Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anti-Oppression Lingo I don't quite "Get" yet...

I am still very new to anti-oppression work. However I do know enough not to bother those who are more skilled in recognizing and dismantling various oppressions with questions I can easily answer for myself by doing research.  "Please explain why this is wrong" is the exact opposite attitude to take when learning about 'isms... If you aren't willing to take responsibility for your own ignorance, then you probably aren't willing to make any meaningful changes once you do learn.  So yeah, I get it.

But in spite of my study, there are a few items that I still don't get that everyone else seems to.  And apparently I am the only one who doesn't get it, which makes finding answers even more intimidating, because I don't want to be THAT BOZO, the one asking questions too ignorant even for a 101 Seminar.

 Let me just jump to the point.  I am supremely grateful for the anti-oppression blogosphere.. but I don't think it's culture is beyond critique.   Here are a few words/concepts/phrases I see commonly in anti-oppression discourse that I don't think I fully "get."  Or more accurately, don't fully agree with. I am not out to start beef with anybody or single out any bl og(s) in particular.   These are just a few linguistic phenomena I've noticed around and have found slightly troubling.  I suspect I'm not the only one who feels this way.  But even if I am... this is MY blog and if I can't say this stuff anywhere else without fear of reprisal, I can at least say it here.

1. CRAZY vs CRAZYMAKING.  I get that the word "crazy" has been used to demonize those who struggle with mental illnesses. I get that this is a word that has been used to invalidate more often than its been used to illuminate.  I get that Crazy is too often used in the same derisive spirit as the word "Lame," appropriating the experience of the mentally and physically  handicapped  (respectively) by assigning a maliciously negative and yet nearly irrelevant connotation to the word (crazy is used to mean anything socially outrageous and objectionable, not necessarily related to insanity, lame is used to mean anything considered unpopular and/or awkward, completely unrelated to an inability to walk)   for no other reason than to have a handy insult to use against somebody, a bad name to use as punishment,  a stigma for another's perceived social mis-steps.

So, I do NOT for the life of me, then, understand why the word CRAZYMAKING is just fine.  I can't think of any other word where on its own it is considered an insufferable slur, but in  conjunction with another word, it is considered a valid critique.  (There is no such word as "Fatmaking"  or "Uglymaking" for example, altho the words Fat and Ugly are often used in the same derisive vein as Crazy).   To say that certain harassing behaviors are "crazymaking" to me seems to lend support to the idea that there IS such a thing as crazy and that its okay to call it that. 

So is there such a thing as crazy? And is it ever okay to call it that?

I refrain from asking this question at other blogs, even tho I see the word "crazymaking" all the time... as if it means something non-abstract and obvious. But even more frequently I see commenters getting called out for being ableist, even banned, for commenters  for saying things like "You must be crazy if you think ...." yadda yadda.  

I am NOT trying to obtuse here. I am not advocating for the use of Crazy in spite of its ableist stigma. I really am confused about the so-called anti-oppression culture's use of this world.  How can Crazy be verboten, but Crazymaking is right on?

2. DEHUMANIZING.  I get the concept alright. I understand the definition.  But I feel like this word gets waaaay overused. 

Often when I see Dehumanized used in posts or conversation, I feel like what the author really means is closer to "Subhumanized," or even "Animalized." Made into a creature that is less than a human, more like an animal.  Well  duh, isn't that what dehumanizing already implies?  Only if you accept that being human is a binary state.. you are either human or you are Something Else.  And while I do believe that is exactly the goal of all oppressions.. to make people feel the tension of this particular binary.. I am not comfortable leaving the paradigm unexamined.

Plus I feel like Dehumanizing isn't specific enough.  The action specifically being critiqued as "dehumanizing" can be understood not only as stripping a person of their status as a human being, but actively re-creating that person into a subhuman being.  Thereby, putting them on par with animals, that other class of creatures we commonly recognize as living but not endowed with any rights relative to human beings. (I have always had a big problem with the premise that human beings are the natural "superior" of animals, but I have an even bigger problem with animal rights activists and their raging racism and classism, so I tend to stay quiet on this score).

Let me put it another way.   When somebody calls me the N Word... I don't feel Dehumanized. I feel like I've been ANIMALIZED. I feel shamed and insulted, exactly as if they had called me a Gorilla.  I feel like they don't see me as a human being so much as this mythical creature they call  N****R.  

I don't just feel stripped of my humanity, I feel like I've been categorized as something much worse than a human altogether.

IMHO this is a small but very important distinction to make.  It's the difference between simple erasure and being flat out lied on. 

I know I have alot more to say on this score, but its still tangled up in my head, so I will move on for now.

3. DOUCHE/DOUCHEBAG/DOUCHEBAGGERY.  This one REALLY bothers me because I feel its hypocritical of anyone who resists Misogyny to use this term as if it were an innocuous insult and in no way related to female genitalia.  I mean come ON.  Every feminist understands that calling someone the P Word or the C Word is horribly misogynist.   Comparing people, particularly "men" to vaginas is considered the ultimate insult to their manhood and their very character.  Associating a man with items specifically designed for use with vaginas is the EXACT SAME MISOGYNIST LOGIC. 

I'm pretty sure if people started calling men who behave like insufferable jerks TAMPONS, the misogyny would  be loud and clear.  But Douchebag is somehow... totally kosher?  Please explain this one to me.

I know I have other stuff that irks me about anti-oppression culture, but my back is killing me and I need to get ready for bed.  Work comes deadly early tomorrow.  And yes, the jobhunt still goes on. I turned down two offers because they were too far away.  But I will take that as an encouraging sign that my resume is out there, doing its thang.

More on this post later.