Judith Butler in her book Bodies That Matter explains that “sympathy with another’s position” is not the correct action to take when dealing with heterosexual norms (Butler, 80). She says a person does not need to sympathize with someone in order to understand their oppression; one must simply understand that we all are interconnected and that will allow people to fight back against the oppression people feel in society (Butler, 80). I question this statement. Sympathy is defined as “the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble” (dictionary.com). By sharing how one is feeling during oppression, that person can feel powerful in that instance because they are able to vocalize the anger and sadness they are feeling. Butler thinks it is a “matter of tracing the ways in which identification is implicated” (Butler, 80). Tracing how identification is felt between two people is essentially having sympathy toward another person. One must find a way to identify with a person when someone is talking and sharing grief and this identifying is the sense of having sympathy.
Sympathy is a synonym for empathy. Empathy training or better known as restorative justice is the best treatment for rapist (Hyde, 395). This is a treatment in which the rapist must meet the victim and explain what happened. This builds empathy in the rapist and empathy reduces the likelihood of raping (Hyde, 389). Rape happens because the rapist, most likely a man, wants to hold power and dominance over the victim. This need for power is a masculine role that society has placed on the male gender. Empathy is the best way to treat this form of gendered role so how can building empathy in all people not be the best solution to dealing with other societal gendered norms?
(referenced: Hyde, J. (2007). Half The Human Experience: The Psychology of Women (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.)