I doubt there is any arguments in the social justice community that get quite as heated as the question of whether Group X is oppressed.
Things That Group X Can Be: poly people, kinky people, men, sex workers, people on the asexual or aromantic spectrum, vegans/vegetarians, animals, atheists, otherkin, multiples, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
The question that I’m asking myself is… who the fuck cares?
Well, okay, there are times where you’re arguing about whether Group X is oppressed where you are actually arguing about something that matters. For instance, if someone is like “rich people are oppressed!” or “white people are oppressed!”, I’m going to be like fuck no. I’m sorry, I’m upper-middle-class and white and I have yet to experience a single problem directly related to either. Like, I guess you could make a case that you’ve suffered from classism if you’re rich and lived in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, or racism if you’re white and moved to Japan, but in 21st century America? No. Sorry. “I have to pay taxes” is not oppression.
But if you’re just arguing about whether it’s severe enough to be oppression… who cares? Is it somehow a good thing that young sadists often hate themselves, because there’s no such thing as vanilla privilege? Does it not matter that my mom refuses to admit that I’m dating people because only monogamous relationships are real, because ‘polyphobia’ isn’t a real thing? Do atheists not hurt when their schools (illegally) refuse to let them set up clubs, even if you don’t think they’re oppressed? Can we not agree that all those things are bad things that should go away even if we don’t think they’re oppression?
Hell, I would even be willing to agree that the negative consequences white people do get from racial prejudice (I’ve known a few people who got beat up in middle school for being white) are bad things that should go away, even if I would raise an eyebrow at white people who claimed to be victims of racism because of it.
For fuck’s sake, I once managed to explain how oppression worked to someone by talking about vegetarianism. (It was pretty funny. “Okay, see, institutional oppression is like when there isn’t any food for us to eat at restaurants, and microaggressions are like when someone is like ‘you’re vegan, that’s so great, I couldn’t eat nothing but salads,’ and privilege blindness is when omnivores don’t realize how lucky they are to be able to just go to a restaurant without researching the menu first and even then you have to custom-order a dish…”) Vegan problems are, on the grand scale of things, very small problems, and any vegan who doesn’t realize that is an asshole. That doesn’t mean they aren’t problems!
Even worse, I think a lot of times the simplistic “X is not oppression” thinking keeps us from a deeper analysis of how the kyriarchy actually works. Gender policing of men is one of the ways misogyny is perpetrated; even if you don’t think men are oppressed, you should be fucking concerned about gender policing. Someone who says that an asexual just needs to have sex with them and then they’ll stop being asexual is perpetrating rape culture; even if you don’t believe acephobia is real, you should be fucking concerned about that shit.
I can’t finish up this rant without pointing out that a lot of the people who are REALLY SUPER INVESTED in being oppressed are kind of assholes. Yes, vegans have problems. No, those problems are not as big as the problems that, say, trans people face. That doesn’t mean they aren’t problems. It’s not a fucking contest where the person who is most oppressed gets a shiny hat. Stop trying to defend your OMGSPESHUL Sparkly Oppression Hat, and start trying to fix the fucking problems we face. Other people being hurt worse doesn’t take away from your pain, any more than other people being happier makes you less happy.
Also, that whole business makes me think of someone who has a stubbed toe, and you’re like “shit, that must hurt,” and then the guy is like “MY STUBBED TOE IS WORSE THAN THE HOLOCAUST.” It really just kills my sympathy.
This also goes for people who are all “gay is the new black!” No. Shut up. Black is the new black, racism still fucking exists, denying other people’s problems will not make your problems seem problemier.
On a tangent, I am endlessly amused by people who are like “why are you concerned about men’s problems? Women’s problems are worse.” Of course women do face worse problems from sexism. On the other hand, trans women face worse problems from sexism than cis women, and you never see those people being all “we shouldn’t worry about abortion until trans women stop being murdered!”
TL;DR version of this rant:
1) If you are arguing with someone about whether Group X is oppressed, try to figure out if you disagree about the facts of the situation or just the definition of oppression. If the latter, stop fucking arguing, because it’s fucking pointless.
2) Problems being small does not mean that they aren’t problems.
3) Suffering is not a contest.