Who gets to decide when women are oppressed?

This is the first post in the newly created category, Privilege in Action. Posts in this category will be devoted to highlighting and analyzing small bits of privilege that crop up in everyday life. This category is part catharsis and part evidence gathering for the people who say that they can’t see how their group is privileged.

Background: Two women-only mailing lists for wiki editors were advertised on the foundation-l mailing list. As is typical for discussions of gender inequality, the thread exploded.

Today’s Privilege in Action example [emphasis mine]:

Since women have the ability to contribute here the same as men, I really don’t see why this is needed. Surely the scepticism being shown to this idea from many men is proof positive of the fact that no-one is being opressed. How ironic to have women in this day and age proposing their own seperate mailing list from men, since so many feminists fought so hard for gender equality. This looks to me like a step backward.

[From [Foundation-l] Introducing a new mailing list by Corum O’ Fallamhain, message from Tue Dec 5 00:29:23 UTC 2006]

On the surface, what Corum is saying seems supportive of women. He takes for granted that women “have the same ability as men” and because of this he sees a women-only mailing list as working against gender equality.

Now take another look at the bolded part. What’s being assumed there? That men, not women are the appropriate sounding rods for whether or not women experience oppression. According to his argument, men’s opinion of women as having the “same ability as men” is more important than women’s perceived experience in deciding whether or not a mailing list for women to feel safe giving their opinions is needed or not.

Given that he was assuming women to be equal to men, I don’t think anyone would call Corum an anti-feminist or otherwise think that he was actively working against women. But that’s exactly the point.

Privilege isn’t about hating non-privileged groups.

Privilege isn’t about thinking that those non-privileged people are less than you.

Privilege is about not thinking about how your actions and opinions don’t give non-privileged people equal weight to those of privileged groups. Even in cases, like this one, where the issue is one that primarily affects the non-privileged group.

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This entry was posted in Feminism, Privilege in Action, The Internet is Serious Business. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Who gets to decide when women are oppressed?

  1. Earlbecke says:

    Privilege is about not thinking about how your actions and opinions don’t give non-privileged people equal weight to those of privileged groups.


  2. Sara says:

    You could’ve even shortened it and it still would have made sense:

    Privilege is about not thinking.

  3. JaneDoe says:

    Hear hear. That’s exactly what’s always bothered me about this argument- the idea of a man telling a woman why she’s equal just makes my head want to explode!

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