Friday, September 18, 2015

Social structures made simple

Social structures might seem abstract and hard to grasp. But really, they are not. They are simply what happens when nothing in particular is happening.

For instance: unless society malfunctions on a massive scale, you are likely to pay taxes. You don't have to figure out how or why, or negotiate the specific percentages. It is not a personal endeavor, as you simply do what is expected of you. It's not personal, it's structural.

It happens when nothing in particular is happening.

If you can get your head around this, you can get your head around the notion of structural sexism. It's not personal, and it's not something the individual actors actively think about doing. It's just what's happening when nothing in particular is disturbing the ordinary. Such as when women get the same patronizing questions over and over and over again from random people they've never met before. It's not personal - it's just that the combined tendency of everyone to do the same thing have effects above and beyond any one particular instance

How do you affect these things, you ask?

Why, that follows from the definition! If these things are what happens when nothing in particular happens, we have to make something particular happen. Perturb the status quo and unnerve those who simply follow the path of least structural resistance. It's easy to simply do as expected; it's hard to do so when there are things abound that makes the default mode seem highly inappropriate.

Make people uncomfortable. Make them question what they are doing. Point out that they are not determined by the structures they find themselves in, and that they are quite capable of being autonomous subjects with agency.

It's not personal. Until it is.

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