The Benefits of Being Male

AS A PERSON WHO IDENTIFIES AS “MALE,” was socialized as a
male, and is assumed by others to be male, I don’t often realize the
benefits or privileges I enjoy that women, transgender, and
transsexual people don’t share with me. These benefits are
economic, social, political, cultural, and physical. This exercise
helps men understand how sexism works in our favor on many
different levels.

The exercise is designed for all-male or mixed-gender groups in
which the males participate and others, if there are any, actively
observe. This exercise helps males see and acknowledge just how
extensive and pervasive sexist benefits truly are.

Guidelines for Getting Ready

Tell the group that you are going to read a series of statements and
that each male to whom a statement applies should stand up after
that statement is read. Tell the group that all the males are being
asked to participate, and others are being asked to observe.
Those who are physically unable to stand may raise their hand to
indicate that they are part of the group standing.
Each participant should decide for himself whether the statement
applies to him or not.

If they are unwilling to stand for a particular statement that applies
to them, they may pass for that statement, but should notice any
feelings they have about not standing.
The exercise should be done in silence to help participants notice
feelings that come up during the exercise and to make it safer for
all participants.

After a statement is read and people have stood for a few moments,
ask participants to sit down and read the next statement.

Begin the Exercise: a Male Benefits Checklist

Please stand up (or if you’re unable to stand, raise your hand to
indicate agreement) if the following statement applies to you:

  1. Your forefathers, including your father, had more opportunities to advance themselves economically than your foremothers.
  2. Your father had more educational opportunities than your mother.
  3. The boys in your extended family, including yourself, had more financial resources, emotional support or encouragement
    for pursuing academic, work or career goals than the girls.
  4. You lived in or attended a school district where the textbooks and other classroom materials reflected men as the normal heroes and builders of the United States, and there was little mention of the contributions of women to our society.
  5. You attend or attended a school where boys were encouraged to take math and science, called on more in class, and given more attention and funding for athletic programs than girls.
  6. You received job training, educational or travel opportunities from serving in the military.
  7. You received job training in a program where there were few or no women, or where women were sexually harassed.
  8. You have received a job, job interview, job training or internship through personal connections with other men.
  9. You worked or work in a job where women made less for doing comparable work or did more menial jobs.
  10. You work in a job, career or profession, or in an agency or organization in which there are few women in leadership positions, or the work has less status because women are in leadership positions.
  11. You live in a city or region in which domestic violence, sexual assault are serious problems for women.
  12. You generally feel safe when hiking in the woods, in the mountains, on the beach or in other rural settings. (Note to facilitator: this statement may exclude most men of color.)
  13. When you turn on the TV, you routinely see men in positions of leadership, male sports, men portrayed as heroes, and in a wide variety of other roles.
  14. When you have medical procedures done to you, or take prescribed medicines and other health treatments you can assume they were tested and proven safe on men.
  15. You have seen or heard men in positions of authority belittle women’s contributions, women’s writing or music, women’s intelligence, or physical strength, or make other comments about women being inferior to men.
  16. You know where you can have access to sex from women for money in the city or region where you live.
  17. You can have access to sexually revealing images of women whenever you want them, from magazines, the Internet, bookstores, video stores or pornography outlets.
  18. You have employed women earning much less than you do for childcare, cooking, cleaning, clerical services, nursing, or other services.
  19. In your family women do more of the housecleaning, cooking, childcare, washing or other caretaking than you or other men do.
  20. Most of the clothes you wear have been made by women of color in this country and abroad who are paid little for their work.
  21. The computers and other electronic products you use such as TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens, phones, and computers are made by underpaid women in this and other countries.
  22. In your community it is harder for women to get housing loans, small business loans, agricultural loans or car loans than it is for men of similar qualifications.
  23. In your community women are routinely charged more for haircutting, cleaning, cars, or other services or products.
  24. You don’t need to think about sexism every day. You can decide when and where you deal with it.


Group discussion

After the exercise ask people to pair up (with someone of the same
gender if it is a mixed-gender group) to talk about what feelings
and thoughts came up for them participating in (or observing) the

Reassemble the group and facilitate a group discussion of the
feelings, thoughts, reflections, and insights that people want to

This is not a stand-alone exercise. It should only be conducted in
the context of a workshop or talk on sexism, power, violence, and
safety that allows the group to process the feelings, thoughts, and
issues which arise from participating in the exercise.

For further information on these issues see Men’s Work: How to
Stop the Violence that Tears Our Lives Apart by Paul Kivel.
(Hazelden 1998), and Helping Teens Stop Violence: A Practical
Guide for Parents, Counselors and Educators by Allan Creighton
with Paul Kivel (Hunter House Publishers 1992).

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