The Myths of “Male Privilege” and “Women’s Experience”


Gloria (Secular Feminist)

Sarah (Evangelical Egalitarian)

Abraham (Neo-Patriarch)

Moderator (Neutral)


Moderator: Welcome to the eighth session of our dialogue on the relationship between men and women in society, church and family. This evening Abraham will conclude his critique of secular feminism.  Abraham, could you make your next two points a bit briefer? We are running short of time.

Abraham: Okay. But you are the one who asked me to address issues I had not planned to speak about.

 Moderator: Touché!


 “Women’s Experience”

 Abraham: (2) Gloria asserts that “women’s experience” is an authoritative source of truth. According to her, when women feel oppressed and think they are being treated unfairly, men should accept their perspective as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands. Sarah agrees. I disagree.

If the subjective feeling of being unjustly treated is a moral norm, why limit it to women’s experience? Men have experience too! And if women’s experience can be used to instruct men about their moral blindness, why can’t men’s experience instruct women in areas where women are morally blind? If women’s experience can refute men’s views of women, why can’t men’s experience refute women’s views of men? If women can insist that men accept women’s experience as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands, why can’t men insist that women accept men’s experience as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands?

Unless there is an objective standard of moral truth, justice and goodness, appeals to experience lead to a stalemate. One person’s desires are set against another’s with no objective standard by which to judge between them. But if there is an objective moral standard, neither women’s experience nor men’s experience can be used as a moral norm. At best, they are beginning places for a discussion about how to achieve a mutually acceptable approximation to justice and goodness in this relationship.

 “Male Privilege”

 (3) Gloria asserts that:

 Secular feminists demand that every tradition, ideology, theology, or philosophy that justifies male privilege be rejected as false, anti-human, and evil.

Gloria here begs the question. She assumes that “male privilege,” that is, giving a right to men that is not given to women, is always wrong. But this is the question to be decided! It cannot be assumed! I can be brief in my response to this assertion, because I have already demonstrated in point (1) above [Posted on January 06] that in some situations giving men a privilege not given to women is the rational and right thing to do. Hence male privilege is not always wrong! We need to deliberate in society, church and family about when it is appropriate. There are no easy answers!

One last point. The whole discussion focuses on male privilege. What about female privilege? Aren’t women given some rights withheld from (or irrelevant to) men? Don’t women want to be treated differently from men in some cases? But if male privilege is always wrong, female privilege is always wrong as well. Does anyone think women would be better off in a society where they must compete with men under the exact same set of rules?

Moderator: Thank you Abraham for your thoughts. Next time Gloria and Abraham will present analyses and criticisms of Sarah’s presentation of evangelical egalitarianism.

Programming note: Gloria’s response to Sarah’s presentation of evangelical feminism will be posted on Friday, January 13. The title of that post is “Is the Bible irretrievably Misogynous?”

3 thoughts on “The Myths of “Male Privilege” and “Women’s Experience”

  1. Sara Hope

    I think Abraham over simplifies and misunderstands the broader concept of male privilege here, and I suspect Gloria and Sarah think the same. Male privilege is not as innocuous as men being given certain specified rights due to their sex; it refers more broadly to a society which allows the balance of power to tip so far toward men and away from women, that deferring to male interests becomes normative throughout society (i.e. in literature the use of male pronouns in language to refer to both sexes; in the professional world showing more interest in what men have to say than what women of equal qualifications have to say; etc.). Privilege of this sort is seen to be all the more insidious because it is often subconscious; thus the men in the conference room will cut off and speak over their female colleagues without even realizing their rudeness, due to the subconscious sense of entitlement and superiority bred by the societal endorsement of male privilege.

    This being the reality feminists point to, it is not reasonable to talk about “female privilege,” because privilege refers to a societal phenomenon and not case-by-case bases. The conclusion feminists would indeed come to is that privilege of any sort should not be had; individuals should be able to advance according to their own merit without any predetermined ideas of an entire group (i.e. men) being altogether more qualified.

    I do think the error feminists make is concluding that, in order to abolish privilege, there must be no instances whatsoever where men are shown partiality over women. Their aim is to do away with the general partiality given to men in most areas (outside of, say, the kitchen), but in doing so they forbid any recognition of men as generally more qualified in a particular area (Abraham might list executive church leadership as an example where they ought to be).


  2. ifaqtheology Post author

    I think you are right in what you say. However Abraham is not arguing against the fact that men are pervasively given privileges that are not warranted. He implicitly admits this. He makes a much more modest argument, that is, that is not always wrong to give men or women privileges that the other sex does not have. He argues only that there is a legitimate argument to be had about which privileges are rational and which are not. Thanks!


  3. ifaqtheology Post author

    One more thing, Sara. I wonder whether what you describe should be labeled “male privilege” or male arrogance or a feeling of superiority? I think “privilege” should be used to designate social approval in some formal or informal structure. Or as Abraham said, some “right” men are given.



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