11 July 2013

Oppression Olympics

I know back in May, I said I'd talk about the Oppression Olympics. I needed time and distance to gather spoons and perspective.

Part of my reaction came after some friends (who have different disabilities) rightly called me out for not standing up when I see things that are harmful to them, since they can't always stand up for themselves. And I wanted to honor that and do better by them and stand up against something that is very counterproductive and even harmful.

But what are the Oppression Olympics? Google results will give us a few different definitions, all with the same general definition. The Oppression Olympics refers to the event when people who fall under different oppressions (race, gender, sexuality, class, (dis)ability, etc.) are forced to compete over who has it worse. Oppression Olympics are called out when comments like "being poor makes for a worse life than being a person of color" or "being gay is more stigmatized in our society than being fat."

I'm not saying that examining how things are is a bad thing. Quite the contrary.

First and foremost, the Oppression Olympics eliminate the idea of intersectionality, that there can be poor people of color or fat people who are gay or even a poor, fat, person of color who is also gay. And we need to acknowledge that these things interact and play off each other. For example, someone who is fat and disabled will be treated differently than a thin person with a disability, and that someone will be treated in a different manner if they are a woman vs. a man.

Secondly, the Oppression Olympics leave no winners. When we pit groups against each other and throw each other under the bus, no one wins and no one makes any progress. There is no understanding or camaraderie. We are silencing each other by telling others that their problems aren't as dire or "as real" as ours, when we should be focusing on ways to help one another. And, the great part of winning the Oppression Olympics is, well, congratulations? You've proven your life is the worst to live.

So, what exactly happened? As a part of dblog week this year, one of the prompts was to think about switching diabetes for another chronic condition.

As members of the DOC, we know how terrible the representation of diabetes is to everyone else (thank you, cable TV). What makes anyone think that other conditions don't suffer the same fate? Those of us statistically lucky enough to have more than one chronic condition can probably tell you that representation to the public of our other conditions are just as terrible and they do vary from person to person (although, maybe not quite as much as with diabetes, but then again, your condition may vary).

But more than that, we're pitting ourselves against other chronic condition communities. We're telling other communities that we think their conditions aren't "as bad" as diabetes.

And I can't stand by that. I can't stand by throwing other people under the bus.


As an aside, I was very impressed how many people chose to not trade their diabetes.

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