How Is the Self/Other Dichotomy Maintained?

In our society, the Self/Other dichotomy is routinely used to uphold forms of oppression and reinforce institutionalized power disparities. The Self/Other distinction is of course widely used to uphold gender hierarchies, where men are supreme, women subordinate, and nonbinary-identified individuals have no recognized place, but furthermore, as seen in our readings, it is also used in terms of race- whites being the Self and people of color the Other, and Otherized POCs furthermore Otherizing other groups in an attempt to benefit from the privilege of the white Self- class- upper-class people being the Self and lower-class the Other- education level, sexual orientation- gender identity (Cisgender people being the Self ant trans* people the Other), ability… the list goes on at great length. Such a great length, in fact, that the only people who truly fit the ideal image of the Self are white cisgender heterosexual Christian Western upper-class able-bodied allistic men with no mental illnesses. Despite their disproportionate representation on television and in positions of power, this is a very small group, and most of the population has been Otherized in some form. How, then, can such Self/Other dichotomies exist? How have the Others not banded together to redefine the image of the Self? I suppose the answer lies in hierarchies of Self/Other distinctions- some Others are considered, perhaps, closer to the Self, and thus participate in the Otherization of those different from them in order to gain privileges. More than that, though, I think the answer lies in the widespread internalization of these dichotomies. The image of the ideal Self has become so widespread that everyone in society to at least some extent begins to believe in it, that the default is the white cishet et cetera et cetera male, such that even those who reject the validity of these privileges are forced to define themselves in relation. One wonders, though, how such Othering gained footing in the first place, and, more importantly, how to break it down well enough for the Others to, at least, stop Othering not only each other but themselves, perhaps the most necessary step to breaking down the Self/Other dichotomy entirely.

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One Response to How Is the Self/Other Dichotomy Maintained?

  1. dmarryshow says:

    I agree. I believe the reason for why the self/other dichotomy is sustained is because of the internalization of this message. As we learned in class, privilege can come in the form of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, mental/physical fitness, etc. I believe the genesis of each of the forms of privilege have their own, somewhat overlapping histories.

    Take sexual orientation for example. As many of you know, in Ancient Rome, homosexuality was an accepted practice. We can glean from this that homosexuality isn’t always treated as “unnatural” across the board. I believe that the aversion toward homosexuality is due to that attitude being embedded in many religions, such as Christianity.

    Another example would be religion. In the United States, Christianity has become the default religion based on the fact that the people who migrated to the United States originally were unconventional Christians, but Christians nonetheless. As Christianity became the dominant religion, it also became the default religion.

    I think that to break out of this internalized othering, it helps to know where it came from so that it no longer has power over you as something “natural”. I wonder if there is a way to have this happen on a larger scale, rather than simply an individual one. If that is possible, then we are able to create real change in society.

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