I grew up a man, with all the inherent advantages that come with it. "Male privilege" is powerful, an automatic one-way ticket to a life of dominance and control. Being born male rather than female is akin to being born wealthy rather than poor. Male privilege was wasted on me, though, like an unused muscle that atrophied, because I don't have the stereotypical male personality traits that would desire such power.
But now that I've willingly relinquished that privilege, I am starting to better understand my role as a woman in our patriarchal culture. I never thought I had much male privilege anyway, but I realize, now that it’s gone, that I did.
Here are a couple examples:
At the Bank
When my wife and I used to open a joint checking account, I was always made the primary account holder – even though she has always worn the pants and earned the income in our house. They just assumed I was the primary because I was “the man." As a woman, however, they no longer make that assumption. And that's fine, because it never made much sense to me anyway.
Servicing the Car
I know that I've reached true womanhood because men have started "mansplaining" things to me. In case you're unfamiliar with the term, "mansplaining" is the condescending manner in which men speak to women when they think we don't really understand - as one might with a child. A serviceman during a recent oil-change told me, rather than giving me mechanical info like they used to, "We'll make your car nice and happy, ma'am, so you can worry about shopping and important things."
It doesn't bother me that men assume I know nothing about cars and mechanical things, because I really don't. I can't think of anything less interesting than auto repair. It's actually quite nice that I no longer have to stand there nodding my head and pretending I know what they're talking about. I'd much rather be shopping anyway, thank you very much.
The Taming of the Shrew
(Elizabeth Taylor as Kate, untamed, in Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 film adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew)
My most recent grad-school thesis was on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – a harsh lesson in male dominance and female subjugation if ever there was one. If you're unfamiliar, it's the tale of Kate, a wild and unruly woman who no man wants to marry, even though her dowry would make them rich. She is tamed into a proper, dutiful housewife by a man who uses starvation and sleep deprivation as punishments for her non-compliance. By the end, she is the epitome of perfect womanhood, thanks to her husband's loving correction.
It seems archaic when laid out so plainly, but is it really? I don't think so. Most men still prefer their wives submissive and obedient, I'm certain.
(Elizabeth Taylor as Kate, tamed)
The Taming of Christi
The results of the 2016 Presidential election were another stark reminder of how much more valuable a phallus is than even a lifetime of education, experience and dedication. (Please don't bash my politics here! I'm making a much-larger point.)
In the months leading up to election night, I was a lot like an "untamed" Kate in many regards. I was outspoken, unreasonable and unwilling to see any perspective beyond my own. I was selfish, only really thinking about myself. I resisted and rebelled against everything that came out of Trump's lips, just as though I were a teenage girl and he was, well, any male authority figure.
When election night came, I cried and cried and blamed everybody - my friends, my family and all of America for not supporting me.
Me, me and me!
After several days of pointless bitching and bawling, my wife, who has really become my "mommy" in terms of teaching me how to be a woman, finally said to me:
"Will you shut up about it already! I'm sorry, but nobody gives a damn about your restroom rights! Trump won the election, period! So what? You have everything you need, don't you? Your health, food, shelter, your hormones. We live in state that protects your rights. What are you worried about? Haven't I always taken care of you? Pull up your big-girl pants and get over it! You're acting like a spoiled brat!!" Then she leaned in close to me and said, "Besides, I will never let anyone hurt you...ever!"
"I didn't realize my rights were so...unimportant," I said, wiping tears from my eyes.
"Welcome to Womanhood, Sweetheart."
This verbal reprimand was exactly the taming I needed. Being married to a career-long high school teacher is as good as being married to any patriarch, I assure you. She is no less hesitant to correct me and put me in my place than any man would be.
I have now accepted Mr. Trump as my President, and I will do my very best to live, serve and flourish under him, as I have with every other man who's sat in the Oval Office. What choice have I?
If I had any false or fantastic notions of feminism, or what it means to be a woman, before I began this journey, they have certainly been put to rest now. But that's okay, because it's the societal role I'm meant to play - the one I've been playing all along anyway. Rather than resisting patriarchy, I'm embracing my new role within it. I am smart, and submissive by nature. I will learn my place very quickly. I don't want to rule the world. I'm happy to let the patriarchs shoulder that burden. I'm always most comfortable in a support role anyway - whatever I'm doing.
The funny thing about all this: I was far more feminist in my personal convictions when I was trying to be a man. I considered myself a staunch ally and advocate for women's rights - and of course I still am. As a woman, however, recent lessons have taught me that fighting patriarchy is a losing endeavor. Male superiority is too deeply entrenched in our culture. Women cannot effectively challenge it, and resistance is an exercise in futility. I get that now.
I have fully come to terms with who and what I am…and I’m still the happiest woman alive!