Although 21st century western society has nowhere near reached total equality in terms of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion, the respective social minorities are slowly but surely beginning to speak up against injustice and demand change.
The one demographic group which does not seem to be affected by any forms of the previously mentioned categories of discrimination encompasses heterosexual, Caucasian males who identify as masculine, commonly referred to as straight white cis men (SWCM). Not only are these individuals fortunate enough to have a sort of social privilege from birth, but they are unfortunately often times the perpetrators of discrimination against those, who do not share their privilege. But is it really that simple? This complex issue has taken on the shape of a vicious cycle with the following question at its core: Who messed up first? The chicken or the egg?
The Chicken – The Actor
In order to illustrate the complexity of the problematic nature of the issue at hand, the chicken will represent the SWCM. Misandrists, the man-hating female radicals also known as femi-nazis, have painted a rather one-sided picture of the SWCM as a hyper-masculine individual who denies rape culture and frequently uses the hashtag #meninism on all of his social media. The chicken-theory claims that history had no other chance at unravelling any other way than it did, because the privileged white man would have always acted according to his supremacist nature, i.e. by discriminating against the Other. From this point of view it seems that the present theory’s chicken is more of a… rooster.
The Egg – The Position
The egg on the other hand, is the personified position of power which the privileged, bad-guy misogynist holds. It stands separate from the individual who is abusing said power and can be abused by anyone, regardless of their sex, gender, age, heritage or belief system. Therefore, the egg furthermore would be an indication that indeed #notallmen are to blame for the utterances and actions of people such as Donald Trump or Roosh Valizadeh. Instead, the egg represents the notion that anyone can become evil under the pressure of coping with excessive power and fame.
So far, the chicken and the egg stand on two opposing sides. However this is not a binary issue. It is a cycle. The movement within is caused by the question of whether the chicken has been put in the egg by chance and as a result of this, had no other choice but to play along in the evil game or whether the chicken managed to place itself inside the egg with the help of cunning schemes, only to develop their supremacist world domination attitude later on.
A disappointing anti-climax follows as there is in fact no real answer. And truthfully, it does not matter whether the allegedly stronger sex is biologically more prone to perpetuating inequality or whether it just so happens that those who are in high positions to abuse their imbalanced power are predominantly male. The real question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we improve the current situation at hand? How do we educate the privileged and make them become aware of their power, without blaming them and in doing so, probably pushing them in the opposite direction?
The key word here is empathy. Straight white cis men simply do not know what it feels like to be discriminated against as a people. This is not be confused with individual cases of discrimination. Most SWCM do intellectually know that women of colour face intersectional (racism x gender inequality) discrimination every single day. Many even become fantastic allies to specific minorities and work hard to make this world a better place. That being said, they will, fortunately, never be able to first-hand experience many forms of discrimination as a people.
The Aha! Moment
When the simple yet ingenious rape-drug testing nail varnish was introduced, feminists were ecstatic and innocent men were offended. But what if the nail polish was made to test people on their internalized racism instead? If, for example, a white woman was tested by a woman of colour on their first date, wouldn’t the former’s initial reaction be offense rather than understanding? Wouldn’t the white woman feel appalled for being suspected of being racist, just like many men are outraged about being painted with the same brush as convicted rapists? Perhaps this shift in perspective can let people see that it takes more to be a good ally than just speaking out against discrimination at the local once-a-year equality-protests. Nevertheless, safety comes first and understanding is key. That is why every individual, no matter how big or small their daily struggles may be, must learn to practice empathy instead of taking personal offense and feeling victimized for no apparent reason.
Photo credit: Cover image by Pixabay