Monday, February 7, 2011

Summary Post: Oppression, Johan Gokova, and Patriarchy

Oppression by Marilyn Frye

According to Frye, the word oppression has become a meaningless term that is a catch-all phrase for anyone undergoing any type of suffering. She claims that "humans can be miserable without being oppressed" (1). The word oppress is much stronger than it is often treated and should be used with such words as "immobilize" or "reduce". She claims that oppression means that the oppressed people's options "are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty" (1). She relates this to the difficulties women face in everyday life. For example, sexual activity isn't okay because women could be considered a slut, but sexual inactivity isn't okay either because it implies that there is a greater problem or the woman is a lesbian. The life of an oppressed person is thus being forced to live "one's life...confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction" (2). She says we need to consider all aspects of life macroscopically rather than microscopically. She uses the metaphor of a bird in a cage. If you only look at the one wire in the fence, it isn't clear why the bird can't escape. However, if we pan back and realize that the one wire is part of an entire fence, it becomes much clearer why the bird is immobilized. The small everyday actions that oppress women could be seen as silly when looked at individually. Yet, when examined as a whole, they pertain to a much larger problem.

"Challenging Men to Reject Gender Stereotypes" by Johan Gokova

Gokova argues that men are equally oppressed by gender stereotypes and that, in order to restore an equilibrium, men must seek to make women their equals. They need to strike gender stereotypes once and for all. He believes that gender stereotypes have had a strong negative effect on men as well, and says that, "Living the myth of male superiority has sometimes resulted in men suffering from stress, even early death, because of pressure to project an image that is not naturally theirs and that is not sustainable" (422). Gokova argues that getting rid of typical stereotypes and patriarchy would positively effect both sexes.

"Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us" by Johnson

Johnson argues that patriarchy is a system. Systems are made up of parts that create one whole. Thus, we as people, are parts of the whole that facilitates patriarchy. He believes that people take the "path or least resistance," and this helps foster the ideals. The path of least resistance essentially means that we do what is easiest and most comfortable. Since patriarchy is a system in our society, we play into the system because it is what we are used to and fighting that system may cause some resistance. Johnson argues that "when people step off the path of least resistance, they have the potential not simply to change other people, but to alter the way the system itself happens" (32). He uses the metaphor of a game of Monopoly to prove his point. In the game, people are ruthless and steal the money of the people they care about. They don't think twice about it because those are the rules of the game. What we don't consider is that we are playing in the privacy of our own home, and therefore, have the power to change the rules if we don't like the way the game is played. This idea of change doesn't occur to us because we assume the rules are finite. Patriarchy in society is "an arrangement of shared understandings and relationships that connect people to one another and something larger than themselves" (34). If we want to stop this cycle, we have to change the structures and the systems. We consistently individualize patriarchy by "shielding the system by pretending problems like violence aren't about systems, only about individuals who have somehow gone astray" (48). However, individualizing it, doesn't solve the bigger problem and can't explain the fact that violence against women is a pattern. It involves everyone even though the minority group is the one doing the victimizing or being victimized. Thus, "by participating in patriarchy we are of patriarchy and it is of us" (43).


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