I try hard to build bridges and have reasonable discussions, but as you know, it’s not always easy because some people just want to rant and feel vindicated rather than have an actual conversation. Fortunately for us, you and I aren’t those people. 😉I do think that part of the issue though is that Americans are so oriented toward individualism that it’s hard for them to recognize societal dynamics and where their specific lives might intersect with those.
For example, not all rich White men do things that marginalize or harm other people, but none-the-less, the bulk of the people at the apex of the power structure under which many are harmed are rich White men. Speaking about that demographic doesn’t mean it applies to every single man who fits those characteristics. As my friend Lorelei Weldon pointed out in her excellent piece, The Patriarchy Is Like Nazi Germany, “When you speak about World War II, do you ever make blanket statements about the Germans such as “When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939…..”? Do you hold Germany responsible for the things that took place on it’s soil and under its leadership even if not every single German person agreed with those policies or participated in atrocities?
First of all, patriarchy is a social system. (I taught her well, didn’t I?) It’s not even necessarily about men. Women uphold patriarchal paradigms too and there are myriad ways that men also suffer under a patriarchal system. But men have been at the higher end of the power structures for the past 10,000 years or so. Societal dynamics that negatively impact women don’t have to be perpetrated by every single last man in America in order to correctly use the short-hand “men” when talking about them.
Just as not every single last German hated Jews or did terrible things during WWII, but we still say the Germans when talking about what took place in that country at that time, when we say the patriarchy or men in society, it doesn’t need to apply to absolutely all men in order to be apt.
There’s been a lot written and said lately about how White feminists have marginalized and largely left all other women out of the “fight.” Although I don’t really identify as a feminist in that I am not a part of some kind of movement, I still hold a lot of those same values. When women of color speak about the failings of White feminism, I don’t feel defensive even though I have never intentionally marginalized or discounted anyone. I listen and read some more and try to learn how I can help be a part of making things better — for everyone. If there were more of that going on, where people were taking a look to see if any of the criticisms were at all valid, and not taking them all as personal attacks, we’d all be in a lot better shape.