Linguistic Gymnastics and Oppression

How do you know you’re oppressed? Is it the ‘checking’, the wondering about being spotted, the *flinch* when someone looks at you & your girlfriend/boyfriend-then back to you- then sneers/comments/spits/laughs at something that, from your perspective, is not at all funny. Or they don’t really mean to be mean. Or is it all the more obvious when someone else tells you it’s not oppression that you’re experiencing and you must be mistaken and uninformed/uneducated/unaware/unlike them or even so reactive that you misunderstand what’s true.

Etymological gymnastics have been the distraction of choice for some people in Ireland recently. The subject matter, matters (Same sex civil marriage) but who gets to tell people whether they’re being oppressed has really captured attention and has people thinking deeper about what it means to be considered not unequal, but just not quite acceptable nor respected in Irish society.

In fact, many people would know that ball of fear in the belly that comes from the discipline and checking, the punishment of self-analysis. What people live with, can gnaw away at the good stuff. That happy feeling that courses through you when life is going exactly like we want it to, can be tainted by that self-oppression. Sometimes we’re afraid that to be ourselves like we’re undeserving of that same joyfulness. But we can’t let it win. It is vital that we don’t shy away from the good stuff.

So, when I need to be reminded of the good stuff and being true to who I am, I look to my LGBT family. With many others, Panti has eloquently dismantled the silence, named the prejudice by speaking out. We all play a role in helping people realise they are okay exactly as they are and they can be happy in their lovely straight/gay/lesbian/bi/trans skin. We all can name oppression, to call it out. Better to call it out from the dark shadows where it festers and into the Bright Light of Reason where we all can see it for what it really is.

How about you? Does oppression feature in your life-experiences? Whether your gay, have MS or there’s something else that causes that ball of fear, please comment.

A little something from Michel Foucoult to finish off

“…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing”

Edited 5th February


2 thoughts on “Linguistic Gymnastics and Oppression

  1. weavergrace says:

    I have been thinking along these lines this evening: is normal relative? Can it be defined without comparing with others? Likewise, isn’t “abnormal” relative? Can anyone be diseased in isolation? Or is disease only relative to what is perceived as normal?

    I am struck by your statement, “thinking deeper about what it means to be considered not unequal, but just not quite acceptable nor respected”. This confirms to me that “normal” and “disease” are relative to the society’s expectations. Thus, only “abnormal” people are oppressed.


  2. ejrogan says:

    Thanks for your comment Weavergrace.

    Do you really think that only ‘abnormal people are oppressed? Who defines abnormal? Aren’t ‘normal’ and ‘disease’ always relative?

    Dis-ease is something all humans feel at some stage or another- some might then be diagnosed with a particular disease. ‘Normal’ has been narrowly defined for us in our upbringing, the society we live in, the information we’re exposed to. It can be very much limited to who/what we grow up with and how our beliefs, emotional state and general perspective of the world are influenced.

    When there is a label, something to create that ‘Other’, it seems then we can excuse our behaviour and explain away our prejudice in careful, clean, euphemisms. This is what’s happening with the ‘homophobic hoo ha’ here in Ireland.

    ‘Normal’ doesn’t exist but it certainly fooled all of us who at one time or another, strived to be it. What do you think?


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