Lola Olufemi| Why I’m done defending my personhood

Since coming to Cambridge I’ve had numerous conversations, usually with white boys, who “just don’t get it.” Boys who have never thought critically about race or gender and are unable to see themselves as the oppressors of other minority groups. They seemingly struggle to understand the immense power and privilege that is afforded to them by virtue of what they look like. I have always been open to having conversations about what race and gender mean in real terms and how they affect the lives of individuals on a daily basis. As sometimes the only black person in the room, I enjoy bursting the bubble of idealism and privilege that these boys exist within. I like asking hard questions because making people feel uncomfortable is a radical way to get them to recognise the oppressive system that they are complicit in. In no place is this bubble of idealism more apparent than in Cambridge. When you’ve had too much to drink after formal and you have to explain the history of racial oppression in America to a white boy who tells you “Darren Wilson is a person too” or when you drop the shocker that “reverse racism” and “sexism against men” are fallacies, it is exhausting. Any criticism of white supremacy is often taken personally: “But, I’m a nice guy so I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “You can’t generalise.” “Not all men are like that.” Or one of my favourites is the attempt to completely erase identity: “Why do you always talk about white and black, there is only one race – the human race.”

Not even Cantabrigians are immune to common misconceptions
Not even Cantabrigians are immune to common misconceptions

When all your friends, who are disproportionally white, start singing “Do they Know It’s Christmas?”, you’re faced with the choice of ruining the mood by pointing out that the lyrics of that song are problematic because they reinforce an image of Africa as disease ridden, poverty stricken and in need of white saviours or just singing along. As someone who is becoming more politically active I’m trying to figure what my role in liberation is. Is it to educate white boys about what privilege is? To some extent, yes – realistically, we need people who will be influential (and trust me some of these boys will be) to raise the voices of oppressed people. Not to speak for them, but to elevate their concerns. However, I am slowly coming to realise something – Do not ever feel guilty for letting that racist joke slide because you couldn’t think of something to neutralise the situation in time. It is not your job to defend your personhood when it comes under attack by ignorance. Do not waste your breath attempting to convince individuals that you too deserve respect. It is like repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall, yes you might eventually begin to chip away at it but you do more damage to yourself in the process. Your dignity as a human being is not up for debate. Use the energy you conserve to Organise. Protest. Speak only to people who are willing to listen to you without becoming defensive or overly argumentative; people who are genuinely interested in understanding the world from your perspective. You are allowed to be tired. You are a human being who lives in a system that tells you at every turn that your opinions are invalid, that the way you look is unacceptable and that you should simply shut up and stop complaining.

Got politics?
Got politics?

Coming from an inner city comprehensive school in London, for me diversity was a given. Where I’m from people who are radically different live on top of one another. That is not to say racism is non-existent but perhaps race as a social construct is more apparent to individuals who have to sit next to a Black British boy on the train or who are served by a Pakistani woman in a high street shop. My own experiences as a black working class girl have informed my understanding of how race, sex and class operate within a wider systematic framework. Since coming to Cambridge because of the stark lack of diversity and the overwhelming sense of male dominated spaces, everything is more political and it is truly a joy. There are easily accessible spaces at this university where people are willing and open to examining their own privilege and what that means for the overall goal of liberation for oppressed groups. There are groups and networks where oppressed individuals come together and share stories, offer support and relieve some of the burden of existing in a space that sometimes might not feel completely their own.

It should go without saying that the white boys I refer to in this article are well meaning, middle class, cis, heterosexual males who truly believe that they got into Cambridge purely on academic merit and nothing else. It is a mix of naivety and ignorance. I’ve often wondered if they can be blamed for their own misconceptions. Ultimately, everyone is shaped to some extent by their environment. If they have never been exposed to the hardships others face; if they have been born into a comfortable lifestyle which refuses to look outward – why would they be concerned with the oppression of a black female? Or a working class trans woman? But they are big boys now. They’re at university. They have a responsibility to educate themselves. It is not our job as women or as people of colour to politely coax them into agreeing with us.

I’m slowly realising that educating others should not be our primary concern. Existing and attempting to have full and creative lives should. We should be generating material that helps to counteract the decades in which our voices have been silenced. You shouldn’t be tiring yourself out wondering if you took your argument too far in the debate last night, if all the boys will think of you as “the angry black girl” from now on. Embrace the label and carry on.

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39 thoughts on “Lola Olufemi| Why I’m done defending my personhood

  1. Thanks so much for writing this article!!! I’m a recent graduate from Cambridge and I feel like you’ve articulated exactly how I felt about my time there. real sense of relief and closure from reading an article that speaks directly to me and I know will speak to so many others like us! Looking forward to reading more of your writing- well done!

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  2. Very insightful piece indeed. I also really like what you said about not feeling guilty for not having a rebuttal to racist joke in time. That is a guilt which have often carried within me for days!
    But I just want to make one point: as much as white boys are very ignorant, and can afford to be, of the privilege that being at Oxbridge affords them, I also want to point out that white girls are also complicit in this vermin that is racism. And sometimes even more than the boys. So many times I have brought on topics about race with girls in my college, who end up crying in my face, accusing me of the one being racist and playing the ‘white girl vulnerability card’ vs ‘the aggressive and angry black woman’. As you can image, people tend to sympathies with white females more, who fit into the idea of what a perfect world should look like.
    Just a thought.

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  3. This is Lola – thank you so much for these comments. It’s so important to start these conversations and Nnenda, I completely understand what you mean about how white girls can be just as problematic as white boys. I feel like though some of them openly identify as feminist, they don’t have a firm grasp on the idea that oppressions are linked or know about intersectional feminism and how it attempts to resist white dominant narratives about women’s lives. I certainly have felt alienated by cis white middle class feminism so I’m giving a talk about it at the feminist society at my college, should throw up some interesting points! Might write an article about how it goes.
    If you feel strongly about it, please write something and send it in. We’d love to hear from you.

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  4. Lola, I love his article. Even though I may not be at the Cambridge, I still totally understand where you are coming from. Studying in a white dominated area there is bound to be a bit of misunderstanding. Reading your article it has made me understand that I do not always have to explain my personhood as not everyone will understand my culture, traditions, ways of life and many other aspects of my life and the way I live it.

    Just want to thank you again for this article and I know your next article will be as great as this one.

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  5. It saddens me that you think sexism against men is a fallacy. It means, if nothing else, you are not using the same definitions of sexism as can be found on Wikipedia, Google, or the Oxford English Dictionary.

    That sort of ideology is why men react against feminism. You ignore and deny their suffering, not because it is non-existent, but because it does not measure up to women’s. You seem to be implying that men and women cannot be discriminated against on the basis of gender at the same time. If this is the case, you are mistaken, you are biased, and you have lost credibility.

    I don’t deny that the people you meet are as you describe. I don’t deny that whites, men, heterosexuals, and cissexuals have it easier, on average(!) than their counterparts. I don’t deny that you’re right to wish it wasn’t so, and to try to change it.

    I’m glad you’ve realized that you aren’t the person to try to change their minds. Because you aren’t. Your opening move is to criticize, and to put blame on their shoulders, because of their race, or gender, or sexual and gender orientation. You insult them by generalizing across their group, in the same way you are insulted when a man generalizes across your gender.

    I’m not even saying you’re wrong to do so, but you have to understand, being right and winning are two very different things.

    Do you want to remove privilege from the world, or do you want to be right? Do you want to make minorities happy, or do you want to make oppressors sad?

    It is my hope that as much thought is put into any replies I receive as I put into this comment. However much you dislike me or my opinions, which I admit have not been particularly polite to you, I hope that your anger (or lack thereof, surprise me) will be channelled toward critical responses, rather than a tirade of applause lights.

    Hesitantly optimistic,
    Takashoru

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    1. Hey Takashoru 🙂

      Thank you for this lovely and well thought out comment. I don’t know why I’m replying because this is the “defending my personhood” “proving my oppression” thing that I rallied against in the article, but hey – I’m procrastinating. I’m going to try and keep this as short as possible.

      You have to understand that there is a difference between the ‘dictionary definition’ of sexism and the sociological definition of sexism and or race. In sociology, sexism and racism describe systems of disadvantage based on race and sex. The only people who stand to gain from those systems are of course, men and white people. So in simple terms, women and people of colour do not have enough historical, institutional, social, political or economic power to gain from systems of disadvantage and therefore cannot be ‘racist’ or ‘sexist.’ When I say sexism against men is a fallacy – I am not saying that men cannot be discriminated against. You wilfully misunderstand me.
      Men and white people can be victims of discrimination in isolated incidents – for example if I am a black employer and I don’t hire you simply because you’re white – I have discriminated against you of course. But that is not racism because racism describes STRUCTURAL INEQUALITY, INEQUALITY ON A SYSTEMATIC LEVEL.
      – Also, (historically men and white people have never been systematically oppressed, but women and POC have. Slavery etc – this is ground level stuff, you know this.)

      In a patriarchal society, men do have negative experiences – but they are not oppressed and those experiences do not equal the historical oppression women faced or continue to face. (the patriarchy is not particularly kind, but it REALLY isn’t kind to women and it allows men freedoms that women can only dream of) Men are encouraged not to share their feelings, leading to higher suicide rates and being more likely to self-medicate etc. In no place in the article did I deny that.

      Understand that when oppressed people talk about their oppressors, we are not suggesting that they don’t get sad sometimes or that they never experience hardship – we also should not have to deal with lovely people like you coming out of the woodworks and policing our anger. White people and men are not going to die from ‘generalisations’ but black men are being killed like cattle in America and women all over the world don’t even have access to shelter or education. SO PRIORITIES you know?

      So just to round up:
      Takashoru, pick up a book about feminism, it might change your mind about a couple of things.
      Feminism is not about men just like anti-racism movements are not about white people.

      Hope I wasn’t too angry.
      black feminist love to you, sir.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Lola, thanks for the civil reply.

        Firstly, I’d like to address your intent to no longer discuss this. I cannot stop you if that is the course you choose to take, but I would warn against it – when you stop interacting with other viewpoints, you lose credibility. Just look at what happens with religious people. (To be fair, they lose it either way, but they lose most when they fail to engage.)

        On the topic of definitions, I already covered some in my shorter reply below, but I would like to see the source that you obtained your definition from. Even if it is valid, without specifying which you mean, you quickly become misleading.

        Furthermore, men are victims of structural inequality. Observe mortality rates in soldiers. In the same way women are expected to stay at home, men are expected to provide for the family. To be entirely honest, I think the latter is a little worse than the former – it’s a little harder to fail at housework to the degree where your family starves to death. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and all.

        Overall, I agree that the balance favours men. However, I feel it is disingenuous to view it only as a whole, without looking at any of the constituent issues. The issues I raised are systemic, structural inequalities that harm men over women. For your assertion of ‘no sexism against men’ to hold, your definition must be getting increasingly desperate and ‘no true scotsman’-like.

        On oppression, I will agree that white men are not oppressed, and most others are to some degree. However, I deny that implies that I am complicit in that oppression, since the dawn of time, simply by being one. I support women having the same rights and freedoms as men. I think that the actions of the US police recently are abhorrent and desire an end to such bias as soon as possible.

        If you call me part of the problem merely by existing, then you are the one being racist, or sexist, no matter how much you protest that by your definitions, it is impossible.

        Feminism is not about men the way shadows are not about light. (And try not to read anything into it as an analogy – it’s just the first duality that came into my head, and I can’t be bothered to find a more politically correct one.)

        Though it is nice to hear you say that. Because now I can quote it. Tell me, do you believe that Feminism is gender equality? Because if so, I’ve now got proof of you saying that Gender Equality is not about men.

        Enjoying our discussion,
        Takashoru

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      2. “Yep, that’s right – the consequences of racism and sexism for black women are just as bad for white men.

        Thank you for enlightening us David.”

        But I didn’t say that the consequences are just as bad for white men. I simply said that white men also don’t benefit when society is sexist and racist. If a ship is sinking, it doesn’t matter who stands on whose head – everyone still sinks.

        It’s an important point, because if you agree that men also don’t benefit when society ignores the skills and insights from “the other 75% of the population who aren’t white men,” then, as a feminist, you can try to work together with (some) white men to change it rather than just rail against The Oppressors.

        Let me be more concrete. If the finance desks weren’t full of wheeler-dealer white men who look and act the same… if there were some dissenting voices, some differences of opinion, then maybe there wouldn’t have been a financial crash. So everyone loses when society is sexist and racist.

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  6. Dear Lola,
    I really enjoyed this article. I’m one of the white boys you describe: I’m heterosexual, cis and middle class. I recently graduated from Cambridge and I thought it may be interesting to talk a bit about what it’s like from the opposite perspective. Obviously these are my views, and may not be representative. I should also point out that I have tried, at least to some degree, to think critically about the issues of race and gender, and consider myself a feminist, so may not be exactly your typical boy…

    I come from a pretty rural background. I went to to the local comprehensive, where there were perhaps two or three black kids in a school of eight hundred or so. As a result, at the start of university, I was probably right at the opposite end of the spectrum to you in terms of how aware I was of racial issues in a social context. As you can imagine, coming to Cambridge was a bit of a shock: not only moving to a town that big, but also to a community as diverse as Cambridge’s. I didn’t (consciously) realise when I was a fresher that even though it was vastly more diverse than my previous home, it was nevertheless still as you put it starkly lacking in diversity.

    As a product of such a system, I do find it hard to see myself as an oppressor. I think part of the reason I find it hard is that I don’t take any active role in the oppression of women or of other races. I would never consider myself to be sexist or racist. However, by not taking an active role against oppression, I am still implicitly part of the system. Another reason I find it hard is exactly as you say: it makes me uncomfortable. To view myself as part of a system which oppresses people that I know and love is deeply unsettling. Another thought that struck me is that although I would never consider myself sexist, for example, how am I to know that I am not, having grown up as a male in a patriarchal system?

    This comes on to your final point: is it my or your responsibility to educate people like myself? If I am being sexist or racist and don’t realise it, who is responsible for correcting my behaviour? It is hard to claim that it is your responsibility because it is an issue with my behaviour. On the other hand if you don’t help me it is not easy to see how I will become self-aware. In my opinion, both are needed, although I accept that it is more important for you to live a full and creative life. Then again, it would be easier for everyone to live fuller, more creative lives in a less sexist, less racist society.

    So I cling to the belief that I got into Cambridge purely on my academic success, because it is uncomfortable for me to admit what I know to be true: that I was statistically more likely to get in than a woman of colour.

    Peace.

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    1. Lola here – Thank you for this comment and for shedding light on another perspective which I am always willing and open to consider.
      I think in the article I was expressing my frustration at the fact that if I’m constantly correcting the intentional or unintentional misconceptions of white boys, I have no time to focus on trying to survive a patriachal and racist society. You have to understand that when someone defends their dignity or their right to bodily autonomy – they are sacrificing their peace of mind, it’s like shooting yourself in the foot. It even got so bad that I was memorising statistics to “prove” my oppression as if my lived experience is not enough. Of course, if said misconceptions are unintentional and I consider you a friend who will be responsive to my calling out and change your behaviour – I will call you out.
      But we have access to the internet now – google “bell hooks” or ‘black feminist reading list’ and see what comes up, just try. We are living in a world where access to information has never been easier but white boys (not you) still expect oppressed people to draw up reading lists for them and pat them on the back when they consider reading them.

      Thank you for recognising your role in an oppressive system, it’s a big step. Now, as an ally to the feminist/ anti-racist movement you have to be proactive. Read up. Call out your friends. Start uncomfortable conversations. Examine your own sexist and or racist behaviour. I don’t need you to feel guilty – guilt doesn’t help oppressed people.
      Remember above all that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU – it is about the marginalised groups you are trying to help.

      Peace.

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  7. Hi Lola,

    Thank you for writing an interesting article. I, too, am a white boy who has been studying in Cambridge for a long time now (undergrad and postgrad).

    Perhaps dissimilar to your experience of us white boys, I have had numerous discussions with multiple friendship groups composed of equally white and privileged people. The outcome of these conversations seems to be that we acknowledge that things are prejudiced and that we ourselves are prejudiced, but we don’t know how to change.

    This leaves me with an overburdening sense of guilt… indeed, the more conscientious I try to be, the more guilty that I personally feel. At one point in the past, I felt personally complicit in the slave trade in the British Empire and that level of guilt was absolutely soul-crushing.

    If I met you in a social setting, it would be unlikely that I would approach you to make conversation, purely on the basis of your skin colour. I would be so worried about accidentally saying something that would cause offense, that I would rather avoid the situation entirely. I would worry that potentially tripping over your name, asking whereabouts you’re from and a whole host of other scenarios would cause you to think I was an unpleasant person.

    Of course, none of this would come across as well meaning, and I do apologise for that. I also don’t believe I’m the only one who struggles with this. Do you have any advice for people like me?

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    1. Hey Joe – thanks for your comment and your honesty – It’s really refreshing.

      I think part of becoming aware of structural oppression or your role in it involves this stage where you feel the soul-crushing guilt that you have described. For example, I’m aware than as a cisgender woman I may be complicit in the oppression that trans women face and I too am always wondering what to do about it. I think at some point you have to let go of guilt because it is not helpful. Feeling sad about oppression doesn’t help oppressed groups – they need action. If it’s as simple as reading more blogs and articles about race and gender, or going out and protesting when you can – or searching out literature that shines a light on interesting perspectives. All of these things are helpful. If you continue to wallow in your guilt you’ll think that you can’t change anything and that is not true.

      I think in your case… please talk to POC and women. We’re human beings with lots of interests and stuff… We don’t bite, we like cool things. We also like talking about stuff that isn’t connected to race or gender. We won’t eat you if you accidentally say our name wrong – we’ll correct you.

      In this great essay called “The Uses of Anger” in Sister Outsider (which I recommend you read) Audre Lorde said:
      “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructiveness of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

      Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I would like to here a response to Takashoru’s comment, if possible. Of course I don’t need to tell you that you are not obliged to reply, but it would be very interesting because I do think that they have flagged up some potential issues with this article.

    Allow to say that I am not, and I am sure that Takashoru is in the same boat, someone trying to deny the persecutions that have made the lives of many far too difficult. I am a feminist, I call out those who are sexist, but am also, at times, critical of certain ideologies within the larger movement.

    I am sure that when Takashoru challenges your comments on male sexism they do not suggest that the problems faced by men are anywhere near as significant as those faced by women (on average), rather that they wish to clarify that you do not suggest that sexism against men doesn’t exist (a controversial, to say the least, assertion).

    I am not a Dapper Laughs supporter using flawed logical, fuelled by an emotive compulsion to protect my demographic from criticism. I am simply trying to discuss what I believe are some valid points and make small changes for the better of society. I add this slightly patronising proviso because in the past, even when making valid comments and with a good intention, some commenters/bloggers have seen red at the sight of any form of criticism, assuming I am an ardent misogynist.

    The content and normative arguments of your article are not controversial, they contain much truth. But you do make generalisations about certain demographics, about certain people. Of course, these generalisations do very little harm compared to those that affect the oppressed, but I would urge you to really attempt to not alienate anyone. Of course you do not have to convince every moron who doesn’t understand you that you are right. I am not trying to challenge your personhood. I am at Oxford and have seen people make very valid points about race, gender, etc. but lose the support of many many intelligent, socially conscious individuals who agree with their points but are put off by the talking down to the white, middle class demographic. You have not gone anywhere near as far as these groups, you have not used slurs or swear words in referring to them. But in constantly referring to “white boys” you do generalise in this article, and I know you refer to women of the same age as “girls”, but the “boys” (as opposed to “men”) could come across to many as you putting them down. The generalisation certainly does this – although from your own experience this is how “white boys” are, many would argue that at Oxbridge the majority are actually not like this. In my four years the vast majority have certainly not been like this (yes even the rugby team!).

    Two final points.

    First, as I am sure you are aware, one may be aware of the plight of others’ without experiencing it first hand. Of course it is not quite the same, but do not be too quick to assume that those white middle class gentlemen to whom you speak have grown up in a bubble. Often a bubble is formed in only one generation, many parents may have been working class, may have suffered themselves. Many may have educated themselves through books, television, film, life experience of which acquaintances may not be aware.

    Second, as noble as your calling is, not everyone is able to do the same. My mother speaks of “garden rake syndrome”, albeit in reference to the elderly. She may have spent all day doing horrible jobs at her horrible work, just to make enough money to get by. She may then return home to help her ageing father, who is just as stressed by the garden rake being broken as she is by her struggles to buy food and make rent. Although this may be a story to help those find patience when helping elderly relatives whose mental faculties are leaving them, it is relevant here: many ‘privileged’ individuals may suffer their own stresses – whether their father suffers from significant mental illness, whether their brother is addicted to crack, whether they have self-esteem issues, ANY issue can be extremely mentally taxing, just as taxing as a “true” struggle. Anyone, no matter how privileged, can suffer the same crippling anxiety, fear and anger that someone in a war zone or ghetto may suffered. This is not an excuse of justification for inaction, it is simply a lesson of community – many who seem different, almost alien, may be more similar to you than you may know.

    I apologise if the latter part of this comment has come across as patronising, it is certainly not meant to be. I am sure that none of these thoughts are new to you, I just wish to compile them in support of encouraging you not to let your fire, your praiseworthy spirit, your strong arguments be ignored by the majority because you look down on them, generalise them and tell them that they have no problems. As someone else in the comments has said, we need to win! I have seen so many alienated by aggressive, inverse-classist/racist/sexist rhetoric. Of course this rhetoric does not harm the privileged, but it does harm the fight against inequality, because it alienates so many.

    Good luck!

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    1. Hey Jane, thanks for your comment –
      I do agree that perhaps referring to them as “boys” instead of men was problematic.

      I don’t want to repeat what I said in the response to Takashoru (read it), but I’d just like to point out that saying that these men exist within a bubble is not the same as saying that they have never experienced hardship. What I mean when I say that they exist in a bubble is that they are unaware of the structural inequalities that others may face. You bring up the issue of mental health, which of course is important especially in young men – This article in no way diminishes the personal struggles/ negative experiences white men may face but instead recognises that such experiences are not a structural problem. The article attempts to suggest, at least in the conversations I have had with the boys I refer to, that they have little or no understanding of the ways oppression manifests itself for marginalised groups or how taxing it is to have to constantly defend your existence.

      A note on losing the support of the white middle classes – Oppressed groups need to figure out how best to achieve liberation and equality on their own terms. If that means excluding individuals who they view as oppressors, we must recognise that. I myself do not agree with this particular strategy as I don’t think it is practical, but my goal in life is not to make white men and women feel comfortable. If this article makes white men feel uncomfortable – good. They are not supposed to feel comfortable about a system of oppression that they are complicit in.

      Lola!

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  9. Thank you so much for this article Lola. A close white female friend of mine who goes to Oxford sent me the link to this page in the interest of “educating herself on her white privilege” and thought I would be interested in what you have to say on the topic. She was right. Having grown up as one of the “only black girls in the room” in a predominantly white area a lot of what you have to say of your experience at Cambridge rings true to me, especially now that I am at university studying Law in a competitive environment I have found that racism and sexism are more prevalent than ever- and are not going to subside if I persevere within the legal field. I felt that a lot of your observations were also mine too- although I admittedly am not as confrontational when someone pulls out a racist joke, reading this has given me a peace of mind regarding that “guilt” you spoke of! Thank you for being an inspiration and vocalising your views on equality and feminism. Undoubtedly you will be of influence one day too.

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  10. Thanks for your reply Lola, sorry i hadn’t seen your reply to the other poster at the time of my post.

    I agree with you re making people feel uncomfortable etc., I am by no means encouraging you to make things easy for people. By giving a rational reply I think you’ve shown you aren’t in danger of becoming like the groups I have described, you talk down to, insult, laugh and belittle those who are privileged, being rude and aggressive at every opportunity. Again, thanks for your reply and good luck

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  11. Finally, will just add, having read your reply to said commenter, that just because a large system discriminates against women does not mean that systems within it, or parallel systems alongside, may not doscriminate amongst men. The extremely unfair custody laws in the UK are an example of this. The same system that discriminates against women by defining their role as the primary carer, thus limiting work opportunities etc, discriminates against men who want to see their children. There is, in that case systematic sexism against men AND women. Many other examples exist. Sink don’t think it’s quite so black and white. I am actually done now!

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    1. In that same response I made the distinction between discrimination and sexism.

      I’m not disagreeing with the argument that men are discriminated against in certain instances nor am I suggesting that they aren’t negatively affected by patriarchy,I am arguing that such instances – *based on a sociological definition of sexism as a historic system of disadvantage* – are not instances of “sexism against men” but merely discrimination because they do not equal the historic social, political and economic oppression of other marginalised groups.

      It is okay to disagree on these things, thanks again for your comment!

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      1. Lola. You made your own definition of Sexism, ignoring the commonly held and dictionary-supported one.

        This is disingenuous. You now have one word with two vastly different definitions that most people will not distinguish between, if they even know the second at all.

        A lot of people these days have an conditioned aversion to actions described as ‘sexism’. By saying that you cannot be sexist towards men, you remove their protection via that reaction. It’s like saying that men can’t be raped by women because the act requires penetration by the aggressor.

        How about this: if everyone took what you said – that you cannot be sexist towards men – as true, and didn’t know of your secondary definition, what do you think they’d take away from it? That men cannot be discriminated against, so it doesn’t matter how you treat them.

        You are co-opting existing words for new definitions that can easily be confused with the old definitions. Stop it. Find a new term, or just explain what you mean, rather than using ‘sexism’.

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      2. Ah well. It is fully within your rights not to defend your position, but given as we were just getting to the meat of the argument, I fear it looks a little like a retreat.

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    2. Very glad to see this point raised! Thanks for your support, Jane!

      Domestic Violence is another case – most shelters are female-only, and I don’t know of any that are male-only, despite violence against men being a not-insignificant portion of all domestic violence.

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  12. Takashoru’s insistance on dictionary definitions reminded me of this gem- by Sparky of womanist-musings

    “If I look up “carrot” in the dictionary, most people will acknowledge I do not know all there is to know about carrots and if I truly want to understand carrots, I should probably pick up a horticultural text book. We know that legal and medical terms are going to be, at best, simplistically represented and know we need to find a lawyer or a doctor if we want to know more. Anyone deciding to base their argument on, say, a philosophical concept or term using the dictionary is going to be laughed at at best, or automatically lose whatever argument they’re trying to make at least.
    Yet the minute we move into a social justice framework, the ultimate authority changes. We don’t need lived experience, we don’t need experts who have examined centuries of social disparities and discrimination, we don’t need societal context. We don’t need sociology or history – no, we have THE DICTIONARY! That ultimate tome of oracular insight, the last word on any debate!

    It’s patently ridiculous and you can see that by applying it to any other field of knowledge. But the privileged will continually trot out simplistic, twitter-style dictionary definitions as if they are the last word and the ultimate authority. No-one would drag out the dictionary to debate science with a scientist. But they’re more than willing to trot out a dictionary definition of racism over any sociological analysis. A dictionary is not the ultimate authority – they’re a rough guide for you to discover the simple meaning of words you’ve never heard before – not an ultimate definition of what the word means and all its contexts.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, of course. They are simple definitions. However, most people you will be talking to are unlikely to know any more complex ones. Language is for communication – if you aren’t using the same definition as the person you are communicating with, then you fail at communicating before you even get to understanding.

      Even if (and I have yet to see the proof I asked for) this is a standard definition for sexism, it is not the standard definition that most people know. I am asking you to consider how you sound when they infer the common meaning instead of the specialist one.

      On a different note, unless you personally happen to be a respected sociologist, all your clamour for experts is meaningless, as I’ve yet to see one on your side either.

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  13. I see in one of your comment responses you disclaim the idea of structural mental health issues: way to erase a whole heap of vulnerable people who suffer and have to defend their existence, beg for help and fight stigma every single day.

    Google is YOUR friend too.

    Out.

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    1. Lola here –

      I apologise if my comment appeared dismissive of those with mental health issues or the structural inequalities they may face. Please know that that was not my intention and of course I will do my own reading. The comment was in response to an assertion that increased mental health issues (especially in young men) is evidence of “sexism against men” instead of merely a negative effect of patriarchy. I take mental health issues very seriously and do not want my remarks to be perceived as flippant.

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  14. Lola, I’m not going to write a really long reply about how completely on point your article is, but you should know that I am saving this link to read as motivation every time I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle as a feminist, thank you so much for writing such a well articulated piece, it resonates with me a lot xx

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  15. Really enjoyed this and it resonated with me a lot. Being an Asian girl who graduated from Emmanuel College 10 years ago (!!!) I wish I had connected more with the political scene whilst I was there. Instead, although I absolutely loved and enjoyed my time there, I did spend a lot of time feeling inferior and marginalised (not least because I tried to do a lot of acting and often would have directors telling me there were no parts where I looked right). Anyway, I’m really glad that you’re talking about and working through these issues while you’re there, and also, while I think you should absolutely be ignoring most of the comments on this article (repeat after me: not your job), I have had the great experience of white male friends emailing me a full year or even three years after a tough conversation I had with them, about how it was a turning point in their thinking. Which is very satisfying :). Best of luck with it all.

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    1. Thank you for this comment Hanna!

      I am always willing and open to talking to white men who are actually interested in learning about what structural oppression looks like. It’s only the commenters like Takashoru that I don’t have time for.
      Glad to say that I think the drama scene might be improving slightly. I’m in a play about sex tourism, black women and intersectional feminism this term that I am ridiculously excited about! So, baby steps.

      Lola 🙂

      Like

  16. Another great example that social justice warriors like to use in their “arguments,” is to passive aggressively emasculate their “oppressors” by referring them as “white boys.” Never refer to them as “white men,” because that would be a little too honest and “triggering.”

    Like

  17. Love to see that someone sites “custody” as a problem wuthout having done a little honewirk first.
    Sorry Jane Bob but custody does not exist anymore. Until very recently it was ‘contact’ and now is called child arrangement orders. Furthermore, the courts and CAFCASS are focused on the welfare of the child in decisions of what you call “custody”. It is not as simple (or at all reflective of the law and practice at present) that mother gets child and that’s it. It’s all about context, the facts, and ALL THE CIRCUMSTAMCES (see s1 Children Act 1989).
    It might assist to stay calm, do a little research and think before using such an example like custody to make your point. Just a thought!

    All in all some good points have been raised in this article and many of the comments above. Knowledge is power and we have the access. Peace and Love

    Like

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