Commenter Valerie Keefe offered this for consideration and it intrigued me, so I am offering it for review and consideration. She doesn’t consider it a finished thought, so treat it as a work in progress as you read.
By the way -the male privilege meme as a form of damseling – and since it is damseling and the damsel role is an aspect of chivalry, the male privilege meme is inherently patriarchal.
Hey, this looks like an open thread… time for me to drop a thousand words of me explaining how bi-directional oppression is possible in a society that still privileges masculinity, from a discussion I was having on tumblr about why trans men are privileged in cisfeminist-dominated spaces… I need to figure out how to clean up and simplify this model, but here’s the rough hypothesis:
If I am willing to agree in a discussion that masculinityy is privleged, I am going to exect an admission that femininity is privileged, as Valerie does further on.
I don’t think this is accurate, not least of all because things happen to men that don’t happen to other undirectionally privileged groups. White people don’t have a higher rate of workplace-related-death than POC. Straight cis people aren’t more likely to be homeless than queer folk. And rich people aren’t likely to go to jail longer for the same crime than poor people… to name the workplace death, homelessness, and sentencing gaps, among three things.
So… we have this binaristic, cissexist, heterosexist view that there are men and there are women and it’s all easily determined at birth based on the shape of your genitals. So it’s sort of culturally ingrained that women (cis-as-default, obv) may be women but they can’t help being women, and women are expected to be feminine, which is regarded as lesser than masculine (i.e. femmephobia, or if we were trying not to pathologize, masculosexism, but I don’t have time to teach the entire Identity Left another term, so I’m just gonna use femmephobia.).
So in the case of a cis woman, you’re oppressed if you’re feminine, because masculinity is regarded as superior… and you’re oppressed if you’re masculine, because cissexism dictates that you should be feminine… and these things intersect… so the woman that people might degender and call a bitch behind her back still gets masculine privilege, even though she loses her cisfeminine privilege. (we should look at cisfemininity and cismasculinity as being differently privileged for ease of analysis)
Cisfemininity on its own? Impressively privileged. There are massive carveouts. Crimes you commit aren’t taken as seriously, you have better access to education and social services, you’re less likely to die while working the same job for the same pay, oh, and if you rape a kid and get pregnant, you should probably be able to sue that kid for child support… which is the most fucking horrifying thing I have ever heard of. Oh, and it’s not seen as routine and defensible to cut off 20,000 nerve endings by removing your clitoral hood at birth. But these are just a few examples.
It’s called damseling, or when damseling while cisfeminist, it’s called female solidarity… but really, come on, damseling. When a cis feminist argues that IPV laws should treat male-on-female violence as less defensible because “men are stronger,” that’s some fucking damseling right there.
So the thing is, cis women are in this double bind, where the oppression they face from conforming to the ideal cisfeminine role is counteracted by the privilege they get… from conforming to the ideal cisfeminine role. These are those double-binds you hear so much about.
CAMAB* folk get very little of that. There is proper behavior and then there is “man up, faggot.” Cissexism and femmephobia work in the same direction, not to mention class when we’re talking about disposability. But again, cis men are about as good/not good at conforming to the ideal cismasculine role as cis women are at conforming to the ideal cisfeminine role… so you have a MUCH wider distribution of oppression and privilege.
So it’s pretty easy to point at a masculine, rich, cis guy and say, “well, men sure have it good don’t they.” The housing-insecure, romantically-passive rape survivor who we like to call creepy on the other hand… there are more of him, but we don’t say as much about him, because, hey, if you focused on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, you would find a lot more men than women… cisfeminists love to talk about the Glass Ceiling, but not so much about the Glass Floor.
They used to, mind you, but that’s another story.
There is one thing about being trans. You can always rely on cissexist people to let you affirm yourself as your assigned sex at any moment, since that’s what they want you to pretend you are. So trans men have the ability to invoke their ‘essential female experience’ or whatever the TERFs are calling it this week, to mack on some of that cisfeminine privilege when they want, especially when it comes to accessing space. They’re still implicitly read as men and get privilege for that, but they get to claim the social prerogatives that are de jure or de facto set aside for women. Trans men are men, and get to claim those rewards when it suits them and get to cry misogyny when it suits them too.
Trans women don’t get this kind of ability, because any privilege that accrues to male people in this society is not legal, it has to be earned and reinforced with action… letting cissexists slot trans women as their assigned sex only removes that sliver of conditional cis approval and cis privilege that trans women get from transitioning in the first place. (Yes, holy fuck, I just blew your minds my fellow transitioned trans women, we are privileged over trans women who have not transitioned, because we get a little occasional conditional cis privilege).
The other thing about being trans is, just like with being gay, you don’t need to be out of the closet to get implicitly read as who you are. We see story after story of trans women relating their junior and high school years as a litany of abuse… meanwhile we tend to find trans men pre-transition as well-respected activists. Pre and non-transitioning trans women get misogyny without damseling. Pre and non-transitioning trans men get cis feminist solidarity and male privilege.
So yeah… if one’s reason for liking trans men is that they know what it’s like to not have male privilege, then you are barking up the wrong tree… what trans men get from transitioning is not male privilege, but conditional cis privilege.
I really need to put together a diagram in GIMP or something… anyway, that was me explaining why trans men aren’t some feminist-approved subvarietal of man, and why the current model of men unidirectionally oppressing women at all times doesn’t work too well. I don’t blame you if you understand none of it. It’s still a rough hypothesis, but one that fits what I’ve seen better than what I currently see trotted out and sold as truth.
*CAMAB – Coercively Assigned Male At Birth. This means people at the hospital looked between yoyur legs and decided on the spot what you were, without the slightest regard for what your brain said you were, privileging urology over neurology in what is pretty obviously a neurological matter.