Male privilege is…

Male privilege is the ability to step in to and out of conversations and spaces about gender equity whenever I want to. While I have continued to have conversations about social justice and my own personal journey, mostly at work or with Maggie for the last six months, I’m about to jump back in with this blog.

Summers in Wisconsin are too short to not spend as much time outside as possible, another privilege of time and money, of course. My hope is to resume writing in this medium throughout the winter–I can think of few better ways to spend time on cold snowy mornings. And they’re coming–and hopefully become a bit more efficient and better able to write in the spring & summer.

Additionally, I’m hoping to gather real examples of male privilege that you’ve seen or experienced in everyday life (on a college campus would be ideal) for a future post. In the comments here, on Facebook, through Twitter, or via email send them my way. If they’re layered with intersectionality that’s great too, because my lens is White-straight-cis-atheist-able. My conception of male privilege is often limited to that paradigm and I would like to think and reflect more about the other ways it shows up.

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Victoria’s Secret targets young girls

Since I’m not yet a parent, I can only say that I worry about how to approach raising my future children in order to ensure that they are critical consumers of the media and what’s marketed to their age demographic. This type of stuff isn’t going to go away because companies are going to try and squeeze every last dollar out of possible demographics, especially with greater access to internet marketing targeting young people (Facebook ads, etc.).

Victoria’s Secret, as a company, thrives off of objectifying women, creating an unrealistic expectation about beauty and body shape, and marketing to teenage girls (their Pink line is just one example, albeit less risque). This is just another way that corporate profits are prioritized and women are devalued. My partner stands by her claim that they make good products–comfortable and long lasting. It’s a shame that their approach to marketing doesn’t emphasize that, instead setting up unrealistic expectations about the female body for both young men and young women.

Rev. Evan M. Dolive

An open letter to Victoria’s Secret regarding their choice to make an underwear line aimed at young teenagers. (Read about it here)


Dear Victoria’s Secret,

I am a father of a three year old girl. She loves princesses, Dora the Explorer, Doc McStuffins and drawing pictures for people. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and jelly, cheese and pistachios.

Even though she is only three, as a parent I have had those thoughts of my daughter growing up and not being the little girl she is now. It is true what they say about kids, they grow up fast. No matter how hard I try I know that she will not be the little ball of energy she is now; one day she will be a rebellious teenager that will more than likely think her dad is a total goof ball and would want to distance herself from my…

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How could I not?

In graduate school, while doing an internship with an anti-violence program on campus, I came across the article How can I not? Men’s pathways to anti-violence against women work published in the journal Violence Against Women. Granted I was already on my path, but this article reinforced some of the reasons that I was doing that internship, exploring my own identity, or encouraging others to challenge gender norms and confront violence in their lives. I began to trace the thread through my experience: an interest socialist thinking as a subversive and progressive force for good, studying history; especially focused on civil rights and oppression in the United States; teacher preparation and the exploration of privileged positions in the K-12 education system; gender identity development theory and the relationship with student misconduct and systems of oppression in higher education. By the fall of 2010 I had fully committed myself to try something–anything–to do what I felt was right for me and for the community I was in.

What I have gained–as nothing is purely selfless–has made every step worth it. I have a greater understanding of who I am and the person I am ever-evolving in to. My partner and I have a stronger relationship, built on interdependence, trust, mutual support, and cooperation, where we can challenge each other on gender roles and norms, expectations, and our behavior. I regularly think about what type of father I want to be to my future children and what kind of son I am to my parents. And I consider how my male identity, intersecting with my other identities, influences my worldview in a multicultural Midwestern city and my work at a large and diverse university. I didn’t know what the benefits would be at the outset. I just knew, from the moment the issue was laid bare before me by some very gracious women in my life, that this path was the right one. That women’s rights and men’s liberation from hegemonic masculinity are inextricably linked, and for the betterment of society, I have a responsibility to undermine inequality at every opportunity. Women have been working at it for decades, centuries. Sure I didn’t build the structure of society that has often privileged men and now that I’m aware of their efforts and sacrifices, it would be sexist of me not to join the movement and challenge the status quo.

Contrary to stereotypes about women’s liberation or radical feminism, men do have a place at the table and a stake in this effort. We may not be always invited, but we can do things together that advance equality in our society, liberating us all from the shackles of sexism. Together, men, we can build a middle way that helps men break free of the restrictions of a narrowly defined masculinity and realize our full potential as loving, caring, and responsible men who support a social fabric of equality across gender, race, sexuality, social class, and ability. The first step is the hardest, but together we can make vast changes with men in our lives.