The true meaning of oppression

I’d like to share two hypothetical scenarios with you today.

The first involves a young child living with her parents. She has access to clean, running water and a hot shower. She has a fridge, stocked with all the food she could want. She sleeps in a warm bed and has parents who love her. She has a driver’s license. She access to free health care. She’s literate and educated. She votes in annual general elections, and works full-time.

The second scenario involves a young child also living with her parents. She does not have access to clean, running water as she has to get it from a local well in her village. There is no clean shower at home and has to clean herself in a small stream, just a ways from her home. She shares a broken bed with her sibling. Her father was executed by local religious fanatics and her mother was savagely assaulted and nearly left for dead. She is not allowed to pursue an education and most certainly does not have the right to vote because the ruling government has deemed such rights to be heretical. Does she work? What do you think?

Now here comes the fun part. Tell me which person is suffering from oppression.

What the guy in the purple suit said…
What the guy in the purple suit said…

The first scenario is a day in the life of a Western girl, living in Canada, the U.S., or the U.K. The second scenario is a day in the life of an Afghani girl, living under former Taliban rule. You would think the easy answer would be scenario number two when asked to identify the oppressed one. It’s not that it’s difficult. It’s just inconvenient.

A few days ago, I made the grossly miscalculated decision to engage in an online discussion with an ideologue. While I did my best to keep the discussion on track, all I was met with was hostility, anger, and a general attitude of, “You’re wrong, I’m right, you’re stupid, I’m not, yada yada yada”. Eventually, this individual took it upon himself to write a status update with the words, “Men’s rights groups are bullshit”. It’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it just as much as anyone else but I made another mistake in responding to that update as it only invited further vitriol, especially when the feminist brigade showed up and brought the usual shaming tactics with them.

The best part was when the subject of male victims of domestic violence came up and when asked for hard facts, I presented a joint study conducted by the CDC and U.S. Department of Justice which showed that men comprise over 40% of severe physical violence victims, and that more men than women were victims of intimate partner violence than women. Did that change anything? You guessed it; no. The reasoning of the contributing gender warriors was that because the study is governmental in origin and not from a scientific journal, its validity was in the toilet.

So how does this all tie in to my scenarios of oppression? Because the conversation took a turn when one such ideologue commented that MHRAs do no kind of activism or advocacy, opting instead to be keyboard warriors against feminists online.  Another commenter followed up with, after I said I do not claim oppression status as a male living in Canadian society,

“Which given your lack of an ability to empathize with others, gives you a very limited ability to understand what oppression really is.”

Male privilege in India – 1972
Male privilege in India – 1972

This comment came from an educated woman, who lives on her own, in a major city, from the comfort of her own home, likely on her couch in her living room, behind a laptop screen that she owns. You know what else? She identifies with feminist ideals.

How anyone can think of themselves as being oppressed while living in this society is beyond me. I’ll say the same thing here that I said on Facebook. There are Palestinians living in the West Bank that would kill for that kind of oppression. Ladies and gentlemen, listen to me very carefully.

If you live in Canada, America, or Great Britain, you are not oppressed. If you were born here, raised here, educated here, and enjoy the rights and freedoms each country’s respective constitution affords you, you can’t even begin to imagine what oppression truly is. You do not know what it is like to have your basic human rights denied to you, to live in fear of a military government, to not be educated, to starve, or to watch your loved ones die in the street because they crossed the road at the wrong time of day. Do I believe men and women are marginalized in their own ways in Western society? Absolutely they are. Both sexes have their share of rubbish to deal with in life, though I would contend that men have it worse in a lot of ways. Like I said, we’re marginalized.

But oppressed? Not in your wildest dreams.



Editorial note: this item first appeared on Men’s Human Rights Ontario. –DE

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