A California anti-discrimination law intended to protect the civil rights of marginalized groups has been co-opted by a group of men to try to shut down an organization designed to promote women’s entrepreneurship.
Stephanie Burns is the founder of Chic CEO, which offers women networking opportunities and business advice related to the business and technology sectors, in which women are vastly underrepresented.
Burns found herself served with a lawsuit when two men, Allan Candelore and Rich Allison, were turned away from a Chic CEO women’s networking event.
The men’s attorney, Alfred G. Rava, calls the desire to have such events “strange and sad.”
He has previously sued nightclubs for holding “Ladies’ Nights” in which women get in at free or reduced rates, as well as professional baseball teams for the mortal sin of giving free hats to women on Mother’s Day.
The legislation Rava uses in the frivolous suit against Chic CEO is the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Passed into law in 1959, it protects all Californians as “free and equal ... no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status or sexual orientation.”
That’s a long list of categories that have historically been used as excuses in this country for the purposes of unjust discrimination.
“Discrimination” against men, however, is a fantasy kept by those men who are blind to their own privilege.
This imagined victimization of dominant groups by oppressed groups is sadly not limited to so-called “men’s rights activists” like Candelore, Allison and Rava.
It can be found in the rhetoric of white supremacists, and it’s present in the imaginations of Christians who see themselves as a persecuted minority in this overwhelmingly Christian country.
A 2011 Harvard study found white people now perceive “anti-white bias” to be more prevalent and a bigger problem than anti-black discrimination.
Some offended readers left comments on the online version of a column I wrote, “White supremacists and hate don’t belong at IU,” several weeks ago. They asked, “Why is it racist to not want to become a minority in your own country?” and “Do white people have a right to exist?”
And of course, Kim Davis has painted her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — a legally required component of her job — as standing up against religious “discrimination.”
In a written statement, Ted Cruz claimed people are “persecuting” Davis because they “believe that Christians should not serve in public office.”
None of these dominant groups — men, white people, Christians — are bad.
But there is something deeply disturbing about their co-optation of the rhetoric of social justice — racists and misogynists referring to themselves as “activists,” for example — and the laws intended to protect truly marginalized and oppressed groups from discrimination.
Unlike members of groups who have experienced actual oppression and discrimination, those in dominant groups aren’t used to being excluded from anything.
This is the impetus behind phenomena such as “White Student Unions” developing at institutions of learning.
It’s even continued through the outrage men had over the Ms. Foundation’s addition of “Take Our Sons Home Day” to “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” an opportunity meant to teach men the value of home work but ended in an argument about discrimination, as cited by the New Yorker.
After all, our entire society has been structured to protect and further dominant groups’ interests and demands.
When dominant groups claim the mantle of victimhood, they only stand in the way of ending discrimination once and for all.
Do you want to live in a more equal, more just world?
Then let’s stop pretending powerful dominant groups are being persecuted and victimized by groups who have been and continue to be actually oppressed.