A friend of mine recently posted a link to Schrödinger’s Rapist on Facebook appealing to men to read and pass along.


Can you guess the result? Actually there were a few decent comments, but predictably it was largely a “I’m not aware of my privilege”-apalooza. And also not surprisingly, the topic drifted towards privilege and then to equal opportunity.

It’s been my perception that privileged people only pay attention when things start to affect them, and as long as they operate this way it will always feel like they’re being “underprivileged” when you start to correct the problem.

In this case, it was an anecdote about not being eligible for certain scholarships due to the phallic appendage between his legs. His awareness of privilege apparently sprang into existence the first time someone else got something, seemingly due to their type of junk they sport.

His solution to the problem of inequality?

“You cannot equalize by giving differential rewards and benefits to ANY group over an other group for any reason. This sends the message that institutionalized differential treatment is something good. The only way that we will every get lasting equality is by treating everyone the same, at all times.”

Sweet Fluffy Jesus! This isn’t the third grade and we’re not dealing with who got the bigger lollipop! I’d almost be inclined to laugh at this, were it not so tragic. We’re talking about women’s livelihoods. Food, clothing, and money to support children, money to go to school. Women who without these changes have more difficulty getting jobs, making the same income, not just wages per hour, but money per year (mat leave, family leave). I wonder where all the men were with this warm sentiment when the whole issue of pay and employment equity first entered the public forum. Sitting comfortably and feeling very deserving I’d imagine. Pretending that sexism doesn’t exist is not un-sexist. Without some kind of fixes in place (cludgy though they may be at times), things don’t just fix themselves auto-magically.

Now, male privilege isn’t just about written laws and instituted policies that say “men should get this and women shouldn’t get that”. It’s also (and more pervasively) in the subjective decisions making. For example, let’s take a common argument: “With affirmative action, we can’t hire the  “most fit” person. Our ideas about who is “most fit”, are usually not drawn from rationality. Even with the most basic understanding of psychology we learn that human beings make snap decisions, first referring to their emotional core and gut feelings, and then rationalize their decisions afterward.

This is where “gut feel” decisions are made that bypass or conscious, logical processes; where feelings of “she’ll just cause drama and complications” or “he’ll just fit in better with the crew” override the decision.

Check this out:

When left to make subjective decisions, our biases colour everything. When asked to explain we made the decisions we did, we think about the implications of the possible answers. We appeal to ideas of what we want to believe about ourselves and what kinds of reasons fit with the kind of good person we know we must be. Thus we don’t know what people are talking about when they cry “sexism!”

I’m going to share an anecdote. It’s not to being offered as proof, but it does give some context to the scenario. We do after all need stories to centre our empathy and add the human element:

If you need proof that equality exists, go find it yourself. Personally, I don’t find it hard to believe that this happens because the more I’ve delved into this, the more I’ve seen this kind of prejudice in my own thoughts and reactions, and that at my worst I was never entrenched in it as some apparently are, men AND women.

The right to vote and policy changes on paper (even those are far from being closed up, and in fact getting worse through some legal atrocities in the U.S.) only do so much when there are still gaping holes in the subjective processes of society, not to mention the limitations imposed by internalized messages of inferiority and women’s place in societal hierarchy from almost everywhere.

He told me that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that we should just be more patient, as though the changes thus far have been with anything less than huge effort. I agree to a point; that you can’t make people stop being sexist overnight. What he neglected to mention is that it also didn’t build itself. We can’t eat your wishful thinking for breakfast, my friend.

What gets me most of all is how people people like him love to take shots at the perhaps imperfect nature of equal opportunity policy, but then have no alternative. I have to admit that it’s a fallacy to say that if you can’t think of a better way, then this one is obviously the best. But I’m not saying that, and he’s not even trying to offer any alternatives. In fact, all he has to say is that  there is no real problem, so just make it equal on paper and *poof* it’s magically equal! Besides, there IS no real inequality at work anyway and never was…and look over there! See!? There are bigger problems in the world like starving kids in Africa or something so STFU! And you’re stupid, and you just like being angry! *rasp*

There are always bigger problems, but this isn’t a zero-sum game, dood.

Men, closing your eyes and wishing upon a star does not equality make. The world is unfair, and you benefit from it. That’s not the same as your life being easy. That’s not the same as saying you’re a bad person. That’s not the same as saying women hate you. But, it is what it is.

None of us stand alone. None of us are truly independent. We are interdependent. You can do anything you want, but the kind of world you want to live in starts with you. Your partners live in this world. Your mothers live in this world. Your daughters live in this world.

You live in this world. So, what are you going to do about it?


Posted on June 24, 2011, in Feminism, Social. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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