Thursday, January 29, 2015

Male Privilege and Social Desirablity

Eli and I were talking about how I would get treated differently if I were male, and how some of my traits are more undesirable because I'm female. I honestly never thought much about this before in terms of my personal experience. I know that there is a lot of sexism and male privilege in the world, but I always thought that in terms of what I personally want to do - which is lots of cuddling and talking about feelings and being able to cry when I want to - I was much better off being female. I do think it would be less socially acceptable to do those things if I were a guy, and I'm not saying that I want to be a guy, but I did come up with some things that would be totally different for me if I were male. (Note: I am not saying that all male people have the traits I'm about to describe. I'm saying that when a male person has these traits, it's just way less undesirable than when a female person has the same traits).

1. Being clingy would be more acceptable, I think. Right now I identify very strongly as a clingy person and I am trying very hard to push that word through as a perfectly fine way to be. But if I were a straight guy who had a girlfriend and wanted to see her all the time, as much as I wanted to see my boyfriend, I don't think it would be so undesirable. It wouldn't be called clingy. I think it would be perfectly normal and socially acceptable for me to want to spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, and it would perfectly okay for me to feel entitled to spend that much time with my girlfriend, in a way that it was never okay for me to feel entitled to spend time with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend's social circle disliked me because I was clingy. But what I'm realizing now is that if things had been reversed - if my boyfriend had been more clingy and I had wanted to spend much less time with him than he did with me - I think his social circle would have disliked me just as much for the opposite reason. If I were a straight guy, it would just be way more socially desirable for me to expect to spend all the time that I'd want to spend with my girlfriend.

2. Not being well-rounded would be more acceptable. Female people are expected to be good at everything. I mean, look at Hermione - she's good at essentially everything. Harry is only good at certain things, and even by the end of the 7th book, he never becomes as skilled at everything as Hermione does. And yet Harry gets to be the star and have all the glory while Hermione is under-appreciated a lot of the time. This is just one example, but I feel like most positive female characters are portrayed as being good at everything, while male characters can be extremely skilled in one area and incompetent in everything else.

I have absolutely zero interest in being good at everything. I have zero interest in multi-tasking or being detail-oriented. I want to have extreme interests in a few things and be basically incompetent in everything else because I really don't give a damn about everything else. And I think it would be more acceptable to be that way if I were a guy.

3. Only doing what I want and not having any sense of responsibility. I don't do any chores or housework. I've never made my bed. I don't know the names of any cleaning products because I don't use them. I don't know how to cook and I'm not interested in learning. I leave perishable food out on the counters for hours because I forget to put it away, and then I still eat it without a second thought because what's the big deal? The other night I managed to flood my sink without even turning the water on. (Seriously - I hadn't run the garbage disposal in so long that water literally started flowing up from the sink when I wasn't even running the faucet. It was quite freaky). If I were a guy, none of this stuff would be so undesirable. I just think there wouldn't be such a high expectation that I would do any cleaning or responsible stuff in the first place.

4. Being entitled would be perfectly acceptable. I plan to do what I want when I want to and have absolutely no interest in earning anything: "I earned this cookie because I had a salad for lunch," "I earned a night off because I studied all week," etc. For years I have been trying desperately to break away from this culture, to live in a world where we eat cookies and go out on a Friday night because we want to, NOT because we did anything to earn it. I rarely hear all this stuff about "earning" things from guys. Something tells me that if I were a guy, I wouldn't have to run very far to find the culture I'm looking for.

5. I wouldn't feel like I had to tiptoe around and be polite to people when I don't want to be. Being polite would be a bonus, not an expectation.

6. The fact that I don't want kids ever would be way more socially acceptable. I understand that if I were a straight guy and wanted a girlfriend, I would have to find a girlfriend who also didn't want kids. But I just have a feeling that if I were a guy who didn't want kids, the number of people I'd date who would just expect me to want kids, or expect me to change my mind after I've explicitly said that I don't ever want kids, would be a lot lower. Just a guess.

I'm working on a book about emotional validation right now. If you had asked me a year ago, "What would be different if you were a guy?" I would have assumed that that would make everything worse because it would be less socially acceptable to be so focused on feelings. If you had asked me the same question a few months ago, after the breakup, I would have said that I'd probably sell more books if I were a male author and get taken more seriously. But if you ask me now, my answer is that I probably wouldn't be writing this book. I'm just not sure I would have experienced enough invalidation to write an entire book about it.

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