Male privilege

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Male privilege is a term for social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. A man's access to these benefits may also depend on other characteristics such as race, sexual orientation and social class.[1][2][3]

Male privilege is often examined with the concept of patriarchy.


In legal cases alleging discrimination, "sex" is usually preferred as the determining factor rather than "gender", because it refers to biology rather than socially constructed norms which are more open to interpretation and dispute.[4] In "Defining Male and Female: Intersexuality and the Collision Between Law and Biology", Julie Greenberg explains that although gender and sex are separate concepts, they are interlinked in that gender discrimination often results from stereotypes based on what is expected of members of each sex.[5] In J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B., Justice Scalia distinguishes sex and gender:

The word ‘gender’ has acquired the new and useful connotation of cultural or attitudinal characteristics (as opposed to physical characteristics) distinctive to the sexes. That is to say, gender is to sex as feminine is to female and masculine is to male.[6]

Thus, biologically "male" privilege is only one of many power structures that may exist within a given society,[7] and levels/manifestations of male privilege differ among both similar and disparate societies, as well as in different contexts within the same society[citation needed]. The term "male privilege" does not apply to a solitary occurrence of the use of power, but rather describes one of many systemic power structures that are interdependent and interlinked throughout societies and cultures.[8]


Some linguistic conventions have privileged men and the male perspective and suggested that maleness is the societal norm.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] In English, nouns such as "man" or "mankind"[14][16][17] and forms of address like "you guys" are routinely used for women while it is not accepted to refer to men as women.[13] Associating a man with something feminine and calling him girl or sissy is usually considered an insult.[18] Expressions like "freshmen" or occupational titles such as "chairman" are supposed to apply to both sexes[12][13] and many prestigious occupations are implicitly associated with men so that people use modifiers such as "woman doctor" or "lady doctor" to signal deviations from the norm that doctors are usually men.[19][20] Male images and exclusively male language for deities such as referring to God as "he" or "father" have reinforced male privilege.[21][22][23][24] Men's greater resemblance to God has been used to justify men's religious and cultural position.[21][22][23][24]

Similarly, the third-person singular pronoun "he" is used as a sex-indefinite, generic form for all people (e.g., "anyone can do it if he tries") whereas the use of "she" to refer to people in general is not allowed.[9][12][13] Masculine generics were first introduced by prescriptive grammarians in the 19th century who argued that "he" was the only correct sex-indefinite referent.[25][26][27] Prior to that, singular "they" and "he or she" had been widely used in written and spoken English.[25][26][27] In 1850 a special Act of Parliament was passed that legally proscribed singular "they" and "he or she" in favor of "he".[25][26][27]

In Old English, mann was a gender-neutral designator for human beings, while males and females were denoted by wer and wif respectively.[28][29] Lexicographer Janet Gough has suggested it would be preferable to reclaim rather than replace the word "man" as a gender-neutral designator.[30]

In French, if dealing with a collection of feminine and masculine subjects, the verbs and adjectives take the masculine term, because in the 17th century it was decided to be nobler. [31] This leads to a collection of a million women and one girl having a different gender to a collection of a million women and one boy.

According to one study, the Basque language is structured in such a way as to create an "iconic relationship" between authentic Basque identity and masculinity.[32]


Main article: Sex selection

In many societies including India and China male offspring are privileged and favored over female children.[33][34][35][36] Some manifestations of son preference and the devaluation of women are eliminating unwanted daughters through neglect, maltreatment, abandonment, as well as female infanticide and feticide despite laws that prohibit infanticide and sex-selective pregnancy termination.[36][37][38] In India some of these practices have contributed to skewed sex ratios in favor of male children at birth and in the first five years.[34] Other examples of privileging male offspring are special "praying for a son" ceremonies during pregnancy, more ceremony and festivities following the birth of a boy, listing and introducing sons before daughters, and common felicitations that associate good fortune and well-being with the number of sons.[39]

Reasons given for preferring sons to daughters include sons' role in religious family rites, which daughters are not permitted to perform, and the belief that sons are permanent members of the birth family whereas daughters belong to their husband's family after marriage in accordance with patrilocal tradition. Other reasons include patrilineal customs whereby only sons can carry on the family name, the obligation to pay dowry to a daughter's husband or his family, and the expectation that sons will support their birth parents financially while it is regarded as undesirable or shameful to receive financial support from daughters.[36][37]


Men's rights activists dispute that men as a group have institutional power and privilege[40][41] and believe that men are victimized and disadvantaged relative to women.[42][43][44][45] For example, men's rights activists Warren Farrell and Herb Goldberg believe that men are disadvantaged and discriminated against and that power is an illusion for most men.[46] Goldberg has criticized the notion of male privilege, calling it a "myth".[47] In The Myth of Male Power, "a debunking of the myth of men as a privileged class"[48] Farrell points to the over-representation of men among groups such as the homeless, suicides, alcoholics, the victims of violent crime and prisoners.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillips, Debby A.; Phillips, John R. (2009). "Privilege, Male". In O'Brien, Jodi. Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Volume Two. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications. pp. 683–684. ISBN 978-1-4129-0916-7. 
  2. ^ Coston, Bethany M.; Kimmel, Michael (2012). "Seeing Privilege Where It Isn't: Marginalized Masculinities and the Intersectionality of Privilege". Journal of Social Issues 68 (1): 97–111. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01738.x. 
  3. ^ McIntosh, Peggy (2003). "White Privilege and Male Privilege". In Kimmel, Michael; Ferber, Abby L. Privilege: A Reader. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. pp. 3–25. ISBN 978-0-8133-4056-2. 
  4. ^ Render, Meredith. (2006) "Misogyny, Androgyny, and Sexual Harassment: Sex Discrimination in a Gender-Deconstructed World". Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. Vol. 29(1) (Winter). pp99–150. p102
  5. ^ Greenberg, Julie A. (1999). "Defining Male and Female: Intersexuality and the Collision Between Law and Biology". Arizona Law Review. Vol. 41. 265.
  6. ^ J.E.B. v. Ala. ex rel. T.B., 114 S. Ct. 1419, 1436 n.1 (1994)
  7. ^ Foucault, Michel (1976, Reissued 1990.). The History of Sexuality, Volume I. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-72469-9.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Narayan, Uma (1997). Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third-World Feminism. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91419-1. 
  9. ^ a b Wildman, S. M. (1996). Privilege revealed: how invisible preference undermines America. New York: New York University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-8147-9303-9. 
  10. ^ Parks, J.; Robertson, M. A. (2004). "Attitudes toward women mediate the gender effect on attitudes toward sexist language". Psychology of Women Quarterly 28 (3): 233–239. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2004.00140.x. 
  11. ^ Barnett, M. (2012). Rastafari in the new millennium: a Rastafari reader. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 234–235. 
  12. ^ a b c Briscoe, F.; Arriaza, G.; Henze, R. C. (2009). The power of talk: how words change our lives. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-4129-5601-7. 
  13. ^ a b c d Kleinman, S. (2002). "Why sexist language matters". Qualitative Sociology 25 (2): 299– 304. doi:10.1023/A:1015474919530. 
  14. ^ a b Roman, C.; Juhasz, S.; Miller, C. (1994). The women and language debate: a sourcebook. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. p. 451. ISBN 978-0-8135-2011-7. 
  15. ^ Davies, D. (2005). Varieties of modern English: an introduction. Harlow: Pearson Longman. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0-582-36996-2. 
  16. ^ Cunningham, G. B. (2007). Diversity in sport organizations. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Holcomb Hathaway. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-890871-77-2. 
  17. ^ Anderson, K. J. (2010). Benign bigotry: the psychology of subtle prejudice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-521-70259-1. 
  18. ^ Rosenberg, R. (2001). Women's studies: an interdisciplinary anthology. New York: Peter Lang. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-8204-4443-7. 
  19. ^ Flood, M.; Pease, B. (2005). "Undoing men's privilege and advancing gender equality in public sector institutions". Policy and Society 24 (4): 199–138. doi:10.1016/S1449-4035(05)70123-5. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  20. ^ Powell, B. (2010). Counted out: same-sex relations and Americans' definitions of family. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-87154-687-6. 
  21. ^ a b Lindley, S. H. (2006). "Gender and social roles". In Keller, R. S.; Ruether, R. R.; Cantlon, M. Encyclopedia of women and religion in North America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-253-34685-8. 
  22. ^ a b O'Brien, J. M. (2008). Challenging prophetic metaphor: theology and ideology in the prophets. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-664-22964-1. 
  23. ^ a b Chandler, K. J. (2007). How to become a 'blackman': exploring African American masculinities and the performance of gender. Detroit: Wayne State University. p. 184. 
  24. ^ a b Lorenzen, L. F. (1999). The college student's introduction to the Trinity. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-8146-5518-4. 
  25. ^ a b c Henley, N. M. (1987). "This new species that seeks a new language: On sexism in language and language change". In Penfield, J. Women and language in transition. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-88706-485-2. 
  26. ^ a b c Bodine, A. (1975). "Androcentrism in prescriptive grammar: Singular 'they', sex indefinite 'he', and 'he or she'". Language and Society 4 (2): 129– 146. doi:10.1017/S0047404500004607. 
  27. ^ a b c Hegarty, P.; Buechel, C. "Androcentric reporting of gender differences in APA journals 1965–2004". Review of General Psychology 10 (4): 377–389. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.377. Retrieved April 15, 2013. 
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  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Echeverria, B. (2001). "Privileging masculinity in the social construction of Basque identity". Nations and Nationalism 7 (3): 339–363. doi:10.1111/1469-8219.00020. 
  33. ^ Ryju, S.; Lahiri-Dutt, eds. (2011). Doing gender, doing geography: emerging research in India. New Delhi: Routledge. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-415-59802-6. 
  34. ^ a b Weiner, M.; Varshney, A.; Almond, G. A., eds. (2004). India and the politics of developing countries. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-7619-3287-1. 
  35. ^ Joseph, W. A., ed. (2010). Politics in China: an introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-19-533530-9. 
  36. ^ a b c Lai-wan, C. C.; Eric, B.; Hoi-yan (2006). "Attitudes to and practices regarding sex selection in China". Prenatal Diagnosis 26 (7): 610–613. doi:10.1002/pd.1477. 
  37. ^ a b Singh, K. (2012). "Man's world, legally". Frontline 29 (15). Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  38. ^ Koop, C. E.; Pearson, C. E.; Schwarz, M. R., eds. (2002). Critical issues in global health. San Francisco, Calif.: Wiley. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7879-6377-4. Across the world, male privilege is also variously reflected in giving sons preferential access to health care, sex- selective abortion, female infanticide, or trafficking in women. 
  39. ^ Croll, E. (2000). "Ethnographic voices: disappointing daughters". Endangered daughters: discrimination and development in Asia. London: Routledge. pp. 70–105. ISBN 978-0-203-17021-2. 
  40. ^ Kimmel, M. S. (1987). "Men's Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century". Gender & Society 1 (3): 261–283. doi:10.1177/089124387001003003. 
  41. ^ Clatterbaugh, K. (2007). "Men's rights". In Flood, M.. International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. London: Psychology Press. p. 430–433. ISBN 978-0-415-33343-6. 
  42. ^ Messner, M. A. (1998). "The Limits of the "Male Sex Role": An Analysis of the Men's Liberation and Men's Rights Movement's Discourse". Gender & Society 12 (3): 255–276. doi:10.1177/0891243298012003002. 
  43. ^ Dunphy, R. (2000). Sexual Politics: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-7486-1247-5. 
  44. ^ Flood, M. (2007). "Men's movement". International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. London: Psychology Press. pp. 418–422. ISBN 978-0-415-33343-6. 
  45. ^ Clatterbaugh, K. (2007). "Anti-feminism". In Flood, M. International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities. London: Psychology Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-415-33343-6. 
  46. ^ Maddison, S. (1999). "Private Men, Public Anger: The Men's Rights Movement in Australia". Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 4 (2): 39–52. 
  47. ^ Goldberg, Herb (1976). The Hazards of Being Male- surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege. Wellness Institute, Inc. ISBN 1-58741-013-3. 
  48. ^ Svoboda, J. Steven (12 June 2008). "An Interview with Warren Farrell". Retrieved 2013-04-04. 

Further reading[edit]