Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is a biological factor really a privilege?

(I put this up a day or so ago at my place.)

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates off and on and while I usually agree with what's talking about I'm not sure about the last part of one of his posts on childbirth.

Don't get me wrong I agree with the vast majority of what he says in that post. It is certainly true that childbearing and birth is a VERY risky process for women and I'm not trying to argue that. It is also true (no need to agree with it the numbers say so) that maternity deaths among women are still a big problem even in modernized nations like here in The States. And I'm with him on this:
Its courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that courage, that hard labor, into a mandate.
However there is one thing I can't agree with:
But it can not obscure perhaps the most specific and nameable species of male privilege--of all the things that may one day kill me, pregnancy is not among them.
I'm sorry but (and maybe its my understanding of the concept of privilege and Coates is talking about something else) that doesn't sound like a privilege to me.

Let me explain what I'm thinking when it comes to privilege. To me (and I think this is the result of my time in blogging about various privileges and dis-privileges) privilege is something that someone has access to and someone else doesn't due to factors that are truly unrelated to the something in hand. Here's an example.

A woman and myself send in our resumes to get a job. The hiring manager pick one of us or the other based solely on our gender, thinking "Oh they're a _____ and the other one is a ______." Now with the exception of a very small list of things there is absolutely no justifying hiring a person of a certain gender just because they are that gender. If no matter what position is up for grabs there is no way to back up the claim that one of us would be the better candidate just because I'm a man and she's a woman or the other way around (despite the fact that there are folks out there that believe such sexist nonsense).

Back up to Coates post. To me a biological difference is not privilege. Its just a biological difference. My not having to face the difficulties of pregnancy is no more a privilege than a cis-woman not having to face the possibility of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Again I'm by no means trying to say that pregnancy is easy (how am I supposed to know?). I'm by no means trying to say that women don't face real danger during pregnancy. I'm just saying that I'm not so sure you'd call a cis-man's not facing that danger a privilege when its based on a biological impossibility.