By naming the problem, we’re not just saying “this is wrong, so let’s fix it.” Instead, we’re inviting you to consider the impact of gender inequality on your life, and we’re encouraging you to make a change for your own sake and for the sake of your community.
Our current cultural expectations, legislative system, and social programming work to sustain a hierarchy that constantly places men on the top. Consequently, men consistently achieve, succeed, and benefit at the expense of every other gender. That’s called male privilege.
But here’s the thing about male privilege: it hurts everyone, including you. This is because accessing male privilege often requires you to conform to a toxic norm of masculinity.
You know this norm – it’s idea that the only “real men” are the ones who don’t show their emotions, who solely value sports and physical strength, who don’t reach out for help when they need support.
And you probably also know that no man completely fits into this narrow box of masculinity, and that our society is unforgiving toward people who don’t fit what they’re “supposed” to be.
So we have to face the ways traditional masculinity is rewarded with privilege in order to liberate everyone from the painful trap of society’s oppressive boxes.
You don’t have to be a bad person to benefit from male privilege, and recognizing your privilege doesn’t mean saying you don’t deserve good things.
But once you understand that these often invisible perks aren’t available to everyone, you can see why addressing privilege means recognizing that people of all genders deserve equal access to basic respect for our humanity. There’s more about this at the end this article, but for now I’ll end with saying I’m so glad you’re taking steps to make a change by reading this article and sharing it with the other men and boys in your life.
Without further ado, let’s face these examples of male privilege in the US so we can make the change we all deserve.
1. You can dominate conversations without being judged. Women are perceived as “too talkative” even when they’re speaking less, with one study showing that women need to make up 60-80% of a group to have equal time in a conversation.
23. The media, popular sex advice, and normative definitions of sex focus primarily on your pleasure, especially if you’re cisgender.
24. School sex ed, religious values, and other pervasive sources of sexual norms don’t treat your gender as more dirty, impure, and undesirable for losing your virginity.
25. Most pornography is made with your gender in mind (and it creates some pretty damaging ideas about women and other genders).
26. You can be open about enjoying sex without people feeling automatically entitled to having sex with you.
27. You can make changes to your appearance like a haircut or dye without assumptions that you’re doing it for men.
28. People don’t assume something’s wrong with you if you don’t want to get married – or insist you must be lying, and warn you that “time is running out.”
29. You’re not expected to change your name if you get married or questioned if you don’t.
30. Products like Viagra exist with the aim of helping cisgender men maintain their sex lives as they get older, and social norms congratulate you for doing so. There is far less support for women to continue being sexual beings as they age.
31. You can be expressive about your sexuality in conversation, art, music, and more, without people accusing you of “using your body to get by.”
32. You can participate in kink, BDSM, and other alternative sexual practices without being judged as a “slut” or facing assumptions that you’re not in control of your own sexual choices.
33. You can be non-monogamous without people judging you for going against your gender’s “nature.”
34. If you’re in a relationship with someone of another gender, you’re not expected to do more emotional labor in the relationship.
35. Getting married to someone of another gender doesn’t mean more domestic labor for you – studies show that husbands add an average of 7 extra hours of housework a week for their wives.
37. You can have a casual, friendly interaction with a stranger, like exchanging a smile or responding to a greeting, without worrying about that stranger taking it as a sexual invitationand telling you to “lighten up” if you don’t.
38. You can turn down a date without worrying about being verbally attacked, physically assaulted, or even killed.
39. You can drink in a bar alone unbothered. In many other public spaces, including bookstores, coffee shops, festivals, and more, a woman alone is often assumed to be available for men to talk to and harass.
40. You can travel alone without worrying about being targeted for violence because of your gender.
41. You’re less likely to experience intimate partner violence.
50. You can set a drink down at a party without having to worry about being drugged and assaulted.
51. Common ideas about preventing rape don’t hold you accountable for not perpetuating sexual violence – instead they put the responsibility on women to avoid being victims, and blame on women who are victims.
52. Your choices about your sex life are less likely to be misused to rationalize violence against your gender, like when violent men justify hurting women because they can’t get laid.
53. You can stand in a crowded area like on public transportation without worrying about being groped.
54. You don’t have to carry a lifetime of both constant risks to your safety and constant doubts that you’re telling the truth about it.
Health and Body
55. You can age naturally without being judged for “letting yourself go” if you experience changes like graying hair, gaining weight, or getting wrinkles without using cosmetic products to cover these changes up.
56. Your gender is considered to get “finer with age,” while women are considered less desirable.
57. You’re under less pressure to be thin, and face fewer social and economic consequences of being fat than women do.
58. You aren’t expected to eat less, with ideas of being “lady-like” including dainty portions.
60. While medical research often ignores women and other genders, you get the benefits like research focusing on the heart attack symptoms you’re more likely to experience.
61. You’re less likely to have your physical illness symptoms attributed to psychological factors. For instance, when men and women with identical symptoms mention stress, doctors are more likely to overlook a woman’s symptoms of heart disease.
62. For diseases that affect your gender more, you don’t have to face skepticism about whether or not it’s a “real disease,” like women with conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue do.
63. If you’re cisgender, you don’t have issues like period pain and endometriosis associated with your gender, and treatment for pain “as bad as a heart attack” ignored as a result.
65. You can get diagnosis and treatment for disorders like ADHD without your symptoms being overlooked due to assumptions about the “typical” behavior of your gender.
66. You can show your nipples in public, and are less likely to be harassed overall for showing some skin – even when women in public are using breasts for breastfeeding, they can be subject to harassment.
69. You get to have your gender represented in the media as “strong” without writers going out of their way to have a “strong female character” as a unique take. These characters are actually, as Bijhan Valibeigi put it, “rarely strong and barely characters.”
70. Your gender dominates influential media institutions such as the Academy Award voting membership, which is 77% male. Women have far fewer media executive positions and are far less likely to be celebrated for success in categories such as Best Director.
71. Fiction can depict the everyday, mundane lives of people of your gender without being labeled as “men’s fiction” and taken less seriously than so-called “real” literature – like“women’s fiction” and “chick lit.”
72. Writers of your gender are more likely to be published, have their books reviewed, and get other publishing industry attention that gets their books widely read.
73. Film and television characters of your gender have more substantive dialogue. The Bechdel Test measures whether a story includes at least two women who talk to each other about anything other than a man, and a huge number of popular films fail it.
74. Characters of your gender or more often written with a focus on more of their attributes than just their appearance. The recently coined Jane Test looked at descriptions of women in screenplays and found that they almost always centered on the character’s appearance and not much else.
75. Characters of your gender are more likely to know what to do – how often do you see women in movies asking men “What do we do now?” Here’s a video to remind you.
76. A character of your gender in an ensemble cast is less likely to be objectified as a sex symbol in posters and advertisements, like women superheroes are.
77. Successful people of your gender who are athletes, actors, and other public figures are respected by the media for what they do – not just their appearance and clothes.
85. In online gaming, you can play characters of your gender that aren’t hypersexualized.
86. Your gender is more represented in film, with women making up 12% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of speaking characters in the top 100 grossing films.
87. People of your gender in the media can agenaturally without scrutiny, even being said to get “finer with age.” Women in industries like modeling, acting, and TV journalism are more likely to be pushed out of their careers as they age.
89. If a person of your gender isn’t elected to public office, it’s not because of their gender.
90. A political candidate of your gender doesn’t have to face media scrutiny that reinforces gendered stereotypes of not being suited for leadership.
91. A political candidate of your gender isn’t scrutinized more for his appearance than his abilities.
92. A political candidate of your gender won’t be penalized by the idea that they can’t balance both family life and public office.
93. Politicians of your gender aren’t said to have their abilities negatively affected by bodily functions like menstruation.
94. Fictional media is more likely to show your gender in positions of political leadership, giving the public the impression that you’re naturally born to be in charge.
95. Political leaders of your gender aren’t judged for not demonstrating “lady-like” behavior that’s the opposite of qualities that public views as leadership skills, like confidence or “not being afraid to speak your mind.”
96. You don’t have politicians primarily of another gender making laws to control your gender’s bodies.
97. There are more lawmakers of your gender determining the rules we all have to live by. For instance, women make up not even 20% of Congress.
98. There are more judges and justices of your gender determining how laws should be implemented. For example, the Supreme Court has included 108 men and only 4 women.
100. You can have strong political opinions without people calling you a “feminazi” or judging you for being “opinionated.”
101. You can express your political opinions without people saying you’re just doing it to impress men or are otherwise unqualified to make political decisions because of your gender.
Workplace and Economy
102. You can make choices to have both career and family without people assuming it’s a challenge or an unusual achievement for you to “have it all.”
103. You’re not insulted for going “against your gender’s nature” for choosing to have a career, but not children.
104. If you choose to have children, you’re not questioned about how having a family would hurt your ability to do your job.
107. You’re paid more for your work. On average, white women earn 78 cents to white men’s dollar, with wages going down to 64 cents for Black women, 54 cents for Latina women, and 59 cents for Native American and Alaska Native women.
111. You’re more likely to work in “formal employment,” which is government regulated to insure wages and certain rights, and less likely work in “pink collar jobs,” like domestic labor, which are considered “women’s work” and have less stability, job security, and pay.
112. You have a lower risk of living in poverty. 1 in 7 women and 4 in 10 single-mother families are poor, with the poverty rate for Native American, Black, and Latina women at almost double the rate for white women.
113. If you’re a single father, that doesn’t put your household at the highest risk for poverty – lone mother households are most susceptible.
121. If you’re never promoted, it’s not because of your gender.
122. You’re less likely to be penalized for not putting up with sexual harassment and misogyny from co-workers and bosses – they’re often normalized as part of the workplace, with one survey showing 1 in 3 women experiencing harassment at work.
123. You’re less vulnerable to gender norms trapping you in financial abuse – for women in relationships with abusive men, society’s idea of men as breadwinners can make financial abuse go unnoticed and more difficult to recover from.
124. If you’re careless with money, it’s not attributed to your gender.
125. Hiring managers in well-paid fields like science and technology look for “masculine stereotypes” that lead them to view you as more favorable than a woman candidate. Gender biases make them judge the same qualifications more positively for men.
126. You can get upset at work without people blaming your emotions on “hormones,” “PMS,” or “being oversensitive.”
127. You’re less likely to have your failures at work as a sign that your gender shouldn’t be doing this type of work. This is especially true in male-dominated industries and leadership positions.
128. You can take jobs like service industry positions in restaurants or bars without worrying about normalized sexual harassment based on your gender.
129. You’re not assumed to be responsible for menial “lady” tasks, like decorating for the office party.
130. You’re less likely to be addressed with demeaning language at work, and more likely to be addressed with respect – unlike women who are referred to as “girls” or called nicknames reflecting stereotypes of women as intellectually inferior, like “honey” and “sweetheart.”
131. You can look up to professional role models of your gender in your field and see them lauded for their achievements, not just their appearance.
132. You’re not stuck between the stereotype of your gender being dependent on a partner and the shame directed at women who choose to be or have to be.
133. You’re more likely to be remembered for your own work accomplishments, rather than your marriage or appearance.
134. Your gender is more represented in higher paid positions. For instance, women are fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOS.
135. You can have your skills recognized in well-paid positions like tech fields. For instance,researchers found that women software developers (who make up a very small percentage of the field) had their coding work rated higher than men in a study – unless they revealed their gender.
136. You’re more likely to have your work cited in journalism and political science. Women experts are cited so rarely that some political scientists created Women Also Know Stuff to encourage people to also include the expertise of women.
137. You’re less likely to have people justify not hiring people of your gender with the belief that there are simply “no qualified candidates” of your gender in the field.
138. You’re less likely to work in jobs that commodify “pleasant” emotions, with roles that give“service with a smile,” like flight attendants, assumed to be “natural” roles for women.
139. You’re not expected to put in unpaid emotional labor, like maintaining office harmony, in addition to your work duties. People don’t believe that your gender is just more suited to this often unrecognized and uncompensated work.
140. You’re less likely to have clients and colleagues ask someone of another gender a question that should’ve been directed to you. In one survey, 88% of senior-level women in Silicon Valley reported this happening.
147. You get a higher amount and quality of attention from teachers, like more substantive feedback that improves your learning.
148. Your energetic behavior and creative energy is encouraged or dismissed with phrases like “boys will be boys.” Girls are taught to be “lady-like,” which includes being more reserved and less outspoken.
161. If you’re religious, you’re less likely to have your holy texts like the Bible interpreted in ways that justify mistreating people of your gender – like silencing women – and less likely to have passages that affirm your gender ignored.
162. If you’re religious, you can find a place of worship that doesn’t treat your gender as inferior. For instance, feminist Christian churches exist, but in many areas, the only options for worship are churches that follow patriarchal traditions.
163. If you’re not religious and looking for community, male leadership also dominates the public atheist domain, and leaders often perpetuate sexism in atheist circles, too.
164. You’re not excluded from atheism based on the idea that “rationality” is not characteristic of your gender.
166. Sacred and religious figures and deities like the Christian God are usually portrayed as your gender.
167. You can practice a religion that centers around your gender without facing harassment and backlash. For instance, women-centered sects of Paganism and Wicca sometimes have to deal with misogyny.
Male Privilege is Real, But Intersectionality Means That It Looks Different for Different Men
A list of privileges on its own can give you examples of what privilege looks like, but it’s not a comprehensive explanation of what privilegereally means. So now that we’ve gone through the examples, let’s be clear about a few important things.
Examples of male privilege demonstrate how the patriarchy shows up – but they aren’t representations of every man’s life, at every moment. They aren’t things that only men have ever experienced.
It’s just more likely that you’ll get these benefits if you’re a man, because they’re supported by the system of patriarchy.
And since patriarchy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there are other systems of oppression that affect different men differently. A man walking alone at night generally has the privilege of not being targeted for gender-based violence.
But a man of color may have to worry about being targeted for racist violence. A mentally ill man could be targeted for police brutality. A gay man could be the target of homophobic violence.
These examples don’t invalidate the existence of male privilege, which are benefits denied to people who aren’t men due to their gender. But they show why the context of intersectionality (how different forms of systemic oppression intersect) matters.
It’s also important to note that many conversations and research studies on gender privilege tend to be based on an inaccurate cissexist binary that assume there’s only two genders – male and female.
In other words, we tend to think of male privilege as what men experience, as opposed to what women experience.
But the truth is, everything we’re taught about how we can determine people’s gender at birth and categorize everyone as a man or a woman is wrong.
These realities complicate examples from research on gender oppression, which unfortunately tend to refer only to cisgender men and women. At the end of this article, I’ll share the work of some writers who fill in the gaps of who we tend to erase when we use binary language.
This collection shows the real magnitude of what we’re dealing with when it comes to gender-based oppression. Though some examples may seem small on their own, they show how the larger system of patriarchy is maintained every day.
So What Can You Do About Male Privilege?
This is the world we’re living in – inequality from casual interactions to deeply entrenched gender norms, creating social, legal, and health consequences for people who aren’t men.
So what can you do about it? Use this resource to build awareness. Notice how you’re contributing to these harmful cultural norms. And check out some further reading for next steps on addressing male privilege: