Why do people find it so important to deny others’ social oppression?

Why do individuals, who do not belong to certain social groups, insist on denying that these groups are oppressed? Some men, for example, conduct acrobatic intellectual maneuvers and go to incredible lengths to claim that they are just as oppressed as women on the basis of appearance because men are expected to groom their facial hair, or that men are harmed from pornography just as much as women because they are also expected to meet unrealistic expectations.

A friend told me yesterday that this insistence is helpful to deniers because it keeps them from wondering whether they take part in oppression themselves. Activists and scholars in critical fields (such as gender studies and fat studies) are no less biased – we were raised and we live in the same society; and we harbor misogyny, fat hatred and racism. However, we are supposed to be aware of such biases and show humility by not denying the oppression of other social groups, without bothering to learn in depth about those groups and their situation.

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