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Stop privilege discourse!

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8/12/2015 11:09:12 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
This is what a friend of mine wrote on facebook today:

"if i have to explain privilege to one more clueless white dude i'll probably just implode. google it, bro. the white male demographic is the MOST privileged and consequently least informed about the everyday experience of oppressed peoples cause they never have to deal with that sh!t nah mean" (profanities edited for DDO).

The example above is just one among many, littering my facebook feed and my everyday conversations. People going on and on, whining about how the group they belong to is the most pitiful, the most oppressed, the least privileged, and about how white males are clueless, the most privileged, the least oppressed, the easiest lives. And that sh!t -- this sort of generalizing and antagonistic rhetoric -- is destroying the entire progressive movement, it's making us look ridiculous, and it's not helpful at all. It certainly hasn't moved feminism forward. No positive change has come from any privilege discussion anywhere. In my experience, it just alienates people who could be friends and allies.

This is the problem: I believe the moment any conversation enters the realm of personal experience about who gets treated better or worse, we lose an opportunity for activism. The reality is that anyone, regardless of gender, who doesn't want their life to be ruled by the shape of their genitals, won't enjoy any privileges whatsoever in the traditional system of gender roles. This isn"t about men having an easier existence than women or women having an easier existence than men. The problem is the system of gender stereotypes that both oppresses and benefits anyone complicit in that system (i.e. all of us). The reality is that there are people of both genders who don't comply with certain gender roles, and all of those people end up losing, while those who comply with the traditional roles, regardless of gender, win out. That's why you see lists of "male privilege" and "female privilege" all over. They're both getting at the fundamental reality that both men and women are oppressed by the system if they don't comply with it. And arguing about who is "most oppressed" or "most privileged" is a losing proposition; all it does is toll the bell of feminism.

So, instead of this constant privilege-scratching, instead of isolating ourselves in the lonely recounting of how we experience our individual identity labels, I wish and implore and argue that we need to all acknowledge our shared experience of traditional gender stereotypes and our shared rejection of sexism or racism or whatever. Because the only thing that privilege discussions do is alienate and antagonize good progressive people who could and should be working together to promote positive social change. When you tell a white dude that he needs to "check his privilege," and that he's the "most privileged" of any group, you're needlessly souring the relationship between groups of people who are equally oppressed and equally benefiting from the workings of patriarchy. Uniting groups of people against structures of oppression is the only path towards real social change.

tl;dr: the structures of oppression benefit both men and women while at the same time oppressing both, so stop antagonizing people with discussions about who is most/least privileged.
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