My mother told me to shut up quite a lot. My dad did too; he just beat it out of me when I cried.
Seems this is the way of the world these days.
I get beaten up by my dad, my mum tells me to shut up, and then when the big wide world hits me in the face I’m told to shut up once again because my maleness is a privilege to bestow on the world in typical Zazu style as he thrusts Simba to the known animal kingdom.
Did I ever tell you that once upon a time I wanted to be a girl because their lives seemed so much easier? Yeah, women don’t create wars, women don’t strike fear into the hearts of other women as they walk home at night. Women are just these amazing people that do no wrong whatsoever. I can remember the uncomfortable shuffling in my seat as our teachers pointed out to us that men were the cause of everything. Sometimes oblivion felt rather serene at those points in my life.
I feel for men growing up in the world today. I was lucky enough to grab myself a headstrong woman that knew exactly what she wanted and how she could get it. All she wanted to do was to be a mother, and, as a typical good man I supported her in that decision, just as I would have if she wanted to work and have me at home. She earns more than me anyway.
People say I’m privileged. I’m white, heterosexual, and a man. Being this alone allows me certain allowances in my life that others don’t. Perhaps I am you know? Perhaps as I sit in my ivory tower, able to write to you guys whilst not having an employer; this can be ascribed as the epitome of privilege. Ten years ago it was my dream. So yes, in my life it IS the epitome of privilege.
But I earned it. I worked damn hard to get that. Let’s not take that away from me just yet.
I sat alone crying at night because I didn’t think I was going to get through my recovery. When the booze and my friend circle seemed far more friendlier than the unknown that awaited me. I fought for my right to be put on boards and steering groups and be a respected member of the community, and it wasn’t easy, let me tell you that. I came from a social background that doesn’t particularly make it as far as I do — where was my privilege then?
Where was my privilege when my angry father was telling me that I’d never amount to anything? Or my friend circle that kept telling me that it was far safer with them with their drugs and booze. Where was my privilege then? Or when my mum was screaming, yelling at me that it was probably a good idea that the bully’s “kicked some sense into me” — yeah, my life was just brimming full of social privileges back then. I came from a backwaters council estate that most people forget about. The land that time forgot, or at least the government seemed to have forgotten about us when we were young.
I always liked the idea of privilege. It was an idea to help people navigate their social faux pas, to be aware of some of their unrulier behaviour. Yeah, I’ve always used my “earned” privilege to help others. I know where I came from and I certainly help others get up to my level if they are willing to take that help.
What I disagree with is throwing it in my face as a weapon to use against me. A way to discount all of my lived experiences because you can’t understand the difference between knowledge and application. I’m not a hateful person; I’m still a socialist, I believe in shared responsibility as well as individual responsibility, but I will not be held to ransom because of victimhood and injustice. I was a victim once, and it’s not a healthy mindset to exist in. It’s not one of prosperity. If you want to sit back and have others help you then you’re going to be waiting a long, long time.
Even in the Man Cave, my server for men to “be all they can be” — we do a great deal of helping in there, but most of them want to help themselves. I will not help anyone that sits back and wants others to do everything for them. We’re not victims in there. We give you the tools to better yourself.
Men are feeling marginalised right now and in the era of “men should speak up” it feels as if no-one cares what we have to say. We’re encouraged to share our feelings with the world but when we do we’re being fragile. Isn’t that what sharing hurtful emotions is? Male fragility? I thought Male Fragility was a very empowering thing in a world where men don’t usually speak up, yet no, it’s often scoffed upon when we’re butt hurt about something. Share your feelings, open up — just make sure it’s not what our female overlords don’t want to hear.
I don’t actually believe I have unearned privilege. For those of you that don’t know, unearned privilege is where you are unaware of the privilege that you hold. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in a situation where I’ve allowed someone to see me with unearned privilege; those that know me will understand that I allow people to talk to me as they see fit. I judge by two things. If you’re an arsehole, or not an arsehole. That’s about it. You get put into these two categories. If you’re an arsehole I’ve probably deleted you by now. I’ve never thought we should be divided by anything. I’m a humanist at heart. I believe in humans and humanity. I love men, women, everyone.
When you throw privilege in my face you disrespect me. You are basically telling me that you don’t respect me, nor are you willing to learn my history, or are you even willing to try and understand it a little. You minimise my entire life down to a colour and a gender, and discount everything else. You have no respect for what I have to say, and you are not willing to hear me on it.
Privilege is a thing, but it’s a multi-faceted social dynamic, far more complex than just white, and male. For instance women are more privileged in the sense that it is completely acceptable to start a woman’s only club, yet horrifying when a man does. But on the other hand men are privileged in the household when it’s more accepted for a man to go out and work, than it is a woman. This is just one of the many, many, many overarching social dynamics that intertwine between men and women, and to reduce it to such an simplistic view is intellectually dishonest.
Sorry, but that’s the way I feel.