Penis Envy and Privilege

The other day, I had my arms wrapped around my husband, my head resting on his solid chest, feeling his hands in my hair, and I was struck suddenly by this incredible thought: I wish I were a man. I am not one to compete or compare myself with other women; I believe that we are all on divergent roads, and we land where we need to, when we need to. Competing is a waste of time. But I do compete with my husband. Who makes more money…he does, even though I have two degrees above him and have spent 25 years in school after HS. Who has the hardest day or faces the most challenges each day …I do because I have to deal with children and their sensitive and unique personalities, temper tantrums, etc. Who works harder…I do because I write books and try to get published, take care of the kids and school stuff, and I work part-time as a College Instructor. He goes to work without screaming, fighting kids in the car; he can travel without having to listen to whining or tend to the needs of his children; he has lunch breaks and dinners with co-workers; he can leave work in the middle of the day and go to movies, drive aimlessly in a quiet car until he gets his thoughts together, or go to the mall and walk around without small, screaming, and clingy appendages strapped to his hips, his heart, his waist, his body, his ears. He thinks I have it better, easier, because I am at home with the kids, and this perspective drives me crazy, makes me want to hurl sharp and metallic objects at his head. I love my husband — he’s a wonderful father to our kids, and he is supportive of me and my goals. But he is a man, he is privileged, he knows it, and he enjoys the benefits of possessing the almighty genitalia that renders him king of home and public spaces.

I have blogged about penis envy before, but in this one, I am listing reasons why I wish I were a man — a penis possessor — a privileged member of the opposite sex who is born into an established set of advantages not awarded to women. And I do so begrudgingly, satirically, my fingers pounding onto my keyboard with excess frustrations only women know and feel.

1. The Cleanup Cant: A penis and a full-time job in a patriarchal world endows men with the freedom to decline cleaning up after themselves, after others, or the house. Research shows that most couples fight over three things: money, kids, and cleaning the house. Even women with full-time jobs and PhD’s are expected to do the house-cleaning as if it is a natural inclination for us to fall upon our hands and knees scrubbing, mopping, dusting, and even doing the laundry. The penis is so high and mighty that it makes cleaning impossible for the man; after all, it is a woman’s job, falling upon her innumerable responsibilities because she just loves subjugating herself for others — willingly enslaved by the demands made upon her by her husband and kids. She wants nothing more than to take care of, nurture, and clean up after the waste and mess of those she loves. If she can’t sacrifice for them, she is not worthy of their love. So men leave their plates atop the kitchen table after they eat; they leave their urine stains all over the toilet seat for the nurturing women-folk to clean; they toss their shoes and clothing beside their beds for the wives to pick up and wash; they walk past the kitchen sink countless times in a day, not once considering cleaning them, or emptying the dishwasher and refilling it. Why? Because she will do it. After all, she enjoys it. It makes her feel useful.

2. Potty Posits: Ever wonder what they’re doing in the potty for forty minutes? With magazines and iPhones and the door locked? Have you ever tried going to the bathroom and locking the door behind you? Men go to the bathroom and disappear for thirty to forty minutes. Women go in, do their business, and get out. Men luxuriate in the business of bowel movements. I wish I could go to the bathroom and disappear for that long a period of time, reveling in the quiet and isolating haven of a small room without kids wanting, demanding, opening the door to watch, to talk, to whine, to fight, to demand food and drink, and my time. I haven’t been able to close the bathroom door in seven years, since my son was born. But men…they know this solitude several times a day. The privilege is theirs, and their time in a stall is just another moment of escape that evades us.

3. Guts and Glory: My personal pet peeve, men walk around shirtless, unabashedly exposing the voluminous and beer-swelled gut in all its glory. They drink as much as they want, they eat as much as they want, they gain a pound a week, and there is no shame, no guilt. Women still like them, still want to have sex with them, and still find them attractive. Women cannot get away with being fat, an extra five pounds forcibly dragging her back to the gym to sweat out the excess flesh her body is made to hold. We hide ourselves, turning off the lights when making love to our men lest they see the rolls of extra flesh limply lolling and bopping against them. And of course, it matters not that we gained the weight because we carried children — their children. What matters is that we are not perfect, no longer the thin embodiments of femininity we were when they first met us.

4. Ball Busters: Men love sports. They watch football on Sundays. And when football season is over, it ‘s baseball, or soccer, or basketball. It’s Golf on Fridays and Sundays, and weekend getaways. Golf, which is an acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden, is a successful man’s sport. All sports exclude women…they are played by men and for men. And please don’t spew the “well, I’m a woman and I love football/basketball/golf/baseball,” because you are few. The truth is that if you weren’t into the sports, your men would be into them anyway, and you would have to serve the food on football Sunday to his clansmen while they hooted and burped their way to climax over scores and steals and other stupid ballgame privileges endowed to men. The fact that a very small number of women appreciate these sports does not take away from the fact that they were created for men, by men, with the understanding that women were not part of the male-bonding/drinking/burping dance of balls and balls.

5. Hairy Harry: Men have hair on their backs, their legs, their private areas, their under arms, and on their faces. They’re men — manly, masculine men, and hair all over their bodies makes them acceptable to society. Women cannot have a solitary chin hair protruding from the smooth and lasered contours of her face. Her pits, her private spaces, her legs, and her mustache have to be waxed, shaved, or lasered off. She is masculine, a butch, if she has hair upon her. Her body-length skin has to be soft and smooth and hair-free, or else she is an aberration, an unwanted, a disgusting example of femininity. Of course, it wasn’t until 1915 that a campaign led by marketers and Harpers Bazaar told women that their hair was “objectionable.”It doesn’t matter that when you go to other countries, like in Italy, for example, women let the hair grow long and unhindered because it is acceptable. And why shouldn’t it? We are supposed to have hair covering our bodies to provide us with warmth. It is in our nature to be hairy, some more so than others, but it is now only acceptable for men. Men’s bodies are not under the control of society; their bodies belong to them, and they can be as natural as the air we breathe. Women’s bodies are constantly under constant definitions, restrictions, controls, and augmentations — and we are not worthy unless we subscribe to these notions of femininity — prescribed by the privileged sex, of course.

6. Passion vs. Rage: Ever get passionate about something? So passionate that you raise your voice, clench your fists, turn red in the face with the want of getting your point across? If you’re a woman and you have, it’s more than likely that you’ve been called a bitch, a psycho, a PMSing nut, instructed to take a Midol to calm you down. Because you are a woman, you are not supposed to express disdain, rancor, aggression, or rage — especially towards other men. Harriet Lerner’s ‘The Dance of Anger‘ exposes how women’s anger is discouraged, but masculine anger is rewarded. Men get angry; they yell, scream, rage, and even throw punches, but they are allowed to behave this way: they are men – privileged, passionate. We are bitches, out of control, and need psychotherapy or a chill pill. Our passions, when expressed with the privileged responses alloted to men — with anger, with vehemence, with revolt — are punished. We are punished — we are sued for divorce, broken up with, ignored, called names, and sometimes, we even have our kids taken away from us.

Of course, there are more examples I can think of, but I cannot fit the myriad of gender inequalities and discrepancies in this one post. To say that we live in an unfair world in which men are born with advantages that evade women because of their gender is obvious and unfair. But I keep hoping that one day, perhaps in time for my daughter’s rise to womanhood, some of these will change — embracing her with acceptance instead of excluding her because she lacks the things men take for granted — the penis, yes, but more so what the penis represents: freedom, privilege, and advantage.

What can you think of that I have been remiss to consider? Let me know!

Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.

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About Marinagraphy

Marina is a writer who focuses her work on the need for female empowerment. She writes articles, books, and blogs centered on female experiences related to motherhood, female agency, feminism, and building positive images for young girls and women. She currently teaches Literature, Writing, and Women's Studies on the College level.

30 Responses to Penis Envy and Privilege

  1. John Jacob says:

    I’m not sure what type of men you have been dealing with, but it seems to me that maybe it is just your husbands habits that bother you so much? Maybe you should talk with him about all of your frustrations. If he is a decent partner, he will listen and try to adjust his behavior.

    I’m a married man, and we view our marriage as a partnership, as equals. If my wife is busy with something, I clean or do dishes, if I am busy, she does. It’s not a competition. And i’m not sure why you feel that cleaning the house the servile or degrading. My wife and I both work, both clean, and both look after children.

    I guess I just don’t understand where all of the anger and frustration is coming from. Consider yourself fortunate that you can afford a housecleaner, that you can afford to be at home during the day, that you and your husband don’t have to work multiple jobs just to get by. Maybe you just need to get some better men in your life.

  2. Leslie says:

    I don’t doubt that some of Freud’s female patients confessed to him about this. What’s incomplete in Freud’s study of this subject is that some males feel “Venus Envy!”! I think the two “syndromes” (If you want to call it that) cut across gender lines and can be more generally called “Genital Envy”.

    When I first saw a girl’s pussy at the age of 6, I immediately felt “Venus Envy”! I thought it made her look divine! It made her seem more beautiful and special somehow, even superior. She didn’t need to have the appendage I had, making mine look superfluous. I felt inferior! I even envied the way she urinated, by “dropping a squat”, something I imitated myself for a while.

    As I grew up, realising what girls have made me look at them as gods! I still worship the ground they walk on, despite the personal shortcomings and faults they may have. (When I learned about menstruation, I thought it’s a sign from nature that women are more important and special.) I never have gotten over this and never will I’m happy to say! When I reached puberty my main sexual interest and fantasy always centered around giving women oral pleasure, something else that I will never “outgrow”. It’s me; it’s who I am. don’t know what causes a male to feel the way I’ve always felt, but I don’t really care. Whenever I see a woman’s vagina, I still feel envy! Most all are pleased to hear how I feel!

  3. Jesse K says:

    This isn’t so much comparing as it is complaining. I feel like she used this article to vent her feelings, not as a ponder or opinion. Maybe we have some advantages. But the truth is we as men have a lot of things that you are neglecting to mention. No matter what way you look at it we as men always have more stress thinking about how to support our family. Now you might think to yourself, hey I think about that a lot too. But still you always have this subconscious feeling of support, because you know in the back of your mind your husband is taking care of a lot of it. (Ask a single mother this and I’m sure she will tell you it’s hard to take all that stress alone) Now when I say this we are assuming the man is healthy mentally. Also, most men that have their priorities set right, will help clean the house. A lot of men who don’t help, do so because it is built into us to worry about how to feed our family and to keep them safe. Women naturally think to themselves “boy the house is dirty, I think I’ll start cleaning” men do not get this natural “sense” our bodies are designed differently, to do different purposes. All men have to remember is to respect your wife and help her with kids and work, then she won’t feel unappreciated. But I do agree that women have it harder. But I think the purpose for this is so men can honour women by making things easier. Unfortunately a lot of men don’t see it this way, and some day maybe men will rise up and engage in subset again.

  4. a.v.o.d.m says:

    I have questioned god many times about the penis and vagina issue. Why do we have to have male and female parts?! Well, the penis and vagina are suppose to compliment each other for gender identity and procreation(mature married adults). Yeah, the males tend to have a slight advantage over the females: they can stand up to pee, they don’t have to worry about having periods, annoying yeast infections(or smelling like tuna after having soo much sex (if its even worth it at times); their reputations don’t get as tattered as the females and, they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant(think about the abortion rights (I,personaly am against it but, I feel woman has the right to choose) issues. But, in all seriousness, I wouldn’t want a DAMN PENIS because in my opinion, the man stands to loose a lot more than the female. Why? Because if that so called necessary evil appendage(penis) falls off from getting too hard, gets hacked off for committing a sexual crime(this was practiced in biblical times and in some countries now!) guese what: the male cannot and will not inherit the kingdom of god for those particular reasons because that penis defines his sexual identity and almost deteriorates his MANHOOD(still a man without the handicap of a third leg!). Females(unless she has a sex change(that includes males) don’t share in that sort of unprivileged stigma about not entering the kingdom of god because she is still a functional female without the stigma of a male without a functional penis! Um,hm. I know what some of you guys are thinking: fix, get or grow another penis. Sorry, guys! That feeling of that soo called nice ejaculation(penis) won’t look nor feel the same because that twinge of pain and discomfort will be a vengeful reminder( a little gloating on my behalf) that having a vagina has its advantages too because how the hell did all of us(except adam and eve) get here in the first place!!!. And, when it comes to taking a SHIT both males and females have to take a squat from time to time. Soo, much for the (boner/hard on ) guys!!! lol. I am not a lesbian nor do I hate men. I hate some of the stupid shit they say or do and that includes doggish males who leave unnecessary fleas behind them!!! PEACE!!!.

  5. Harry Lime says:

    I hate to say it, but I do not share in the stereotype of a male. i do not watch television sports and have little interest in watching a bunch of overweight spoiled children participate in quasi-athletic games. I do not walk around shirtless and I watch what I eat to not gain weight.
    Am I not macho enough? I served honorably in the Army and worked much of my life as a cop, fighting bad guys physically hand to hand in many cases and taking the injuries that sometimes went with it.
    And, by the way, even though I am very mechanical because of my individual background, along the way I had one girlfriend who could fix the engine problems on any car and another who could do fantastic auto body work and could fix VW’s on the fly. Neither one had a penis, but, if they di somewhere under all of the rest, I might still have loved them all the same.

  6. Chris says:

    I agree with William. I admit i’m a bit disorganized, but my wife is no better. I workout, and at 48 have a pretty nice sixpack, and its not in the fridge. I watch sports here and there, but certainly in no ways obsessively. I keep myself neatly groomed, although admit to body hair issues. Sorry, its hard to shave the back. And I’m way more even tempered than most of the women I know. Furthermore, I don’t feel I’m an exception on most of this; most of the men I know don’t fit your decription as well as most of the women I know do. However, one thing I agree with: given the choice, I’ll keep my penis. Anyday. You women do have things you deal with that I can do without. Nuff said!

  7. Robert Higgins says:

    Bottom line: I opened the car door for you. I put my coat on the mud on the ground for you to walk over. I go to work everyday to feed you and our family (and me). I love you and everything you do. And I try and try and yet, you’re still not satisfied. What else do I have to do?

  8. John Huth says:

    Generalization about genders is pretty common, and while I’ll cop to some of these traits. As I write this, I ponder my jobs for the day: doing the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning out the refrigerator, making sure my daughter gets her eye drops in once she wakes up. All this while waiting for my wife to return from three weeks off working.

    In my spare time, I’m trying to finish editing my book and taking care of my work. So….I’m not sure what envy this should engender?

    • Huth, thank you for your candor and for responding to this post. There are always exceptions to the rule, and you are one very good example. However, as general as these notions may sound, they are a reality for many women. The exceptions are nice and they show progress, but they are still few and far in between. Good luck on your book.

  9. randomanonymous says:

    A lot of stereotypes here and generalizations. All men aren’t like that nor have all of those advantages in society, and there are many advantages that women have over men. Just because you pointed out some things that men have over women – and a bunch of them aren’t even true, like the angry thing, men aren’t praised for being angry at all – doesn’t mean women have it worse. Men could make a list of things that is just as long as this. Take for example, the “never hit a girl” saying. If a man/boy hit a women/girl, he would most definitely get in a lot of trouble, whether it be legal or not. However, in society if a women hits a man, it is overlooked and often deemed “not a big deal”. I’m certainly not saying that Women have it better, but I am saying we each have advantages and privileges for being a certain sex, and we can’t try and complain about how the other has it easier because we aren’t them and we cannot understand what we haven’t experienced ourselves.

    • MarinaDelVecchio says:

       @randomanonymous Hey there. Thanks for visiting and commenting on this subject. I see that you got irritated with my lack of response, but I work, so I just logged on to see your comment. I do agree with you that not all men are privileged — I tend to write from my own life experiences. I don’t think women have it worse — at least not in all cases. I think men have it just as bad. I see the way my own kids get picked on because they don’t act like boys and girls are expected to act — and they’re just in preschool. Our society places a great deal of pressure on men to be tough and act as the providers of their families. That places a lot of stress on them — stress that many women don’t experience because they (some of them) stay at home with the children. I think it’s important not to play the competitive game of who’s got it worse and talk to one another more — then we would see that men and women experience life differently, but they both experience the pressures of the economy, family, personal issues and conflicts. And I definitely agree that neither men nor women should be hitting one another. I don’t buy into the double standard of he can’t hit, but it’s OK if she does. You make excellent points, and I appreciate you coming on here and relating them to me. 

  10. WilliamBrianMcCanless says:

    #3 — You must know a lot of brutishly inebriated, red-faced, pot-bellied, beer bros, because I’m not sitting around gaining weight and taking off my shirt. I train hard to have a great body, and I eat right. If I were fat, you would not see me with my shirt off.

    #4 — I don’t know a goddamn thing about sports, and most of my friends don’t either (we’re all business owners). To me, football might as well be a bunch of large farm animals stampeding over each other and do a homosexual dance under a gigantic yellow tuning fork clad in shiny spandex from time to time. I enjoy golfing, but not watching it, because it’s relaxing. I train Wing Chun kung fu and Muay Thai daily, but you’re not going to find me watching it on TV.

    #5 — I think you’re talking about gorillas. As far as women needing to be completely hairless — I can’t stand that! First of all, when a woman has a 100% clean shaven vagina I feel like I’m having sex with a 12 year old prepubescent little girl, I hate it. Most guys I know mirror that same disdain. I like well groomed hair down there, it shows maturity and it’s natural. I’ve dated several natural feminists who didn’t shave under their arms or their legs, and they were absolutely gorgeous to me. They ate right, exercised, and had a wonderful smell to them. I was very attracted by that.

    #6 — A man who can’t control his countenance isn’t much of a man. Being a man means being in control of yourself and your environment constantly and without waver. Men who get hopped up on testosterone binges and fly off the handle yelling like apes aren’t civilized, aren’t in control, and are more like children than any logical adult. If anything, women are allowed to fly off the handle — I expect that from them. They’ll calm down eventually. Men, on the other hand, I do NOT expect that from them. If I witness a man acting in such a manor, he is automatically not worth my time and I will never respect him as a man.

    You may want to stop generalizing.

  11. WilliamBrianMcCanless says:

    What the hell are you talking about? I’m a 25 year old man who works incredibly hard, and I don’t identify with any of the shit you just generalized about.

    #1 — I can’t STAND messes. Since I was a kid, unprovoked, I’ve been clean and organized. I have my share of disheveled spaces (I’m a work-at-home writer and artist), but you won’t see dirty dishes and piles of clothes and scummy counter tops. I can’t concentrate with too much of a mess, and concentration is vital to my income and trade.

    #2 — Why in the hell would I say in the bathroom that long? I’ve never met a fellow male that has done anything like that…. ever. I’ve actually never heard of such a thing. In my experience, women take forever in the bathroom. The only thing that takes me longer than average is a shower. I like to linger a little longer than most people.

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  13. roclafamilia says:

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

  14. Helaine says:

    Love to read your blogs. They are just about all i have time to read now adays. Well unless i read late at nite and regret it in the am…. Interesting Marina.

  15. Clairity says:

    LOL You’re too funny but I have to agree. I remember wishing often that I were a boy when I was growing up. I still am jealous of some of the things guys get to enjoy 😉

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  18. Danielle says:

    Many of those points hit home! It was a fun read … I can feel the frustration and let some of mine out too!

    Funny, my ds is very jealous of my dd who was born second. I tell my ds, just wait … you will be glad you are a male.

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  21. Hi Marina
    Nice one! Totally agree with all you say this time, except perhaps the issue of the “breadwinner” identity and the stresses that brings with it. If the penis-holder is the breadwinner as is often the case, then there is a lot of stress, anxiety, pressure and fear … of losing the job, of not making the budget etc. I am not a huge fan of the idea that women can “have it all”. Seen too many sad little kids, being shoved out the car door early in the morning and picked up at night, completely overexhausted and overstimulated. ( I was an educator for 35 years) That executive mom who was told she can have it all, will reap what she sows in time, as will the rest of the family. Sorry, if you give birth to kids, then take care of them. Growing a kid is a BIG job, not necessarily a full time one if you can access good child care, but a job nontheless. And don’t get me started on those who “choose” to give birth as a single parent. How could that possibly be a good idea? Accidents happen, but “choosing” to bring an innocent child into this world and then abandon it, for others to raise?
    But yes, still a great deal of strangely lopsided paradigms for family life; housework, kid care, even as you say, the holy sports events in some families. But you and your spouse are young and flexible enough and have enough real caring between you to figure these things out. Make your lists, number your concerns, rate the irritability factors and work on them together. In my family, one of the best solutions to a deep well of frustration over housework was hiring regular help. For some it is a matter of pride not to hire help, but if you are raising kids, remember that you are working a 24/7 job albeit it unpaid, and if there is a way to budget professional help, just do it! Maybe you can even barter services with a house cleaner!

    • Marina says:

      Hey Jillian, as always, love reading your comments. I just caved in and got a house-cleaner, but only because she is so cheap, and because cleaning the house by myself is not on my list of things to do. It also goes against my nature in feeling servile to others and domesticated. I could write a whole post on that!

  22. Idontcareish says:

    All that is true but it doesn’t make me want to be man because I still think being a woman is so much better !

    However, I just wanted to say that you talk about Italy and women not shaving but I’m sorry to tell you that this is just an old cliché. It may have been the case in the 1940s but since then every single woman shaves in Europe. France, Italy, Portugal, we have the same problems that Americans do. lol

    • Marina says:

      We all do, I suppose. I remember going to Cancun about ten years ago, and seeing a beautiful woman from Italy with hair on her arm pits. I though it was revolutionary! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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