Men who are subjected to these problems don’t know where to turn for support, because all the awareness efforts are focused on gender.
People regularly yell at me, “Smile!” without any concern for why I look unhappy. The fact that I’m not smiling makes them uncomfortable, and they voice that discomfort through a command, which makes me feel uncomfortable.
People regularly get undeserved apologies from me, because I always feel like I’m in somebody’s way. Sometimes I know the other person is wrong but say “sorry” anyway because standing my ground will create conflict I can’t handle.
At an old job, all my employees were told not to talk about their contracts because it might “spark jealousy,” but I suspected that I might be making less than my colleagues, and I was right. I asked my boss for more money and was told, “Doesn’t your wife work?” as though being in a dual-income household meant I deserved be paid less. Despite that, I felt obligated to stay in a lower-paying job. I thought it would be too selfish to abandon them just because they weren’t paying me what I was worth.
So when viral videos and online rants imply that these problems are exclusive to women, my reaction is, “What about me?” Men who are in these situations don’t know where to turn for support, because all the awareness drawn to these problems is focused on gender. They claim that men harass women for not smiling, men force women to over-apologize, men make more money compared to women. But I’m a man, and I don’t enjoy any of those privileges. Many of us don’t. So it’s hard for us to understand why we should be concerned with ending “male privilege” when we don’t reap all the benefits of male privilege ourselves.
However, to say I don’t enjoy any male privileges would be naïve and insulting to women. I might not make more money than my female colleagues, but I certainly get harassed less than they do. I live alone and rarely lock my door. I jog to the gym at night and then enjoy a workout free of mansplaining, aggressive flirtation, and creepy stares. When I walk home, nobody honks at me or yells sexual comments about my body and the things they want to do to it.
I often feel weak and vulnerable, but I never feel like my sexuality is what makes me weak and vulnerable, and that is a privilege that all men (and few, if any, women) enjoy. So I’m never going to dispute that male privilege is real, nor am I going to stop fighting male privilege where it exists, but it’s also important to acknowledge the difference between male privilege and “masculine privilege.”
Masculine privilege is privilege that not all men enjoy, but that all people whom society perceives as “masculine” enjoy. Men who are perceived as feminine are very often criticized, publicly humiliated, forced to apologize for things that aren’t their fault, and pressured into accepting less money than their (masculine) male colleagues.
Sure, some will say women have it worse than “feminine men,” but isn’t all injustice bad? The fact that sexism affects women more than men doesn’t mean it never affects men, and we need to be honest in the way we discuss this.
When you see someone, male or female, whose scowl makes you uncomfortable, it is never OK to command them to smile, especially not if you are a stranger. You don’t know what they’re going through. Even if they are attractive and you enjoy looking at them, your viewing pleasure is not their purpose for existing. If you were really concerned about their upset facial expression, you’d leave them alone, or if a situation arose where it was appropriate to talk to them, you’d reach out. But when you criticize them for looking upset, you are showing that you don’t care about them as a person.
When someone, male or female, apologizes to you for something you’ve done wrong, it is never OK for you to exploit that insecurity for your own gain. If someone lives in a perpetual state of feeling like they’ve done something wrong, that should concern you. It’s not your responsibility to help boost their self-esteem, but isn’t your right to walk all over them, either.
When someone, male or female, asks you for a raise based on their value to the company, it is never OK for you to imply they don’t actually need the money because they aren’t the breadwinner of their household. You’re an employer; not a government assistance program. Pay your employees based on their productivity, not based on “need.” When you tell people they should accept less money because their spouse is the breadwinner (or even a mutual contributor to their household income), you’re encouraging them to lean on their spouse more and be less productive. You might get a short-term bargain on an easy-to-exploit employee who doesn’t know their true value, but in the long run, you will lose talent this way.
Whether you’re male or female, it’s your own responsibility to advocate for what you’re worth, to know you have nothing to apologize for, and to stay above the creeps who tell you to smile. But dealing with these things is never fun. My only advice to the men who deal with them is not to get mad at women for creating awareness on this issue. The fact that a woman critiques male privilege does not mean she is shaming you for being male. If you feel you don’t enjoy those privileges, that’s no reason to negate a feminist’s argument; it’s a reason to accept that feminism helps you, too.
|The Five Truths About Dating on the Rebound|
The War on Sassiness
|How I Stopped Getting Called ‘Creepy’ …|
Did You Just Shallow-Shame Him? Really?