Time and again when women speak of the discrimination they face at work, home, the work place and in everyday life, an oft-repeated response from men is, “but you have it so much easier” or “look at all your female privileges, why are you complaining?”
We look at some of what the ‘female privileges’ men are wont to speak of really are from the perspective of women.
@tutu_fuego shared a now locked tweet declaring that “there are male privileges and female privileges and we all know this.”
The tweet and the responses that followed it did two things:
1. Reveal the persisting lack of awareness from men of the harm they perpetuate through benevolent sexism.
2. Expose the tendency of men to not listen even when those at the receiving end of oppression speak the truth about their lived experience of said oppression.
To begin with, what is privilege? Special right, advantage, or immunity available to only a particular person or group.
A recurring ‘privilege’ cited by men in the comments section of that tweet is society’s penchant to assign less responsibility to women – an easily dismissible untruth, how women get free things like access at ticketed events and monetary favours from suitors. The former is easily dismissible because a recent analysis by Oxfam revealed that women lose in the unpaid labour of home-keeping; a whopping $10.9 trillion yearly – what they termed shadow labour.
The latter as elaborated by many women respondents is a commodification avenue that uses women as bait for men to come and harass and molest at will. Where suitors are concerned, it can hardly be considered a female privilege if moved by affection or desire a person does a favor for the person they desire, be they men or women.
By virtue of the above definition of privilege, even a cursory look at extant laws as they relate to everyday life will lay waste to the argument that women are privileged, it would as a matter of fact turn the argument the other way around, and rightly so.
A simple instance is where men enjoy a choice of profession, women are limited in their choice of profession by labour laws that decree women cannot work at night.
Until last year, the Nigeria Police Force had service regulation that demanded:
– Chastity from unmarried women officers
– That unmarried women apply for and get the permission of the police commissioner in their state command before they could marry – and this permission is given based on the condition that they have been in service for 3 years.
– Women could only be enlisted to a handful of roles.
These laws, now repealed, still cost a policewoman her job as recently as January 2021.
The list of men’s privileges is inexhaustible.
Their grievance of not being heard when they hurt is the downside of the very patriarchy many men will die on the altar of defending. Until men understand that their pain is the sacrifice they make every day to the God of patriarchy and get in line to dismantle it and build a fairer world for all, we will keep going around in circles and making little progress.