This might not be a popular post. I don't want to come off all Marxist here and privilege economic oppression as the worst and most important form of oppression. I think what I want to do is warn people that capitalism, which is impoverishing the world and destroying the planet, can and will grant concessions to specific groups while maintaining its strangle-holds everywhere else, to the extent that these concessions are not financially significant. And I guess I don't want to say to oppressed groups not to take advantage of the weak links in capitalist politics to gain these benefits, ... just don't be co-opted by them.
What started me thinking this way was remembering Rob Ford's surprise appearance at the opening ceremonies for Toronto PRIDE. Ford's been on the ropes politically for months, as all of his thuggish policy proposals got defeated and his incompetence was displayed again and again. With regards to PRIDE, Ford's long time behaviour has demonstrated to anyone who cares to notice that he's an out-and-out homophobe. But politics makes strange bedfellows and Ford discovered that symbolic actions like personally speaking in favour of gay rights is a relatively cost-free exercise.
The same goes for the disgusting Barack Obama's concessions to gays (ending DADT in the military and mouthing some platitudes about how homosexuals should be allowed to marry) and to Latinos (halting some planned deportations of Latino migrants). Canada's civil-rights shredding, living standards destroying Liberals were also able to stand for gay marriage (whether out of sincere conviction or political calculation or due to constitutional-legal realities) and the despotic-minded McGuinty is also able (especially when prodded by the ONDP) to help gay youth and their allies fight gay bullying.
At the same time though, if the capitalist system finds that any of these concessions threaten real costs, oppressed groups will find these concessions quickly taken away or rendered irrelevant (as is happening with pay equity for instance). And the system will always find it handy to have some minorities to take the worst of the economic ups and downs and to serve as a scape-goat for confused right-wing cowards who would prefer to take to the streets and go head-to-head with refugee groups or single-mothers than with the forces of the state.
So, I'm not saying that patriarchy or homophobia aren't the "real" enemies. I'm just saying that if what you want doesn't cost money, capitalists will be happy to provide it. It doesn't make them your friends in the end.
And, lastly, I don't want to give the impression that "the capitalist system" is some sort of monolithic, sentient whole. But some patterns are awfully hard to ignore.
No links because I'm tired and lazy.