There’s this notion that I keep seeing that privileged people benefit from oppression of another class, and it’s an idea I never saw when I first started learning sociological theory.
Back in like 2012, tumblr was all about including men in feminism and talking about how feminism would benefit everybody because it would do away with homophobia/homoantagonism and toxic masculinity, etc.
Like… to say that privileged groups (if not individuals) actively benefit from oppression is to erase the performative aspect of privilege; entry to privilege is determined by the privileged (see: Straight determines Straight) and if you deviate Too Much from their expectations, they revoke your right to reap the benefits of membership.
For example, despite all the campaigns about how Real Men Cry or whatever, the prevailing cognitive understanding that society holds is that crying is not masculine, and men who cry are shameful. This is sets a very hard limit on the emotions that a man is capable of showing, which is absolutely a kind of marginalization (but not inherently oppression).
To put it another way, if a cis man wears a dress, would he not face tangible violence from society at large regardless of what he claims his gender is? Is it the same as systemic legal disenfranchisement? Of course not. But a cis man in a dress has less social power than a cis man following social norms. And that power difference is rooted in transphobia/transantagonism. Whether or not it necessarily is the same experience is debatable, but transphobia/transantagonism is inexorably linked to rigid gender roles and toxic masculinity and homophobia/misogyny and other systems that actively hurt both oppressed and privileged classes.
Orientation-wise, people have discussed how coercive heterocentricism can negatively impact people who have never thought about their own orientations before, regardless of if they would turn out straight in the end anyway.
Even aside from gender and orientation, does anyone really benefit from ableism? A student experiencing one-off anxiety will likely not receive any more accommodation than somebody with an anxiety disorder with no legal documentation of it. How often do able-bodied people feel awkward about using the elevator? And how many often do disabled folks feel similarly awkward about how soon it’ll be before somebody makes them justify their right to use accessibility features? Again, abled people are not systemically disenfranchised and stigmatized, but both classes would benefit from a world where nobody gatekeeps disability or bats an eye at accommodations.
The problem with the Us vs Them model of privilege and oppression is that it seeks to create new power structures alongside the existing ones, instead of dismantling the entire notion of power itself. If you let people do what they need to do (whether it’s using the elevator or wearing a dress) without trying to retroactively judge the validity of their experiences, then everybody gets an equal playing field to be themselves freely and openly. After all, the number of elevators (ie resources) that exist in a space should be determined by usage statistics, and not by some statistic of how many disabled people there are present.
Exclusive labels will always leave out a grey population or fringe groups of marginalization. Everybody oppresses each other and that’s a fact of life and intersectionality. What needs to happen is an abolishment of the systems that keep everyone down; true revolution means aligning not through labels but through ideologies. Even Marx said that when the time comes to overthrow capitalism, some bourgeoisie will align themselves with the revolution. Disability and gender are social constructs that exist because people in power say they do, but those people in power would benefit more in the end from saying they don’t.
@birobotic I know you were talking about this wrt men a little while ago
Something that always comes to mind when I read this is what happened to my stepfather. He is white, and grew up in South Africa during Apartheid. He told me stories about this and it is, as far as I can make out, a story about coercive whiteness.
See, in SA at the time it wasn’t enough to be white. You had to be a particular kind of white. You had to hang around with the right people, have the right interests, even down to the right haircuts.
And this to my terminally hippie, long haired, pot smoking stepdad who spent most of his time in black neighbourhoods.
He got the crap beat out of him by the police.
This was nothing new, of course, to what his black friends faced and they got beat up right along with him, but it highlights privilege in a very stark way. My stepdad had the privilege of not having to be beat up. he could have cut off his black friends, stayed in the white neighbourhoods, given up art and cut his hair. He could have done these things a hell of a lot easier than his friends could have changed their skin colour.
It doesn’t change the fact that this still sucked massive amounts of anus and I’m not surprised my stepdad got the hell out of there the moment he was 18.