Until nearly 40 years living as a white male, a way-too-late lesson learned was understanding and appreciating the privilege that comes with simply being a male. Privileges that are perhaps unasked for, but certainly enjoyed, even at times taken as something that I earned or deserved because of my own personal effort rather than simply provided to me by the various social systems in my life.
When I listened more carefully to women in my life, personally and professionally, and their experiences, I came to realize what kinds of privileges being male provides to me without an iota of work on my part. A few examples from a much longer list would include being physically safe when out and about in the world, assigned space and attention for my voice, being noticed and asked what I think, or being invited to lead something.
Avoiding male privilege is a challenge given its baked-in, systemic nature. Declining the advantage and privilege is one response, depending on whether or not one even notices that it is going on. Another is to take note of others with me in a given situation who do not have access to white male privilege and supporting them by stepping aside, creating space for them to be noticed and participate, and encouraging their strength and championing their value. In this way every project or initiative benefits from including the voice, contribution and strengths of everyone not just me by default.
Authored by Shawn Chisholm, MentorAction Steering Committee Member
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