Wednesday, February 11, 2015
"You struggled with taking pills. I tried putting your pills with bread to swallow. I tried throwing the pills to the back of your throat. You were disgusted with taking pills. It was a frustrating chore to get you to swallow them."
This is the response my mother gave me when I asked her to recall the struggle I had with taking pills in my early childhood through my mid-adolescent years.
She later added, "Don't forget to add in gagging at every try."
My difficulty with taking pills could be used as a metaphor to describe another difficult process I am currently undergoing. We often take pills to alleviate our bodies from pain or to completely rid our bodies of a foreign ailment. The illness I am currently dealing with is a perplexing one. It is one that I simultaneously suffer from and benefit as a result of its presence.
Patient: Timothy O. Abram II
Diagnosis: Male Privilege
Symptoms: Earning more money than my female counterparts, never having my opinion dismissed due to the lack of a Y chromosome in my genome, not being asked to give up my last name when entering a marriage, etc. (The list had to be truncated because the symptoms of this disease are rampant and virtually omnipresent in all aspects of life.)
Prescription: The patient should swallow the "pill" that denotes that he is a contributor to and a beneficiary of the problem.
This pill comes with many side effects—ones that many men do not care to experience. Acknowledging that one benefits from a privilege of any sort automatically challenges the deeply rooted meritocratic notions that dictate that all my successes come from my ability and my ability only. What?! I have a built-in advantage? Mom, where is the bread? I need it.
I have recently begun reading Rebecca Solint's "Men Explain Things to Me." She eloquently and sometimes humorously writes about her interactions with men. In the midst of the humor, there is seriousness laden with societal occurrences that reek with the male privilege that I had not truly considered or faced.
For example, she talked about how colleges respond to the problem of rapes by posting signs warning female students to not be out past a certain time for their safety. My honest initial thought was, "Well, what's the problem with that?" As the sentences unfolded before my eyes, I quickly realized the problems, though: 1) Instead of warning women to not be out past a certain time, how about we demand our men to not rape women? 2) I could imagine the uproar if men were asked to be inside at a certain time to curtail the chances of raping a woman. Same logic applies to men, right? Wrong! Asking women to be inside to avoid rape would be considered a courtesy toward women, and asking men to be inside to avoid potentially raping a woman would be an assault on individual freedom. At this point, Solint is throwing the "pill" to the back of my throat to help me get it down.
That is just one of the numerous examples of how male privilege plagues our society, yet it is a frustrating chore for me to continue to write about. I am frustrated that I am a contributor to this problem and frustrated (and frankly disappointed) that I did not realize this problem sooner.
My mom ended the message by saying, "Don't forget to add in gagging at every try." Though she was referring to my inability to take pills, her statement can be applied in a greater context. As men, some of us are likely to "gag" every single time the issue of male privilege comes up. Though we gag, that still doesn't negate the fact that we are "sick" and need to swallow the "pill" that we are a contributors to and beneficiaries of the deeply rooted male privilege in our society.
Just remember that once we finally stop gagging and swallow the pill, only then will the healing process begin.
Don't ask me for a prescription of pills. Open your eyes: The examples are staring you in the face. Need some bread to help you swallow the pill? Go through your contacts and press the name "Mom."
Timothy Abram is a U.S. history teacher at West Tallahatchie High School in Webb, Miss. He is a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi. All opinions expressed here are his own.