Posted by: Carol Elizabeth | October 5, 2016

Where is the Female Privilege?

The idea of “male privilege” isn’t a topic we’ve covered so far. I don’t believe it is a topic necessarily important to leadership but I do believe it is something worth thinking and talking about. Thursday’s reading “None so queer as folk” was an interesting case-study on a transfemale, who took on the gender expectations and leadership styles when she became a woman. On the same day that I read this article for class, I stumbled upon a Snapchat video presented on MTV’s daily story, that was about transmales. Now, for those of us confused by these terms, a transfemale is a male who transgressed into a female, and a female to a male. What really sparked my interest about the video was that explained the idea of “male privilege” from the perspective of someone who once was a female, and whose perspectives have changed along with their gender.

The video itself opens with the assertion that “If you don’t think male privilege exists, you are wrong.” This quote itself is coming from a transmale who, at first impression, fits our idea of male and masculinity. The interesting point to be made is that he is male and he understands and recognizes that male privilege exists and is still relevant even as we approach the last few months of 2016. Therefore, it is appropriate to point out that these types of male privileges and biases still affect even the social aspect of our culture, along with the leadership authority and positions. Muhr and Sullivan (2013) suggest that historically we favor a particular leadership aesthetic that favors men and masculinities. Does that mean that just because we have historically done things one way that we can’t change them? My answer is no, we should seek to change these things all the more because they have been done historically and it seems as though we’re not getting anywhere productive.

(Excuse my rant, back to male privilege).

The transmales on the video explain that gender bias seems subjective and invisible to men because they tend to benefit from it in some way. Since these men have been on both sides of the gender divide, they are more easily able to see the injustices that women face, and while they admit that some privileges are nice (such as not having to worry about taking the subway alone at 1 am in fear of being assaulted), they recognize that they are in a position to help reverse the idea of male privilege, and open men’s eyes to the barrier they are creating for women themselves. The men also express ideas about many topics we’ve talked about in class. They expressed how differently people perceived them when they were males, and how their jokes became funnier and ideas became stronger and better, all with the transition from female to male.

So, my question is, If male privilege is still so prevalent in society and in so many social aspects, how does this affect leadership? Does male privilege extend to leadership? Is male privilege something that we can fix? or attempt to fix? Is there such a thing as women privileges? If so, what types of privileges do we have as women that men might not have, and how can we attempt to correct that idea, so we can further promote equality among genders?

Below I’ve posted the video if anyone would like to check it out, it’s not very long and it’s a super interesting way of seeing both sides of the standard that has been set by our society for so long.



Youtube, MTV, SnapChat

Muler, S., L. & Sullivan, K., R. None so queer as folk: Gendered expectations and transgressive bodies in leadership. Leadership: 9(3) 416-435. DOI: 10.1177/1742715013485857



  1. I really enjoyed reading your post and watching the video. It is quite interesting to look at the story of an individual who has truly been on both sides of the equation. Male privilege is definitely still a factor in our society, and I’m not so sure it will be one that disappears. As we have talked about in class and read in many readings, our society holds stark definitions for males and females. We have a prescribed set of roles and expectations that each gender must follow. We often allow our biases and prejudices guide our thinking and behavior, which can have profound effects. Straying away from the standardized norms represents abnormality and society does not approve (Eagly & Carli,2007). Further, I also agree with the video’s assertion that men are not even aware of their advantage because they benefit. Why would men want to change the practices set forth in society when they end up on top?

    This idea of male advantage 100 % translated into leadership. I think that this idea may be one of the main underlying biases that place women at a disadvantage in leadership. Men become valued for their assertive and dominant behaviors because society allows it. While Women are valued for their communal behaviors because society permits it. This does not not even include the social expectations for different races and ethnicities! We are faced with a major problem. Leadership is so greatly shaped and formed by society’s expectations. Hidden biases like male privilege definitely contributes to the male preference in leadership because society promotes and supports male superiority in preferred leadership behaviors. We associate males with effective leadership.

    Lastly, cultural change is a very slow process that occurs. It takes time to change people’s mind. Through social networks, education, and empathy we can work to start breaking down such strong social norms. Transmales like the one in the video have an even more unique perspective in helping highlight such effects of hidden prejudice.

    Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


  2. I definitely think that male privileged is relevant to leadership. I think that it encompasses in a term, a lot of the problems we have been discussing throughout this semester. Tokenism, the double bind.. these are problems that men are privileged enough not to face in leadership. If a minority group faces obstacles, or had insecurities that the majority group do not deal with, there is privileged involved.

    Now female privilege is something I hadn’t considered before. One way I think women can have an advantage is that as the minority, we are free to discuss our opinions about women in leadership more freely. As member of the party that is discriminated against, we do not face as much of a risk of being demonized. This is likely the reason much of the discussion on women in leadership is female lead. As for female privilege in leadership itself… I’m not so sure. I am curious if anyone will come up with examples of how this exists.

  3. While the video does not particularly look at transgender leadership we can view how these transmales are now perceived in some capacity as men and would have the male title as their social status in the work place. The male privilege for leadership is simply being seen and accepted as a leader more easily than women. These transgender males state that by physically becoming a male and displaying masculine traits they gain male privilege and are more easily accepted into a leadership position by their peers than a woman or transgender female. And while the purpose of the video isn’t to necessarily highlight the leadership aspect of privilege, we can understand that there is still strong biases against certain groups in society when it comes to being leaders.

    The word privilege gives the connotation of superiority, so the question of male privilege being fixed in society is a difficult question because the expectations of race and gender have been established by centuries of people. While awareness is important, privilege is part of a system and comes from stereotypes so it is very difficult to fix. In terms of leadership and men being seen as more competent leaders, it is hard to identify how such a system will change when it has been present for so long. And while more and more women seek leadership opportunity it does present and effort to tilt the scale and bring about the necessary change despite heavy criticisms from society. Women must believe themselves to be capable leaders in order to diversify and change the system.

  4. I think of male privilege in a leadership way as men having to overcome less, and assumed more regularly that they are capable, adequate leaders. Where as for women, they have to prove themselves. I too stumbled across this video and it peaked my interest. It is fascinating to have someone who has experienced what it is like to be both male and female. For these men, I think they seem to understand and see both sides of male privilege. However, when they were women, they didn’t notice it in the way they do now. They sort of took it as a way of life, where now being men, realizes how prevalent, and how relaxing it can be. For leadership, I think that it is crazy how much is assumed for male leaders, and what is needed to be proven for females. Men seem to have this sense of they can do anything and women, and society accept it. (obviously this is majorly generalizing) Where as women have a I’m-going-to-show-them attitude to achieve positions that seem to be way more accessible for men.

  5. Male privilege is very related to some of the topics we have discussed. I think some men’s entitlement in relation to professional job positions is part of male privilege. As we have discussed, many higher level job opportunities have been tailored around the lives of men and stereotypical male qualities and I think this makes pursuing these jobs easier for men.
    I think as we discussed in class today, one way in which women can benefit due to their gender is by readily accepting men’s attempts to be chivalrous. Women can choose to deny the help of men trying to be chivalrous or they can choose to accept these offers of chivalry (and both reactions are considered socially acceptable). Accepting chivalrous gestures allows women to avoid having to do basic physical labor (like lifting heavy things, etc). If a man tries to get out of physical labor he is considered a wimp while it is socially acceptable for a woman to do avoid physical labor.

  6. I think male privilege is still relevant to leadership as the idea of maleness is what shaped current leadership values are. Privilege is being the norm/ the standard and men are that in that position. It is inherently easier for men to become leaders over women which is why there is a greater focus on women. I feel that as long as men are seen as the standard for leadership and not the exception like women are then male privilege will always impact leadership.
    I do think that women have benefits, I would use privilege because that implies a position of domination or normalcy which women are not in. Women are often able to pick and chose what things we will let pass. Like with the example of chivalry above. We are also able to do thse behaviors associated with masculinity without much judgment. While men however can not do the same. While this seems unfair it still stems from men being seen as better than women. So when we do those things it is seen as us trying to “better; ourselves in a way. I personally think we need to be aware that most of our womanly benefits stem from being a contrast to men.

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