Oh my gosh, where to start?!
How about with the response I received from my co-chair for a student organization I run? We are in the process of inviting a speaker to come to campus, so I wrote a rough draft of the invitation letter today. I wrote the draft just from me (because frankly I think it’s weird to send emails signed from multiple people), but when I sent it to my co-chair for editing, I acknowledged that we should probably alter it to be from the both of us, and I’d get to it in a later draft. He writes back:
Yeah, let’s put both of our names on it, so we can have a man and a woman.
Excuse me?! Um, let’s put both of our names on because we both run this organization. That is the ONLY reason your name would be included — and now I’m considering leaving it out altogether.
I know why he said it. In fact, he brings up the fact that he’s a man all the time. It’s because for what just might be the first time in his life, as a straight white male, he’s an other in a female-dominated program and field. From his perspective, having a girl’s name and guy’s name on our letter shows diversity.
I understand why he might think this. When you’re a false other, like if you’re the minority in a given situation where minority and majority are flipped, you suddenly have the experience of having the unique view in the room. That might be true. Here’s the catch, though: You still can’t speak to being a minority. You’re not. You have not experienced daily systems of oppression (yeah, I pulled out the big heavy o-word… sorry), the societal nuances in everyday life that subtly tell you you’re different and inferior.
To suggest that your fake minority status would give weight to something, as his brief little comment did, is really just to pull in the advantage that has been unjustifiably granted to you in your true status of power-holder.
The problem is that it’s really, really hard to realize this unless you’ve experienced it. He likely wouldn’t be offended if the situation was flipped and I had made the same comment. But it wasn’t flipped, and here I am, woman, writing a rant of a blog post.
Also, for the record, his edits sucked. Just saying.