Dhruv Rathee’s Comparison Of Black Lives Matter To Feminism Completely Misses The Point And This Needs To Stop
Niccolo Machiavelli said that men are more apt to be mistaken in their generalizations than in their particular observations. To a certain extent, I agree. (Oh also, here ‘men’ applies to ‘humans’, just saying.) There is always a time for generalisations and a time for getting into specifics. True wisdom is knowing when that time is. For example, I could generalise and dismiss the entirety of Dhruv Rathee’s latest video on the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States for being too myopic. But I won’t, because my problem particularly lies with his comparison of BLM with feminism, and how the names of these moments are, in themselves, biased and unequal.
I think my IQ just dtopped pic.twitter.com/zOYhnvsV1F
— furiosa (@frillfaze) June 7, 2020
Let’s get you some context first, shall we?
What is Black Lives Matter?
America is currently rocked by widespread protests against the inherent systematic racial injustice prevalent in the nation. The recent death of African American Minneapolis resident George Floyd during what was supposed to be just an ‘arrest’ has sparked a flame of protest that currently burns bright in all 50 states. The protest is no longer constrained to America, having spread to nations like the UK and even finding support in our own country (which ironically has its own obsession with fair skin).
ALSO READ: Dear Bollywood, Let Me Tell You Why Your ‘All Lives Matter’ Hashtag Is Tone Deaf And Makes You Look Bad
What’s Dhruv Rathee’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ video all about?
These days, we’re all about smart work and often await a crash course in news from stand-up comedians and late night show hosts. Or YouTubers and influencers like Dhruv Rathee, who often have an explainer, generously ladled with opinions for their anticipating audience. As expected, he had a video out on the Black Lives Matter protests. In the 16-minute video, he uses statistics, news reports and social media videos to encapsulate the current situation in the US. And while I want to be grateful that an important cause is being explained so unambiguously to everyone, there might be a glitch here we cannot overlook.
Just as for every #MeToo, there is a #NotAllMen, for #BlackLivesMatter, there is a counter movement called #AllLivesMatter. This movement believes that by using the word ‘Black’ in the name of the movement, there’s a certain importance assigned only to black lives, thereby disregarding white lives in the process. And that, as per this justification, brings the BLM movement to the same level of bias and prejudice that is fighting in the first place.
In fact, Rathee, in his video, juxtaposes Black Lives Matter with feminism to low-key justify this criticism of the BLM movement. There are many who believe that while ‘feminism’ claims to advocate for gender equality, its purpose is diluted by the fact that ‘feminism’ has feminine representation in it and is inherently biased. This argument further branches into the whole ‘feminism as misandry’ school of thought. Rathee then goes on to suggest that had he been the one to decide upon the nomenclature of such an equality moment, he would’ve gone for something ‘more equalising’. So basically, ‘All Lives Matter’? Or ‘All Lives Matter But Right Now We Be Focusing On Black Lives Matter But Only Till It Is Safe To Go Back To Being Racist’?
Of course, his ‘opinion’ has rightly annoyed people on Twitter.
Dhruv Rathee can be suffering from diarrhoea but he's expecting the doctor to medicate his entire body because why should his shits only be "favoured". Haina. pic.twitter.com/PoCbl9PLRr
— Zainab Sikander (@zainabsikander) June 8, 2020
According to Dhruv Rathee, Dr. Ambedkar worked for the empowerment of both Brahmans and Dalits, because balance.
— علي (@OpusOfAli) June 8, 2020
Furthermore, when Rathee tried to clarify that he wasn’t voicing support for the ‘All Lives’ argument but rather commenting on the ‘marketing’ aspect of ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘feminism’, he seems to have made it worse.
Thanks for elaborating. I do not side with all lives argument. From my perspective, I'm just talking about the marketing aspect of BLM, not the intent and the content of it. If it were up to me, I would use "Racial Equality" slogans so it's easier to garner support for it.
— Dhruv Rathee (@dhruv_rathee) June 8, 2020
Now you’d think, why does ‘All Lives Matter’ rub activists the wrong way? What’s the fuss, eh? Isn’t assigning value to everyone’s life important here?
‘All Lives Matter’ vs. ‘Black Lives Matter’
Well, yes and no. Imagine you’re on the playground and your friend bruises his knee, and it is bleeding profusely. What do you do? Do you help your friend, clean and bandage that gaping wound first, or do you steal the First Aid kit for yourself because, hey what if you fall down and hurt yourself too? And mind you, at this point, you’re not in any obvious danger or haven’t been subjected to anything that may cause an injury. The former, of course, because that is the need of the hour.
— Prince kumar (@princekumar002) June 8, 2020
The thought that all life is important is rather noble and there’s nothing that this world needs more than to understand that every human life is priceless. However, the fact of the matter is that we don’t, do we? If we valued every single life, regardless of sex, gender, skin colour, religion, caste, economic status or nationality, this world would be full of unicorns and rainbows instead of in a state of constant nuclear cold war.
Since there is systematic oppression of a certain class of individuals rampant in every society, the need of the hour is to focus on uplifting those first. Once we’ve done that, raised them to an equal footing with everyone else, only then can we hold true to the statement that ‘All Lives Matter’.
If you do want to compare Black Lives Matter to feminism, compare it on the terms of how both these classes of individuals, blacks and women, have been systematically oppressed for years and years. Both have had to fight for equal rights, their voices to be heard, for their presence to be felt. It is precisely why these movements need to be specifically about them, because they have until now been relegated to the sidelines while someone else ran the show of their lives. That being said, while their movements (and their names) may be specific to their cause, they are inherently about equality, which can only be achieved when all individuals are in a position to be treated equally in practice.
The world has a bunch of problems already. But when a pandemic like coronavirus arrived on the scene, we dropped everything to deal with it. Why? Because it was urgent. Did we say, “But all viruses matter, so where are our preparations for the other illnesses?” Heck, we even let our already deteriorating economies suffer, because the urgency was around curbing the pandemic, which is the biggest danger to our lives right now. If that analogy isn’t enough to satiate people’s needs for a ‘more equal name’ for social movements, then they’re a lost cause anyway.
— Akbar (Amar) Antony (@masterofhind) June 7, 2020
Besides, the sheer fact that there are people who care more about the name of the movement as opposed to the cause that it rallies is itself a sign of the privilege that these movements are trying to counter. Feminism prioritises women and BLM prioritises black lives because the society wasn’t doing it in the first place. They were treated as if they didn’t matter. But now, they’re raising their to voice to matter. And once they begin to matter, by extension all lives will. It’s that simple.