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Posts Tagged ‘rambling’

A Bit About Male Priviledge

Posted by A birch tree on June 5, 2008

A few days ago, my blog was mentioned over at Women’s Space, in a very kind way, but a way that made me uncomfortable. I posted in the comments, but thought maybe I should put my feelings down here as well, with some elaboration.

I would like to say, for the record, that I’m really uncomfortable being the subject of phrases like “men who actually get it”, and “men who have earned safe passage through Women’s Land”, because I don’t think I have. I really only get much attention at all, I believe, because I am male, and the bar for males is so low that all I have to do is write about some relatively elementary “Well, duh!” things I discover about myself and the world I live in as I walk down the road of becoming a halfway decent human being, and I can be a relative shining star in a sea of dirtbags.

The only reason I can write about what I do is because of all the women I’ve learned from, who have sacrificed their time and energy to perform a task I should have been doing for myself all along.

My wife, Aria, has put herself on the limb for me time and time again, not because it was something she enjoyed doing; she’s sacrificed emotionally and spiritually and has spent many sleepless nights because of my obstenance, entitlement, priviledge, and misogyny. She’s done it because she’s more or less stuck with me, and desperately wanted me to be safer for her to be around in every sense.

Feminist bloggers, like Heart, The Biting Beaver (of whom I was a great fan, and miss sorely), Twisty, Red State Feminist, Polly Styrene, Sparkle*matrix, and countless others, are the foundation upon which all my ideas and writing stand. Behind this halfway mediocre, sexist man stands a hundred amazing, intelligent, women. I stand upon the shoulders of giants, and that imagery is, I feel, very apt, in that standing on women’s shoulders to receive recognition is pretty much the definition of the Patriarchy. It is only my priviledge in this society that allows me to do so, and it is certainly my priviledge that would allow me to accept any sort of accolade whatsoever for ascending an inch or two above the bar of male expectation by riding on the coattails of great women.

I do strive to one day truly earn the praise I’ve been given, but I haven’t yet. I’m not that good of a feminist out in the real world. I have priviledge, and sexism, and misogyny, and entitlement suspended like cholesterol in my very blood; the part of me everyone sees on the internet is not the whole me. My past is a testament to Patriachy in action, and my present is rife with episodes of silent cowardice and resistance, silent and otherwise, against some very basic Feminist principles, and that I feel shamed by all of them is cold comfort to the women who must interact with me.

I write to catalogue a journey I should have embarked on long, long ago and should be much, much further along with; a journey I should have begun by myself rather than by being driven along from behind by women whose options were to either teach me or put up with me. I don’t feel that any of my ideas are new, or novel, and I only get what hits I do because of the very male priviledge I’m ashamed of using: a male who, even the tiniest bit, “gets it”, is to be esteemed regardless of how recycled his words are or how shallow his observations.

Part and parcel of that is the fact that I feel a pressing need to address the fact that I have not earned any praise. I am not a good man. I am not a decent man. I am, at best, a slightly-less-neolithic man, and I cringe at giving myself even that much credit.

The whole point is that no, I don’t “get it”. Not yet. I am very uncomfortable with that kind of description because it makes me feel like I’m setting out to fool people. When those words come up, I feel fraudulent. Here, on the internet, I put forth a persona that I strive to live up to in reality, not a snapshot of who I am in reality.

I will say things that offend. I will say things that are stupid. I will fail to grasp concepts that are elementary. Even though I can say that, and even though I can see them coming in a vague, misty sort of way over the horizon, I won’t see them in specific until they’re right on top of me, and I will fuck up. I do not ask for anyone’s slack, nor will you ever hear me say “I’m still learning!” as if the beginning point of my learning was a marker in the river of destiny that I could not have moved or avoided. I just don’t want anyone to have to choose between defending my fuckups, or eating crow and feeling cheated, and in both cases having their judgement questioned because of my actions. That’s the very definition of male priviledge; men do ignorant, shitty, apathetic, and/or outright malicious things which hurt women, and women have to bat cleanup for them.

There may be other male pro-feminist bloggers out there who use the women who read and usually like their blogs as shields against valid criticism from other women who were rightly offended. If such men exist, I want to avoid them like an old cliche.

Why the hell am I rambling on and on about this long beyond the point of redundancy? Because it’s really important to me that I get across that I am so totally not enlightened. I don’t want anyone to feel, at any time, like I’ve put out a false respresentation of myself for personal gain. As I’ve said before, I’ve done many of the things that were on the Rapist Checklist (thus, I’ve raped). Hell, I’ll call out the numbers for you, since just saying the above without getting specific naturally leads one to conclude that I would be referring to some of the “lesser” numbers, and make no mistake, in spite of the fact that rape is bad and all of those numbers are rape, many people, somehow, consider some of them to be “worse rape” or “more rape” than others, so just saying “I’ve done things on that list” could be pretty misleading. What are my numbers? They are 1, 3, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 33, 34, 36, 37, 45, and 51.

I’m male. I’m part of dude nation. I benefit from Patriarchy and rape and porn and institutionalized sexism and every other nasty, horrible thing that goes on here. It doesn’t matter how much I write, or what I write about, I’m always going to benefit until the revolution comes. I can’t accept kind words from women while still benefitting from their pain.

So, yeah. I think I’ve run out of words. I haven’t run out of thoughts, but I’ve run out of words. I don’t know if anyone will even get what I’m trying to say here. If the “man who gets it” actually does exist, he’s, uh, yeah, like, not me.

I really, really appreciate the praise I’ve been given, and it makes me feel like I’m getting a few small things right, maybe. But I’m afraid I can’t accept that praise, and will have to respectfully return all that praise to the people who have given it, because I haven’t earned it, and I don’t think I ever will. To accept it and keep it would be to embrace the very priviledge I’m supposed to be taking a stand against.

-a birch tree

PS: For crying out loud…. I can’t figure out how to say what I’m thinking without coming across as emo and/or self-loathing and/or fatuous and/or like, what’s the word for being all falsely humble to get pity or attention? I can’t remember and google isn’t helping. Anyway, I guess I’ll just hit the “publish” button here and hope for the best.

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Posted in Feminism, Liberal Men, Musing | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »