Is all oppression inherently the same? Do those who have been oppressed all share the same issues, experiences, and feelings?
I think it’s not quite as black and white. In both “Queers Read This” and “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” a common theme occurs: the topic of anger.
Both pieces focus on two different forms of oppression: oppression in the gay rights movement and oppression of women and women of color. Both of which are very different issues with different histories but share a common catalyst, which is their anger. Both authors, in their own way, are calling on their audience to be angry, to channel that feeling and project it. They’re both angry with their oppressors who bury their anger.
While the anger talked about in “Queers Read This” is broader and a bit harsher, the anger spoken about by Audre Lorde is more specific and I believe she hits a very important issue that is shared in most, if not all, forms of oppression. When people of an oppressed group express their anger, they are met with backlash, mostly from guilt. Lorde discusses the backlash she receives from the white women she interacts with when she speaks out about her oppression within the community. While she works with white women to advocate for women’s issues, she’s also facing oppression within the community as it is still ridden with racism. Both issues are completely different and therefore should be treated as such. Intersectional feminism must be acknowledged, not buried by feminism that only caters to the white woman. The oppression all women face doesn’t coincide with the racism women of color face, however as women, they all face a degree of sexism. I believe Lorde is bringing awareness to that and asking women who don’t necessarily understand her oppression to use their anger together for “mutual empowerment” (Lorde, 133) and to support each other when she states that women of color “welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt.” (Lorde, 133)
This idea can be applied to many forms of oppression. The similarities between oppressed groups do not make them the same, but they do allow for empathy and understanding, which can be applied for support. This is true for both women’s rights and the lgbtq+ rights. In 1984, a group of gay and lesbian activists raised money for families in a small village in Wales affected by the British Miner’s strike at an attempt to garner allies for the gay rights movement (There is also a film based on this event called Pride (2014)). While their help was met with many hindrances, this unlikely alliance proved to be successful and showed that two completely different groups of oppressed people could come together, use their similarities and differences to help each other.
As we talked about in class on Friday, universalizing oppression is problematic. We see this issue today as well with the Black Lives Matter movement and how some ignore this movement by responding with “all lives matter.” Each form of oppression deserves its separate movement, or change will never occur. However, using similarities between groups can help bring support and advance change. This starts with accepting privilege and guilt. Just because one group has been oppressed does not mean it cannot oppress others. Change starts by acknowledging this and if you have privilege, instead of saying “‘don’t yell at me, I’m on your side'” (Anonymous, 11) or “‘you’re overreacting’” (Anonymous, 12) when met with anger; accept it. Instead of letting your guilt separate us, learn to understand and help if your help is wanted.
As stated in “Queers Read This”:
“ GO AWAY FROM ME, until YOU can change.” (Anonymous, 12)
- Do you think different forms of oppression can be similar, specifically related to the lgbtq+ community? How?
- How do you express your anger if you ever have?
- Have you ever experienced a moment where your anger to your oppression was met with backlash? What happened? How did you respond?