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PC, language, and "isms"

Drmarts drmarts at aol.com
Thu Mar 7 12:04:47 EST 1996


The discussion here on these issues have been interesting and
thought-provoking. Here are some of the thoughts it's provoked in me.
Please note that I'm speaking only from my own perspective as a bisexual,
white, middle-class woman in the U.S.

I begin with the given that women as a group are oppressed. We are held
back from achieving our full potential, soley because we are women. 

There are other groups in our society that are oppressed for reasons that
include but not limited to race, sexual and/or affectional orientation,
appearance and/or size, disability, etc. Some (most) of us are part of
more than one of these groups.

I accept that straight, white men suffer under this system, in that as the
oppressors they are also not permitted to achieve their full potential.
However, the issues they face as oppressors and the methods and means they
have access to for eliminating oppression are very different from those
available to oppressed groups. The most obvious difference between
oppressors and oppressed is that for oppression to end, straight white men
must give up privileges they have held for centuries, while those of us
who are not straight, white and male must obtain opportunities and freedom
we haven't had in centuries.

Those of us who are part of an oppressed group face oppression both from
outside ourselves and within ourselves. We have been enculturated to
accept as truth things about ourselves, our abilities, our worth (and that
of other oppressed groups) that are not true. The work we must do to
overcome oppression must go on both in the world and in ourselves.

Part of the work we must do within ourselves is to become aware of, and
work to eliminate, the internalized biases we have against people,
cultures, lifestyles, etc. that are different from ourselves. As a white
woman, I am responsible for acknowledging ways in which I speak and behave
that are racist, and I am responsible for working to be non-racist. The
same goes for my other internalized "-isms", my biased attitudes towards
fat people, disabled people, old people, poor people, etc. It's not easy
work and I don't expect I'll get through it all in this lifetime, but the
rewards for doing it are immeasurable.

For me, part of my work in the world is to challenge others to recognize
their own internalized oppression, to challenge long-held assumptions and
beliefs. It's not that I want everyone else to think just like me or use
the same language I use. I just want us all to _think_ about what we do,
how we choose to express ourselves, how it either perpetuates or helps
eliminate oppression. If I can get you to think, then it's up to you what
to do about those thoughts.

Sherry



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