be aware of” and “acknowledge” that they have certain privileges over other people.
Well, considering that we all have privileges that not everyone has, it’s difficult to decline the invitation. But, in their gentle description of the alleged intentions of this phrase, Action Feminists are hiding its multiple powers. Consider these five roles it takes on:
(1) “PRIVILEGE” THE INSULTER:
I think we should acknowledge that telling someone they are privileged (especially in today’s discussions of identity) is not innocuous.
As I argue in MEET THE MISANDRY, it seems self-evident to me that, by the mathematics of achievement, most egos will be more chuffed by a personal success acquired in spite of a disadvantage than with the aid of an unearned advantage.
So, requiring that every member of a particular gender group “acknowledge” that they, by definition, are advantaged over non-members is demanding that they admit that they are not as worthy of their achievements as they would be if they had a different sex. It’s essentially saying, “You’re not as good as you think you are.” Even if that’s true in particular cases, let’s admit that it’s not a friendly statement to make to someone.
Similarly, people who are officially in the catchment area of affirmative action sometimes complain that people assume that they have received special treatment. I can understand their annoyance: to be consistently diagnosed as having benefited from a quota system when, in fact, you might have gotten there on your own merit is surely annoying. Well, that’s what it’s like for so-called privileged men constantly: all of their successes are treated by Action Feminists as the work of privilege.
And yet, by denying the derisiveness of the term, Action Feminists are having their cake, and throwing it in their adversaries’ faces, too.
(2) “PRIVILEGE” THE ASSUMER:
It’s hard to doubt that some people (both men and women) will have been given undue, gender-provoked advantages in their career and/or personal lives, and perhaps more men benefit from “boys’ club” thinking than women do from “progressive” hiring policies. But how can we know who gets more automatic benefits in our current one-sided conversation?
As I argue in my DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARDS series, there seems to be a double standard when it comes to identifying privilege in mainstream media, politics, and gender studies courses: perceived male advantages are highlighted, while possible female advantages are ignored. In such a setting of one-sided analysis, how can anyone be confident of the current state of gender opportunity gaps?
(3) “PRIVILEGE” THE SEXIST:
Even if it can be established that men, on average, are privileged, it’s still sexist to assume that all men benefit while all women suffer. To demand that every man acknowledge his privilege is ignoring the possibility that a particular man might have had a “lived experience” that is different from the alleged average.
Nevertheless, the term “privilege” is often applied liberally to individual men with whom Action Feminists disagree. Without knowing a particular man’s degree of privilege, Action Feminists are not shy about dismissing his argument on the grounds that it comes from a “privileged white man.”
But surely shouting down an individual man for committing the crime of “speaking while male” (Carl Benjamin) is a sexist slur which presumes things about him based purely on his sex without knowing his story. If such gender generalizing to an individual is not sexism, then what is?
(Although, of course, some definitionally-deprived Action Feminists will argue that women can’t be sexist against men, because men have all the power. How wonderfully circular of them. They have redefined sexism to mean male mistreatment of women, thus proving there’s no reason for examples of the reverse to be entered into evidence.)
(4) “PRIVILEGE” THE SILENCER:
A brilliant strategy employed by Action Feminists is to point out that it’s difficult for those with gender privilege to recognize it in themselves. I don’t doubt that’s true. But such skepticism of privilege doesn’t prove its existence either. After all, female Action Feminists also deny their own gender privilege.
Therefore, grandly stating both that an entire sex is privileged over the other, and that privilege-skeptics amongst that group are not allowed to argue back (because they are blinded by said privilege) will not do.
While we cannot take the accused’s anecdotal evidence as proof that they are not privileged, we cannot universally discount their arguments either. Instead, we should—as ever—measure each side’s claims by their evidence and reasoning.
Instead, Action Feminists have helped themselves to the sexist double standard of treating dissenting male voices as definitionally damaged by their so-called privilege, while elevating feminist female voices as automatically made authentic by their alleged disadvantage. There appears to be no Action Feminist mechanism of sorting privilege from disadvantage other than by the faith-based claim that men always have privilege over women.
For instance, if a discussion panel is made up primarily of men, it will be criticized by feminists for doing so even where there is no evidence that the men were invited because they were men. Meanwhile, when all-female panels are convened expressly to be all female, they are celebrated by feminists as opportunities to hear female voices.
In neither case is the quality of the arguments assessed; instead, simply the act of speaking while male (i.e. dominating the discussion) is represented by Action Feminists as intrinsically less valuable than speaking while female (i.e. providing a voice to a disadvantaged group). And, if a male critic objects to this grand claim, well that’s just his privilege talking.
Maybe a case can be made for the value of gender diversity in speakers and politicians (although, I would argue instead for diversity of thought and let the sexes fall where they may), but the misandrist consequences of enacting a policy in that direction are serious, and so require genuine evidence and caution before being employed.
More importantly, when someone is speaking, we should never discount their views by definition of their sex even if we think they got to the podium because of it. If their ideas are as bad as the alleged system that promoted them, we should be able to show their flaws, instead of attacking the sex of the person espousing them.
Nevertheless, because Action Feminists have been so successful in treating privilege as a universal systemic aid for the male sex, those who are skeptical of such automatic advantage (both generally and individually) are described as part of the problem, and thus are to be ignored.
(5) “PRIVILEGE” THE HARMER:
The term privilege has the (easily foreseeable) effect of diminishing our compassion for the group of people accused of it, and it allows Action Feminists to justify the sending of fewer resources their way.
Yet, as much as feminists assure us that men are privileged, there is lots of evidence in the West that it’s actually men who—in general—are more disadvantaged (in criminal court, family court, hiring policies, shelter availability, medical research, and more).
Perhaps those conclusions are falsely-arrived at in the same way that critics accuse the Action Feminist stats of being manufactured, but my point (as ever) is that our collective media—terrified of and/or hoodwinked by Action Feminists—refuse to examine these issues objectively, and so the myth of universal male privilege is allowed to run free without objection. Consequently claims of “privilege” are a weapon that surely hurts vulnerable men.
I don’t think that all feminists use these privilege accusations with hate in their hearts, but it’s hard to doubt that it has damaging consequences for humanity, and so I think they ought to recognize the harmful power of the term, and consider not applying such a sexist generalization so cavalierly.