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There’s a big difference, however, between hating a dominant group in an oppressive system like patriarchy and hating the individuals who belong to it. Angela Davis once said that as an African American she often feels hatred for white people, but her feelings for particular white people depend on the individual. She hates white people’s collective position of dominance in a racially oppressive society, she hates the privilege they enjoy at her expense, and she hates the racist culture that whites take for granted as unremarkable while she must struggle with the oppression it creates in everyday life. But Davis also knows that while individual whites can never be free of racism, they can participate in racist systems in many different ways, which include joining people of color in the fight for racial justice. The same can be said of men and women.
The distinction between groups and individuals, however, is subtle and easy to lose sight of when you’re up to your ears in an oppressive system. Of course women are going to feel and express anger, resentment, and even hatred toward individual men who may not have it coming in just that way or to that degree or at that moment. Of course men are sometimes going to get their feelings hurt or be called on to take responsibility for themselves in ways they may not be used to. When I heard Davis talk about hating white people, and when I’ve heard women talk about hating men, I’ve had to get clear in my own mind about how these words refer to me and how they don’t, and it often takes some effort to get there. And as a white male who benefits from both male and white privilege, I’ve also had to see that it’s up to me-and not to women or people of color-to distinguish one from the other. Too often men react to women’s anger by calling on women to take care of them, and in this way recreate the male-centered principle of the very gender order that women, feminist and otherwise, are angry about.
Allan G. Johnson (via wretchedoftheearth)
“Too often men react to women’s anger by calling on women to take care of them, and in this way recreate the male-centered principle of the very gender order that women…are angry about.”
This is also true in other instances, just replace “men” with any oppressive group and “women” with any oppressed group. If you’re in a position of privilege in a situation, then do not make the other person’s anger all about your hurt feelings. You are just reproducing the oppression that led to that anger.