"Male Privilege"... a poem by D.A. Clarke

Hardly seems fair after something as lighthearted as the previous post about Jeremy Camp and Sasha Baron Cohen, but here's a poem that has been formative in my development for six or seven years now. It's been coming to mind a lot lately (not entirely sure why) and I thought I'd share...

by D. A. Clarke 1981

A poem for men who don't understand what we mean, when we say men
have "it."

Privilege is simple.
Going for a pleasant stroll after dark.
Not checking the back of your car as you get in,
sleeping soundly,
Speaking without interruption
and not remembering dreams of rape, that follow you all day,

that woke you crying,
and Privilege is not seeing your stripped, humiliated body

plastered in celebration
across every magazine rack.

is going to the movies and not seeing yourself terrorized,
battered, butchered
seeing something else.

Privilege is
Riding your bicycle across town without being screamed at

or run off the road,
not needing an abortion,
taking off your shirt on a hot day, in a crowd,
not wishing you could type better just in case,
not shaving your legs,
having a decent job and expecting to keep it,
not feeling the boss's hand up your crotch,
dozing off on late-night busses,

Privilege is being the hero in the TV show not the dumb broad,
living where your genitals are not denied
knowing your doctor won't rape you.

Privilege is
being smiled at all day by nice helpful women
it is the way you pass judgment on their appearance with magisterial
the way you face a judge of your own sex in court

and are over-represented in Congress
and are not strip searched for a traffic ticket or used as a dart

by your friendly mechanic,

Privilege is seeing your bearded face reflected through the history
not only of your high school days but all your life,
not being relegated to a paragraph every other chapter,
the way you occupy entire volumes of poetry
and more than your share of the couch unchallenged.
It is your mouthing smug, atrocious insults at women

who blink and change the subject politely

Privilege is how seldom the rapist's name appears in the papers
and the way you smirk over your PLAYBOY.

It's simple really,
Privilege means someone else's pain,
your wealth is my terror,
your uniform is a woman raped to death here, or in Cambodia or
wherever your obscene Privilege writes your name in my blood,
it's that simple,
you've always had it,
that's why it doesn't seem to make you sick to your stomach,
you have it,
we pay for it,
now do you understand?


wilsonian said...

Wow, Peter. I wish I'd had these words a few year ago.

In Canada, many of us mark a day in December. We remember 14 women who were massacred at a university in Montreal in 1988 because they dared to study engineering. We remember all women killed by violence.

I used to know a man who was actually angry that people observed this day. "Where is the day for men?!" he'd argue. I asked him if he ever had to lace his keys between his fingers before walking out to his car at night, just in case. He sneered "no, of course not". No. Of course not.

He never got it.

Peter said...

My goodness Wilsonian, how ignorant I feel of international events. I've never even HEARD of this occurrence (granted, I was 9 when it happened). I am so sorry. And I grieve with you. And join you in saying, "no, of course not." Because, of COURSEnot.

Thank you for sharing. It IS a beautiful and gut-wrenching poem.

Wickle said...

That's powerful.

"Where is the day for men?" is among the stupidest questions I've ever heard. Men aren't exactly in need of a special holiday, especially not since most of the ones that exist are in honor of one man or a group of men.

For the record, I hadn't heard of the incident Wilsonian describes, either. That's terrible.

bridgeout said...

One of the most important core concepts we attempted to educate men about (in a group for rehabilitating domestic violence offenders) was male privileged. That combines with the thinking error of entitlement fueled much of the domestic abuse situations we heard about.

Peter said...

But it's still amazing to me, Wendy, that after reading and reflecting on a poem like that (for seven years) I still find myself painfully ignorant to the ways in which my male privilege manifests - and differentiates my experience from that of women. It's continually humbling and a little horrifying to have my wife remind me how differently she experiences situations and environments that we seem to share.

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