Male Privilege in Female-Dominated Spaces

Throughout my life I have been mostly drawn, not necessarily on a conscious level, to the company of other women and girls. This has manifested itself both in an academic sense (I am a humanities student at a university which seems to have an overwhelming female majority), in my friendship groups, and in extracurricular activities (having pursued stereotypically feminine interests such as dance, music etc.)

It recently struck me (while watching a Darcy Bussell documentary about the advancement of principal male dancers in ballet) how differently men who are involved in these female-dominated spaces are treated than women in male-dominated spaces. As a general rule, if there is a dance class of 6 girls and one boy, the choreography of any given dance will place the boy front and centre as the focal point of the performance. I have witnessed this even pre-puberty when this is no real difference in body-type or skill set between the genders.

I have also noticed that in seminars and similar educational settings men seem to be given much more ‘air-time’ for their opinions or validation. There could be several reasons for this – perhaps the teacher/moderator is subconsciously trying to maintain an equal balance of male/female response, despite the class containing far more women. It has also been well-documented that women are perceived as dominating discussions in which they have equal or minor roles. (I caught myself yesterday watching a panel show made up of 3 women and 4 men and thinking, “Oh, this is quite female-heavy!”)

Furthermore, it seems to me that groups made up solely of women are seen as less valid or taken less seriously than all-male or mixed gender groups. Perhaps it’s down to internalised patriarchal notions of authority being associated with typically masculine traits (a deep voice or a large, imposing body) or perhaps it’s that men are socialised to be more confident and believe that what they say is worth saying (this is, I think, also what leads to me being seen as more ‘naturally charismatic’).

Anyway, those were just some thoughts while I put off writing my essays. Please leave any insights etc. in the comments 🙂


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