Male Privilege Checklist: A Couple Of Childhood Issues

Chuckdarwin,” while criticizing the Male Privilege Checklist, wrote:

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

Harsh. Strident. Unprovable. I know single dads that no one has ever called ‘extraordinary’.

#11 is anecdotal (as is your rebuttal), but a lot of the anecdotes are from custody cases, where fathers have sometimes been given a lot of credit for fairly minimal parenting time, compared to what is the norm for most mothers. This is the sort of observation that isn’t provable; I think we’ll have to disagree on this one.

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

Plenty of parents don’t encourage any of their children to be active at all.

It’s true, of course, that regardless of sex too many children have parents who provide poor or rare encouragement. But that in no way disproves my point. As I said in the list’s introduction, nothing about the list claims that men (or boys) never have bad experiences.

#16 – which I intended to refer not only to treatment by parents, but also treatment by teachers and by other children – is very well documented in the social science literature (I’ve included some references at the bottom of this post). For example, the various Baby X studies, which have found that adults perceive and treat the same baby very differently depending on if they’re told it’s a boy or a girl. (Some recent studies suggest that this effect has been declining over the years, which I’d say is to feminism’s credit).

It should be noted that the gender expectations put on too many children is not a benefit for all boys. In particular, boys who can’t live up to stereotypical gender role expectations often face emotional abuse from adults and peers, as well as physical abuse from peers.


(This isn’t even close to being an exhaustive list of relevant references for #16, but it’s enough to establish that I’m not just making this stuff up. :-) )

Shoshanna BenTsvi-Mayer, Rachel Hertz-Lazarowitz, Marilyn P. Safir, Teachers’ selections of boys and girls as prominent pupils, Sex Roles, Volume 21, Issue 3 – 4, Aug 1989, Pages 231 – 246

Gail Masuchika Boldt, Sexist and Heterosexist Responses to Gender Bending in an Elementary Classroom, Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Summer, 1996) , pp. 113-131

John L. Delk, R. Burt Madden, Mary Livingston, Timothy T. Ryan, Adult perceptions of the infant as a function of gender labeling and observer gender, Sex Roles, Volume 15, Issue 9 – 10, Nov 1986, Pages 527 – 534

Claire Etaugh, Marsha B. Liss, Home, school, and playroom: Training grounds for adult gender roles, Sex Roles, Volume 26, Issue 3 – 4, Feb 1992, Pages 129 – 147

Lorraine Evans, Kimberly Davies, No Sissy Boys Here: A Content Analysis of the Representation of Masculinity in Elementary School Reading Textbooks, Sex Roles, Volume 42, Issue 3 – 4, Feb 2000, Pages 255 – 270

Carol Nagy Jacklin, Janet Ann DiPietro, Eleanor E. Maccoby, Sex-typing behavior and sex-typing pressure in child/parent interaction, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 13, Issue 5, Oct 1984, Pages 413 – 425

Katherine Hildebrandt Karraker, Dena Ann Vogel, Margaret Ann Lake, Parents’ gender-stereotyped perceptions of Newborns: The Eye of the Beholder revisited, Sex Roles, Volume 33, Issue 9 – 10, Nov 1995, Pages 687 – 701

Mary Anna Lundeberg, You Guys Are Overreacting: Teaching Prospective Teachers about Subtle Gender Bias, Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 48, 1997

Morrongiello B.A.; Dawber T., Mothers’ Responses to Sons and Daughters Engaging in Injury-Risk Behaviors on a Playground, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Volume 76, Number 2, June 2000, pp. 89 – 103

Dena Ann Vogel, Margaret A. Lake, Suzanne Evans, Katherine Hildebrandt Karraker, Children’s and adults’ sex-stereotyped perceptions of infants, Sex Roles, Volume 24, Issue 9 – 10, May 1991, Pages 605 – 616

(This is one of a number of posts responding to Chuck’s critique. You can use the category archive to see all posts related to the Male Privilege Checklist.)

If you don’t enjoy the moderation here, consider leaving comments on the identical post at Creative Destruction.

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34 Responses to Male Privilege Checklist: A Couple Of Childhood Issues

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  8. 8
    Fred Vincy says:

    Re # 11, my experience corresponds with Amp’s. There is no doubt that I get praise/credit as a father for doing things that Mary would not get credit for (e.g., taking kids to the doctor).

    I think it gets more problematic in a judicial context (though here I am speculating without either data or anecdotal evidence). I suspect that society’s assumptions about male and femal parenting can hurt mothers in court — by judging them against a higher standard than fathers are judged by — but can also hurt fathers — by assuming that mothers are the primary caregiver unless there is very powerful evidence to the contrary.

  9. 9
    Kate L. says:

    Here’s some annecdotal evidence for #11 for you. My husband often goes to the bank on Saturday mornings and then the grocery store and he takes our daughter with him. It gets them out of the house and gives me a few blissful hours to sleep in. Nearly EVERY time he goes to the bank, or the grocery store, or any other mundane errand activity usually done by women and he has the baby with him, women of almost all ages will say, “Oh here, please go ahead of me, you’ve got that baby!” They always make some comment about the baby, etc. They do not do this for him when he is without the baby – he’s charming and good looking (of course, I am biased), but he’s not THAT charming and good looking. He never asks to cut in line, they frequently offer to let him. Never once in over a year when I am out with our daughter running the same mundane errands (and for the first 4-5 months of her life she and I exclusively ran those errands together) has ANYONE allowed or offered to let me cut in line because I had the baby with me. In this case, he is doing ordinary parenting activities, and the general public of women is so excited and encouraged to see that, they make life as EASY as humanly possible for him. Great reward and recognition for mundane, normal parenting. He thinks it’s hysterical, I think it’s a fabulous example of how little we expect from men in the parenting department. This is changing, I see it in the difference between my father’s generation and my partner’s, but we still have a LONG way to go.

  10. 10
    Kate L. says:

    Oh, and while on the subject of annecdotal evidence – for #16. Last year, I purchased 2 packages of onsies for my child. Same size, each package had 5 onsies – one with 2 pink, a yellow, a green and a white, the other with 2 blue, a yellow, a green and a white. Both made by the same company. Clearly, one package was for boys and one was for girls. Each had little sayings on them, such as “Tiny Hugs” or “Big Hugs” “Precious giggles” or “Playful giggles” guess which phrases went with which package. The gender socialization for activeness or passiveness is EVERYWHERE – in an silly places as the clothing a 6 month old baby wears. Clearly, society encourages more activity in boys than girls.

  11. 11
    nik says:

    About #11.

    I can’t help but think it’s got something to do with the way the primary caregiver role is awared. Women are automatically primary caregivers, because they give birth. For men to take over they have to have that role ceded to them by the mother. I think that must effect responses to men who are primary caregivers compare to women.

  12. 12
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Haha – Yes Kate, exactly! I have yet to see a ‘Big Princess’ anything, or a ‘Precious Slugger’ anything. Also the difference in how Sydney or Maddox are treated when they are thought to be little boys due to the clothing we put them in is interesting. People are much more understanding of Sydney running off and being a spaz at the grocery store when she’s in her boyish looking clothing. We’ve gotten ‘where’s her mother’ at other times when she’s running off wearing girl clothing. At one point I actually turned around and said to the woman ‘You totally didn’t just say where is her mother when she’s clearly playing with and being looked after by her dad and uncle, did you?’ – She just sort of got all bewildered at my irritation. Fricking Sydney does something boneheaded and suddenly -I’m responsible- regardless of what instigation she’s had going on by the two males I generally do my grocery shopping with.

  13. 13
    Kate says:

    When my husband flew alone with our child, the stewardesses cleaned his bottles for him and oohed and ahed. When I flew alone with the child, I got an unaccompanied minor to look after as well (they march the child up and ask while s/he is standing right there – I couldn’t say no).

    Despite the disadvantages of being female in a very patriarchal household, I think that my brother, who was terrible at sports had it worse than me.

  14. 14
    Kate L. says:

    This is tangential, so if you don’t want to post it Amp, I’ll understand :)

    When you have Sydney or Maddox dressed as boys and inevitably some stranger comments on how cute they are, “what is his name” or something to that affect, and you casually respond with “Her name is Sydney” – what’s the reaction you get? Maya frequently wears “boy” clothes such as these
    (I don’t know if I can post a picture or not, but it helps to prove the point, so I’m going to try)
    And when she’s out in public people get ANGRY when they find out she is a girl. I’ve literally had people yell at me for “dressing her like a boy.” Talk about people who are upset about a tiny bit of gender bending… which isn’t even really my motive. My Mother in law likes to buy blue and read clothes… they fit Maya, are weather appropriate and comfortable, so I put her in them, but it turns into a whole “conspiracy” of me trying to “trick” the outside world. I just find the whole thing weird. Not surprising of course, but weird. When Maya is dressed like this, people are much happier and low and behold, their voices are softer, their actions more subdued – it’s really facinating… Anyway, just wondered if strangers had the nerve to yell at you too, or if it’s just me.

  15. 15
    Delany says:

    re #16 – when my daughter was about a year old, we took her to a friend’s house to watch football, dressed in a sweatsuit of the team my husband was rooting for. Some folks we met that night assumed that the kid was a boy because of her clothes (and seemed to deliberately mishear her name, and thought it was Norman) and went on and on about what a “big, strong linebacker he’s going to be one day”. When someone finally clued them in, not only did they immediately switch gears and start talking about how graceful and cute she is, but they acted *angry* at us because we didn’t immediately correct them. God forbid they think a girl could grow up to be big and strong!

  16. 16
    Rose R. says:

    Dear Barry,

    I love, love, love your blog and continue to love you. I saw you walking by psycho Safeway the other day…

    Rose R. (from the Vanguard)

    PS-Katie Harmon now resides in my old backwater hometown. How ironic.

  17. 17
    elfinity says:

    Oh, Lordy, it’s not funny how much my husband got fawned upon at the daycare our son used to go! He could get off work earlier than I, so it was better for us that he picked our son up. However, other moms and staff thought he was the bee’s knees for his “sacrifice”.

    Also, our very sensitive and gentle son used to get bullied a lot in 1st grade, because he would try to resolve all conflicts by talking and being polite. I mean, that wasn’t understood even by the teachers, who (you’d think) should’ve been all over promoting non-violent behavior.

    Just my anecdotal evidence ^_^

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks to everyone who’s posted anecdotally – it’s nice to be reassured that I wasn’t totally on the wrong track.

    And Rose, wow! Nice to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words; I adore you too. Are you still working at Reading Frenzy?

    (For foks who are wondering, Rose used to be my editor at the student paper when we were in college, between her bouts of globe-trotting.)

  19. 19
    Lee says:

    More anecdotal evidence: if I know that something we need to buy for the kids will need (extensive) interaction with sales staff at the store, I’ll send my husband with the kids, and the staff invariably answers his questions in great and loving detail and falls over backwards to make sure he walks out the door with exactly the thing he came in for, or at least the closest approximation with explanation. (The lone exception was when my son needed his first Protective, so I took him and now know more than I ever wanted to know about sizing.) Even when he takes the kids to the doctor, he invariably gets more explanation, warnings, and “what to do” lists than I do.

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    The fact that his rebuttal was to call you “strident” was a pretty big clue that he didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about.

  21. 21
    Curious says:

    I think men will receive more instructions and directions when accompanied with kids is because –
    Most people assume them to be stupid enough to not make sense out of little information when it comes to kids.

    Why men who are seen alone with their kids get more attention? Cause they are breaking the ‘stereotype’ of male behaviour set in public minds. In other words, demonstration of sensitive behaviour on part of males is attention worthy (mostly from females).

    On the other hand, if their behaviour was not very descriptive of their actions, they would be considered much differently. Imagine a young or midaged man alone in the ‘dolls’ isle. I have been there and I have received much harsher looks than any woman can EVER get about letting their kids run amok.

    For all of you that have a problem for being blamed for the behaviour of their kids, consider who is targetted for blame when a kid isnt supported enough.

    As for those who want their girls to be big and strong, rather than pretty and graceful – I hope your girls do get big and strong, but I dont know if they would like or enjoy that.

  22. 22
    jah says:

    “As for those who want their girls to be big and strong, rather than pretty and graceful – I hope your girls do get big and strong, but I dont know if they would like or enjoy that. ”

    Why shouldn’t girls enjoy being big and strong? From personal experience, I can tell you that there’s a lot of joy in strength. Bigness? What I wouldn’t give to be tall enough to reach my cupboards or stuff on the top shelf. I’ll probably be killed someday by having a shelf full of canned goods fall on my while I’m climbing up them to reach the mushrooms.

    Just because a girl isn’t tiny or graceful (or blond or what-have-you) doesn’t mean she will consider her body unacceptable or second rate, or that she can’t acquire friends or a mate.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    As for those who want their girls to be big and strong, rather than pretty and graceful….

    Why can’t we hope for them to be all four?

    Sydney – the little girl whose photos (along with her baby sister’s) appear on this site every Monday – is already big and strong for her age, and quite pretty as well. (Admittedly, she’s not very graceful, but I don’t think many 2-year-olds are graceful.)

    The prettiness thing is odd to think about, politically. I don’t think it matters if Sydney is pretty or not – I’d find her adorable whether or not she was a conventionally attractive child. But girls and women who aren’t conventionally attractive are sometimes discriminated against, and I can’t help wanting for both of them to not have to deal with that.

    (Of course, there are down sides to being pretty, too. But that’s probably a subject for another post).

  24. 24
    Elena says:

    Isn’t fawning over fathers a way of patronizing them? I wonder if they get more unsolicted advice.

    Where I live, stay at home dads and room fathers and male brownie leaders aren’t unusual, but when nmy baby was born abroad ( L America) the doctor who gave her her first shots was VERY patronizing to my husband, saying “daddies don’t know how to hold babies” and so forth.

  25. 25
    Curious says:

    I would like to agree with Ampersand, but are you really considering the mind of a growing woman? I think grace (often associated with kindness) is the most important feminine quality that is admired by both sexes. Big or not, Smart would be nice. I dont think an attempt to change the female stereotype should be as reckless as to discard a valueable assets. If you want to be big and strong, how come a majority of women are trying to loose weight?

    Simply put it is incredibly hard to acheive all 4 qualities. In a world where insecurities run amok, do we really want to set standards even higher? jah, I am assuming you are a woman, as I said, hope all the girls who know what growing up is like – should know it was like and I think you can reason why I am ‘hoping’ that they like or enjoy it.

    “But girls and women who aren’t conventionally attractive are sometimes discriminated against, and I can’t help wanting for both of them to not have to deal with that.”

    Hello – Dont make it sound as if “conventionally attractive” or absence of it is only a problem for women only. What about men who are NOT big or strong, but maybe incredibly kind, sensitive and/or smart? Are they not been discriminated against? Why the one-sided-martyrism?

  26. 26
    Kate L. says:

    Please forgive me if I am misinterpreting you, but tone is difficult to read on the internet. That being said, I take GREAT offense to much of what you are saying.

    In post #14, when you said, “As for those who want their girls to be big and strong, rather than pretty and graceful – I hope your girls do get big and strong, but I dont know if they would like or enjoy that.”

    I am terribly offended that you are implying that I am somehow harming my daughter by raising her to be active, self assured and not worrying about being demure. Perhaps that was not your intent, but by stating that you don’t know if they would enjoy that or not, you really are implying that we are “bad parents.

    “I think grace (often associated with kindness) ” Really? Says who? I’m a very kind person – I try to be so anyway, and it’s generally a word that others use to describe me, but grace is not a word ANYONE would ever use to describe me. I think of grace as a physical attribute associated with how one moves. I’d love for my daughter to grow up with gracefulness as an attribute, but I see absolutely no reason that particular attribute can not peacefully coexist with being active, strong and outgoing.

    As for this: “Hello – Dont make it sound as if “conventionally attractive” or absence of it is only a problem for women only. What about men who are NOT big or strong, but maybe incredibly kind, sensitive and/or smart? Are they not been discriminated against? Why the one-sided-martyrism? ”

    Have you completely missed the point of the post? Amp, and most other feminists would completely agree with you that sexism and it’s inherent description of masculinity and narrow gender molds harms boys and men as well as girls and women. I don’t know a single feminist who would argue to the contrary. However, this particular post is about male privilege, and despite the fact that there are ways that sexism harms boys and men, the system of patriarchy does indeed provide certain privileges for men. The 2 Amp is discussing in this particular thread are 1) that basically, we expect mothers to be better parents to their children than we expect men, and we reward men more readily and more vocally for doing the very same things that women do most of the time without any kind of fanfare. 2) In our society today, boys are encouraged to be more active than are girls.

    Amp’s post is simply arguing with a commentor who disagreed that those are real privileges that men hold. Those of us commenting were providing our own annecdotal evidence that Amp’s original post had resonated with our own experiences. I’m just having a difficult time understanding how your posts add anything to that discussion – do you disagree with the privileges Amp outlined? Do you have experience to the contrary? Then fine, say so, but at this point, you haven’t actually discussed the topic at hand. I too, have strayed from the topic, but at least I acknowledged it.

    Finally, and again, if I am reading your tone wrong, forgive me, but I have to tell you that the feel I get from your post is basically… “Wah wah wah, men are hurt too. Why can’t we talk about that?” And to that I say, I suspect Amp does a GREAT DEAL of talking about how sexism harms men, and though that is an important discussion, why is it so awful to name and point out some of the privileges men gain in a patriarchal society? After all, we can not change that unless we see and name it as such, and we will not reduce the harms done to men by sexism unless we can change it.

  27. 27
    RonF says:

    When you folks mention “big and strong” and “linebacker” in connection with girls, I can’t help but think of my daughter’s Junior Prom picture. She plays tennis, hockey, and fast-pitch softball; she was a catcher in the latter. The picture is of her with her girlfriends. They are standing with their backs to the camera on a staircase, leaning up against the rail. There were 5 girls in the picture, all wearing either strapless or spaghetti strap dresses. Four of them looked like one would expect your average suburban high school girl would look from the back. One had SHOULDERS. In fact, the word that jumped into my mind when I saw the picture was “linebacker”.

    My daughter is not conventionally pretty. Graceful is harder for me to measure; certainly she has more control over her body’s movements than other young women who haven’t been in athletic training for about the last 10 years. And I wouldn’t say she was “big”; she’s not notably tall or short, and she’s not heavy (although she’s not fitting into designer jeans any time soon). But she’s quite healthy. And damn active. She won’t be asked to pose for FHM any time soon, but I’ll be damned if I don’t think she’s attractive.

  28. 28
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Total aside here, Kate the pictures of your daughter are adorably cute. What a BIG STRONG GIRL she is! :)

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  34. 29
    ariane says:


    Whenever women say something that men don’t want to admit it’s called “strident”. They should redefine the word.