I appreciate your frustration but I think it would be eased some if you would stop taking valid critiques of the social system as a personal attack on you. White men make up 30% of the population and yet overwhelmingly hold the power in this country. For most of that time, this power has been used to overtly subjugate people who were not White men. Up until only about 50 years ago there were laws to this effect- a lot of laws. This is not in dispute. It doesn’t mean life is all roses, even for White men, but that’s not what is being asserted and it certainly doesn’t mean you are horrible simply for being in this demographic.

But to require that those who have been held down by those laws and customs to remain quiet and take what they are given with a smile pasted on is a continuation of the same dynamic. Particularly in the face of all that has come to light in the past year (and continues to be revealed) about just how horrendous the systemic level of abuse has been towards women, and towards many men as well. Anger is appropriate and if you are not someone who thinks of or behaves abusively towards women or people of color, then you really ought to stop taking this personally, because it isn’t even remotely about you. I know a lot of feminists and not one of them hates men or thinks all men are trash. They are however tired of the horseshit and abuse they’ve been subjected to their whole lives and they are tired of being told that they are out of line for saying so. POC feel the same way.

Have you read any of the myriad of stories written around the time of the Kavanaugh hearing about how triggered and traumatized a large section of the women (and men) in this country were? If not, I recommend doing so. It might give you a bit more ability to empathize. The details of the hearing itself and how you felt about them is not particularly relevant. What is note-worthy is just how many people in this country have been the victims of sexualized violence — the CDC says 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men. Not all of this is rape, of course, but that isn’t the only kind of sexualized violence that harms. Ongoing harassment can cause PTSD, and physical problems like heart issues. For most girls, this begins at around age 10 and is a regular part of daily life for decades afterwards.

During the hearing, I knew several women who literally had to take to their beds, they were so overwhelmed with the memories of their own rapes and abuses, but also painfully reminded of how little this culture cares about their wounds. This was not finger-pointing or histrionics. Millions of Americans were physically ill because of the way their deep scars were mocked and minimized, shamed and dismissed. This was was a real and organic phenomenon and it was horrible to endure. I cried for a week!

Yes, it would be great if we could move past anger and more towards something constructive that approaches healing. But until those coming forward with their legitimate complaints are heard; until they stop being told to sit down and shut up; to stop acting like victims, etc., then the anger will continue. I think that putting down the defensiveness and being willing to hear what those who are hurting have to say would be a terrific step towards moving in that direction of making space for healing.

I’ve been doing the same thing. Women of color have recently started talking very loudly about how they’ve been dismissed and marginalized by White mainstream feminism. This isn’t what I want to hear. It doesn’t make me happy to have to face that. But when I really listen to what they are saying, I see it’s actually true. The co-opting of #MeToo is just one example, but there are many more. So rather than deny it’s an issue; rather than try to minimize their concerns or make it some attack on me, I’m doing a lot of listening and reading and trying to understand where they are coming from and what they have to say. I’m trying to understand how although I’ve never personally intentionally marginalized anybody, perhaps I have room to do better in some fashion or to support systemic changes.

We seem to have a particularly hard time in this country with insisting on looking at social dynamics through the lens of personal identity. But that really doesn’t work. If you find a way to stop doing that, I think you might find some peace. I hope that you will.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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