I didn’t understand male privilege until I became a stay-at-home dad

When my wife returned to work after parental leave, I took my first trip to the grocery with two kids.

Little did I know I would return home feeling like a hero.

On a Monday morning, I pushed the green cart with flame decals through the second set of sliding doors and toward the deli. My 3-year-old son was strapped in the seat and my 3-month-old son was wrapped against my chest.


As a stay-a-home father strolling through the grocery, I felt conflicting emotions — love for caring for my sons and frustration with being an unemployed 37-year-old man.

At the deli, I exchanged pleasantries with a young woman behind the counter and ordered a pound of sliced turkey breast. I was immediately surrounded by a group of female employees. They leaned close to admire my infant son as he raised his bald head from the green cloth wrap.

“I never could get mine to like the wrap," one said.

“I bet y'all have so much fun together," another said.

“You are the best dad ever," another said.

I swelled with pride. Maybe they're right! Maybe I am the best dad ever.

I soaked in the praise before tossing my sliced turkey into the cart and heading toward the produce.

As I strolled, more comments came from fellow shoppers, and I absorbed them, giving little thought to the reason why I merited heightened attention.

“Nice baby wearing," a young woman said.

“That is one way to keep 'em warm," an elderly woman said.

“Man, you are taking this dad thing to the next level," a bag boy at checkout said.

The series of verbal high-fives inflated my ego and, after receiving the receipt from the cashier, I smiled and pushed our flaming green cart through the sliding doors like a rock star walking offstage.

I had no clue I was benefiting from male privilege.

I enjoy the attention I receive as a stay-at-home dad; it's nice to have impressed eyes turned on me.

My rationale for basking in the compliments is that I spend most of my time wading through dirty diapers, spit-up, and spilled Cheerios. I deserve some praise, right?

I thought so, until one Sunday morning I sipped coffee and read an article (a rare kids-free moment in the kitchen) about faux male feminists. The article included comments from Tal Peretz, a sociology professor at Auburn University, who described a concept called “the pedestal effect."

As I read, my male privilege became uncomfortably visible. The pedestal effect refers to when men receive undeserved praise, attention, and rewards for performing work traditionally done by women, like carrying a baby in a wrap.

At the grocery store, I willingly stepped on the pedestal and used my privilege to gain attention for basic child care.

And as I reflected on Peretz's words, other pedestal moments flashed in my mind. This realization was not something I could ignore.

If you believe in gender equality, it is not hard to understand why it is problematic to place one gender on a pedestal for doing the bare minimum, while another bears the bulk of the child care. Not only is it unfair, but it's also not in the best interests of families and can place stress on them when parenting roles are unbalanced.

For men who value gender equality and healthy families, assisting in lowering the pedestal is imperative.

After reading Peretz's comments, I wrestled with how to respond and, hopefully, how to help other dads become more aware of this privilege. I reached out to him to discuss the pedestal effect, and he offered practical ways to counter male privilege.

He reminded me of the complexity of privilege and how it operates on different levels — individual, interpersonal, institutional and structural.

We cannot dismantle institutions and structures by ourselves, but we can start with naming our privilege and giving credit to women wherever it is due.

Naming our privilege through raising awareness is a good place to begin, because men have been socialized to interact with women in particular ways, and it can be difficult for us to see how we are perpetuating gender inequality.

Peretz recommends using resources such as privilege checklists to identify your advantages. These resources can help us move unconscious thoughts and behaviors into the light of awareness. Ideally, this work will lead to interpersonal change.

Men can make the effort to closely listen to women to understand how they perceive male privilege. And, most importantly, we need to believe women.

Maybe you remain skeptical that a pedestal effect exists for fathers. Ask a mother whether she believes fathers benefit from undeserved praise. Her answer might surprise you. Men get attention and praise for doing work women do every day.

Raising awareness and listening are important steps, but I also wanted to know how to best respond when given undeserved attention.

Peretz recommends reacting “with humility and a sense of humor," while bringing attention and awareness back to the work women have been doing for a long time.

For example, at the deli, I could have redirected the conversation. I could've used one of these playful responses suggested by Peretz: “Yeah, I'm really glad that my wife did all the heavy lifting of pregnancy and childbirth so I'd get to enjoy this little monster," or “I really appreciate that, but it's nothing my mom didn't have to do for me!"

I want to do a better job of stepping off the pedestal and challenging sexist beliefs about parenting.

I want to better align myself with the women who have been doing this work for generations and assist them in creating more balanced roles within families. And I want to share the most important lesson I've learned while reflecting on this issue, which is that not only should I do this work because it is the right thing to do, but also because I need it.

Men need to be liberated from the rigid forms of masculinity that create a pedestal in the first place. Only when we step off them can we hope to be free.

This story originally appeared in the On Parenting section of The Washington Post and is reprinted here with permission.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minnesota police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has many breathing a sigh of relief. Even though the disturbing video evidence of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee is impossible to refute, it's incredibly hard to convict an officer of murder.

The United States judicial system is so preferential to law enforcement that even though the world saw murder in broad daylight, many were skeptical of whether he'd be convicted.

"Most people, I think, believe that it's a slam dunk," David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing, told the Washington Post before the trial. "But he said, "the reality of the law and the legal system is, it's just not."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.