Raising feminist men and using my wedding silver thoughtfully have something in common: an awareness of privilege.
Feminist women are always aware of male privilege. We see it in the lopsided percentage of men on the OpEd pages of newspapers, the coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign, the way people respond to the novelty of men doing housework, our own experiences of the world. But men, even progressive well-meaning, men don't always see it.
Sam and I are both trained facilitators. A few years ago we had this conversation after a Board meeting that Sam chaired:
Sort of interesting that the women didn't really speak up until the end of the meeting.
What do you mean?
Well, the conversation was all male until I interrupted someone, and then a couple of other women spoke, but it was hard to get in there.
Wow. I didn't notice that. I don't attend to gender unless I'm facilitating a session at work.
Remember when I told you about male privilege? There's an example.
I always "attend to gender". I have no choice. My personal comfort, professional success and even my safety require it. Sam - a generous, kind, feminist man who is a skilled facilitator - wasn't being deliberately misogynist or particularly unskilled when he ran that meeting, but he was blinded by his privilege.When I showed off my wedding silver to our grad-student guests, and when I assumed that all my friends felt equally welcome at our university, I was blinded by my privilege. Miracle Mom is right: I do expect to be treated with civility by service workers, and I do expect that my child will have what she needs to be healthy and well-cared for. Those are assumptions of my upper-class-ness, and they are also evidence of my privilege.
To raise feminist sons and daughters, we need to help them see male privilege for what it is. Male privilege is a consequence of the patriarchy. Male privilege is part of the oppression of women, just as white privilege is a part of institutionalized racism. Yes, we need to teach our sons to express and act on their empathy, but we also need to teach them to reflect on the role of caregiver and why that role is overwhelmingly filled by women. Our sons need to know how to clean a toilet, and also notice that it's not usually men who do the scrubbing. Action, reflection, understanding, and (we will pray) change.