Sick of having the meaningless minutiae argument thrown in their faces when they passionately talk about their middle or upper class “oppression”, progressives are trying to pacify public opinion by nicely stating that an individual is free to care about a multitude of social ills and hold them as more important than others.
As placating as the tone is, there is a significant qualm with this explanation, which omits one important aspect.
Not only do progressives claim their “problems” matter to them (which they’re fully entitled to): they claim they should matter to everyone else as well. Not only that, but they also claim the rest of society should “take a stand” regarding their grievances; that we are all morally obligated to do so, hence they try guilting us into joining their activism or threatening legal repercussions if we don’t share their views.
This is not Kumbaya; their attitude is a declaration of war, so to speak. If you don’t side with the “oppressed”, you are an oppressor yourself, even if you remain neutral.
This is another one about anti-feminists exploiting tragedies to prove that feminists don’t care about actual atrocities in terms of human rights and women’s rights in particular.
And instead of tragedy, you see opportunity – now’s your chance to prove you’ve been right all along.
You take to feminist pages, racial justice pages, anywhere you can find those “social justice warriors” whose anti-oppressive values bother you. And you bring up what you heard to make your case.
In an excellent demonstration of mental gymnastics, the author tries to paint anti-progressives as some sort of sociopaths who revel in the suffering of others just to “put down” the brave social justice crowd.
What you really mean: “I don’t actually care about these victims – but I’m willing to use them to put you down.”
This type of activist does not – and will never – get the basic logic of this conundrum: it’s not necessarily that they don’t cover important matters, but that what they do cover is absolutely ridiculous, contrived and the product of self-obsession.
This would be true regardless of having or not having more pressing matters to worry about. Stirring up racial division by promoting sensitivity to so-called microaggressions would be just as ludicrous and detrimental if no genuine racism existed any longer. Pointing out the so-called sexism in men’s words or actions, down to the air they exhale, would be harmful even in the absence of rape or the real oppression of women in backward theocracies.
The “problems” they raise are, 95% of the time (to be generous) complete non-issues. No comparison is needed in order to determine that.
However, it is even more annoying to digest such drivel after reading about these tragedies. It’s a bit like walking through a God-forsaken dump of a place where everyone is in rags and starving, straight into a posh neighbourhood where an entitled damsel complains that the champagne bottle hasn’t been cooled to her liking. And not only is she complaining but also claiming that everyone around her – including those who have it worse by far – should care and protest by her side. That her petty annoyance should become everyone’s cause.
So you’ve heard about some “real” oppression happening around the world – starving children in Africa, persecuted women in the Middle East. And now you want to know how US feminists can have the nerve to care about our own liberation.
To understand, think about the last time you had a so-called “first world problem” – for example, a broken cell phone. Did you decide not to get your phone fixed because there are starving children in Africa who don’t have phones at all?
That is such bullshit – comparing a very small but practical – as in real – issue with spreading Marxist propaganda to “solve inequalities in the world” and “obtain liberation”, based on exaggerated or made-up claims about suffering when someone asks where you are from or gives you a compliment in the street.
The phone being broken is a fact. You needing a phone is a fact. Phone calls save lives, you know. Especially when made to call an ambulance or the police. Phones are not a whim, and we are indeed lucky to have this technology.
Instead… what should I use as an example, out of the ever-expanding swamp of offences listed by feminists and progressives in general? It could be anything. Men taking up too much space on the subway. People asking you where you’re from or innocently asking whether a neutral stereotype about your ethnicity is true.
I’m adding the adjective and adverb because I was repeatedly presumed to be a thief, a prostitute and a “Gypsy whore” just because of where I come from – by fellow Eastern Europeans that is (exclusively Polish, regardless of the environment), but not by Brits, not even once. Of course I did live in Scotland so I’m not sure what the situation is south of the border. I’ve met people from all over the world, living in a youth hostel for almost half a year, and never had any stereotyping issues by anyone except Poles. Weird enough. And even they loosened up as we spent more time together and they figured out I was just a normal person, in spite of their initial prejudices. So I’m not “traumatised” and bitter. Life is what it is and assholes will be assholes, no matter where you go. My life did not become about them and their assumptions about me. My life is much more than that. And so should anyone’s be.
Strangely enough, when I met a family of Americans trying to settle in Scotland, they told me “you must hate Americans”, just as a default. And I never would discriminate against an individual because of their country’s fucked-up foreign policy – or anything based on where they’re from. People are people; they can can be of any make this universe provides.
Anyway, sorry to be ranting away.
I just mean I’ve had my fair share of discrimination – and was able to live with it, as long as it was not systemic and did not impact my chances in life. What some perceive as trauma is just a simple part of life – one that others get over quite easily. And when they overreact to things which are obviously not traumatic, it does become queasy.
Finding even more ludicrous articles on this subject seemed like a challenge – however, one swiftly turned up.
I actually think the other side of the debate can come up with a good comeback to the famous “check your privilege”. It would be “check your logic”.
We get it. There are a lot of horrible things happening all over the world, including the United States.
But the issue here is that trying to tell people they can’t be angry about their oppression because others may be more oppressed is not activism. This is derailing.
I personally think it’s a positive sign when people are aware of human rights injustices and are invested in changing them. But when that comes at the expense of belittling another person’s personal struggles, I no longer think that’s useful.
In other words, by no longer thinking that’s useful, the author would prefer that those around them just ignore more serious issues to better focus on theirs. Perhaps they meant not useful in the context; it’s not clear whether they would prefer that nobody cared about said issues at all; however, it’s a dodgy way to put it and open to interpretation.
Because while there may be causes that affect some more than others or that are more explicitly violent than others, feminism isn’t about taking a stand for every single cause. It’s about allowing marginalized people to dictate how issues relating to them are discussed and addressed – and recognizing that all forms of violence, big or supposedly small, are tied to the same larger issues.
Dictate how issues related to them are discussed and addressed. No group of people should ever have that privilege. And it’s actually unheard of, outside of totalitarian regimes, for a certain category to dictate how the discussion unfolds. This is not about raising objections to stereotyping and small-mindedness, but actually being able to control everything that is said and what action is taken as well, as if public actions were not up for debate anymore but for them to decide unquestioned.
The reality is that it’s entirely plausible for one person to write about an important and life-threatening issue or experience, while also writing about dating and makeup.
Of course. As long as they’re not trying to radicalise those around them and call for a socialist revolution over makeup, or guilt trip them for not caring about it. Which is what happens with feminist non-problems.
And because all of those issues affect our daily life in various ways, we absolutely have every right to talk about it.
Yes. And other people absolutely have every right not to care about it, especially those who are facing pressure to make radical changes to their daily activities (like what is currently happening in universities). All because some people are mildly annoyed over words used in courses or “offensive” portraits of historical figures on the walls. Talking is one thing and attempting to change everything around you is quite another.
Also, trying to police what is a feminist issue and what isn’t is oppressive – which brings me to my next point.
How about trying to point out what is an issue altogether and what isn’t? Regardless of its importance in feminist circles.
Derailing a conversation about street harassment in public spaces to talk about how Saudi women can’t even leave their homes without a male guardian does nothing for those of us dealing with street harassment on a daily basis – or for women who are infantilized by their government.
When said women are calling gazes or compliments “street harassment”, they are infantilising themselves. Besides the fact that most men are not assholes, the reason the overwhelming majority don’t harass women in the street is that it’s fucking illegal to do so. If someone claims they are followed or grabbed on a daily basis, maybe they should consider living in a different neighbourhood as soon as they can afford it. Because in most civilised places that doesn’t happen. Of course that’s beside the point as they’re not claiming that at all; anyone who looks at them the wrong way is guilty of “harassment”.
Moreover, derailing is always done at the expense of supposedly more oppressed people, who are usually Black and Brown.
This reinforces white supremacy and the status quo, and sets up a hierarchy of us (the liberated modern people) and them (the backwards and oppressed people).
That’s a REALLY good one.
So anyone criticising a genuinely oppressive regime is guilty of racism towards the people who are suffering under it, as if the speaker attributed said political circumstances to their race, nationality etc.
If anyone thinks there’s no difference between a democratic country and a theocracy, like Saudi Arabia, since it’s mentioned in the article, they’re free to try living there for a year or two. If anyone thinks it’s morally wrong to describe the reality of a place in order to be in line with exclusively western concepts (such as not seeming racist), they are incredibly hypocritical. You cannot re-frame executions for adultery and blasphemy, where entire crowds engage in savage murders. You cannot call that anything but backwards. And you cannot deny the difference between living in a (still) free country or one of those appalling places.
People risk their lives every day to leave countries where political or religious oppression is the norm. What would the author say to them – that by describing their former life conditions they’re being racist towards their own nations?
Whether or not one believes that there are more important issues, only those affected by them directly should be spearheading any conversation on that topic.
Right. Never mind that if they do they are sent before a firing squad or put in jail. Never mind that some don’t have access to the internet or their access is strictly controlled. Never mind that when they manage to leave those places the last thing on the planet they would want would be to expose themselves and become targets of those regimes, to risk being assassinated. Westerners who manage to go to places like North Korea and capture video footage do so with hidden cameras, risking their own lives.
Defectors of such countries are either unable to speak publicly (while still there) or at risk of death or persecution when abroad. They don’t have the luxury of becoming public figures. Those who do are very brave to take on such a task and live under constant threat. And it’s not a threat of being whistled to at a street corner.
Check your logic.
For example, it wouldn’t be proper for me to talk about Muslim women and the veil.
I don’t practice Islam, I was not raised in a culturally or religiously Muslim household, and I have never worn a head veil. There is nothing about my identity, upbringing, or lifestyle that makes me an expert in the lives of Muslim women, except that that we identify as women.
What I can do is listen more than I talk.
My opinion is not valuable when it comes to marginalized groups that I do not belong to.
Again – it’s a bit difficult to listen to people who are unable or afraid to speak out. And it’s a known fact that in many parts of the world these women are persecuted – or executed – for not wearing it.
Making a judgement on that being right or wrong is not an opinion. It is inherent to our civilisation to deem it unacceptable for anyone to be beaten or murdered for what they are wearing.
You can’t just wave the issue and say you won’t express an opinion because you “have no right to” – that is a comfortable way of saying you don’t want to risk offending a certain religious group.
Using the lived experiences of others to play devil’s advocate is dismissive and angering.
What is angering is your cold-blooded hypocrisy, stemming from a desire to have feminist non-problems prioritised and given actual legitimacy.
Seemingly harmless acts of oppression have a detrimental domino effect on our daily lives.
Most of the derailing I experience comes as a result of sharing stories of street harassment:
“Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment.”
“Why can’t you just say ‘thank you’ and keep walking?”
“I wish people would compliment me on a daily basis.”
If only street harassment was really about men telling us how much they like our cute new shoes!
Catcalling is about dominating public spaces and asserting power over another. It’s a way of controlling what we do with our bodies and who gets to enjoy them.
It is infuriating and upsetting when it happens occasionally, but it can escalate to physical violence or death. If the only outcome is that our confidence is shattered, that’s actually the best-case scenario.
Anything can escalate to physical harm or death, inside or outside your home. Claiming that western countries are full of demented beasts who are ready to pounce on defenceless women around every corner is knowingly deceptive. We do not have that type of culture, for such behaviour to be widespread. Others do. The mass attacks on women across Europe by recent immigrants (attacks which involved group rape, being groped by dozens of men, clothes being ripped off in the street etc) prove that there is a difference and that rape culture is more prevalent in some parts of the world than others. Comparing compliments to being raped in a parking lot by twenty savages (I’m labelling them based on behaviour, not origin) is quite nauseating.
We take different paths to avoid groups of harassers. We pay for taxis instead of walking alone. Sometimes, we refuse to go out during certain times and avoid some places altogether.
If a woman is bothered by a group of individuals she can identify, it seems stupid to extrapolate the problem to her entire environment. Also, in certain areas where crime and drug use are rampant it makes sense to take precautions, such as not walking alone or not going out at night. And that’s not due to the risk of receiving unwanted compliments – you could just have all your belongings stolen or be stabbed by a junkie. A compliment is the very last thing to be afraid of.
It isn’t trivial to us.
For actual harassment, you can always sue.
Feminism will not eradicate crime. Those who think they are above the law in that sense will definitely not be swayed by feminist campaigns. Predators are a law unto themselves from a moral point of view and that will never change. Treating all other men the same way is never going to solve that problem.
Suggesting that first-world problems are unimportant misses the connection between how commonplace things have massive impact on our daily lives.
Being harassed at work is a serious issue. Being complimented by a stranger in the street, to never see them again, isn’t. The fact that feminists cannot tell the difference makes it difficult to take them seriously.
By assuming that feminists fighting for “first-world” problems aren’t doing enough about “real” gender-based violence, you’re actually belittling the work being done by other groups.
Nobody ever expected feminists to save the world. Heaven forbid they should ever have the authority to try their version of it. This paragraph is insultingly silly – claiming that declaring feminist grievances trivialities somehow insults the real activism carried out around real matters. It’s a mighty twist and stretch of logic – again. It’s basically saying that by respecting what those groups do, you are belittling them. No sense whatsoever.
It’s hypocritical to speak of caring about feminist issues in the developing world, but not do the research to learn about groups and individuals fighting for these causes.
If you really care, support them – and give them a platform when they need it the most.
Perhaps not everyone who dares to take an interest in a matter is able to provide actual support or has a platform to do so. Perhaps most of those people are impossible to support as they are unreachable. Perhaps even with the lack of said ability, someone is entitled to use their brain and choose what they care about or at least form an opinion regarding what is more important.
Dismantling Oppression Requires Chipping Away at All Things
No, it requires being able to identify it correctly and not mistake it for mild annoyance.
The extreme version of street harassment is laws that control women’s bodies and ban them from public spaces.
Comparing religious zealotry, which can excuse murder, to manifesting a fleeting interest in someone’s look, most likely without expecting anything to come out of it, is like… well, it’s absurd.
It’s human to sigh at someone complaining about their coffee shop running out of their favorite pastry when there are millions of children worldwide with nothing to eat.
But the truth is that while it’s easy to sigh at pastry-agony, condescension is never the best way to solve any problem.
A normal person wouldn’t sigh; they’d be too busy to even notice. The problem starts when the flustered customer stages a protest outside said coffee shop and tries to put it out of business. As has happened to many businesses whose owners or employees pissed someone off based on a so-called “principle”. I remember a story about a coffee shop in Dublin advising vegans to announce their visit before hand so vegan dishes could be available – the so-called vegan community raised a shit storm trying to ruin the owner’s reputation.
Making a storm into a teacup, trying to vilify a person or group without real provocation or solid grounds, is always worthy of condescension. You cannot help solve what is not a problem.
So whether a cause is about “freeing the nipple” or ending the death penalty, it’s necessary and valuable – and I’m always here for that.
No, not everything is necessary and valuable, or worthy of public attention.
This inability to distinguish between the importance of certain issues is almost disturbing.