racism

Racism is a matter of Whiteness

In recent years, I’ve thought about race and racial discrimination in our world. I’ve written about racism in the American criminal justice system and how it continues the legacy of slavery; how movies vilify characters of color; the indifference towards refugees of color and growing Islamophobia within Europe and the United States; and hostility of white society towards racial justices movements like the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter. By reflecting on the consequences of racism, I have been able to turn the corner racism and see how my white identity is central to the problem and solution.

White people need to realize that racism is a White issue. We–white European people–live in a world of racial ignorance. I lived in a world of racial ignorance growing up.

As the political theorist, Barnor Hesse, explains, the idea of race is fundamentally about the creation of a division between Europeans and non-Europeans, both internally, beginning with the Spanish expulsion or forced conversion of Jews and Muslims, and externally within systems of colonial rule, and of course in the transatlantic slave trade across the Americas.

Take the example of the StoryCorps film Traffic Stop. In this short film, Patsy, a white mother, tells Alex, her black adopted son–who is two years younger than me–that “skin color really didn’t matter.” Like Patsy, my family, which lived in a small, almost exclusively white Canadian town, “never talked about race.” The naïvety of white people about race and racism isn’t unusual. It’s built into our society.

White people never see racism. We never feel it. This is one of the many privileges of being white. This is whiteness and it’s a problem.

The differentiation of results seen in Traffic Stop is but one example of how people of color are treated differently in society. It speaks to how schools and workplaces treat people of color differently. How they are talked (down) to, how they are shown (and not shown) in TV and magazines and how they are told to see themselves. All of these daily instances add up to a societal structure of racism that people of color are not allowed to leave and are told to be thankful for.

So, what would happen if this world was reversed? What would happen if white people were forced, even if is was for a few hours, to experience a society that treated them differently because of how they looked? Would you be happy to receive the same treatment as a person of color in society?

This is exactly what educator Jane Elliot has done with her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise, which substitutes eye color–a non-controversial part of the human body–for skin colour. Skin and eye color are both dictated by melanin, our biological pigment determined at birth. We don’t have any control over either, yet we continue to use one as a means of discrimination.

This ingenious exercise was first implemented inside Jane’s all-white classroom, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Although it’s impossible to experience the effect of racism (particularly white supremacy) as a white person in a room full of white people, Jane was able to have her all-white students experience either superiority or inferiority based solely on which eye color group they were placed in.

The cruelty of the “superior” group and the under-performance of the “inferior” group were felt nearly instantaneous. Although the “superior” and “inferior” groups were chosen randomly and shouldn’t change academic results, the internalization of each group led to real-world results. This exercise proved that racism is a learned behavior based on arbitrary characteristics. It also means that it can be unlearned.

Although I never participated in a Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise, watching videos of Jane facilitating these workshops has had a lasting effect on me and changed my perception of society.

I can now admit that I’m a racist. Not a racist by choice, but a racist made by society.

Like her students, I was raised in a country–Canada–that puts white people in positions of power; just look at all those faces of Prime Ministers that are the same as mine. I was raised in a country, whose land was colonized by Europeans from its aboriginal inhabitants. I was told about the seemingly infinite accomplishments of white European and settler societies, while never hearing about the accomplishments of minorities. This racial ignorance about the lives (and worth) of people of color continue today, all around the world.

It exists for white university students; some of whom may feel attacked if labeled a racist and have the freedom to walk out:

It exists in Britain, the home of white Empire:

Whiteness and racial ignorance exists everywhere that white people are made and told that they are superior than other people of color. We–white people–need to first accept the racism that has been ingrained in us and then second work to change the systems around us.

Classrooms need to change so that kids stop seeing

We–white people–need to start in childhood education to overcome the stigma that white as good and black/brown as bad. We need to see the injustice in our criminal justice and immigration systems. We need to see how media perpetuates white supremacy and negative portrayals of people of color. We need to question why businesses and universities cater largely to white people. We need to find the truth in our history and seek reconciliation with those who have been harmed. We–white people–need to do a lot more.

This forces one to ask: Should you feel guilty about being white?

No. As Jane Elliot says, “I didn’t choose it. I can’t lose it.”

I was born white. I didn’t choose it. I can’t change that fact. But I can change how I act.

So: Should you do something about racism and whiteness?

Yes, I think every white person should.

Once you admit to yourself that society is based on a foundation of white supremacy, you need to recognize which group your actions benefit.

On one extreme of whiteness, there is a small group of white people fighting for racial injustice, spreading messages of hate. This include neo-Nazis, the alt-Right, Ku Klux Klan members, people who support travel bans on a certain color of people, and anyone else who vocally identifies as a white supremacist. These are the active, proud racists who are fighting to keep whiteness alive.

Now, if travel to the other end, you have another small group of white people. This group, however, fights for racial justice and against white supremacy. They were white people in the civil rights era, who took the Freedom Ride and protested segregated lunch counters. They are people who stand with BLM and kick the door open to discuss modern racism. These are anti-racists.

Who’s left?

Like a magnet, whiteness has two active parts, described above, and a larger neutral part, where all the other white people sit. These are teachers, doctors, politicians, artists, plumbers and business owners who neither join hate groups nor join racial justice protests. These are the people who say things like “I don’t see race” or think they aren’t racist because they “have a black friend.” (Both of which are deeply racist.) What average white people need to recognize (and I hope Jane Elliott’s work points out) is that we–white people–are all racist. You don’t need to feel bad about your white identity, but you also can’t be neutral about your place in society. As Howard Zinn said, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

That moving train is our racist society. We are conditioned from birth, through our actions and behaviors, to be racist and we benefit from it everyday. It’s time you recognize your privilege and work to better this world. If you do nothing, you are unfortunately playing into the hand of the vocal, proud racists who would like to see you move silently through life and not stand in solidarity with people of color.

If you start to admit that racism is a problem, then you can move into other spheres of identity, biology and power. Seeing how how society turns us into racists allow one to recognize other forms of discrimination you may hold, including:

  • Sexism.
  • Homophobia.
  • Ableism.
  • Xenophobia.

These are just some of the ways that identity and biology are used by people in power, who often are straight white able-bodied men. Ignorance of how discrimination originated and why is lingers is the greatest tool they have to divide and rule. Politicians, media personality, business leaders, and others then use fear as a tool to support their stature and harm to minority groups.

When ignorance combines with fear, the result is hate. An example of this took place last year, when Sikh politician Jagmeet Singh was confronted by a white woman who feared that he was going to implement Sharia law, a Muslim tradition that isn’t part of his faith. Her ignorance of Jagmeet’s beliefs and her fear of Muslims lead to hate speech towards him and other people of color. This incident isn’t unique even if it was broadcasted widely in the news. People across Canada, the United States, Australia, Europe and other white communities hold racist beliefs either consciously or unconsciously. They sometimes express their ignorance about the lives of people or their hatred for the other. It is up to all white people to speak up against racism and to act to stop it.

As a straight white, able-bodied man, I can admit that I was completely ignorant about most inequality that exists in the world. The single greatest cause was a lack of exposure. I grew up in a patriarchy community (small rural town) without discussion of inequality of injustice. I didn’t have conversations with people of color. We didn’t talk about differences.

So, when I later discovered books on the subject, I felt awakened. Knowledge is the cure to ignorance and something all privileged people should excitedly rush towards. White people should learn about race. We should explore differences in sexuality and genders. Europeans should learn about cultures from around the world. We should learn about all religions and believes in the world. We shouldn’t be afraid of what we find or learn.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

A recent book I found quite helpful in explain these topics is Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This books documents, in great details, the history and current manifestation of racism in white societies, like the United States and United Kingdom. Reni discuss her childhood story and the unique challenges of being a young girl of color in societies ruled by white men and women. Her own childhood showed her that:

“White children are taught not to ‘see’ race, whereas children of colour are taught–often with no explanation–that we must work twice as hard as our white counterparts if we wish to succeed.”

When we understand the unique intersections of identity, we can also look at the unique challenges some men face. As Reni notes:

“Men inhabit different spaces. Some face racism. Some face homophobia.”

But maybe, the most important thing we can learn is the role of white people and the need for us to no longer be neutral. As Reni summarizes, it’s time for white people to examine whiteness and their contributions to a racist society. It’s time to stop telling people of color to solve this problem and begin listening to them so that we may be part of the solution:

“The perverse thing about our current racial structure is that it has always fallen on the shoulders of those at the bottom to change it. Yet racism is a white problem. It reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies and double standards of whiteness. It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve. You can only do so much from the outside.”

What I hope changes is that the majority of white people come to terms with whiteness and the racism they grew up in and perpetuate everyday. I hope white people will become less reactionary when told about racism or labeled racist for their words and actions.

The fight for racial justice has been long and hard-fought. It’s time that white people take a side: either with those who spout hate, or those who express love.

In June 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. In it, he defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance but also criticizes white moderates and all their “goodwill”:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you for your open mind. If you want to hear more about whiteness, I highly suggest listening to this episode of ABC’s The Minefield:

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Hollywood Caricatures

Hollywood films seem like the biggest advertisements for the United States of America. Action movies show muscled heroes saving cities like New York and Los Angeles from certain danger. Family dramas live in American suburbs, while romantic comedies maze through the downtown restaurants and bars. Westerns hearken back to frontier times and science fiction marvels at American space exploration.

In addition to the best aspects of Americana, films also showcase the worst prejudices within American society as explored in two documentaries: Reel Injun (2009) and Reel Bad Arabs (2006).

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian explored the portrayal of Native Americans in film. Reel Injun is illustrated with excerpts from classic and contemporary portrayals of Native people in Hollywood movies and interviews with filmmakers, actors and film historians. Reel Injun explores many stereotypes about Natives in film, from the Noble savage to the Drunken Indian. It profiles such figures as Iron Eyes Cody, an Italian American who reinvented himself as a Native American on screen. The film also explores Hollywood’s practice of using Italian Americans and American Jews to portray Indians in the movies and reveals how some Native American actors made jokes in their native tongue on screen when the director thought they were simply speaking gibberish.

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (which can be viewed online here) is an extension of the book of that name by Jack Shaheen which also analyzes how Hollywood corrupts or manipulates the image of Arabs. This documentary argues that the slander of Arabs in American filmmaking has existed since the early days of the silent cinema and is present in the biggest Hollywood blockbusters today. Jack Shaheen analyzes a long series of “demeaning” images of Arabs through his presentation of various scenes from different American movies which he has studied. He argues that this image is characterized by showing Arabs either as bandits or as a savage, nomadic race, or shows Arab women as shallow belly dancers serving evil, naïve, and greedy Arab sheiks. Most important is the image of the rifle in the hands of Arab “terrorists”. The film then attempt to explain the motivations behind these stereotypes about Arabs, and their development at key points in American history, as well as why it is so important today.

Demeaning Native American and Middle Eastern movie depictions follows from Hollywood’s racist imagery of African and Asian decedents. Any race except White Europeans.

j320-infographic-1ikhbg2-519x1024Racist film portrayals parallel American depictions within sport and other cultural areas, like Halloween costumes. They reinforce one another and desensitize people to racism.

Children receive this informal education early on. Disney has produced both Aladdin (1992) and Pocahontas (1995), embodying the worst aspects discussed above. One features an Arab land filled with genies and flying carpets. The other features a Native American women in need of a conquering European man’s help. These “family friendly” and racist films continue to be made today.

It is important to reflect on this history as many Americans and Canadians will have limited to no interaction with the minority ethnic groups portrayed in film. This inability to experience counter-narratives leads many people to believe the reality depicted in film.

It leads to ongoing violence against both groups, who are seen as supporting characters without true person-hood. Stereotypes to laugh at and not treat as fully human.

Until we, as consumers and fans of film, realize our role in pushing such disgusting lies about peoples who have be mistreated by others for far too long, nothing will improve. We need to stop pretending that culturally inappropriate caricatures of people in film (and all media) are harmless or simply “good fun”.

Stereotypes have serious consequences for everyone.

Black Power and the Black Panthers

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Writing for Jacobin Magazine, Robert Greene II discusses the lasting relevance of the Black Panthers and their antiracist, anticapitalist vision:

The work of the Black Panthers remains important for several reasons. First, they remind us that the problem of police brutality has long been with us (Martin Luther King, Jr even mentioned it in his oft-cited, but often misinterpreted, “I Have A Dream” speech). Indeed, protests following the death of Denzil Dowell in North Richmond, a community near Oakland, in April 1967 played a major role in the growth of the BPP from a small cadre to a major political and social force.

Second, the BPP offers a good model of grassroots activism and ideology in practice. While the group was torn apart by conflicts between Newton and Cleaver by the 1970s, the Panthers continued to do important work on the ground in Oakland. Their “survival programs” appealed to African Americans living in poverty who were unable to depend on local government for any help. And crucially, they tied their free breakfast and education programs to a larger political project. An ingenious mix of the practical and the visionary, the BPP’s community work was the most revolutionary work they carried out.

The Black Panther Party also proved an important training ground for African-American women activists, such as Kathleen Cleaver and Elaine Brown. As with the Civil Rights Movement, women members did a great deal of the nuts-and-bolts work in the BPP.

Finally, the legacy of the Black Panther Party can be seen in the current Black Lives Matter movement. The Movement for Black Lives’ demands for economic justice, community power, and reparations recall the Black Panther Party’s ten-point platform. And, like the Black Power and Civil Rights movements, the Black Lives Matter movement has had to deal time and again with negative media coverage and a “go-slow” critique from many American liberals.

Today, fifty years after its founding, the Panthers should be remembered for more than their black berets and shotguns. Despite their flaws, they melded the immediate and the transformative into a potent political vision, advocating a multiracial alliance against racism, capitalism, and imperialism that delivered tangible gains to the most exploited. That vision is equally as stirring today.

Charles Bursey hands a plate of food to a child seated at a Free Breakfast Program.

Charles Bursey hands a plate of food to a child seated at a Free Breakfast Program. (source)

Like Greene’s article, the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (click here to watch online) traces the roots of the Black Panther movement and the impact of its rise and fall on society.

The Black Panther Party put itself at the vanguard for social change. Their community social programs, including free breakfast for school kids and community health clinics, and acts of civil disobedience lead the FBI to call the movement “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and start an extensive government program called COINTELPRO to surveil, infiltrate, perjure, harass, discredit, destabilise and disintegrate the movement. The U.S. government did everything it could to destroy this grassroots movement for racial advancement, including the assassination of its leaders.

Other movements can learn from the example of Black Panthers and their community-based action for social change. No matter what the powerful do to stop them, the people will continue to fight for what’s right.

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All power to the people.

The Powerful Need to Invalidate Social Movements

tumblr_mu4239ywbb1r0cemdo1_500As a white man, I rank very high on the ladder of privilege. My skin color and my gender are just two aspects of my identity, which have been prioritized by Western society for centuries. I also benefit everyday from my sexual orientation (heterosexual), my nationality (Canadian), my level of education (two university degrees), my mother tongue (English), my lack of disability (whether physical or psychological) and my age (28). It took me some time to understand this but now I know that, in almost every aspect of my identity, I have immense privilege, which many do not. Unfortunately, many people don’t see it that way. Many people with a similar attributes to myself have not realized their privilege and fight against any evidence to that effect.

The two cases examined below show this backlash and are similar for a number of reasons. First, they are social movements fighting inequality in society – one on the basis of race, the other on gender. Second, they both utilize the Internet and social media as tools for communication and organizing, including Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Third, both have been met with criticism from privileged people outside their movements trying to invalidate their message. This point has far-reaching importance as invalidation by outsiders can be found across nearly all social movements and includes acts of denial, shame, ignorance and faux compassion. Fourth, they are largely centered in North America and Europe. Finally, each of the two cases below shows the difference in understanding between outsiders with a cursory understanding of the field they are questions and academics who rebut them.

#BlackLivesMatter

“Because of the brutalizing and killing of black people at the hands of the police and the indifference of society in general and the criminal justice system in particular, it is important that we say that…”

Black Lives Matter.

This explanation of what is implied by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement comes from a law professor responding to complaint from a first-year student. The student (or possibly, students) had been so offended by the professor wearing a BLM shirt that they wrote a two-page complaint. The letter said wearing the shirt was “inappropriate” and “highly offensive.” Further, it said “we do not spend three years of our lives and tens of thousands of dollars to be subjected to indoctrination or personal opinions of our professors,” and urged the professor to avoid “mindless actions” that might distract students at a law school where not everyone is passing the bar.

The professor, Patricia Leary of Whittier Law School, responded. She wrote an impassioned and thoughtful response. (The full exchange can be found here.) Professor Leary unpacks many of the student’s premises, such as whether tuition allows students to make demands on their education and institution, in her six-page response. The ones I found helpful specifically addressed the student’s claims that the BLM statement “is racist and anti-law enforcement”. These thoughts, held by many Americans, have resulted in counter movements, the so-called “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” slogans.

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Following BLM, whites and pro-police groups came out with their own thoughts on which “Lives Matter”.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) originated in 2013 as a hashtag on social media, campaigning against violence and systemic racism toward black people. It has now grown into a global movement. The BLM movement is addressing the long history of police violence against African Americans and raising consciousness through protests. Law enforcement in the United States has a racial bias, as evidenced by the Guardian’s database on police killings and stories in their series The Counted. Blacks are killed more often than whites. Other minority groups, Native Americans and Latinos, also face higher rates of police violence than whites.

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Americans killed by police in 2015.

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Americans killed by police in 2016, as of October.

These statistics hide the stories of men and women shot by police and often killed. Stories like the shooting of unarmed people, like Charles Kinsey, who had his hands up and said he was unarmed when Miami police marksmen opened fire this year, or Oscar Grant, who was killed on New Year’s Day 2009 after being shot in the back while lying on the ground face down and handcuffed. These incidents were filmed, preventing the police from disputing the facts. In other cases of death by shooting, like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the police officers who acted were found to have previous incidents of excessive force. Often these police receive little to no punishment, which sparks anger within the American American community.

These recent cases, following the history of slavery and racial segregation, are what many white people, including the anonymous student, are trying to invalidate. As Leary explains,

“Black Lives Matter is about focus, not exclusion.”

This is the core misunderstanding of people, like the anonymous student, who attack social movements. BLM is focusing on a problem. It doesn’t exclude anyone from debating the issue. It is not only Black Lives Matter, but, rather, Black Lives Matter too.

A focus on racial profiling and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system (which I’ve previously written about), in addition to police brutality, are important human rights problems in the U.S. Discussions on police violence often intersect with disability and poverty, which also go ignored by many.

not-in-serviceSaying “Blue Lives Matter” does nothing to address police brutality. It is an attempt to deny the claims of the BLM and replace them with equal footing for police officers. In the cases noted above, where they were unarmed, victims were shot regardless of the threat they posed to police officers. This is a serious problem, found across the U.S. and needs to be addressed, not ignored.

Similarly, saying “All Lives Matter” is a denial of the history of racial inequality and its results. Rather than listening to victims and researching their claims, many white people will go on the defensive saying things like “You’re not the only ones.” Yes, white people are killed by police, although at a much lower proportion than minority groups. Rather than addressing this problem, which affects everyone, people who shout “All Lives Matter” are attacking the one actually doing something about it, namely the BLM movement.

Who Needs Feminism?

While studying in the UK last year, I heard about a conference on the issue’s affecting women. As someone new to the area and hoping to help create change, I was hoping to attend. Unfortunately, they were excluding men from applying.

At first, I took offense. Shouldn’t I be able to attend? Don’t my opinions and voice matter? I was wrong on both counts. Men should never dictate what women can discuss, or who can attend such discussions.

Like the case of Professor Leary and the anonymous student above, many men (and women too) will think their voices are being discriminated against in situations where women discuss issues that affect them. This is epitomized by the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) and online debates.

On social media, people have expressed their solidarity with women’s rights and issues with hashtags like #YesAllWomen and #HeForShe. They also posted photos of themselves with statements starting with “I need feminism because …”.

This was countered by people on social media, like Facebook group Women Against Feminism, who wanted to show why they “don’t need feminism”.

Rather than seeing the first group’s grievances and saying, “Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better”, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie suggests, the second group denies their claims and feels feminism is the problem. Many of the anti-feminists claims do not match what is found in reasearch, as Lisa Cumming points out. Men and women don’t have the same rights and opportunities. The suffragette movement, which was the first wave of feminism and led to women’s right to vote, is just one example of this inequality and why feminism matters.

In a large number of cases, these posts attack feminist’s character rather than the issues. When they do discuss issues, the anti-feminists question why men aren’t talked about more by feminists, since they’re 50 percent of the population.

This is exactly what happened when Lauren Southern, an online commentator for The Rebel, a Canadian media platform, posted a “I Don’t Need Feminism” video on YouTube. Lauren argues points familiar to the MRM, including male suicide, sexual assault against men and custody of children. In fact, these are the three issues that are repeated ad infinitum by MRM proponents. These three concerns are, unsurprisingly, discussed by feminist writers as well.

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In a reply to Lauren’s video, Jenna Christian addresses each claim in detail. Jenna notes that “feminism helps us understand and confront not only the violences and inequalities facing women, but also the problems facing men.” On whether feminism is sexist, Jenna responds that “there are real and serious inequalities that continue to face women, and it is not unreasonable or sexist for a movement for gender equality to focus primarily on those problems” (emphasis added). This is very much in line with the idea of exclusion that I’ve been talking about and how many outsiders may feel.

On male suicide, male workplace deaths, male combat deaths, and male homicide deaths: “feminists demonstrate how norms of femininity and masculinity entrench ideas about appropriate male and appropriate female behavior, which deeply shape the conditions of these male deaths.” Through many examples and references, Jenna goes on to explain how feminist theories help to explain domestic violence against men, men raped in prison, male privilege, child custody following divorce, and the other critiques by Lauren. In all, it provides a successful rebuttal.

Jenna and Lauren decided to continue their online discussion. Jenna provided a prompt looking at the devaluation of femininity. Lauren provided a second video, adding points on income inequality, which Jenna addressed. The conversation didn’t move any further.

One point which is very telling is that Lauren, in her second video, states that Jenna provided “no proof that feminists speak for men’s issues”. This is strange since Jenna has two posts before filled with citations of feminists speaking on men’s issues. It’s unclear if Lauren even read the critiques of her video. (It’s also important to note that the media platform that Lauren works for and that hosted her video is staunchly anti-feminist. Rebel Media, among other views against basic human rights, denies all claims made by the trans* community and denies that there is anything apart from a men/women binary.)

I find this exchange between Jenna and Lauren interesting for two main reasons. It’s interesting that two women are discussing issues related to men. It’s interesting not because they can’t discuss men’s issues. It’s actually the opposite. Women can research the problems of men. And men can research the problems women. Or more simply, everyone can research gender.

The cognitive dissonance within the MRM and anti-feminist media is important to note. On the one hand, MRM proponents will deride anyone who undertakes gender studies, saying that they really should have studied in the heavily male-dominated fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) so they can get a job. Then, on the other hand, those same people will criticise gender studies for a (perceived) lack of inclusion of the issues that affect males but not encouraging men to switch from STEM to gender studies to research said issues. It’s as though they want the gears of industry to keep on turning while never questioning the struggles of the people who turn those gears every single day. It’s really hypocritical.

x_lon_polandabortion_161003-nbcnews-ux-1080-600The other reason I find it interesting is that anti-feminists seem to have a small worldview and a short memory. It wasn’t long ago when women, in North America and Europe, couldn’t vote, hold public office, attend university or own land. These victories were just some of the advancements in the process for equality. A process that continues today.

People opposed to feminism and women’s liberation also seem to ignore the news, because there are plenty of countries where it’s needed. Recently, the people of Poland have protested in the streets against the government’s planned reproductive rights laws that would limit abortion. Poland already has extreme laws that force many women to undergo illegal abortions that risk their lives. The protests worked, forcing the government to back down.

Following the release of a damning Human Rights Watch report in July, the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian went viral in Saudi Arabia, with women of all ages tweeting for a change to the system. An unprecedented petition calling for an end to the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia has been put before the kingdom’s government after gaining over 14,000 signatures.

Who needs feminism?

Everyone.

Further Implications

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

Instances of people rallying against BLM or feminism are useful in understanding privilege in society. To understand white privilege, it’s important for whites to unpack their invisible knapsack and understand the historical context of racial inequality. Women and men opposed to feminism should look at what feminists actually say. They might be surprised by what they find (and how much of it agrees with what they are concerned about). These two cases are useful in addressing other social movements and the invalidation that outsiders thrust upon them.

In the fight for marriage equality and adoption for same-sex couples, campaigners have been countered by religious conservatives, who play the victim and say homosexual marriage is an affront to ‘traditional’ marriage. Marriage is a social construct that has changed over time and excluding same-sex couples is hurtful. Religious groups also say that “kids do best with a mom and a dad” while ignoring the plight of orphans or abused children within heterosexual couples. Opponents do not see homosexuals as their equals and seek to punish them for this belief.

Both of these issues for same-sex couples played out in Mexico last month. Thousands of people in Mexico City have protested against a government proposal to legalise same-sex marriage, which they say would undermine traditional families. Opponents to the change in constitution also believe that reforms will make room for same-sex adoption (currently illegal in Mexico). A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City has said that President Peña Nieto’s proposals felt like a “terrible stab in the back” to the Catholic hierarchy with whom he had previously had a good relationship.

A similar backlash occurred in the U.S. before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, where evangelicals needed to hear some hard truths: “No one is going to make you be gay. Preachers will not be forced to marry gay people. It will not become illegal to be a Christian. God isn’t going to destroy America.” I’m sure the same will hold true for Mexico and the rest of the world.

The notion of invalidation can apply to international issues as well. When in comes to global poverty and the obligation of wealthier nations to provide foreign aid, many people will say that politicians should “helping those here” first. Following flooding in the United Kingdom, politicians and the press used the opportunity to attack foreign aid. Similarly, opponents of foreign aid also oppose providing sanctuary for refugees and victims of war on similar grounds. It’s difficult to see why no one has responded by asking: “Why not do both?”

In these cases – All Lives Matter, Men’s Rights, traditional marriage, etc. – there is a trend in defending the status quo. The powerful sections of society – commonly, rich white men – attack anyone who questions their power, rather than addressing the inequality that results from their ingrained privilege. They use conservative elements of media, government, business and religion to help fight their cause. As shown above, people in the public also help fight against their own causes. They push back against racial, gender and sexual equity. They also push back against notions of compassion for the impoverished and victims of war.

Racial justice movements, like BLM, question the police and criminal justice system that has evolved from slavery and racial segregation. Feminists have also campaigned against the violence of police and the military, as well as economic inequality, political representation and reproductive rights. Same-sex marriage is opposed by orthodox religion and also acts to question its moral supremacy. Intersectionality brings these discussions of race, gender and sexuality together, along with age, disability, colonialism, language and more.

Let’s hope that everyone can join together to fight for social justice and equity.

Finally, “All Houses Matter”:

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