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Male privilege

CommunityHeadshotI was taking a reading course in Hebrew in seminary. I said to the female professor that I didn’t understand why we couldn’t all just read the stories and look for wisdom and not focus so much on the gender of the characters. The professor looked at me and said that was male privilege talking.

Honestly, recalling that conversation still annoys me. At the time it really annoyed me. I didn’t feel powerful or in control. I didn’t feel like I had much privilege relative to the other people, both men and women, around me.

There are a lot of men who don’t like the language of male privilege. They don’t feel much like they’re privileged and in many ways they may not be. Everyone is different and some people have it much harder than others. How we see ourselves, though, doesn’t really determine our level of power in society.

Straight white men have it easier than other people. I don’t like it, but it’s true. It’s hard for me to admit that my position and achievements in life may be facilitated by something other than my own merit. But that’s true too.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t made some good choices or that I don’t have some gifts to offer but it does mean that I am perceived by others in a way that I can’t entirely control. The perception of others makes my life easier. If I was a woman, or indigenous, or a person of colour, or an LGBT person, the perception of others wouldn’t necessarily make my life easier.

Honestly, this all really stinks.

I don’t want my gender, skin pigmentation, or sexuality to shape how people treat me. And I really don’t want those things to shape how I treat other people. I’m pretty sure other people don’t either.

So, as much as it pains me I have to thank the self-identified feminists who pushed me on this. The professor who challenged me and the other people in my life who forced my perspective wider. I learned from them things I didn’t want to know.

But I know now and I can’t pretend they’re wrong. So I’ve got more work to do. Not because I treat people badly but because I can be part of making the lives of women, indigenous people, people of colour, and LGBT people a little bit better.

I have a part to play in that work but it’s not just my work. It’s the work of our parishes, our dioceses, and our church. It’s the work of all of us who want this world to be a little bit better than it is and a little bit more like the Kingdom of God.



About Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman serves the parish of St. Mary’s East Kelowna and is the Executive Archdeacon for the Diocese of Kootenay. He still has days where he looks around and can’t quite believe how far God has brought him. During downtime he can be found with a good book, a properly strong cup of tea, at the gym, or playing golf badly. And if he’s honest, binge watching Netflix.

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9 Responses to Male privilege

  1. Am I allowed to be offended as a white male… Not very Christian of you to be focused on what others have.

  2. Hmm. Thought provoking, but my recent life experiences (corporate, church, volunteer, etc.) lead me to believe that “white privilege” is a rarer and rarer these days. In many organizations the real perception is that being a white male is actually now perhaps a liability as organizations actively seek more diversity. Said another way, this article probably belongs more in 1975 than 2015.

    • I hope you’re right. My own perception of this comes as a (relatively) young priest in conversation with young professional women. I am frequently appalled at the comments and assumptions they face. Their work and life environment is more difficult than mine. These are bright, intelligent, capable people who have as much, or more, to offer than I do. When I put those pieces together I’m left with the conclusion that something about my gender and ethnicity is the difference.

      • Like Trevor, I hope you’re right. But I’m not sure you are. I caught this video recently, and while it points to a specific cultural group, and to specific expectations and stereotypes around sexualization, I’ve heard the phrases and situations the video puts forward in the business world, in the media, and in the church. A different issue? Maybe. Probably not.

  3. God created all people- stop self-loathing about who God made you and may I suggest that the Bible is full of great Woman of faith ( Ruth, Mary, Esther to name a few) and you should take your cue from them and their stories not radical feminists who likely deny the Word of God to begin with. God made you a man- don’t let others define or make you feel bad about it- I am woman- you don’t owe me any apology. God Bless.

  4. Kyle Norman

    I have to admit, the first time I read this article I thought ‘So . . .now what?’ I don’t deny that there does exist White Male Privilege in this world – it is part of the systemic injustice that is so prevalent today, but as Christian people, where does this acknowledgement lead us. Is it just about hiring practices, wage gaps, and gender-equal parliaments? Or do we need to look deeper within, at the matter of the heart.

    It seems to me that whenever Jesus talked about the social evils of his day, he spent time pointing people to the hardness of heart that was at the core of all evil. Do we do the same?Not to overly spiritualize things but I wonder if one of the reasons that social injustice seems unchanged is because we only look at external solutions. I’m not saying that social change isn’t necessary – But where does privilege, sexism, racism come from internally? How does the Gospel change our hearts so that we truly see that there is now no male/female, slave/free, jew/gentile.

    When we talk about male privilege or any other social evils, I would like us to spend some time reflecting on the hope that we have in the Gospel – a hope that that tells us that we can live differently, that we can be redeemed, and challenges us to walk in the way of life.

  5. Dawn Leger

    I really appreciate this piece and my many male friends who recognize their privilege.

    This is not simply opinion. It is reality. There are volumes of statistical analysis to back this up. For every white man who had been set aside for a person of equal skill but of different ethnicity or gender, there are hundreds, even thousands who work for years to not progress in society and continue to make less.

    Whether and how you acknowledge and use your privilege, or not, is up to you and I wont push you one way or the other. But privilege is a fact supported by economic, social and historical research.

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