Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Privilege of Oppression Being "Novel"

In discussing Freshly-Hatched Gynocratic Rage (FHGR), yttik makes a good point:

First, she quotes the alleged "source" of FHGR: "[Taking a women's studies course and discovering] the incredibly pervasive nature of gendered injustice combines the power of novelty with the power of legitimate outrage...."

She then asks a salient question:

"Novelty?? What novelty?! Believe it or not, most women don't 'discover' oppression for the first time in a woman's study class. We've already been there and lived there. Any novelty women might sometimes feel is more about finally realizing they aren't alone, they aren't crazy.

Oppression is not a 'novelty' discovered in a woman's study class."

I agree, and I think the working definition of FHGR is operating on a level of privilege that illustrates how the "men and women experience oppression in equal, opposite, and just-as-bad ways" narrative is a myth.

The definition of FHGR assumes that women haven't already "discovered" gender injustice against women. As though, rather than experiencing it directly, it was something that we have had to learn about from other people.

But, while women's studies may indeed inform women about the oppression women have historically faced, I don't know that the notion of Women Being Oppressed is all that novel to many women.

Learning about the historical oppression of women, gender stereotyping, and sexism against women has always been, for me, an experience of resonance.

It's interesting, though, that claim of "novelty."

I've been in several online conversations with men who have assumed that I was a women's studies major in college. They have made comments, which I'm sure many of you will recognize, like, "I'm just giving you a different view of things than what you learned in women's studies." As though their recitation of uninspired gender stereotypes was more legitimate, more skeptical, and more accurate than my lived experience.

The fact is, I took exactly one women's studies course in college. It wasn't even a theory course, it was a Women In Literature course where I, for once, read books and articles predominately written by women.

Despite this, some men have assumed that what I mostly do is recite "feminist dogma" that I have been "indoctrinated with" instead of speaking from my own long history of living as a woman, and of reading various texts that have resonated with that experience.

In reality, if the women's studies course I took did, in fact, induce any rage in me, it was at the fact that no other course in my entire educational career discussed sexism at all in any context other than a special "women's suffrage" context. Which, you know, can make a young girl feel kind of crazy. Seriously. Crazy. Because that was exactly how Living In A Sexist World That Largely Ignores Sexism And Calls Women Crazy For Talking About That Sexism felt like to me.

When I was girl, my thought process was something like:

"It sure is baloney that they say god is a man and that only boys can raise the flag every morning before school and that the boys get the really nice locker room. But.... no one else seems to think this is weird or wrong... so maybe... there's something wrong with me?"

So yeah.

"Novelty"? Not so much.

I was fully aware that gender injustice against women was pervasive in politics, religion, and sports long before I took my first women's studies class. I just didn't yet have the words or confidence to articulate it.

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