Oppression is not a two way street

The main response to discussions about racism, sexism, ableism or classism is often something along the lines of “well it happens the other way round too! Why isn’t anybody complaining about that?!” and I can’t help but roll my eyes. Do white people, men or the upper class experience discrimination? Absolutely. Is it anywhere on the same scale as their counterparts? Hell no. When I write about sexism and someone feels the need to comment “well, reverse sexism is also a thing” all I see is an attempt to derail. Of course misandry is a thing, of course it’s a problem and you might mean well by choosing to bring it up but what you are doing is comparing apples and oranges to deflect or as I often hear it described “playing devil’s advocate”.

I’ll leave you with this overly simplified analogy which better explains why oppression isn’t quite a two way street.

– An employee and a manager are having a discussion.

– The employee is free to say “YOU’RE FIRED” at any point to their manager just as much as the manager is able to say those words to the employee. Freedom of speech and all that.

– The difference is the impact that those words actually have. As the manager, he/she has a position of power over the employee, so when the employee says “YOU’RE FIRED” to the manager – nothing actually happens as a result.

– When the manager says the exact same thing back to the employee, those words mean something and negatively affect the employee because the manager holds all the power in their relationship.

Now use this power dynamic analogy with pretty much any marginalised group vs their non-marginalised counterparts (probably without the words “YOU’RE FIRED” because that wouldn’t make sense). Who holds the social power? Who is most likely to be listened to, believed and respected? Who, as a presumed supporter of marginalised people, should you stand behind? Now please assess how bringing up the perils of the person in power actually harms the less empowered side. You’re holding a microphone up to the person whose voice already shouts the loudest and claiming to be impartial.

In order for both parties to hold equal weight in their oppressive behaviour, the social conditions would have to be completely even and thanks to years and years of rich, white, straight, cis men ruling the world – the world is still very much off kilter to anyone who doesn’t match that description. This creates a weighted playing field towards those with even a smidge more social power than others which is always important to remember when dealing with a sensitive topic like racism, sexism etc. Please consider what “playing the devils advocate” actually achieves and who it helps/harms.

Happy Monday!

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