Sup. This blog will probably be mostly about human rightsy stuff, and my specialty therein is feminism. But that doesn’t mean I’m an expert in it – I haven’t taken the classes, haven’t read the books. I just read some feminist blogs, and having been a woman my whole life (except for when I was a girl, I suppose), it’s not too hard to figure some of it out. Racism is harder. Homophobia is a little easier because I think it comes from the same place as sexism, the patriarchy. Animal rights basically make my head explode; I’ve really tried to figure out what I think but the problem is, I don’t even really believe (shh don’t tell any oppressive regimes) that human rights are, I don’t know, natural. I just think it’s a real good idea to enforce them. So if you ask me if animals have rights, I go, do you want them to? And I do, to be a nice person, but I also have issues with the idea of not eating meat. I’ll write a post on that sometime.
I thought about it, and I don’t think I really have anything new and groundbreaking to offer the human rightsy blogging community. (The rightsosphere? I’m jealous of the fatosphere’s cool name. But righsosphere sounds more like it’s for Republicans…the humanosphere?) So this is just going to be my place to let my thoughts bubble over, and maybe if some people who don’t usually think about this stuff stumble on over here, it’ll be useful for them. I’ll try to explain everything from the bottom up so that it can at least be good for that.
For my inaugural post, I figured I’d lay down my basic ideas on what’s going on behind all these, and other, -isms. I think that humans, like other living things, are products of evolution, and thus “designed” to survive. Sometimes that means cooperating with the group. Sometimes it means looking out for number 1. I hate that phrase, but I think it’s true. I think that individual humans can be introspective and self-sacrificial, but I think in a group, you can basically predict what’s going to happen. Namely, most of them are going to act in their own self-interest. This means that if one group of humans, by some historical accident, gets more power than the others, they’ll do whatever they can to keep that power, and they will use that power against others for their own good. It’s not that power corrupts, it’s that power allows corruption to manifest itself.
What I’m getting at is that I don’t think oppressive groups are inherently more oppressive people than other people; I think they were just the ones with the opportunity. Meanwhile, oppressed groups act in their own self-interest – they do what they can to survive by either sucking up to the dominant class or launching a rebellion. Women usually pick the former, with feminists being a notable exception. Homo/bi/transsexuals have historically picked the former, too, although that’s a-changin’ now. Racial and ethnic minorities seem better equipped to pick the latter, probably because they have a degree of separation from the dominant class and cooperation among themselves. But that doesn’t mean their oppression is easier to get rid of.
I’m also interested in certain other types of oppression, especially linguistic discrimination, because I do linguistics. There’s a whole nother thing going on there (I guess you could call it secondary discrimination…can you tell I like to have nomenclature for everything?), but I’ll get to that when I post on it. Classism is another huge one, although I feel like it’s kinda different because class isn’t as inherent as race and so on. So it’s kind of two issues in one: fighting poverty, and then fighting prejudice against people with less money.
But basically, I think that any type of difference among people can be used as a way of categorizing and discriminating against people. In the US, skin color is used, and hair texture is used, but hair color is not. Go figure. The differences aren’t really that meaningful (at least, they don’t mean that one group is less worthy of rights than another), but the dominant group assigns meanings to the differences as one of many ways to justify and perpetuate their position in power and their oppression of the other. One meaning they really love to give themselves is Normal, and they give the other group the meaning of Other. It’s like Us vs. Them except defined as objective truth instead of as subjective/dependent on one’s point of view. There are a bunch of other meanings they assign, but that comes later.
What else do they use to reinforce their power and justify their oppression? Any institution they can get their hands on. Government. Religion – which works especially well because there’s it’s difficult to argue against “because God said so.” Education. Business. Family. Whatever they’ve got lying around, really.
So what’s the solution? Isn’t it great that when you’re talking in the abstract you can actually have a solution? Well, even the dominant class – perhaps especially them – cooperate and look out for the good of other humans – other humans in their group. So the solution is to persuade people to widen their perception of Us to include all humans. (And maybe more…) But a bunch of well-meaning people with more power than everyone else aren’t going to stay well-meaning for too long. So we also need to spread out the power, we need to have those checks and balances the US is so proud of, but not just among the three branches of government, among all kinds of people in all institutions, down to interpersonal relationships.
That’s the ideal, as I see it. Don’t hold your breath or anything, but it’s good to know what you’re shooting for.