• Thu, Jan 31 2013

Bullish: Trans Men On Male Privilege And Locker-Room Bullshit

male privilege

Jennifer Dziura writes career and life advice weekly on TheGloss. Here is an archive, and here is an archive of Bullish columns from our sister site TheGrindstone.

A few months ago, in Bullish: When Men Are Too Emotional to Have a Rational Argument, I twice quoted Ben Barres on whether women are truly “more emotional” and on the idea that society is biased in favor of “pushy, aggressive people.”

In researching the article, I read everything I could find on Barres, who transitioned from female to male while working in science. In the 2006 New York Times piece Dismissing ‘Sexist Opinions’ About Women’s Place in Science, Barres answered this question:

Q. You write that as a man, you can complete a sentence without being interrupted. Are you treated differently in other ways?

A. It’s when people don’t know that I was a woman that I can really see the difference. Even in just stupid things. You go into a department store and people are more likely to wait on you.

In my own article, I ended up quoting Barres, “neuroscientist who transitioned from female to male,” as saying:

It is just patently absurd to say women are more emotional than men. Men commit 25 times the murders; it’s shocking what the numbers are. And if anyone ever sees a woman with road rage, they should write it up and send it to a medical journal.

A Twitter follower wrote, “Nice article, but why do you keep calling out Barres’ trans status?” And I did a sort of forehead slap and realized that I had totally neglected to include the Barres quotes that made pointing out his status relevant, so I looked like a doofus.

(It’s one thing to write, for instance, “Skeptics wondered whether the actor, who is Japanese, would be accepted in the role of Hamlet,” but it’s bizarre and offensive to write, “The actor, who is Japanese, got in a traffic scrape.” Also, brief tale: I was once extremely offended by a Daily Mail headline that said, “Black Cab Driver Found Guilty of Rape.” Then I clicked on the link and, actually, the culprit was a white man who drove a black cab. Hyphens: they exist for a reason!)

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  • alexandra

    Jen this is way cool! Thanks for doing it. It can difficult to feel like one is getting a new perspective when it comes to discussing feminism. Please pass on our gratitude to your totally awesome friends.

    • alexandra

      *It can be. dangit

  • Tania

    You should ask if any MTF women have any experiences to share about transitioning, too. I have spoken with a few friends who’ve transitioned, and it’s amazing how different the world can be when you’ve experienced both sides, as it were.

    • vnally

      I second this! A follow-up or companion piece would be very interesting.

    • mehquestionmark

      I have a friend trying to get me to do exactly this. As I said to her, “If you think gaining male privilege is disconcerting, try losing it.”

  • Eileen

    Thanks for this article! I’ve often wondered how FTM and, as Tania mentioned, MTF trans people experience the difference between being male and female. I’ve been asked by a couple of guy friends/boyfriends to explain male privilege, and I often come up short simply because I’m used to being treated as a woman – I know I’m getting the short end of the stick, but I can’t always bring up specific examples of why. This is a really great perspective to gain when thinking about gender, and I’m really glad you thought of writing it.

  • http://twitter.com/Roentgenster William Roentgen

    Meh. My female partner definitely gets road rage, she’s one of the most aggressive drivers I know, though that’s certainly rare amongst women. Which is to underscore the hazards of overgeneralizing by gender.

    • Fed_Up18

      I think, here, “road rage” is meant as in “actually getting in a fight with another driver.”

  • Jen Dziura

    Jen here! Just wanted to add that “a Twitter follower” in paragraph 4 was the insightful Ashley @FourthAndFirst, who can also be found at http://www.missgender.com/. (I have just been informed of how to search through old Tweets.)

  • Jennifer Dziura

    Hey, it’s been pointed out to me that the image credit got lost somewhere. Better late than never, I hope. Via xkcd: http://xkcd.com/385/

  • Orv

    This hit home so hard. I’m genderqueer, but grew up as a more-or-less cis male. I say more-or-less because I was never very masculine, had a very low sex drive, and generally was utterly unable to wrap my head around normal male sexuality.

    I felt exactly the same discomfort that Awesome Guy #2 described; I often felt like I had to “play along” with misogynistic comments in order to be accepted in the spaces I was in, but I hated it and always felt terribly awkward doing it.