A friend of mine recently related this story to me: he was at a support group for LGBTQ People of Color (POC), and a White (straight-presenting woman) who had attended a few of the meetings before deciding to read a pre-written statement about how she felt discriminated against, and how offended it made her to sit in the meeting and hear what she considered racist rhetoric towards White people. She then left, proclaiming that she would never be coming back to that meeting. Mind you, the group was publicly advertised as a LGBTQ meeting for POC. And though she knowingly and willingly attended several times of her own accord, she felt alienated and discriminated against by this group.
And then I woke up a few days later, to the #metoo movement on facebook. I was dismayed how many of my friends (like, all of them) posted Me Too, and felt empowered to represent myself. I was heartened by all of the positive conversations that have been inspired, and all of the support coming from men.
And then it came: all of the men who felt excluded, or felt the need to inject hypotheticals into the conversations.
This particular hashtag movement was specifically to bring attention to the misogynist rape culture we live in; to illustrate how sexual violations against women have become so normalized in our society that almost every woman you know has been violated in this way, and has either never mentioned it or felt ignored and/or powerless, or dismissed it herself because of the general patriarchal attitude around it. So a woman created something to bond women over it, and bring it to the forefront of the minds of everyone, if only for as long as facebook trends ever last. Many voices who were not being heard came together to become one loud voice which could not be ignored. And immediately, much like Black Lives Matter, anybody whose voice wasn’t specifically included started bitching because “what about me?!”
As someone on facebook so eloquently put it, men have had every opportunity to create their own movement around male sexual assault (which, incidently, is not quite the same as female sexual assault), and hadn’t, yet as soon as some broads got together and created a support for themselves, many feel hurt and excluded. Why is that? The same has happened with Black Lives Matter – anyone could have started an anti-police brutality organization called “All Lives Matter”, and didn’t do it. But because a marginalized, oft-ignored section of our population started what they saw as a much-needed protest group for themselves then other people feel excluded and discriminated against. Does every organization/group/cause need to include everybody, in order to be considered “fair”?
Think about that, and then take a little trip through history with me. The first African slaves were brought to this country in 1619. We joined the “Citizen Club” in 1866 with the Civil Rights Act; in 1951, we were finally legally allowed to go to school anywhere, drink from whatever water fountain if we were thirsty, get some food at random roadside diner. In 1965, we were allowed to join the “American Voters” club (white women were finally allowed to join that club much earlier, in 1920). In 1869, women were allowed to join the “lawyer club” as an occupation; it wasn’t until 1970 that women were allowed to join the “news reporter” club as an occupation. I could go on, but the fact that you are reading this online means you have access to google, so feel free to do your own research.
Point being, most so-called “exclusionist clubs” and movements and organizations created by fringe/marginalized people have risen as a direct response to this country and society’s history of racism and patriarchy and exclusion. Black people were banned from nightclubs, businesses, organizations; we created our own nightclubs, businesses, organizations. Women were left out of conversations, faced employment discrimination, had no legal rights; we created our own support organizations and had our own conversations, got together and fought for ourselves. When we were excluded we created our own.
So it just seems interesting and quite ironic to me that members of the very tribes that locked us out of the benefits of mainstream society are now screaming that, now that we’ve formed our own clubs, it’s “not fair” that they are not welcomed in with open, loving arms. It’s not about vehement exclusion at all – it’s about building a women’s house because you were refused entry into the men’s house, and having them bust in the door and insist on rolling around in the middle of the living room floor. It’s the equivalent of baking a cake for the Black people because the White people left you to starve, and the White people coming over and saying, “oh, what, I can’t have a hearty chunk?” And I don’t assume this is the intent, but this is how it feels – this whole time I’ve been told, “no, you can’t join. No, you get none of it. No, I don’t care about your concerns.” So then I get with others like me, and now it’s, “Oh, I can’t join? Oh, I can’t have any? Why aren’t we talking about my concerns?”
I don’t know what needs to change. Maybe we can start an “Everything and Everyone Matters” group. Feeling discriminated against? Come on in. Sexual assault, of any gender or age? We got you. Elder abuse? Yep, right here. Unfair housing, poverty, immigrant rights, tribal lands, sex/gender discrimination, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, child protection, domestic abuse…this is your organization. White and male and feeling left out and a little guilty? This is your place right here. I know I missed some, but do most of us now feel included?
Oh wait – you know what this is? I think it’s called an Ideal Society. And it’s pretty obvious that we’re not quite there yet. The current presidency has made that more than apparent.
So, if you feel that a group, or organization, or movement isn’t including your voice, you have every right to bitch, protest, barge in and have a fit if you want to. You may not get a warm reception, but that is your constitutional right.
Or, you could start a movement of your own. What a novel idea. I’m so glad you thought of it.