Male privilege: “misandry”, rape culture, and a failure to understand women’s* world outlookPosted: January 6, 2013
This post was inspired by a comment I received on my recent post Nice guy syndrome: misogyny, patriarchy, and entitlement. On Google Plus, one man commented on the article saying…
This girl, and many girls all give him the same spiel of, “You’re a nice guy, let’s be friends…” Now, why did she do that?? Does she know him, really? You might say she does it because she fears him, his power… We are talking about power, rape culture, etc, etc.
Before I can even talk about this I have to discuss power. If his “Power”, even though he’s never said anything to assert himself as a potential rapist, or practioner of violence toward women is his being a POTENTIAL THREAT… Right now he isn’t a threat at all. Right now she is very much in control. She has power. I find it hilarious that women hate the thought of being made powerful through their physical attractiveness, because…
[...] Only right now, we dealing with two young people who don’t really understand the dynamics of power. You might still be debunking the whole idea that “attraction is power”, and… so now… [...]
I don’t know about you, but when a girl told me,” You’re a nice guy, but I just want to be friends…” often it wasn’t that she wanted to be friends; it was because she knew we’d see each other again and that it would be socially awkward. It was easier for her. Or… she knew I was still attracted to her, and while she knew it wasn’t reciprocated it felt good to have someone pursuant. My feelings usually didn’t come into the equation. Which you might argue, but see… I am not even sure within the context of these relationships either of us knew or truly, understood what friendship meant. Ironically, if you had discussed this issue with me 20 years ago. I probably would have given you a gendered answer, of I don’t think women knew what friendship really meant. However, I think that is much like the sour grapes of people who haven’t accomplished a lot blaming things on gender. Then again, my opinion is biased, I know plenty of accomplished women. [Emphasis my own.]
The full response can be read here on my Google Plus profile, available to the general public. I have permalinked the original post.
This line of argument to Nice Guy thinking is fascinating and worrying in equal measures, but it also points towards something that needs to be addressed: male privilege.
Privilege in society isn’t just something that males hold, but pretty much any majority group: white privilege, cis privilege, straight privilege, class privilege and so on. These advantages aren’t something that are sought after by individuals, but unearned benefits bestowed on the whole group. Since this is a privilege as a group, and one that has not been earned but simply born into, it can be hard sometimes to see your own privilege. Those from privileged groups can never truly appreciate the worldview of those from oppressed minorities. This last point is crucial.
Betty defines privilege as:
Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.
Since you are born into this privilege, you think that the privileges you have are universal. A white person would never think too deeply on race, since they come from a privileged racial group where race is not an issue for them. This doesn’t mean those from privileged positions cannot educate themselves or empathise with unprivileged persons, but they will never fully be able to see the world through the eyes of a particular minority group and all of the struggles that entails.
It is this that the commenter quoted failed to understand; his male privilege. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with a lack of self-education, since I know many, many male feminists and feminist allies who fully grasp their position of privilege, and who are extremely conscious of gender. I would hope that I, as a white person and as someone who is cisgender, can learn to understand my own positions of privilege and learn about the oppression that other minority groups face, in order that I may be their ally and refrain from perpetuating harmful ideas and attitudes. One of the key things in self-education about positions of privilege is to listen to the voices of the oppressed. If you want to learn about women’s oppression, listen to a woman speaking about her experiences. Ditto race, sexuality, class, and so on. Nobody will ever understand the worldview of the oppressed except the oppressed themselves.
And so when the commenter said, “even though he’s never said anything to assert himself as a potential rapist, or practioner of violence toward women is his being a POTENTIAL THREAT… Right now he isn’t a threat at all,” what he was failing to grasp was that he can take it for granted that he is not in danger. For men, if somebody never says something aggressive or threatening to them, then there is no threat. For a woman, the threat is always there. The sad fact is, generally, men are much stronger and faster than women. The even sadder fact is that it is women who are raped far more often than men.  Rape is a constant threat for women. And I can tell you this as a woman.
This constant threat is demonstrated nowhere more vividly than in a recent post by Oliotalk:
The truth is that the vacuum that builds up in a girl’s stomach as she quickens her pace through a desolate road, looking back every other minute to ensure there is no other shadow lurking behind her, is nothing but fear.
Fear is the single common heirloom, that as girls in India, we all inherit from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends. Fear for self-preservation, and of men who can do things to hurt and shame us. We learn to weave this fear seamlessly into our lives and never even realize when it becomes second nature. This perpetual fear eats into a woman’s carefree spirit and keeps her on guard at all times. 
Most men will never know first-hand this fear, unless perhaps they are in prison, but even then, though tragic and life-ruining, prison sentences are for only a fraction of most men’s lives; the threat of rape for women is lifelong.
I read a post once on Tumblr written by a high school teacher. She said in her class one boy was telling the story of how he was in a taxi with a sexually aggressive gay man that he didn’t know. The gay man was making unwanted sexual advances on him, and the boy felt scared since he did not reciprocate. The teacher asked him if he had ever considered that when he hit on girls who did not want to be involved with him, that they too might feel scared. The boy seemed puzzled at this suggestion. The teacher then asked the girls in the classroom to raised their hands if they had ever felt threatened by an unwanted come-on from a man. Every single girl raised their hand.
When we think about issues such as rape culture and “Nice Guys”, we must also consider them from outside our own perspective, from the perspective of minorities. This is why inclusivity is so important in activist movements, because without the voices of the minorities, we fail to see the world from all angles, and we fail to see how our own behaviour impacts on other people.
* By “women” I mean anyone who identifies as a woman and likewise for males. Though it must be remembered that trans people particularly suffer worse for rape and violent hate crimes than cis women.
 . The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1997) stated that that 91% of United States people whose rape accusations resulted in convictions against the accused were female and 9% were male. It also stated that 99% of the people convicted of and imprisoned in response to rape accusations were male, with only 1% of those convicted being female.