The entry on Whatever immediately previous to this one makes this next Reader Request question all the more relevant. It’s from Sarah, who asks:
Why are you glad to have been born male? What do women get to do that you envy? I’ve really enjoyed your discussions of male privilege, so if you have more to say on the topic, I’d be thrilled to read it. That said, there are several ways you could address my question without touching upon privilege: peeing standing up vs. wearing skirts; freedom from menstrual cramps vs. gestating, birthing and nursing a baby, etc. etc.
Are you kidding? I’m glad to be male because no one fucking cares what I do with or to my body. And we’re not just talking about politicians and their nonsense, although they are the most obvious examples of this recently. I’m talking about everyone, in almost every circumstance. No one cares what I wear. No one cares what I weigh or what I eat. No one cares whether I brushed my hair or shaved when I came out of the house. No one cares that I’m having sex, or how much sex I’m having, or what I do with my body as a consequence of having sex. No one cares. And if they do care, they keep it to themselves because I’m a guy and it’s not their fucking business anyway.
And, you know, there’s all the other stuff too: Don’t have to deal with people sexually harassing me because I’m a guy, my chance of being raped or sexually assaulted is spectacularly low, I get paid more because I’m a guy and don’t even have to ask (and when I do ask to be paid more I’m not thought to be out of line), I get to express my opinion and not be classified as an mentally unreasonable person because of it, people default to listening to what I have to say, and so on.
I’ll just come right out and say it: being male is easy. Being male, white, educated, able-bodied, well-off and attracted to women? Shit, man. Easier still. It’s perfect for me, you know, because I’m lazy. All these unearned credits and passes and wave-offs from ridiculous shit are perfect for someone like me. Why would I want to be anything else? Anything else is work.
This is all, obviously, horribly unfair in my favor. I am not opposed to — indeed, actively encourage and work toward — things becoming less negatively unfair for everyone else. Unfortunately, this idea makes many people of my kind twitchy, I suppose because they assume that making things less unfair for everyone else means that things get worse for them. The idea that everyone having the same rights and privileges isn’t a zero-sum game where someone has to lose apparently doesn’t compute. It makes me sad that a class of people who have so many advantages can still be in aggregate that completely stupid.
What do I envy women? I don’t know that I envy women anything, short of the ability to give birth, and I’m not sure “envy” is the right word there, since the idea of growing another human in my body scares the crap out of me for all sorts of reasons. That said, I would like to know what it’s like to be a woman, because — for all the reasons noted above and lots of others that I have not touched on — I don’t really know what it’s like, and it means that despite my efforts toward empathy, there’s a lot I just don’t get. I wish there were a way for me to know, and while I’m at it, I wish there were a way for other men to know, too.
Actually, if I had a choice there, I’d rather some particular other men would spend time as a woman. I have a list. I don’t know if it would actually do any good. But in their cases, it certainly couldn’t hurt.