Privilege is defined as a right, advantage or immunity granted or available to a particular person or group of people. Privilege is also a type of power which enables one to alter the attitude, beliefs, and behavior of others. In this country, a black man, compared to a white man, has less power. One can have low power in one relationship and high power in another. Effectively understanding that nuance prevents many black men from properly managing power in relationships with women.
One can benefit from privilege without recognizing it, and one can use privilege to infringe on the rights of others without being aware of it. Privilege can be earned or unearned. Privilege like power remains silent. It doesn't have to speak. Power has no need to bitch, gripe, moan or complain. Due to its propensity to remain unconscious, by those who wield it, privilege can silently damage otherwise good relationships. On the other hand, understanding male privilege can provide benefits to anyone interested in improving male-female relationships.
When men feel frustrated or blocked from their goals they often look for and make others pay for it. Cruelty can be defined as an unhappy person's effort to gratify themselves at the expense of someone else. Unhappiness is corrosive to relationships. This happens because men often find themselves with fewer emotional outlets when stressed. Men learn early to deny emotions, avoid vulnerability, and hide inadequacies. Rather than turn to other men who deftly navigate their emotional lives, to discuss how we feel, and learn positive coping skills, we often never learn how to express our feelings constructively. Too often, men are left placing too much responsibility on women for taking care of our emotional lives. By out sourcing the responsibility, men can remain emotionally illiterate and both the outsourcing and the illiteracy comprise male privilege.
Let's face it, it's pretty cool to be a dude. We don’t have to know how we feel. Dudes don't have to worry about much other than underemployment or getting shot by the police. If it wasn't for our relationships with women we would never have to discuss how we feel. We could talk about cars, sports, and food. Or we could talk about sports, cars, and food. If we were not interested in women we would never even have to talk. We could just grunt and scratch. I’m teasing, but you get my point. That’s the privilege. We really believe that we don’t have to raise our emotional IQ or communication skills. When we fail at it, our refrain is “I’m a dude. I don’t know that stuff.”
Male privilege extends into social realms, too. We don't have to worry about women sexually harassing us or raping us or calling us a “bitch” if we refuse to talk to them. When we’re out and come across an unknown woman the likelihood of her harming us is not that great. Women, on the other hand, have to constantly consider what they wear, where they go, what time they go, and who they go with. It's a lot of work. The FBI reports that the greatest threat to a woman's safety is her intimate partner. A woman has a greater chance of being harmed by her boyfriend or husband than by a mugger, murder or rapists.
It's great being a dude. We never have to think about how frightening we can be to women. We don't have to steel ourselves when we walk past a woman on the street. We don't have to brace ourselves for some interruption or sexist comment. We can remain clueless. We never have to think about how creepy we can be around women; the things we say or our body language or how uncomfortable we make women feel just by being unaware of our effect on them. We don't have to consider it the same way they do. Even the way we look at women, undressing them with our eyes, can be unsettling for them. Even if we’re not undressing them visually, just that creepy look a dude over forty has when he looks at certain women...
Dudes have privileges we may not recognize. We don't have to ever talk to women about this. We can just keep it moving and enjoy the privilege we have of not having to calculate or worry much about our personal safety around them. We can say awkward things and do dumb things and it's OK. We don't have to worry about it. We’re dudes. We never have to consider the weight of living in an unsafe environment worrying all the time about being nice while putting up with a bunch of slights, threats, insults and harassment constantly.
Privilege allows men to remain indifferent to how their behavior affects others. That’s why it’s a problem. But if men could become aware, they could seize the opportunity and become better men and better partners with women. By understanding privilege we could stop gaslighting women by accusing them of being crazy, and become more skillful partners with them by making our relationships more equatable, safe, and nurturing. We should do this not so much for them but for ourselves. The benefit to us would be more durable and secure relationships. Cruelty is never in anyone's best interest even if you are unaware of it. Improving the quality of our intimate relationships is perhaps the best place to start making ourselves happier and our lives more satisfying.