Countering Male Privilege

Rahul asked the following question here.

As an aside, I have often wondered , if just by existing as an upper caste male, and not necessarily by any acts of commission or omission by me individually, I am being party to an unjust system that benefits me,

then what is my moral obligation?

I felt both happy that a man bothered to ask this question and surprised that no woman replied to him so far. He addressed me, but the question is a rather open one and there are many female commenters in BR’s blog. This post is basically a reply to that question. Quite obviously Male Privilege is no particular guy’s fault. It just is there around us like the air we breathe. We kind of get used to it over time. It is all pervasive and affects so many facets of women’s life. So I am just taking one example in which well-meaning men can do a certain something for the women around them. I am not taking problems like safety, glass ceilings and generic misogyny as they are such sprawling topics. It is much easier to discuss one problem at a time.

Please read this.

This is a surprisingly common scenario which pretty much every woman faces. Here gounderbrownie fights for the right to visit a toilet. She asks

Why did I have to make a fuss for the driver to comprehend that this was an important issue? Why didnโ€™t the husbands/fathers/sons accompanying the other women speak up if they themselves felt shy of asking the driver to stop?

But I am not feeling as charitable about the other women as GB does. Those women even if they did not open the topic themselves, let GB the battle all alone and then used the facilities when she won the battle single handedly.

There is no evidence that anyone even thanked the lady. This is the type of invertebrates that we like to honour with the title “Adakamaana Ponnu”. As for me, even if I had not wanted to use the loo, I still would have joined forces with her just so that she is not alone when she is fighing the fight.

But this is a good example when men can put aside their privilege and apathy and speak up. It would have cost very less embarrasment to the men in the bus to have just verbally supported the lady. Men who bother to “accompany” their own mother/wife/etc are so quiet when another woman needs help. This is a problem that can so easily be solved.

I assume that chivalry arose as a type of counter to Male Privilege. So that men take it upon themselves to help women in these circumstances. It seems to have deteriorated over time. Chivalry often seems to imply that women are inferior and so should take some male help. Chivalry should be practised only when needed. And only when there is obvious Male Privilege at play. I agree with what Bhagwad says here.


6 thoughts on “Countering Male Privilege

  1. I missed that comment on BR’s blog, clearly, I need to be more alert!
    Male privilege is maddening – without going into the big issues, let me just say that I encounter it in some way every single day, both at home (courtesy having a younger brother) and outside.
    I liked what you said about “adakkamana ponnu”. I have never come under that category my entire life, and people waste no time in comparing me to other girls who are quieter and considered more well-behaved. Apparently, one cannot be outspoken about things if one wants a good conduct certificate. The thing is, both men and women are guilty of doing this!
    I have never been able to stay over at a friend’s house, or meet someone for dinner without asking them to finish eating by 9.15 pm (so that I can return home in the next 20 minutes), while my brother who is several years younger to me gets to do anything he wants (along with the explanation: Yena avan payyan). I have complained about it here:
    When I try to argue for women eating by themselves at restaurants or buying a movie ticket for one, I am looked at as some kind of a disgusting creature – “why would a woman do that?”. But aren’t those activities you could do perfectly well by yourself? Should a woman always be accompanied – is this considered “respectable” or “safe” or both?
    Interesting post about chivalry – I have no time to wait for a man to pull out my chair and open my door and pay for me. I don’t really think of it and nor do I seem to need it. I will hold the door open for the person coming after me, irrespective of their gender. But many men like to tell me: “nee oru ponnu madhiri nadandhukkardhu illai” (possibly I am not feminine enough or pretty enough or demure), and therefore they don’t feel the need to treat me with chivalry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, you are not alone, anusrini20. When you are outspoken, you are immediately made a “tomboy”. Especially if you are the “plump” types like me, you automatically fall under the she-can-help-me-get-my-love-message-to-the-figure but never considered the figure. I used to be upset with this when I was in my early teens. But, later I realized this zone is much better than the requisites of ‘figure’. That is such a long, long list of not-to-be-done, that it is stiffling. And when I actually say what I think of the men who try to use me as a modern day dove, they stop harrassing me for that too. Of course all this was in my early twenties. After I got married I became the advise giver, I have no clue why they think I understand ‘figure’ mentality ๐Ÿ˜€ Jokes aside, it is really rare to be considered feminine by the boys/men when you are outspoken – unless you are really fair (in which case it is ok to be even fat) or you have to be the likes of Amala Paul to be considered feminine. In these cases, your outspokeness would be considered ‘cute’.

    The school I studied in insists on a one-boy-one-girl sitting system in class until 10th std. (They had it till 12th, but then in 11th students of other schools who come to our school weren’t ‘comfortable’ with it, so thay had to restrict it to 10th). They have this system till date, much to the consternation of a lot of parents. Even though it seems all on-your-face I personally think it was wonderful to bring the opposite genders closer – literally – to each other. Other than the handful attractions/infatuations that are bound to happen, we actually spoke to each other without any reservations. On best cases, it created friendships that last a lifetime, the kind to which you can even complain about menstrual pain. On worst cases, it created such a deep running enmity because one of the party was not willing for a fling. But hey, we did a lot of stuff together. We never really had this guy-thing, girl-thing at all. When I came to college, it was such a rude shock to be told that I shouldn’t climb on a desk to hang the streamers. Why? I am a girl, duh. The boy who shouted at me, told me, “I will do it. All you had to do was ask, and I would have done it. Why would you climb up? What if some staff or someone else from other department saw you? (!!!)”. It is one of the many insults that I had to take in my 4 years of college. I used to have what I considered and still consider rational discussion over it, all it earned me was the name – sandakozhi.

    Another thing that had me cringing was the way one of the girls in my college was treated. She was the only girl in the mechanical department. And no, she was not considered ‘figure’, more of an obstacle for the joys that the boys of her class could have. She was always left out in the cultural shows, she had no partner for her final year project. When they planned for an Industrial Visit – which is always an excuse to go out on an out-of-city trip, they told her in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t supposed to come – because, a girl coming with them meant a female staff would be sent along with them, and they wanted a all-boys trip (they had the male staff who was accompanying them in their back pockets). It left her a very brittle person. I could actually see the transformation happening in the 4 years. Of course, she could have ignored it all and been happy with us girls (from other departments) who gave her willing company, but one needs atleast a little bit of peer acceptance in any stage of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Will remember this the next time I find myself in a similar situation i.e. when someone other than my wife or mom needs help and I can speak up. Thanks for keeping it simple , as a generic discussion on gender privilege would have resulted in lot discussion but may be not this simple clarity

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Madhu and Anu,

    1) I have heard this thing before about how women who speak their mind (or are friendly) are considered unfeminine and all that.

    The grass is hardly greener on the other side. I am very much a quiet person who keeps to myself and hardly anyone hears me speak my mind. Trust me, the world does not like quiet women as much as it says it does. It looks on with suspicion. It tries to anger you just to check where your boiling point is. People make it a hobby of ruffling your feathers.

    All this will be very sad if only I could give a damn about all their pathetic efforts. You don’t win either way so just be who you are. ๐Ÿ˜€

    2) I have been to restaurants and theaters alone. It is not a question of safety if done in broad day light. So I don’t know that the big deal is. Only problem is that people who do have a problem with women going to theatres alone are not going to give a reason why. They will just give “the look”. I discussed it here.

    (I just loved the comment by Madhu about her Granny)

    Here, GB gives herself breakfast

    My own restaurant breakfasts are just mini-idlis and coffee and so I am not going into the details.

    3) To be considered an Agony Aunt to random people is one thing I absoluely detest. I should write about it one of these days. Thankfully, I have never been asked to do thoothu.


    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Why do men when jokes are made about how they have changed after wedding ( That is they have started helping around the house) remain silent? Why are men expected to have this macho image and cant seen helping around the house? Why is it so easy to accept a woman going to work but not a man chipping in with household chores?

    Rahini, I am a very silent person and you are right I am hated by the outspoken ones since they feel that I remain silent and still get things done my way, whereas everyone else is calling the loud ones names.


  6. A few months ago I wrote “Trust me, the world does not like quiet women as much as it says it does. It looks on with suspicion. It tries to anger you just to check where your boiling point is. People make it a hobby of ruffling your feathers.”

    Today after all that has happened I came back to look at my own comment about how I face more crap than the average person just because someone wanted to check how high my boiling point is.

    This has happened for the last few days. Someone tested me. I passed the test. I won a war today. I am mighty pleased with myself. ๐Ÿ™‚


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