Barring the abolition of gender and patriarchy (which is not impossible), men can not absolve themselves of their privilege and status as oppressors. This is not to say that men can not make ethical decisions and actively try to confront, address, and take accountability for their socialization and privilege. Men should do this. Men need to do this in order to be decent human beings. What I am saying is that regardless of whether or not a man takes steps to confront his privilege over women and attempt to live a life free from misogynist treatment of women, society will still assign him privilege and treat him as superior to women. He will still be free from the likelihood that he will be raped. He will still be more likely to be in positions of power (and see people like him represented in positions of power). He will be more likely to be promoted. He will be paid more. He will still pay less for health insurance (in the US anyway). He will be able to access any reproductive health care that he chooses. He will be less likely to be abused by his domestic partner. Less likely to be killed by him.
Even if he is aware of his male privilege and confronts it, it is still there. Even if he acknowledges it, he was still socialized to be confident, assertive. To believe that he was intelligent. To believe that his appearance isn’t the most important thing about him. To believe that his value isn’t dependent on his body. To believe that his purpose in life wasn’t to be a sexual object. To believe that he is entitled to women’s bodies. To believe that his existence matters with out qualifications. He can know that he experienced this male socialization, and know that he is privileged because of it, and even be critical of this privilege but it doesn’t change the fact that the privilege exists. It doesn’t change the fact that from literally infancy he was told that he was superior to women. It doesn’t absolve him of the inherent privilege that is growing up being told that you are powerful, that you should be assertive and confident, and that you are not subservient to anyone. Being told that you matter is a privilege. Understanding that it is a privilege does not make it go away. You can not erase that socialization. And to be frank, for some parts of it, you shouldn’t. Men do deserve to believe that they should be confident and assertive. The issue is not that it is bad to be confident or assertive – it is that only girls are not taught to be those things. We are taught to be docile and submissive. It is a part of male privilege to be told you matter, but it isn’t bad to be told you matter – only that you matter more than women, or that women don’t matter at all. All people should be taught to believe they matter – but only men are taught this.
A man may understand that he is no better than women, but that does not change the fact that society will treat him as he is. Oppression does not exist on an individual basis. Oppression operates on a class basis. An individual man acting as a decent human being and acknowledging that a system of male supremacy is wrong does not change the fact that male supremacy (patriarchy) exists, and treats him as superior to women. Knowing that patriarchy is wrong doesn’t mean that patriarchy doesn’t award you privilege. Even if you are aware that it is wrong, that does not prevent you from being treated as if you are superior to women, and being treated as superior to women is a privilege.
“He will still be free from the likelihood that he will be raped. He will still be more likely to be in positions of power (and see people like him represented in positions of power). He will be more likely to be promoted. He will be paid more. He will still pay less for health insurance (in the US anyway). He will be able to access any reproductive health care that he chooses. He will be less likely to be abused by his domestic partner. Less likely to be killed by him.” Unless you are trans (which isn’t a choice for some of us contrary to popular belief) in which case the opposite is true.