the "-phobia" problem

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bikinksterboy
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the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby bikinksterboy » Sat Oct 29, 2016 4:20 pm

am I the only one who feels like we need better words than homophobia, transphobia etc? like fear is an element of it but I feel like somehow it doesn't accurately describe the true hatred some have, and serves as ammo for people to pointlessly debate
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Laima » Sat Oct 29, 2016 4:52 pm

Hi BiKinksterBoy,

I think a good choice of words for describing LGBTQ+ discrimination could be "hetero-sexist" and "cis-sexist." Since they end in "-ist" (like as in "racist," sexist," "ableist," etc), these terms indicate not only the fear/hatred of LGBTQ+ individuals, but also a feeling of superiority as heterosexuals/cis-people.

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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Redskies » Sun Oct 30, 2016 6:06 am

I'd often say that we need better words for many, many things! Historically and into the present, a lot of language - or, more specifically, most language which is given status, is recorded, is spread - is created and controlled by people with power and status. Which means that groups without power and status don't get represented at all, or get represented through the viewpoint of other powerful groups, which can be very skewed. (... eg, "eligible spinster" vs. "eligible bachelor"; "master" (of a trade?) vs. "mistress" (of a man?); "sir" vs."madam" (a sex worker?)? Language is sexist, because humans made it so.)

But not to digress too much! Yes, it drives me up the wall when people say that "homophobia" is "fear of homosexuality/gay people". No, that's not what that word means! There are many, many words which never/no longer mean their literal component parts. It's particularly absurd here because "hydrophobic" molecules are certainly not afraid of water; the term describes their behaviour with water molecules. But bigots will be bigots and argue that the moon is made of cheese, if it serves them. I think in this case the word doesn't really help the situation - this "fear" thing matters, as hateful people use it as an "excuse" to justify violence. But at the same time, I'm not sure that changing the language here would help greatly: my (unscientific!) guess would be that bigots use this as a handy excuse and would find something else, and it's not so much that this language is heavily blinkering and restricting people's worldviews.

Laima, that's interesting that "heterosexist" etc denote hatred to you. I'm familiar with their use to indicate prejudice and discrimination - and find them extremely useful! - but not familiar with the added meaning of hatred. For example, I'd think of "sexism" = "prejudice/discrimination on the grounds of sex/gender", and "misogyny" = "hatred of women"; parallel "heterosexism" = prejudice/discrimination on the grounds of orientation, het-superiority", and "homophobia" = "hatred of queerness/homosexuality/LGBQ people, anti-gay". Perhaps this is somewhere where we're seeing a language change happening? Perhaps even partly in response to the imperfect "-phobia"? (The apparent pattern of "-ism" vs. something else doesn't hold even for me, though: for a start, I can't think of a separate word to denote hatred of disabled people, and I'd certainly say that "white supremacism" is hateful. So! Language is never simple :) )

I'd be interested to know how other people experience these words!
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Heather » Sun Oct 30, 2016 7:38 am

I'm a bit torn with this, since often hate and bias do often psychologically come from fear, especially fear of the unknown. We have study about all kinds of bias that show what helps people unlearn bias most is simply direct exposure to the groups they have bias towards.

But I hear you. It isn't always fear, and when fear is in the mix, that's not always all that is.

Others approaches that have been increasing in use is to use longhand instead of short - to say, for example, "bias and bigotry towards homosexuals," or "discrimination against transgender people," - or using -ism or -ist, like Laima and Redskies mentioned.
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Redskies » Sun Oct 30, 2016 8:25 am

I agree with Heather about fear of the unknown often underlying bias! Jumping off BiKinksterBoy's "serves as ammo for people to pointlessly debate", I was thinking of the times bigots have argued that something or someone isn't homophobic "because they're not afraid of gay people", or words to that effect. That kind of (flawed!) word-arguing.
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby WingsOfRazgriz » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:35 am

I don't think we need to create new labels to insult people with. It needs to stop. If we keep throwing labels and insults around we can not truly make progress.

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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Jacob » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:51 am

"Homophobia" describes a bunch of behavior which is pretty insulting indeed, and can involve a bunch of name-calling. It happens whether it is named or not... however naming it gives us a way to talk about it, teach about it and hopefully fight it.

All words are labels when you think about it so 'stopping labels' is not really something we can or should do. We can't stop people from having words, because that's how we speak!
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WingsOfRazgriz
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby WingsOfRazgriz » Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:12 pm

I am talking about labeling people. Instead of discussing we put people under a label to avoid discussing with them. For example with Donald Trump supporters. Its very easy to label anyone who voted for him as a racist, homophobe, islamophobe, misogynist, etc. And doing this will cause the opposite affect, and is why Donald Trump won the elections.

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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Heather » Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:41 pm

We're not going to be able to support any idea here that people should stop talking about ways they are oppressed and done active and institutionalized harm. This isn't about insulting anyone or avoidance: it's about words so we can talk about oppressive or harmful beliefs and behaviors, and in this space, that impact many of us, to cope, to protect ourselves when needed, to survive, honestly. Part of what we do here is help support people suffering oppression (and that often includes our staff) by providing a supportive place to talk about it. And to talk about it, we need words.

By all means, describing someone's oppressive behaviors or beliefs are upsetting to everyone involved, and don't make anyone feel good. That's going to be the case no matter what words someone uses about it.

It's also vital you recognize that it's actually often deeply unsafe, and has sometimes even been fatal, for, for example, a gay person to engage with someone virulently homophobic. Or for someone of color to directly engage with a white supremacist. So, just talking to that person (or institution, or populace) about it is asking a lot more of the oppressed person than the person being oppressive. Which is obviously problematic.

But please do support the way we choose to run our space here. You may not have intended it, but what you said here sounds a lot like silencing that - like saying we should just shut talk of people who engage in oppression amongst ourselves down - and that just isn't okay to do here. Thanks.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby WingsOfRazgriz » Fri Dec 02, 2016 10:41 pm

My comment was a bit short-sighted or wrongly worded, but I hope you can understand where I am coming from. The amount of mudslinging the goes on these days is absolutely insane, and people need sit down and discuss these issues. I think my little rant was more about that.

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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Jacob » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:44 am

Hey Wings!

I appreciate your reflecting on previous comments!

I still think it'll be useful to break down 'mudslinging' a bit. I've seen that word used to describe everything from racist slurs and sexism, to healthy political debate a description.

We shouldn't be scared to talk about our own ingraned racism and sexism, and reflect on those things. If we start to think of 'racist' or 'homophobic' as a slur rather than a description that is really just a way of defending ourselves and avoiding self-reflection. It also means we make ourselves a victim when the bigger systems of oppression could very much be working in our general favour.

As an example, I live in the UK we have been responsible for colonising most of the earth, the deaths of millions of people and the ripples of trauma that still resonate in the world today. If someone said "The UK is Racist"... I could say "That's mean" or whatnot. I might even be hurt that they think that about me. But my hurt, is nothing compared to the ruins of war and poverty felt by those affected by what this country has done, and which I still benefit from. The worst thing for me to say would be "don't call it racist" or "don't call me racist" because that is just silencing the conversation. The best thing to do is to say "Yes you are right, what can I do about it". Then we can make things better.
"In between two tall mountains there's a place they call lonesome.
Don't see why they call it lonesome.
I'm never lonesome when I go there." Connie Converse - Talkin' Like You

bikinksterboy
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby bikinksterboy » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:30 am

the thing is though, how do we get people to see that being racist sexist etc is not necessarily a marker of "100% pure evil don't ever do anything with this person"?
"~Take a moment to think of just~"

~flexibility, love, and trust~"

bikinksterboy
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby bikinksterboy » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:35 am

because this seems to be an almost double standard: if the whole zero-tolerance-for-bigotry thing is in effect but we also don't want to use these words as slurs then how do we get people to change? like what I've seen in effect is "this person is racist. therefore all their opinions are no longer valid because we know they are racist" and I'm confused how this helps said bigoted people to change
"~Take a moment to think of just~"

~flexibility, love, and trust~"

Jacob
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Re: the "-phobia" problem

Unread postby Jacob » Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:40 am

I think that's on us really and learning to be the change when we can balance it with self-care. So sometimes we do have the energy to engage with people compassionately who are lashing out and being bigoted whereas at other times we really need to be safe and step away from those situations because they can be very painful.

I will say, for my part, as a youth worker, I am really happy to debate racist views 1-to-1 with a young person as part of my job, and part of my emotional work, I really feel for them and everything they've been through to get to those views. But in my friendship circle I really don't have space for that because friendships are somewhere I need to feel safe. This is really different for each of us.

We each have different styles, a diversity of reactions is totally cool.

It also isn't on you or me to convince everyone. If you follow through with your beliefs, engage when you can, and disengage when you need to, people will eventually come along.

(PS, I wasn't saying not to use 'racist' as a slur, I was saything that it wasn't a slur and shouldn't be viewed as one)
"In between two tall mountains there's a place they call lonesome.
Don't see why they call it lonesome.
I'm never lonesome when I go there." Connie Converse - Talkin' Like You


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