“What the hell is a black male feminist?’ I’m a new convert to the feminist credo. Being a new recruit in a growing movement I welcome the opportunity to be identified as a “feminist” because it celebrates those of us who are serious about promoting changes in attitudes and policy that allows and cultivates the environments that breed sexist and misogynistic attitudes. We have to work together to discard the accepted norms within the black community and strive for more unity and diversity.
The work of building a whole community of progressive black men is being done. Young men who are advanced in politics, business, education, real state, and finance are needed more than ever in the African-American community. If men, black men, were to unite and form a protective cocoon around our young black males, there might be a noticeable improvement in a relatively short amount of time. That sounds good for the community: a few men… a few boys… kumbaya.. and then we’re all better. Sadly, we will not be better. We won’t be in the same vicinity as ‘better’ if we continue to ignore the festering problem of sexism. Our women are screaming. Through their tears, with their heads held high, they are screaming. Sadly, it seems, their screams are falling on deaf ears.
The United States of Male Privilege
America is what it is. Mostly it is a land built to maximize an environment of male privilege. It’s no secret that men rule this nation. While doing research for this essay I came across this lengthy checklist that illustrates the historical, and somewhat stereotypical/implied advantages that men have enjoyed for as long as America has been and ideal.
The Male Privilege Checklist
1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.
2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.
3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.
6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.
12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
17. As a child, I could choose from an infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.
18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.
19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.
21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability.
26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.
28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.
37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.
39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.
40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.
41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.
43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.
44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”
45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment.
45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
My Own Personal War
I’m not going to lie, until recently, I enjoyed the complete anonymity of the assumed power of being a man. That is, privilege and power are invisible but it’s plain to see in everything that surrounds us. It is also plain to see the impact that my given rights have on the females that surround me. Whether it’s in the news (Topeka voting to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases), in the music (Dr. Dre attempting to throw Dee Barnes down a flight of stairs or Chris Brown beating Rihanna), or in the news (the recent case of the Norfolk police captain who killed his wife and himself), women are more vulnerable than ever.
As a man… no … as a human being, it is my duty to give these advantages up in the name of sincere fairness so that the women, who already give up so much, might have a chance to have at least a little more. The idea, male feminism, in itself is strangely heroic but is not without its pitfalls. There are going to be some of who question my masculinity, sexuality, and sanity. Some are going to read this and think I’m ignorant or under-valuing the war that women have been waging in this country from its very beginning. I’m at the beginning of this journey and I intend to see it through. We all have mothers and each of us posesses a unique opportunity to replicate ourselves in the lives of others. I just want to make sure that the influence I have is one that changes things and makes the world a better place to exist… for everyone.
This is part one of a series of posts on Feminism. Please leave comments/stories of how the movement affects you.