If you spend any time at all on the internet, you have surely heard accusations of “reverse racism/sexism/heterophobia” thrown about. Generally by “Men’s Rights” activists and supposedly disenfranchised white people. Sometimes (often?) these are the SAME people. But anyways, IS this actually a thing? Has the pendulum swung the other way? From the civil rights era and 2nd wave feminism goals of creating equality between races and sexes, to giving those groups power OVER whites and men? If we are to believe a significant segment of the population, the answer is “yes. Totally.”
Women no longer want to be equal to men, they think they are BETTER than men. Manhood and masculinity are under attack! The natural order of things is being mocked and changed and I, I mean “we”…wait. No. I mean SOCIETY won’t stand for it.
And people of color (POC)? Do NOT get them started on poc that are unfairly stealing the American dream from REAL hardworking Americans that have pulled themselves up by the bootstrap while working hard for their money, never accepting a handout and embracing everything that makes this country great. Like BBQ (true), NASCAR (questionable) and Wal-Mart (a definite lie).
The thing is, when people complain about others not doing things the “right way”, they ignore or don’t understand the systems that allowed them and theirs to do things “the right way.” For example, did your grandfather come to this country with $3, a stick of gum and lint in his pocket and work soooo hard that he was able to raise 5 kids without taking handouts from anyone, let along the government? Awesome. Good for him. Thing is, he had two things going for him that were/are really, really important when it comes to success and dreams realized in America: He was, well, a HE. Male. And white. Or at least what was acceptably white then (race meant different things at different periods of time. Check out a history of the U.S. Census for more detail). Those two things gave your grandfather a HUGE advantage over others. Yes, he worked hard, but his race and sex may have worked even harder for him. Oh, this doesn’t fit your family’s story? Well, okay. There are lots of variation and individual stories and circumstances. Point is, as a whole, men and whites have been systematically privileged in this country for as long as it has existed. Great strides *have* been made to level the playing field for others, but it’s not there yet.
People who claim that we don’t need feminism anymore or affirmative action or the courts to weigh in on marriage equality think that we live in a post-whatever society that has magically fixed all its inequality problems. If you think that’s true, simply go outside and ask someone of a different race, sex, religion, orientation etc about their experiences in post-whatever America. Don’t be surprised if the person doesn’t know that they are apparently living “high off the hog” in this new America. I would strongly advise you NOT to try and convince them of this. Just a friendly piece of advice.
Now, back to my original question. Is reverse -ism really a thing? I once read an answer to this question that argued that blacks, for example, cannot be racist because they do not have the POWER to be racist. Um. What? Put another way, to be racist or discriminate, you have to have institutional power that gives you advantages over someone else based on something arbitrary–like a penis. Or skin color. So, can blacks be bigoted against whites and others? YES. They sure can. Hi, grandmother! But are there enough blacks in power structures (govt, corporations etc) to make it hard for whites to get certain jobs and positions? No. Are whites over-represented in the criminal justice system? No. Are blacks more likely to go to better schools and live in safer areas? No. If you are white, do you watch the news and pray that the suspect *isn’t* white? Because white people are going to be stereotyped and not trusted and profiled (by the police and society at large)? Probably not. That’s privilege.
Another example: Can women hate men? Yes. Duh. But, remember the whole power thing! While patriarchy (the system that favors men over women) hurts EVERYONE with it’s limited gender roles and limited tolerance for stepping outside of those roles, it still benefits men MORE. As a man, you are capable of being a victim of domestic and sexual violence. No question there. That said, you are much less LIKELY to experience these things. Especially if you are an adult. You probably weren’t taught how to avoid being raped. You probably don’t wonder how you can “have it all” in your life/work balance. It’s expected that you *will* have it all.That’s privilege.
Oh, before I forget, let’s have an example of heterosexist privilege! First thing that comes to my mind is this: Has anyone ever said to you, “well, I don’t mind if they’re straight, but why does he/she have to flaunt it??” You may not be down with PDA in general, but you won’t get too many looks and/or comments if you engage in it with your opposite sex partner. I don’t think too many people wonder how to explain “heterosexuality” to their children when a man and a woman get married on TV or kiss in the park. And unless you are in some very strict religious sect, having a picture of your SO on a desk or talking about weekend plans with them is not likely considered “flaunting” your relationship. Get where I am going with this? Privilege. Some have it, some don’t. You can have one type of privilege, but not another. So a white gay male has TWO privileges: white privilege and male privilege. A straight black male also has two privileges: male and straight. I am a triple minority: black, female and queer. But I *do* have educational privilege. It’s complicated, right?
Sorry that I rambled on and on and don’t even have any answers for you. How rude! Unfortunately, the issue of privilege is not something with an easily solvable equation. Too many variables. And the messy human factor. You aren’t expected to have a solution or an answer. At least *I* don’t expect that, but it would help ALL of us if you could be aware and think about what you say. Especially on the internet. You can speak, you can have an opinion–I love that! But could you also listen and ask questions and try to empathize with The Other? It’s hard enough to Be in this society without having your specific truths and experiences dismissed as not real or important by people who don’t, and refuse to, “get it.”