I used to be one of those “I’m not a feminist, but…” people. So, I understand when the people I meet in college, the well meaning people that populate most sociology/gender studies classrooms, say things along these lines. There are some things you only know with experience, and some people never have some experiences.
Last semester, for the final of The Identity Politics Class, we each had to write a research paper—anything about identity politics so long as it incorporated what we’d learned. We then had to give a short summary of our papers to the class.
One young, white, heterosexually-identified, non-disabled male wrote his paper on the movie version of Fight Club. [It agonizes me to admit that I live in such a climate, wherein writing a paper about a movie that was made over a decade ago and that has been the source of what I’d say is an undue amount of analysis, still seems like a viable final project. What can you do?] He ended his synopsis of his paper by stating that white men have feelings too, and they are also hurt by patriarchy. This brought forth a slew of mindless congratulations from my peers. “Finally!” they seemed to exclaim, “Finally we are taking the feelings of middle-class, non-disabled, heterosexual, white men into account! Hurrah!”
All snarkiness aside, this need (white, non-disabled) people have to bring up that white men are also hurt by hegemonic ideas is nothing short of ridiculous. It’s as if feminists as a whole feel that they must always assure those in traditionally powerful positions that they still matter, that, indeed, we’re also fighting for you!
The push for an egalitarian society is exactly that: a society in which everyone is equal. It seems as if most people in power (especially those who most easily conform to hegemonic masculinity) see power as a zero-sum game. If <minority group> is getting their needs better met, then I, majority group member, must be somehow missing out. This is a logical fallacy, partially because it assumes that intangible resources, even when they have real-world repercussions (e.g. Civil Rights), are finite.
There are many feminists out there who caringly express concern over white men. By and large they are doing a great job at not alienating men. However this work towards equality is not always going to be easy or fun, and trying to convince people in power that they’ll definitely benefit from equality may keep us on the road to nowhere.
While it is important to remain compassionate and empathetic, I argue that it is sometimes more important to remain passionate for equality to keep from just being pathetic doormats. (Not that these are necessarily mutually exclusive.)
People of color know that you can’t wait around hoping that (the people who relate to) your oppressors will finally see that the bondage that holds you also holds them. It’s time that white, female feminists learn the same. Maybe learning this lesson will also help them see that equality isn’t equal until it takes all minority statuses into account—not just gender and sexuality.