I used to work for a boss who loved me. It’s a good feeling when your boss likes you, right? Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t the only one my boss adored.
My boss loved all the men in our office. She deferred to us in staff meetings but her tone demeaned women. She also had words for what the women wore to the office.
Often, I had to reassure her about the competency of the other women in the office, one of whom became my more qualified successor.
I could never say, “Boss, do you have an issue with other women?”
But, I knew the role I had to play in the workplace based on being a male to her.
Since maleness has a currency, I wonder about male privilege. Is maleness like whiteness to women and the world?
Maleness as Whiteness
When Peggy McIntosh named the advantages whites have as ‘white privilege,’ she based it on her gender studies with male privilege as one of her reference points.
Male privilege varies and not every male experiences it the same. But, male privilege is obvious given our nation’s history and our current state.
And, when I look at patriarchy and white supremacy they mimic each other and work together. They both have tools, tactics, and templates for oppression. Both have used religion, pseudo-science, biology, a division of labor, specific roles, stereotypes, money, and the media.
White supremacy and patriarchy both want to possess, imprison, and punish bodies as property. Both demand visibility, comfort, double standards, preference, and deference in society. I see how they harm those who live by them too. And, there are over a hundred ways men have privileges in our language and in other everyday ways.
So, my question is, what does patriarchy with all its privileges mean for me as a Black man?
Black Male Privileges
It sounds like an oxymoron that even Black males have privileges. But, sociologists say Black men experience male privileges too. They say we can see these privileges relative to Black women. Jewel Woods, a feminist author, and gender analyst has compiled a list of 94 Black male privileges in 12 categories.
Black males have advantages at the expense of Black women in areas like leadership, politics, history, beauty, sex, the diaspora, church life, and physical safety.
We also know, at a certain educational level, Black males have advantages in the workplace ahead of Black women. This is why Black men earn more than Black women with equivalent qualifications. While racial identity has the stoutest portion of privileges, the return on maleness still pays, even with poor pennies.
Dr. R L’Heureux Lewis, a sociologist, and professor of Black studies at the City University of New York writes and speaks about Black male privilege. In a presentation to his alma mater Morehouse, he says there’s a serious need for Black men to “acknowledge we are oppressed but we can be equally oppressors, particularly to our sisters.”
He also says, the concerns of the Black community will repeat and could worsen if we don’t address the complexity of being Black and a male with privilege. I hate the Pandora’s box of patriarchy and male privilege for Black men.
The Pandora’s box of Patriarchy for Black men
Black male privileges stem from patriarchy. And patriarchy, with all its children, is a source of many problems for Black men too.
Here are a few reasons:
Patriarchy silences and shadows sisters who have struggles and solutions.
There’s no coincidence for why Dr. Cornel West is on CNN the most, or why we know names like Ta-Nehisi Coates. Scholar and researcher bell hooks says white America is often more willing to listen to Black males who assert themselves in a patriarchal manner than those who don’t. Could this be why there’s infighting between Coates and West because the spotlight isn’t shared with women?
I agree with bell hooks that solutions do not come from ‘strong Black male leadership alone.’ This is most obvious when Black males have nothing to say about patriarchy. Bell hooks finds it odd that men of color repudiate the legacy of Columbus but refuse to repudiate patriarchy.
There’s no doubt we’ve lost solutions and we miss solutions because we don’t listen to Black women. I hate how patriarchy centers Black men in a boxing ring to fight for solutions.
Patriarchy wants to control, punish, and kill Black men, too.
Patriarchy, as a Black man, gives me privileges while it punishes. This is why studies about the hardships of many Black men can be true with male privileges. Racism punishes me as an individual and my whole race. But patriarchy tricks me with rewards as it punishes. Taken together with racism, patriarchy is a foe that’s hard to see and defeat.
Tommy Curry, a Black studies scholar, argues that patriarchy crushes Black males because we are male. He says patriarchy targets Black men to “ensure we never mature to vie with white men or white women for power.” So, patriarchy, in a white supremacist state, denies me manhood.
I want nothing to do with a system that advantages me and disadvantages me. And, I hate how patriarchy gives prizes and penalties to Black men, too.
Patriarchy makes the struggle worthless and the solutions impossible.
With patriarchy, I have the tools and the templates to oppress. Patriarchy has programmed me to take part in oppression and support oppression. And, I can deny its existence because I’m Black and a Black male. But, to do so is like being gender-blind. If I deny Black male privilege, then I deny the power and the ability to effect change too. And with patriarchy, Black liberation and empowerment are impossible because “there is no liberty or freedom for parts of a race.”
So, because of patriarchy, I’m both the oppressed and the oppressor. And, patriarchy complicates the work to be free with harm and hypocrisy. I hate patriarchy because it has a part of me in privilege and a part of me in peril.
Patriarchy hates gay men.
With traditional straight men at the helm, patriarchy makes no room for gay men. Patriarchy may like how gay men don’t compete with them for women, but it abhors any hint of effeminacy. In the Black community, patriarchy elevates Black male heterosexuality above all other sexual identities. This is why we hear the concerns and grievances of Black male heterosexuals louder than those from the Black LGBTQ community. I hate how patriarchy shuts out the LGBTQ community.
No Love Lost
Patriarchy lives in all races and genders. The fact that I’d rather be a male than any other race troubles me. But now, I’m more aware of male privileges, so patriarchy can keep those returns. I want awareness, empathy, interventions, and equity instead.
I have no love for patriarchy. It shuts down the questions and answers from anyone who’s not a “male.” It messes up men and all gender identities. And, it’s patriarchy, not true feminism, that will not allow any Black person to stand.
I hate patriarchy the most because it betrays me and it portrays me. It’s a cruel mirror that forces me to look at all of me.
And, I don’t like all I see because it all doesn’t like me.