Dear male lawmakers,
How often do you recognize your privilege among yourself and fellow peers in the same or a similar profession? if your answer is never, then it’s time to reevaluate your approach to many things for the sake of this country. In this letter, we will be discussing a certain type of privilege that exists for men. If you find that you do, in fact have privilege it would be best to teach yourself how to dismantle the system that enables it in order to reach equality for all. Keep in mind that the amount of privilege experienced may vary according to background/race so some experience more or less than others.
To start, look around your workplace. According to a survey from the Inter-Parliamentary union in 2017,”only 23% of parliamentarians and 5.7% of world leaders are women.” That means that around 77% of parliamentarians are men and a whopping 94.3% of world leaders are men (exempting the fact that there could be nonbinary people etc). In the United States alone only 19.1% of the lower house of parliament is women and 21% in the upper house or senate. This is strange when according to the U.S 2010 census data, there are more women in America than men. In 2010 America, 49.2% of the population were men and 50.8% were women. That’s about 5 million more women than men regardless of age. If this is true, why is there less female representation in politics?
Studies show that preconceived stereotypes are enforced at a young age and can be internalized by children as young as six years old. A UNESCO document by the title of “Cracking the code: girls’ and women's’ education in STEM” claims that,”Studies have shown that stereotyped ideas about gender roles develop early in life, even in families promoting gender equality. For example, it is found that girls and boys often have different toy preferences by the end of the first year of their lives, they understand gender stereotypes and want to behave like others of the same sex by as early as age two, and they learn to adjust their behaviour according to internalised gender stereotypes by age four.” This passage proves that stereotyped ideas about gender roles develop in childhood. Because of this, children try to copy the role that they believe they must follow. Specifically, girls limit themselves on which opportunities to pursue whether political or otherwise. It also affects the workplace as these stereotypes have been in people’s heads since childhood. “What stereotypes?”,you may ask. The same ones that negatively affect you. Toxic masculinity is a very real thing and in my eyes, can be defined as preconceived notions as to how a man should behave. If a man doesn’t follow the path society’s laid out for him, he is suddenly less of a man. You most likely have experienced this already. Being unathletic or failing in a certain sport and being told you perform “like a girl”, being scared of something and bolstered to do it by being told, “what are you a girl?”, being shown that vulnerability is not a viable option because if you express yourself freely that’s “gay”(which shouldn’t be an insult in the first place). All of these childhood examples can be translated to the workplace and adulthood. By being in an influential position, you may have already recognized such toxic notions or if not, can now help to dismantle the system upholding and creating them.
One thing that must certainly be dismantled is rape culture. According to the national sexual violence research center, 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are women. (This is not stated to exclude the 9% of male victims but just to demonstrate how women are more likely to be chosen as victims). There have been many disagreements over the causes of rape. “Did she deserve it? What was she wearing? She wanted it.” These are all statements made to push the blame off of the real reason. Regardless if the rapist or victim is a man or woman, rape happens because of the rapist. Instead of asking what the victim was wearing we should be asking who allowed the rapist to feel entitled to another person’s body? Rape culture allows that. Instead of persecuting a victim for going through a terrifying ordeal, persecute the rapist. All of this may be attributed to less female representation in politics. If there were more women certainly there would be harsher laws persecuting rapists seeing as they are the majority of victims. Many men may not understand the position women are in when they seek justice for themselves. In the article titled,”Checking my male privilege”, Charles M. Blow said, “We have to stop, listen and receive other people’s experiences, validate those experiences and honor the feeling with which they are expressed. And we have to center the speaker and not the listener, center the person who lacks the privilege and not the one who possesses it.” I certainly believe that is true and must be done.
If you are not currently listening to others experiences now is the time to stop and listen. Now is the time to help make changes that others cannot. Now is the time to look at things from another’s point of view and realize what you can do to make equality a reality. So next time you’re in a room making important decisions with others, ask yourself, do you see representation? If not, how can I(you) bring representation to this room? How can you change the room to better accommodate representation?
Charles. “Checking My Male Privilege.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/opinion/checking-my-male-privilege.html.
“Get Statistics.” Sexual Assault Statistics | National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), www.nsvrc.org/statistics.
US Census Bureau. Census Bureau QuickFacts, United States Census Bureau, www.census.gov/en.html.
“Women in Politics: 2017.” Inter-Parliamentary Union, 19 July 2017, www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017.