why privilege is masculine, why marginality is feminine, and why “male privilege” and “female oppression” only take the important matters partway to understanding.

some key grievances i have on discussions of a person’s presence or absence of “male privilege” is two-fold:

1) conditional privilege is never on the table of this discussion — that of a privilege, of unimpeded barriers, which can be given to or taken from a subject by other social subjects, depending on situational context. we do discuss how trans people can have conditional privilege in being placed as cis, or how mixed folks can have conditional privilege in being placed as white.

given this, it becomes difficult for any kind of discussion on “male privilege” to garner a traction of broader credibility and consensus when the very notion of conditional privilege in being placed as masculinized or masculine can impact (benefit) people assigned male at birth, assigned female at birth, and indeterminately sexed at birth. there isn’t fixity in this. as it’s conditional, it can be taken away.

2) whenever “female” and “male” are used as metonyms for “feminine” and “masculine” (or “femininity” and “masculinity”), we promptly lose perspective of how the former indicates functional markers which are not readily seen by other social subjects (gonads, neurology, etc.) and sometimes not even to oneself. very nearly every sensory or intellectual marker we understand to be feminine and masculine are inscribed/encoded/placed on a person or their body), given the socially negotiated understandings of what those markers may signify (usually never in isolation, but in their aggregate interplay). basic cases in point: breasts are coded feminine; external junk is coded masculine.

i don’t necessarily know whether a person approaching me has male gonads, female gonads, no gonads, or a composite of gonads. and frankly, i don’t care. i do care how they’re articulating their masculine or feminine dialect of gender (and given i live in a di-gender social order, those tend to be the two legible, principal dialects in everyday social interactions).

that said,

if that person, should they approach me in an imposing manner, intends to assert extra proximal sway relative to their body, voice, actions, or behaviour (to, if you will, clear their path of other subjects through a wilful/unconscious, imposing, (non-)verbal communication), then they are imposing a dialect of being able to effect that ends without being readily counteracted or challenged by other subjects (lest they risk an undesired altercation or worse).

this approach is generally recognized and coded as a masculine dialect, one which is certainly handed some substantial privilege in patriarchy — a masculine privilege. a butch woman, cis or trans, can use it conditionally. a masculine man, cis or trans, can use it conditionally. odds are the latter group tends to articulate it (and are encoded as such) more effectively and frequently than the former.

likewise, if a person approaches me in a non-imposing manner, and they don’t assert themselves in a forceful way, relative to their body, voice, actions, or behaviour, then they are articulating a dialect which can deny them proximal sway or ample space for themselves within the same structures extant in a social patriarchy. other subjects may, can, and often do challenge their very non-imposing presence within those circumstances. these challenges to their non-imposing presence can be intimidating, threatening, and even dangerous.

this approach is generally recognized and coded as a feminine dialect, one which is nominally denied substantial privilege in patriarchy and instead imposed with marginality — a feminine marginality. a femme woman, cis or trans, can articulate this dialect conditionally, and a feminine man, cis or trans, can use it conditionally. and odds are the former group tends to be coded with this more frequently (by the patriarchal eye) than the latter. said patriarchal eye will use its assertion — its masculine privilege — to regulate that dialect, often quite rigidly and forcefully.

all of the above, of course — including said patriarchy — functions within a wider cisnormativity, which itself functions within a wider kyriarchy.

this is why a trans person who lacks the conditional placement of being placed as the dialect of gender they use to articulate themselves can be met with fierce resistance. for instance, this is why a trans woman who is opaquely placed as trans may experience comparable social hazards to what a cis woman who is opaquely placed as cis may face. how these subjects vary is that the masculine and feminine encodings ascribed to body morphology, for example, imply that masculinized features on a woman are regulated punitively in a patriarchal social order — even more so as more masculinized features are found on someone otherwise (articulating themselves as or placed as) a woman. this doesn’t give her a masculine privilege. this gives her a feminine marginality for “failing” to meet the regulatory terms of a patriarchal prescription on what a woman can be.

as those masculinized features, in aggregate, outright violate the constrained limits of what the dialects in a di-gender social order will permit a woman to possess locally, then the blowback by those asserting their masculine privilege (be it by a cis man, trans man, cis woman, trans woman, or non-binary person) can come at great cost to her welfare. it’s often by imposing barriers which prevent her prosperity, but it’s sometimes by the a persistent violation of her body’s legitimacy, violence against her body, or the outright taking of her life.

for these reasons, it’s worthwhile to have a conversation about masculine privilege and feminine marginality, because this de-essentializes the limits of who may use the former — when, how, and for what ends — and who may have the latter imposed on them.


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