A case for individual action combined with collective action to overcome structural oppression.
This story carries forward the discussion initiated by Sociologist Jenny Justice in her story titled “The Important Difference(s) Between Prejudice, Discrimination, and Oppression”.
The Important Difference(s) Between Prejudice, Discrimination, and Oppression
a brief lesson in Sociology, Critical Race Theory, Critical Social Justice Theory, and How Things Actually Are in…
Jenny’s article is an amazing and enlightening read in which she delineates the concepts of Prejudice, Discrimination, and Oppression very well. So much so that I opine it could, and should, be included as a chapter in a text-book and taught in the classrooms.
She has very beautifully discussed a plethora of Sociological concepts that are immensely relevant to the contemporary world.
I would like to take the liberty of continuing the discussion by offering my subjective opinions on some of the ideas that she has so coherently elucidated.
Individual Action vs Collective Action
Upto a great extent, I am in agreement with the macro level conflict perspectives that oppressive structures are overarching and can be remedied through focused collective action.
But at the same time, I also find great appeal in the Interpretivist perspectives and the ability of individual action to serve as an antidote to any form of tyranny — political, social, and financial.
This applies especially to the discussion centered on the concepts of masculinity and toxic-masculinity. I am of the view that it is a psycho-social issue, linked equally to the individual psyche and the collective consciousness.
The normative gender roles are reproduced and enforced within a household, so I consider family as the basic fundamental unit which shapes individuals. It can be argued that a family operates within the societal framework and is subjected to the structural and normative limitations of the latter.
However, families in the modern industrial society aren’t homogeneously patterned entities as high divorce rates and single parenthood, among several other factors, have changed the nature of the family. This is in my opinion, make families a more independent functional unit with greater freedoms to shape the psyche of the children and socialize them.
This is particularly true when it comes socialization in gender roles. If every son is encouraged to undertake the supposedly “feminine chores”, he will grow up to be a more compassionate partner, spouse, father, employer and so forth. Likewise, if every daughter is encouraged to engage in allegedly “masculine tasks”, she will learn to drive a harder bargain with structural patriarchy and kick-ass when she needs to.
I am not making the case that women do not fight for themselves. They do. But a lifetime of indoctrination within the patriarchal framework combined with the normative shackles of the traditional family power-structure erodes that resistance.
I am also not making the case that men do not suffer at all. They do, certainly not as much as women, but they too suffer as individuals. I do not see why a father can not be the primary caregiver in the family if he wishes to do so. Not all men are ambitious and power-driven, and assuming so, or expecting conformity to this behavioral norm is not fair to them.
Gender roles do not have to be “collective” in nature and should be assigned based on “individual” preferences. Although this is a greater debate that involves Biology and Psychology, the ideas of “Femininity” and “Masculinity” are not necessarily binary or dichotomous.
Individual Action AND Collective Action
Which is why the title of the last section is less desirable than the title of this one.
Individual action and collective action are not counterposed. They are complementary.
A structural framework does not pervade the collective social realm without being instantiated and concretised by the countless and infinitesimal individual actions.
To reform or demolish the oppressive structures both are imperative. Thus a structural solution requires both — individual action and collective action.
Collective action to challenge the exploitative status quo and individual action to erode the hegemony of the said oppressive structure.
Together they are the key to most structural problems.
Manas Kala is a researcher and a social thinker. He is the Co-founder of Manas Foundation & Publicator. Writes about — Success, Startups, Society, & Politics.
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