Social Justice as Abuse

The phrase ‘social justice’ is often invoked to describe lofty principles individuals and institutions are expected to follow. But what happens when people misuse the power of these ideas?

Sleeping On The Couch

I just don’t feel safe sharing a space with someone who disagrees with me!

This fascinating article details seven ways social justice language can become abusive in intimate relationships:

  1. Using identity to avoid responsibly (we could almost stop right there….)
  2. Using ‘desirability politics’ to coerce someone into sex (AKA rapesee: Cotton Ceiling)
  3. Disguising putting someone down as calling out oppression (“Punch TERFS!”)
  4. Forcing someone to stay for ‘anti-oppressive’ reasons
  5. Making a partner responsible for life and death (“When you don’t affirm my transition I feel like killing myself!”)
  6. Calling out some things while ignoring others (liberals and SJWs, your slip is showing!)
  7. Using oppression to deny one’s own agency (isn’t this the same as #1?)

It kind of feels like this author was stretching for length, but they do present an interesting angle.

We all know people are amazing at rationalizing our actions. Those who are most passionate about social justice causes are often those with their own trauma. It makes sense that sensitive souls might use their interpersonal defenses to shield themselves in a weak moment.

Bratty In Orange

But I just want what I want!

Author Kai Cheng Thom tells how this idea first came to their attention:

“A few years ago, I took a deep breath, looked one of my closest friends in the eye and told him…. he should stop beating his boyfriend.

“He shook his head…. ‘But it isn’t abuse if I hit him, I’m more oppressed than he is.'”

Facing this absurdity caused Kai to take stock of things. “I was forced to wonder, does this mean a ‘most oppressed’ person could never be responsible for abusing a ‘less oppressed’ person? Can a woman never abuse a man, or a racialized person a white person?”

Putting aside this new word – racialized – that once again lumps everyone who isn’t white into one giant category – this is obviously not true.

Of course women can abuse men. Power dynamics are not black and white like that. A mother has a special ability to abuse a son. It seems to be an executable offense when a black man looks like he might assault a white man.

Kai came to the conclusion that sometimes social justice concepts are misused between individuals. I have observed this in my own life, and I’m thankful to Kai for naming the issue so succinctly.

Emotional Labor

If only I could shake this feeling of responsibility for your emotional state!

But after reciting the list of every major social justice movement, “Feminism, anti-racism, queer and trans advocacy, and other kinds of social justice-based thinking,” Kai fails to take this observation to the systemic level.

Is it possible that this dynamic plays out at the group level? Could whole social systems be tilted towards abuse?

Of course!

The Catholic Church comes to mind. Any corrupt government or business. It seems like greed is the most common motivation, but personal gratification is not far behind.

The most interesting thing about this article is the identity of the author: “I believed those things…. with all my traumatized, terrified trans girl of color heart. A part of me still does.”

It’s thrilling to see someone exercise their capacity for independent thought. But the insight boils down to identifying yet another way that people twist circumstances to avoid responsibility for negative consequences.

Stop Or I'll Shoot

I won’t hurt you if you don’t trigger me!

And ironic, of course, because this so closely aligns with the tactics of the Trans Movement in general.“Using oppression to deny one’s own agency” is an opaque way to describe scapegoating your own failure.

‘I would write my novel if I weren’t so depressed.’

‘I would get a degree if I could find the time.’

‘I would get more dates if people weren’t transphobic.’

This stuff happens all the time. We have all done it.

The difference is, most people don’t found a social movement in this idea. Switching sex is impossible. Gender is in your mind. Dysphoria is a mental issue.

But this Russian nesting doll concept of oppression has led us to a place where scapegoating is enshrined in the trappings of Justice.

Women are oppressed around the world. Black people are oppressed in the United States. The lower classes are oppressed by definition.

Trans people are not oppressed. There is no institution dedicated to suppressing them as the Ku Klux Klan is to suppressing Black people, or as religion is built to control women.Transphobic Tweet

Trans people die at a much higher rate than the average because they are mentally ill. Mental illness has a very negative impact on one’s quality of life.

And instead of helping these people learn to accept themselves as they are, society is nurturing the notion something is wrong with them.

How is that not evil??

It reminds me of the famous story of the Dancing Plague. Hundreds of people in a town in Medieval England spontaneously began dancing and were apparently unable to stop. These days they call this phenomenon Mass Hysteria.

Mass Hysteria is what caused the Witch Burnings and the Red Scare. We modern people are not immune – Our mass communication world may be more susceptible to something that spreads through ideas.Love Dysphoria

Like the idea that you can switch sex. Or that biology is a social construct. Not much more sensible than executing wise women or dancing nonstop.

And, like each of these, our version has serious physical consequences for those who find themselves on the wrong side of it.

I’m glad to see this independent analysis from that side of the fence, but it’s dated 2016. I guess this line of thought didn’t catch on.

I wonder why ?


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