Note: I am not making the argument that members of the traditionally victimized groups aren’t ever victimized or that it’s not wrong. Both of these things are still true. So don’t argue like that is my point–that would be a straw man. Everyone’s pain matters because they are feeling it.
The Common Idea:
Most people believe that bigotry is something of which only certain people are capable. There seems to be this thought that one has to be in a position of power to do it, and power is defined in a strange way too: one has to be of a powerful [gender, race, social class, etc.]. This seems like a weird way of defining being mean to someone based on a group from which they have roots.
Well, because power comes in different forms. The Indian man behind the counter of a convenience store doesn’t come from a traditionally-held powerful U.S. race or class but he can refuse service to anyone—which is a type of power—and maybe he does refuse to serve the Hispanic man. All I can think of when people talk about power and bigotry is Sanders’ essay “The Men We Carry in Our Minds” wherein he showed that being a man is just as powerless, if not more so, when poor than a woman who grew up wealthy. Just because someone is of the powerful group doesn’t mean they possess any of that power themselves.
You’ve Heard This Before
Anyone who has seen Ron White’s latest special or any of Bill Burr’s has heard the argument before that men are not always in the power spot. They make a joke of it, but it has always been my opinion that the best comedy comes from pointing out the issues and problems no one wants to talk about. They are also serious. They want people to think about how everyone is angry over the abused woman but we all laugh at the man who is literally emasculated/mutilated by a woman. I don’t like to laugh at someone else’s pain—I mean, sometimes I do, when Tosh.0 is on—but cutting off a man’s penis and laughing is just beyond the pale. How powerful is that man when he’s bleeding to death?
The problem goes beyond one woman cutting off one man’s member. The problem is on T.V., on the internet, and in the papers and magazines. When someone does something this horrible to a person of a “powerful” group, the media laughs, tells society it is okay to do so, and now the pain isn’t taken seriously. If something that big isn’t taken seriously then the smaller things are also not taken seriously. Physical abuse isn’t just men attacking women; it’s someone hurting someone they supposedly love—man, woman, child, animal. The assailant isn’t always packing genitals on the outside of their body. Women assault men all the time: slapping a man, throwing a drink in his face; but nothing is done because society says women can do these things. The prejudice comes from the fact that a lot of people hold the notion that men can never be victims and women can never be attackers. Where does that leave the men who are victims? Out in the cold, just like women used to be.
Not as Serious, But Still Very Important
The prejudice that says men can’t be victims of physical abuse perpetrated by women isn’t all I’m referring to. The little issues are what feed the big ones, such as physical abuse. What are the little—or more aptly smaller—issues? The idea that men are supposed to pay for a woman’s meal or give up their seats for them or, more seriously, are “always wrong”. This last means that in any argument by the end the man needs to find some way to prostrate himself for her forgiveness, even if she may have been in the wrong. Watch any sitcom—Scrubs is especially bad—and one will most likely see women doing horribly selfish and mean things to men and being rewarded by the end of the episode. Reverse any of the situations and the female audience would be saying that she needs to leave him and file a restraining order because he’s a controlling ass.
Besides Gender Clashes
The gender example of this argument is the easiest—and least sticky—point to make; however, this “reverse” prejudice also happens in other social issues. I prefer not to call it “reverse prejudice” because to me prejudice is prejudice, regardless of who is the victim, and other people who feel this are white people and Christians. Calling someone white in a negative way (cracker, white-ass, white trash, WASP) is still bad. It’s still hurtful. But it’s not just name-calling that falls under prejudice. I once read an article where several white firemen were suing their employer for prejudice because all the firemen took a test for promotions and only those who passed and were black got promotions. Reverse the situation and it’s wrong, but somehow it’s not when the victim is white? No, I don’t buy that. Sell it to someone else.
The Christian example is the most flabbergasting to me. They are decried as a whole—this isn’t pre-Protestant Reformation where the church is a single locus headed by one man; this is now where there are so many different flavors of Christian that one can’t count them on all their fingers and toes and three friends’ fingers and toes—as not being accepting of other people’s ways of life and for telling others how to live their lives. Being cast down as a whole is bad enough, but then the same people who accuse them of these things do them themselves by being disrespectful of Christian religion. Now, I know there are those Christians who are downright terrifying in their ability to reject, judge, and hate, but I’ve also know a lot of Christians who are very loving, accepting, and respectful of other people not of their religion. One can disagree with religious doctrines all one wants, but it is never an excuse to be mean to a person of a certain religion.
I’ve been skirting and hinting at my main point this whole time. You can dislike a culture and religion, and the actions of some people all you want. But don’t take out that dislike on a person just because they are of that culture, religion, or group that has perpetrated immoral action. Not every white person is racist, not every religious person is against homosexuals, and not every man hits and disrespects women. It is prejudice to mistreat someone because they belong to a group you don’t like, no matter the group because in the cases I’m talking about the group is usually not something they picked. To quote Virginia Woolf, “it [is] absurd to blame any class or any sex, as a whole”—especially when that blame turns into prejudice that affects individuals. Why? Because we believe in “innocent until proven guilty”. We shouldn’t damn an entire group as guilty, but the much smaller amounts of people who are a confirmed offender of prejudice—and that includes traditional victim groups. Because we are all capable of hurting each other just as we are all capable of loving each other