Pretending You’re Oppressed: The New Internet Fad
On top blogging sites like Tumblr and Livejournal, the biggest new fandom is no longer anime or evening fantasy drama, but that of “SJ,” a nickname for “social justice,” which refers to discourse on equal rights and how to, essentially, be kind and respectful to all people. As a trans person of color, I have used these platforms as a means of communication, of activism, and a way to maintain my own sanity in one of the rare environments in which I can sometimes feel both safe and totally myself.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many cases where it’s definitely needed. The recent shooting and death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, who was initially let go on self-defense despite a recording of Martin screaming for his life and well-documented violence and racist comments, would be one of those cases. The still-existing legislation in the U.S. that makes it possible to fire transgender individuals for their gender identity would be another. There are legitimate issues that need to be addressed in our society, there’s no denying that. The need spawned things like Occupy Wall Street and SlutWalk, major movements evolving out of small internet conversations.
But as everyone on the internet knows, where there is light, there is dark.
What started as a movement by people who are suffering to try to help those of us who are privileged to understand their struggle has now become a mockery, hijacked by people whose only tangible shared problem could be described — and recognized by anyone with common sense — as social ineptitude.
They sit, watching equal rights discussions, hearing the terminology and logic, and take it for their own purposes. They quote famous activists far out of context to add that elusive air of legitimacy where it just doesn’t exist. By carefully and secretly treating their “fight” as equal to racism, transphobia, homophobia and classism, they worm their way into the real issues and cleverly tilt words designed to protect to disregard those who are at actual risk for losing their jobs and their lives.
The base of this false movement is “identity.” You’ve probably heard the term “identity politics” used to refer to people who believe that identity colors one’s experiences, and this idea is not without merit. Identity is an important concept, and is essential to the fighting of bigoted stereotypes and ideas about marginalized groups. It is very easy for people who have never lived or seen a certain kind of oppression personally to believe that it just doesn’t happen, even despite statistics. But people who seek to misuse the term take that concept all the way down the slippery slope. According to them, as long as someone identifies as something, it is true. No exceptions.
Think about that for a minute.
Do you identify as a butterfly? Then you are one. Do you identify as a pie? Then you are full of buttery, fruitilicious goodness. If you follow the “to each their own” philosophy, one could almost wave the basic idea as long as it didn’t interfere with, you know, reality. But this is the dark side of the internet, and it devours all common sense like a black hole eats light. And we’ve already crossed the event horizon. Anything not mainstream is “oppressed” in this wonderland. Wielding identity as a weapon, one can entirely remove themselves from personal responsibility for their part in harming others, and ultimately, any negativity at all.
Ever hear of otherkin, or otakukin? They refer to people who “identify” as animals or anime characters. I’m pretty open, do whatever you want as long as you’re not bugging me. According to some, though, lack of widespread acceptance of otherkin is contributing to mass otherkin oppression. Oh? Otherkin are being rounded up from their homes and killed? No? Are they being fired from jobs for being otherkin? Not that either, huh? Are they at least being disproportionately arrested and thrown in jail with sentences 60% longer than non-otherkin? Well then what IS going on? They’re… being ostracized on the internet. Oh.
But otherkin and their ilk have been around for ever. Try googling “Final Fantasy VII House.” Pick a time to read when you have a few free hours and a lot of booze. Now, there are newer, even more mockable “oppressions” coming out. You’ve heard of transgender and transsexual, let me introduce you to the new trans people: transabled and transethnic. Transabled people are disabled people hiding out in perfectly working bodies. They “identify” as blind, deaf, paraplegic and quadriplegic despite having never been so a day in their entire lives, and are well-known for talking about how hard it is to want to be disabled but unable to be. Transethnic people are white people who “identify” as a non-white race or ethnicity. They’re weeaboos multiplied by a million, with bonus “I learned about your culture in a book I read once so I know more than you.”
But not all the ridiculous “oppressions” are this out there. What normal people call “mild inconveniences,” some have blown up into full scale witch hunts. Like “kinky oppression.” The belief that people thinking your love of handcuffs in the bedroom is weird is exactly the same as getting beaten in the street for being gay, which leads to the coined term “vanilla privilege,” the preference and favoring of those who don’t engage in any kind of kink in society. Or “body mod oppression” and “goth oppression.” Oppression is just as easy as shopping for overpriced skull-themed clothing at Hot Topic, hopping down to the local tattoo parlor, and getting that box of two dollar head dye from the corner shop!
My personal favorite of these new, ridiculous “oppressions” is when people cross so far into this realm that, to them, the norm is oppressed. Fundamentalist Christians have been complaining about their supposed oppression for years, how they are now the ostracized and marginalized in our harsh modern society, and some people have decided to take a page out of their book.
“Demisexuality” is part of the “asexual” grouping. I’d tell you what it means, but demisexual people are confused about it too (and you’ll find about 100 conflicting definitions out there), so I’ll give my understanding. Demisexuality is when people only feel sexual desire for those whose personality they like, or to whom they are emotionally attracted. In other words, they make up most of the population. But they’re very oppressed, if you ask some of them. Oppressed how, exactly? No one knows, but you can’t expect them to provide any evidence. That would be wrong.
Personally, I think they all suffer from plain old “being boring” oppression. You know, the kind where you’re dull and you watch too much TV and you feel a desperate need to be cool, different, part of a group. One could almost say that “interesting” people are oppressive, flaunting their interestingness in your face, telling stories of suffering and pain, while you know you live in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment your mom and dad paid for, drive in a car that you’ve never had to personally get fixed, and the most harassment you ever received in your life was being told you were weird that one time you wore neon orange lipstick and spandex to your junior prom in high school.
But besides being all very ridiculous, it does have a clear-cut, damaging effect to legitimate oppression, those where people are actually dying, becoming homeless, being forced into prostitution, and living in dire poverty, unable to get a hand up. When you take the words of those who truly suffer, not because they feel emotions while sitting in their middle-class home behind their thousand dollar computer, but because they spent 15 years in jail on a trumped up charge they didn’t even commit, and are now unable to get a job due to stigmatization that doesn’t apply across the board, those people now receive less of the sympathy and help they need to survive. For every person that complains that a disagreement on the internet about their catbunnyanimusparklegirl status triggers them (despite them continuing the argument until the wee hours of the morning), someone who is so triggered they can barely breathe, curled up, reliving trauma, is invalidated, ignored, and not provided what they need.
Ridicule the silly internet people, make fun of and dismiss their claims of oppression as not worth your time, but remember as you do that they’ve stolen from people who do need your help. Just because everyone is shouting at once doesn’t mean there aren’t still real voices to be heard.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
By John Howell
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.
By Ed Herro