Whenever feminists call "male privilege," there are inevitably men who respond with some sort of claim about "female privilege," insisting that women have the better half of the deal. Peruse through the listings of your search engine of choice on female privilege and you find a variety of sites arguing that feminists better “check their privilege.”
Female privilege isn’t real. Despite advances made by the women’s movement, women don’t have the better half of the deal, because women still lack the systemic and institutional power which men benefit from.
One such men's rights blog, Balance of Power, is a gem of a site whose mission is to create a revolution of men because, “Men are, and always have been, a political underclass.” And they (of course) have created a Female Privilege Checklist.
So I picked out some of my favorites to share: Women get their drinks paid for or get to drink for free at ‘ladies night.' Women aren’t forced to enlist in the selective service when they turn 18. Women can look for jobs that are emotionally fulfilling rather than be concerned they provide a family wage. Women can play the PMS-card with few to no questions. Women’s feelings are more important than men’s livelihoods as every precaution has been made to protect them from harassment at work. Women are nearly always guaranteed custody of their children in cases of divorce.
Sure, on first glance, these things may look like they benefit women, but upon deeper inspection, they are nothing more than benevolent sexism.
What is benevolent sexism, you ask?
I’m glad you asked. In American Psychologist, Peter Glick and Susan Fiske explain, “Although benevolent sexism may sound oxymoronic, this term recognizes that some forms of sexism are, for the perpetrator, subjectively benevolent, characterizing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported, and adored and whose love is necessary to make a man complete. This idealization of women simultaneously implies that they are weak and best suited for conventional gender roles; being put on a pedestal is confining, yet the man who places a woman there is likely to interpret this as cherishing, rather than restricting, her.”
Or, in other words, female privileges are touted as benefits to women when really they benefit men by reinforcing the patriarchal status quo.
1. Women “get” their drinks paid for or get to drink for free at ‘ladies night.’
Why do women get to drink for free on ladies night? Because bars and clubs know that when more women show up, more men show up. This " privilege" conceals the fact that women are objectified and used as bait for men, a "privilege" built on assumptions about male earning power (therefore women’s lack of) and sexual scripts where men are active agents and women are objects.
2. Women aren’t forced to enlist in the selective service when they turn 18.
My friends over at Feminism 101 Blog put it best, “The first and foremost [reason why] is that the draft was discontinued in 1973 in favor of the All Volunteer Force. To put that in some historical perspective, the draft ‘hasn’t been activated in the U.S. since women weren’t allowed into the Ivy Leagues or to sit on juries in Texas.’ In that way, rather than being a privilege, being exempted from the draft is better seen as an example of how women were not seen as full citizens of the United States during the time when it was still in practice. The second problem with using the draft as evidence is that the most recent attempt to get the military draft reinstated in the U.S., the Universal National Service Act, provides that ‘young men and women ages 18-26 could be called to service.’ So, in fact, if the US ever reinstates a military draft it will reflect the current attitudes towards women’s ability to participate in the military.”
3. Women are nearly always guaranteed custody of their children in cases of divorce.
This “privilege” is based on the assumptions that men are actively seeking custody, and that the courts are unfairly biased towards women. In fact, 91% of child custody is determined without decisions in family court; mothers most often receive custody because fathers are choosing to give it to them. Historically, women’s roles have always revolved around reproductive labor, so women are considered the primary caretakers of children. When men and women participate equally in child care, custody arrangments reflect as much.
Female privilege isn’t the counterpart to male privilege. For that to be true, men and women would have to exist on a level playing field. The narrative of female privilege seems to be empowering, but really it enforces benevolent sexism and the patriarchal status quo. Female privileges are nothing more than participation prizes in place of actual power, for women.