BuzzFeed get as wet for pseudo-social justice as I do over the thought of helping Idris Elba with his morning moisturizing routine, so it shocked literally no one when they documented the plight of two brave straight men swooping in to prove to the world that, yes, public displays of affection are indeed harder for same sex couples.
Now, I don’t particularly enjoy pissing on the cornflakes of well-intentioned “allies”, but this video was so frustrating to me. I wasn’t only the queer in the coup who was unsettled by it either. I mean yes, it does highlight that homophobia is a real thing. But riddle me this: why don’t (straight) people already get that? Because when you think about it:
- Queer people have been talking about this for years
- Straight people more often than not have eyes, ears and the internet.
This is all you need to know to see that something stinks about the situation. If there is a genuine need for two straight radio DJs to bring attention to homophobia, then our experiences as actual queer people are being at best diluted, and at worst erased.
Well intentioned but ultimately useless acts of kinship from allies are a very common theme in the world of social justice. I call it the Seven Steps To Achieving Piss-all (SSTAP):
(For the sake of clarity I’m going to use queer people as my example. But SSTAP works for most oppressed groups).
- Queer people share authentic experiences of abuse for generations
- Experiences are roundly ignored, denied and erased by straight people for generations
- Straight people take it upon themselves to experience oppression for a very short amount of time, ignoring any contextual differences
- Straight people are hailed as revolutionaries by many
- Queer people who critique this are disregarded as whiny
- Straight people forget about fighting for oppressed peoples rights
- Liberation goes on pause until they can be arsed to deal with it again
I actually spoke to a journalist about this on Twitter, and through disagreeing with me she actually made a very good point that supports the threat that SSTAP poses to us. Quoth:
This is entirely why I’m weary when allies use the “walk a mile in my shoes” technique to try and help a cause. To them, queer liberation isn’t existential – a straight person will never understand what it’s like to live life knowing that someone might kill you for being queer. Call me cynical, but without that existential threat, I can’t help but ponder how long it will be until these allies forget about our struggle (probably by the time an UpWorthy video about a cat spooning a dog pops up to show us we’re all equal really). When it’s my ass on the line, and the asses of my LGBTQ brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings on the line, I don’t feel comfortable taking that risk. Sorry (not sorry).
I never like to just moan into the mist and hope to enlighten people. So what I’m trying to say, in no unclear terms, is thus:
If someone tells you about their oppression, believe them. Then tell other people about it. And implore them to believe it too. Use your privilege to give a platform to the people you are trying to help. And when it comes to sharing stories and experiences, take a back seat and let those who actually experience oppression speak.
Now I know it’s hard being told to shush. But I promise you, the person you’re defending has something infinitely more important to say on the matter than you do. So give them a leg up to do so. In a way, it actually makes your job easier.