The Male Programmer Privilege Checklist
This list has moved to the Geek Feminism Wiki.
Please visit it there, where you can add your own contributions. What follows is an archival version of the list as it was on July 24, 2011, before export to the Geek Feminism Wiki.
Being male, as a programmer, means:
- Not having to wonder whether you're well-known in your community simply for being "the female one".
- The freedom to do your job without anyone insinuating that you only got hired because of affirmative action or "quotas", or because of the anatomy you happen to possess.
- The freedom to apply for a job at your partner's workplace without worrying that others will think you only got the job because of your partner.
- Joining in appreciation of the sex object du jour without having to be gay or bisexual.
- Having your desk near the entrance to your office without visitors assuming you're the receptionist.
- Never being asked by a job interviewer whether you would mind being the first male employee in the company.
- Telling someone to RTFM without being accused of PMS.
- The freedom to make mistakes or say stupid things without worrying about it getting added to the pile of "why women suck at computer stuff".
- The freedom to attend a technical conference without fear of sexual assault.
- Attending a technical talk without people assuming that you're only there because your boyfriend dragged you along with him.
- Attending job fairs without having anyone suggest you look for secretarial work instead.
- Never being asked whether you got lost upon entering a computer science classroom.
- Being praised for the content of your writing rather than the neatness of your handwriting.
- Not having to explain why the term "gentlemen" doesn't include you.
- Listening to speakers refer to an inanimate software construct as "this guy" without getting distracted.
- Having colleagues who close the door when they talk to you.
- Never having anyone suggest that you slept your way into getting a bug fixed.
- Knowing that if you attend a professional conference, there will be a restroom you can use.
- Being appreciated as a competent professional rather than as an instrument for calming down troublesome people or manipulating disagreeable ones.
- Not having to think about what gender you are.
- Having potential romantic partners assume from your career that you're smart and well-to-do rather than unattractive and unfeeling.
- Not being the special case ("hi guys and girls, I guess, too, if you want to get really technical about it!!")
- If you're married, having people take you to lunch without them speculating on how your spouse would feel about them taking you to lunch.
- Getting invited to play video games with people, because they haven't assumed you won't be interested because of your gender.
- Having interests that are stereotypical for your gender without having to worry you'll be taken less seriously because of it.
- Having interests that are unstereotypical for your gender and getting seen as cool and progressive rather than freaky and asexual for it.
- Being treated like a hero if you compromise on work for childcare responsibilities, rather than having your commitment to work questioned.
- Not having to choose between dressing/acting stereotypically for your gender and being thought unprofessional (or not a Real Geek) for it, and dressing/acting un-stereotypically and being thought unseemly.
- Never being described as a "hot guy" first and a competent professional second.
- Laughing at jokes like this because women holding bumper stickers about closures is funny in the same way pictures of cats "reading" calculus books is funny, rather than wondering whether your colleagues see you in the same way as those women.
- The freedom to watch a technical talk without being explicitly reminded that many of your colleagues see you primarily as a sex object.
- The freedom to switch to a less technical career without feeling like you're betraying the cause of gender equality.
- Walking home unafraid after a late-night coding spree.
- The freedom to listen to speakers say that software should be so easy to use that even your mom could use it without wondering whether they have you in mind.
- Potential employers don't recruit employees by reminding them that people of your gender (at least the ones who've had children) are too stupid to apply.
- The freedom to listen to speakers say that instant messaging isn't just for teenage girls talking about the Backstreet Boys without wondering whether they have you-ten-years-ago in mind.
- The freedom to listen to speakers use gender fields in database schemata as an example of an attribute that never changes and only has two possible values without having to sit on your hands.
- The freedom to mention your gender online without worrying that if you do, and you then experience gender discrimination, others will tell you that it's your fault for mentioning your gender.
- The freedom to not mention your gender online while knowing that even if your accomplishments never get stacked up as "worthwhile things male programmers have done", male programmers' reputation will be safe anyhow.
- Enjoying the blissful illusion that computer science or the IT industry are pure meritocracies where gender never matters.
- Freedom from fear that your open-source work will make you a target for death threats (note: linked-to post discusses sexual assault and violent threats against women).
- The right to organize professional or educational events that are a safe space for members of your gender and in which members of other genders are unwelcome, without being criticized by members of a different gender for being "sexist" or "exclusionary". (This works because you enjoy the privilege of being able to enforce the single-sexedness of a particular event or space without ever having to say so explicitly, thus granting yourself immunity from criticism.)
- The expectation that if you say you are a programmer, people will believe you.
- The freedom to discuss the role of gender in programming without people thinking you're being (a) self-serving, (b) whiny, (c) bringing politics into realms where it's not relevant, or (d) all of the above.
- The privilege of being able to deny the existence of your own privilege as a male programmer.
About this list
The original list was by Kake, inspired by a post on the London Perlmongers mailing list.
Note: I update this list on an ongoing basis; hence, numbered references to items from an earlier version of this list may refer to different items than they do now.
I (Tim Chevalier) added some items and continue to add suggestions from others (all of whom wish to remain anonymous). I'm a guy who was usually thought to be female until I was 26 years old; I'm also a Ph.D student in computer science. Changing my extrinsic gender to match my intrinsic one has made my professional life easier, although that isn't why I did it. I don't think anyone should have to contemplate changing their extrinsic gender in order to enjoy the privileges on this list.
The Geek Feminism Wiki contains many useful resources, particularly a list of resources for men who want to support women in geek communities.
Related lists include White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, The Male Privilege Checklist, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack II: Sexual Orientation, and several more.
Adding to the list
Got something to add? Email mylastname (see above) at alum dot wellesley dot edu and mention whether you want to be credited by name.
Before you reply to this page, read Derailing for Dummies and consider whether you're about to use one of the argument tactics listed there. If so, perhaps you may want to reflect on the appropriateness of arguing from a perspective so clichéd as to merit inclusion on a list of strategies of the intellectually lazy.
Last edit: July 24, 2011
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