Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Privilege Checklist

I found this post during the course of reading a blog I follow and it talked about "privilege checklists". They're a fascinating thing -- designed to unpackage the various privileges we may enjoy based solely around facets of our identity, whether we're White, Black, male, female, gay, straight, whether we're a 40 year-old heterosexual Evangelical descended from Europeans, or a 25 year-old Hispanic immigrant woman in a lesbian relationship.

What interested me about this particular privilege checklist is that it really serves to help us realize that not only do men have privilege, and not only do White people have privilege, and not only do Gay Black Jewish Klansmen have privilege (the privilege to be in an awesome club!), but that we all possess some privilege, in various contexts, to varying degrees at different times in our lives. And while I acknowledge there are some problems with using "privilege" in conversations with others, I cannot completely divorce it from my anthropological lexicon.

That said, please enjoy this list of Female Privileges and I hope it makes us all think about the ways in which we are privileged.

1. I have a much lower chance of being murdered than a man.
2. I have a much lower chance of being driven to successfully commit suicide than a man.
3. I have a lower chance of being a victim of a violent assault than a man.
4. I have probably been taught that it is acceptable to cry.
5. I will probably live longer than the average man.
6. Most people in society probably will not see my overall worthiness as a person being exclusively tied to how high up in the hierarchy I rise.
7. I have a much better chance of being considered to be a worthy mate for someone, even if I’m unemployed with little money, than a man.
8. I am given much greater latitude to form close, intimate friendships than a man is.
9. My chance of suffering a work-related injury or illness is significantly lower than a man’s.
10. My chance of being killed on the job is a tiny fraction of a man’s.
11. If I shy away from fights, it is unlikely that this will damage my standing in my peer group or call into question my worthiness as a sex partner.
12. I am not generally expected to be capable of violence. If I lack this capacity, this will generally not be seen as a damning personal deficiency.
13. If I attempt to hug a friend in joy, it’s much less likely that my friend will wonder about my sexuality or pull away in unease.
14. If I seek a hug in solace from a close friend, I’ll have much less concern about how my friend will interpret the gesture or whether my worthiness as a member of my gender will be called into question.
15. I generally am not compelled by the rules of my sex to wear emotional armor in interactions with most people.
16. I am frequently the emotional center of my family.
17. I am allowed to wear clothes that signify ‘vulnerability’, ‘playful openness’, and ’softness’.
18. I am allowed to BE vulnerable, playful, and soft without calling my worthiness as a human being into question.
19. If I interact with other people’s children — particularly people I don’t know very well — I do not have to worry much about the interaction being misinterpreted.
20. If I have trouble accommodating to some aspects of gender demands, I have a much greater chance than a man does of having a sympathetic audience to discuss the unreasonableness of the demand, and a much lower chance that this failure to accommodate will be seen as signifying my fundamental inadequacy as a member of my gender.
21. I am less likely to be shamed for being sexually inactive than a man.
22. From my late teens through menopause, for most levels of sexual attractiveness, it is easier for me to find a sex partner at my attractiveness level than it is for a man.
23. My role in my child’s life is generally seen as more important than the child’s father’s role.
24. If I commit a crime, I get less jail time than others would get for the exact same crime.
25. I have the right to give my child up for adoption, and thus totally repudiate any personal and financial responsibilities I might otherwise have.
26. I can choose whether I want to be a parent or not, knowing that society will compel the other parent to meet their financial responsibilities - whether they want to or not.
27. In any dispute involving custody, I’m granted the presumption that I am the better, safer parent.
28. If I choose to become a parent, people understand if I want to focus entirely on the personal, day-to-day care and nurturing of my children. Society expects my spouse to make enough money to make this choice possible.
29. I am allowed to use physical force against the opposite sex and not expect retaliation. In the event that I am retaliated against, both legal and social forces are in my favor.
30. If I commit rape or engage in sexual harassment, I am less likely to be censured or convicted for it than the opposite sex; and even if I am my sentence or punishment will be many times less severe than that of the opposite sex -- even if we commit similar offenses, and even if I commit offenses many times worse!


8 footnotes:

Brotha Wolf said...

Very true and very interesting. Privileges are not confined to males and whites. Although, they still manage to divide society further.

Zek J. Evets said...

Brotha Wolf,

Indeed, we are all at some level privileged or in some situation, but in the large scale systemic scheme of things... most of us really aren't.

Unless you count the rich White hetero Christian males, who of course own everything.

Brotha Wolf said...

...And who are able bodied.

Zek J. Evets said...

Brotha Wolf,


Mira said...

This is a very important thing to remember: all (ok, most of) the people and the groups they belong to enjoy some kind of privilege.

This is an interesting list, and I could add some more points.

For some reason, number 19 hit me; I mean, they are all true in one way or the other, but this one is particularly important (in my group).

I am not so sure about number 6, though (Most people in society probably will not see my overall worthiness as a person being exclusively tied to how high up in the hierarchy I rise.)- female's worthiness is defined by the same sort of bad standard: her beauty.

So in this case, both genders have a problem of having to fit a criteria to be seen as worthy (males: money, females: beauty). I don't think any gender is free in this department. (Free as in: being able to be seen as worthy based on individual merit and not a pre-set standard that doesn't really depend on their abilities. And call me hopelessly socialist, I don't think the amount of money someone has is due to their individual skills and abilities).

Zek J. Evets said...


The only group I can think of that enjoys no privilege in any society is the subaltern.

Which is such am ambiguous and amorphous label that it's almost impossible to say who belongs to it.

Also, I agree, the amount of money people have is rarely connected solely to their own skills, but as much due in part to the class they belong to which allows them access.

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

While I do agree that everyone has some kind of privilege (mine happens to be heterosexual privilege) I would honestly say that some of the things on the female list are invalidated just by being black.

Black women are at the bottom of the totem pole in American society (if not the whole world) we are even lower than black men (heck, just look at the tv, there are few black actresses on there).

That is why I have never paid much attention to being a woman...because all of the benefits that supposedly come with being a woman are, well, useless because being black is worse.

Zek J. Evets said...


I think you might be missing the fact that not all men are White either.

Black and Hispanic men have WAAAAY higher of a risk of being a victim of violent crime, robbery, or murder than Black/Hispanic women do. (But not rape, I'll give ya that.)

As for Black women being at the "bottom of the totem pole", well, I can't help but slightly disagree there because 1) Black women are pretty well educated as a group, and 2) it misses the point that people are more than just one identity, and that Oppression Olympics help no one, but rather that by acknowledging the various ways in which we are privileged, we can understand each other better.

For instance, thinking about your own privilege might help you understand what life is like for a Gay Black man, or for a Hispanic Lesbian, or a transgendered White Female, or a person with Down Syndrome, or someone who cannot use their legs, etc & so on.

By stepping outside of our own experience -- just a little -- we enable ourselves to transcend the petty differences that so often bring us into conflict.