Otherness is a lesser known concept; it is not taught in schools, or used often in every day language, but it is a concept that shapes nearly all aspects of everyday life. To fully explain what I mean, otherness is a concept of definition, just as black cannot exist with out white, humanity has used societal binaries to define the nature of being in all aspects. Woman is the other of man, animal the other of human, abnormality the other of norm, and as the cogitation dictates, the other, is coded the inferior category.
The power of definition that the concept of otherness provides, is one that allows individuals to identify themselves. People define themselves against an opposition; self identity has a hard time existing without the opposite to facilitate the realization of that identity. This paradigm leads to identity power struggles, because one can not define both the other and themselves, this establishes a notion of superior and inferior.
That said, what I would like to be the emphasis of this article, is hate culture. Due to these power struggles set up by the current method of social construction, these power struggles establish a culture that is defined by the majority/minority complex, where the latter is coded as inferior and the former feels justified in committing unjust actions towards the socially constructed inferior group. This is where feminism comes in; think of feminism as the other to sexism. I say this because in many societies across the globe, sexist societal organization is the dominant source of social construction, coding nearly all norms in many societies. Patriarchy, has been deemed natural and uncontested for centuries, feminism poses the opposition, suggesting an egalitarian form of social construction where the gender binary (as well as all other genders) cease to exist within a power struggle. This is a hard concept to truly understand the gravity of, but it is a concept that would be in the best interest of the global populace to enlighten itself on.
Hate culture is a direct consequence of the use of otherness to facilitate social construction. Rationally, a system based on the establishment of superior and inferior would create social tension and stigma, what is important to keep in mind is it is just that, a construction. Otherness is a choice. Society has chosen to use the white, upper to middle class, often times christian or catholic, man as the default for judging everyone else against. This otherness is what established other ethnicity, other genders, other religions (or lack of), other economic classes, as the inferior demographic. They are the other to the white business man. This comes with a consequence for the those that fit within the default demographic however. As I pointed out in my previous article, feminist theory has the best interest of everyone in mind, because when using the concept of otherness as your tool for definition, a world full of social problems is created, and social problems are intrinsically intertwining, they effect everyone-yourself and the other.
http://othersociologist.com/otherness-resources/#gender -citation for photo
February 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm
Brianna I really enjoyed your posts! You’ve written about so many interesting things and I think this post is a perfect conclusion: the otherness, the difference is what we have to compare ourselves to. In that way I agree with you that feminism, just as gender studies, is a perfect start point. As Donna Haraway shows, human society are builded around binary dichotomies (man VS woman; withe VS black; heterosexual VS LGBTQ people etc.); that means that in order to live differently we have to learn how to think differently! That’s a great philosophical question I’m deeply interested in. I also enjoyed the final quote of Simone de Beauvoir in the image. I think she is one of the most brilliant mind ever and her studies about the female otherness, in The second sex, are still precious if we want to find a way to open ourselves to the Other. Thank you! 🙂
May 25, 2016 at 10:33 pm
A very good article, that relates a lot to what I have written about regarding human-nonhuman relationships, as well. Isn´t it interesting that these patterns of otherness occur in any aspect of, well, “being”. What I find most striking about these binarisms is that, while they are constructed antagonistic to each other, they are also always complementary. E.g. man and woman are always constructed complementary ways. The attributes that are commonly associated with manliness or femininity are as much opposing as they add to one another. If man is strong, woman has to be gentle, if man is sensible, woman is emotional etc. As much as they draw from each others “otherness”, only together can they be whole. The “self” needs the “other”, as much as it may be contradictory to it. But I also believe you are right when you say otherness is a choice – we can ourselfes decide in distinction to what we define ourselves, and can thus reject using class, religion, sex etc. as defining characteristics for our selves.