What is privilege?

In class last week, we discussed how men hold the privilege in society over women, who are the ‘other’.  I think that this idea has interesting implications in Fausto-Sterling’s article “Should There Only Be Two Sexes?”.  Fausto-Sterling described how many hermaphrodites had gender reconstructive surgery to become female, as opposed to male.  It struck me how parents seemed so eager to make their children females when they had the option of making them male.  Logically, one would think that a parent would want their child to be raised a male if possible because of the privilege they would receive over females.  Of course, the fact that it is easier to remove things from the body than grow them undoubtedly affects the decision. However, this makes it seem as though the parents are more concerned with making their child fit into a sex category than how that sex category will affect the child’s life.  This suggests that, if you are in between sexes, you are even less privileged than if you are a female.

Source: Fausto-Sterling “Should There Only Be Two Sexes?” (anecdotes on pages 80, 84, 92)

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One Response to What is privilege?

  1. jenyoon says:

    I think this question is best answered by David’s parents in “As Nature Made Him”. If men have privileges like better professional opportunities, women are socially acceptable to be docile and modest about their body. While I cannot call it a woman’s “privilege”, I am sure Reimer’s parents were thinking in that way when they made the decision to make their baby a girl. Males tend to want to show their sex organs more than women. I remember when I first got to Penn, an upperclassman told me that when guys say that they had sex a certain number of times, you have to divide that number by three. If girls say the same number, you triple it. This exemplifies how guys want to brag about their activity involving nakedness and genitals, while girls want to hide it.

    Perhaps parents of babies with intersex conditions want to shield their child from having to show their genitals. After all, an intersex condition ultimately comes down to genitals. While men will have to show that off, women can use modesty as a way to hide it. Since an intersex condition is an abnormality of the genitals, parents assume that it is best to choose a sex that conventionally tries to hide it.

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