Something I’ve noticed cropping up more recently, particularly on Tumblr, is sayings resembling and in the same vein of “not all cis people!”, “not all white people…!”, “Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight!” Now, this is not anything new, and it’s certainly not a concept feminists don’t recognize — “not all men!”, anyone? — but that’s the thing about this; I largely see people who do identify as feminists replicating this ridiculous cry.
The nuances between all these intersections differ in myriad ways, but the principle by and large remains the same. It really is heartbreaking and disappointing to see otherwise supportive feminists fail to realize that their “not all cis”, “not all white”, “not all straight” messages serve them up as a direct equivalent to the “not all men!” men that they strive so hard to condescend and invalidate. What I can’t get my head round is their inability to recognize that every single member of an oppressor group IS complicit in the oppression that that group lords over a marginalized group.
But, but, this is obvious and repeated time and time again when it comes to patriachal ideas — many, or even most, feminists realize that while there do exist tons of genuinely nice guys, supportive men who don’t believe in their superiority over women and make no effort whatsoever to ever oppress women in any way, but we also tend to take it as a given that all men are complicit in the system that serves to oppress women, because, their own personal views on women notwithstanding, society does reward men in this patriarchal society.
Yet when it comes to seeing white supremacy or cis privilege in the same light, these same feminists struggle to see the comparison. “But I’M not a racist!”, they cry. “I’m NOT one of those white/cis/straight peoplee you keep decrying!” Quick little tip: as soon as you want to focus the spotlight on just one member of those oppressor groups, i.e. you, and turn the conversation into how you’re such a nice person and you’ve never oppressed people of color/trans people/LGB people etc., that makes you one of *those* people. Derailing a conversation that is discussing systemic oppression from one group towards another to turn it not only personal, but to appease your own misguided sense of morality and alleviate your guilt, is contributing to that oppression, because the voices that matter, and the necessary discussions thereof, are not being heard.
Look, I know it’s a tough and bumpy road coming to terms with the fact that you hold privilege in this society. Feminists are so used to the fact that women as a group are a marginalized, not an oppressor, group and so sometimes this feels like you must lack any privilege. But patriarchy, i.e. how all men oppress all women, is not the only power system of oppression that operates in today’s world, and the sooner it’s realized, the better for everyone. Women can be oppressors, but they are never oppressors *because* they are women. Trans men do have male privilege over cis women, but cis women have cis privilege over those same trans men. A gay white woman still has white privilege over a straight black man. Privilege does not mean your life isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean you actively oppress marginalized groups. But it means that society does favor white, cis, straight, able-bodied men over everyone else, and so if any of those refer to you, you have privilege over people who do not. Privilege is not a one-issue matter. It’s not “you have it or you don’t”. You can have various privileges and lack various privileges, and they might not even have a tangible effect on your life, but they exist, and they are, whether you like it or not, complicit in the oppression over the marginalized group that you have privilege over.
The derailment of important conversations is disgusting and damn irrelevant. Do you, my fellow feminists, tolerate men who try to derail every conversation with “not all men are like that”, “but I’M not like that”, “why are you generalizing men?” etc. etc.? Largely, no; you realize how the situation is being dealt with and you try to make these men realize that. So, don’t be that person in a conversation about transphobia, or racism, or ableism, or any other issue that discusses oppression. Yes, disparaging jokes on Tumblr are, at first, hard to take, but the retaliation and coping mechanisms of marginalized groups do not exist to make you feel comfortable. You are bound to feel “othered”, generalized, uncomfortable, at first, because as a member of an oppressor group, i.e. a group that holds power in society in its own respect, you are not used to having that part of your identity attacked and disparaged. You are not used to the members of an oppressed group being able to speak up and have their voices heard about how being oppressed affects them. You realize how unaccustomed you are to being included in a generalized group that is not the one being oppressed. If Tumblr is the only place you feel oppressed, chances are you are not oppressed. For many oppressed people, Tumblr is one of the only relatively safe spaces for them, but you are changing that for them. You, by derailing, are making it unsafe.
It maybe takes a while to get past being personally offended by things like that, but hey — making jokes on Tumblr does not give societal power to the marginalized. Stop acting like being the butt of an internet joke means you receive daily hate from most people every day and you can’t function ideally in a society that condemns you. Never should it be necessary to see a certain concept in your own context to realize exactly how it functions, but, if you are a woman, see what men say to you and apply it to what you say to groups that you marginalize. Think of all the men offended on Tumblr at jokes about men and think about how it’s ridiculous to you that of all things, that’s what they focus on. That’s what they take offense at. Think about your reaction, which might be something like this: “wow, men, it must be so frustratingly difficult being the butt of jokes all the time. Yeah, being a man is so hard in this society”, heavily laden with sarcasm, of course. Don’t you realize you are the “man” in all those other scenarios? If being joked about like that is so difficult to cope with, think about what the system actually does to oppressed groups, and how you’re wilfully refusing to recognize that in favor of focusing on that little bit of hurt you feel at being told you contribute to that.
Listen to marginalized groups. Stop taking offense at being grouped in with an oppressor group, because that’s your reality. See past the jokes they tell, because much more important things are being loudly shouted, and you keep ignoring them because you are so desperate to not be in the wrong. Realize it is not about you, adapt accordingly, and start supporting people. Because as long as you pull the “not all…” line, you are *not* any kind of ally and you are not supporting the groups that you claim you are supporting.
Something to take away from this: whenever someone says, “ugh, humanity”, no one ever pipes up “not all humans”, right? Because we know exactly what it means to say “ugh, humanity”; that even though there are perfectly wonderful people out there who’d never hurt a fly, the discussion is not about those people, it’s about the wicked people who do hurt people. And focusing on those good people and saying “but they’re not like that!” helps no one. So stop it.
Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight? Society still hates you if you’re anything but.