I often write about anti-oppression issues.
Feminism, racism, homophobia etc.
Whenever I do someone will say something like:
“I’m a humanist, not a feminist”
“I believe we shouldn’t see colour. We should just see everyone as equal”
(Stephen Colbert is famous for saying “I don’t see colour.”
Is there a difference between men and womyn?
Once I was involved in a discussion exploring if there was a difference between
When a man hits a womyn and when a womyn hits a man.
I of course claimed that there IS a distinct difference based on
the historical and present day context of gender oppression and inequity that we live in.
“I am not a Feminist!”
One womyn responded
“I, for one, believe in equality, and expect to be treated accordingly – yes I am a woman, but more importantly I am a PERSON with a unique set of thoughts skills and abilities, and ask nothing more than to be judged on the person I am, not the person people stereotype me as. I am not a feminist – i am a ‘people-ist’
Saying a man shouldn’t hit a woman because she is a woman is sexism.”
Here is how I responded to her.
I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.
If We Lived In A More Equal World…
1) I agree that being a peopleist would be better if we lived in a world that was more equal.
Certainly in much of North America men and womyn can afford to think that way a bit more.
So if we look at the state of womyn in a very small bubble I could perhaps agree.
But in other parts of the world where the Rape of womyn is pretty much legal
Where a womyn who is raped is actually punished (with jail time and lashes)
for having sex outside of marriage
Where female infanticide is in record numbers
And the list goes on.
It’s not hard to do just a little bit of research to see
how profound the global oppression of womyn is.
I cannot Ignore Historical Context of Suffering
To say that gender is not relevant at all is to ignore reality as it is.
You are of course free to ignore reality if you wish,
But at least recognize that is what you’re doing when you say gender is irrelevant.
There is no way around that!
An Example To Illustrate The Point
2) Thinking that gender is irrelevant is ignoring 5000+ years of patriarchy and institutionalized misogyny. I mentioned the historical context which you ignored (and as I said, you’re of course free to ignore that if it works for you. It doesn’t work for me)
Here is an example that might make this clear.
Imagine a kid is bullied every day at school, day in and day out.
After 2 years of getting beat up, one day the bully walks by them
and the kid just lashes out and hits the bully.
At that moment the bully wasn’t doing anything, but every other day they were.
Should we just ignore the historical context of the two years that the kid was bullied every day and say “violence in any context is equally wrong and if the kid hits the bully it’s the EXACT same as the bully hitting the kid.”
I certainly don’t think they are the same at all.
(of course there are some slight differences in the situations. All analogies are like that.
The essence of the point is well demonstrated though in this example.)
Well the 5000+ years (including the present day as I demonstrated above) of the incredible violence and oppression of womyn is like the years of bullying. The historical context makes the two acts different.
It doesn’t mean that the violence is necessarily acceptable, but it does make it different.
Individual Context is Different from Global Context
3) Now you as an individual womyn, in your particular circumstance, culture and surroundings may not feel this oppression personally. That makes sense and if you only look at your individual context, then I can see your point.
Of course because of your personal circumstance you have the right to demand to be looked at as a person in this context and not as a womyn.
But to do that in a generalized way, a global way,
you really have to ignore and deny a whole hell of a lot of oppression,
suffering and inequity in order to do so!
My Individual Context Forces Me Into The Feminist Mindset
Being a man and a diehard feminist for over 25 years
(well I’ve been a man pretty much all my life and a feminist for 25 years!)
I do not feel I have the luxury to confine my awareness to my relatively safe suburban neighbourhood.
Nor even my reasonably equal city.
Nor my somewhat socially progressive country.
Nor my privileged position in society.
I feel it’s my responsibility to keep the historical context and the global situation of womyn (and all oppressed groups) in mind all the time and in everything I say, do and believe.
We are a long long long way from equality.
If one truly believes in equality one must be willing to fight for it,
which also means fighting against inequality!