Derailing Feminist Discussions and “Reverse Oppression”

Derailment is a tactic feminists (or any other marginalized group) know all too well. It is often used by people who are trying to deflect criticism in discussions of a particular issue by redirecting the conversation to another issue. This generally occurs when members of a privileged group feel that the discussion is not catering to their needs or feelings

One of the most prominent example of this is “What about men, though?” A key derailing tactic is to argue that patriarchy hurts men too, men have body issues too, or men can be sexually assaulted too. These things are all true, but, if it is not the current topic of the conversation, it is an attempt to derail the conversation.

Why is this a derailing tactic? Beyond the attempt to redirect the conversation, it is because of the subtle and insidious addition of the word “too”. If the only time you want to discuss how the patriarchy hurts men is in discussions of how it hurts other genders, you are using the experiences of men to silence female and other non-binary people’s experiences (especially in terms of sexual assault and rape).

Bringing up these points is in effect insisting that men’s issues need to be constantly acknowledged in all feminist discussions. It demonstrates a certain level of insecurity about the role you or your group may consciously or subconsciously play in the problem to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, men’s issues are feminist issues; they are just not the central focus of most discussions, being that men are a historically advantaged group which still largely benefit from the privileges patriarchy affords.

This parallels pretty clearly with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. People who clearly did not understand the necessity of this movement’s inception (largely white people) tried to derail the conversation with #AllLivesMatter. Yes, this is true. All lives do in fact matter. The point is that that is not what the conversation is about. Right now, it’s about the black lives – the racism, discrimination, and resultant institutionalized violence that black people experience on a daily basis.

This is not “reverse sexism” or “reverse racism”. These things do not exist. Sexism and racism are types of oppression. The nature of oppression does not allow for it to have a “reverse”. As it was so aptly put by Melissa Fabello on, everyone can experience stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, but oppression is all of this coupled with institutionalized violence and systematic erasure. Men cannot be oppressed. White people cannot be oppressed. I repeat, they can be stereotyped, prejudiced, and discriminated against, but they cannot be oppressed.

Derailment is not necessarily a tactic people are aware they are using or why they are using it. This is a symptom of privilege (you don’t think about it because you don’t have to). So next time you are have a discussion about a social justice issue concerning a group you do not belong to, be careful not to derail the conversation.

It’s not about you and that’s okay.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Toronto, Canada

Feminist, Social Justice Advocate, and Political Science Nerd. (Instagram: @feminiiista)

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