Worth The Fight: An Open Letter to Oppression Deniers (Part One)
By Ali Owens
I'm going to start this discussion by describing a scenario that would hopefully never happen.
Let's imagine that a person in a wheelchair approaches a set of heavy doors without an automatic control. Let's imagine that this person struggles for a moment with the door and has a difficult time opening it. Let's then imagine that an able-bodied person, walking on two legs, approaches.
"This door is really hard to open from this wheelchair," says Person 1.
Person 2 sneers. "No, it's not. See?" Person 2 then opens the door easily and strides through.
Fortunately, this is a fictional scenario. However, though this is an exaggerated representation, this kind of thing -- let's call it "experience denying" -- happens all the time, to just about any group that happens to experience oppression.
The bottom line is: unless you are part of a group that faces certain hardships, obstacles or discriminations, you cannot understand what it is like for those people.
This seems like an easy enough concept to grasp; yet on a daily basis, I am faced with evidence that some people simply do not get it.
Case in point: I recently saw an image posted on behalf of the #freethenipple movement that showed a topless woman on a beach being arrested and handcuffed because her breasts were on display. The text on the image read, "No female should have to be satisfied with less freedom than any male. No exceptions.”
In the comments section beneath the picture, there was an outcry of support from women and men alike. It was a really beautiful thing to see... until I scrolled down and saw a comment left, incidentally, by a man:
"This is the dumbest movement ever. I'd love to see you guys actually give a fuck about something actually worth giving a fuck about. Instead, if a man so much as walks on your shadow, you freak out, saying, "Oh god, oppression! I am a woman -- give me special treatment! I need to show my nipples!" Ridiculous.”
It angered me, yet I couldn't help but laugh. Because the mere idea that this person -- this man - thinks he can understand what it's like to be a woman is, frankly, hilarious. It would be like me, a white person, approaching people of color holding #blacklivesmatter signs and saying, "Come on guys, you're being silly - it's not that hard to be black in America.”
Know why I can't say that? Why I wouldn't even dream of it? Because I don't know what it's like to be black, because I am not black. Therefore, I have no business even commenting on the experience of being black; I don't know the first thing about it.
But that's exactly what the man mentioned above did with the #freethenipple post. By stating that it's "not worth giving a fuck about," he insinuated that he actually knows what it's like to be a woman and face oppression -- that he's been through the struggle and realized that it's really not that bad.
And that is ridiculous.
Furthermore, his statement about how women want "special treatment" shows...