This is What Male Privilege Smells Like

August 28, 2012

Our cabin is at the end of a narrow, dead-end gravel drive, that most people can’t find even when with directions. We’re on a ridge that makes a long point on one fork or another of the Chippewa River, one of the few designated a “wild river” by the State. There are no public landings on the little lake it flows into, or upstream for many miles, either. Now and then a kayak or two, or a group of canoeists paddle by, but not often, and our place is almost invisible from the water.

My girlfriend and I have been here, just the two of us, for almost a month this trip, as we often are. In the twenty years I’ve owned this place, I have called the sheriff perhaps three times, with complaints about kids on ATVs, or someone lighting fireworks out on the lake.

home sweet home in the woods

We swim naked in the river, in a sheltered spot that no one can see unless they’re trying to. I’ve spent many nights here all alone, too, and I’ve never really worried about staying safe.

And yet…

Now that my dog Ruby, the German Shepherd, is gone:
–We carry two-way radios when we are alone, so we can reach one another if we need to.
–We have a code word we use to call to one another if one of us is swimming or alone; it’s a derivative of the “Men on the Land” warning used at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
—We keep a loaded shotgun in the cabin to scare off any intruders. It is very effective.

Today, T was out in the water, clearing away a deadfall that had come with the last high water; I spotted four men walking upstream toward her from their fishing boats.
In all likelihood, we were perfectly safe. They probably had no idea that we were there, or that either of us was vulnerable. They most likely meant no harm.

And yet…
Alix Dobkin’s song, “Some Boys,” came into my mind. And the lyrics told me a different story.

Only one…
Maybe there’s no harm done
But more than two
Like as not they’re out to get you…

So I called to her with our code word, and she stopped what she was doing and came up the hill to the cabin.

Do men take these steps to protect themselves? Do they ever have to stop and consider the possible threat to their safety–to their very lives–that other men, unknown men, represent?

I don’t think so. And this freedom from fear that they enjoy, without thought, or care, or worry–this is what male privilege smells like.


4 Responses to “This is What Male Privilege Smells Like”

  1. Bev Jo Says:

    Thank you so much, Kitty! So beautifully said, and so true. Your cabin is lovely and your land and water sound perfect. I’m glad you have that shotgun.

  2. KittyBarber Says:

    Thanks, Bev–the photo is our bedroom, the place is much bigger than this!

  3. Masha Sabina Says:

    Yes, a lovely piece of writing and illustrates very poignantly how we have to make our way in this world. A well-trained dog is definitely a great adjunct to a woman’s survival strategy.. as is the shotgun.

  4. Thanks a ton for utilizing time to post “This is What Male Privilege
    Smells Like | kittybarber”. Thank you so much yet again ,Frankie

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