Recently, following the events at a basketball game, Ashley Judd began to unpack how deep systems of oppression and patriarchy affect our everyday society. Judd tweeted a comment about the game she was watching and received backlash; attacking her intelligence, age, appearance, body, and even her family (Alter). Ashley Judd believed that this was reinforcing the themes of oppression created around victim shaming and telling women that they are somehow the reoccurring problem (Alter). Judd paints an accurate picture of the systems of patriarchy as she narrates how male dominated societies subject women’s bodies to dehumanization as a means to gain power.
Ashley Judd is a white, upper class women who does have experience with abuse; however, she is now speaking from a standpoint of privilege. Due to her famous platform, Judd is able create a conversation that is in the spotlight; and people will sympathize with her past abuse because she was a white, upper class woman. This dialogue can be related to critiques of the TV show “Girls,” written by Lena Dunham. The characters are all white, able-bodied, and upper class; and while the purpose of the show is to push boundaries, no minority voices are represented (Sahagian). Lena Dunham’s character thinks that she is the voice of her generation and Dunham in real life has been given the platform to let her voice be heard; however, this is not a fair representation of an entire generation (Sahagian). One can see a pattern recognition in the way Lena Dunham and Ashley Judd are attacked. People from behind their computers have an extremely loud voice and impact, while they constantly dehumanize women for producing intellectual bodies of work. Minority groups such as black women, LGBT members, or aboriginal women are more often the victims of these dehumanizing acts; however, Dunham and Judd have been put in the spotlight and been given a voice, so their stories are emphasized. Minority groups rarely get to be put in the spotlight and in turn, rarely get a voice. However, if the people who do have a platform speak in solidarity for everyone, society can take a few steps forward.
There are many systems of oppression which prevent the victim from having a voice and create a space for the oppressor to dehumanize someone. Ashley Judd said in her critique that she’s famous, so it’s part of her job description (Alter). This is a fallacy so often used to excuse the attacks on famous people. However, being famous does not suddenly take away your humanity and your right to be treated with respect. When speaking about victims of rape one often hears, she was a s*** and so she asked for it. Slut shaming is problematic because a woman should have free agency to dress however she pleases and not be labelled, accused or attacked. This system of oppression emphasizes the oppressor’s voice (reinforcing the idea of a “slut”) and dehumanizes the victim by shaming them. Another problematic structure is violence as lens in regards to seeing blackness as a threatening weapon. This reduces black people, in particularly black men, to be seen as a threat before they are seen as a person. Many people try to impose black respectability politics on the black community to try and bring their image away from the stereotypical black person. This is an issue because it takes away one’s culture and one should have the agency to feel as if they can act however they want and not be in danger. All of these systems of oppression are quite problematic in their own respects; however, they are all excuses for the oppressor’s voice to dominate and dehumanize the victim.
Chimamanda Adichie believes that patriarchy stems from the way boys and girls are raised (Tolmie, “Cultures”). She believes we teach boys to be afraid of fear and weakness; therefore women must belittle themselves to cater to their fragile egos (Tolmie, “Cultures”). Through this structure, men have been able to carry the dominant voice. “Colonialism involves one society seeking to take over another society” (Matani). This is another structure which continuously excludes groups from having a voice and creates a space where the majority group feels entitled to speak for everyone (and even save them). White supremacy is a subset of colonialism which hinders the voices of minority groups because white people believe that in all aspects of life they are superior to them; therefore, they impose their ways on the minority groups and try to assimilate them. White savior is also a term used around the topic of colonialism because sometimes there is a white ‘hero’ that brings back the desires of the oppressed group. However, the problem with this is that white supremacy is still functioning since it is the white person’s voice that is bringing back the desires, the white person is gaining the respect and the title of the ‘hero’ instead of the minority group. Through the systems of colonialism and patriarchy, it is always the oppressive voices that receive the most recognition.
Chimamanda Adichie said, “We have evolved, but our ideas of gender have not evolved” (Tolmie, “Cultures”). The systems of oppression that carry out in our everyday society are funded in ideas of gender, race, class, and agency that are stuck in the past. These roles and fundamentals have changed and grown; therefore, the systems around them need to as well in order for society to function justly.
Alter, Charlott. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. N.p., 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 27. Mar. 2015. <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/>
Haughton, Danyel. “Seeing is Not Believing.” Queen’s University. 2 Mar. 2015. Guest Lecture.
Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” Queen’s University. 13 Mar. 2015. Tutorial.
Sahagian. “Girls.” Queen’s University. 26 Mar. 2015. Guest Lecture.
Tolmie, Jane. “Avatar. Or, Dances with Smurfs: Ecocriticism, Cultural Appropriation and Disability Studies.” Queen’s University. 9 Feb. 2015. Lecture.
Tolmie, Jane. “Cultures of Resistance.” Queen’s University. 30 Mar. 2015. Lecture.