Male privilege – how to be a male feminist

For Christmas we took some family pictures with me and my brothers posing together. I’m the oldest one, but yet the smallest. This is for future reference; we decided to do another photo-shoot next year and speculated on whether or not I’d be having a beard by then. Probably not. But I may have just started on testosterone and if I keep up my good work at the gym, other changes are to expect.

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I think I pass rather well on these pictures. Even if none of us are that much of a looker, we sure look very much alike! Many friends have mentioned since my last post that they don’t think of me as a girl or woman any more and have no trouble with my name or pronoun. So, only six months in to openly transitioning, I mostly pass as a guy.

Due to that, I’ve been reminded on how passing brings new responsibilities and interpretations of my actions. Brave friends point out to me what sometimes happens if I’m not careful with what I do or how I express myself. Remember you’ve got male privileges now, they say. Watch how you use them, they say. All of a sudden things got more complex.

As we live in a patriarchal society my obligations as a feminist (transgender-)man differ from those I’ve had earlier when I was perceived as a woman. My job is to figure out what to do and start doing it ASAP. There are lots of feminist blogs on how to be a better feminist man or what not to do.

That said, I feel that it is slightly different to have “changed sides” from being a disadvantaged female feminist to being a definitely more privileged (transgender) male feminist. So I tried to write a list of my own, over the things I’ve been reminded of and currently are working on.

How to be a good feminist (transgender) man:

  • Shut up and listen. Really, really listen. It is not possible to over-listen to someone. As a man you’ll have more time to talk and others will back you up more than you are used to. Remember to balance that privilege by practising actively and attentively  listening to others to equally empower them.
  • Some safe-spaces are not for you any more. Remember to respect that others have more need of them than you. You might even be making important safe havens unsafe without knowing or meaning it.
  • Watch how you gender others and how you reproduce norms around gender. The patriarchy and binary gender system sucks, but you are in on it to and you are responsible for how you deal with it.
  • When misogynist injustice strikes and you are watching it, remember that it is not your fight at a person level any more. As a man you are in the other end, now you have to work from there. On a structural level you are responsible, not the victim.
  • You are generally not entitled to express yourself as a representative of the female gender any more. It may seem unfair as you haven’t had all of your male privilege-packages delivered yet, but just suck it up and go and hate the binary gender system somewhere you can do it without making others suffer for it.
  • If you offer help for someone gendered female, due to the norm of heterosexuality and the influence of traditional gender roles it may seem like you are trying to be all heroic only to impress the ladies or make yourself look good. It is hard to be a gentleman without diminishing others. Sometimes it is best to wait and see if someone asks for your help.
  • Don’t stay silent when you see sexism in action. That includes rape jokes, slut-shaming, fat-shaming and skinny shaming. You are a feminist ally now. Be the guy who doesn’t let other guys talk shit about women behind their backs. Be the guy who never lets a “she was asking for it” stand.
  • Just because you “used to be a girl” you cannot possibly know what every girl or woman out there have experienced – don’t mansplain things, it is so diminishing.

I expect to learn more and to be able to expand my list later on, but this will have to do for today.

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One thought on “Male privilege – how to be a male feminist

  1. Hm, I’ve been wondering a lot about this sort of things because I haven’t noticed any change at all in my privileges since passing as a guy and I wonder if it’s because I’m suddenly blind to heteronorms and sexism (not likely, at least not more than before), if it’s because I work where women are in majority or if it’s rather because I’m one of those soft spoken and “gentle” guys who are quiet and “shy”- and therefore fall under the category “feminin” man which might make my manly privileges slightly diminished. I don’t know. The only difference I have noticed is that I suddenly get so much more praise for spontaneously (or not) doing things like hoovering, the dishes, laundry and that sort of things. “Vad duktig du är!” is something I hear a lot more these days and I’m not sure it’s because I’m precieved as shy and self-diminishing or because guys are not suppose to do that… 😉

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