It’s a woman’s world, Rachel Goodchild writes, and they now have all the privilege.
I was raised a feminist. My mother was a feminist, and my father was too. When I was a girl, feminism was a noble pursuit- a drive to gain the equality (though now I prefer the word equity), that our mothers and grandmothers had not experienced. And it was needed. I do not doubt it, nor take for granted the ground that they took. We have perhaps forgotten how hard it was for women to do what they wanted in terms of partner choice, the choice to have children, attending school and universities, then work in a career of their choosing.
And yes, I know that battle has not been won everywhere. There are countries or cultures where horrendous things happen to you if you are female. But in my country and in my culture, and in many other western countries, I would suggest the tide has well and truly turned.
I have occasionally felt the sting of NOT being male – the invitation to join the “real men” at work when offered a leadership position, the fact that there was the assumption by the outside world, when my marriage broke up that it would be me that would care for my children, though I had also been the income earner (not that I opposed that I would, though the easy assumption did rankle), that I have struggled with that curious mix of needing pretty finery and makeup and eradication of hair in socially unacceptable places (except of course on my head!) to appear more professional, and so on, but I am very aware that I no longer live in a man’s world. This world is a woman’s world. And us females are now the humans holding the privilege.
I try not to use it. But I know it’s there. I am all too aware the pendulum of power has swung, and being aware of that knowledge itself is enough. However I see women around me use our shared privilege all the time, and it does sicken me.
If I were to use it, what would that look like? Well, let’s look at how the tides have turned.
1. I’m allowed to be far more open about my sexuality than a man is. In fact, if I’m bisexual, it’s encouraged (both male and females encourage it funnily enough). If I’m hetero, I’m allowed to make comments about how hot men are, compliment men without others thinking it’s harassment and generally can make lewd comments about any person, be them male or female, and it’s considered ok. I can say “I fancy him so much I’d even rape him” or “I need to pull him into the storeroom and show him I mean it” or “He is mega hot” about any male whether he is seventeen (I am forty) or seventy. I can sit in a Twilight movie and drool at Jacob (for instance), and not be seen as a dirty old woman.
2. If my partner and I were in a domestic dispute and both violent, or both shouting, and I hit him … if the police were called, my male partner would still be the one far more likely to be taken into custody for the night. If my male partner tried to report domestic violence, it would be harder for him to have the charges laid, than if I did so. In fact, while there is a charge of Male assaults Woman in my country, there is no Woman assaults Male. That would be classified instead as General Assault.
3. If my relationship with the father of my children was to break up, I’m far more likely to get the kids. And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not, I get to choose whether the father’s name is on the birth certificate or not (and if he queries it, he’s the one who has to pay for the DNA test) and if he’s named as the father, he then has to pay child support, whether he was aware I was trying to have a child or not.
4. I’m allowed to be as education- and career-driven as I want to be, and push for the top, seeking equity and equality in everything. But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought. And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.
5. If I write an inflammatory comment, or a blog, or article, and a man questions anything in it, all I need to do to shut the conversation down is call him a bully, or say he’s a privileged male. I can also make disparaging comments about his sexuality, his economic standing, the size of his penis, and his ability to do pretty much anything in return for him disagreeing with me. I can do this, because when I do, I KNOW there will be a bunch of other women who will stick up for me. Because as a woman … I now have privilege.