Okidokey. Look, I know I’m a cis-gendered white male, so I get that I have privilege issues, and I need to acknowledge that up front. If you don’t feel like listening to what I have to say, that’s your right.
On the other hand, I’m gay and atheist, and unlike the new generation, I grew up when that meant being spit on, beat up, raped or killed for being who I am – far more so than it does today.
I’ve lived in terror, learned to fight back, worked to change public opinion, been beaten, used, taken advantage of sexually; I’ve been told by people in uniform that since I was gay it probably wasn’t REALLY rape, was it, now. I’ve been shouted at by evangelicals and Phelps clones, been told I am dirty, disgusting, an offense against the creator, an abomination only worthy of death. I’ve protested against treating people Of ANY gender, genetic origin, political creed or gender preference, in a discriminatory fashion. And I agree that there are some serious issues with how women are treated – in public and in private – by cis-gendered hetero men of all origins. I also agree that as a man I am only capable of understanding a small portion of what it means to be a woman.
You can probably tell I’m leading up to a ‘but’ here, though. So here is my caveat:
The thing is that just like with the treatment of gays, lesbians, transgendered and otherwise queer individuals, the problems won’t stop unless we win hearts and minds. – ACT UP didn’t accomplish as much for gay rights as the nationwide movement to come out to parents, siblings, and friends, and put a personal, friendly, relatable face on the problem.
There are times when the hatred of an oppressor is justified – indeed, the only thing that is capable of sustaining one through a dark time. I’m not disputing that – I’ve been there in my own way.
But that hatred becomes self-defeating when it helps your oppressors create caricatures of you, and you of them; it stops dialogue and change dead.
It becomes a hindrance when it blinds you to potential allies – people who may be privileged in one way or another, but who abhor what is being done to you.
And it becomes delusional when it allows you to engage in the same hate speech against your oppressors that they would use against you in your place. I’m speaking to you, Michelle.
There are people both outside and inside the feminist movement who understand this: people like Theresa Warburton and Joshua Cerretti, who wrote an insightful article on white privilege, and also Dr. Nerdlove. – I don’t always agree with everything they say, but they aren’t vilifying me for existing, and seem interested in engaging all comers in a dialogue; that’s all I really ask of anyone.
I have lived on both sides of privilege – And I know that I can never be free of that taint, because many hardcore feminists will only see me for my gender and the color of my skin. They will name me oppressor. They will argue that I’m serving to uphold white male privilege – when I’ve spent my life (and blood – literally) working against it. It reminds me very much of how I was treated when I wore a dress or held hands with another man or marched for civil rights for alternative gender preferences. And it makes me sad that anyone part of a people oppressed would turn to oppression themselves.