On Oppression Revisit

Quite a while ago, I wrote about racial oppression and the way that two different groups of people handled it. I came across that old post today, and it got me thinking; why was it that by embracing stereotypes we were able to take away their power? It seems like an important question, because removing the power of stereotypes is an important step in creating a society with real equality.

To illustrate my answer, I’ll use myself. I’m very straight, but by no means a real manly man. I hunt, like camping and the outdoors, but I’m a little geeky, shy, and I don’t think much of trying things like cooking and knitting. In Moi’s suite, I spent a lot of time with friends of hers who were gay, and as we got to be friends joking around about me being gay (or turning gay, or having casual gay sex, etc.) became common. I’m not saying that being gay is quite the same as being another stereotype, but I wasn’t any more then a certain free spirit was a “dirty Mexican.” Nor am I going to claim that I am “just that secure in my sexuality.” (What does that mean, anyway? I’ve said it once before and felt… deceitful. But I digress.)

I think the reason this never bothered me was exactly because of the experience I described in the original post: by laughing about the stereotypes, we identify them as distinct from ourselves. I could adopt the persona of my gay self, and it was obvious to everyone I was only kidding around, but when I dropped it, it was gone. I could go to bed at night with Moi knowing I had nothing to prove.

Maybe this all seems like more work then people think is fair, but I don’t think anything could be more difficult then being politically correct all the time. I suppose what we were doing was something like saying, “If I were really ______ (in my case, flamboyantly gay), I would look like this ______ (fabulous!). But I look like me. See the difference?”

The real advantage here was that it was never that painful or obvious. Can you imagine sensitivity training where people have to role play that conversation? (Okay, I can, actually, and let me say this: ouch.) We played that game a lot, but the rules were unspoken, and the result was that it never felt like politically correct race relations, otherwise known as work. It was just funny as hell, and when everyone gets to play, no one feels excluded, no one feels unwelcome.

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One Response to “On Oppression Revisit”

  1. Moi Says:

    I like this post. It’s smart. We had to play that game once at a diversity training thing. It was… interesting. Hard to figure out what to say.

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