How to Effectively Invalidate Marginalized People
Many people seek comfort in strict stereotypes, and they do their best to police others who do not share their prejudices.
A very efficient way of forcing others to adhere to whatever is considered "self-evident" in a society is to negate or invalidate the lives of those who fall outside these norms.These tactics are used against women, people from other cultures, the disabled, homosexuals and transgender.
The Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen established the concept of Master Suppression Techniques, which were further developed by the feminist and social psychogist Berit Ås.
What they found was that there are a lot of subtle and manipulative techniques and strategies that can be used by those in power to invalidate the identity and views of those marginalized.
Ås pointed out that men often marginalize women by
- Ignoring or silencing them
- Making fun of them
- Keeping them out of the information loop
- Punishing or otherwise belittle the actions of a person, regardless of how they act (double bind)
- Embarrassing them, or by insinuating that they are themselves to blame for their position
- Discussing the appearance of someone in a situation where it is clearly irrelevant
- Threatening with -- or using -- one's physical strength
As trans activist Julia Serano has pointed out in her book Excluded, there are many ways of invalidating people, transgender and genderqueer included:
- Claiming that you are mentally ill or incompetent.
- Sexualizing. People of color are for instance often depicted as being exotic, promiscuous or sexually predatory.
- Accusing you of being immoral, like in "homosexuals are out to deceive straight people".
- Claiming that you are sick or contagious (Like in: "One drop of Jewish blood is enough to make you a dirty Jew!").
- Arguing that some type of body or behavior is anomalous or even "unnatural". (Homosexuality is for instance often considered "unnatural", even if same-sex relationships are common in nature).
- You are accused of being inauthentic or fake (like in "You are not a woman. You are just a male rapist in an ugly dress!")
- Claiming that you and those who like you are suffering from a fetish (like in: "He does not really love you; he just has a fetish for fat people".)
It is truly fascinating to see how people who would never consider using these techniques against some marginalized groups have no qualms about using them against others.
In the essential study The History of White People Dr.Nell Irvin Painter describes how Irish immigrants to the US -- who were originally labelled racial inferior by American scientists -- felt no qualms about using the same invalidation tactics against African-Americans after having gained access to the Anglo-Saxon family.
I suspect many took the anger caused by those harassing them out on those further down on the racial pecking order. Moreover, now that they were on the inside, they felt free to express the darker side of their psyche. In other words: hatred breeds hatred breeds hatred in a never-ending cycle of violence.
These days this kind of negation causes a tremendous amount of suffering among transgender, transsexual and genderqueer people, as it makes it extremely hard for many of them to gain respect for their true identity.
It is time to break that circle of hatred!