I have decided it has been entirely too long since I wrote a giant-ass series. (Yes, people in the back, I can hear you groaning.) In short, I now think it is time for a giant-ass series about my premises and ideas on social justice and gender egalitarianism. Part One: The Kyriarchy!
The kyriarchy used to be called the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, but that sounds kind of silly, and people remembered there were other oppressions and it would end up being “white supremacist colonialist ableist ageist lookist sex-negative heteronormative cissexist capitalist patriarchy,” and that is just too damn long. So kyriarchy it is.
Essentially, the kyriarchy is the set of all ways society can oppress people. For instance:
- Senior citizens face age discrimination in employment.
- People with physical disabilities have to endure a bunch of patronizing people being all “you’re so strong! And inspirational!”
- Black people in the US are more likely to be pulled over by police when driving than white people are.
- Fat people have their health problems ignored because doctors assume it must be because of their fat.
- Queer teens may be bullied.
- People with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence than people without mental health issues.
- People in developing countries may be enslaved to produce the tantalum in your smart phone, or the beans in your coffee.
Nearly every one of these oppressions can be broken down into several different kinds of suboppressions. For instance, racism includes colorism, the way that society tends to favor light-skinned people of color. The privilege of people in developed countries includes Americanocentrism, the way Americans tend to wander into every discussion (especially in the social justice world) and make it all about us. Transphobia includes binarism, the way that binary trans people are considered “realer” than those of us with weird-ass pronouns.
Sometimes the kyriarchy oppresses people of a certain group in really big ways, like it still being legal to fire people because they fall in love with people of the same gender or were assigned an incorrect gender at birth. Sometimes the kyriarchy oppresses people in really little ways, like Cosmo saying a woman’s sexual fantasies about another woman is a sign she should ask for more gentle, romantic sex from her boyfriend as opposed to being a sign she might want to try that most excellent sport of muff-diving. However, even the little things reinforce the whole crappy social structure.
One of the things people most want to do when they first discover the concept of kyriarchy is argue about who’s the oppressedest and therefore gets a shiny prize. This is stupid for a lot of reasons. First, it’s kind of hard to decide. Is it better to be unable to shop in most stores because they won’t provide accomodations for your disability (ableism), or to have some asshole criticize you for using food stamps to buy your child a birthday cake (classism)? I don’t even know where you’d begin to quantify that. Second, it’s completely meaningless. Your bloody nose doesn’t hurt less just because I have a broken leg.
Third, a lot of issues are linked to each other. This whole idea that men are men, women are women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri causes not just sexism but a lot of homophobia and transphobia. Bodily autonomy, or the right for people to make their own decisions about their own bodies, is an issue that crosscuts race (the drug war), gender (reproductive rights, slut and virgin shaming), class (drug war again, policing poor people’s dietary habits), appearance (fatphobia), ability (criticizing people who stim), etc. It’s really stupid to compete who’s hurting the worse when we’re all fighting the same damn enemy.
Fourth, you know, people can be members of multiple marginalized groups at once. Liberating people of color and not anyone else doesn’t liberate people of color: it only liberates straight, upper-class, abled, cis, conventionally attractive, gender-conforming, developed-country-dwelling, etc. people of color. This is a very small percentage of people of color!
In fact, each person experiences their oppressions differently depending on which marginalized groups they’re a part of. (This is called intersectionality and is big with modern feminism in theory– less so in practice.) A self-harming or suicidal teenager will probably be told zie is “just looking for attention” or “an emo kid” or “just going through a phase.” A poor queer person not only can’t get married but might not be able to afford the forms to create even a facsimile of marriage.