I was sitting at dinner with a lovely new friend who I met at the Beyond Gay & Lesbian Conference, and we were talking about how to dissasemble the “master’s” house without using the “master’s” tools — a reference to the famous Audra Lorde quote. And one of the things she (my dinner companion) said was, “Control is one of the master’s tools. Trying to control everything.” And I said ‘Yes!” And then I responded with this:
“You know, all these oppressed people are trying to live trigger-free lives, and what is that if not white privilege?”
She stopped. Looked at me intently. Said, “Wait, I want to really take that in.” And while she took it in, I took it in and then I continued.
“These people, they’re just trying to control their environments. Like why we create “safe spaces,” which are only safe for those who have known traumas and maladies. If you walk into a “safe space” for Black people, you’re not necessarily safe if you’re gay.”
(not to pathologize being black or gay.)
The real tool of the oppressed is something around resilience and an ability to reframe our hurts, our wounds in positive contexts. For instance, I am a survivor of rape. Does that mean that someone can’t tell a rape joke around me? Does that mean that if I can’t watch a rape scene in a movie? No. Does it mean that I may be triggered by these two things? Yes. Can I handle being triggered? Yes, I can. Should society be able to handle me being triggered yes.
When society is able to handle me being triggered and respect it without guilt or shame but with respect for what I’ve experienced, then we will have dismantled part of the “master’s” house with an oppressor’s tools.
Now, this is not to say that I should have been oppressed — for being non-white, for being a woman, for being raped, for being a dyke, for being outspoken. I should not have been. No one should be oppressed. Nevertheless, millions of people are oppressed everyday on this planet, in every country, in our country, in my home town. And these people fight back, by trying to “take control.”
“Take control of the government”
“Take control of the workplace”
“Take back the night.”
I can’t help but think at this point in my life that the answer to oppression is liberation. Liberation for ourselves to feel all the feelings we experience as oppressed peoples and liberation to the oppressors to continue to oppress, which is their want to do. It reminds me of the rape victim who chooses NOT to resist her rapist… when the fight is gone, the rapist loses interest. Or so goes the rape fairy tale.
I believe that woman should continue to speak out against inequities at home, in the work place, in social spheres, in political arenas, under the law. Women should speak out, loud and proud against those who oppress us. And when those who oppress us continue to oppress us, we should cry OUCH!
I don’t know about you, but when I say “OW” people notice. And I’m not doing it for attention, I’m doing it because it hurts, deeply. I have shut down entire stores with my response to being mistreated. If more of us gave a free, untethered voice to our pain when treated poorly, the world would begin to adapt to us. Making space for us, in the least, for our wounds. Altering their oppressive behavior of us, in the most.
I don’t think any person should live under the delusion that their world is going to be free of triggers, free of whatever type of phobia they incur (sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia). I think this is an unreasonable expectation of the world. And those who try to CONTROL their world to MAKE it free of such oppressions (unfriending/blocking ‘friends’ on FB who don’t agree, refusing to socialize with people who are different) and actually fracturing our society further.
These are the cards I was dealt: non-white, dyke, woman, rape-survivor, outspoken. They are the same as the cards Jane Doe was dealt: white, straight, woman, mainstream follower. Why should it be any more Jane Doe’s responsibility for me to be treated fairly than it is mine? Why can’t it be both of ours? Why can’t we meet in the middle? Why can’t she be open to the fact that there is shit she knows nothing about just as I am open to the fact that there is shit she knows nothing about.
How are we going to get anywhere in our society without a baleful of compassion?
There are true victims who must be protected citizens. They must be shielded from the random, thoughtless toxicity that runs through our society. These people need shelter. I do not condemn them for that. But these people who NEED this shelter, they do not stray far from their homes. They do not show up at Pride Events demanding everyone be sensitive exclusively to their particular needs. They are home, getting up the courage to face another day in the mirror.
But if you can leave your home and venture out into the world…you have graduated to a level of victimhood that says, “I can play. I can collaborate. I can be resilient.” Be loud, if you are hurt, but also be understanding that whomever hurt you was probably careless and not malicious. And ignorance does NOT equate to malice. Ignorance is exactly what it is: not knowing. You don’t want to teach someone not to hate, not to be insensitive. Ok. That’s fine. You are not the only teacher on the planet. But you do have a responsibility to be understanding. For you stepped out of your house and chose to engage. And to try to make the world engage with you according to your (often) unstated rules. Is unfair.
You can not dismantle the master’s house using control.