There were two stories in the media this past week that drew comparisons between people who are incomparable in my eyes. It’s so dangerous to compare two issues or people who don’t belong in the same category because it can mitigate the seriousness of one or embellish another.
The first instance is the comparison of Caitlyn Jenner AKA Bruce Jenner and disgraced Spokane NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal (I’m only assuming she’s disgraced. If she’s not, she should be). This is such an incomparable comparison.
Caitlyn Jenner lived as Bruce Jenner for his entire life – up until now. He denied his true self to fit the mold of a society that has harsh criticisms for those who try to live outside of it. Though I can attest to growth and acceptance when it comes to change and differences, it’s apparent in the showcase of responses when he revealed his true self that we are far from true acceptance. Bruce coming out as Caitlyn was a significant moment because it had depth and purpose. It rejected traditional and close-minded thinking. It pushed boundaries and created yet another role model for other transgender individuals. I’ve had so many teaching moments in my life and some of the most powerful are of stories from friends who hid their sexuality out of fear. The thought of hiding your true self to be someone else just so people accept you is not a reality I can even begin to imagine.
Rachel Dolezal on the other hand is just oblivious. Pretending to be a different race has no comparison to feeling as if you were born a different gender and then wanting to be a different gender. Your sexuality is something you are born with and as you grow you discover who you have a sexual interest in and who you don’t. It’s biological, not something that is socialized or conditioned. Many transgender people feel as if they were born with the wrong physical anatomy. You are not born one race and discover what race you think you should be as you grow. Race is a social construction, not a biological difference. We see race because it’s visible and because human-kind has made it a focal point. While I do believe race has significance in personal identity and I understand the importance of recognizing race as to not undermine the history of each one, I don’t think it’s something where you can be born one race, but “feel” like you should be another. You can take an interest in other cultures and admire their unique qualities, but lying about your race and pretending to be another is disrespectful – it’s a whole new level of cultural misappropriation. What really blows my mind is how she doesn’t realize that by pretending to be an African-American woman and taking the role of a leader in the NAACP and a professor at a University, she is taking away 2 roles from women who are actually African American. Aiding in the empowerment of an oppressed group of people does not start with you pretending to be a member of the group. It’s about recognizing your role and acting as a support to louden the voices of a group that is often silenced. It’s about solidarity. Even trying to put it into words is difficult as I just find it so bizarre that anyone would actually think tho behaviour is appropriate.
The second story in the news that draws on an incomparable comparison is the association or grouping of Jian Ghomeshi, Amanda Lang, and Evan Solomon. Jian Ghomeshi is charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance. Amanda Lang wasn’t charged with anything, but it was discovered that she has had some serious conflicts of interest throughout her career including providing personal favoured coverage of those who had paid her to attend public speaking events. Evan Solomon was fired for taking secret commissions on art sales. Even after explaining those details, the only link I see between the three are that they all worked for the CBC. Sure, you can accuse the CBC of possessing three shitty employees, but in no way do these three people have anything in common. By grouping the three together, the most powerful message you send is that these three so-called “crimes” are somehow on the same level. It completely diminishes the severity of Jian Ghomeshi’s charges and allegations against him. Choking women until they can’t breath during sex is quite a bit more serious that taking some money from a payment for a piece of art, don’t you think?
I really hate it when people don’t realize the power in their words. There is such a huge lack of empathy and compassion for the realities of others. As I scroll through twitter, I see one mindless tweet after another. People who type the first bullshit thought they have without going anywhere below surface level. They don’t think about how a transgender person feels, or an African-American person feels, or a rape victim feels. They don’t see how their words remove the power that these groups are fighting so hard to gain. When I read that someone compares accepting money for a public speaking event and providing favouritism in media coverage with violently sexually assaulting numerous women, I become nauseas. These two have no correlation or comparison to draw from.
Every day people who are transgender, African American, and victims of rape and sexual assault are forced to live in a world that treats them as “other”. They are alienated, isolated, ridiculed, oppressed, and discriminated against. As a society, we can’t keep treating these groups as if they aren’t important. Until we start treating each group with respect and honouring their truths, we won’t improve as a society and be accepting in the way we should be. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you publish.