It’s a Monday night in February and I am SO FED UP WITH MALE PRIVILEGE.
A bit of backstory:
I’m hopping out the car with a friend, popping into the local OneStop for some chocolate buttons for a banana cake I’m making for the school’s charity bake sale tomorrow. I open up my phone, see a message from Sanya that makes me chuckle: ‘Go to our Twitter notifications if you want to see sad men getting triggered immensely.’ I have a quick tweetpeek in the aisles of the OneStop, but, distracted by my quest for both white and milk buttons, save the main read for when I get home. Back in my flat, I turn my attention to the timeline.
A thread using the hashtag #PadManChallenge is gaining some traction, as international media marketing firm Sterling Media tweet a photo of some of their employees holding up sanitary towels.
The #PadManChallenge refers to the Bollywood film Pad Man, the true-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a middle-aged man in rural India, who, seeing that his wife was forced to use rags for pads, created a machine for manufacturing sanitary towels at low-cost, so that communities could fight against period poverty on a local level. The film is set to grace our screens on 9th Feb, and, whilst the hashtag is a piece of cinematic marketing, it also addresses one of the key points of Muruganantham’s story: sticking up two fingers to the taboo surrounding menstruation that still exists in many places across the world.
Of course, as soon as Sterling Media proudly publish their photo, out of the woodwork creep the usual busybodies, the bored unintelligentsia who feel the need to muscle in on things they know nothing about, to criticise, to poke fun, to undermine. Such are the specimens Sanya is pointing me towards.
Here is one such amusing commentary:
Now, sheesh, I love to kill with kindness. And by ‘kindness’, I mean the well-honed brand of perky snarkery I have been developing for the past 27 years. Although I know better, and have the teacher mantra of ‘Do Not Engage’ engraved on my brain, I can’t resist:
I amuse myself, at least. He replies, without adding much to the discussion, and Sanya and I carry on our textual rant, laughing and wincing at other ill-informed and at times nonsensical replies such as,
until Sanya mentions that Sanjeev Bhaskar (of 00s sitcom, The Kumars, fame) has also waded into the debate with our old friend Jack Spratt Brexiteer, explaining to the ignorati what the post was all about in the first place:
Kudos, we think; fair play for making it explicit what the thread is about and what one particular twidiot is missing – even though, by breaking it down to just film promo, he’s kind of ignoring the fact there’s a wider issue at stake here (a la, 60 million girls worldwide missing school one week a month due to either lack of access to sanitary products or menstrual stigma) that goes beyond the confines of movie sets and social media ‘challenges’.
Now, whereas my tweet receives further ignorant questioning (‘Am I doing the menstrual taboo wrong?’) and accusations of making it all up from ole Jacky Spratt (‘How does it manifest itself in our universe?’), Sanjeev’s is received warmly.
replies our oaf. No emojis for A Bloody Good Cause, but two for Sanjeev!
WELL THIS GETS MY GOAT. Here’s my problem with this:
An ill-informed, ignorant, abrasive man decides to enter into a discussion about which he knows nothing – but instead of try to find out about the topic, he immediately sticks his misguided oar into what is otherwise a wholly positive and progressive thread. By replying with ‘You weren’t to know mate’, Bhaskar sets up two things that really, really piss me off: 1) that anyone, however ill-informed and boisterous, is entitled to attempt to smear anything they like, and be exculpated by others claiming their innocence (much like letting a racist grandparent off the hook because ‘people weren’t as open-minded back then’), and 2) that, due to a shared Y chromosome and presumed shared eye-rolling ‘Yeah I know’ at ‘some some of feminist point’, one man can exculpate another with a simple ‘mate’. There, my friends, is male privilege.
“Privilege!” some of you will cry. “How dare you talk about privilege, snooty white blogger girl?” Now I’m not pretending I don’t experience privilege every single day of my life. I’m white, middle-class (yes, Mum and Dad, we are – the day you bought plastic cocktail glasses to drink out of in your inflatable hot tub sealed the deal on the disposable income), Oxbridge-educated. Doors have opened for me because of all of the above. But just because I have my own privileges, doesn’t mean I can’t be positively irate about other privileges I see waggling their tongues at me.
Sanya recently lent me the excellent Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: ‘a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary examination of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today’ (the book jacket’s words, not Sanya’s – though I’m sure she said something similarly articulate when she handed it over to me). Last night, I was reading the chapter, ‘What is White Privilege?’, and Eddo-Lodge’s definition stuck with me. White privilege, she writes, is ‘an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost, an absence of ‘less likely to succeed because of my race’.’ If I replace Eddo-Lodge’s words ‘racism’ and ‘race’ for ‘sexism’ and ‘gender’, that is how I see male privilege. (And yes, I am completely aware that stealing and adjusting Eddo-Lodge’s piece on race to meet my own feminist ends plays exactly into the kind of social dynamics she suggests, where discussions of gender often seem to be taken more seriously than discussions of race – and for that, Reni, I apologies, but your writing moved and inspired me and set me alight.)
So what do I mean by male privilege in the Twitterati world?
I mean that men, on the whole, are the privileged ones who can say whatever crap they like in these wordcircuses we call social media sites, and not only fear no consequences, but be tolerated, nay often be supported, be clapped on the back by their wireless ‘mates’, slap their hands on their wank-stained jogging-bottomed thighs and scroll through hashtags until they find something else they fancy taking a pop at. Women, on the whole, on these sites, are the underprivileged. Men tear us down for having fun,
or for not having enough fun,
or for speaking up, or for speaking at all (see the dickhead who commented on one of our Youtube videos, “Everytime a feminist speaks… a girl gets raped” – comment since reported, and taken down).
So there you have it: it’s a Monday night in February and I am SO FED UP WITH MALE PRIVILEGE. I’m fed up with ignorant blokes aggressively insinuating period poverty doesn’t exist; I’m fed up with mindless morons challenging us over a taboo that has never affected them and never will; I’m fed up with the support – or at the very least, the ‘lukewarm acceptance’ (to nab a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr via Reni Eddo-Lodge) – that absolute cretins get for their takedowns and their hate-preaching. Why is it getting to me particularly tonight? Perhaps because I’ve got a cold and am slowly overdosing on Lemsip; perhaps because I accidentally grilled my banana cake for 45 minutes instead of baking it and now it’s a funny squidgy consistency that could be bananaychocolatey goodness but could also be severely underbaked batter; or, perhaps, and most likely because, as we chanted a fortnight ago at the Women’s March and will continue to chant, TIME’S UP!
Until next month,