So let’s say you support people placed in oppressed societal categories because of who they are (ex: LGBTQ, people of color, women). Now let’s say you are in the category that essentially labels you as the “other” in regard to oppressed peoples: a cis straight white male.
If you fall into this…
I think that you’re asking in a roundabout way is, “can people in the oppressed or non-privileged class be wrong about their oppression/oppressors?” “Am I allowed to disagree?” and “Is there a middle ground?”
First of all, yes. Individual people who are members of a non-privileged class can be wrong about certain things. Just because we are women, that doesn’t mean that we know how to recognize and combat sexism. We are raised in the same sexist, racist, homophobic society as everyone else, so we buy into it as much as anyone. The only difference is that the oppressed don’t benefit from the system in the way the privileged do.
The privileged, as you know, also don’t always see that oppression. That’s part of what’s so great about it. We can go through our daily, white lives without ever having to confront racism, while POC deal with it every day.
So can members of the oppressed class get it wrong? Of course. For years I believed that yeah, video games are for dudes, and dudes shouldn’t wear dresses.
There’s also lots of in-fighting in these oppressed groups as to the right way to tackle said oppression once it IS recognized and we decide to do something about it. It’s radical feminism versus intersectional feminism or womanism, MLK versus Malcolm X, Magneto versus Professor X.
Now there are some areas that paint the privileged class as the enemy, but those are few, and it’s also different from calling individual members of that class the enemy. Most people fighting for all kinds of civil rights aren’t attacking individuals, but rather the system.
Members of the privileged class are used to everything being about us, because we’ve been catered to our whole lives! So talking about what we’ve done wrong, well, it’s easy to take that personally. But it’s not about us white, straight, able bodied people as individuals. It’s important to keep that in mind when discussing these issues.
We know that you, Mr. Straight White Male, are not personally responsible for years of slavery and oppression. But you still benefit from it in a lot of ways, and you also have the luxury of shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Not my problem.”
So now we move onto the privileged folks who understand their privilege, don’t take it personally, and are ready to engage in discussion about systemic oppression. Awesome. Now we get to Stop. No, I mean it. Stop, step back, and listen. It’s not our place to lead the conversation or tell those who are oppressed that they are wrong. We are so completely and utterly lacking in perspective of their experiences, and our whole lives we’ve both been told that their opinion is invalid or over-sensitive, and ours is always right. Just listen, ask questions, and try to understand. If they seem combative or unwilling to engage, ask someone else.
It’s not our place to tell the oppressed class they are wrong (mansplaining!) in how they perceive the world, how they feel, and so on. You can certainly disagree with the correct way to go about battling said oppression, hence the many groups with many different philosophies. But again, our job as the privileged class is to listen, support, and follow in these conversations.
There’s always a middle ground. But we don’t get to dictate where that middle ground should be. Hope that helps.
I would add that sexism opress both genders in different way. Women have it far worse but by limiting discussion to how we can get women to be equal to men we are making a mistake. By setting the male role as the ideal, we are keeping the same sexist culture. Traditional female roles need to not be seen as negative or inferior by men but as roles that can be filled by anyone as much as any traditionnaly male roles can be filled by women. The society we are striving for is one where our gender doesn’t define what we can do or who we can be.