The Male Privilege Checklist

An Unabashed Imitation of an article by Peggy McIntosh

In 1990, Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. McIntosh observes that whites in the U.S. are “taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” To illustrate these invisible systems, McIntosh wrote a list of 26 invisible privileges whites benefit from.

As McIntosh points out, men also tend to be unaware of their own privileges as men. In the spirit of McIntosh’s essay, I thought I’d compile a list similar to McIntosh’s, focusing on the invisible privileges benefiting men.

Due to my own limitations, this list is unavoidably U.S. centric. I hope that writers from other cultures will create new lists, or modify this one, to reflect their own experiences.

Since I first compiled it, the list has been posted many times on internet discussion groups. Very helpfully, many people have suggested additions to the checklist. More commonly, of course, critics (usually, but not exclusively, male) have pointed out men have disadvantages too – being drafted into the army, being expected to suppress emotions, and so on. These are indeed bad things – but I never claimed that life for men is all ice cream sundaes.

Obviously, there are individual exceptions to most problems discussed on the list. The existence of individual exceptions does not mean that general problems are not a concern.

Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men.

However, although I don’t deny that men suffer, this post is focused on advantages men experience.

Several critics have also argued that the list somehow victimizes women. I disagree; pointing out problems is not the same as perpetuating them. It is not a “victimizing” position to acknowledge that injustice exists; on the contrary, without that acknowledgment it isn’t possible to fight injustice.

An internet acquaintance of mine once wrote, “The first big privilege which whites, males, people in upper economic classes, the able bodied, the straight (I think one or two of those will cover most of us) can work to alleviate is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege.” This checklist is, I hope, a step towards helping men to give up the “first big privilege.”

The Male Privilege Checklist

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true. (More).

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).

8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. (More).

12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.

13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.

14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.

15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.

16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters. (More).

17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.

18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often. (More).

19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.

20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented.

21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.

22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.

23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.

24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.” (More).

25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability. (More).

26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring. (More).

27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time. (More).

28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car. (More).

29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.

30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.

31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)

32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.

33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.

34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.

35. The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.

36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.

37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.

38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks. (More).

39. If I have children with my girlfriend or wife, I can expect her to do most of the basic childcare such as changing diapers and feeding.

40. If I have children with my wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

41. Assuming I am heterosexual, magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.

42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. (More). If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do. (More).

43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover. (More).

44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.” (More: 1 2).

45. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment. (More.)

45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men. (More.)

46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

(Compiled by Barry Deutsch, aka “Ampersand.” Permission is granted to reproduce this list in any way, for any purpose, so long as the acknowledgment of Peggy McIntosh’s work is not removed. If possible, I’d appreciate it if folks who use it would tell me how they used it; my email is barry.deutsch@gmail.com.)

(This is an occasionally updated document; the most current version of The Male Privilege Checklist can always be found at amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist . The views expressed here, which I started writing in 2001, unavoidably fail to precisely express my current views; that’s life, isn’t it? To see posts discussing the Male Privilege Checklist and various items on it, please visit this archive page).

* * *

Related links

For another feminist list with a different thematic approach, see Andrea Rubenstein’s “Think We’ve Already Achieved Equality? Think Again.

A list of links to many other “privilege lists.”

1,011 Responses to The Male Privilege Checklist

  1. 1001
    Grace Annam says:

    gijoe sports fan:

    And hell if it’s as easy as doing an experiment, I can draw off of my own observations.

    Not if you’re trying to make an argument which a scientist accepts as credible. There are excellent reasons why casually remembered observations are among the most inferior data for most purposes. Important among these excellent reasons are sampling error and confirmation bias. Jake Squid alluded to the latter, above, and we are all vulnerable to it, which is one reason for other aspects of good scientific practice, like good experimental design and peer review of whatever we do. Skilled scrutiny is key. One way of scrutinizing someones work is doing it again to see if it happens again.

    That’s what Ruchama is getting at when she asks you to cite the studies you referenced. She would like to look at them and see if they were well-done and on topic.

    …a study done by 2 female scientists (gee I wonder what side they were on lol)…

    Are you willing to clarify something for me? Are you asserting that scientists who are women are incapable of investigating a question like this without taking sides or advocating for a position? If that’s what you mean, do you think that men are likewise incapable of it? If both are incapable, how would you propose that we investigate questions like these?

    Grace

  2. 1002
    Myca says:

    Actually I have ready 4 different articles and the ONE that disagreed with my assertion was a study done by 2 female scientists (gee I wonder what side they were on lol) and the others said that in most settings the females talked slightly more and then gave examples in what settings the females talked much more often than males.

    I don’t believe you. I think you’re making these 4 articles up because you’re so clearly in the wrong, or at best these are four “articles” rather than studies … like some Reader’s Digest anecdotal unscientific “Isn’t it funny how women always talk so much” shit.

    If I’m wrong, prove me wrong.

    —Myca

  3. 1003
    Harlequin says:

    Hill Guthrie, thanks for the link–quite interesting.

    gijoe:

    And yes even in school, they are encouraged by teachers to talk more and ask questions and make comments.

    Men and boys talk more than women and girls in mixed-gender classrooms. You can find many such studies easily with a cursory Google search. EDIT: “Encouraged to talk more” could mean “talk less so they receive more encouragement to talk than the people who already do”, but that doesn’t seem to be your point.

    I don’t doubt that you feel like the girls in your classrooms talked more–but that doesn’t mean they did, for the reasons Grace outlined above: we have an imperfect understanding of the things that happen around us, based on our cognitive biases, and in addition we imperfectly recall prior events. But in this case, there are people with recording devices and stopwatches, which are as close to unbiased as we’re going to get. And they tell a different story than your memory does.

    I certainly lived and breathed those negative stereotypes and didn’t want to be an outlier or deviate from that stereotype, so I often purposely got questions wrong. Especially if the exam was testing for intellectual aptitude or competency.

    I’m very sorry to hear that you felt pressured to do that.

    (As a random lighthearted note, I keep thinking your name is some kind of transliterated Japanese word. No matter how much I know I’m wrong, I don’t look at your name and see “GI Joe” unless I really concentrate.)

    I, too, would like to see your four articles that have the potential to prove me wrong.

  4. 1004
    Franz says:

    No. Because you’re not discussing in good faith. Elusis went to the trouble of researching this question and providing everyone with evidence to support her assertion. She deserves more from you than, “LOL wut?!”

    Yes, gijoe sports fan, I think you’re being incredibly disrespectful.

    Elusis is a professional scientist. She’s taken to trouble to research this topic and found that a highly respected mommy blogger watched her daughter on a bunch of play dates and published a commentary in the Slate Journal of Social Justice Warfare. The approval from the science community clickbaited this right to the top of the google science rankings. This deserves more than mockery. But no, like a troll you just carry on insisting we should instead get evidence from randomised controlled experiments and then call the top scientists on this blog morons.

  5. 1005
    gijoe sports fan says:

    Being disrespectful how? To a pretend scientist? How so? Lol….you want prove of my articles and I want proof of her credentials. I could say that I am a scientist just to say it. It doesn’t make it true (it isn’t true, I am currently a kinesiology major, looking to also add a 2nd major of nutrition since those are my 2 focuses and areas of expertise). And I don’t owe her any kind of respect. Respect is earned, not given. That is another gripe that people clamoring for “equal rights” should talk about. Women often wanting or demanding respect without being willing to give any in return. I didn’t demand or even ask for any respect when I was in the army, I just did what I felt I needed to do and would rather not receive any recognition for it…but anyways back to the topic at hand. If you were to do a survey on this subject matter and were to ask boys whom are struggling in class (which the majority of high school dropouts are boys and the majority of college students are girls), why is it they are struggling or what are some reasons for their subpar academic status, they would give many reasons, not the least of which is that they are made to feel that they don’t belong or that the girls are given more attention and are often considered the “ideal student” for being seen as “more disciplined” or “more focused” or “more bright”. And yes, these may be generalizations, but they are for the most part true. I would guarantee you that, just gather a large group of struggling male students and ask them. You would be in for quite a surprise. I prefer personal experiences and doing my own experiments. Hell I may do a study on this at some point. It sounds interesting.

  6. 1006
    Grace Annam says:

    Well, Franz, apparently gijoe sports fan missed your point, there, and I’m tempted to invite you to try again, but this time more obviously.

    But don’t.

    You, also, are not discussing in good faith. Harlequin did not say, “I have scientific training and therefore I’m right.” She did NOT make the Appeal to Authority which you apparently want her to have made. She mentioned her education as part of an aside to Jake, by way of commiserating with him about the condescension she was receiving.

    I referenced her education, but I also did not make an argument from authority. I referenced her education and experience, and mine, to suggest that gijoe sports fan would be more successful in his argument if he provided evidence, which is how Harlequin and I generally work.

    The same would be true of your contributions. If you’ve got evidence, let’s see it so that we can test it and see if it changes our conclusions. Whether or not you have evidence, kindly stop wasting our time until you’re able to participate civilly. Right now, you’re not showing yourself to advantage.

    gijoe sports fan:

    Lol….you want prove of my articles and I want proof of her credentials.

    The two aren’t equivalent. She never said, “I’m right because I have an education”, but you did say, “I’m right because I have studies.” That’s why people have asked to see the evidence, because you said you had it, and you described a little of it. The longer you go without doing something as simple as linking to what you’re talking about, the more I’m convinced that Myca is right.

    Hell I may do a study on this at some point. It sounds interesting.

    It does sound interesting, doesn’t it? If you want to do a study, go for it. I’d be interested to examine the study and the results.

    Grace

  7. 1007
    Jake Squid says:

    I would venture to say that our good friend gijoe sports fan is being disrespectful when he writes:

    Being disrespectful how? To a pretend scientist? How so? Lol

    That was the point at which I said to myself, “This guy isn’t worth it. He won’t provide evidence for his position because he doesn’t have any. And what an asshole, to boot.”

    Before that I was willing to take him as your generic, opinion encased in lucite dude who was too embarrassed to back down on the subject when he realized he didn’t have any actual evidence to support his position. Now I believe that this is a generic bad dude who I hope never to run into in the meatworld.

    I am surprised that the next comment following his was not a banning. I mean, I stopped reading at that point and only now just went back and read the rest of his odious comment. That is one nasty misogynist writing that:

    That is another gripe that people clamoring for “equal rights” should talk about. Women often wanting or demanding respect without being willing to give any in return.

    Holy fuck, dude. No wonder you can’t be bothered to click any of the links provided for you. They came from women. Useless!!!!11!1!!!

    Moderators have a lot more patience for that shit than I do.

    One last note..

    I prefer personal experiences and doing my own experiments.

    I too, prefer to run my own experiments. I mean, sure, they tell us that getting run over by a train will kill you but that doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would I take the word of others for something that important? I’ll just shove somebody in front of a train and then tell you what happened. That’s much more reliable than “studies” – especially studies done by women and not done by me. By the way, the person I shoved in front of the train was just gently moved aside by it and didn’t die.

  8. 1008
    Elusis says:

    Franz:

    While you may feel as though your snark is providing something useful in this conversation by calling the author of the article I linked to a “mommy blogger,” your invocation of “Social Justice Warfare” suggests to me that you aren’t interested in any kind of good-faith critique. Because indeed, the link I offered hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal (which I hope it will be, or a replication of it). But if you’d looked at the author note at the bottom, you’d see:

    “Kieran Snyder holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and has spent the last decade leading teams of software designers and engineers.”

    If a PhD in linguistic can’t design an informal study that produces results that are at least worth discussing and getting curious about, who can?

  9. 1009
    Franz says:

    Yes. I think I do need to try again, as people are having trouble picking up on some of the nuance.

    Yes, gijoe sports fan, I think you’re being incredibly disrespectful… Elusis is a professional scientist.

    This is all set-up, we’ve had the most nauseating collective display of condescension, trumpeting of scientific credentials and respect for evidence from the usual clique. But when it came to it, not one of you actually proved capable of distinguishing between the lowest newsmill social justice warrior clickbait and professional science. I’m going to play on this for comic effect.

    She’s taken the trouble to research this topic

    The joke here is that while we’ve had much bloviation about research, with very minimal effort you could find a better source than a Slate blog.

    and found that a highly respected mommy blogger

    The author has a decade out of date PhD, in her more recent accomplishments “She is a mom… and she blogs about… kids” – her words not mine. I’m drawing attention to her lack of contact with current research.

    watched her daughter on a bunch of play dates

    This a factual description of the study. She admits to telling her daughter off for interupting, and then stood over her daughter with a clipboard counting how many times she interupted. What happened next will amaze you!!!

    published a commentary in the Slate Journal of Social Justice Warfare

    What I’m getting at here is that Slate isn’t a peer reviewed academic publication and publishes intentionally politicised content.

    The approval from the science community clickbaited this right to the top of the google science rankings.

    Again, I’m contrasting the total lack of reception from the scientific community, with the articles real purpose of creating ad revenue via outraging social justice warriors.

    This deserves more than mockery.

    I think this is very funny.

    But no, like a troll you just carry on insisting we should instead get evidence from randomised controlled experiments

    Of course, the study was not randomised, badly controlled and not an experiment, you would think calling for this would be positive.

    and then call the top scientists on this blog morons.

    I’m questioning whether many commentators are in fact top scientists.

  10. 1010
    Grace Annam says:

    Grace (myself):

    But don’t.

    Franz:

    Yes. I think I do need to try again…

    Franz, when a moderator tells you specifically not to do something, and you put any value on your own participation, it’s best not to do the thing.

    What I do here is entirely volunteer, and frankly I have better things to do with my time than worry a lot about whether I’m being perfectly fair to someone who has added very little of substance to this discussion, and has mischaracterized and insulted some of the participants.

    After some thought and a bit of discussion with Amp, I let your comment through.

    If your snark-to-substance ratio does not improve on the next comment, I will ban you.

    This is in accordance with the moderation policy, which for convenience I reproduce here:

    Our Approach To Moderation

    1. We don’t have hard-and-fast rules that people aren’t allowed to violate; we just have a goal for the discussions we’d like to have, and we’d like people to move us towards that goal rather than away.

    Here’s a (non-comprehensive) description of the discussion we’d like to have:

    • Debates are conducted in a manner that shows respect even for folks we disagree with.
    • Comments are funny, critical and vigorous, but not mean-spirited.
    • Obvious racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fat-hatred, antisemitism and other bigotries, are avoided by everyone. Subtle forms of these bigotries inevitably creep in, but are subject to analysis and criticism.
    • Thread-jacking and wandering away from topics isn’t allowed, except when it is.
    • If a blogger wants to set special rules for their thread, everyone respects that.

    2. If in the subjective opinion of the moderators, your presence is bringing us further away from the conversation we want to have, then you’ll be asked to change your behavior. Or to depart.

    Grace

  11. 1011
    Grace Annam says:

    My moderator hat is now off, and I’m replying to some of the substance of Franz’s post.

    Franz:

    …the most nauseating collective display of condescension, trumpeting of scientific credentials…

    Anyone who has read this thread can see that this is not so. Feel free to quote specific examples if you disagree.

    The author has a decade out of date PhD… I’m drawing attention to her lack of contact with current research.

    College degrees have expiration dates? I wonder how often a Ph.D. has to re-dissertate, or how often a medical doctor has to re-attend medical school.

    Maybe she hasn’t followed the research. Maybe she has. The fact that she published her study in a specific location doesn’t speak to that question. Also, whether she has kept up with the research doesn’t say anything about the particular study. It would speak to whether she can generalize accurately about the state of current research.

    This a factual description of the study. She … stood over her daughter with a clipboard counting how many times she interupted.

    That’s not an accurate summary, but fortunately anyone who wants to know that can go find out for themselves, because Elusis actually linked to it. That’s why people want to see the studies — so that when one person claims that they were good or bad for some reason, someone else can check and see if it is so.

    What I’m getting at here is that Slate isn’t a peer reviewed academic publication and publishes intentionally politicised content.

    Sure. No one claimed otherwise. Not all studies are created equal, and you can legitimately place less value on this one because it has not been peer-reviewed or because you disagree with the methodology.

    Of course, you didn’t say any of that. Instead you mocked.

    I’m questioning whether many commentators are in fact top scientists.

    Since you introduced the phrase “top scientists” yourself — in other words, since no one has made that claim — it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s a strawman.

    Grace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>