Does female privilege exist?

Today at work I encountered a problem with the Assistant Manager of where I work. My oldest daughter just started preschool and today I needed to pick her up from school at 3PM. So I told the manager that I needed to be gone by no later than 2:50PM. It was, by no means, an unreasonable request. We’ve been slow at work and I’m usually sent home by around 2PM either way. I also haven’t asked to leave early from work in nearly a year, so I expected this to be a non-issue.

Well, I was wrong.

The moment the words left my mouth, the Assistant Manager told me tough luck, mocked my reason for needing to leave early, name-called me a “whiny baby”, informed me I needed to change my availiability if I needed to leave early, then threatened to speak with another Assistant Manager about me.

Does this seem like fair and equal treatment to you? Because it doesn’t to me. I was livid. This Assistant Manager was counting on the fact that he was male and older than I to cow me into submission. To further browbeat me into being a good girl, he also demeaned me and tried to call into question my responsbility as a mother to attend to my children as “not a good reason” to request to leave early. Then, as his final coup de grâce, he informed me he’d be speaking to another manager to possibly make me feel as though my job may be in danger.

I’m a good employee. I am early to work every day, I rarely call in sick, I pick up shifts when need be to help others out, I fulfill all my responsibilites at work above-and-beyond, I train others well, and I am always respectful and pleasant to co-workers and managers. To suddenly have this mistreatment leveled at me left me shocked and humiliated.

I’ve been meaning to do a blog post on female privilege for quite some time, but today’s occurrence lit a fire under my ass. What originally got me started on this topic is when I followed a tweeted link to a tumblr blog about female privilege. Go ahead and peruse through several pages. Do you feel adequately disgusted? A few are clearly meant to be trollish or lame attempts at humor, but many more are sadly serious.

I’m going to lay it out simply before going a bit more in-depth: Male privilege does exist. Female privilege does not. Yes, there are instances that, if taken on a stand-alone basis, appear as if women are favored. I’m here to help dispel these areas as best I can.

The most obvious example I’ve seen thrown about is that many bars offer free drinks to women on some evenings (Ladies Night). In isolation, these could easily be misconstrued as female privilege. Once you look at the whole picture and get better context on the issue at hand, you realize this simply isn’t true. Ladies Night is a poorly disguised benefit to men. Think about it. Why does Ladies Night really exist? Because women are sexual objects. They’re bait to attract men to the bar. The more women that show up for Ladies Night for the free drinks, then the more men that show up to the bar to harass the women.

Honestly, this blog says it far better than I in summation:

Let’s take an asserted case of female privilege — for instance, draft immunity — and assume arguendo that it is a real instance of privilege. (I realize there are arguments that this is not a real privilege, but let’s assume it is for the moment.) Why would a real female privilege exist in society, and what might it mean?

First, an instance of female privilege would have significant potential masking effects on male privilege. There are hundreds of examples of minor societal norms — men paying for the date, men taking the combat roles in the military — which potentially give a small tangible benefit to women. These little trifles may create a perception that privilege is available to everyone: “Men get some privileges, and women get others. Hey, I guess it’s all just a wash!”

So the first negative consequence of a “real” female privilege would be to muddy or blunt arguments about male privilege. (And we’ve seen it happen, on the recent male privilege post.) This would be an incredibly misleading perception, because male privilege is the real prize, and any female privilege (such as it is) is a ragtag collection of shitty consolation prizes. Women don’t get to be CEO or President or Senator or general — but hey, they get their dinner paid for on that date. Go, female privilege! And yet the existence of any potential privilege can be a distraction from the reality that every important real privilege is reserved for men.

There’s so much to discuss regarding this topic that I intend to touch upon it again in the future. But honestly, do you believe that female privilege exists? I wholeheartedly agree with the above quote. Any privilege that does exist is just an assortment of craptacular “consolation prizes” meant to keep us happy, while the truly important privileges are reserved solely for men. How can female privilege be a real thing when we have evidence of rape culture every day?

Discuss.

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8 Comments

  1. This is utter and complete crap. I am so tired of masoginistic bullshit in the workplace. Next time he says something like this you need to tell him that the ACLU and EOEC would love to hear his remarks. That the lawsuits that creating a hostile work environment-which he’s doing-would end his job as well and you’d hate to have to see him sworn under oath explaining his unethical and threatening behavior. It’s a good thing you write this down. if I were you, I’d write it down in even more detail and keep a log of any and all offensive behavior. You deserve better and if the company is large THEY EXPECT better! Also, make sure you take it to your next up supervisor. Keep going up the chain until you hit the top, if you have to. You deserve an apology at the very least. He’s an asshole with piggish attitudes, but he has no right to demean you in the workplace.

    1. Thanks.

      I totally did take it to the General Manager. Supposedly things shall be taken care of. Now all I have to worry about is retaliation from the Assistant Manager for getting him into trouble.

  2. First off, the assistant manager had no right to speak to you that way, and you should file a formal complaint. If he didn’t want you to leave early that’s one thing, but a simple excuse would have sufficed.

    Second, I do think female privilege does exist, and that belief is based on the fact that I’ve used it to my advantage. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard, I’m usually a nice person, and unless I’m really irritated I’m friendly (or disappear if a person I can’t stand happens to be around) I know that if I smile, look cute, and am friendly. I can make things happen, like getting my truck towed out of the ditch, coaxing the farrier to make a special trip to clean up some hooves, and even got me a discount on a tire. I also know that I’m not the only one who does this. Lots of women I know do the same thing. For some it works. In addition to that I maintain that acting friendly gets me noticed, but all the men in my life respect me because I never use the fact that I’m a girl to get out of work. I’m just as willing to get my hands dirty as the boys are.

    I didn’t mention anything about agreeing to go out on dates with anyone, or even showing cleavage. I’ve never led any man on. That’s not my style. I just uped the charm and usually listened to a few stories.

    It’s possible that the fact that I live in a farming community where some of the old world values live on.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jess! I definitely filed a complaint, though not a formal one. I spoke with the General Manager about the issue. He said he’d speak with the Assistant Manager about his behavior.

      As for the second half, I respectfully disagree. What you list can easily be viewed as female privilege, but the examples you listed tie directly into women being viewed as sexual objects. Yes, it’s nice that if you smile and look cute you can get men to do things for you, but those men are doing things for you because they’re hoping to receive gratification from you (possibly even subconsciously!). You shouldn’t have to use your “feminine charms” to get favors. Men don’t have to. So why should women?

      I think this is also a good example of the insidiousness of our culture believing in female privilege: it’s what aids in convincing women to believe in and support the patriarchal system.

      Here’s another good quote from the Feminist Law Professors blog:

      I have to think it would be different if we were selecting rights from behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance. Door number one is membership in a group with a 90%+ chance of being on the Supreme Court, a 100% chance of being President, a 90% chance of being CEO or major business leader, an overwhelming majority in generals and scientists and the wealthy and powerful. Door number two is membership in a group that gets free drinks on Thursday, draft immunity, occasional compliments about being pretty, and affirmation and validation about the importance of the feminine role. No one in their right mind would choose Door Number Two.

  3. Equal should mean equal. A woman should have every “privilege” that men have.

    I agree, that AM needs to be reminded that such BS comments could get him fired. Seriously, it wouldn’t take much. Just a nice little chat with HR and he’d be looking for another job.

    1. Agreed on so many levels!

      You know, it’d probably be best if he was fired. He’s got a serious “creeper” vibe to him and he’s entirely too touchy-feely with the young women who work there. There have been many there who have complained about him being overly friendly with them. I don’t think any of them have thought to complain about it though.

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