Anger can be cathartic for the oppressed

There is something that needs to be made clear—oppressed people hating their oppressors is not hate speech. It’s not violence, and it does not cause any real harm. The entire point of oppression is that oppressed people are incapable of oppressing their oppressors.

So, what would, for example, heterophobia look like? I’m not sure. It is so far beyond the realm of reality that it is almost impossible to conceptualize. Perhaps it would look like the oppression that queer people face in diverse ways, from micro-aggressions to murder, or perhaps it would take on an entirely new and thus far unimagined form. Regardless of what form heterophobia would take if it actually were a form of oppression, it does not exist now, and there is no reasonable stretch of the imagination in which straight people suddenly begin experiencing horrific oppression that rivals what queer people already experience.

For many queer people, as well as a wide variety of other oppressed people, expressing distaste, and even hatred, for their oppressors is a form of catharsis, especially at Vassar where micro- and macro-aggressions abound.We experience real and profound discrimination on a regular basis; even micro-aggressions are a reminder that our lives are inherently less valuable than our straight peers. We are often reminded that we are at a disturbingly high risk of experiencing violent crime as a result of not conforming to a heteronormative ideal.

So, speaking out, even hyperbolically, is cathartic. “I hate straight/white/male people!” I shout into my pillow, I say to my friends over coffee, I whine about passive aggressively on my blog. And it feels good, at least a bit. It is good to articulate what is causing someone harm, even if those words do not sprout legs and run off to dismantle the patriarchy. Queer survival and queer self-care are important, too. Many of us realize that we will not live to see the change we are working for, and so taking care of ourselves is essential. We are, ultimately, working not for us, but for others, always and taking a little time to kvetch about men, or straight people, when not actively working toward change can be deeply comforting and useful for many people.

It is also essential to realize that a couple of oppressed people hating their oppressors ultimately does no tangible harm to those oppressors. What could it possibly do to them? No one is obligated to like their oppressors, or gently hold their hands while singing ‘kumbaya’ and hoping that everything will resolve itself. It won’t. We might all just be humans, but some of us are oppressed, and some of us are oppressors, and that is something that is impossible to avoid in our interactions with each other. And since we are all human, we all must strive to acknowledge our varied privileges and watch we navigate spaces in which we have privileges.

Oppressed people complaining about their oppressors is not an instance for said oppressors to make their voices heard with traditional rallying cries such as “Not all [member oppressor groups] are like that.” Entering a space dedicated to an oppressed group is something that should only be undertaken if one has been invited into that space, and, yes, conversations between queer people regarding queerness are spaces dedicated to oppressed groups, and, no, straight people are not welcome in those spaces without absolute permission.

Ultimately, queer spaces are essential to queer survival. To remove these spaces, or to attempt to turn these spaces into ones wherein straight people are allowed to speak over the very people that space is dedicated to serving commits an act of queer erasure and, ultimately, an act of violence. Every micro-aggression, every cry of “But we’re not all like that,” every instance of oppressors turning the anger of the oppressed into a discussion of why their feelings are important, furthers the violence and oppression that queer people experience. It doesn’t matter if one did not personally pull the trigger—performing acts that encourage other people to do so nets the same result.


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