There are few things more disheartening than finding out that someone you used to like and respect is in fact one of the most terrifyingly misogynistic people you’ve ever had the misfortune to argue with on Facebook.
I won’t go into detail, as I’m sure anyone with a vagina has heard it all before. Blah-blah-blah being sexualized gives you power and is a compliment, yakety-yakety women are coddled by society because of their pathetic victim narratives, barf-barf-barf. I can shoot down arguments like those with my hands tied behind my back. What I cannot deal with, however, is the unwillingness to consider another person’s perspective.
I used to argue against the existence of white privilege. Gross, I know. But from my perspective at the time, someone was making generalizations about me based on the colour of my skin, and I felt that I had the right to defend myself. Most of the comments I made were met with anger and recriminations (which of course were completely justified), but one or two of the people I was arguing with linked me to some excellent articles about white privilege from the perspective of a person of colour. I read them and found, to my horror, that they were right. I was trying to talk over people who had actual experiences with white privilege, and I was doing that because I had never been in a position to understand what it’s like to experience systemic discrimination based on the colour of my skin.
I’m not looking for kudos for accepting my white privilege. I know that I have lots of work to do to become the kind of ally I want to be, and that even then I have to be always on the watch to ensure that my voice supports but does not overpower those whose fight this actually is.
I’m telling this story because it’s the exact opposite of what happened today with the guy in question. No matter how many women explained their perspective to him (politely, I might add), he continued to tell us that our experiences were invalid because they didn’t line up with his experience of the world as a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class male. Even the contributions of a feminist male were met with derision — in this guy’s eyes, any man who didn’t agree with him was ‘pandering’.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with looking at the world from a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class male perspective. How can you truly see the world through any eyes other than your own? There is, however, something very wrong with telling a person how to feel about something that you can’t possibly have experienced for yourself. The best you can do is to listen to our experiences, ask questions to gain a better perspective, and leverage your privilege to boost the signal without drowning out our voices.
If you’re not willing to do that, well…