The Semantics of Male Privilege

“You need to check it out, you’d love it.”

I’m talking to one of my male friends about something that is within my sphere of cultural reference, and while the conversation has been cordial up until this point, I automatically start bristling at the phrase “you need to,” mostly because I do not take kindly to men telling me what I need to do. Even if it’s something as benign as watching a video on YouTube. Maybe there’s something about being a woman and our cultural position as secondary to the male figure that makes it so that I would never tell someone that they “need to” do anything. I know that if I want someone to do something for me, or even if I think it is in someone else’s best interest to perform a certain action, using a commanding voice when trying to coerce action out of someone isn’t the right way to do it. Perhaps it’s because I’m well versed in all the tricks in bag of feminine wiles that I would say instead, “Hey, I think you’d really enjoy this and should watch it.” Something that appeals to a person’s sense of ego and my interest in their interests rather than something that caters to the power dynamic of “I know more about this topic than you do, and you should kowtow to my superior intellect in order to appease my ego demands.” But of course a man wouldn’t think twice about telling me what to do, whether it’s doing the dishes or reading a book or dropping the kids off at school. Because a man isn’t sitting there, silently dissecting the implications of power dynamics in small phrases like “you need to.” Me? I’m looking for every opportunity possible to subvert the current gender power dynamic. The first step in abolishing other people’s privilege is refusing to cave into their expectation that you will honor their arbitrary privilege just because society says you should. Nah. Not me. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean that I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, or allow you to speak down to me, or respect you when you haven’t earned my respect. If anything, a man has to work twice as hard to earn my respect because I see that he’s been living his life within the cushion of privilege that affords him the right to forego things such as common courtesy or manners that everyone else scrambles to conform to in order to feel like they have a place in this society.

Of course, maybe I should check my unrepentant rebellious attitude, but it’s been serving me pretty well so far, so I’m gonna hold off on that until a later date.