Using Male Privilege and Power For Good (PT. 1)
Warning: my perspective is predicated upon the idea that western culture historically has valued maleness and men in a gender binary as greater than feminine and female; that societally men have been granted more freedom and responsibility, and that by devaluing women and femininity we have created a culture that is at best dismissive and silencing of the female perspective and at worst violent to women and actively silencing and erasing their experiences.
I used to work for a non-profit organization called Youth Frontiers based out of Minneapolis, MN. We would do day retreats focused on character development for grades 4-12. My job was to play music and behave like an all-around goofball in front of the kids and I loved it.
One of the things we talked about with the 4th and 5th graders was the idea that we all have power. We would ask them to think about what makes the difference between a superhero and a super-villain. Sometimes the answers were adorably specific: “spider man is a superhero”. Eventually the kids would arrive at the answer: “superheros use their power for good”. Any privilidge or power we have starts from the same place: using them for good, not evil. This idea can somehow be a little bit vague for adults, so let me break it down:
When male voices and opinions are valued above women’s, one way in which we can advocate is to point out when women aren’t being listened to. This can be done while it’s in spaces we occupy, or in our absence. Example: in a setting where men and women are talking, allow women to speak and finish their thoughts. I have found that men in my life tend to interrupt women more than they do one another.
I worked in an IT position where I observed women who were my mentors state an observation, watch our male client insist that they were wrong, I would simply state the same thing and watch the clients accept my statement without hesitation. Now, how much a seeker of justice you’d like to be is up to you. I’m certain my employer at the time did not want me having a conversation around privilidge and how men unconsciously doubt women, or their observations or experiences.
I’ll continue in a later post.
Take a moment to appreciate not just the women in your life and family, but the women in our culture that have taken the risk and sacrifice to refuse the erasure of their voice and presence. This is an ongoing dialogue.
It’s a crazy world out there, y’all. We only have each other. Every word of gratitude spoken in love and sencerity builds each and every one of us up.