Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Privilege and oppression are not divisible.

Please read all the way through and think carefully before you respond.

Currently people are upset about: http://glosswatch.com/2014/01/27/scolds-bridle/ I'm going to try to distill the decent points she makes down really because I think many people misunderstood, chiefly because it was poorly written. Though I profoundly disagree with the notion that the crap she gets is purely based on her gender.

For one good point that is brought up, there are people who apparently think if you have one privilege (usually one they don't have), that any complaints you have about oppression are automatically null and void. As if having one privilege magically ensures that you are treated as if you are straight, non-disabled, rich, white, cis and male.

They romp through social justice going "you're not really oppressed because you belong to X group and have X privilege". They routinely attack survivors who belong to the "not really oppressed" group, because from what they say they think "not really oppressed" people? Don't get raped, abused or subject to oppression.

Their behaviour is especially directed at White presumed women. A percentage of complaints I see leveled at White presumed women include an implicit or explicit assumption that isms don't happen to white presumed women. That somehow being a white presumed women magically makes other oppressions go away, as if we all woke up treated like Straight, non-disabled, rich, white, cis men. As if white presumed women cease to be presumed women because whiteness is more important than gender presumptions.

This is not to say that there aren't many reasons to criticise white feminism and white presumed women, it and we have an awful fucking history of not including minority women and racism in particular. But as a white presumed women? I am still also genderfluid, bisexual, impoverished, disabled, and subject to sexism for my presumed womanhood. No amount of white privilege will change that.

Basically the notion that having X privilege invalidates or removes other oppressions exists in social justice and it is erasive and problematic.

A second important thing she's talking about? Is how some "champions" of PoC, aka really really privileged white folks hide behind "I'm helping PoC" to justify being nasty to people.

Some people it seems look at social justice as just another club to beat people with. They get Kudos and support for basically being nasty. My opinion is they are not remotely interested in actually improving the lives of oppressed minorities, just in collecting a cookie and having their bullying basically sanctioned on the basis that their target has privilege and therefore 'deserves' what happens to them.

A third important thing she's talking about? Is that social justice has seemingly internalised the notion that white privilege is so magically powerful that nothing a PoC or a white champion can do to a white person can possibly hurt that white person, because white people deserve everything because!racism. So a Straight/Rich/Non-disabled/Cis/Man/Woman/of color being a homophobic/Classist/Disabilist/Transphobic/Sexist dick to any white person who is GLB/Impoverished/Disabled/Trans/A woman is often in my experience auto dismissed because the target has white privilege.

It's a mindset that has been responsible for what I consider to be some pretty blatant bullying and dogpiling. I'm all for holding white feminism responsible for fuck ups, and calling it out when white feminists try to claim calling them on their racism is 'bullying' but I do think not everything done by Social justice advocates is Social justice or even decent behaviour.

Here's the thing, people are justified in being angry about oppression. But nobody ever said anyone had to accept it when we cross the line from being angry to what I see as being oppressive ourselves. Please note, I'm not saying you have to be 'nice' or 'respectful' but if you're justifying something like bullying a mentally ill person until they nearly take their life with "They have white privilege", that isn't being angry in my opinion, that's being an asshole.

(Also this attitude in my view is oppression olympics, because it positions are Racism as the worst ism and also positions all others as inconsequential or non-existent).

A fourth important thing she talks about? Is that it often feels like we're expected to constantly justify our voices by revealing just how we're oppressed.

Please note, I really really disagree with how Glosswitch said this via the twitter bio comment, that was dismissed and ignorant of her. But I do feel we are pushed into being all "My name is so and so, and I have X, Y, and Z oppressions". Sorta like we're doing a stand up routine to justify our place in the narrative and whoever has the right mix of oppressions and story is the most real and the most justified.

I often feel as if people are expected to constantly assert our oppression or it isn't real. This again goes back to point one, because White presumed women are especially asked to justify it because "white privilege magically erases other oppressions". But we're not supposed to assert we're that oppressed, just enough to prove we have validation, because we're "not really oppressed".

The fifth important thing she talks about? It that white presumed women's experiences and yes oppressions are often assumed for us.

We're often told not just how our privilege works but also how our oppressions don't really exist in the eyes of the people telling us. Most white privilege lists basically contain blanket assumptions saying X doesn't ever happen to white people. Take for example, being followed around a shop, White people are not followed around shops because of their race, class however? Is a different matter, but often white privilege is positioned as NEVER being followed around a shop, as if white privilege magically automatically grants class privilege even to obviously poor people.

The narrative of my life and the lives of other white presumed women as told by PoC advocates and white champions routinely leaves out our oppressions entirely and treats our existences as if they are a straight, non-disabled, rich, Cis, white male existences by default due to white privilege.

The sixth important thing she talks about? Is how it seems near criminal for a white presumed female to ever make a mistake or be seen as making one.

It often feels like anything we do wrong? is basically going to stick around for life, even if we apologise and do better in future, that's it, we're always going to be that person who said that shitty thing, even fifty years on. Meanwhile PoC SJ advocates and white champions can routinely fuck up and not only will nothing be said, it will be defended if anyone points it out. I mean I get it, a criticism of one PoC (no matter how justified) can feel like we're targeting all PoC, and there's a lot of pressure to present 'solidarity', but really? It's hard not to resent it when a PoC SJ advocate or a white champion can routinely post bigotry and yet we get two hundred people telling us how we're awful shitty people who deserve to die because we said something that was deemed racist.

Basically, it often feels like White presumed women feminists are expected to downright perfect all the time, to read minds and to say whatever a PoC advocate/white champion wants to hear in exactly the way they want to hear it. I myself have deleted so many essays because people might misunderstand what I'm saying.

A seventh important thing she's talking about? Is how being a PoC advocate/white champion seems to give one a license to decide other people's reality and police according to that.

While intent isn't magic, it seems often that we're defaulting to "oppressed person/white champion said you meant X so therefore you deliberately meant that", which is basically saying to folks "I know your mind and experiences better than you". There is a difference between "Your comment has an ugly implication" and "you set out to say something personally offensive to me on purpose".

The amount of times I've had people be disabilist to me via this attitude? Is ridiculous. I do not understand how social justice can be said to be about defining our own narratives when some people spend so much time telling people they don't get to define their own narratives because they have white privilege as well as oppression, especially if those narratives don't slot into the nice neat Social justice linework.

The eighth important thing she's talking about?

Is how the things I'm going over are often mostly directed at presumed white women. Not at white presumed men. It's rare when you see a known white cis man dogpiled like presumed white women get dogpiled. Most of the time white cis male douchebaggery gets commented on, not to.

There are days when it feels like we're simply the 'soft' target for anger, because being angry at us is easier than confronting white males who were historically behind the system.

The ninth important thing she's talking about?

Is how criticism of white presumed feminists is often rife with what I think is internalised misogyny. It often ends up playing into sexist tropes. Probably not intentionally but it still happens.

Last but not least, she's also talking about how social justice is being performed as a classic hierarchy, one in which "more oppressed than thou" is more important than actually fighting oppression. This is a problem.

So yes, I don't agree with all her conclusions, or all her writing, but some of the points and things she is talking about are important and need to be addressed.


  1. I think what you've done here is echo all of Glosswitch's points, which is helpful. But you must have started your piece by stating her brilliantly crackling, yet simultaneously precise writing is, "poor", is because you needed to be seen to disagree with one aspect?

    1. It wasn't precise, probably because she wrote in when she was angry. I can see how people took it as an attack on folks it wasn't meant to be attacking. It ended up sloshing around all over the place.

  2. Poorly written? Are you serious?

    I did read to the end, & I think you did a decent job of rewording some of the points Glosswitch made for the hard of reading, but that just sticks in my crow. One thing you can say about Glooosswitch is that she's a brilliant writer, & that is true whether you agree with her or not.

    1. Yes, some people can write well angry, others tend to meander and sorta slosh. Glosswitch ended up sorta wandering which obscured her points and make it easy for people to assume the worse of her. Not every piece of writing people write will be great.

  3. When did black people get all this power. Hey can we get Fox news and the Sun cancelled. Man, that'd be so awesome.

    1. I'm talking strictly within social justice circles.