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What else is in this invisible backpack?
May 29, 2008 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm a straight, white, upper middle class male. I'm aware that this automatically means I generally have an easier time than people with a different sexuality/race/class/gender. That said, I'm probably unaware of what these benefits are. What does this 'privileged' status do for me that I don't even notice?

I've read Peggy McIntosh's 'Invisible Backpack', which was actually the reason for asking this question. It opened my eyes to a lot of the things my race does for me that I never realised, and led me to wonder what else I benefit from without realising. Hopefully, by being aware of these things, I can be more able to notice when they don't happen for other people.

I know the broad things- I can get married because I'm straight, on average I'll earn more because I'm male, etc. I'm interested in the smaller, daily things that go on without my noticing.
posted by twirlypen to Society & Culture (80 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
Two things that come to mind: DWB (driving while black/brown) and of course the TSA.
posted by phliar at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2008


You can drive through Irvine, California without getting harrassed by a police officer.
posted by Asherah at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can walk down the street and feel certain no one will cat call you.

Nobody stares at your chest when they talk to you.

You can buy a car or computer without the salesman completely ignoring you and instead directing everything to your spouse - even though you are the one buying the product.
posted by sutel at 4:42 PM on May 29, 2008


You can be certain that you have a lot more networking opportunities when it comes to getting a job from the "inside", because not only does most of the people there look like you but you have more relatives or friends of relatives who you can turn to and talk about any particular position.
posted by The1andonly at 4:47 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Regarding the TSA: my boyfriend is the whitest, most Americanized name-having, red-blooded Midwesterner ever and he can't do online check-in or get through security without getting the extra screening. Why? Because (apparently) terrorists like to assume common white American names to evade security measures.
posted by phunniemee at 4:48 PM on May 29, 2008


There are more differences that are harder to pick up on. For example, calling the police is unlikely to result in your abuse or arrest. Publicly showing affection to your partner is unlikely to result in you being beaten or killed. Arguing with the owner of a business is likely to get you respect and the result you want rather than rolled eyes or a snide comment about "those people". You can walk around a store without being treated like a criminal. If you're successful in business there's an assumption that you earned it, not that you slept with someone or are the beneficiary of affirmative action. Etc, etc.

These minor benefits seem to be more important than overt racism/sexism/homophobia because they make a daily difference in the lives of the oppressed and are also very hard to pinpoint. There's no way to prove that someone is giving you a look in a certain way, or that someone dislikes you for a certain reason which gives you no recourse.
posted by null terminated at 4:48 PM on May 29, 2008


As I recall a lot of Peggy's list items can easily be rewritten in terms of gender or, I'd imagine, sexual orientation. This is kind of a hard question to answer, as there are swaths of literature devoted to the ways privilege affects you on a day to day basis.

But I'll bite. As a man, you can walk down the street alone without getting catcalled. (On preview, someone already said that, but seriously. It's kind of a huge one.) Or told to smile by random old dudes.

Also, I'm guessing you're not vigilant about the possibility of getting raped when you go home from a bar.

Also, read this blog post about how gay couples are compelled to hide their coupledom.
posted by SoftRain at 4:50 PM on May 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know about your situation, but I can think of two management positions I've been given simply because I'm a white male. Both times I was promoted over other people who had been working at the company longer and were frankly better employees, but were women, Hispanic, or both.

As to daily occurrences, pay attention to the way foot traffic moves around you or other white men when you're walking downtown.
posted by lekvar at 4:50 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Participate in Project Implicit via Harvard University.

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/
posted by Nerro at 4:53 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Women in our culture are expected to worry constantly about rape and assault. I feel as though I spend a lot of time calculating my personal safety: can I take a shortcut through this alley? Is my outfit going to get me unwanted attention from random men on the street? If I give this guy my real name, will he stalk me? If I go over to my date's apartment, will he sexually assault me? Has somebody slipped roofies into my drink while I wasn't looking?

This is problematic for two reasons: first, because the odds of these things happening to me really are higher because I'm female. Second, because if I don't take these precautions and something does happen, many people will view me as partly at fault because I should have "known better." I end up feeling pressured to act in socially accepted "safe" ways even if I personally don't think the risks are that high.
posted by fermion at 4:53 PM on May 29, 2008 [39 favorites]


It's tough to say but I match your profile and I found living in a Japan for almost a decade as a young adult to be most educational. I was given favorable discrimination and unfavorable discrimination in seemingly equal portions, and the unfavorable occasions were small doses of what identifiable, "outsider" minorities get here on a daily basis.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of being whitebread male is not being a representive of a minority wherever you go and whatever you do, in this society.
posted by tachikaze at 4:56 PM on May 29, 2008


Your physical attractiveness, or not, is not discussed or regarded as more important than anything else you might achieve.

And yes, chatfilter.
posted by arha at 4:56 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead of talking about it, try and get "normal" service in a place where you're not normal. Gay bars. Chinatown. Bodegas in poor Hispanic or African-American neighborhoods. The South. Hawaii outside of Waikiki. Tokyo. Paris.

It feels like that, all the time - even if they're nice to you.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 4:56 PM on May 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Gender:
When you ask for directions, the person gives them to you ie speaking to you, rather than speaking to the person you are traveling with.

Race:
The apartment you'd like to rent isn't taken. The landlord may be prepared to negotiate on things like the deposit.

Class:
You are comfortable taking defective merchandise back to the store, and they don't usually give you much hassle.

Sexuality:
When you see someone attractive, you can ask them out.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:57 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You don't get whistled or yelled at while walking down the street. You don't get requests for your phone number while trying to go about your daily business. You're not commanded to "smile" or get called a bitch if you don't respond to such requests cheerfully.

You can hold your partner's hand in public (or even *gasp* kiss her) without being accused of flaunting your lifestyle. You certainly won't be assaulted for doing it.

You may take up more than your fair share of room on public transportation (a fair number of men have, um, aggressively "wide stances" when they sit or stand on buses or trains), but have probably never been called out for it.

You've probably never entered a dark parking lot or walked down a dark street with your keys stuck strategically in your hands in case someone tries to attack you.
posted by scody at 4:58 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can hold the hand of the person you love without worrying much about how strangers might react.

You can openly talk about your relationships and attractions in almost any setting.

You can be free of the fear that you might be fired for your sexual orientation, with no legal recourse (depending on where you live and where you work).

You can play MMRPGs without constantly hearing your identity used as an insult.

You can assume that most movies, novels, plays, etc., will include prominent characters who share your sexual orientation.

You can assume that if some doesn't like you, it isn't because of your sexual orientation.

And one about class, which is maybe less widely applicable than the above...

You have many relatives with homes and stable finances who could give you shelter or bail you out if you ran into financial trouble.
posted by overglow at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2008


Nobody will judge you on your child-rearing abilities. Except your wife. Who may only care because if you're a bad dad it will reflect poorly on her. (obviously this is not applicable to everyone but it is far more common than I would have guessed, having a decade of experience hanging out with other parents). But generally you get a free pass from strangers for poorly behaved children.
posted by GuyZero at 5:03 PM on May 29, 2008


Being a tall, white, cheerful male in a suit with conservatively cut, slightly graying hair can get me into all sorts of potentially lucrative situations. When my hair is long, however, and I am wearing sweats and a ratty t-shirt I can almost feel the tension emanating from some parties.
posted by mecran01 at 5:03 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe you should put yourself into a position, like tachikaze was, where you are the minority or only one of your Race, Gender, etc..
posted by P.o.B. at 5:07 PM on May 29, 2008


Ah, the joys of being male.

Now, if I was a guy, I would never get "Oh, I'm sorry! I forgot you were a woman for a bit there" after I'd made an insightful comment about my field of expertise.

I've had a lot of the bad stuff happen to me (harassment, assault, etc) based purely on the fact that I'm a woman.

One of the reasons I'm as successful as I am is because I can project myself as if I am male - the source of that comment above (which was not uncommon at several workplaces). My gender shouldn't matter in the workplace; but I have ample evidence that my percieved gender definitely makes a difference in the minds of most.

Being male means being able to relax - in bars, at work, in transit.

I drive a sportscar - the crack that I'm therefore a fast girl is quite common. My husband gets (driving the same car) is 'Nice car, mate! How long did it take you to convince the wife?' - even from women. The possibility that I am a) not a fast girl, b) it was my decision to purchase that car is an honest suprise to many, especially b.

I could go on for hours.
posted by ysabet at 5:08 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adding to the above:

If you make an astute or logical observation, nobody will praise you for thinking like a woman. (And the person who doesn't tell you that, won't be your female boss.)

You will never hear people called "gentlemen" or "boys" for being bad at sports or drinking.

Politicians, pundits and thinkers who look like you aren't typically assessed according to how much their audience wants to nail them.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2008


Interesting how it's referred to as "white privilege." I'm not sure that it's so much "privilege" as just by default being treated fairly.

I'm a totally white-looking dude with a totally white name, but I'm fully bi-racial; one farm-raised-white parent, one 100%-non-white-from-another-country parent. I always wonder what life would have been like if I actually looked ethnic, like my brothers, so I tend to pay a lot of attention to things like this. These observations all cull from my personal experience, so take them with a grain.

As a white dude:

You probably get more attentive service from your waiter / waitress at restaurants.

People are less likely to think you have ulterior motives for doing nice things.

You'll never be referred to by a racial slur behind your back.

Nobody will question whether or not you got to where you are by affirmative action (and the assumption that you don't really deserve your job).

You've probably never been accused of shoplifting; or of loitering.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:41 PM on May 29, 2008


A lot of the things mentioned in this thread could be related to class differences. I (white guy, middle class) normally wear dress shoes, a reasonably expensive watch, neat haircut... one summer holiday I was doing some painting around the house, wearing no watch, running around in sandals. I was a bit dirty, sweaty and scruffy and could not believe the difference in how people treated when me when running errands even to unpretentious places like the hardware store and fast-food restaurants....

Different cultures have different fault lines too. Skin colour is a one of them, class is one of them, language, religion, tribe... elsewhere in the world.
posted by Deep Dish at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


People won't assume you're timid or inept at doing manual things. My anecdotal examples here are: tying things down, collecting firewood and or building a fire, hiking in and out of ravines. People will assume you're capable.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Assuming you have an Anglo-sounding surname, you do not receive a constant barrage of direct mail advertisements printed in languages other than English.

(note to Direct TV/Comcast/random credit card companies/my local politicians: want me to read your mailers? How about sending me a flyer written in something other than Spanish.)
posted by jamaro at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2008


You can interact with people as people as opposed to having to work through all their prejudices before you can interact as people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


When you go to a movie, it's usually about someone like you. If it's a kids' movie, it's about a younger version of you.

No one expects you to do the majority of the housecleaning.

When you were growing up, you had a lot of heroes to choose from who were like you.

The treatment on the street is a real issue. I'm a white woman. When I was young, I could pass as a guy when I needed to walk somewhere at night. There was a difference being even a temporary guy vs. walking down the same street at the same time of night in a skirt. As a woman, I would get the kinds of comments and "smile!" commands described above, including threatening comments describing sexual assault. As a guy, I was just a guy. No one felt any need to comment or stare, though once I was hassled by people who thought I was a gay man.
posted by PatoPata at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2008


You don't grow up being taught that and believing that you are abnormal and sinful because of who you are.

You don't growing up fearing that your parents, family, and friends will condemn or disown you because of who you are.

You don't grow up having to overcome self-hatred, a self-hatred reinforced by the culture in myriad ways.

When you finally take your first tentative steps toward self-acceptance, you don't look in the phone book (yes, I'm middle-aged, having come out pre-Internet) and finding no entries for "gay," conclude that you have no where to find people who are like you.

And years later, you don't have to worry about whether or not to wear an wedding band (without official sanction) or whether to put a photo of your loved one on your desk at work. And when you do it all, anyhow, you discover that it's "ok" but you're still seen differently, somehow never really "part of the group". And you never know if it's because of you, your formative years having bent you to be cautious and private, or whether it's because of them, and something they're not saying.

With some, you never know what they really think. Never. And you're not sure whether to be sad at that or to be relieved.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Doctors believe you when you come in with a complaint, rather than blaming any health problems you have on your size.

You don't have to make sure that there are accessible ramps in the places you want to go. You don't have to make sure that a bathroom is big enough for a wheelchair. You can just get on public transportation without thinking twice about it.

When you achieve something, people don't talk about how you looked when making that achievement, as if your appearance is just as important.
posted by sugarfish at 6:07 PM on May 29, 2008


On the question of gender privilege, stuff like catcalls and even personal safety awareness seem like minor issues compared to the more overarching pressure of typical gender roles still prevalent in mainstream American society. I never realized how strong this stuff still was until I had kids.

As a man, it will be assumed that you are, or will be, a family breadwinner, and therefore the type of work you will perform will be more likely to be better paid, and come with benefits. If there are layoffs, you will be last in line. If you relocate, most likely it will be for your job or career prospects, not your spouse's. You will not need to take time off from work or sacrifice career advancement in order to have a family. In fact, having a family may even advance your career. You will not be discriminated against in hiring or promotion for having children. You will not feel pressure to give up your career entirely or be perceived as (or, perceive yourself as) a bad parent.

Unless you are single, you are unlikely to be the primary party in your household responsible for childcare, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and general maintenance chores of everyday life. If you do any of these tasks, you can expect praise and appreciation, not that your efforts will be taken for granted. If the house is messy, no one will judge you.

If you divorce, you are unlikely to be left an impoverished single parent. When you retire, you will reap the financial rewards of an unbroken social security record, rather than a history of unpaid work and underemployment.
posted by libraryhead at 6:15 PM on May 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


If you have a good idea, people will say "That's a good idea" instead of pretending they don't hear it until a white male says it.

You may be interested in this list of privilege lists (able-bodied, average-sized, straight, male, and more!)
posted by Jeanne at 6:24 PM on May 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


In my experience, men's physical capabilities are questioned less than women's physical capabilities. For example, I'm a girl who works in a warehouse. Over time I've noticed that the male employees are assumed to be stronger than the girls. Regardless of body type, there is a blanket assumption that all men are stronger than all women. Even though they're often not, and even when the women demonstrate that they can do the job more efficiently, the bosses often impose restrictions on the women but not on men.
posted by lilac girl at 6:32 PM on May 29, 2008


Yeah, as Deep Dish said earlier, a lot of this tends to be the result of class and race/gender/something else. For instance, I'm non-white and female, but middle-class and "whitewashed". I'm pretty sure that those latter two points contribute to my interactions with authority figures (i.e. police) rarely being problematic.
posted by thisjax at 6:36 PM on May 29, 2008


You can get married without facing social dilemma about changing your name (choose not to change it and your family/friends might hassle you; choose to change it and it's a lot of work).

If you're a writer, you can use your own full name without worrying if your gender will affect sales (see J.K. Rowling).

As a white person, it's easier for you to find greeting cards that reflect images of you and your family.
posted by cadge at 6:50 PM on May 29, 2008


This is all from the gay man perspective:

You can get married. That and no one's going to turn you away from the door when you attempt to visit your spouse in the hospital.

No one's going to call you faggot and 'really' mean it.

Your parents aren't going to disown you because you sleep with men.

Your aunt isn't going to pull you aside at family reunions and say, "Are you still gay? I love you, but you know you're going to hell, right?"

You can join the military and not get worried about being fired for being gay. Oh - and you're not afraid to tell the guys in your squadron what you did with your weekend.

I could go on and on... but reckon the 'angry gay man' perspective I'm giving you is already getting old.
posted by matty at 6:53 PM on May 29, 2008


Nobody will judge you on your child-rearing abilities. Except your wife.

Hmm, I don't know about this. I think there is so much paranoia about child abuse out there these days. I read a comment (on metafilter) from a guy who was out eating with his young daughter and a cop came by and talked to him because someone called it in. You seem comments from a lot of guys saying they are scared of children, etc. My impression is that this is more of a worry for "mainstream" men rather then guys in other ethnic groups in the U.S, but I'm not sure.

So that's one example where white guys might feel worse off then other groups.

As far as white privilege goes, try going to China, or Africa for that matter. There are a lot of places in the world where being a white person will be a novelty and you'll get lots and lots of positive attention.

That said, the problem with a lot of these is that they rely on assumptions made about the other person involved in the interaction. You only need to "work through someone's prejudices" if you assume the other person has them. I'm non white and I've never felt like I've been treated in a way that was different from how a white man would be treated, with the exception of people asking me where I'm from when I'm in my home town. That is actually pretty annoying :P.
posted by delmoi at 7:18 PM on May 29, 2008


MeTa.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:38 PM on May 29, 2008


twirlypen, i don't have a whole lot more to add than what's been noted above -- but i do want to commend you for asking the question to begin with. it's a challenging topic to approach with humility and sincerity.
posted by CitizenD at 7:39 PM on May 29, 2008


From an Asian American perspective:

No one will assume that you speak English poorly, or not at all. When you're dealing with an inattentive waiter, he won't blame it on your accent. (That happened to me in Seattle.)

No one will start conversations by asking, "what are you?" or "where are you from?" When you tell them you're from LA, they won't ask you where you're really from. Or, when they don't get the answer they want, where your parents are from. Strangers won't stop you on the street and ask you to teach them a few words in "your language."
posted by kiripin at 7:39 PM on May 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


As a male, you can develop wrinkles, a pot belly and gray hair and it will most likely not affect the way you are treated, in fact, you will probably be treated with more respect, because you will look "distinguished."

In the workplace, nobody is going to mistake you for the secretary or receptionist.

You will probably never get called a "bitch" for asserting yourself.

Your therapist will never suggest that a "little make-up and a new hairstyle" might be just the thing to help you kick your depression.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:59 PM on May 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


When you were looking for your first job, if you made a list of all the family friends who could help you find a professional position, it probably didn't include people with occupations such as taxi driver, toy store employee, Wal-Mart employee, postal clerk, letter carrier, municipal hall admin assistant, electrician, bingo hall worker, bingo hall cash counter manager, tug boat captain, fisherman, hairdresser, medical office assistant, etc.

You probably never opted for bowling on employee appreciation day, since you knew something about golf or at least understood what signing up for bowling would mean.

If you had to coordinate an employee lunch or meet friends for dinner, you wouldn't book a "fast casual" restaurant and think it was kind of expensive.

You're probably never gone to a meeting with vendors/clients and had people automatically assume that your younger male employee was the boss.

As noted above, you probably don't carefully choose paths based on safety, let alone carry your keys between your fingers.

You probably never felt so intimidated by being a minority in a class that you transferred out.

You probably didn't eliminate career choices based on thinking they wouldn't be accommodating of your desire to have a family.

When people are coming over, you don't worry that they will judge you on the cleanliness of your house.

When at someone else's house, you might not even notice that the guys have ended up watching TV or drinking coffee while the women have been called in to wash dishes. (Hopefully, this doesn't happen too often anymore.)
posted by acoutu at 8:11 PM on May 29, 2008


You will never have to touch the toilet when peeing in a porta potty.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:24 PM on May 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree that it's an intersection between class and race and gender and what-have-you. A lot of it is about stereotypes -- the brain likes to form patterns, so people get used to thinking that all women are (blah), or all this kind of person is like (something).

Being non-white, though, means that when people look at you, they're going to make some automatic assumptions, modified by, as mentioned above, other things, like how you dress and how you talk, and if you're fat, or if you're thin, and that sort of thing.

For example, I tend to dress a bit more conservatively, I have short hair, I wear dress(y) shoes, and that sort of thing. I'm also Asian. A few years ago, I walked into a local barbershop, and the barber starts to cut my hair, and the first thing he says, conversationally, is: "So ... you're a neurosurgeon?"

And I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about this, because if everybody who meets me just assumes 'neurosurgeon', well, I am totally down with that (I am not a neurosurgeon. Also, 'neurosurgeon' is way better than what people generally assume about some other ethnic minorities.). But it's kind of a weird thing to assume, don't you think? I suppose it's vaguely understandable, since I live in a state which doesn't have a huge Asian population, and I do live near a major medical center, so it's pretty likely that most of the Asian people he's met were affiliated with the medical center in some capacity, but it's still kind of strange. (Best haircut ever, though.)

Another time, though, I'm manning a burrito booth as part of a fund-raiser for a club I'm in. You know, we man the booth, we get part of the take for our club, the stall owners keep the rest. Part of it is we have to wear t-shirts and dark colored trousers. Anyway, a couple comes up, and the husband orders two bean burritos, then wanders off to the beer stall. I hand the bean burritos to the wife, who apparently thought she was getting a veggie burrito, because suddenly a burrito is being thrust in my face, and she is doing the loud and slow thing some people do when they think the other person doesn't speak the lingo. You know. "VEG-GIE. VEG-GIE."

And I'm standing there thinking, "You know, lady, I was born in Texas, and I have degrees from some very decent universities ... so ... if you want to maybe use a verb or something ..."

Then the husband returns, mutters something into the wife's ear, and the burritos are snatched away.

It's kind of strange, to me, a guy born in Texas, for someone to assume that I don't speak English. I suppose it's one of those stereotypes people have. Generally I don't think it affects me so much that I'd call it 'privilege', but I think white people have more stereotypes available to choose from, because 'white' is kind of 'neutral'.

Oh yeah, and people who've only heard my name tend to assume that I am way shorter than I really am.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:32 PM on May 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


You don't have to agonise much over what clothes, shoes or accessories to buy, because almost everything marketed towards you will be bland & generic - 5% variations on a standard theme - and mostly made of the same three or four kinds of materials.

You don't have to queue forever for a toilet at a theatre, bar or nightclub, because you don't need to wait for a free cubicle. You can use a urinal instead, and because architects devote equal floorspace to mens' and womens' bathrooms, there's greater turnover of users. On the downside, you have to piss where people might check out your cock. On the upside, you can always go outside & piss against a wall or tree.

You don't have to deal with people buying you drinks, serving you first in stores, giving you extra helpings, or generally bending over backwards to please you because you're not a hot young woman.

You don't have to bother trying to get off speeding or parking fines for the same reason, because it'll never work for you.

You don't have to pay a luxury tax on items that are a monthly necessity.

You don't have to experience life as being particularly interesting or complex, through the intersection of your culture with the dominant culture. Instead, you get to experience everything as vanilla.

You don't have to worry too much about creating your own personal identity, because the majority of advertising & media is targeted at you, and therefore making those kinds of decisions for you.

You don't have to defend yourself against accusations that you have particular political beliefs or social attitudes merely through some minority affiliation. Instead, you get to have those attitudes assumed because of a majority affiliation.

You don't have to worry that there'll be a shortage of attractive people of your preferred gender to ogle in the media, on the sides of buses, on the covers of magazines, and just about everywhere else besides.

You don't have to deal with the social awkwardness of people making well-intentioned but misdirected efforts to accommodate your perceived differences.

You don't have to worry about dying of prostate cancer because we all know that breast cancer is a bigger killer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:05 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your value isn't constantly assessed by others based solely on how you look and the level of painstaking detail you take in your beauty routine. You aren't expected as a general rule of thumb to remove all hair from your body, without question or complaint. You aren't expected to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on products to enhance your face and hair, at risk of being told you look unprofessional. You didn't watch the majority of your friends struggle with eating disorders and extreme dieting, hating their own bodies. You don't feel compelled to list your body's flaws and faults whenever you are in a group of people entirely your own gender. You weren't given a specific clothing size/measurement/weight that you must live up to in order to be valuable.

You didn't grow up with the cultural reinforcement that the default expectation was for you to be a domestic caregiver first, and if you needed to work it meant you were poor and if you didn't get married it meant you were undesirable. You weren't actively discouraged from pursuing math or sciences. You weren't told to stop doing fun things because it was unbecoming of your gender and unladylike. You haven't been told you aren't strong enough, that you shouldn't go places alone, that your independence should come second to your safety, that your sexuality treads a fine line and if you cross it you will be forever dirty and if you don't you will be considered frigid and prudish.

Your gender and sexuality is rarely used as an insult or punchline of jokes. People don't do "straight male" impressions for lulz. You don't worry about your gender presentation and whether you are "passing" or whether someone might threaten you with physical harm for doing so. What you do in the bedroom is not open conversation for any asshole who feels the need to put you in your place. People don't tell you you make them sick when you accidentally or intentionally reveal your sexual orientation. People don't debate your right to be married or to be allowed to work with young people.

You aren't described as "exotic" or assumed to be a foreigner wherever you go. If you get a job/promotion it's because you earned it. If you get into a good school or win a scholarship it's because you earned it. People don't tell you that you are the first person of your race to do something when your achievements are notable. People don't compliment you on your language skills or grammar. People bother to ask you what type of music you like rather than assume based on your race. Most films you see star and are directed by people who look like you. If you turn on the television you will see someone who looks like you on essentially every channel and on each program you watch. If you go to the bookstore or the NY times bestseller list, most of the books are written by people who look like you. If you open the newspaper, most of the people covered and most of the people writing are people who look like you.

If you express genuine frustration you are not told that you are being "hysterical" or living up to some stereotype of your race. If someone wrongs you, you have no qualms about going to the police, or following any existing chain of authority to right the situation or report it to the correct authorities. You have never been made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace based on your race or gender and think it's stupid and pointless when you have to do sensitivity training or sign agreements of nondiscrimination or harassment policies. You have not been burdened with the knowledge that more of your friends and loved ones have been raped and abused than haven't.

Your family supported you financially through your teenage and college years, not the other way around. You chose between all kinds of schools and were only limited by your own ambition/talent. You have never had more than one job at a time, or if you did it was temporary or due to some unexpected short term emergency. Your folks would always be there to help you out in a real emergency. You had health coverage your whole life with only a short gap between college and the workforce. You've always had access to training or other education in order to obtain a better job. You've never worried about being judged by the quality of your clothing at a job interview. You've never had to use a friend's address on a resume for fear of being judged based on the neighborhood you live in.

You've never relied on overdraft protection or quick payday loans in order to pay for food/medical care/housing or other necessities. You've never had your car repossessed and then lost your job as a result of losing your car, and then lost your house as a result of losing your job. You've never declared bankruptcy, you've never been too broke to afford declaring bankruptcy, you've never had a house foreclosed upon, you've never had credit collectors call your workplace repeatedly, you've never been turned down for a job based on the credit check, you've never had no place to sleep, you've never had an empty pantry and fridge, you've never had to rely on welfare or other public assistance to get by. You've never been told that in order to qualify for said social assistance you would need to quit your job or get pregnant. You've never had your learning disability (or your child's) blamed on your economic class or race. You've never been automatically put in a remedial class because of where your parents live/work. Your parents retired at a normal age (or will) and have managed to save enough to support themselves rather than having to come live with you or work until they die.
posted by SassHat at 9:08 PM on May 29, 2008 [26 favorites]


Your gender and sexuality is rarely used as an insult or punchline of jokes. People don't do "straight male" impressions for lulz.

Ha! I have lost count of how many instances of "incompetent dad" I have seen in commercials and on TV shows. White, middle-class fathers are the very definition of incompetence on TV and in movies. And if Monty Burns and Homer Simpson aren't played for lulz then I have completely missed the point.

I will agree that most white guys have a pretty full invisible backpack and this one is hardly fatal, but this is one area where we get it as much as anyone.
posted by GuyZero at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen anyone mention that many internet users tend to assume everyone on the internet is a white male and address them as such. Personally, I can't stand it when someone thinks I am male.
posted by saucysault at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


White girl here. As white folks, we can walk down the street high/drunk and as long as we're able to walk, a cop is unlikely to stop and question us. If are caught with drugs, we're given the opportunity to cooperate, and likely won't get thrown up against the side of the car and handcuffed unless we make a scene.

Most people are shocked! that my (male) SO makes dinner most nights. It's considered strange and wonderful that a 36 year old man can get dinner on the table.

If you disagree with a colleague at work and it turns into a bit of an argument, you won't be accused of being "emotional" and told to smooth things over (while the issue itself is ignored.)

You probably make more money than women doing the same job, even if they've been there longer. If you have a wife and kids, you probably make even more.
posted by desuetude at 9:29 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and you can have sex without fear of getting pregnant. Of course many men fear getting a girl pregnant, but when you're the one with the uterus, it's a whole different ballgame.
posted by desuetude at 9:35 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


From a female former fundamentalist-Christian perspective:

--Three words: No. Relational. Aggression.
You can revel in your work without becoming embroiled in cliques, politics, or petty gossip about what you or Suzy So-and-So is wearing today or if there is a piece of lint on her shoulder. Also, since men are known for being less subtle, your coworkers probably speak more directly with you, without expecting you to decode the tiniest nuances. More likely to spell it out, not expect you to just figure it out.

--You get more attractive as you get older, while your wife gets less attractive as she ages. When you tire of your wife, you can leave her for a woman half your age, whom you will lure with your higher earning potential.

--You can speak to or initiate relationships with the opposite sex without people accusing you of being a self-absorbed flirt.

--You never feel pressure to "dumb yourself down" to attract someone of the opposite sex.

--Your values can include the belief that women should submit to their husbands with absolutely no conflict of interest on your part.

--You can feel entitled marrying a woman who feels she must alter her appearance so that other people do not question her intelligence, morals, or faith.

--No one will suggest that you reevaluate your academic and career goals for the sake of your family, or suggest that you are "trying to do too much." No one has ever told you "you can't have it all," or, "you can have it all, but not all at once."

--No one will ever question your dedication to either your work or your family after the birth of a child.

--You don't have to worry that the president and his minions will take away your right to choose if and when to provide for your children.

--There is no sin for which you can't redeem yourself. Even though I have no regrets, if I told everyone that I had an abortion, I would be a marked woman. But the man who sleeps with me is blameless.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:41 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You, who has been at the job less time and do a poor job, won't be laid off because you have a family (a wife) to support. It doesn't matter that the single mom whose been there longer and does an awesome job has two kids to support.
posted by deborah at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2008


Another related issue on the point made upthread about women having to guard vigilantly against rape/assault. Bear with me, this is a little long to get to my point.

So, the beginnings of teaching girls to be careful to not get raped starts waaaay before puberty -- it starts with how we're taught to behave in general as little girls. Don't sit with your legs apart. Hold your skirt down if it's windy. Don't pull your swimsuit down. Be ladylike. And then later, it's clutch your keys when walking to your car. Carry mace and/or a whistle. If you must walk after dark alone, be very careful and alert. Don't leave your drink unattended. Etc.

Adult women have long since internalized all of this caution, and yet our judgment on whether or not we should walk down a particular street or live in a certain neighborhood, etc. is constantly questioned in a way that similar decisions by our male friends just... aren't. Yes, of course sexual assault is a bigger risk for women...but we're required to chew on this fact our whole lives. It would be nice if well-informed opinions could be more respected as such.
posted by desuetude at 10:34 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not having to consider any of the above has allowed you to think about other things, which indirectly gains you time, freedom, and confidence.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:51 PM on May 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


The McIntosh essay only skims the surface of white privilege. For more dimensions, and concrete suggestions as to how to actively and persuasively work against it, check out Shelly Tochluk's Witnessing Whiteness: First Steps Toward an Antiracist Practice and Culture. It's excellent. I've been raving about it to everyone I know.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:53 PM on May 29, 2008


Hmmm... I wonder how much of these experiences are age or regional based. I'm sure there's more racism in the midwest or southeast and more classism on the east coast. Whenever I visit these places I'm surprised by the culture differences that exist within the USA.

Everyone has an invisible backpack, some full of good and some full of bad. As a white guy born and raised on the west coast here's some of the things I've dealt with:

+ i couldn't marry my korean girlfriend because her parents wouldn't let her marry a non-korean.
+ i'm expected to open doors, pay for dinners, and go out of my way to be super-nice for people otherwise i'm an asshole.
+ people automatically assume i can't dance.
+ if i don't know how to fix cars i'm a wuss.
+ football coaches in college automatically assume you're slower than black players. it takes you twice as long to earn a spot on the depth chart as a black guy. new players are given extra reps (opportunities) in practice if they're black, because they're assumed to be better.
+ if i go to the gym and play basketball and most the other players are black i'm chosen last or not at all. people automatically assume you're athletically inferior to black people, even if you can out run/jump/lift 99%of people regardless of race.
+ many white girls in college won't date you because you're too "normal"
+ if you wear comfortable (looser fitting) clothing you're accused of "trying" to be another color - this comes from people of all races.
+ you have to seriously reconsider applying for graduate school, because most have quotas of minorities, women and homosexuals. the competition amongst white males is increased for a fewer number of slots.
+ when you decide to fire someone who's not a white male your motives are questioned. ditto for when you hire or promote a white male.

Everyone has shit to deal with because of the way they look. The less time you spend bitching about it the more you'll get done.
posted by b_thinky at 12:31 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am a woman, and aside from the obvious job and respect issues, what bothers me is that we are expected to shave _everything_ and wear high heels. not only is this nonsense, but i am dangerous with both sharp and pokey objects, so this is not a good deal for me.
posted by luckyloki at 1:28 AM on May 30, 2008


Being a straight, white male you also (probably) have cisgender privilege. Thus:

You can access medical care without having to be referred to a specialist based a long way away and with a long waiting list, for problems outside that specialist's area of expertise.

In discussions of anti-discrimination laws and procedures, in government, in business and in education, someone like you is likely to be included, or someone on the panel is likely to be even vaguely aware of the issues people like you face.

You can apply for jobs without having to disclose embarrassing and potentially dangerous information as a matter of course.

You do not fear law enforcement because you might be placed in an inappropriately-sexed cell should you be arrested; you do not avoid taking part in protests or standing up for your rights for the same reason. You do not have similar fears regarding travelling abroad or long-distance. If you are arrested or detained for some reason, officials will not dismiss your concerns based on your gender identity or presentation.

You do not feel pressured to reveal details about your past that could be used to harm you before a new relationship becomes even a little bit intimite; you are unlikely to be accused of being a liar for being who you are; you are unlikely to be assaulted or murdered when you do reveal your past. When your death is reported in the news after this event, journalists are unlikely to automatically assume you were a prostitute, or use the wrong name for you.

There's a much more complete list here.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:00 AM on May 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm really surprised by this list. I guess if we had a thread asking for the advantages of not being a white male hetero, we get just as many posts? Nope. The interesting thing is that people don't seem to be able to differentiate between perceived advantage and real advantage, personal hang-ups and general problems, and what you get versus what you give up. Everything gets lumped into "somebody's got it better than me."

Race and orientation are fast losing their ability to claim privilege and oppression. We aren't completely there yet, but it's coming. When it does, the identities that so many have built upon class, race, gender, and orientation differences will disintegrate at a faster pace then they have thus far... and we will all have to look in the mirror and decide who we are without the labels. That should be interesting.

I think that everyone takes their advantages for granted... it's just that most groups don't have their advantages analyzed.
posted by ewkpates at 4:11 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you're not going to answer the question there's a metatalk thread already.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:32 AM on May 30, 2008


Reading... comprehension... problem... armyo'...

What does this 'privileged' status do for me that I don't even notice?

Answer Recap: Many of the advantages listed here are not actual advantages and thus do not answer the poster's question; Many of the advantages listed are relative advantages, which means you get something for giving up something, which means it is not a "technical advantage" but just a difference; and everyone takes their advantages for granted.
posted by ewkpates at 4:53 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


In your initial comment you criticise the people answering the question ("The interesting thing is that people don't seem to be able to differentiate between perceived advantage and real advantage"), you suggest an alternative question to the one actually being asked ("I guess if we had a thread asking for the advantages of not being a white male hetero, we get just as many posts?", and, "most groups don't have their advantages analyzed."), and you make a prediction that doesn't seem relevant ("we will all have to look in the mirror and decide who we are without the labels," when the question is not, "Who am I?" but, "How am I treated differently to other people?").

In your follow-up comment you suggest that many of the answers given are invalid but you're not specific, and your follow-up assertion lacks examples.

In neither comment have you answered the question. If you wish to talk about the thread and not answer the question, the metatalk thread is here. To avoid derailing this thread any more I won't reply again here.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:12 AM on May 30, 2008


A straight, white, upper middle class American male would experience a significant change in attitudes towards himself if he were to come to Europe. An Irish person will be treated differently in the US, or UK, or Russia, or any other predominantly white country than in Ireland, and the same will happen to anyone outside their own 'group zone'.

People seem to like to herd. People will instinctively treat 'the other' differently, because they happen to be different in some perceptible way.

Unfortunate, but unsurprising.

Oh, and as a straight, white, upper middle class male with university education I too feel uncomfortable walking down dodgy alleys at night. I tend not to worry about being raped, but I do worry about getting beaten up, stabbed, or robbed.
posted by knapah at 5:23 AM on May 30, 2008


I do agree that privilege lists are not entirely helpful. They can open eyes, and get you thinking, but they don't necessarily serve as a good comprehensive answer to your question.

I am in an interesting position (I think) of both having privilege and not having it. And it is almost always contextual.

Representative Examples:
- I am a very conscientious and passionate anti-racist activist who is half-white, half-asian, and am often given "honorary white people" status/privilege by strangers as I go through life, but at the same time I am aware that not only can this honorary status be revoked, but that I know and love and care about folks who are never granted this honorary status.

- I am also a fat-acceptance activist who is a little chubby, but my investment there is usually through emotional ties I have with folks who are outright fat, and who deal with constant unsolicited negative feedback and free "advice" about their body size, whether or not they can do anything about it.

- I am a transgendered intersex person, and queer, but not in expected ways and I pass as normal really really well. And at the same time, I know that folks who can't pass as normal and who don't wish to have to pass or hide their queerness get put down/looked down on/beaten/raped/killed by some who disagree with their "lifestyle" all the time.

- I grew up as lower-middle-class in a strongly labor oriented family in Berkeley, CA, US but am now arguably upper-middle-class because of my income and lifestyle. I can't forget my upbringing and it bothers me to see the effects of classism on folks I love and care for who do not have my income or other resources available.

- I have well-controlled chronic, serious asthma, which is an ADA-accepted disability but because it's well-controlled, it's largely invisible and rarely inconveniences me. And at the same time I have friends and loved ones who are disabled in various more visible ways, and because I am in their lives, I know the extra stupid suffering they endure because of it.

- I am a very strong feminist and feminist activist (I even have a minor in Women's Studies - major in Chemistry, for my B.S.), but I live as a man in this society, and could (if I had no social/emotional ties keeping me honest, anyway) forget that and just take advantage of male privilege all the time.

Essentially, I am in the position to be a complete bastard if I want to and sell out all of my friends and loved ones. I could act like the problems of privilege, advantage, classism, ableism, sexism, ageism and so on were everyone else's problem. If I did that I'd estimate I'd be successful perhaps 90% or more of the time.

And like many folks have said (here and in some of the linked discussions), folks who are of disadvantaged classes also have privileges they don't acknowledge, which muddies the whole question or equation, if you will (although I will say right now that I hate making equations of these kinds of questions - I think that too is unfair and occasions "misery mathematics" and comparing the "values" of other folks' miseries to your own - something I find morally reprehensible). I could probably rationalize and argue away the objective evaluation of privilege in every interaction and probably feel okay about myself if I could ignore how important all of this is to me, to my friends, to my family.

But I do as much work as I can to right the social injustices I cannot help but see. Essentially I argue toward my personal disadvantage because it is ethically/morally right for me to be relatively disadvantaged compared to what's automatically granted me (this is what privilege is - being automatically granted advantages based on social hierarchies). I want to and argue to even the score - to make sure that the currently disadvantaged have as close as possible to the same chances I have in life.

It's a difficult path to walk, and I can always end up second-guessing myself. I'm always asking myself: "Did I negotiate that particular exchange responsibly?" It's very fraught but I keep trying to right those wrongs, and to use my position as an insider in majority/advantaged populations to work for the benefit of the minorities/disadvantaged.

For me, it ultimately comes down to personalizing the question to not only myself but to folks who are emotionally important to me. If I cannot see how a particular privilege benefits me, I can usually see how not having it works to the detriment of someone I know, care for, or outright love. And as long as I feel like the overall balance of the total package is still overwhelmingly to the majority's advantage, I work on righting that wrong and equalizing the dynamics.

It does require a lot of effort to do this work, and sometimes I take breaks (which is privilege in itself - some folks have shit happen to them all the time and there are no breaks), but in the long run, I keep at it because I care. I have energy and caring invested in my own emotional/psychological well-being and in other folks who are impacted by inequities that I think are world-wide-social in scale, systemic, and correctable.

Ultimately, it bothers me when avoidable crap happens to others I care about, and that's why I keep fighting for an equalization of privilege for all people.
posted by kalessin at 6:06 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


As long as you're white, people automatically allocate you to a 'majority' (anglo-celtic) culture, even if - like me - you happen to actually belong to one of the tiniest ethnic minorities on earth. In this way, you get to pass through life effectively invisible.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:33 AM on May 30, 2008


I'm a white woman and when I was in high school, I participated in a journalism seminar where all the students were black. We created our own newspaper and one day we wrote a story on the Juneteenth Day celebration in Milwaukee. I was literally the only white person that I saw for blocks. There was no outright hostility; it was more of a sense that people were looking at me and thinking "what are you doing here?" I also felt kind of ignored, and I was super-conscious of my skin color. I cannot imagine having to feel that every day.
posted by desjardins at 7:00 AM on May 30, 2008


--You never feel pressure to "dumb yourself down" to attract someone of the opposite sex.

speak for yourself.

("oh, you're an aries; how fascinating! i always get on with aries..." [oh god, can i kill myself now? or can we at least hurry up with the sexy stuff so i don't have to listen to any more of this bollocks?")
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:11 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


White, middle-class fathers are the very definition of incompetence on TV and in movies.

Yes, but those movies are usually comedies, whereas incompetent Mom movies are dramas or horror movies.
posted by rmless at 8:00 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as a straight, white, upper middle class male with university education I too feel uncomfortable walking down dodgy alleys at night. I tend not to worry about being raped, but I do worry about getting beaten up, stabbed, or robbed.
Yes, but a woman has to worry about getting beaten up, stabbed, robbed, and raped. You're still getting a benefit.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:19 AM on May 30, 2008


I'm 4'11. Most things except airline seats fit you. If you sit in a chair, your feet rest on the ground. You can reach all the merchandise in stores.

The default is for you to wear comfortable shoes, even when you're dressed up.

If you're a mainstream Christian, you're much less likely to have to deal with people being stupid about your religion.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2008


I'm 4'11. Most things except airline seats fit you. If you sit in a chair, your feet rest on the ground. You can reach all the merchandise in stores.

AMEN! Also, if you're a size 2, nothing in regular stores fits you anymore (at least not in the US - Paris was fine). Almost no one carries anything smaller than a size 6. XS isn't really extra small anymore. I can't shop at Target anymore; I have to go to higher-end or specialty stores. Even the petite sizes are mostly geared towards women who are larger around the middle.
posted by desjardins at 8:46 AM on May 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Your gender isn't used as an insult by authority figures and peers.

Most health studies are focused on your health, designing medication and treatments for your body and lifestyle.

You can take up all the space you want, while women cross their legs, lean into corners, move out of your path.

People don't assume you're making a statement if you mention your lover or partner, touch her in public, ask about adding her to your insurance or other financial or legal arrangements.

You won't be barred from visiting your wife in the hospital or making important medical decisions if she is incapable without a judge issuing an order barring you from doing so.

Chances are that mechanics will assume you know what they're talking about and that they're less likely to be able to swindle you for unneeded services and parts.

If you tell your doctor that you are experiencing depression or anxiety, odds are excellent that you will be taken seriously and given a referral and/or prescription.

Potential employers will not assume that you will be likely to take time off work to deal with childbearing, childrearing, or caring for other family members in need, which gives you an advantage in hiring, promotions, retention, and pay increases. If you do take time off for these things, you will be seen as extraordinarily caring and may be rewarded even more.

Odds are, no one will ever seriously say to you, "Don't worry your pretty little head about it," or ask you to fetch drinks for others present while problems are being solved or plans are being made.

There is no television news reporting or national radio talk show that promotes and perpetuates the idea that people like you are dangerous, thugs, petty thieves, looking to get something you didn't earn. On the contrary, people who look like you are commonly portrayed as the authority figures who protect the public from people who don't look like you.

Odds are excellent that women do not clutch their purses tighter, cross to the other side of the street, back into an elevator corner, or otherwise indicate fear at first sight of you.

Your looks will almost certainly not affect your hiring or promotional opportunities, and (unless extreme) may not be a barrier to romantic opportunities.

If you step out on a significant other or have a history of a lot of sex partners, people will frequently dismiss it as unimportant or excusable and may even want to emulate you. They won't assume that it means you're morally bankrupt, shouldn't be around/raise children, or are an evil temptress and a threat to all committed relationships in your vicinity.

No one will assume if you have financial troubles that it is because you are spending too much money on fashion.

Odds are that no professor, teacher, or trainer has ever felt you didn't belong in a class because of your gender or punished you for it with harsher grading.

You'll never get arrested for taking off your shirt on a hot day in a public park or on the street.

You don't have strange men leering at you, making rude gestures with their mouths and fingers, telling you just what they'd like to do to you sexually -- possibly from before you're even an adolescent.

You don't struggle to find attractive clothing that isn't too revealing but won't get you labeled as a prude, either.

You won't be investigated by DFCS or at risk of losing custody of your children because someone doesn't approve of the gender configuration of your partnership or of your income and ability to provide.

People won't raise their voices and talk really slowly to you because they assume from looking at you that you don't speak English.

If you drive an expensive car or wear expensive jewelry or clothes, people will assume that you earned the money to pay for those items yourself, and not on your back or through illegal enterprises.

You will never be at higher risk of assault or murder because you are pregnant.

If you make it to adolescence without being sexually assaulted, you will probably go the rest of your life without it happening to you.

You're never subjected to messages about how you can "fix" your sexuality through prayer, counseling, faith, and hard work or expected to be abstinent if those should fail to keep you from roasting for eternity.

There is no need to dedicate a day or week or month to teaching your history, as it is the default that is taught day in and day out.

You and your partner won't be refused accomodations or treated shabbily at hotels, resorts, restaurants, spas, or other hospitality facilities because of your gender presentations.
posted by notashroom at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


This e-mail snippet was passed around one of my moms' listserves just the other day. While it concerns the differences in (stereo)typical mothering vs. fathering, as opposed to the broader topic of being female vs. being male, I thought it was interesting for pointing out how certain kinds of parenting work is traditionally broken up by gender, in ways that men probably don't notice quite as much:
THE NEXT 'SURVIVOR' TV SERIES

Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money.

In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time--no emailing.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment

He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care.

He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn himself with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:00 am.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right To be called Mother!
posted by Asparagirl at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Lists of privileges can be helpful in some ways, but they're also overly simplistic.

There are two discussion-based communities on livejournal that have been very good resources for me: debunkingwhite and feminist.

I've learned a ton from just reading the posts and discussions on those two communities. They can be kindof "tough love" at times, but they really helped me move from a theoretical/academic understanding of racism/sexism/etc. to a more personal, practical one.
posted by lunit at 9:36 AM on May 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Coming back to the discussion, I second lunit's recommendation to read debunkingwhite.

The tough love comes from endless supplies of new discussion of established topics and an overall malaise of frustration that affects every anti-racist, anti-sexist activist, stimulated by ever-present assertions that they're militant, hysterical, making a big thing out of nothing, that we'll all be equal soon or are already are, etc.

It's another privilege you have as a straight white guy. You don't have to choose between sucking it up or going crazy with frustration, arguing the same points over and over that other straight white guys continually reassert are invisible or imaginary.
posted by kalessin at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2008


The next time you are walking down an uncrowded city street with a female, play the "spot the stranger" game. Odds are, she will see people BLOCKS before you are aware of them.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:27 PM on June 1, 2008


The race- based ones mentioned in this thread are, well, foreign to me.

I live in Australia. There is no real thing as 'white'. You're greek, or russian, or itailan, or chinese, or japanese, or korean, or english, or norwegian, or australian, or german, or spanish, or french, or aboriginal, or african, or afrikaans, or dutch, or ....

The concept of being white was one I didn't encounter until my early twenties. I am one of the (relatively few) people who are actually, honest-to-god, white. I glow in sunlight kind of white. My husband has olive skin. He isn't white - but in america, I gather, he would probably be classified as white. This boggles my mind.

Australia has been classified as racist, in that we're hyper-aware of someone's likely racial type. This comes, I suppose, from having such a mix to start off with - and from very early class distinctions, which have become irrelevant over the years. But I grew up knowing the various fine-grained ethnic distinctions, and caring about it only as a matter of being aware of what some of their strong cultural influences were - not that they were better or worse than I (although I envy them the ability to withstand sunlight).

That someone would be discriminated on based on the fact that they weren't some arbitary definition of white - really blows my mind.
posted by ysabet at 5:58 PM on June 1, 2008


If you want to support your favorite team, the NFL doesn't think you need special pink colored gear to do it. In fact, most companies don't think you need special pink colored gear for any reason.

There aren't hundreds of fashion/style magazines published every month full of cover stories dedicated to showing you all your flaws and how to fix them. Your ideal body according to the fashion industry is not 5'10" and size 0. (I love fashion, but.. just saying.) You probably have a standard outfit for your profession and don't have to think too hard about what is appropriate to wear. Your shoes are probably designed to be comfortable. You probably have to be actually fat for people to call you fat.

Makeup and revealing clothing won't be marketed to you when you're a kid.

If you make a reasonable complaint about something happening in the workplace, your colleagues and/or boss probably will listen to you instead of blaming you for being emotional or frustrated. People will be less likely to tell you not to get emotional when you're not getting emotional. You can show some anger without people getting scared of you.

If you run for higher office, people will probably not comment on your laugh, your clothes, your hair, and compare you to their ex-wife, mother-in-law, ex-girlfriend, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, etc. If you have a conflict or are in competition with people of the same gender, people will think it is normal, and not make any references to having a catfight, being jealous, petty, etc.

HR gatekeepers will probably not be more likely to pass over your resume or not let you past a phone interview because of your name or accent.
posted by citron at 1:56 AM on June 3, 2008


Ah, and your haircuts are usually much cheaper, and the stylist usually knows how to cut your kind of hair, and you can get a pretty standard haircut and know it will always be professional and acceptable. You won't be expected to spend tons of time and effort and money on your hair to make it fit others' definition of professional. (I suppose the other side is, you might worry a lot more about losing your hair!)

Pharmacists will never refuse to fill your prescription on religious grounds.

If you are a Christian your gender does not prevent you from ever becoming a priest/pastor at your church.

Probably no one's going to put their arm around your waist and gently move you out of the way if they are trying to walk past you at a bar or club.

[Wow, I know there are disadvantages to being a white male as well, I just wrote these things to give perspective, not to complain exactly.]
posted by citron at 2:14 AM on June 3, 2008


If you shop at or use items from a thrift store, people will assume it's because you are making a choice - a lifestyle choice of less consumption or a fashion choice of being trendy - instead of assuming that you are taking advantage of a social service provided for people like you because you are unable to sufficiently provide for yourself and buy new things.
posted by mosessis at 8:31 PM on June 3, 2008


you don't spend a ton of money on mascara/concealer/lip stick/hair products/lotions because no one will judge you if you leave the house without perfectly smooth elbows.

also, you don't spend a ton of time one things like that and fixing your hair/shaving your legs/applying make up because you can leave the house and have an imperfection and no one will notice. but for a woman to come into a business meeting without make-up on, it'll look like she doesn't care about her appearance.

also, shaving. armpits (and other parts i won't mention) are sensitive. yes, you have to shave your beard if you don't want to look unkept, but you can let that grow out for a day or two, but that doesn't work with armpits.

oh, and men's underwear is MUCH cheaper. Good bras that work are expensive. And it's still more comfortable not wearing one, but there's no way (most) women can get away with that.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:36 AM on June 11, 2008


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