(Note: None of what follows about Systems of Oppression are my original ideas. These ideas come from decades of scholarship done by others, and I am far from being an expert about them...but after a lot of reading and a lot of deep reflection (which is not always comfortable), I know them to be the truth. If you want to know more about any of these ideas, there is plenty of material out there. I welcome any experts on these topics to correct me or add to these ideas)
Do you think it’s worthwhile to fight Systems of Oppression? Do you think we currently live under a power structure that oppresses people?
We do. We live under a historical, pervasive, and ongoing white, male, straight, able, cis-gendered, etc., power structure, that was designed and is still upheld, using Systems of Oppression, to keep certain people from being automatically viewed as belonging in that power structure. People outside of the power structure (anyone not male, white, straight, able, cis-gendered, etc.) are generally automatically viewed (either consciously or subconsciously) as less capable, less trustworthy, less interesting, less intelligent, not “normal,” not belonging, etc., as compared to those who hold the majority of the power. Yes, progress has been made, and “our side” claims to be all about supporting that progress, but no one can argue that the vast amount of power is still held by white, straight, able, cis-gendered men. We all grew up under this system. We all did. I did. You did. No matter who our parents were, and what they taught us about other people, we were all influenced by the news, movies, books, our schools, our peers, our co-workers, etc., to buy into, either a little or a lot, consciously or subconsciously, the “truth” of this system, when in fact, it is a system built on centuries of lies. (Some members of oppressed groups will actually act to uphold this power dynamic, either subconsciously or because of careful societal or religious conditioning).
After being given this description of what a System of Oppression is designed to do (uphold the white, male, straight, able, cis-gendered, etc., power structure) let’s name some Systems of Oppression. Here are some (not all): Racism. Transmisia (which is a better term for Transphobia). Heterosexism. Sexism. Ableism. Ageism. Anti-Semitism. Now, let’s name some vectors that allow Systems of Oppression to be validated. Here are just a couple: Jokes. Comments.
Vectors that validate Systems of Oppression, such as jokes and comments, might seem small and/or targeted only to an individual, yet they actually harm all of the people in the oppressed group that the joke or comment is aimed at. Even if the person the “-ist” comment is aimed at is an otherwise reprehensible person, and therefore might seem to "deserve" an "-ist" insult, all members of the oppressed group are harmed, because such comments mold attitudes and behaviors that reinforce the idea that members of the oppressed group are (and I know I’m repeating myself) less capable, less trustworthy, less interesting, less intelligent, not “normal,” not belonging, etc. The reinforcement might be subconscious. It can even happen in the mind of a person belonging to one of the oppressed groups (for instance “internalized misogyny”), and the comment might be lobbed by, or laughed at, or defended by a member of the oppressed group, but that doesn’t remove the harm it causes by reinforcing attitudes and behaviors. Attitudes and behaviors are what lead to loss of opportunities, reduced pay, reduced safety, poorer health outcomes, disproportionate legal system impacts, and other forms of real harm for the oppressed groups.
This actually hurts every single one of us, and I’m not just talking about hurt feelings. We are all hurt when members of our society are kept from their full potential because of their internalized beliefs about their abilities or others’ beliefs about their abilities. We are all hurt when housing markets plunge because of predatory lenders that target disadvantaged communities of color. We are all hurt when women are paid less for equal work and a family is less financially stable as a result. We are all hurt when women and Black people are sicker or die earlier because not enough research has been done about women’s and Black people’s health, or doctors dismiss their symptoms and concerns. We are all hurt when LGTBQ kids become unhoused and/or commit suicide or transgender people are beaten to death. We are all hurt when a majority of Puerto Ricans say “Hell NO! We don’t want Statehood!” because we’ve ignored their colonization, existence and suffering in our history lessons and they are still without reliable power six years after a hurricane. We are all hurt when we treat our agricultural workers so poorly that they leave and crops rot in the fields (yes, this really happens...I’m a former Agricultural inspector). We are all hurt when Indigenous American women go missing at a rate higher than any other group and the collective response in the seats of power is a yawn. We are all hurt when Black people face unequal justice, trauma, stress, danger, and grief at the hands of a white power structure. WE ALL LOSE.
Let me ask you again, do you think it’s worthwhile to fight Systems of Oppression? Fascists don’t think it’s worthwhile. They uphold and attempt to strengthen Systems of Oppression.
Why are you so concerned with something trivial (Sexism) instead of the very real problems we face?
You’re alienating people who are on our side.
(Famous person) uses sexist language, but so what? He's on our side. Let it go.
No wonder the Right thinks people on the left are fascist about policing language use.
Sexism is annoying, yeah, but it pales in comparison to the bad things that (name of a Republican) is doing.
Too bad you aren’t as concerned with (XYZ) as you are with complaining about a little (Sexist) joke.
You have nothing better to do than to go on a Feminist Rampage?
She dressed for that kind of attention, so why are you saying it’s sexist to mention it (in an explicit, sexualized way that reduces her to being just a body/just how she dresses)?
Yes, that comment about her is sexist, but so what? She deserves it because she's a horrible person.
She intentionally hung out with known, very bad men, so why is it sexist/victim blaming to imply that she deserved to be abused by a known very bad man?
You might think I'm a sexist because of that (sexist) comment, but my wife doesn't think I am. (Note: I never labeled anyone as a Sexist. I described comments as Sexist, not people).
I’m not seeing a lot of sexism on this site. And even if there is, it’s way better here than on the wider web.
Those are all paraphrased comments we have received when many of us have called out pervasive Sexism in comment threads, diaries, and even a cartoon in the past ten days or so. I hope you're starting to understand why those comments and attitudes are troubling...they seem to imply that Sexism is a trivial problem, that we must overlook it for fear of losing "allies," that it doesn't hurt all women if it's used against bad women, that it's ok if some women (who no doubt harbor internalized misogyny) say it's ok, that reducing a woman to her looks or body parts isn't Sexist if the woman is bad, that it’s not a problem here on DKos, etc., ad nauseum. Here’s the thing: when we call out Sexism it is equivalent to fighting a System of Oppression, because Sexism is...you got it...a System of Oppression! Educating people to do better and stop using Sexist tropes, jokes, and comments is the same thing as fighting a System of Oppression. And fighting Systems of Oppression is...guess what...Anti-Fascist!
Let me ask you again, do you think it’s worthwhile to fight Systems of Oppression?
I wish (names of Democratic lawmakers) would stop being such pussies.
Lindsay Graham must be gay.
These are similar to many, many comments we see here on DKos. Comparing a member of the powerful group to a member of an oppressed group (or a body part of an oppressed group) is supposed to be an insult to the member of the powerful group. It actually harms members of the oppressed group in ways I’ve described above...by molding attitudes and behaviors. Being a member of an oppressed group isn’t something to be ashamed of and nothing that references an oppressed group should be used as an insult. (Again, not my original idea...I’m not being a “scold” or "policing" language...I’m trying to educate people so that they Stop. Hurting. Us.) Surely you can find ways to poke fun at horrible people and point out their rancid hypocrisy without using language that upholds Systems of Oppression.
What about when someone makes fun of (name of White, Male Republican)? Why aren't you calling that out?
What about the reverse Sexism/reverse Racism/reverse other-System-of-Oppression we see here?
This might be hard to understand if you’ve never been presented with this idea before, but there is no such thing as “reverse Racism,” “reverse Sexism,” or any “reverse System of Oppression.” When a joke is made at the expense of a person who holds more power (for instance a white, cis, straight, able man), it doesn’t contribute to a System of Oppression for him, because there is no System of Oppression for him.
“Prejudice” and “bias” are words that are often equated to words such as Racism and Sexism, but they are actually different. Prejudice and bias do not require a power imbalance, but Systems of Oppression do. People of all power levels can be hurt by prejudice and bias, true, but, in general, their power is not affected and the power imbalance remains intact. That said, anything that adds to attitudes of prejudice and bias, such as jokes about a man’s appearance, are probably not helpful. They do not, however, rise to the cumulative level of harm that jokes leveled at oppressed groups do. (Of course, an individual man’s power can be affected by prejudice, for instance, in the work place).
You’re coming dangerously close to violating my right to free speech.
The Rules of the Road specifically ban speech that is harmful, and list several examples. (This, by the way, is not a violation of your First Amendment right to free speech, since that right only refers to the fact that the government can't penalize (censure, fine or arrest) you for your speech. Private websites can ban you for improper speech. They can't arrest you or fine you, but they can ban you).
Please make note of one very specific ban: on this site, you may not use language or images that compare people to any sort of organism that can cause an infestation, such as insects, rodents, or vermin. Using such language is what the Nazis did to mold attitudes and behaviors towards Jewish people.
It is among the most dangerous, hurtful, and chilling language. This is something I had never considered until recently, and I will admit that I thought the term MAGAT was funny before I learned about this, and I learned about this because someone took the time to write a diary about it. (Remember, even though that term is aimed at people we generally find to be reprehensible, it molds attitudes and behaviors that harm Jewish people).
From mettle fatigue:
"As a Jew, I Just would like to expand this:
Using such language is what the Nazis did to mold attitudes and behaviors towards Jewish people, Roma people, disabled people, dissidents….
as grounds for extermination.
And toward Slavic 'Rhineland bastards,' and a considerable range of people of non-Euro-mainstream religions, as grounds for dispossession, imprisonment, slave labor."
What gives YOU the right to police my language?
Dkos relies on its members to be "Community moderators" and to call out and/or flag harmful comments.
So, let me ask you one last time, do you think it’s worthwhile to fight Systems of Oppression? Do you think I should be doing something more important, like writing postcards to Get Out The Vote or participating in Voter Registration Drives? I will still do those things. But I’ll also battle Systems of Oppression by calling them out and educating people about them here (and possibly flagging comments, diaries, or cartoons) with time I could have spent tending to my garden, or reading a novel, or watching a good movie, or calling a friend...all things I’d rather be doing...but I think that fighting Systems of Oppression is the same thing as fighting fascism.
You know what else I'll do? I'll continue to shine a light inward, to find, acknowledge and try to root out the internalized misogyny, Racism, Ableism, Ageism, and Heterosexism, and more, that I was conditioned with over my entire life (And, oh! That looking and rooting out can be painful!) And I'll try to listen, really listen (rather than be defensive or try to explain to them how they are mistaken) to members of oppressed groups that I do not belong to, so that I can learn to stop hurting them with my language, attitudes, and behaviors. I'd love it if you would join me.