Male privilege in the CU community
CU quarterback Cody Hawkins strolls into the UMC like any other student in a black T-shirt and jeans. The 20-year-old sophomore religious studies major lives and breathes the fast-paced life of a student athlete, balancing the demands of Division One football with a school workload.
One look at Hawkins and some would say he has all the opportunity he’ll ever need to succeed. He is male, white, more than able-bodied and attending college on an athletic scholarship where his father is the head coach.
However, Hawkins says the road to where he is these days wasn’t always a cushioned one.
“I definitely think I’m the luckiest kid in the world,” Hawkins said. “When I was younger my mom sewed our clothes. I shared a room with three of my siblings-we didn’t have anything. I remember using food stamps and going to the co-op to get soup to eat.”
Hawkins said his family moved eight times throughout the course of his life. His father Dan Hawkins, who is now financially sound after landing gigs coaching division one football teams, worked his way up from a graduate assistant at the college he attended, to coaching high school football, to college.
“I’ve had such an incredible opportunity,” Hawkins said. “Just because I’m a guy, and I can play college football.”
According to population estimates of a 2005 U.S. census, there are 97 male residents for every 100 female residents in the U.S. That means that more than half of the U.S. population may not have the same opportunities as Hawkins to play college football because they happen to be women.
Women’s studies Professor Robert Buffington would identify Hawkins’ position at the university as an example of male privilege. Buffington said male privilege exists in one context through the way men socialize and bond in places women are traditionally unwelcome.
“Sometimes who you know is so much of being successful,” Buffington said. “The ‘good old boy network’ is a classic way of closing off avenues of advancement to women.”
Important business and networking often happen in bonding mechanisms that can exclude women like golf or poker. It is in the informal, gender-specific settings that women miss out, Buffington said. NCAA men’s football serves as an example.
Buffington identified one way in which the idea of male privilege gets tricky.
“One reason men resist discussion on male privilege and sexism is because they are being told men are powerful,” Buffington said. “They personally don’t experience the sense of feeling powerful themselves. This creates a disjuncture in men’s minds. Men as a group are in power; men individually aren’t.”
At 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 190 pounds, Hawkins can attest to that experience on the field.
“Me, I’m no more athletic than anybody in this university,” Hawkins said. “I’m not big, I’m not fast, I’m not strong, I’m not overly smart – but this is what I wanted to do, and I had to bust my butt for it.”
Hawkins attributes his success partially to hard work and acknowledges the privilege that he has received.
“I was a very privileged kid,” Hawkins said. “I had a lot of opportunities and was born into a household that allowed me to succeed just because everybody loved me a lot and supported me with whatever I was doing, whether I was making sand castles or playing football.”
Junior philosophy and English major Annalise Smith said she views college football and the attention it receives as an example of the patriarchal arm that controls all of society.
“Male privilege is a socially constructed problem that has managed to last in our culture because people perpetuate it in their actions whether they realize it or not,” Smith said. “College football is just another example.”
Statistically, men are in more positions of power than women. According to a 2005 U.S. census, women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make. Although women’s suffrage movements have transformed the opportunities of a female in the U.S., this statistic has stayed relatively consistent.
Buffington traces the emergence of male privilege back to the agricultural society where land was passed through the male line. He also said only men could vote in the original U.S. constitution, establishing the infrastructure to have a relationship solely between the state and the male head of the household.
“It gave men a sort of monopoly in political power with intense control,” Buffington said. “But the disrespect women get and the privilege men get are not biological happenings.”
Smith attributes male privilege to the structure of the U.S. capitalistic economy.
“Male privilege is predominant because the goal of the game of life is to make money,” Smith said. “For women it’s the advantage of having luxuries that are just provided for them, but it is because they are inferior in the eyes of society.”
Hawkins said he is optimistic about the status of women.
“Guys can do anything they want and no one really cares about them,” Hawkins said. “I think it’s so awesome that now you kind of see women start to break a lot of barriers. I mean whether or not people think Hillary Clinton will be the next president, just the fact that she’s doing it, it opens so many doors for other women.”
Buffington said Clinton’s possible nomination is actually an exception that proves the rule because the only reason she was able to rise to her position of power was through her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Now that she’s there, he said, she cannot fail.
“Hillary has to be overly-ready, and twice as tough and smart,” Buffington said. “Bush is male privilege at work. He has a history of bad grades and alcoholism. Women never get a second chance.”
Smith said she thinks it is possible for women to raise their status in society.
“In order to equalize the playing field for men and women we first need to acknowledge it is a problem,” Smith said. “People are conditioned to believe what they want to be. It is a social construction and misconception.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Monica Stone at Monica.firstname.lastname@example.org.