Power and Privilege Dynamics in Sexism

Discussions about power and privilege may be emotionally challenging, triggering feelings of guilt or defensiveness. However, it is important to recognize that in our society, maleness and masculinity confer power and status, such that it is an advantage to be a man. As a result, those of us who are men may have certain automatic, unearned privileges by virtue of our gender. Though the relative social status of an individual man may be mitigated by other aspects of his identity (see Intersections: Power and Privilege), his biological sex will likely give him an advantage and increase his opportunities.

Male privilege tends to give men greater access to certain social, political and cultural benefits, such as higher social status and income levels, positions of authority and greater control over decision-making. This privilege reinforces and perpetuates the power imbalance between men and women. The advantages incurred may come to be seen as “normal”, thereby reinforcing beliefs in male superiority. The school environment, like any other location in our society, is a setting where these power dynamics are at work.

We are not to blame for privileges we have due to our biological sex. Often there is nothing we can do as individuals to eliminate our privilege. Instead, we can take stock of them and take responsibility for how we use them by attempting to offset the imbalance of power they reinforce. Gaining awareness of the ways in which we benefit from our privilege helps ensure that we do not perpetuate sexist or misogynous beliefs.

Privileges that benefit men in our society

To learn more about the privileges that benefit men in our society, click here.