With the advent of social media, disenfranchised groups are now able to be heard globally. It’s allowed an entirely new breed of sub-cultures to form within social- change groups; Specifically, in America, there are issues regarding race, gender, religion, body image (fat-shaming), sexual orientation and others. Sometimes these humanitarian efforts are collectively grouped under feminism, which is good but may unduly credit a gender equality movement with efforts and advances in other areas.
A benefit of this conflation, though, is that it provides an umbrella that encompasses equality issues across a broad spectrum. One issue is that we are not all singularly described individuals and our social groups in which we identify are not all the same. It is quite possible to be a part of a social majority and be a member of an oppressed minority group at the same time.
Since we do not necessarily classify ourselves by one dominant descriptor it can be challenging to understand the nuances of oppression. The media doesn’t help this with its specialization in targeted groups. While there are Internet sites and blogs for black people and gay people and women, there are also sites for black gay women. While this is needed to support these individual groups and address their unique concerns it is important to recognize that these sub-groups are not exclusive.
As much as it is possible to feel oppressed as a woman, if you are white you are still a member of the social majority, and in turn granted certain privileges that are not afforded to women of a minority group in America. The same goes for a man who may be of a racial minority group, but is financially secure. He may feel the sting of being in that social minority because of his skin color, but his economic standing allows him to escape other burdens attributed to the oppression of his race.
It can also be seen in the gay community, where the predominant voice tends to be of a wealthy white male, there is privilege among the oppressed.
While it’s difficult to know which types of social groups are “more” oppressed than others, attempting to gauge whether, blacks or gays, or women, or the poor are worse off in a given society is counterproductive to them all, especially since there are numerous factors that make us who we are. No one identifies with only one group.
Your privilege in one area can mask the oppression you feel in another area. To be frank, if you are reading this article you have Internet access, speak english and probably live in a “First World” country–privileged.
We MUST recognize that while we may feel resentment as a part of a minority group in one area, there is another area that we experience privilege. There’s an intersection of all the groups we identify with, and there is an opportunity to empathize with all of the groups we don’t.
If you are wealthy but suffer from a physical disability, allow the staircase without an adjacent ramp to provide you a glimpse of what it might be like to try and climb the economic ladder. If you are a Latino male, you can use your experiences of prejudice as an example of what it might be like to be sexually discriminated against. It is not to say that the experience of being black is the same as being a woman, but there is certainly a common ground.
The point is that this is one rooted conversation. The common denominator amongst gender equality, racial equality, economic equality is . . . you guessed it, EQUALITY. Once the LGBT community gets their rights, short people will spring up for theirs, and then introverts will spring up for theirs (albeit, quietly). Each cross division of the conversation limits its application to that specific group and doing little to serve the greater ideal.
Until we recognize our individual privileges and address our experiences of them as they relate to our disenfranchised counterparts, there will never be a balance of power. There will never be equality. There will never be peace, acceptance or coexistence.
This is a lot to ask of humanity, but we believe in you, we support you, now it’s time you support each other.