To Those Who Believe My Education Cancels Out Oppression,
In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to do something a bit different this weekend. I wanted to offer up musings of something that happened a few weeks ago that I’ve been meditating on ever since. I am a diehard tumblr blogger. In fact, our whole team kind of loves that website. As I tumbled along the last weekend of January, I was following the feminism tag to see what new articles might have popped up over the weekend. I found this post.
For those of you who cannot read it, here it is reproduced below:
Okay, tumblr feminists.
You are not being oppressed. Want to know why?
If you are complaining about being oppressed on the internet, then you’ve gotten 12 years of education. You’ve had the opportunity to go to college. To marry whom you wish.
If you’re on tumblr, you have an electronic device, and wifi/internet.
Instead of sitting on tumblr complaining, how about you get up and help women in the middle east who are actually being oppressed.
Remember, the ‘patriarchy’ you deem we live in will only end if you actually accomplish something.
My first reaction was a rather complicated series of facial movements. My second was a series of nicknames for the writer, none of which were favorable. The third was to deem it just your good ol’ fashioned trolling, click out, and keep it moving.
But I can’t.
Because it got enough views and reblogs that I was legitimately confused. Because, somehow, the people reblogging it weren’t debunking the flaws in the argument. And because somewhere out there, there are individuals who believe this but might be reasonable enough to take a look at the opposite side’s argument. Somewhere out there are individuals who could read a rebuttal and rethink their stance on this subject. And the thing about education is once you know, you can’t unknow. Once you see, you can’t un-see. You must move. You must work. You must shout.
Let’s examine his/her/hir premise. The argument here is that any feminist on tumblr is not oppressed by nature of having access to the internet. By linear connection, being able to get access to the internet in order to ‘complain about being oppressed’ is necessitated by the fact that they have gotten 12 years of education. These twelve years of education indicate that they had the opportunity to pursue a college degree (which is patently wrong, 12 years adds up to a high school education at most, but let’s ignore that for now). And, somehow, this also means that they have the freedom to marry whom they wish. Having access to the internet means they own an electronic device and internet. In essence, having access to the internet means that you are educated and being educated means you are not oppressed.
Now, let’s explore (and dismantle) this argument step-by-step.
I’d like to define oppression as it’s being used in this context and second I’d like to look at education. Oppression, regularly, is defined as prolonged cruel or unjust treatment. It is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome manner. It is the feeling of being weighed down by anxieties, worries, undue amounts of stress. It’s systemic…institutionalized…legal. It’s present in social, political, and intercultural interactions.
Any feminist who loves someone of their own gender certainly does not have the “freedom to marry whom they wish”. Neither does it make sense to hold up ‘women in the Middle East’ as the prime example of oppression, while ignoring what happens in your own backyard. Let’s not even talk about the way people rush to a picture of a woman in hijab and say ‘hey! see this here? This is the face of oppression!’, as if they’ve been hand-fed a very narrow Westernized view of what the Middle East is like.
Furthermore, the internet is the perfect medium to take up arms and Tumblr is as great a place as anywhere else to talk about social justice issues and way to change the world. Talking is the first step for strategy and planning, I’m certain we recognize that as a movement. No one should ever discount it as an unnecessary tool for change.
How are we, tumblr feminists, being oppressed?
I can’t speak for other tumblr feminists because I would hate to generalize their lived experience. We are a diverse and dynamic group of every nationality, sex, gender, culture. I can’t presume to know what feminism means to every single one of us because the specific ways I define it are not the specific ways others do. What I can say is that feminism, at its core, concerns itself with equality. Men, women, asexual, heterosexual, lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual? We want equality. We want a fair playing field. We want to be heard and understood, not second-guessed and questioned. That is feminism.
Okay, then, how am I being oppressed?
I am a female-identified individual who puts up with all the negative social interaction that comes along with it – catcalls, street harassment, being second-guessed or not taken as seriously when I present ideas, being stereotyped as the ‘loud’ or ‘strong’ black woman when being there’s so much more to my experience than that. The pressure to fit into a white world’s standard of beauty (the negative connotations of wearing my hair natural) is an added weight to my fight for equality.
So what the heck does education have to do with all of this?
This is the piece I’d like to focus on because it seems to be a popular rebuttal to the need for feminism. Education, as our author clearly defines it, refers to the knowledge obtained in an academic institution. It’s a long reach to suppose that everyone on the internet has made it all the way through high school (not college), but for a crazy moment, let’s follow along with that absurd assumption and pretend it is so. I propose to you that the obtaining of education…does not negate being oppressed.
My education does not make me a less-likely target for oppression.
My education is not immediately apparent in non-verbal interactions with others and, therefore, does not mean that me having it reduces the instances of sexism that I encounter. My education does not prevent anti-feminists from branding me and mine with paintbrushes dipped in the red of ugliness and lesbianism, the black of man-haters and zealots. My education does not insulate me from a world that implores me to act like a ‘lady’, to be a ‘girl’, to be ‘classy’. My education does not blind me to the faults of the system I live in, nor does it hide me from the system itself. My education does not make me a less-likely target for oppression, just a more sensitive one.
My education just means that I am aware of being oppressed.
My education has allowed me to look past my own window to see oppression in its myriad shapes and forms. My education has taught me to never trust a system, especially a system built on my back. My education implores me to look carefully and draw my own judgement. My education means that I have the means and methods to voice my awareness, my anger, my disdain. My education lends me an eloquence that people on the other side of the debate may find unsettling or unattractive (and my education and belief in my own self-worth means that I don’t care about your discomfort!). My education says that I have a responsibility to those who cannot speak for themselves and it means that I am constantly looking for the argument that will make the other side see what I feel and sympathize with it.My education makes me an agitator – I cannot stop (I will not stop) talking about it, no matter how many people feel the topic has been abused.
But, you know what, forget my education, for a minute! When I vent on any medium I see fit, people like our friendly author up there should be scared. They should be terrified because-
-I am a force to be reckoned with.
We are a force to be reckoned with and we will not be silent.
Our work continues.
HOLLA love and in celebration of International Women’s Day,