A Thought On Male Privilege That Got A Little Too Long For A Tweet

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)


The irony is, a lot of guys succeed based on this same ignorance of their own chances.
Now, this is not to say that we dudes don’t have privilege – because we do, we so very do, based on that article she references (and a ton of other anecdotal data I’ve picked up listening to women discussing their experience in publishing).
Yet the very privilege that trains dudes (and, yeah, usually white dudes) to expect success often trains them to be insanely persistent when other people would have given up – not because they’re more talented, but because they are completely, blitheringly unaware of the odds.  It’s not that they mean to be persistent, but rather that they’ve been conditioned to expect success as their birthright, and so they forge onwards even though they’re probably not gonna make it.
And a surprising amount of the time, they succeed – whether that’s because they kept trying until they got better (like, *cough*, some people writing blog entries) or they stumbled into lucky breaks they would not have gotten had they been rational about things.
This has been brought up before in a slightly different format, with Kelli Russell Agodon’s essay Submit Like A Man, which talks about the difference in how men and women submit stories.  Given the slightest encouragement, men will flood an editor with tales; women tend to wait longer and submit less.  (And this essay came to light after a Twitter conversation among many women and minorities who’d self-rejected by not sending to markets based on their own perception of their own work.  The general response was, “Don’t do that.”)
Jaye succeeded by not knowing how shitty things are.  (Buy her books.)  And I think redistributing privilege has two vital components: the first is doing what one can to level the playing field by making those who do discriminate aware of all the subtle ways in which they do discriminate.
Yet the other aspect, which I feel is frequently overlooked, is “How do we train people to act like a privileged person?” Because to pull a real-life example, I’ve seen my poorer relatives terrified to say “boo” to a doctor, having been convinced that Doctors Are Gods and You Don’t Sass A Doctor and Just Be Quiet And Take What They Give You, and as a result they got horrible treatment from the same doctors we went to.  Even when they were in the same places as we were, in some cases ushered in the door by us, they still self-sabotaged by not saying, “Uh, we’ve tried that drug and it did not work.”
Part of properly distributing privilege is, yes, ensuring that doctors don’t blow off poor people – but it’s also in teaching them the strength to stand up. Because the crappy thing about getting ignored all your life is that eventually you stop trying to speak – and if you’re lucky enough to find doctors who are receptive to what you have to say, you can still hurt yourself by self-censoring.
So yeah: it’s that bad for women out there. It’s shitty, and it’s terrible, and the odds are not good.  I wish they were better, and this is why I do what I can to fix those odds.
Yet a lot of men, completely unwittingly, have succeeded against terrible odds by simply being too dumb to understand just how low their chances of success were.  They took shots when saner people wouldn’t.  And having seen a bunch of dudes I would have given zero chance make it and make it big, the best I can tell you is that part of engineering success against overwhelming odds is swinging whenever you get the goddamned chance.
It’s not gonna make it even close to an even playing field for women, alas.  But don’t handicap yourself further by refusing to go for it whenever you can.  Because dumber, more privileged dudes will take that shot – it’s what they’ve been trained to do – and you might as well do your best to learn from people who are way less talented, yet way more confident, than you.
(Also, editors? Don’t fucking do that. Not cool.)
(EDIT: And in between the time I started writing this and I finished, Jaye put up this status:


Fuck yeah, Jaye.)

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