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 a soldier dying in war – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also does great harm to boys and men.

In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society. And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor; who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy’s stick.

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-at-amptoons-dot-com.)

(This is a continually updated document; the most current version of The Male Privilege Checklist can always be found at amptoons.com/blog/the-male-privilege-checklist . 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.”

812 Responses to The Male Privilege Checklist

  1. 801
    Jake Squid says:

    Sure, perhaps most feminists aren’t like that, but who’s to say?

    Why, you are! According to you. I am convinced.

  2. 802
    Joel says:

    I could also add another to one of the other commenters, as a woman, your chances of being hurt or killed at work are significantly less (90+% of all work-related injuries/deaths, the males are the victims). As a woman, your educational options are enhanced, they even have scholarships specifically that women can apply for, just because they are women….as far as the “men interrupt women more than women interrupt men”, I have found studies that have corroborated that scenario and others that have backed the opposite being true. So there is not really any definitive evidence of that, Amber. In fact, on average, women will throughout the average day, speak more frequently than men do. In fact, studies have shown something of 7,000 words for women to 2,000 words for men, daily. So it’s not like men are really dominating the conversation when women are still exercising their jaws more than men are.

  3. 803
    Ampersand says:

    I of course agree that there are ways men have it worse, such as the odds of being killed at the workplace (and, even more importantly, the odds of being exposed to deadly toxins at the workplace). Far from denying that and other male problems, I’ve written about them in many other posts. Even in this post, I acknowledge that “In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to a soldier dying in war – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also does great harm to boys and men.”

    So when someone comes in here and brings up stuff like workplace deaths, I have to wonder if they even read the post they’re responding to. Bringing up things like that in no way contradicts my argument. I am not claiming that there are no systematic harms to men. Quite the opposite.

    as far as the “men interrupt women more than women interrupt men”, I have found studies that have corroborated that scenario and others that have backed the opposite being true. So there is not really any definitive evidence of that,

    I just cited a meta-analysis – do you know understand what a meta-analysis is? – which found that, across 43 studies, “men were significantly more likely than women to use interruptions.” A meta-analysis of studies is a much stronger piece of evidence than your anecdotal account of having seen studies going both ways.

    In fact, on average, women will throughout the average day, speak more frequently than men do. In fact, studies have shown something of 7,000 words for women to 2,000 words for men, daily.

    Citation, please? That is, please cite even a single study found in a peer-reviewed scientific journal supporting what you just said.

    The statistic you cite is a well-known myth – but one that keeps getting repeated by journalists and on Facebook, because it supports a sexist stereotype and so people want to believe it.

    Here’s some reading about the myth:

    Gender Jabber: Do Women Talk More than Men? – Scientific American
    Language Log: Sex-linked lexical budgets
    Language Log: Yet another sex-n-wordcount sighting
    Language Log: Gabby guys: the effect size
    Language Log: Regression to the mean in British journalism
    Language Log: Contagious misinformation
    Language Log: Femail again
    Language Log: Sex differences in "communication events" per day?
    Language Log » An invented statistic returns
    Not to mention the excessive reductionism… » Pharyngula

  4. 804
    Ampersand says:

    “45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.”

    Prove that you didn’t just make this up.

    Hey, Bob, in response to your direct request, I spent time researching and writing a rather lengthy response to your request. It’s sort of rude for you to not even acknowledge my response. If you could just say “okay, I guess you didn’t just make it up. Thanks,” I’d appreciate it.

  5. 805
    Bob says:

    “Hey, Bob, in response to your direct request, I spent time researching and writing a rather lengthy response to your request. It’s sort of rude for you to not even acknowledge my response. If you could just say “okay, I guess you didn’t just make it up. Thanks,” I’d appreciate it.”

    1.Wait. Who says I have to respond?

    2. I do truly see that you didn’t just make it up.

    3. The reason I quit replying was that I ran out of things to discuss. Cheers.

  6. 806
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t say that you HAVE to respond. Just that it would be nice if you did. :-)

    2. I do truly see that you didn’t just make it up.

    Thanks!

  7. 807
    Joel says:

    Unless you use a sample size that encompasses half the people in the world, your interruptions complaint is just a MYTH. Hell if I am going based on personal experience, women have interrupted me much more often than men have. And actually I was going off of an interesting thing I learned in the news a few years ago, but if you use common sense, you can understand that it is true that typically women do talk more than men. Is that supposed to be a myth too? And no, I am responding to this post. I couldn’t care less about any other article that you wrote because I saw this one and the fact that you put in effort to make a b.s. list of alleged “male privileges” that somehow females don’t have the luxury of possessing is very telling. Also one that I can’t get passed is you saying that boys are given more attention in class than girls are? Seriously? Boys are punished for the behavior that many children (boys AND girls) exhibit, while girls seldom are punished for such behavior. Hell I remember sitting in class, not saying, while 2 or 3 girls behind me would be talking and laughing and the teacher (female) would yell at me for talking when I hadn’t said anything. But of course, women seemingly can do no wrong, so they were given the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, this isn’t to say that boys and men are oppressed because really neither gender is oppressed based on gender. A person isn’t oppressed by such criteria, they are oppressed based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and military status. And the being told to smile? I have been told that many times, because when I am around strangers, I am a very serious person, I don’t smile very often. Women are NOT paid less for doing the same work. They typically don’t do the same work or same amount of work, don’t have the same amount of experience, don’t go for the same job fields (women TYPICALLY gear towards communications, customer service, child care vs. math and science), take more time off (women are more likely than men to take sick days and maternity leave vs. paternity leave). I am just sick of hearing or seeing how women think they have it bad. If they were treated the same way as men, they wouldn’t be able to stand it. They would have to sign up for the draft, pay their half of the bill, share child custody, not get child support or alimony, be arrested if they so much as push their spouse, not have gender based educational scholarships, etc.

  8. 808
    Harlequin says:

    Joel: let me make sure I’m understanding you correctly. A study isn’t reliable unless it has half the world involved in it. However, your own personal experience (a sample size of 1 person, not 3.5 billion):

    women have interrupted me much more often than men have

    and memories of news reports:

    I was going off of an interesting thing I learned in the news a few years ago

    ARE reliable. Even though the words-per-day number is a statistic and, were it real, would have come from a study of significantly less than 3.5 billion people; and even though the links Ampersand provided show that in fact it’s totally made up, with no data behind it whatsoever.

    Do I have that right? If so, it seems contradictory to me. But I feel like I’m missing something (why is half the world the standard, and not all the world, or 1/3?).

  9. 809
    Elusis says:

    Unless you use a sample size that encompasses half the people in the world, your interruptions complaint is just a MYTH. Hell if I am going based on personal experience, women have interrupted me much more often than men have. And actually I was going off of an interesting thing I learned in the news a few years ago, but if you use common sense, you can understand that it is true that typically women do talk more than men. Is that supposed to be a myth too?

    Shorter version: “Research: How does that work?”

  10. 810
    Joel says:

    Yeah, pretty much. And whom were the people involved in the study? Honestly it is ridiculous to think that just from finding some b.s. that was written SUBJECTIVELY is going to be unbiased. How many such studies are there that have women seen in a negative light? NONE!

  11. 811
    Jake Squid says:

    Just when you think comments have hit bottom a new sinkhole opens at the very bottom of the pit.

  12. 812
    Daran says:

    I of course agree that there are ways men have it worse, such as the odds of being killed at the workplace (and, even more importantly, the odds of being exposed to deadly toxins at the workplace). Far from denying that and other male problems, I’ve written about them in many other posts. Even in this post, I acknowledge that “In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to a soldier dying in war – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also does great harm to boys and men.”

    So when someone comes in here and brings up stuff like workplace deaths, I have to wonder if they even read the post they’re responding to. Bringing up things like that in no way contradicts my argument. I am not claiming that there are no systematic harms to men. Quite the opposite.

    I certainly have read your post, very carefully and several times over. What has always puzzled me, and what I think is vexing your other critics, is that we cannot understand how you reach the conclusion that “it is women and not men … who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy’s stick.”

    To conclude this, you would need to weigh – not merely acknowledge – the systematic harms to men vs those to women. And you’ve not done so. And neither has any other feminist to my knowledge, and I’ve been seeking such an analysis for the past eight years. Rather, your argument appears to be “here is a list of systematic harms to women. Therefore male privilege”.

    So when your critics accuse you of ignoring systematic harms to men, it is to this argument they are referring, not whether your not you acknowledge or even blog about systematic male privilege. It is that, beyond the bare acknowledgement that they exist, these systematic harms are ignored in the analysis that concludes “therefore male privilege”.

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>