Transitional Times, Transitional People

In texts about race and minority relations (including feminism), there was only one that really made a solid attempt at envisioning a post-oppression world. Paradoxes of Gender, by Judith Lorber makes the attempt at seeing a world post-gender… but I think her utopian vision suffers from the same flaw my attempt does.

Both attempts forget that there is a world already in progress.

It’s arguable that I’ve forgotten that at other times recently – or at least, made the presumption that the world is a homogenous mass, all moving at the same speed. And, of course, that said mass of people are roughly like me. This, of course, leads us to be horribly surprised at some of the shocking things fellow humans come up with. I mean, look at this t-shirt. Do I really need to spell out what’s so wrong with it?

So what can we do in this complex world?

No kind of rule-based mechanism is really going to work here. Look at the controversy around the “N word”, if you need an example of that. Who can say it? Who shouldn’t? What about freedom of speech? Do all people who say it mean the same thing? How can you tell?

We have a world already in existence where prejudicial (or personal) oppression, institutional oppression, and post-oppression systems all exist simultaneously. Even worse, any particular individual can exist at different places and inhabit all of these systems simultaneously (for example: A person could be horrified by racism, but think that women should be in “their place”, and unwittingly supports the institutional oppression of both).

The only real possible solution is trying to always understand the other. To stop using our enlightened attitudes as a means of belittling others, and instead take on the hard work of gently correcting and educating them. As Maura points out (in a tangentally related post) mere posturing and superiority complexes are not going to change the world.

It can be infuriating that these oppressions still manage to exist, but it’s even more sad that people are so trapped by these ideas that they can’t break free of them.

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