Rules of Feminism 2: Don’t listen too much to the privileged

Oct 25, 2013 | Opinions

It’s shamefully true that the privileged have a measure of assumed authority. Words and concepts are given higher precedence when they come from a man than from a woman, for example. That perception does a grave injustice to the oppressed, and you must fight against it.

Don’t listen too much to the people who don’t experience injustice, over the people who do.

So here’s a newsflash, kids. White, middle class males generally do not experience systematic racism or sexism. They generally don’t have to fear that someone will try to force them to have sex against their will, or that if it happened, they’d be blamed for it because they wore the “wrong” clothes. They generally don’t have to worry about someone turning them down for a job because of their skin.

So this means, when a topic comes up about, say, discrimination in hiring practices faced by people of color, you shouldn’t listen too much to the white people who can never, ever know what it’s like to be turned away from a job because their skin is brown or black. They can have an opinion, yeah, and those opinions can be and are valuable, but the second you stop listening to the people who actually experience  a particular kind of oppression, or give greater weight to the opinions of people who can never experience that oppression, you are doing it wrong.

Another example: cisgender men who have an opinion on abortion. Yes, some of them are valuable and thoughtful, but it’s still an event that they can never, ever experience. They don’t put their lives on the line when they procreate. They don’t routinely have to give up their careers, sacrifice their futures, and face the most horrible kind of scorn when they get pregnant at the wrong time or in the wrong body or with the wrong partner. They will never know what it means to need an abortion, for hundreds of personal reasons, so their opinions just do not count as much as women’s in this matter.

Never forget this. The people who suffer the most from a problem are the ones who should be front and center when that problem is being discussed, and it should be them above all others who drive the discussion forward.

(Addendum: If the next words out of your mouth are “But {insert privileged demographic here} experience oppression too!”, STFU. There are members of the privileged parts of society that experience prejudice, but their experiences are very different because they are privileged. Men can be raped, as MRAs love to say, but (a) the problem of male rape is not equivalent to female rape, (b) it has its own issues and nuances separate from female rape, (c) it deserves its own discussion instead of being constantly dragged into others for the sake of scoring imaginary Internet points against feminists, and (d) fuck you if you only bring it up as part of “what about teh menz?!” derailments.)

I got this somewhat when a bunch of right wing American politicians released a bullshit statement about abortion in Ireland. There is a very, very large heaping dose of arrogance to be found among anyone who presumes that they can speak authoritatively about oppression they can never personally experience over the people who do. Don’t be that person. Don’t listen to that person. Don’t take it on faith that they’re right, and the oppressed are wrong.