Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

(Mirroring Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”)

Claudia Dimick
Sep 28, 2016 · 3 min read

Guest-written by Megan Ives (Colorado Kali Captain, and player on Molly Brown), in collaboration with Jimmy Mickle. Facilitated by Claire Chastain.

While many will grant that certain groups, such as women, are disadvantaged, they rarely acknowledge the flip side: that their complementary groups (men, in this example) are advantaged. Denial of the benefits of privilege equates to taboo and when we cannot openly discuss all facets of inequality we only act to further protect the privilege that demonstrably exists.

In her article “White Privilege and Male Privilege, American feminist and anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh discusses how privilege hides from its bearer and when unaddressed creates oppressive forces. McIntosh recognizes that her white privilege in many ways parallels male privilege and that only through a strategy of exploring her own privilege as a white person can she identify her “ invisible package of unearned assets.” In other words, to challenge systems of privilege, we must talk about them.

In order to present an account of the privileges of male experience and to supplement ongoing discussion about gender equity in Ultimate, I have collaborated with prominent male Ultimate player Jimmy Mickle to present the following mirrored version of McIntosh’s reflections:

“As a man in Ultimate…”

  1. I feel supported and respected as an athlete by people watching me play.
  2. When I make mistakes while playing I don’t worry about how this will reflect on my gender’s abilities.
  3. I can easily find an abundance of high quality footage of people of my gender playing ultimate.
  4. The Internet is generally a place in which my gender’s athleticism is celebrated, not criticized or undermined.
  5. People of my gender generally feel more confident in their own abilities and thus are easier to convince to try Ultimate.
  6. When recruiting for a college or club team, I have a larger pool of players than those of the opposite gender.
  7. If I am not getting passed to on the field, I can logically assume it has nothing to do with my gender.
  8. The majority of competitive sports in the United States show preference towards my gender.
  9. I can be fairly sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my gender, or a minority.
  10. Clichés and other gendered phrases support my gender rather than patronize it. (“he throws like a girl”, “he runs like a girl”, “she throws like a guy”)
  11. Mainstream sports media favors my gender.
  12. I am rarely asked to speak on behalf of my gender.
  13. The innate ability of my gender to be athletic is not questioned.
  14. When given an unfavorable streaming schedule at a tournament, I can assume it has nothing to do with my gender.
  15. More media is created and circulated about people of my gender playing Ultimate.
  16. If I declare there is or isn’t a gender issue at hand, my gender will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of the opposite gender will have.

This list, like our own individual experiences, is neither comprehensive nor universal. Thus we invite readers of this article and members of the Ultimate community to reflect upon and contribute their own examples of privilege in Ultimate.

We are rarely, if ever, asked to reflect on our own privilege, yet it is essential to combating the inequities it systematically creates. McIntosh writes that in acknowledging privilege, “the pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy.” By engaging in the mental work to unpack the unearned knapsack of privileges we enjoy, we move closer to a more just and inclusionary social system for all those among us.

— — — — —

Once you have thought or written about your own privileges, as it relates to the discussion of gender equity in Ultimate and elsewhere in your life, ask yourself what you can do to challenge or end unearned privileges that disadvantage others. Please share what’s in your knapsack using #unpackingprivilege.

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