Memo To The Social Justice Community At Large: the privilege/intersectionality model of how oppression works? Is a model. It’s an oversimplification that people use because the actual reality of how oppression works is way too complicated to talk about. It is not the Ultimate Truth Of How Oppression Works Forever and Ever.
Therefore, there are dynamics of how oppression works that the privilege/oppression model doesn’t talk about at all.
Let’s talk about prison. Men of color are overwhelmingly more likely to go to prison than any other group, far disproportionate to their numbers. The white men who go to prison are usually poor. While women of color are also more likely to go to prison than white women, and poor women than rich women, the problem so vastly disproportionately affects men that it’s not even funny.
Or anti-queer hate crimes. Of the sexual-orientation-related hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2011, nearly 60% were a result of the perpetrator’s hatred of specifically gay men. (I checked a couple previous years to make sure this wasn’t a fluke and, yeah, it hovers pretty consistently around ‘slightly more than half.’) You can argue that the FBI’s data-collection strategy is fucked (I’d be happy to edit this to include a correction if it is), but assuming that it isn’t, gay men are disproportionately likely to be victims of a hate crime.
This just doesn’t work in the privilege/intersectionality model, which predicts that women of color will face more racism, poor women more classism, and LGB women more homophobia, than their male counterparts. But– at least in certain aspects of these oppressions– men clearly and objectively have it worse.
Some people have decided to patch this by creating an alternative “female privilege,” where women have not-going-to-prison privilege and not-being-beaten-up-for-being-gay privilege. The problem here is that if you are a white middle-class-or-above man… you generally don’t have to worry about going to prison! You may smoke your weed in peace! If you are not gay (and not the kind of feminine that assholes think means ‘gay’), your chance of being beaten up for being gay is nigh infinitesimal. The prison-industrial complex and anti-gay hate crimes do not affect straight white middle-class-and-above men any more than average.
The solution here is just to throw out the privilege/intersectionality model in this particular case. It just doesn’t work here. And when you throw out the model that’s making everything more confusing, the only statement left is “gay men, men of color, and poor men face forms of homophobia, racism, and classism that are affected by the fact that they’re men.” Which is perfectly logical, sensible, empirically validated, and supported by both statistics and lived experience.
(And that’s the NSWATM post I never got around to writing while I was there.)