I observed a twitter fight yesterday between a man and a woman. They were playing what has been dubbed “The Oppression Olympics”. The idea was the woman’s and (as far as I can tell) she wanted to show how she had been subjected to more oppressive acts than the man by virtue of the fact she was a woman.
This game reminded me of a highly amusing moment at a post office a number of years ago with my mother where it seemed like the post office worker wanted to play “who’s had a worse few years”. He kept listing all the “bad things” that had happened to him over the past few years and my mother just kept smiling and telling him she wouldn’t play that game. I honestly have no idea how it started. I think the man wanted to complain about how his wife had left him on Thanksgiving Day, and when my mom said that she was divorced too and she could relate, he felt that made it a competition. Frankly, my mother would have won, but unlike me and so many others she was far too mature to play the game.
This is the problem we are having. We are all far too busy trying to show how we’re more oppressed, or more depressed, or more stressed, or whatever else you can think of. Instead of supporting one another in difficult times we prefer to try and show how we’ve had worse times.
If you go to a friend for support because your ankle is broken you don’t want her to tell you that she’s had it worse because she’s broken her whole leg, you want empathy or help, or even just someone who’ll say “that sucks” and help you move past it.
We’re so busy counting up our hardships that we are forgetting to try and stop those hardships happening. The twitter fight I witnessed started with a comment about domestic violence and how men are victims too. It devolved into a fight about why we should or shouldn’t focus on women in domestic violence situations. All of a sudden, the original point–to help stop domestic violence–was lost and it became a child-like squabble.
I have seen the same fight occur over discussions about homelessness: “1 in 7 women are homeless” turns into a fight about men versus women and who has it worse. When, in reality, the homeless people have it worse. At the basic level, it doesn’t matter if they are male or female, what matters is the fact that they are homeless.
We need to stop fighting over who has it worse, over which group is more oppressed, over who has gone through more in their lives. What good is it going to do us? This makes no one happy and fixes nothing.
The important issue is that these things do happen. We need to focus on fixing the problem, not fighting over who has to deal with the problem more.