Cross-posted from Assistant Village Idiot.
I was listening to a podcast that included female pastors talking about Methodism, both noting with approval that John Wesley encouraged women as preachers, but both getting immediately sidetracked, one into Wesley not giving his wife any credit for their joint research, the other for two thousand years of men running things in the church and not including women. There was laughing, but it was not really good-natured. I thought again, as I have many times, This happened to other women. It didn’t happen to you. You are now complaining in anger at men who didn’t do this. Taking it a bit further this time, I thought Your experience has been closer to the opposite. You are young and well-educated, and thus have spent most of your life at schools, which favor females strongly. It is in fact so foreign to you that you can’t even read about it happening in other times and other places without getting quite angry.
That I don’t understand it, not about sex, not about race or ethnicity, not about type of grouping may come from always regarding myself entirely as an individual, which may in turn come from not being part of a disfavored group. I had difficulties of poverty, of being stigmatised because of divorce, of being personally rejected by those who should have had more concern for me, but none of those was because of any group membership. They were all my own burden, my own battle. Whatever prejudice the groups I belonged to experienced was not recent, other than the general prejudice against the poor. All immigrants experienced prejudice and some disdain, but Swedes and Nova Scotians had far less of that than others.
By the time I did experience group prejudice because I am male, my general outlook and self-definition were pretty much formed. It was mild in college, and when I experienced it more forcefully in my career, I resented it, but personally, not on behalf of all men. It was also restricted to my departments, not to the hospital as a whole. So it wasn’t 24/7/365.
Update: It occurs to me that I have had some prejudice against me at work because of being Christian and being conservative, but as it didn’t even occur to me, it must not be too terrible. It was worse in my earlier years, when the Freudian types were the most anti-religious. They are gone now.
Still, it just strikes me as puzzling as much as anything else. Those people weren’t me, neither the oppressors nor the oppressed. There was a guy at Columbia getting upset that white men were accused of ruining everything, saying that he was proud of being a white man because they had built all of Western Civilisation. Dude, you personally didn’t build any of it, and I at 65 can only lay claim to a small lifetime contribution. That other white males did do that doesn’t count toward my basket, as far as I can see. I suppose I can understand the rant in the context of white males being accused relentlessly. Also, when one tries to step aside from that and say “Whoa, that wasn’t me” and the counter is that you are somehow still to blame because you have benefited, and you still participate in structures that perpetuate the oppression, it does perhaps beg for an answer. Yet that answer to those lies along different roads, I think, by refusing the premises.