Well hello, Harvey. I keep trying to forget about you and what you represent, but for all of us, I can’t.
I’ve been reading the articles about Harvey Weinstein. It makes me remember my early days as a woman in the good ol’ boys club of law firms and courtrooms. Not the first time for a #MeToo, but more obvious and no attempt to be hidden. Now, as a therapist, I am more attuned to aspects of male privilege that may be subtler, but which are still harmful.
I have competing thoughts. I’m not surprised. In fact, I thought I knew this about Weinstein. I thought it was abundantly clear, as it seemed to be for many people who knew him or worked with him. And I have to confront that it was an unspoken assumption on my part. An assumption based on innuendo and perhaps common sense. And it hits me (as it always does), I take part in supporting this type of male privilege.
Can we talk about equality?
At the same time, I feel anger and outrage deep in my belly. I know this feeling. I started noticing it as a young girl driving around with my dad. He told me I could do anything, but I wondered about the advertisements surrounding me—they made me so uncomfortable. It starts at such a young age—seeing the highly sexualized view of women and that we are here to serve. It made that little girl question, where did my value lie? That confusion and the experiences between now and then (more #MeToo’s) are not about my singular world; they are about the world we live in, the systems in place that perpetuate them, and how, yes, I unknowingly and unwittingly participate in them. I do. There, I said it. And it is okay.
What is privilege?
Just so we are on the same page: male privilege is a set of social, economic, and political advantages that are made available to men solely based on their sex. And these advantages lead to devastating conclusions that men are more worthy and powerful.
Do males have privilege? Absolutely, without a doubt. Do we all need to stand up and say, “No. I will not live like this anymore?” You bet. But what irritates me is that we think we need to do this only for women. Something men need to do for us. The truth is it’s for all of us, for our collective humanity, and not “just” to support women. Let’s be clear: addressing male privilege is for every last single one of us. And as a society we need people supporting people. Can I speak more about my experiences of male privilege than my husband can? Absolutely. But that does not make it less valuable for my husband to equally participate in and address the problem. It is not just for me or our daughter, it is also to improve his and our son’s lives.
So, what are some ways that each of us can work more diligently to begin to peel the layers of male privilege back?
· TALK ABOUT IT. Talk about bias. We all have it. We have all, in different ways, been trained. No one is immune. If we can’t talk about it, how do we confront it? We need to think about our assumptions, be able to question them and it be okay.
· ASK QUESTIONS. When things don’t make sense or something seems off, get curious. Not to assign blame, but to truly engage in conversation. What does blame get us? Yes-Weinstein and other offenders like him need to be held accountable. But in our day-to-day lives there are much smaller moments that lead to the Harvey Weinsteins and the systems of male entitlement that are unchecked. These subtler manifestations of male entitlement understandably don’t garner the same attention that Weinstein’s egregious behavior does, but we need to discuss them.
· ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY. This is not up to men. It’s not about all “those bad men.” It’s about you and me, our co-workers, our educators, our executives, and our children. As long as we expect change to happen elsewhere, it won’t.
On a lighter note, the other day I had to laugh. My 10-year-old son came home complaining he was made fun of based on his gender. After a quick check-in, I realized an old friend of his had said to him “boys drool, girls rule.” Well, we’ve been talking…and he is thinking. And we talked again, so I could clarify a few things, but it is a start.
Practice Conversation. Practice Accountability. Practice Change.
To schedule an appointment with Robyn Strelitz, LMFT, call 512-434-0868.