Navigating the Rocky Shores of Oppression and Redemption

Change is hard. Real advancement, real improvement, for people left out in the cold takes thoughtful work. It takes courage. It takes intelligence. It takes a stubborn refusal to accept the status quo. It also requires oppressors open their eyes. That means all oppressors, including those who are oppressed in other ways. Some folks find that hard to do. Too many who want to fix the world only want to fix it for themselves, or at the very least cannot be brought to care for the plight of others. Sometimes you can explain that to them, sometimes you cannot, and sometimes you go about doing so the wrong way.

For some time now cis, white feminists have dominated discussions of feminism. They erase the particular experiences of WoC and some are outright antagonistic toward trans women. They have controlled the narrative for so long that the changing tides of the discussion, currents guiding the fight to and for those who have been ignored, seem to make it difficult for them to navigate. Unwilling to see that the seas are no longer the same, these “intrepid sailors” row into treacherous waters, steering their boats into those they should be sailing along side.

OK, enough with the sailing metaphors. The simple fact of the matter is too often when cis, white, upper middle class (and let us not forget to attach that “upper”) forget that there are struggles for women besides themselves. They behave in, at best, negligent ways. This would not be a horrible thing in and of itself, just a challenge to overcome, one that would be easy to overcome, if they would listen. Many times, however, when WoC, or trans women, try to explain their position, the dominant group, white, cis women, get defensive.

We are told we are too touchy, a stinging, hypocritical remark if ever there was one. The same retort the patriarchy has thrown at feminism for years is bandied about by so-called feminists defending what privilege they have. For decades they have claimed they should not have to play nice in the struggle against male privilege, but somehow we are expected to do the same in our struggles. Now, after just a few years of us raising our voices and refusing to be put in a corner, now they cry crocodile tears, writing articles on how we are creating a toxic environment for feminism. I have been witness to more than my fair share of these “attacks” so let me share with you with what I most often observe:

Step one) Cis, White Feminist makes a problematic/erasing statement
Step two) one or more Women of Color, and/or trans women point out why that statement is problematic/erasing
Step three) Cis, White Feminist attacks/erases further
Step four) WoC/trans women get angry
Step five) Cis, White Feminist cries because she is being “picked on.”

To be sure, there are those that do want to learn from our experiences. There are those out there who, when called out, want to know about our experiences and how they can do better. Likewise, there are those who, when faced with this honest inquiry, laugh and say it is not their job to educate privileged people. That is, of course, bullshit, and most of us working to be heard, and to make sure all oppressed people are heard, know the bloggers/social media junkies who do this are really bad jokes.

Wasting bandwidth defending the “beleaguered” cis, white women from call outs, when so many of our sisters face far worse that is ridiculous. To be sure, not every article, every rally, every speech needs to directly address our issues. It is impossible to make everyone’s voice heard at once. When the voiceless demand to be heard though, when they finally speak up, the correct response is not to say “wait your turn,” especially if you consider yourself a radical, but to ask, “what can we do to help amplify your concerns?” Many of you do not mean to be problematic and erasing. That’s great, but if you accidentally elbow someone in the face, do you get angry at the person for cursing out loud, or do you offer an apology and help? Just something to think about.

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