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Do You Feel Attacked When We’re Speaking Of Our Trauma? You’re Probably Part Of The Problem

Whataboutery has no place in a fight for equitable rights. First listen to what is being said instead of jumping in with assumptions if you consider yourself feminist.

Whataboutery has no place in a fight for equitable rights. First listen to what is being said instead of jumping in with assumptions if you consider yourself feminist.

There is this tendency towards a desperate whataboutry when discussing oppression. While discussing fat-shaming or fatmisia, inevitably someone will bring up skinny-shaming; when we speak of colourism or dark-shaming, people will talk about being shamed for being light-skinned; if women talk about  the increasing violence against women, men will insist on saying that men are also rape victims.

I understand that people feel personally attacked when someone is talking about a trauma that often puts them in position of the oppressor or feels dismissive of their suffering.

People come up with whataboutery and oppression olympics

I have experienced skinny-shaming while growing up, a tremendous, daily amount of it. Add my dark skin to that and then stack my gender and my economic status atop that. So I’m not lying when I say I have suffered. But even then I knew that it was absolutely nothing compared to what my fat friends would endure. And my existing in an ‘ideal body’ causes untold damage to my friends who cannot help their bodies anymore than I can.

All this oppression olympics does is derail legitimate, important conversations. There is individual suffering, of course there is. I hear you when you say that your fair skin or thin body has drawn you a lot of suffering and hate. Now widen that lens, think about existing as a fat woman today. Where there is a 2 billion USD industry aimed at shaming you relentlessly. Imagine being  medicalised, dehumanised and invisibilised, existing only to provide comic relief or as a receptacle of constant hate.

If you have suffered, I hear you, but maybe use it to empathise?

What is the point of my suffering if it hasn’t taught me empathy and understanding about the systems that perpetuate these oppressions? What is the point of any suffering if it doesn’t soften us to recognise that there is worse suffering than ours, that we could be responsible for?

Some of the warmest, most empathetic people I have met are people are those who have been daily and generationally traumatised basis their caste, gender, appearance. Unsurprisingly, they are also the ones who are ready to give away the shirt off their backs, share what little they have, have my back when I am moaning about my meaningless issues. Conversely the hardest, most unyielding are the ones who are like me, with top of the heap of privileges and yet clinging to their personal victimhood.

I feel deeply when I’m called out on my savarna arrogance, the privilege of my existence. It’s hard not to take it personally. But it just means that I need to work harder on swallowing my pride, learning, unlearning, working harder at recognising my privileges. Particularly when I insist that I’m fighting for an equitable world.

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The root oppressor of us all is Brahminical Patriarchy. And if we are to dismantle that then we have to centre the most marginalised, rather than elbow our way forward in the oppression olympics.

Image source: a still from the film Luck by Chance

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About the Author

Hema Gopinathan

Hema Gopinathan left a blight of a corporate career to homeschool her two children. A teacher trained in the Waldorf/ Rudolf Steiner pedagogy, a writer, read more...

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