The Male Privilege Checklist by Barry Deutsch

Excerpted From An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy McIntosh
Retrieved 11/17/2013 from:
(Source: Expository Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 2.  Copyright © 2001 – 2002 Barry Deutsch.  Permission is granted to reproduce this list in any way, for any purpose, so long as the acknowledgment of Peggy McIntosh’s work for inspiring this list is not removed25 .)

In 1989, Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh wrote an essay called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.  McIntosh observed that white-skinned folks in the U.S. were (are) “taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.”  To illustrate these invisible systems, McIntosh wrote a list of 26 invisible privileges (she named it the invisible knapsack) from which white-skinned folks benefit.

As McIntosh pointed out, men also tend to be unaware of their own set of privileges that they enjoy simply because they belong to the social category of men.  In the spirit of McIntosh’s essay, Barry Deutsch compiled a list similar to McIntosh’s, but his list focused not on white-skin privileges, but instead on the invisible privileges which benefit men.

Deutsch stated that “[since he] first compiled it, the list has been posted several times on Internet discussion groups and that “[v]ery helpfully, many people have suggested additions to the checklist.  More commonly, of course, critics (usually, but not always, male) have pointed out men have disadvantages too – being drafted into the army, being expected to suppress emotions, and so on.  These are indeed bad things – but I never claimed that life for men is all ice cream sundaes.  Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that sometimes bad things happen to men.

In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society.  And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor; who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy’s stick.  As Marilyn Frye has argued, while men are harmed by patriarchy, women are oppressed by it.

Several critics have also argued that the list somehow victimizes women.  I disagree; pointing out problems is not the same as perpetuating them.  It is not a ‘victimizing’ position to fight against injustice; we can’t fight injustice if we refuse to acknowledge it exists.

An internet acquaintance of mine once wrote, ‘The first big privilege which whites, males, people in upper economic classes, the able bodied, the straight (I think one or two of those will cover most of us) can work to alleviate is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege.’  This checklist is, I hope, a step towards helping men to give up the “first big privilege.”

Here is Barry Deutsch’s List:

The Male Privilege Checklist

  1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favour. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.
  2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.
  3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
  4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
  5. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible.
  6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
  7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.
  8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.
  9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
  10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.
  11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.
  12. If I have children and pursue a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
  13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
  14. Chances are my elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more likely this is to be true.
  15. I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to see “the person in charge,” I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
  16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
  17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male heroes were the default.
  18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.
  19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
  20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.
  21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
  22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
  23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
  24. If I have sex with a lot of people, it won’t make me an object of contempt or derision.
  25. There are value-neutral clothing choices available to me; it is possible for me to choose clothing that doesn’t send any particular message to the world.
  26. My wardrobe and grooming are relatively cheap and consume little time.
  27. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.
  28. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
  29. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
  30. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
  31. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal…,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
  32. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
  33. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if i don’t change my name.
  34. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
  35. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is usually pictured as being male.
  36. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
  37. If I have a wife or girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labour, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.
  38. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she’ll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of childrearing.
  39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.
  40. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media are filled with images of scantily clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are much rarer.
  41. I am not expected to spend my entire life 20-40 pounds underweight.
  42. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.
  43. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.


3 thoughts on “The Male Privilege Checklist by Barry Deutsch

  1. Pingback: The Connection Between Privilege and Disadvantage | Just Desserts

  2. So I thought if males have so many priviledges, females must have some at least. Not saying they have more or even a significant amount, but I as a male I have experienced situations where I saw females being treated better than me in the same scenario, and I thought this constituted priviledge based on these examples. So I looked it up, and every case of possible female priviledge people bring up has been “debunked” as either just ignorance (which I usually agree is the case honestly, I certainly don’t doubt mysogyny isn’t real) or a case of male disadvantage being misconstrued as female priviledge. The absoluteness and onesidedness of this conclusion in academia seemed biased to me so I decided to look a little closer. First of all, there seems to be some flipflopping on what constitutes priviledge or disadvantage. Anytime women seem to be treated better than men, its actually just men being treated worse than they should be and women being treated the way men should be treated. Anytime men are treated better than women, that’s all there is to it. Apparantly in all cases of so-defined male priviledge men are treated better than they should be, because if this were not true then it wouldn’t be priviledge by definition. I’m sure everyone knows where I’m going with this so I’ll spit it out; I think many if not most cases of “male priviledge” are not in fact priviledge, but cases of women being treated unfairly and put at a disadvantage which prevents them from achieving the same things as men. Whether or not this is done purposely to make women subserviant, or just out of hatred, or both, I don’t think matters as much as preventing it. Anyways, the reason I’m honing in on this descrepancy is because it seems weird to try to redefine disadvantage and inequality as “priviledge.” What’s the purpose? Most of the cases of male priviledge listed in this article just seem like the sort of fair and good treatment both men and women should recieve, so why are they being called “priviledges”? Its not that I think priviledge doesn’t exist, for instance there are people who are more rich and powerful than anyone should be, this is clearly undeserved priviledge. But the example from the article, “If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex,” being called a priviledge implies such treatment is better than one deserves, but it is clearly just simple fairness, and people (women) who don’t get promoted because of their sex are being treated unfairly. By the same logic, the fact that women are not scorned for being sensitive as badly as men is a priviledge, but to say this would be rebutted by feminism as being something men are disadvantaged for not having, NOT a priviledge women have. I would agree, but we get back to my point about this descrepancy between priviledge and disadvantage and how sometimes disadvantage gets treated as priviledge for the group that isn’t disadvantaged but other times not. It seems like unchecked bias to me.

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