Friday, 25 May 2012

I oppress you, you oppress me, the oppressed get forgotten

    In a previous post I poked fun at the habit that radical feminists have of claiming oppression at the slightest affront. In that they are an easy target, it is difficult to have a conversation for very long at all with someone of that persuasion without the 'o' word cropping up unless perhaps your position is one of slavish capitulation.
    I feel however that I may have been slightly unfair in singling out the radfems in this matter. I realised this when I read some of the arguments between radfems and trans people over the RadFem 2012 conference in London; the word was being thrown around by all sides. Radfems, cis people and trans people all busily being oppressed by each other.
    All this does leave a distinct impression that the word is being cheapened. There is plenty of real oppression in the world, of peoples, of women, of trans people and of a myriad other groups. A clash of views between people fortunate enough to live in a rich country with laws in place to protect them from discrimination is not real oppression.
    It should not be necessary to provide examples but it seems that real oppression has been lost sight of in the melée. Women for instance are being oppressed when they are trafficked across borders for sex work against their will. They are being oppressed in some other countries where they are prevented from going to school, from accessing healthcare or from earning a living. Trans people are being oppressed when they are excluded from society, forced into sex work or harassed by authorities. Entire peoples are oppressed when they are persecuted by the regimes in the countries in which they find themselves living.
    Against that backdrop, crying oppression because you're in an acrimonious argument which you sense you might be losing starts to seem rather unpleasant. It cheapens the word in the same way that using "rape" to indicate minor hurt of feelings does, and doing it should attract the same levels of opprobrium.
    As before when I have examined aspects of language on this blog I have queried the collocates of the word, those words that most often appear alongside it. No need to remove stop words or alternative meanings here, this word is rather spectacularly unambiguous in the way it is used in the language. "Exploitation", "injustice", "discrimination", "violence", "tyranny".
    Do I need to go on? These words are pretty unambiguous and they are not the words of  a mere online disagreement, however objectionable you may find the views of those involved.
    I shouldn't have to make these points, but the following rules of thumb seem not to be self-evident enough.

    If you encounter someone with views that differ from your own, you are not being oppressed.

    You are not being oppressed if the way someone else lives their life offends you.

    Get over it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I hope you realize you're oppressing me when you say: "You are not being oppressed if the way someone else lives their life offends you." :-)

    After all, if I am to take umbrage at the way someone lives their own life, they have to oppressing me!

    And when you assert: "If you encounter someone with views that differ from your own, you are not being oppressed." you're not considering that someone is disagreeing with me! Any disagreement is clearly oppression because how else can ... I'm getting a headache trying to construct this logic! :-D

    (Redone because of a typo!)

  3. You said it well in the third paragraph Jenny....There is plenty of real oppression in the world,......We should all be able to disagree yet remain civil and accepting. Disagreements only become a problem if we take things too much to heart and retaliate. Set boundaries and accept one another is how we should live

    Shirley Anne x

  4. I do find it alarming that Teh Tranz will no doubt be up for discussion at this TERF / radfem beanfeast; and that Sheila Jeffreys, one of their guests, has an upcoming book about us

    ...while I can think of a thousand places I'd rather be than there, it does seem v off indeed that we should be discussed in absentio, however little credibility those discussing us might have in the world.

  5. I tend to agree. Transgederism and all that goes with it, (pregnant men, 'women' with penises, and men in dresses in private places reserved for women), is in fact harmful to those goals espoused by feminism. One of the declared tenents of transgenderism is the de-construction and fluidity of gender, IE: what is a man, what is a woman.

    How can efforts to promote the irrelavency of gender, not be seen as a threat to women in general and specifically feminism?

  6. OK, I'll bite. What are 'those goals espoused by feminism'?

  7. Morning all,
    Yes, it's all a little much to take in, isn't it. :)
    I'm reminded of the Socialist Workers in my student days, for whom everybody was a 'Fascist'. As if they knew what a real fascist was!

    Anne, do you know any other trans people personally? In the here-and-now, in 2012 I mean, not people from your early days. Have you met any people who don't meet your exacting standards face-to-face, got to know them and discovered what really makes them tick rather than what you think makes them tick? Somehow, from your lengthy discourses on the subject, I suspect you haven't. I suggest you might learn something from the experience of putting your internalised transphobia on one side for a while and spending a little time with the enemy.

  8. Sure Dru.

    Here you go. Courtesy of Wikipedia (

    Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.[1][2] In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is a "person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism."[3]

    Feminist theory, which emerged from these feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women's social roles and lived experience; it has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues such as the social construction of sex and gender.[4][5] Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically-specific or multiculturalist forms of feminism.[6]

    Feminist activists campaign for women's rights – such as in contract law, property, and voting – while also promoting bodily integrity, autonomy and reproductive rights for women. Feminist campaigns have changed societies, particularly in the West, by achieving women's suffrage, gender neutrality in English, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property.[7][8] Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.[9][10][11] They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women.[7][8][12] Feminism is mainly focused on women's issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, some feminists argue that men's liberation is a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles.

    The operative word here is W O M E N....not trans*-women. Not transgender women, not gender-queer women.

    You see I understand what a woman is. All those other hyphenated types, not so sure. I am sure that you would be happy to mansplain that to me in your oh so condescending manner, but in truth, I hope you will spare me.

    I much more enjoy your Socialist Workers Party abuse. And especially your "debating" style, right out of "Rules For Radicals"

    1. Why do I notice that while you claim to know what a woman is, you don't actually define anything?

      (And, I couldn't help but notice, that you run and hide in the old "mansplain" colloquialism. Isn't that rather condescending of you? Oh, yes - it is!)

      You go spare yourself, dear. Have a great Memorial Day weekend! :-)

  9. I was more interested in why you should think that deconstructing gender was anti-feminist. But thank you for cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. Have a nice day, y'all!