Addressing The Opposition: How Do I Explain Chivalry Isn’t A Privilege?

Feminism is an unpopular position to take, throughout history feminists have struggled to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. Fighting the opposing viewpoints which support many forms of oppression such as sexism, racism and homophobia has always been the most meaningful part of my experience with feminism. While many movements and activists enjoy protests, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for one on one conversation in the hopes of changing a personal opinion. As someone who loves to address those who disagree with me, I have become quite familiar with their arguments. Many believe feminism isn’t for equality but for female supremacy, and one of the most common positions I hear is that women are not only equal but have more privilege. What privilege is that? Chivalry, apparently:

1. Men are the ones who have to pay for dinner and dates.

Well, feminists don’t believe men have to pay because they are men, and actually this is insulting to many women because it contributes to the idea that women cannot and are not capable of paying for anything because they are women and women must be taken care of like children. There are a lot of women and men who believe men should pay, but if you ask me, it’s because they have been taught that this is the way things are supposed to be, and it’s rude to behave otherwise on a date.

2. Men are the ones who get drafted.

Women have never been drafted, but women have also been restricted to certain positions in the military and aren’t allowed to do everything men are permitted to do in times of war. Do i believe women should be drafted? No, but i don’t believe men should be either.

3. Men are expected to do the heavy lifting.

Again, women are being treated like children and are never seen as capable of  having the same strength as men. Girls in some schools have less expected of them in gym class, but in some schools they can’t play on the football team because they are girls.

4. Men are expected to be the major breadwinners.

Society dictates this primitive idea that men must make the money, but it has little to do with what’s happening in most households. In these days, husband and wife both work, but the wife is the one who is given the most responsibility for children and domestic work. Many wives and mothers work all day like their husbands and come home and start working on their second job, while many husbands sit on the sidelines in this area because it’s emasculating in their minds. ( I say many husbands and wives because it’s common, but I’m definitely not saying that’s how it always is.) My mother works twelve hours a day, compared to her husband’s eight, but she does all the housework and he sits on the couch after work.

5. Men have to pay child support and women never do.

This just isn’t true. I know women who do pay child support and the father has primary custody. I’ve heard people say women are commonly given bias in custody trials and i honestly can’t say whether or not that’s true because i’m not very familiar with it, but i wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen, as this directly reflects values feminists fight against, a woman must care for the child and a man must give sole financial support.

6. If you want to complain as a woman, you must come into a man’s world because a woman’s position in society is easy.

This is one that really gets to me because of all the effort feminists have put in to get women into a  “man’s world” and to be taken seriously in it, as well as getting it to be called something else. The reality is women are working, going to college, and making a difference in the world right now but a lot of these women are discredited and disrespected in their fields because of their gender. The position women have in society is still reinforced even though women have been stepping away from it for a very long time.

7. Women can hit men, and men can’t hit women.

It’s not okay to abuse anyone regardless of gender. Men shouldn’t hit women and women shouldn’t hit men, period. Feminists know that sexism hurts men too, and feminists want fairness for everyone.(Men can be feminists too.)

The bottom line is this. Society says men are stronger, smarter, and more capable of handling tough situations. Because of this some men are annoyed at women’s rights movements, because what more could they want? Women aren’t taken seriously in the world and fight to be but their fight is deemed meaningless.  Every argument here says women have more privilege but i’m sick of being seen as a delicate little flower who can’t take care of herself. I’m sure everyone here has had this type of conversation and therefore, reading this post may feel redundant and for that, i apologize. But i needed to say this in order to formulate my argument as best as i could. And i also wanted to know, how often does saying this make a difference in your experience? For me, it always depends on whether or not the person is the type who don’t call themselves’ a feminist but they support equality, if they don’t, my effort feels wasted. How do you reach out to those who would support and agree with you but haven’t yet out of ignorance? Do you spend time on people who are truly against equality, and if so, why? And what do you say?  Should i try to change sexist opinions, one person at a time or should i spend my energy on those who are open to learning more about feminism? I don’t know how to make the biggest difference, but i keep striving for change and i would really appreciate some feedback on what you find is best.

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17 Comments

  1. Posted September 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I would say find a particular area that really speaks to you and focus on that first. Take stock of your unique talents and skills and apply those to that particular topic, whatever it may be.

  2. Posted September 17, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    In these days, husband and wife both work, but the wife is the one who is given the most responsibility for children and domestic work. Many wives and mothers work all day like their husbands and come home and start working on their second job, while many husbands sit on the sidelines in this area because it’s emasculating in their minds.

    Actually the statistics published by the Dept. of Labor suggest that even in households where women and men both work full time the men work longer hours, but that both men and women have the same amount of leisure time on average.

    Further, from a simple economic perspective for a household it makes economic sense to unevenly distribute the work load, especially in cases of overtime. Lets say two people both earn time and half after 40 hours, both earn 20 dollars an hour, and 8 hours of work needs to be done at home.

    Now they could both work 40 hours at work, and 4 hours at home (total 80*20 per week paid) or they could work 36+8 and 44 (total 82*20 per week paid).

    Further since women typically prefer to marry older men and older workers typically earn more, this skews that more.

    5. Men have to pay child support and women never do.

    This just isn’t true.

    No. But based on the studies I’ve read men are typically required to pay more child support than women who earn the same amount (same goes for alimony to my recollection). And courts are more willing to pursue deadbeat fathers than they are to pursue deadbeat mothers.

    More reprehensibly, even in cases of rape, courts have required men to pay child support to their rapist.

    • Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      More reprehensibly, even in cases of rape, courts have required men to pay child support to their rapist.

      Of course they would. The child should not be made to suffer for the parent’s crimes. The interests of the child override the interests of the parent. There is nothing reprehensible about that.

      What is reprehensible is that custody would be awarded to a rapist in the first place.

      • Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        Of course they would.

        Except the case law was decided in the exact opposite direction when the victim is a woman.

        The interests of the child override the interests of the parent.

        Why? If society has an issue with the situation society can pay for it. The acts of criminals routinely fall to society resolve, they should not be the responsibility of the victims. The child doesn’t need to suffer, but neither should we increasingly burden the victim of an assault.

        Burdening the victim with a financial penalty for a crime committed against them is sick. Which is what the courts have ruled in cases where a woman has challenged on these very grounds.

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 1:28 am | Permalink

        “The child should not be made to suffer for the parent’s crimes. The interests of the child override the interests of the parent. There is nothing reprehensible about that.”

        Said the anti-abortion activist to the pregnant rape victim…

        Seriously, you do get that that is the exact same core argument, right?

        It is the height of absurdity to ask someone to pay for the product of a crime in which they were victimized, and the fact that this argument was even made on a feminist website clearly highlight’s TD’s case about where the movement is, as opposed to where it might claim to be ideologically.

        • Posted January 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          Right, because a single person on a feminist website on the internet is clearly representative of the entire movement’s material and ideological position.

    • Posted September 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Just because men and women have the same amount of leisure time doesn’t mean they spend it the same way. Even if it makes sense to ‘unevenly distribute the workload’ economically, why aren’t more men picking up the workload at home while women work more? If both are theoretically making the same amount of money, than it wouldn’t matter who did more work at home (and less paying work). But that’s not how it’s playing out. And broadly generalizing that women like to marry older men…maybe it’s because women have realized that older men are more mature than younger men (oops, there I go generalizing again…)

    • Posted September 17, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

      I have never heard of a court case in which a woman raped a man. Only recently has a woman been charged with raping a boy.

      “the statistics published by the Dept. of Labor suggest that even in households where women and men both work full time the men work longer hours, but that both men and women have the same amount of leisure time on average. ”

      I think you are only considering paid work and not work done at home. It also says men have more leisure time than women and spend it in ways typically assume to be in a free manner while women use theres for kids. Also when a woman gets married he ups her chore intake while she decreases his. I mean somebodies got to raise the kids and keep up house

      “Further since women typically prefer to marry older men and older workers typically earn more, this skews that more”

      I dont think its that women PREFER to marry older guys. I think thats a broad statement to make and I also dont understand your thinking regarding why it makes sense for the distribution to be unequal.

    • Posted September 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ve misunderstood me somewhat. I’m only eighteen and I’m not claiming that i know everything, i said specifically in regards to child support that I’m not very familiar with the laws, but i said that if women were given bias in that area i wouldn’t be surprised. When i said this just isn’t true here’s what i said:
      5. Men have to pay child support and women NEVER do.

      This just isn’t true.

      Women do pay child support, i was saying it wasn’t true that women NEVER do. I get that that whole thing you’re talking about is wrong, but me pointing out that women have paid child support isn’t supporting bias like i said before:

      I’ve heard people say women are commonly given bias in custody trials and i honestly can’t say whether or not that’s true because i’m not very familiar with it, but i wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen, as this directly reflects values feminists FIGHT against, a woman must care for the child and a man must give sole financial support

      I get that the bias is wrong, I’m saying that people don’t seem to get that feminists, like me, are against it. As far as men and women in housework, I’m talking about expectations people put on women compared to expectations put on men. People feel very often that men shouldn’t contribute domestically, that’s what I’m trying to talk about: gender roles that hurt men and women and children, a lot of women have to do more work with career added in with family and housework and I’m saying that that is gender based. It’s the whole ‘career or family?’ thing, i don’t see what’s wrong with saying that a lot of women deal with that.

      • Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        I’m stating that the ‘opposition’ isn’t quite so clear cut, yes, non-custodial mothers are ordered to pay child support. But that isn’t the end of the discussion. There is a whole discussion revolving around child support from the basis of calculation (what the court believes a person could earn as opposed to what they are earning) court’s bias against men when they fall on hard times and need a reassessment of their ability to pay, or the fact that women are often assessed lower child support payments and those payments are less enforced.

        Or the fact that you can be listed as a father by anyone in the country, be improperly summoned (the person lists your address incorrectly, or not at all) ruled in absentia to be the presumptive father, then when you do find out (e.g. when your paycheck starts being withheld), and successfully contest the situation, you are still liable for all the back payments of child support even though you never met the woman let alone fathered the kid.

        The problems with child support aren’t just that simple as women not paying child support. And I just haven’t seen any feminist organization fight against this manner of bias in the court systems. The closest I’ve seen has been a few cases launched by the ACLU.

  3. Posted September 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    If you haven’t read them, you might find theses posts interesting:
    For Thee, Fair Maiden, I Would Punch A Thousand Faces
    On Chivalry and Internalized Misogyny

  4. Posted September 18, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The opposition i was referring to was people who say that feminists should shut up because women have chivalrous rights, and all I’m saying is that i consider things like that as oppressive, i get that men are not treated fairly with regards to child support, as i said in the post it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened, i just didn’t know if it did for sure or not. But when i wrote this post i knew the statement that women never pay child support was false, that’s all i was saying. And feminists don’t always belong to official organizations, I don’t but it is true that feminists fight against values that are behind those laws and have been for a long time.

    The whole point of the post was that chivalry is a way to oppress women and i know very well that men suffer for it too, i was pointing out that I as feminist am against sexism, in all forms and that includes chivalry. So i don’t get why you can’t see that I’m agreeing with you, but i am, i don’t think child support should be gender biased, I was asking for advice from feminists here to explain to non-feminists that I as a feminist am against sexism with women and men and that I don’t consider laws reminiscent of chivalry as privilege, it’s an insult to me as a woman and unfair to everyone. I’ve had conversations where non-feminists just think I am a female supremacist because they automatically think I support things like the child support laws you’re talking about, and I was asking people here for advice on explaining that that isn’t true, and which people you can reach and which people you might not be able to. There’s nothing where i intended to imply that men are never disenfranchised, women and men are both hurt because of sexism.

  5. Posted September 18, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I meant to send this as a reply to TD and forgot it until after i posted, sorry!

  6. Posted September 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I wish there were some way of waving a magic wand and temporarily transforming anti-feminist naysayers into the other sex for a few months. I suspect that a lot of people would find such an experience to be eyeopening.

    Speaking as someone who has lived on both sides of the sex/gender divide (I’m a trans woman), its pretty obvious to me that sexism is alive and well. Men and women are treated differently in countless ways, both subtle and blatant. Most startling was the tendency of men to treat me as though I were a child after I transitioned. Very bizarre. Very angering.

    The frightening thing is, it’s been so long since I transitioned that at some point, I simply stopped noticing the difference in treatment. You get used to it and it becomes part of the daily texture of your life. I’m not surprised that so many people have no clue that sexism/patriarchy/kyriarchy is quite real. Does a fish know it’s in water? Only when it surfaces…

  7. Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    7. Women can hit men, and men can’t hit women.

    It’s not okay to abuse anyone regardless of gender. Men shouldn’t hit women and women shouldn’t hit men, period. Feminists know that sexism hurts men too, and feminists want fairness for everyone.(Men can be feminists too.)

    Ok so you disagree with the standard, but you can’t deny that it exists. You really haven’t addressed the fact that if a woman hits a man it’s a joke, but if a man hits a woman it’s domestic violence/ a terrible thing. This double standard, or female privilege, is enforced by the police (who will rarely arrest women for hitting men), the media (men getting hit in the balls or slapped by their wives in sitcoms is totally normal), and society in general – a woman could safely slap her husband in public, whereas a man slapping a woman might well get beaten up .

    There are clearly areas of life in which women are privileged. This doesn’t erase or balance out the areas in which they lack said privilege, but to not acknowledge them is harmful. Fortunately, feminism is generally big enough to recognise such privilege and reject it.

    • Posted October 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      I wasn’t intending to say that it wasn’t a double standard, i trusted everyone reading a post on this site to be aware of this problem and how terrible it is. I don’t consider this to be a privilege for anyone though, because in any situation where an abusive person could get help and change, but isn’t confronted with what they have done because of sexist double standards, all of humanity in my opinion is worse off for it, including abusers whether they are male or female. I would have gone into more detail about this if i had been talking to non feminists, but as it was, i felt it was okay to use as an example in this post, because I am frequently blamed for this double standard because i identify as a feminist, while in reality I would like to help to change it.

      Gender privilege is also always discrimination, that was my point, sometimes it seems nice but in reality chivalry does hurt everyone. Men are allowed to be aggressive in society, but it’s frowned upon for them to cry. Women can cry, but they can’t be aggressive like men. For every seemingly good thing comes a bad one in my experience with gender roles and chivalry, so I would rather have no sort of privilege in exchange for everyone to be treated like human beings instead of woman first or man first. Which is why I feel that gender privilege is never actually a privilege.

    • Posted January 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Because it’s assumed that women aren’t capable of really hurting, abusing, or manipulating their husbands. It’s assumed that moments of violence by women against men are isolated, or inconsequential, or little tantrums, because while women are capable of being real mean bitches, they simply aren’t powerful enough to really hurt a man. Yes, this does a lot of harm to men. It reflects really awful expectations of women AND men.

      But in our opposition to violence against men, we have to make sure that we do not, do not, DO NOT confuse lowered expectations with privilege. While the ability to “get away” with violence against men may be advantageous to specific women in specific situations, it is NOT a privilege for the gender at large to be constantly and automatically evaluated as ‘weaker than’. That’s not power. That’s not a privilege.

      @natasha, I think one of the biggest challenges in this conversation is pointing out that the aesthetic advantages of different/lower expectations for women are NOT EQUAL TO power or privilege. When my boss talks to me more gently than he does to my male coworkers, it sure ain’t because he respects me more. It’s not a privilege to be treated like I am the intellectual or physical equivalent of a child, which is what almost all of these examples are getting at.

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