I planned to write this post today, because I knew that the comments of the post that says arguing about who’s more oppressed is stupid would be fucking full of people arguing about who’s more oppressed. Man. I must be psychic.
For the record, here is my position: I think that, as a whole, cis men have it better than any other gender identity. However, I think that cis men have problems that are directly related to the patriarchy, that these problems are serious, that getting rid of the patriarchy will make life immeasurably better for cis men as a group, and that the problems of cis men are related to the problems of other gender identities so that, purely as a tactical measure, it makes sense to try to fix their problems too.
The example that always come up when someone’s like “being a cis man is terrible!” is conscription. Yes, conscription is bad. It also hasn’t come up in the US in the last forty years, and is so politically untenable that it is not a serious concern for most cis men. Let me be clear: conscription is fucking terrible and legal discrimination is wrong no matter how unlikely it is to come up in practice. However, when one compares it to even something as minor as crisis pregnancy centers, which lie to literally thousands of women every year to get them to carry their babies to term even if they don’t want to have children… yeah.
One also has to consider that many of the disadvantages cis men face are not disadvantages faced by cis men but disadvantages faced by certain, marginalized groups of cis men. The prison-industrial complex doesn’t affect men, it affects poor men and men of color. Gay men are more likely to suffer from hate crimes than people of other orientations, but that doesn’t mean straight men are marginalized. That’s less a simplistic intersectionality model of “they’re suffering oppression from being gay and being male!”, and more the fact that a lot of oppression is gendered. Gendered oppression is certainly oppression related to being male, but I find it a bit disingenuous to consider it oppression because of being male.
To oversimplify a lot, under patriarchy, it is inconceivable and intolerable for women to have power, and it is inconceivable and intolerable for men not to have power. That’s extremely limiting for both genders, of course, and being forced to have power has enormous negative effects on men (“boys don’t cry,” anyone?). That doesn’t change the incontrovertible fact that it’s a hell of a lot nicer to have power than not to have power. If you have to pick one of them, the former will get you a lot farther than the latter. It’s not a good thing to be expected to always be competent and intelligent, but it’s a hell of a lot better than always being expected to be incompetent and unintelligent.
I also find it interesting how many male privileges are things that no one is aware that men have. Did you know that men are likely to pay less than women for the same car? It’s true. Did you know that men are more likely to be hired in high-wage positions (at least in the restaurant industry, anyway), even with identical resumes? Yep. The thing is that I’ve never seen someone make jokes about how men pay less for the same car, or be like “everyone knows that men pay less,” or anything. It’s just never come up. It’s a privilege that no one is aware that men have.
In general, I think of gender roles as cages. Men have a slightly nicer cage– it has gold plating on the bars, better food, maybe a pillow. But the thing is that complaining that men have the better cage, even though they do and a reasonable model of the world recognizes this, is completely pointless. It’s still a cage. The solution is to open up the door and let people out.