Special privileges and status are granted to males in patriarchal societies. These are societies defined by male supremacy, in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. With systemic subordination of women, males gain economic, political, social, educational, and practical advantages that are more or less unavailable to women. The long-standing and unquestioned nature of such patriarchal systems, reinforced over generations, tends to make privilege invisible to holders; it can lead males who benefit from such privilege to ascribe their special status to their owned individual merits and achievements, rather than to unearned advantages.
In the field of sociology, male privilege is seen as embedded in the structure of social institutions, as when men are often assigned authority over women in the workforce, and benefit from women's traditional caretaking role. Privileges can be classified as either positive or negative, depending on how they affect the rest of society. Women's studies scholar Peggy McIntosh writes:
We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages that we can work to spread, to the point where they are not advantages at all but simply part of the normal civic and social fabric, and negative types of advantage that unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies.
Positive advantages include having such things as adequate nutrition, shelter, and health care, whereas negative advantages accompanying male privilege include such things as the expectation that a man will have a better chance than a comparably qualified woman of being hired for a job, as well as being paid more than a woman for the same job.