Dating one of my girls, a privilege for any man lucky enough to have not just one daughter, but three, the concept of privilege came up… white male privilege. I talked about a fact we both knew about – me through burgeoning awareness; her through life experience. Male is the safer gender. Female is the at-risk gender… at risk of violence and ridicule, to name just two. Males more commonly transgress females than the other way around. And men learn as boys interacting with girls how women can be, in many cases, allowably mistreated.
Times like this – now I’m in my late forties, and on a date with one of my three princesses – I’m ready to pour the acid over myself for all the silly and insensitive and disrespectful things I’ve said and done against women, usually inadvertently, though still done. Like the time I had sex with a girl and promptly bragged to my mates about it. (Later, I was required to pay some restitution for this sin through a varietal of ‘tribal’ justice.) Sure, I was only eighteen, but the point was I’d been disrespecting women (girls) most of my life by then. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t something I was brought up to do – my parents would’ve frowned on the many ‘boyish’ things I’d done, that most ‘boys’ do. I was probably not the most misogynistic male going round. Just a normal male kid. Just a regular male man. Just a typically misguided human being. That’s the point; my disrespect of women was emblematic of the attitude of society’s men.
A ‘thing’ took place. A man with a lot of influence in Media took a stab, with his matey mates, against a woman who happens to be a journalist, and threatened violence, as “banter,” which is another way of saying, “I want to get you back without having to suffer any of the consequences of my actions, and, because I’m using humour, I believe I’ll not only get away with it, my matey mates will think I’m a hero, and everyone will know how funny a bloke I am.” Trouble is the expense of that “banter” on the innocent party involved – and all women, even to every minority. Mocked by a man joking about violence. Mocked by being scapegoated through the vicarious involvement of his matey mates. Several days of deafening silence as they all almost get away with it. Probably many around who did not want to point the finger at Eddie… “He’s Eddie! Eddie can’t be violated.” Retribution issued as a joke; a barb with a fatal sting issued by an inoculated violator. The propagation of the worst male privilege typical of an outdated, The Footy Show, genre. “You [women] want equality… I’ll show you equality, and treat you like I treat my mates, because that’s equality” garbage. Men behaving like men think men are, but not in the same galaxy as men. And don’t know what they’re actually to be apologising for, which makes the issue the size it actually is. They don’t have any idea what they’re doing wrong!
So I share with my adult daughter just one thing I’d done to disrespect women. Cringe. But what’s been done has been done. There’s no excuse to go there anymore. It’s time to change, and if we won’t change nothing will change us. My daughter understood. She’d heard of that sort of thing before within her own cohort. She forgave me in an instant, for she knew the condition I, like all men, suffer – we’re more privileged than we often give call to realise.
I’m a man who has three daughters. I put it this way, because as a father of daughters I feel like a man – not a father, but a man – a man who’s not always worthy to be called a man, let alone a father, for some of the things I’ve done – as a privileged male – in my time.
Men, we need to stand up and no longer rest on the excuses that reveal we really don’t understand nor truly care about what women face. Change needs to happen in us and it’s our women who ought to have given up praying for that change by now. But we can change, one man at a time, to cause a revolution to take place; a revolution of understanding: because of the male privilege we men have, we’re to treat women differently to men if we’re to treat them the same.