Fiddler on the Roof

I was sitting next to a Professor of Theology and twenty other people who ere celebrating the completion of a one week workshop about the abuse power in relationships. He said to me “You know, you remind me of Fiddler on the Roof”. The others at the table could see my horror, as I pointed out to him that firstly Fiddler on the Roof portrays is a caricature and secondly I take offence at being stereotyped in this way. The gay person sitting opposite me commiserated said that he had been getting similar comments throughout the time of the workshop.  The workshop presenters who were foreigners became more dismayed and horrified as the rest of the people at the table started to attack the two us and point out that we were the problem. The deeply patronising statement was no doubt meant to signify acceptance and tolerance. When challenged what emerged was deep prejudice, envy and antipathy. The question I ask is what if these people were my colleagues and the person making the statement my boss? I would certainly feel the barbs in their thinly disguised attempts to appear well-meaning for what they are, but how would I challenge them? How would I challenge being accidently left off a lunch invitation list, or some small slip being used to bring down my performance evaluation or my colleague from the same group as the manages getting promotions over me when I know that my performance is better? How do I confront a game when the main rule of this game is that everybody has to pretend that no game is being played? How do I use my voice when it will lead to me being labelled a trouble maker and cause me to be flagged as someone to be gotten rid of? How does a person who has been rendered invisible, regarded as second class show up in a way that does not cause offence to people who would rather stick with their own? How do we continue this conversation with the reverence, compassion, honesty and respect that the subject deserves?

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