A Bit of Fun – and Issues of Priviledge and Oppression

I stumbled on a blog titled the Pervocracy and the following post in there, The People You Meet When You Write about Rape: http://pervocracy.blogspot.fi/2010/10/people-you-meet-when-you-write-about.html

The list is both accurate and funny. Though some of the rape apologist types are slightly exaggerated, none are made up. I have encountered those arguments in rape discussions around the Internet, in the papers and sometimes, in my own social circles. If you want to have a bit of fun at the expense of rape apologists, read the post! But I should warn you, the comments turn somewhat ugly. The funny thing is, you can find many of the ridiculed arguments right there in the comments, proving that there really are people who use those arguments in rape discussions. Whether that’s hilarious or horrible, is up to you…

I thought the way Holly, the author, responds to these arguments was somehow refreshing because instead of trying to be polite to everyone – as feminists often feel compelled to do, to avoid feeding the stereotype of angry women who froth at the mouth as they fight against perceived injustices – she just doesn’t bother. And why should she be nice and polite to people who don’t extend the same courtesy to her?

One comment in there got my attention because it deals with something I touched on in my previous post on how to talk about sexism. I wrote about how men sometimes feel uncomfortable when women talk about sexism because they feel wrongly accused, or in some cases, guilty for having been inadvertently sexist in the past. I totally failed to point out that sometimes men perceive hostility from feminists even when there is none. I’ll just quote Laura’s comment because she explains it so well:

I have something to point out to people who find this to be a “hostile” environment, that I’ve learned from trying to be a good ally in queer, racialized, and other spaces.

Privilege can be uncomfortable. If you are in a space in which you are privileged, and you feel uncomfortable, it’s what you do with that discomfort that matters. 99% of the time, it’s because you’re feeling the weight of your privilege, not because you’ve done anything wrong personally at that moment, or that anyone is saying you have, or that less privileged people are doing anything wrong or hostile or unfair to you (though they may turn hostile if you start getting defensive…read on).

Part of being a good ally is learning to live with your discomfort and not get defensive. It’s recognizing that people have a right to be angry about their oppression and that their anger is probably NOT directed at you unless you’ve done something specific to provoke it. If you find yourself getting defensive, it almost always means you need to examine your privilege and/or the topic more carefully.

The people who get the most defensive are the people who abuse their privilege (and are sexist/racist/homophobic/classist/etc assholes). So when you get defensive, people start to feel like you’re one of those people, and that’s what escalates the situation. But 99% of the time, there’s nothing to get defensive about in the first place, because the anger you’re perceiving (initially) is not directed at you personally, even if it feels like it!

(this is where feminists critiquing patriarchy/rape culture turns into “all feminists hate men!!” or “women think all men are rapists” – that’s male privilege getting too defensive!)

Another big part of being an ally, possibly the most important part, is listening to what people say about their oppression. The Gabby’s Playhouse comic that someone linked to is all about this. This is basic social theory: the oppressed know INFINITELY more about their oppression than their oppressors do. If you are not a person of colour, or someone who has studied racism extensively, you do not understand racism as well as a person who lives with it daily, therefore, you should listen when someone explains something about racism to you. And you should not get defensive or try to correct them, because they are way more likely to be right than you are. Period.

In sum: if you are in a space in which you have privilege, and you find yourself getting defensive, YOUR PRIVILEGE is probably the reason, and you need to check it, and start really listening to people, rather than responding defensively and pissing people off.
Even if you are frustrated. Even if you don’t get it. Even if you think the original post is ‘hostile’ – people are allowed to be angry once in a while (especially within their own spaces). Or maybe even a little bit, all the time. Because they are oppressed, all the time.

Note: this is not to say that you can’t discuss anything with anyone, ever. Just that, when you have privilege in a situation, you need to do it carefully because your privilege creates massive blind spots.

So there! That explains pretty well the persistent misconception that feminists hate men. We don’t hate men. We hate being oppressed. We are allowed to express anger and frustration at our circumstances, and men who also hate gender inequality should not take those expressions of anger personally. If you’re not a sexist moron, don’t get upset when feminists make fun of sexist morons!

Finally, I’d like to point out that I still stand behind the statement I made in my previous post. Women won’t gain anything by being sexist in return, so when we talk about sexism, it would be wise to make it clear who we are accusing of sexism. Is it all men? Is it most of the men you know? Is it all your male colleagues? Or is it just your boss who thinks your only qualification is looking good in a skirt?

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About inmyinternest

A thirty-something woman, watching the world turn
This entry was posted in Equality, Feminism, Rape and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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