Kerry Dawkins, 2013
There’s been significant debate in some corners of the internet about whether plural systems are considered ‘oppressed’. While I don’t care much for the ‘social justice’ movement as portrayed on Tumblr and other websites, I do understand the discomfort with referring to anti-plural sentiment as ‘oppression’.
A few years ago, I would have probably said ‘yes’, people on the plural spectrum are oppressed. The implication definitely existed in the article I co-wrote with MD, ‘Non-Plural Privilege’. This isn’t because I ever fully equated negative attitudes towards plurality as being identical to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or other forms of discrimination, but that they are a group that has been portrayed in a way that implies their inferiority compared to ‘normal’ people. When people are put in a situation where their ability to be open or experience self-determination is restricted, then there just might be an underlying societal issue that needs to be corrected.
I’d hesitate to call it oppression, because it’s not as systematic as what people of colour, women and LGBT people have gone through. I mean, it’s pretty hard to equate what plural systems have endured with slavery, the imperialistic conquest and pillaging of native peoples’ homelands, forced submission and other well-known forms of oppression that marginalised groups have been exposed to over the millennia. We ourselves have intimate experiences with the ‘standard’ forms of oppression, particularly racism and anti-LGBT sentiment. I would, though, call anti-plural attitudes oppressive, though, because they create an environment of discomfort and hostility towards identities that vary from a particular set of culturally-bound norms. Negative attitudes towards plurals are usually tied in with mental-illness stigma, which can be considered oppression itself, but this specific manifestation just isn’t wide-ranging or systematic enough. I do tend to still think that there are some advantages that nonplurals have over plurals in social interactions and when dealing with the mental-health system, but I’m uncertain whether I should call those advantages ‘privileges’, for the same reason why I’m not fully comfortable referring to anti-plural sentiment as ‘oppression’.
Does this mean that I’m kowtowing to the sceptics that deny that plurals have any negative experiences at all, and that pro-plural activism is pointless? Of course not. I’m saying that we shouldn’t be too hasty to refer to it as ‘oppression’ in the same sense that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other commonly recognised forms of discrimination are, because the experiences aren’t the same, nor is it particularly appropriate to be stepping on the toes of people who do belong to marginalised communities (and yes, that does include us in our daily life). I also think that plural identities should be seen as a form of variance, and shouldn’t be treated as though ‘oh, those people are just playing games’ or ‘it’s a serious illness in ALL CASES!’ I’m leaning towards dealing with it as a philosophical issue, and less as a directly political issue in the sense that a lot of ‘social justice’ people think it should be handled. MD and I do stand by most of what we said on ‘Non-Plural Privilege’, but we think that the matter of ‘plurals and oppression’ is a bit more complex than what we said back in 2009.