Laurie and Debbie say:
Our recent post on Social Phobia and Social Oppression started a thoughtful conversation in the comments section.
Lynne Murray points to Josh Kornbluth’s Red Diaper Baby (“His reaction was to get to kindergarten and try to organize his fellow oppressed kids”) and goes on to make the excellent point that “any system of belief can be oppressive when forced on the unwilling.”
Dan’l worries that we crossed the line into “reinterpreting [the writer's] experience to fit [our] position,” saying that there may well be a tendency toward shame and insecurity deeply ingrained in the structure of the human personality.
Sage relates the experience of growing up in an alternative household (perhaps with nudity?) and never feeling shame and insecurity about her body.
Dan’l's criticisms in particular bring up two major points: first, it is entirely possible (and we should have said) that the writer’s strong physical revulsion could be equally well explained by response to oppression as by internalized self-hatred. It is certainly possible to have an internalized body reaction to oppression without experiencing self-hatred. We both read some level of self-hatred into other parts of the article, and at the same time, it’s always important to take other people’s self-descriptions at face value.
In a broader sense, we’re interested in is the question of whether or not shame and insecurity are hard-wired. Throughout the history of Western culture, at least, runs a thread of believing that whatever human traits the people who run the world are invested in are hard-wired. Remember, those traits can range from “women can’t orgasm” to “all women are sexually voracious”, and can include both the innate passivity of children and the undeniable pleasure of vomiting in company after a large meal.
Shame and insecurity are powerful tools of social control. We do not in fact believe that the desire to instill shame and insecurity is hard-wired into the “ruling class,” but we could make that argument as convincingly as many other arguments about human wiring. What is certainly true is that shame and insecurity can be, and very often are, exploited. If the powers that be can encourage us to believe that we are forever doomed to experience these unhappy emotions, that only makes their job of continually refreshing and restoring those emotions even easier, and makes it that much harder for anyone to find a way out of the maze.