One of the classes I teach is Criminal Law, and one of the subjects we cover is rape law. Every semester, every time we get to rape law, and we talk about the gendered nature of the crime, some student stands up and says, "It happens to men, too!"
Yes, yes it does. And outside of prison it happens in such small numbers that we're likely to make a Movie of the Week out of a true-life episode. When it happens to a man, it's a story. When it happens to a woman, it's a statistic.
But the student who stands up to say "it happens to men, too" isn't really concerned about the social issue of men who are raped. It's a way to say DON'T see it as a gender issue, DON'T consider it a women's issue. Move along, there's nothing to see here.
We do the same thing when we talk about race. "It happens to white people, too." "Everyone is going to be teased about something." Move along, there's nothing to see here.
And we do it when we talk about difficult issues in adoption for our kids. "Would you rather have grown up in an orphanage?" Mei-Ling has a great post about that shut-it-down question posed by adoptive parents to adult adoptees:
The question referring to orphanages isn’t being used as a honest true attempt to discuss the realities of orphanages.You're sometimes sad about your adoption? You're an "angry adoptee?" "Would you have rather been raised in an orphanage?" Move along, there's nothing to see here.
It is being used in an inappropriate context to maneuver the adult adoptee into saying what the asker wants to hear – what the asker expects to hear.
It is used as a silencing attempt, a passive-aggressive way to convey: “Be grateful you are even alive and have a family that loves you. You wouldn’t have even gotten that if you’d stayed behind, and because you are adopted, this family is a privilege.”