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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oblivious Allies Pt. 2

In my last post about allies I mainly vented about how my slightly more privileged (via class and gender) friend tends to complain a lot to me about his life even though the same things in MY life are a bit more difficult due to being a woman from a lower-middle class background. I found fleshing out my issue with this highly cathartic, but today my poor oblivious friend made what I consider to be a truly grave ally blunder: assuming that since he's "with it" when it comes to social justice issues, he thought he could make insider critiques about a group he is not a member of. This was accomplished by 1. ridiculing the content of rom-coms as not worthy of viewing, and 2. making a rape joke. Jesus Christ.

To be fair, I loathe romantic comedies, so I don't blame him for not liking them all that much either, but I think he tends to see them as crap story telling and leaves it at that. I, on the other hand, hate them because they are crap story telling that is specifically marketed to women and packaged in a neat, heteronormative, mostly white, happily-ever-after, traditional-gender-role-enforcing plot. I have no problem with movies that feature female leads and talk about women and their lives, I DO however take issue with the fact that ladies are apparently supposed to settle for rom-coms as the only medium that does this in the mainstream movie business. Yuck. So when I bag on a Nicholas Sparks film, versus my male friend doing the same, it doesn't carry all the weight of insinuating that chick flicks, by definition, aren't good because they are made to be consumed by women.

2. however, was just plain fucked up. Rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny. It is a topic that is rarely taken seriously in society, especially when the sexual assault doesn't follow the stranger rape script. There are very VERY rare instances in which it is permissible to crack wise about rape (e.g. to be subversive and turn a stereotype on its head), but this was not one of those times and he is not the person who should say it. ESPECIALLY to a female friend who has experienced several forms of sexual assault in her life.

The lesson here, if you're an ally to a group of people, do not for a SECOND think that because you've experienced pain in your life, you therefore understand the pain of that group's oppression. If you're an ally, never assume that it is ok to make light of serious issues that affect a targeted group simply because you are more familiar with this type of oppression or that you understand it better than society does. It is not your place to point out internalized oppression in targeted groups, and it is not ok to assume that because you are progressive or liberal, that you get a free pass when it comes to saying shit that you have no business saying at all. If you're an ally, your role consists of supporting the targeted group and advocating on behalf of those groups with other privileged people. There, I said it. Rant over.

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