I am White. I am Middle Aged. I am a Man. I am, well, not quite middle class, but certainly upper working class. I am, in notion at least, Christian.
Yup, I am the shit. I and my brothers are the Patriarchy. I rule the world! A few more quid in a trust fund growing up, perhaps a university degree from a respectable institution and I would be the top dog!
If you are not one, or all of those things, then chances are my brothers and I are doing better than you. We probably get paid more than you. Get treated better in shops and restaurants. Our workplaces are safer and, heavens above, I can walk down a street!
And I am so, so sorry.
I have been thinking a lot recently about white male privilege. Because, well, to be honest, I don’t feel particularly privileged. As far as I am aware no door has been opened to me, just for being one of the lads. (Bear with me, there is a good point coming, so don’t start shouting.) I am a bus riding, footpath hitting, working class lad with a blue collar job.
But. I realised that it wasn’t the presence of privilege that I was failing to see, but rather the lack of prejudice against me.
A thing that sometimes happens, as I am a confirmed pedestrian, is that I’ll be walking home in the dark evening on a fairly empty street, and I will realise I am walking behind a lone woman ahead of me. I’ve only one way to get home and on this particular street only one footpath. So what do I do, walk slower, perhaps she’ll think I’m following her on purpose? Walk faster and step out wide on the road so I can pass her quickly and get the worry over with? What sometimes happens though, and it happened a few weeks ago, is that the woman will make a point of stepping off the path, into a driveway of a house, stop and watch me pass, before stepping out again.
I hate that. Makes me feel like shit. Makes me a bit angry to be honest. Who is this person to assume I am some kind of criminal who is going to attack her, either robbing her, sexually assaulting, or both? It made me feel angry, humiliated, exposed. Just because I am a man, she is making a judgement about me.
That clang you just heard was the penny dropping. One time, walking down the street, I am made to feel uncomfortable. Big deal! Just once I get a glimpse into what women have to deal with everyday.
Nobody is catcalling me. Nobody is going to see me as a weak or vulnerable target. I can walk safely down the street and not have to pay attention to what is going on around me.
When I get on the bus, I don’t have to worry about unwanted attention from other passengers. (In fact, even on a packed bus I usually have the seat next to me empty. One of the advantages of being uneasy on the eye!)
I can walk into a pub without fear. I know I am unlikely to get comments or second rate service. Nobody is going to hassle me for my number, or call me names if I am not immediately interested and flirty. Nobody is going to touch me without my permission or try to follow me out the door. My drinks will remain undoped. When I get in a cab I’m not opening up a mapping app to make sure I am not being driven somewhere else. I’m not worried that my clothes are going to invite pestering attention, just because I want to look good.
I don’t get touched at work. I don’t get mansplained to. (Actually, that’s not quite true. Some kind of men will always talk patronisingly down to anyone. Usually with far less knowledge than the person they are being condescending to.) I won’t have a penalty to my wages if I have a child. I’m more likely to be promoted and I am way more likely to be sitting in a boardroom.
And when I’m bored and want to watch a film, boy oh boy..all the boys! My DVD shelf will be flooded with white, male, straight, men. There may be women, or other minorities (Because, you know, women are a minority right?) but my brothers will be calling the shots.
When I watch the news my older brothers will stay reading and interviewing long after their female colleagues have been moved along.
My brothers in politics won’t get judged by their looks and dress. Whether I have children or not will not be used to judge me.
In sport the men will make the money. The women, well, they’ll get lots of encouraging comments about their physique to go with their low profiles and measly comparative wages.
My hormones won’t get blamed when I get fed up with all the bullshit and lose my temper!
My partner is far, far more unlikely to hit me. My partner is far, far more unlikely to murder me.
You get the point.
And it scares me, genuinely scares me, that there are men in positions of power who don’t get an inkling of this. Who, because, there are some women sitting in Judges Robes, or on the front bench in the House of Commons, think it is all alright. And that the current #metoo movement is just Anti-men Hysteria.
If you are one of my brothers, I really hope this has made you think and reflect a little. We walk, from birth (alright not quite birth, but you know what I mean) in an invisible bubble we are not even aware off. Almost everything I’ve written here, applying to women, can just as equally be levelled at any other ethnicity, other religion, other sexual orientations or genders. When you say – ‘This isn’t me’ Are you sure? We’re privilege Junkies. And, like most addictions, the first step is admitting to yourself that there is a problem.
If you are a woman. Well, Sorry again, and sorry for making you read something you know too well already.
Now, I’m off to cook dinner. Take that patriarchy!