I have always been an avid contributor to online forums, discussion groups and the like in my various fields of interest. I have always enjoyed engaging with people from all over the world, sharing ideas and exposing myself to new ways of thinking. Sometimes these discussions degenerate into flame wars, arguments, name calling and general silliness and sometimes they are fruitful. The point is I have always enjoyed them.
When presenting online as a male I have always been taken seriously. I have never been blatantly ignored and whilst people have always disagreed with me they have always taken me seriously. This is not always the case when presenting as female (or indeed a transgender person who looks female.
Sadly it seems this is very real evidence of male privilege and how both men and women seem to value a man’s opinions, statements, knowledge and input more than a woman’s.
I was on a political discussion forum the other day and I was struck by an argument raging between two Americans. The one was accusing the Democratic Party of being socialist. I found this very funny as in my view the two American parties are hardly discernible from each other and the Democratic Party is certainly not ‘socialist’ in any objective definition of the term. I therefore started a new thread in which I asked what other people thought about this. I pointed out in my post that I thought that the Democratic Party may be slightly left of centre in terms of US politics but that in most other countries (assuming they kept their policies unchanged) they would find themselves very far to the right of most serious left wing parties and that they may even find themselves on the right of the political spectrum.
So far all good. Some debate ensued and everyone pretty much agreed with me (I was hardly proposing a radical or original analysis). What got to me however was that one person (a male) posted the following comment:
‘The Democratic party would not know socialism if it bit them on the bum.
You have two parties of the Right in the USA. Just one is Right Wing, still a bit to the Right of the of the Right Wing British Tories, NZ Nationals or Australias Liberal party, and the others is way over to the Right.
Center Left, forget it’
I was bemused as this is exactly what I had said. They were on the left of the American political spectrum but could hardly be termed left wing. I did not however call him out on this as I thought somebody else would be sure to comment.
I therefore waited patiently and I was soon rewarded when a woman weighed in with this comment:
‘As REDACTED said, the Democrats if they were in any other part of the world would line up with the views of the center right party in that country. If you get any European center-right voters to do any of the US which political party should you vote for they in 90% of the time come out as Democrats.’
What? That is exactly what I said in my original post that started the thread off! Why would she attribute the statement to the person making a comment when it was stated almost verbatim by me at the very start?
Now, this is not the first time that this has happened to me. I have, when presenting as a woman, often made comments that have been attributed to others, or my comment has simply been ignored. I have always thought that this may just be because someone has missed my comment and only saw the most recent comment that was made by someone else who was saying the same as me. But in this particular case, the thread was short and still in its infancy and I started the thread. I mean, you cant really have commented without having read my original post, can you?
I was particularly surprised by the fact that this was a woman who was totally ignoring me and my opinion. I have come to expect it from certain men, but I had hoped women would be different. It seems my hopes are misplaced.
Why do we do this? Why are we so happy to disregard what women have to say? Do we really believe that women are inferior, not worth listening to or are so easily dismissed? Did this happen because I am transgender or because I am a presenting as a woman? Could it be a combination of the two? Is it worth challenging people who do this or do you just look like some kind of petty attention seeker? Does it actually help? Or does our silence perpetuate the problem? Do other women experience this? Do other transgender people experience this? Am I more aware of it because I have not been socialised to be quiet and accept my role?
I have so many questions and so few answers. What I do know is that I have seen this play out in business meetings were women are silenced, ignored or have their contributions stolen by or attributed to others. What are your experiences? I would love to hear from you.
Our society has long been based on the masculine ideal; men are the leaders, the visionaries, the doers while women are seen as the support system upon which they rely while they do the important things. Women are seen as the ‘weaker’ sex; to not only be protected but, when necessary, patted on their pretty little heads and congratulated for how clever they are. They are not to be taken seriously over issues which they simply cannot understand… you know, man things. (This of course includes any serious conversation involving any topic which is not about how to get a stain out of your mans favorite shirt or the best recipe for green bean casserole.)
On the other side, women are encouraged to be in constant competition with one another. (I’m sure this worked in caveman days to secure a mate) but now it is used as a means to gain social status and attention and it leads to some rather nasty outcomes as we can see with twitter wars and Facebook rants.
What you have experienced is just another example of petty BS for the sake of petty BS.
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I have seen this happen too and, I am ashamed to say have been guilty of it. Not that I Value the male opinion higher but I find that I subconsciously realise that I know others will.
Very good read by the way
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Thanks for the feedback. Also that is an AMAZING insight very interesting. The need to conform is strong. I appreciate the honesty. Very interesting.
As someone with a private transsexual past, (I’m assumed to be born female by everyone) there’s another facet to male privilege that I see, but which most of “the community” are not only blind to, but would vemently deny! That’s in their being out, or visibility “trans,” they not only are accorded male privilege, the are in effect asking to be accorded male privilege! It’s the “look at me, I’m special, I’m different, pay me my due,” which men take as a natural right, and something that women are conditioned to give… which is why the community so often thinks women are more accepting, (hint, they’re not) rather it’s their cultural conditioning which keeps them from speaking their mind. Something that the community should be way more cognizant about if they seriously wish to be accepted as female…
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Yes I agree absolutely. Lots of trans people deny the existence of male privilege whilst at the same time demanding it. You are 100% correct there. Thank you for bringing that to the fore. I think we often forget this. I am very aware of it (I have blogged about it in the past) but even so I sometimes forget simply because I do not LIVE the experience of being a woman every day.
I’ve read your response a few times but I am not entirely sure I understand what you are trying to say here. Please clarify:
– Are you saying that any “out and proud” trans woman is trying to get attention? And, also expectING to be afforded male privilege?
– Are you saying trans women who dont/cannot pass are expecting to be afforded their male privilege?
It sounds to me like you are making a blanket statement, but again, I am not sure.
To me its a mixed bag. What it comes down to is which group is seen as the authority or knowledgeable about what is being discussed. I have had discussions in real life where I am seen as male and my opinion has authority, But have the same discussion online where I am seen as female with the same opinion and my opinion is ignored. The same thing in reverse where my opinion as a male is ignored but if I am seen as a woman then it has authority.
I think that is the real problem is that we are blinded by who we think is more intelligent or seen as a authority figure. That person can give an opinion and everyone agrees with it. But that same opinion given by someone less knowledgeable or not seen as an authority figure then it is ignored or the person is ridiculed. Something along the lines of “What the hell would you know?”
For example, you could go to a transgender forum, sign up under an assume name and present yourself as cisgender. Give the same opinions that you normally would. Would your opinions mean the same to the other people in the forum? They should because its the opinion that counts not who is presenting or what attributes they have. But I wouldn’t be surprised if your opinion was ignored or ridiculed because the perception would be that your cisgender. People would be thinking what would you know about being transgender being cisgender let alone have an opinion on it.
Privilege as you present it here exists because we allow it. We allow the person’s attributes dictate how we perceive their opinion or idea. When we really should consider opinion on its merit alone. Because that is what really matters, not who is presenting it.
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Thanks for that. I agree we should focus on the merits of the argument. Sadly this seldom happens. Interestingly I was having a discussion with cis women re trans issues and I had the temerity to suggest that crossdressers could be considered part of the transgender community. They told me I didn’t know what I was talking about because THEY had not herd this before. My opinion was invalidated… I laughed it off. But it does show that sometimes who/what you are counts for very little…
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That is very true indeed, that sometimes who/what you are counts for little. Its like another extreme in a way. Regardless if they heard about it before or who you are, the fact that you brought up that suggestion should have some discussion. They should at least be receptive on why you think that, think about that and give you some kind of feedback based solely on why you think that.
In an ideal world everyone should be treated as equals and what they bring to the discussion should matter. Hard to do sometimes when emotions, ego, desires and our perceptions of everyone else get in the way. But should at least try to do it.
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I have worked for years in engineering on a hands on level! I am good at it and know what Im talking about although during my transition the shift had been from brawn to ‘grey matter’!
I have noticed a shift in the way I am treated. It would be safe to say that over two or thrre years I know more not less, but the willingness of male co workers to accept my opinion has deteriorated. Sometimes, I have felt it necessary to snap my fingers in peoples’ line of sight to demand attention, often with the response, “yeah, yeah, go put the kettle on love”!
It came to a head when a (former) friend ‘*shushed*’ me! I mean, wtf?! ” Did you just ‘*shush*’ me”? I demanded and it was immediately obvious that he was not going to concede. Well, long story short, he awoke my inner bitch.
Male privilege is very real!!