Blake Byle (they/he)
In the late 80s and early 90s feminist political theorists like Wendy Brown, Susan Okin and Catharine McKinnon published theoretical works on issues pertaining to women’s opression under the current system of government. They argued that the state perpetuates a masculinist prerogative through ambiguous yet entwined modalities. However, their analyses are limited because they are framed through a binary lens: masculinist system vs. women. The solution to this problem is through applying a more intersectional frame that relates the masculinist system to hetero-nonconforming subjects.
United States, hetero-noncomforming subjects live under a repressive regime that maintains and perpetuates a heteronormative standard as the dominant social, economic, and political status. The hetero-nonconforming status group is comprised of all individuals within a state that do not achieve, conform to, or fall victim to the heteronormative prerogative - that being the ideology which perpetuates social power for cis-gendered, white, upper-class, men as the dominant status within society. As such, the heternormative elite fully enjoys all of the rights and privileges guaranteed by the masculinist system.
On the other hand, hetero-nonconforming individuals do not get to fully enjoy the rights and privledges guarenteed by the masculinist system. The disparities between the heteronormative elite and the hetero-nonconforming individual is maintained by a facade that symbolically guarantees equal rights to all citizens while at the same time not equally dispersing those rights.
The system devised the facade by employing rhetoric which prides itself on universal equality while also maintaining subclasses of citizenship. Jean Jacques Rousseau calls this concept civil-slavery; the social contract theory that warns not to hand over an excessive amount of one’s own “natural” freedoms because they will be regulated, maintained, and structured by the state. For instance, constitutional amendments that expand freedoms to historically marginalized social groups are guaranteed on paper but not guaranteed to be equally dispersed. The 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments guaranteed voting rights to all citizens equally regardless of previous condition of servitude, race, or sex. However, it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that codified the equal dispersion of voting rights to BIPOC and women. You may concede that while the system was a little late to the game in emancipating everyone besides white men, they still got to it eventually. But you would be wrong and further strengthening my point! This is precisely how this feature works. It is a facade that on its face guarantees all rights equally, but does not equally disperse those rights behind the scenes. Even today, legislators are still attacking equal access to the ballot in Georgia, Arkansas, Texas to name a few.
This facade softens the revolutionary spirit of marginalized communities because they are not being explicitly oppressed. However, the truth is that unequal citizenship is subjection. And subjects are not safe in a country where they do not have equal political rights. Well then, what can be done?
We can gain intuition by looking at how through militant suffrage movements in Britain, women interrupted and interfered in the male-dominated political discourse by activating their status as subjects and challenging established constructions of the “public/political” and “private” spheres. These militant suffragists asserted themselves into the “public/political” sphere as oppressed subjects and, as such, invoked their revolutionary duty to insurrection against despotic regimes. Militant suffragists supported their right to insurrection by citing the American and French revolutions as examples of instances in which violence is justified to resist oppressive regimes.
Although this subjection is evidently clear, those in power will say that there is no oppressive system. Remember the facade. Everyone is guaranteed equal rights. And they aren’t wrong; the US does offer social and economic opportunity, but not to hetero-nonconforming individuals. In order to be able to access social and economic opportunity one must alienate their own identity to fit the heteronormative framework to the extent where they genuinely believe that their identity is unique and individual to themself. At the same time, any inaccuracies lead to failure and those opportunities are wiped away.
There is no room for error in this identity. Those that adhere to it do not get the luxury of exploring their own identities and being able to construct it for themselves. It is this feature which is the most repressive modality of oppression.
Identity forming is one of the most important components of human existence. It is constantly changing with time and experience. When we are young identity is the least tainted with repressive residue because we are less aware of ourselves as social beings. However, as we age our identity becomes tainted with not only how others perceive us but how we perceive how others perceive us. Because we may never truly understand how others perceive us, we conjure up unachievable heteronormative standards and believe ourselves to be failing when we inevidebly don’t meet them. Put plainly, hetero-nonconforming subjects always fall short of the mark both within the internal psyche and social pressures.
The subjectivity of hetero-nonconforming individuals demands militancy in the form of interupting and interfereing with the heternormative-dominated political discourse in the same way militant feminists demanded for the right to vote in the early twentieth century. Hetero-nonconforming individuals must create a discourse around the ways in which equal citizenship can be achieved. The specifics of effective militant tactics are unknown, although a good place to start is with open discourse, expansive coalition building, and grassroots outreach techniques.
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